US Senate(NEW YORK) — Democrats’ chances of retaining the Senate may have taken a major hit Wednesday after allegations of plagiarism were leveled at Montana Senator John Walsh.

As reported by The New York Times, Walsh, who is running for re-election in November, apparently lifted major portions of his thesis to graduate from the United States Army War College in 2007 from other sources available on the Internet.

The Iraq war vet and one-time National Guard adjunct general’s paper on American Middle East policy also lists no attributions.

Although Walsh said he believes he did nothing wrong, an aide to the senator did not dispute the charges of plagiarism, but said it should be taken in the context of his military career, according to the Times.

Walsh spoke later about the brewing scandal, explaining that he committed an unintentional mistake due to post-traumatic stress resulting from his service in Iraq and medication he was taking at the time. He said a fellow veteran’s suicide added to the stress.

Johnson was tapped to replace Montana Senator Max Baucus earlier this year, who became ambassador to China.

However, even before the charges of plagiarism surfaced, polls showed Walsh running behind his Republican opponent, as Democrats try desperately to keep control of the Senate.
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ABC News(WASHINGTON) — Former Procter & Gamble executive Robert McDonald is one important step closer to becoming the next secretary of Veteran Affairs, after a Senate panel Wednesday unanimously backed his nomination. The vote was 14-0.

The agreement by both Democrats and Republicans that McDonald is qualified to take over the embattled agency should mean he’ll face little resistance when the full Senate votes to confirm, most likely this week.

McDonald, a former military man as well, told the Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs that, “Veterans are in need. There is much to do. I can think of no higher calling than to serve our veterans who have so selflessly served our country.”

If confirmed, he promised better communications with VA offices and more transparency with Congress over funding needs.

Meanwhile, members of the House and Senate are working hard to reach a compromise bill that would give the next VA secretary more power to fire subordinates for mismanagement as well as allow vets to seek private care if they can’t get the attention they need from VA clinics.

Although hired for his management skills, P&G had financial problems during McDonald’s tenure as CEO from 2009 through 2013, and he was eventually replaced by the former P&G executive who held the position before him.

McDonald was a West Point graduate, serving five years in the Army, earning the rank of captain, before joining P&G. Recent VA secretaries have been generals and colonels.

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US Senate(NEW YORK) — Democrats’ chances of retaining the Senate may have taken a major hit Wednesday after allegations of plagiarism were leveled at Montana Senator John Walsh.

As reported by The New York Times, Walsh, who is running for re-election in November, apparently lifted major portions of his thesis to graduate from the United States Army War College in 2007 from other sources available on the Internet.

The Iraq war vet and one-time National Guard adjunct general’s paper on American Middle East policy also lists no attributions.

Although Walsh said he believes he did nothing wrong, an aide to the senator did not dispute the charges of plagiarism, but said it should be taken in the context of his military career, according to the Times.

Walsh spoke later about the brewing scandal, explaining that he committed an unintentional mistake due to post-traumatic stress resulting from his service in Iraq and medication he was taking at the time. He said a fellow veteran’s suicide added to the stress.

Johnson was tapped to replace Montana Senator Max Baucus earlier this year, who became ambassador to China.

However, even before the charges of plagiarism surfaced, polls showed Walsh running behind his Republican opponent, as Democrats try desperately to keep control of the Senate.
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iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) — House Republicans unveiled a plan Wednesday to address the southern border crisis, recommending that the National Guard assist in humanitarian care of the influx of minors entering the country.

House Speaker John Boehner has already called on President Obama to implement the reserve military force, while Texas Gov. Rick Perry already made the decision on his own.

Both Boehner and Perry have not been shy about blaming the president’s policies for inviting the influx of illegal immigrants, and both have stressed how the crisis has taxed both the U.S. Border Patrol and local municipalities that have been dealing with the tens of thousands of people coming across the border.

Following prompting, the president sent a team to Texas to evaluate whether deploying the National Guard would tackle the immigration issues, White House officials confirmed.

Congresswoman Kay Granger (R-Texas), chairwoman of the House Working Group, announced the committee’s solutions Wednesday.

“Our focus has been to ensure the safety of the children and it has remained a top priority throughout this process,” Granger said in a statement. “In our personal meetings with the Presidents of Honduras and Guatemala they both stated that they wanted their children back, and we believe that is in the best interest of all the countries involved in this crisis. We look forward to working with these countries as they prepare to receive their children back.”

In addition to deploying the National Guard, the group suggested establishing an independent third-party commission to develop border security metrics, along with the creation of repatriation centers in other countries to secure the return of families and unaccompanied minors. Lawmakers also called for tougher penalties for individuals participating in the smuggling of children.

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iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) — House Republicans unveiled a plan Wednesday to address the southern border crisis, recommending that the National Guard assist in humanitarian care of the influx of minors entering the country.

House Speaker John Boehner has already called on President Obama to implement the reserve military force, while Texas Gov. Rick Perry already made the decision on his own.

Both Boehner and Perry have not been shy about blaming the president’s policies for inviting the influx of illegal immigrants, and both have stressed how the crisis has taxed both the U.S. Border Patrol and local municipalities that have been dealing with the tens of thousands of people coming across the border.

Following prompting, the President sent a team to Texas to evaluate whether deploying the National Guard would tackle the immigration issues, White House officials confirmed.

Congresswoman Kay Granger (R-Texas), Chairwoman of the House Working Group, announced the committee’s solutions Wednesday.

“Our focus has been to ensure the safety of the children and it has remained a top priority throughout this process,” Granger said in a statement. “In our personal meetings with the Presidents of Honduras and Guatemala they both stated that they wanted their children back, and we believe that is in the best interest of all the countries involved in this crisis. We look forward to working with these countries as they prepare to receive their children back.”

In addition to deploying the National Guard, the group suggested establishing an independent third party commission to develop border security metrics, along with the creation of repatriation centers in other countries to secure the return of families and unaccompanied minors. Lawmakers also called for tougher penalties for individuals participating in the smuggling of children.

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United States House of Representatives(WASHINGTON) — Speaker John Boehner praised a “special guest” on the House floor Wednesday, prompting applause and a standing ovation for a doctor who helped deliver a congresswoman’s baby born with a prenatal condition.

Boehner honored Dr. Jessica Bienstock, the residency program director for the Department of Gynecology and Obstetrics at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine.

“In her career, she has delivered nearly 1,000 babies,” Boehner said, at one time wiping his eye. “One of them is well-known to us, and she is Abigail Rose Beutler, who of course is the daughter of our friend.”

The child was born to Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler, R-Wash., and was diagnosed with Potter’s Syndrome, a condition that prevents the development of kidneys and lungs. Beutler held her one-year-old daughter on the floor Wednesday.

“We’re all familiar with Abigail’s story, and the odds that she overcame. If she is a happy, healthy miracle, Dr. Bienstock is the miracle worker who helped give the gift of hope and life to this family,” Boehner said. “I think our House owes a debt of gratitude to her and to all of our doctors, nurses and medical professionals.”

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Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images(ASPEN, Colo.) — Expect it to be rocky in Aspen.

Republican gubernatorial candidate Rob Astorino is planning on confronting New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie over comments he made earlier in the week about his campaign’s viability against New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo.

On Monday while campaigning in Connecticut for GOP gubernatorial candidate Tom Foley, Christie was asked whether he would hit the campaign trail for Astorino and he answered that he, “will spend time in places where we have a chance to win, I said that right from the beginning.”

“We don’t pay for landslides and we don’t invest in lost causes,” Christie continued. “If the New York race becomes competitive, I’ll consider campaigning in the New York race, but right now, by the public polls, there’s a lot more competitive races like this one in Connecticut.”

Astorino, as well as the New York GOP, were livid. Both he and Christie are now in Aspen, Colorado, for Republican Governors’ Association events and Astorino said he expected to talk to Christie–the RGA chairman–about his comments. Astorino said he planned already to travel to the area, but an aide said he expected the meeting to be a “frank chat.”

In a conference call, Astorino told reporters he had not seen the New Jersey governor yet, but he plans on seeing him this evening at a group dinner, saying it’s, “the first time we will all be together.”

At a press conference Tuesday, Astorino said, “If Gov. Christie is unable to help a Republican candidate for governor, then maybe he should consider stepping down as chairman of the RGA. That’s his job,” according to the New York Daily News.

He said Wednesday he stood by those comments and he does not believe he has burned any bridges with Christie, and instead the Westchester County Executive thinks, “once he and I have a chance to talk about the campaign and I can fill him in on things he may not know and how we are going to win this race then he may change his mind.”

The purpose of Wednesday’s call was in response to a story on the cover of Wednesday’s New York Times, showing Cuomo had interfered with a commission that attempted to root out corruption in state politics.

Astorino said this development will also make the RGA more interested in supporting his candidacy, noting it could “change perceptions on this race.” He wouldn’t name names, but said other governors already have plans to campaign with him in New York.

“His job as the chairman of the RGA is to help get Republican governors re-elected and Republican candidates for governor elected and it would obviously be very convenient for him to come across the river into New York where he is frequently fundraising and to do things for me in New York and I’m sure that’s what’s going to happen,” he said Wednesday.

In the same press conference, Astorino even speculated Cuomo and Christie were scheming over the George Washington Bridge lane-closing scandal that has engulfed Christie’s administration in New Jersey. He said he doesn’t, “know if there’s a connection between him and Andrew Cuomo on Bridgegate, or if Cuomo has something that he’s holding back, information that could be damaging to the governor.”

“My take is maybe it’s inconvenient to come over the bridge to New York to help a Republican candidate for governor here,” Astorino said. “That’s his call, whether he wants to or not, but as RGA chair he has governors and candidates who have a chance to win … and it’s incumbent upon him to help all of us.”

When asked about it Wednesday, Astorino didn’t go as far, saying, “There’s no secret the Port Authority is represented by the governor of both states and their respective appointees and staff.”

Astorino said he doesn’t feel betrayed and instead he and Christie are “friends,” and he’s “admired” his work as RGA chairman and as governor of the Garden State.

New York GOP Chairman Ed Cox will also be in Aspen. He too chose not to hold his fire saying in a statement this week that he was “disappointed” to hear Christie’s comments and that the New Jersey Governor, “seems to have forgotten from whence he came,” noting Christie’s “underdog challenge” against Gov. Jon Corzine in 2009.

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iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) — The now notorious love letters of former President Warren Harding ironically may be the basis of a belated campaign to improve the image of the man generally considered to be one of the country’s worst leaders.

Harding’s grandnephew Richard Harding made the case before a packed Library of Congress assembly Tuesday by saying, “It is with some ambivalence, but with a sense of history, that we are present.”

Richard Harding and a battery of historians and archivists said Tuesday that the salacious letters – some of them 40 pages long – give new insight to the man who has been called America’s worst president.

“Warren Harding doesn’t need protecting. He needs honest and hard-working historians to tell the story like they see it,” Richard Harding told the gathering.

The roughly thousand pages were written by Harding between 1910 and 1920 to Carrie Phillips, when he was lieutenant governor of Ohio and a U.S. senator. They were found in 1964 but protected by the Harding family, which gave the collection to the Library of Congress on the condition that they be held in a safe for 50 years. The letters will become available to the public next Tuesday.

The panel included James Robenalt, author of The Harding Affair: Love and Espionage During the Great War; James Hutson, chief of the Manuscript Division at the Library of Congress; Library of Congress archivist Karen Femia; and Richard Harding.

Robenalt, who published a smaller trove of microfilms of Harding letters in his book in 2009, referred to the correspondence as “one of the great stories of the 20th century.”

The allure of the letters centers on Harding’s often explicit relationship with Phillips, who Robenalt ventures was a German spy who managed to discourage Harding from running for president in 1916, right in the middle of World War I. The affair ended when Phillips blackmailed Harding after he entered the White House in 1921.

A sampling of the letters Robenalt discovered at the Western Reserve Historical Society gives an indication as to what’s coming next Tuesday, when historians can start crafting what could be an entirely new portrait of the former president. In one letter to Phillips on Sept. 15, 1913, Harding writes, “I hurt with the insatiate longing, until I feel that there will never be any relief until I take a long, deep, wild draught on your lips.” On Jan. 5 the same year, he wrote: “…so I got up, had a luxurious bath and donned my bathrobe in which to breakfast. Three weeks ago [the robe] touched and covered your beautiful form, and that made it hallowed to me, and I wanted contact with it, to make me seem nearer to you.”

The standard interpretation of Harding was that he was “an intelligent man, too trusting of his cronies, too passive as a leader…and too passive for a nation that needed activist leadership,” as the historian Gary Alan Fine put it. His administration is notorious for the Teapot Dome scandal, an oil leasing scandal that consumed one of Harding’s top cabinet members.

The panel Tuesday argued that his image is still much more imprecise than most historians assume.

Femia claimed the legacy “was like an empty room, an echo chamber for rumor, gossip, and absolute fabrication.” Hutson agreed, using his introduction as something of a call to those in the room to fill the gaps in Harding scholarship.

“It’s astonishing the amount of misinformation about Harding, and everyone connected to him,” Hutson added. “The question arises: what’s wrong with the picture here? Why didn’t historians correct this stuff?”

The letters may reveal that Harding’s infatuation with Phillips delayed his ascension to the White House, and perhaps caused an entirely different outcome to the Great War and the trajectory of 20th-century American history since, at Phillips’ urging, he wanted to keep America out of the war.

“Had Harding become president in 1916, and he had a good chance to do so, the world would have been a lot different,” Robenalt said. “The world changed because of this relationship.”

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iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) — At least Congress can decide on two things: baseball and hot dogs.

America’s leaders and staffers took a break Wednesday to enjoy an annual hot dog lunch hosted by the American Meat Institute. The event featured five vendors, who served over a thousand guests, and baseball hall of famers Steve Carlton, Ken Griffey Sr. and Cecil Cooper, who met fans and signed autographs.

“There’s nothing more quintessential America than a hot dog and a beer or a coke at the baseball game,” said Rep. Jim Costa, D-Calif.

The congressman, who serves on the Committee of Agriculture, said Wednesday was a great opportunity for Washington to recognize the good work of the American beef industry.

The vendors, which included Dietz and Watson, Hillshire Brands, Hormel Foods Corporation, Smithfield Foods and Tyson Foods, served pork and beef hot dogs and Polish sausage with a range of condiments.

Rep. Steve Pearce, R-N.M., who attended the lunch with his grandson, said he loved Wednesday’s spread.

“We had the corn dog and one of the hot dogs, the chili, the jalapeños — the whole catastrophe,” he said.

For Rep. Pete King, R-N.Y., it was all about the baseball.

“Baseball is America,” said the congressman, who just last week threw out the opening pitch at a minor league game in Brooklyn, New York. “I’ve been a baseball fan my whole life. To me, I’m sort of going back 60 years in time right now.”

King got autographs from the hall of famers for his grandson and was most thrilled to meet Carlton, a man he says “had all the ability that I never had and wanted to have.”

In the midst of a divided Congress and a growing list of issues to address before the August recess, Wednesday’s event offered a brief respite from bipartisan tensions.

“It really lightens up what’s going on down here,” King said. Moments later, he even got “photo-bombed by Rep. Jeff Miller, R-Fla., during his interview with ABC News.

Former first baseman Cecil Cooper said he couldn’t believe how many Congressmen wanted his autograph.

“It’s great to have people remember you, remember the days when you played,” he said.

Rep. Chuck Fleischmann, R-Tenn., who plays on the congressional baseball team, said Wednesday’s event brought him back to his childhood days of watching these hall of famers play.

“We’re all still kids when it comes to baseball,” Fleischmann said. “It’s the great American sport, always has been, always will be.”

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iStock Editorial/Thinkstock(NAPLES, Italy) — New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio just can’t break his fork habit.

The mayor was caught again using the utensil to eat pizza — this time during lunch with his family in Naples, Italy — while on vacation.

“Naples is a place that I like very much,” the mayor told reporters as he got off a ferry from the island of Capri.

De Blasio, who’s currently on an eight-day trip across Italy, arrived in Naples Wednesday morning to much fanfare. He was not asked about why he used a fork to eat his pizza.

New Yorkers may have different opinions on many issues, but the one thing on which they can agree is how you devour a slice of pizza: you fold it, you eat it and you walk.

Of course, this is not the first time de Blasio has committed the fork faux pas. While visiting Staten Island in January — just a week after taking office — he first ate a slice of pizza with a fork, then switched to his hands, and ultimately back to a fork during lunch at Goodfellas Pizza.

Foodies blasted him for violating the ultimate rule of eating pizza in New York City: no matter how greasy the pizza, you always use your hands.

At the time, de Blasio argued that he was just being authentic and he picked up the pizza-with-utensils habit while visiting his “ancestral homeland.”

However, even native Italians find eating pizza with a fork questionable.

“I would say a real Neapolitan eats pizza with the hands,” said Adolfo Gatti, a native of Rome told ABC News. “But utensils aren’t frowned upon.”

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