U.S. Army photo(WASHINGTON) — More than a century and a half after his death at the Battle of Gettysburg, a Union Army officer is being awarded the nation’s highest military decoration.

President Obama approved the Medal of Honor for First Lieutenant Alonzo H. Cushing, the White House announced Tuesday.

Cushing was killed in action on July 3, 1863 — at age 22 — during the battle’s third and final day, in the face of Pickett’s Charge, a futile, deadly Confederate advance that threatened to turn the tide of the war.

Cushing served as commanding officer of Battery A, 4th United States Artillery, Artillery Brigade, 2nd Corps for the Army of the Potomac. During the battle, Cushing’s battery took a severe pounding from the Confederate artillery, and Cushing was wounded in the stomach and right shoulder. Despite his injuries, Cushing refused to leave the battlefield, commanding his men and defending his position on Cemetery Ridge against the charging opposition.

Cushing’s efforts helped the Union Army to fight off the Confederate attack — with the South forced to retreat, sustaining massive losses. The South would never advance that far north again, a flash-point in the Union’s victory.

Cushing was one of 51,000 casualties of the battle. He was buried at his alma mater, West Point.

Despite a marker erected to Cushing on Cemetery Ridge and a monument near his birthplace, the Medal of Honor eluded him. Descendants and Civil War buffs took up the cause in recent decades.

Congress granted a special exemption last December for Cushing to receive the award posthumously since recommendations normally have to be made within two years of the act of heroism and the medal awarded within three years. Cushing has endured a longer wait than any of the 3,468 recipients to receive the Medal of Honor.

Cushing’s Medal of Honor will be awarded on Sept. 15. Other honorees announced Tuesday include Army Command Sergeant Major Bennie G. Adkins and Army Specialist Four Donald P. Sloat, who fought in the Vietnam War.

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Photo by Larry Marano/WireImage(TALLAHASSEE, Fla.) — The Florida Democratic Party announced on Tuesday that Charlie Crist won the state’s Democratic primary in his campaign for governor.

Florida Democratic Party Chair Allison Tant said Tuesday night that Crist “has always put the people first.” Citing Crist’s record on jobs and taxes, Tant said Democrats around the state “are ready to work harder than we’ve ever worked to elect Charlie Crist governor of Florida.”

Crist, who served as governor of Florida from 2007 to 2011 as a Republican, has since become a Democrat.

Tant also commended Crist’s opponent, state Sen. Nan Rich, calling his campaign one of “principle, courage and tireless effort.”

“This campaign will come down to who Floridians trust to fight for them,” Tant said, “and they know that Charlie Crist has always been on the side of the people.”

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ABC/Matthew Putney(WASHINGTON) — Gov. Rick Perry has hired former aide to Sen. John McCain and longtime Republican strategist Steve Schmidt to work with his legal team following Perry’s indictment.

Perry, who has downplayed the charges against him, brought Schmidt on to work with his legal team on public relations. Schmidt is being brought in only to help handle the indictment, not as part of a potential 2016 presidential campaign.

Since having his mug shot and fingerprints taken last week, the Texas governor has toured battleground states and is believed to be considering whether another run for the presidency is in his future.

Perry was charged earlier this month with abuse of official capacity and coercion of a public official after he allegedly threatened to veto funding for the state’s public integrity unit unless District Attorney Rosemary Lehmberg resigned following a 2013 DWI conviction.

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ABC News(WASHINGTON) — After Tuesday’s report from the Department of Veterans Affairs’ independent investigation indicated that there is no proof that delayed treatment at VA hospitals caused any deaths, Glenn Costie, director of the Dayton VA Medical Center and interim director of the Phoenix Medical Center, discussed the work the agency has done to revamp the Phoenix center.

The Phoenix center came under fire earlier this year for unethical scheduling practices. Since then, Costie says, they have added 250 staff members — more than 100 of whom were added within the last three months. The Phoenix VA Medical Center plans to continue adding staff, with 200 more hires expected “in the very near future.”

All of the schedulers employed by the VA have been trained to properly use wait lists and other programs in what Costie calls the beginning of a “cultural transformation.”

Costie acknowledged that the Phoenix medical center was “understaffed and under-resourced for many years,” but that out of the scandal from earlier this year, “we’re starting to get that resolved.”

The report detailed 28 instances of “clinically significant delays in care” and 17 unrelated instances of “care deficiencies.” These cases represent unacceptable and troubling lapses in follow-up, coordination, quality and continuity of care.”

The report also notes that investigations into the lapses will continue, with involvement from the Department of Justice and the FBI.

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Official White House Photo by Pete Souza(CHARLOTTE, N.C.) — President Obama has approved U.S military surveillance flights over Syria to track the Islamic militant group ISIS, a group that American warplanes have been attacking in neighboring Iraq, ABC News has confirmed.

The U.S. has not made any decision on expanding its air offensive against ISIS, also known by the acronym ISIL, into Syria, a U.S. official said.

The decision on the surveillance flights emerged as the president told veterans at the American Legion’s National Convention in Charlotte, N.C., that airstrikes against ISIS must be part of a broader strategy.

“Our military action in Iraq has to be part of a broader strategy to protect our people and support our partners to take the fight to ISIL,” the president said.

He cautioned that “we have to use our power wisely.”

American jets and drones have helped halt the advance of ISIS in Iraq and roll back some of the territorial gains by the Islamic militants. The number of flights and air strikes has increased in recent weeks and top Pentagon officials have said they have considered whether to extend those attacks to ISIS forces in Syria. The U.S. has also been providing weaponry to Kurdish forces in northern Iraq who had been battling with ISIS fighters.

“Rooting out a cancer like ISIL won’t be easy and it won’t be quick, but tyrants and murderers before them should recognize that kind of hateful vision ultimately is no match for the strength and hopes of people who stand together for the security and dignity and freedom that is the birthright of every human being,” he said.

The president made clear that the U.S. can’t take on ISIS without the backing of allies.

“History teaches us of the dangers of overreaching and spreading ourselves too thin and trying to go it alone without international support, or rushing into military adventures without thinking through the consequences,” he said.

The president repeated his vow that the U.S. would not send ground troops back into Iraq for combat duty.

Obama warned ISIS that the killers of American journalist James Foley will be hunted down. Foley was beheaded allegedly in retaliation for the U.S. air campaign, and after a $100 million ransom demand was rebuffed.

“Our message to anyone who harms our people is simple. America does not forget, our reach is long, we are patient, justice will be done,” he said. “We have proved time and time again we will do what’s necessary to capture those who harm Americans — to go after those who harm Americans. And we’ll continue to take direct action where needed to protect our people and to defend our homeland.”

There are indications that British investigators may be closing in on the identity of the masked ISIS member who spoke with a British accent and was videotaped carrying out the gruesome execution.

Since the video of Foley’s execution shocked the West, Obama has endured a new round of criticism of his foreign policy and calls for a more aggressive response to the emerging threat posed by ISIS.

“Even countries that criticize us, when the chips are down, they know who to call,” he said.

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Official White House Photo by Pete Souza(CHARLOTTE, N.C.) — President Obama has approved U.S military surveillance flights over Syria to track the Islamic militant group ISIS, a group that American warplanes have been attacking in neighboring Iraq, ABC News has confirmed.

The U.S. has not made any decision on expanding its air offensive against ISIS, also known by the acronym ISIL, into Syria, a U.S. official said.

The decision on the surveillance flights emerged as the president told veterans at the American Legion’s National Convention in Charlotte, N.C., that airstrikes against ISIS must be part of a broader strategy.

“Our military action in Iraq has to be part of a broader strategy to protect our people and support our partners to take the fight to ISIL,” the president said.

He cautioned that “we have to use our power wisely.”

American jets and drones have helped halt the advance of ISIS in Iraq and roll back some of the territorial gains by the Islamic militants. The number of flights and air strikes has increased in recent weeks and top Pentagon officials have said they have considered whether to extend those attacks to ISIS forces in Syria. The U.S. has also been providing weaponry to Kurdish forces in northern Iraq who had been battling with ISIS fighters.

“Rooting out a cancer like ISIL won’t be easy and it won’t be quick, but tyrants and murderers before them should recognize that kind of hateful vision ultimately is no match for the strength and hopes of people who stand together for the security and dignity and freedom that is the birthright of every human being,” he said.

The president made clear that the U.S. can’t take on ISIS without the backing of allies.

“History teaches us of the dangers of overreaching and spreading ourselves too thin and trying to go it alone without international support, or rushing into military adventures without thinking through the consequences,” he said.

The president repeated his vow that the U.S. would not send ground troops back into Iraq for combat duty.

Obama warned ISIS that the killers of American journalist James Foley will be hunted down. Foley was beheaded allegedly in retaliation for the U.S. air campaign, and after a $100 million ransom demand was rebuffed.

“Our message to anyone who harms our people is simple. America does not forget, our reach is long, we are patient, justice will be done,” he said. “We have proved time and time again we will do what’s necessary to capture those who harm Americans — to go after those who harm Americans. And we’ll continue to take direct action where needed to protect our people and to defend our homeland.”

There are indications that British investigators may be closing in on the identity of the masked ISIS member who spoke with a British accent and was videotaped carrying out the gruesome execution.

Since the video of Foley’s execution shocked the West, Obama has endured a new round of criticism of his foreign policy and calls for a more aggressive response to the emerging threat posed by ISIS.

“Even countries that criticize us, when the chips are down, they know who to call,” he said.

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VA/Robert Turtil(WASHINGTON) — A report from the Department of Veterans Affairs’ independent investigator says there’s no proof delays at a VA hospital caused any deaths.

The scandal forced Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki to resign — and led to contentious hearings on Capitol Hill. But after months of investigating delays and falsified records at hospitals, VA investigators say there’s no conclusive proof those delays in care caused the deaths of any veterans.

The finding comes in a draft report from the VA’s Office of Inspector General. But it does flag problems throughout the system, including at the VA hospital in Phoenix, where whistleblowers claimed as many as 40 veterans died while waiting for care.

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Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) — The House of Representatives has hired Baker & Hostetler, one of America’s largest law firms, to the tune of $500 an hour — but a total not to exceed $350,000 — to represent the lower chamber in its lawsuit against President Obama.

In one of its final moves before the August recess, the House voted along partisan lines on July 30 to approve a resolution to initiate litigation against the president, accusing him of overreaching his executive authority in regard to unilaterally delaying the employer mandate in the Affordable Care Act.

The House Committee on Administration Monday released a contract it approved that disclosed the details of the agreement. David B. Rivkin, partner, is named as the principal attorney for the lawsuit.

“No president is above nor should operate beyond the limits of the Constitution,” Rep. Candice Miller, the committee’s chairman, stated. “The House of Representatives, using regular order and the powers that the Constitution has provided, calls upon our government’s system of checks and balances and asks the judicial branch to examine the president’s failure to faithfully execute the law. The president must be held accountable, and the House will continue to act in an open and transparent manner to preserve, protect and defend the Constitution.”

As expected, Democrats are livid, complaining Republicans are wasting U.S. taxpayer money on a lawsuit they believe has questionable legal merit and puts the GOP on a course to impeach Obama.

“House Republicans continue to waste time and taxpayer-dollars on a lawsuit against the President of the United States,” House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., wrote in a statement Tuesday. “Americans are tired of election-year stunts. They deserve leaders in Washington who will work to build an economy that works for everyone, not line the pockets of wealthy Washington lawyers and other special interests.”

A spokesman for House Speaker John Boehner declined to comment, although Boehner has been adamant in the past that he does not intend to impeach the president.

“We have no plans to impeach the president. We have no future plans,” Boehner said on July 29. “Listen, it’s all a scam started by Democrats at the White House.”

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Tom Pennington/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) — Even if you view yourself as a libertarian, you may not hold all the same beliefs as Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul, a possible candidate for the 2016 GOP presidential nomination.

Paul identifies himself as a libertarian, which is defined as “someone whose political views emphasize individual freedom by limiting the role of government.”

While it’s a growing movement, only a small minority of Americans — 14 percent — identify themselves as such, according to a Pew Research Center poll of 3,243 adults.

Meanwhile, a good chunk of people who consider themselves libertarian aren’t on board with Paul’s non-interventionist foreign policy. In fact, 43 percent agreed with the statement that “It is best for the future of our country to be active in world affairs.”

Only 35 percent of the general public concurs with that belief, the poll found.

However, Pew says that of those who identity with libertarian causes, 82 percent agree “Americans shouldn’t have to give up privacy and freedom in order to be safe from terrorism” and 56 percent think government regulation of business does more harm than good. In both instances, that’s more than the general public.

More libertarians than non-libertarians support legalizing marijuana while looking down on entitlement programs such as Social Security and Medicare.

More men than women hold libertarian beliefs as do more college graduates than those with only high school educations, Pew found.

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iStockphoto/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) — The U.S. State Department reiterated that the U.S. has not yet committed to a course of action regarding the presence of Islamic State of Iraq and Syria militants within Syria.

State Department spokesperson Jen Psaki said on Monday that the U.S. is working diligently to protect Americans. “I’m not going to get ahead of decision-making that the president hasn’t made yet, or rule any option on or off the table,” Psaki said, “but we’re not going to be restricted by borders.”

Earlier on Monday, Syria’s Foreign Minister Walid Mouallem said that any efforts by outside countries to fight terrorism within Syria must be coordinated with the Syrian government, state news agency Sana said. Mouallem condemned the execution of American journalist James Foley, but said that any action by other nations cannot violate Syrian sovereignty.

The New York Times is reporting that President Obama has authorized surveillance flights over Syria, a move that ABC News military consultant Steve Ganyard says is an integral part to gathering intelligence. “It does not mean it’s going to happen,” Ganyard said, “but it’s the first step if the Administration wants to do anything militarily. We have to build an intelligence picture, we have to see who is where, who holds what cities, who holds what key checkpoints.”

Still, Ganyard says such intelligence flights always come with some danger, but that the Syrian regime is unlikely to be the source of that danger, as any Syrian government-sponsored attack on U.S. aircraft would be “very foolish.” Ganyard also denied that intelligence flights would represent mission creep.

During Monday’s briefing, Psaki said that even if the U.S. did make the decision to fight ISIS within Syria, it would not place them on the same side as Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. “Certainly we would not view it as being on the same side just because there is a common enemy,” she said.

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