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California Passes Plastic Bag Ban


iStock/Thinkstock(SACRAMENTO, Calif.) -- California lawmakers are sending Gov. Jerry Brown a bill that would make California the first to impose a statewide ban on single-use plastic grocery bags.

State lawmakers okayed the bill Friday after protections were added for plastic bag manufacturers.

The measure makes plastic bags illegal statewide at grocery stores and large pharmacies. It includes $2 million in loans to help manufacturers shift to producing reusable bags and lets grocers charge $0.10 each for paper and reusable plastic.

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Louisiana Sen. Mary Landrieu Facing Questions About Residency


US Senate(WASHINGTON) -- Louisiana Sen. Mary Landrieu is the latest Washington veteran being forced to fend off a challenge to her reelection that alleges she is no longer a resident of her home state, but lives in DC.

A similar challenge succeeded in knocking off former Indiana senator Richard Lugar in 2012, despite - or because of - his 35 years in Congress.

Landrieu's office and campaign are fighting back very cautiously.

"I have lived at my home on Prieur Street (New Orleans) most of my life and I live there now when not fulfilling my duties in Washington or serving constituents across the state," Landrieu said in a statement released to ABC News.

A Landrieu campaign official also noted that both Landrieu and her husband file taxes in Louisiana.

Her campaign, however, will not elaborate on the controversy.

It is an issue that is increasingly being employed this year against members of Congress who are repeatedly reelected, and spend most of their time in Washington.

Sen. Pat Roberts, R-Kansas, acknowledged to The New York Times that he does not have a home of his own in Kansas, and his primary opponent, Dr. Milton Wolf, has attacked him over it. Rep. Dan Maffei, D-N.Y., has feuded with his Republican opponent, John Katko, over a mention of Maffei’s wife’s work and the couple’s home in the D.C. area.

Landrieu, a Democrat, is already in a race that is considered one of the most closely contested this year and could determine control of the Senate.

Landrieu claims her parents' home in New Orleans as her principle address, and listed it on her statement of candidacy filed with the Federal Election Commission earlier this year. But the Democrat also lists her multi-million dollar Washington, DC home as her address on other documents, including her filing with the Louisiana Secretary of State’s office when she qualified to be on the ballot last week.

Rob Maness, a tea party candidate in the race, filed a letter with the Louisiana Secretary of State’s office last week calling for an investigation into Landrieu’s residency. He followed up on Friday by submitting written complaints to district attorneys in four parishes, calling on them to object to the Landrieu's qualifications as a candidate. Landrieu's leading Republican opponent, Rep. Bill Cassidy, has piled on to paint Landrieu as a creature of Washington.

Landrieu maintains that she lives at her parents' home in New Orleans, of which she is a partial owner under a family trust and where she is registered to vote.

According to the Louisiana Secretary of State's listed qualifications, a candidate for U.S. Senate must "be an inhabitant of Louisiana when elected."

The Constitution governs residency requirements, broadly. As Louisiana's law is worded, it requires senators to "be an Inhabitant of that State in which he shall be chosen."

The definition of what it is to be "an inhabitant" is a broad one, said Dr. Pearson Cross, the head of the political science department at the University of Louisiana. From a legal standpoint, he said it would be difficult to prove that Landrieu is not an inhabitant.

"Courts have been reluctant to intervene in that and have given a lot of latitude in defining residency," Cross said. "To say that Mary Landrieu is not a resident is a bit disingenuous given that Senate and Congress have become a full-time occupation and that their work is done in Washington."

Cross said the issue of Landrieu's residency is a ploy likely to influence voters who are already inclined to vote against Landrieu.

"It will have resonance with some voters who are pre-inclined to believe," Cross said. "It will probably have little effect on voters who aren’t inclined to believe it. In terms of Louisiana politics, it’s clear that many people, particularly those with national focus, are running against Washington. To the extent that you can tar someone with the Washington brush, it’s an effective campaign tactic."

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Obama Pushes for Increased Minimum Wage in Weekly Address


Official White House Photo by Pete Souza(WASHINGTON) -- With Labor Day just around the corner, President Obama outlined the arguments behind his continued push for an increased minimum wage in his weekly address.

Obama reiterated once again that Congress should act to help hardworking Americans around the country. Obama raised the minimum wage for federal workers to $10.10 per hour using an executive order earlier this year, and in his address he praised the 13 states and the District of Columbia who have followed his lead.

"America deserves a raise," Obama said, because the country built "the greatest middle class the world has ever known" by ensuring that all hardworking Americans can get ahead.

Read the full transcript of the president's address:

Hi, everybody.  Whether you’re firing up the grill, fired up for some college football, or filling up the car for one last summer roadtrip – Happy Labor Day weekend.

We set aside Labor Day to honor the working men and women of America.  And this Labor Day, we’ve got more to celebrate.  Over the past 53 months, our businesses have added nearly 10 million new jobs.  Last month, for the first time since 1997, we created more than 200,000 jobs for six straight months.  And for the first time in over a decade, business leaders worldwide have declared, two years running, that the number one place to invest isn’t China – it’s America.

So there are reasons to be optimistic about where we’re headed.  And the decisions we make now will determine whether or not we accelerate this progress – whether economic gains flow to a few at the top, or whether a growing economy fuels rising incomes and a thriving middle class.

Think about it this Labor Day.  The things we often take for granted – Social Security and Medicare, workplace safety laws and the right to organize for better pay and benefits, even weekends – we didn’t always have these things.  Workers and the unions who get their back had to fight for them.  And those fights built a stronger middle class.

To build a stronger middle class in today’s changing economy, we’ve got to keep fighting.  We’ve got to fight for the right to affordable health insurance for everybody.  The right to fair pay, family leave, and workplace flexibility.  The right to a fair living wage. 

Let me focus on that last one for a minute.  In America, no one who works full-time should ever have to raise a family in poverty.  A hard day’s work deserves a fair day’s pay.  And raising the minimum wage would be one of the best ways to give a boost to working families.  It would help around 28 million Americans from all walks of life pay the bills, provide for their kids, and spend that money at local businesses.  And that grows the economy for everyone.

The bottom line is, America deserves a raise.  But until we’ve got a Congress that cares about raising working folks’ wages, it’s up to the rest of us to make it happen.  And in the year and a half since I first asked Congress to raise the minimum wage, Americans of all walks of life are doing just that.

Thirteen states and D.C. have done their part by raising their minimum wages.  Four more states have minimum wage initiatives on the ballot this November.  And the states where the minimum wage has gone up this year have experienced higher job growth than the states that haven’t. 

Business leaders at companies like The Gap are doing their part.  They’re raising base wages for tens of thousands of workers because they know it’s good for business.
Mayors across the country are doing their part.  Mayor Emanuel in Chicago and Mayor Garcetti in L.A. are working to lift their cities’ wages over time to at least thirteen dollars an hour.

I’ve tried to do my part by requiring companies that get contracts with the federal government to pay their workers a fair wage of ten dollars and ten cents an hour. 

And earlier this month, the president of Kentucky State University set a great example by giving himself a $90,000 pay cut, so that he could give raises to his lowest-paid employees.  His sacrifice will give more of his workers and their families a little extra money to help make ends meet. 

That’s how America built the greatest middle class the world has ever known.  Not by making sure a fortunate few at the top are doing well, but by making sure that everyone who’s willing to work hard and play by the rules can get ahead.  That’s the bedrock this country is built on.  Hard work.  Responsibility.  Sacrifice.  And looking out for one another as one united American family.

Let’s keep that in mind this Labor Day, and every day.  Have a great weekend, everybody.

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GOP Weekly Address: Rep. Larry Bucshon on Bringing Jobs Back to the US


US Congress(WASHINGTON) -- In the Republican weekly address, Rep. Larry Bucshon of Indiana discussed what American political leaders must do to bring jobs back to the United States.

With Labor Day on Monday, Bucshon spoke of how "Americas workers make our country go." He noted, however, that many of those workers are "hurting."

Bucshon mentioned 40 "good jobs bills awaiting action," blame for which he pointed at the Democrat-held Senate.

Bucshon argues for lowering energy costs, fixing the tax code and restoring opportunities for all Americans.

Read the full transcript of the GOP address:

Hello, I’m Dr. Larry Bucshon, proudly serving Indiana’s Eighth Congressional District.

I’m honored to be speaking with you from the Heartland of America on this weekend when we tip our hat to the working man and woman.

America’s workers make our country go, so our goal should be to make our economy work for them.

But traveling around Indiana this week, going from job fairs to listening sessions to small businesses, it was easy to see how our workers are still hurting.

We’re seeing some jobs come back, but too many of our fellow Americans are stuck in part-time work or have stopped looking altogether.  And between wages staying flat – and costs on everything from food to health care going up – families are being squeezed at every turn.

Here in Indiana, and in many states throughout the union, we rely on coal to power our homes and provide good-paying middle class jobs – like the one my family relied on when I was a kid.

My dad spent 35 years as a UMWA coal miner in my hometown of Kincaid, Illinois. He was proud of the work he did everyday and rightly so.  The coal mine helped put food on our table and helped me pursue an education and realize the American Dream.

Unfortunately, the current administration is waging a war on this reliable, affordable source of energy and the countless jobs it supports.  This is one example of many where the policies coming from Washington, D.C. just don’t make sense.

As a physician, I took an oath to “do no harm.”  While this Administration’s policies continue to harm our nation’s economy and families struggling to make ends meet, Republicans are offering solutions America’s workers can count on. Our solutions will address the sluggish job market and grow our economy over the long run.

First, we need to get people back into steady, good-paying jobs.  One thing we’ve already done is fix our job training system to make it easier for workers to find the skills they need to get ahead – this was a bipartisan, common-sense compromise with our colleagues in the Senate.  We’ve also offered proposals to jumpstart small business investment and rein in the red tape factory that makes it harder for employers to hire and expand.

All told, we have more than 40 good jobs bills awaiting action in the Democratic-run United States Senate. 

Lowering costs is another area that demands action.  Several of the bipartisan jobs bills we’re asking Senate Democrats to act on would help make energy less expensive for families and small businesses, like the manufacturers that help support the Hoosier economy.  And we need to implement real health care reform that lets patients choose the plans they want at a price they can afford.

And third, we need to restore real opportunities for all Americans.  That’s why we’ve sent the Senate solutions to make education more affordable and accessible for middle-class families.  And we’re ready to fix our tax code to make it simpler and fairer for everyone.

These three things – getting people back to work, lowering costs at home, and restoring opportunity – will continue to be our focus in the weeks ahead.

We call them ‘American Solutions’ because they put the American people first.  Which is exactly what we’re asking of President Obama and Senate Democrats as we celebrate our nation’s workforce: put aside politics, and do what Americans do every day, and that’s get to work.

Thanks for listening. God bless you and God bless the United States of America.

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Federal Judge Rejects Part of Restrictive Texas Abortion Law


iStockphoto/Thinkstock(AUSTIN, Texas) -- A federal judge rejected part of the state's abortion law that would have required abortion clinics to meet hospital-level operating room standards by Sept. 1 or close.

The law would have left just seven facilities in Texas as legal abortion sites. For now, at least 19 such facilities will remain open. An appeal from the state is expected.

Texas state Sen. Wendy Davis called the decision "a victory for women's health care." Davis notably filibustered the abortion bill for 11 hours before it passed during a special session. "These decisions," Davis said, "should only be made between a woman, her doctor and her God -- not Austin politicians like Attorney General Greg Abbott, who would make abortion illegal even in cases of rape and incest."

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Mississippi Judge Dismisses Lawsuit Seeking to Overturn Sen. Thad Cochran's Primary Win


Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images(JACKSON, Miss.) -- A Mississippi judge threw out a lawsuit Friday filed by Senate candidate Chris McDaniel who sought to overturn Senator Thad Cochran’s narrow victory in their June primary runoff.

Judge Hollis McGehee ruled that McDaniel failed to file the challenge within the 20-day period required by Mississippi law.

McGehee’s decision was issued a day after hearing arguments regarding the timing of the lawsuit.

The challenge by McDaniel centered on his frustration over the means by which Cochran won the runoff to their June 3 Republican primary. Refusing to concede his loss, McDaniel argued that he and his campaign team discovered over a thousand ineligible ballots, largely cast by voters who also participated in the state’s Democratic primary the day before. Though state law does not require that voters register with a particular party to vote in a primary, it requires voters to align in the runoff with the party they voted for in the primary.

Out of more than 380,000 ballots cast, McDaniel lost to Cochran in the runoff by fewer than 8,000 votes.

McGehee sided with Cochran’s lawyers, who referenced a Mississippi Supreme Court Law issued in 1959 that stated election challenges must occur within 20 days of the final day of voting. McDaniel filed the challenge on Aug. 14, well past the deadline.

An aide to McDaniel told ABC News it is currently “unclear” whether they will appeal to a higher court, perhaps the same Supreme Court that issued the law that prevented the successful challenge in the first place.

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A Mississippi judge  threw out a lawsuit today filed by Senate candidate Chris McDaniel who seeking to overturn Senator Thad Cochran’s narrow victory in their June primary runoff.

Judge Hollis McGehee ruled that McDaniel failed to file the challenge within the 20-day period required by Mississippi law.

McGehee’s decision was issued a day after hearing arguments regarding the timing of the lawsuit.

Six-Term Incumbent Sen. Thad Cochran Beats Tea Party Challenger, Chris McDaniel

Chris McDaniel Opens Legal Challenge in Mississippi GOP Primary Race

Chris McDaniel Just Won’t Give Up After GOP Senate Primary Loss

The challenge by McDaniel centered on his frustration over the means by which  Cochran won the runoff to their June 3 Republican primary. Refusing to concede his loss, McDaniel argued that he and his campaign team discovered over a thousand ineligible ballots, largely cast by voters who also participated in the state’s Democratic primary the day before. Though state law does not require that voters register with a particular party to vote in a primary, it requires voters to align in the runoff with the party they voted for in the primary.

Out of more than 380,000 ballots cast, McDaniel lost to Cochran in the runoff by fewer than 8,000 votes.

McGehee sided with Cochran’s lawyers, who referenced a Mississippi Supreme Court Law issued in 1959 that stated election challenges must occur within 20 days of the final day of voting. McDaniel filed the challenge on Aug. 14, well past the deadline.

An aide to McDaniel told ABC News it is currently “unclear” whether they will appeal to a higher court, perhaps the same Supreme Court that issued the law that prevented the successful challenge in the first place.

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McConnell Campaign Manager Resigns in Wake of Scandal


US Senate(WASHINGTON) -- A campaign manager for Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell resigned his position on Friday in the wake of a scandal from the 2012 caucuses.

Jesse Benton, Ron Paul's grandson-in-law, had worked for the McConnell campaign in 2012 and was expected to run Rand Paul's campaign in 2016. He released a statement Friday, saying that working for McConnell was "one of the great honors of [his] life."

Still, Benton offered his resignation effective Saturday to avoid becoming a distraction to McConnell's reelection campaign. Benton pointed to "inaccurate press accounts and unsubstantiated media rumors" about his role in "past campaigns" as the cause of his resignation.

"This decision breaks my heart, but I know it is the right thing for Mitch, for Kentucky and for the country," Benton's statement read.

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Rick Perry Criticizes Obama for Lack of Strategy, Calls ISIS 'Danger to the Free World'


ABC/Matthew Putney(DALLAS) -- Texas Gov. Rick Perry criticized President Obama on Friday at the annual Americans for Prosperity summit in Dallas.

Calling out the commander in chief for his admission that the administration does not yet have a strategy on how to combat the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria on Thursday, Perry called the militant group a "clear and present danger to the free world." Obama, he said, needs to understand that "the peace of the free world requires presidential decisiveness, not dithering and debating."

Addressing the conservative crowd, Perry called for action, declaring that "presidential leadership is needed now, more than ever."

Changing topics, Perry also criticized Obama's overreach on immigration. "On the one hand we're seeing a willful neglect of clear presidential responsibility," Perry said, "and on the other, we're seeing an aggressive overreach into powers that don't even belong to a president."

Perry was indicted earlier this month on charges of abuse of official capacity and coercion of a public official for his threat to veto funding for the Texas state public integrity unit when District Attorney Rosemary Lehmberg refused to resign following a DUI.

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Chelsea Clinton to Leave NBC News


Photo by: Peter Kramer/NBC(NEW YORK) -- Chelsea Clinton announced on Friday that she will leave her job as a special correspondent at NBC News due in part to her pregnancy and in part so that she can focus on her work with the Clinton Foundation.

Clinton joined NBC in 2011, and thanked the company for the opportunity to tell "stories about remarkable people and organizations and [make] a profound difference in our country and our world." She called her time at NBC a "privilege"

Still, Clinton said, she looks forward to working with NBC in the future.

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Former Presidents to Announce Partnership, Launch Presidential Leadership Scholars Program


Photo Credits: ABC/ JON GARCIA (L) and ABC/Randy Holmes (R)(WASHINGTON) -- Former Presidents George W. Bush and Bill Clinton will team up again, they announced on Friday, to launch an educational leadership program.

The Presidential Leadership Scholars program will offer "motivated leaders an opportunity to study presidential decisions, and learn from key administration officials, practitioners, and leading academics." This program is the product of a partnership between the presidential centers of Bush, Clinton, George H.W. Bush, and Lyndon B. Johnson.

The specific details of the program will be unveiled on Sept. 8 during a lunch event at Washington D.C.'s, Newseum. That event will be also be steamed live.

According to a press release, the program's intent is to allow its participants to "foster the skills they'll need to address both the challenges and opportunities presented in the 21st century."

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Homeland Security Secretary Says No Threat Imminent Against US


US Department of Homeland Security(WASHINGTON) -- The Department of Homeland Security issued a statement on Friday in regards to the decision made by the government of the United Kingdom to raise that country's domestic terror threat level to "severe."

Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson said in the statement that the U.S. government has not received any "specific, credible threat to the U.S. homeland." Still, Johnson noted, militants from the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria have shown the intent and capability to capture American citizens overseas, making them an "active and serious threat."

Johnson points out the action that the DHS has taken in recent weeks, including enhanced security at overseas airports and increased tracking of foreign fighters traveling to and from Syria. "Additional security measures" are also under consideration, he said.

Johnson expressed deep concern about the ongoing situation in both Iraq and Syria, saying that the DHS will "continue to evaluate and adopt serious and prudent homeland security measures as the situation warrants."

Earlier on Friday, the FBI noted that the United Kingdom's decision was not based on a specific threat. White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest echoed that sentiment, saying that he didn't "anticipate at this point that there is a plan to change" the U.S. terror threat level.

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Nice Tan, Mr. President: Reactions to Obama's Latest Fashion Choice


The White House(WASHINGTON) -- President Obama wore a tan suit at his press conference Thursday and the Internet exploded.

Although the president was making important statements about the Islamic State and Russia, supporters and critics focused more on Obama's attire, a departure from the usual dark suits or sports jackets he wears in public.

Some of the tweets included:

"Obama vows to defeat whoever made him wear this suit."

"Who gave President Obama that old church suit from my dad's closet?"

"I don’t care that Obama’s suit is tan. The problem with the suit is that it’s EMPTY."

"Obama's tan suit is a distraction from Benghazi."

"If Obama is catching hell for wearing a tan suit now, then God help him when he wears white after Labor Day."

"Message from senior White House official: 'He loves that suit.'"

Michigan Congressman John Dingell tweeted, "I see no problem with the suit," while also posting a photo of himself in a tan suit.

FYI: Obama was also photographed wearing what looks like the same suit after attending Easter Sunday services.
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Prosecution Rests in McDonnell Trial, Closing Arguments Friday


Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- After the prosecution rested in the trial of former Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell and his wife, closing arguments will begin on Friday.

The jury was sent home on Thursday afternoon and will hear four closing arguments before they will be asked to come to a verdict. McDonnell and his wife are accused of taking gifts from a businessman in exchange for special treatment.

The defense rested on Wednesday. Star Scientific CEO Jonnie Williams said that he provided the McDonnells with gifts in exchange for help with his business. The McDonnells, however, claim that he was never given special treatment.

The final witness for the prosecution was an FBI special agent who testified that the couple spent most of their nights together, the Washington Post said, a claim that would undermine their defense that their marriage was sufficiently damaged by his political status that they could not have engaged in a conspiracy.

After the testimony ended, defense attorneys moved to have the couple acquitted, but the judge denied that request.

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President Obama Says 'We Don't Have a Strategy Yet' to Fight ISIS


Official White House Photo by Pete Souza(WASHINGTON) --  President Obama admitted Thursday that his administration does not have a strategy to combat the militant Islamic group Islamic State of Iraq and Syria that has grabbed large chunks of Iraq and Syria.

The president said he would be meeting later Thursday with the National Security Council.

“The options that I’m asking for from the Joint Chiefs focuses primarily on making sure that ISIL is not overrunning Iraq,” Obama said during a news conference in the White House briefing room, using another acronym for the militant Islamic group ISIS.

When the president was asked if he would seek congressional approval for U.S. attacks on ISIS targets in Syria, he responded, "I don't want to put the cart before the horse. We don’t have a strategy yet...Some of the news reports suggests that folks are getting a little further ahead of where we’re at than we currently are.”

Earlier this week, the president approved military surveillance flights over Syria, but airstrikes in that country have not been authorized. U.S. military planes have carried out over 100 airstrikes in Iraq.

“As commander-in-chief, I will always do what is necessary to protect the American people,” he said. “Our military action in Iraq has to be part of a broader comprehensive strategy to protect our people and to support our partners who are taking the fight to [ISIS]."

Obama said he is dispatching Secretary of State John Kerry to the area to work with allies, and ordered Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel to prepare “a range of options” as he considers future military action.

“It also means that states in the region stop being ambivalent about these extremist groups,” Obama said. “This should be a wake-up call to Sunni, to Shia, to everybody that a group like ISIS is beyond the pale; that they have no vision or ideology beyond violence and chaos and the slaughter of innocent people."

“We've got to all join together -- even if we have differences on a range of political issues -- to make sure that they're rooted out,” he added.

The president promised to continue to consult with Congress in the days and weeks ahead.

"I do think that it’ll be important for Congress to weigh in, or that our consultations with Congress continue to develop, so that the American people are part of the debate." he said. “I will consult with Congress and made sure their voices are heard.”

Following Obama’s remarks, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell predicted the president would have “significant congressional support” if he engages legislators in the development of his plans.

“The President needs to develop a regional strategy, working with our allies, to defeat ISIL and to use the full extent of his authorities to attack this enemy force,” McConnell, R-Ky., wrote in a statement. “But don’t forget, the threat from ISIL is real and it’s growing — and it is time for President Obama to exercise some leadership in launching a response.”

Secretary of State John Kerry has also consistently advocated for a powerful response.

“The world must know that the United States of America will never back down in the face of such evil,” Kerry said in a statement released last week. “ISIL and the wickedness it represents must be destroyed.”

Following his remarks, Obama was scheduled to meet with his National Security Council in the Situation Room, with Vice President Joe Biden and Kerry.

Since video emerged Aug. 19 showing the beheading of American journalist James Foley, Obama has fought back against fresh criticism of his foreign policy, promising to be “relentless” in his fight against the emerging threat posed by ISIS.


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Missouri Sen. Claire McCaskill to Lead Senate Hearing on Demilitarization of Local Police


US Senate(WASHINGTON) -- Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Missouri, will chair a Senate hearing on the militarization of local police, she announced on Thursday.

The hearing will take place on Sept. 9 and McCaskill, the chairperson of the Subcommittee on Financial and Contracting Oversight -- and also a senator from the state where police utilized military-style equipment in confrontations with protesters following the officer-involved shooting death of Michael Brown earlier this month -- will lead. McCaskill was one of a number of political leaders who called on local authorities in Ferguson, Missouri, to "demilitarize" the tense situation.

The hearing will be held by the full Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee at 10:30 a.m. on Sept. 9.

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