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Missouri Gov. Names New Public Safety Director


Office of Governor Jay Nixon(SAINT LOUIS) -- Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon named a new head of the Missouri Department of Public Safety on Wednesday, selecting former St. Louis City Police Chief Daniel Isom for the position.

Isom will take over the position on Sept. 1 for current Director Jerry Lee, who is retiring. Isom currently works as the professor of Policing and the Community for the University of Missouri-St. Louis' Department of Criminology and Criminal Justice.

The decision comes just about three weeks after a Ferguson, Mo., police officer shot and killed Michael Brown, an unarmed black teen. Isom will be the first and only black member of Nixon's cabinet.

Isom's selection is still subject to confirmation by the state Senate.

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State Department 'Looking Into' Reports of Death of Second American ISIS Fighter


Stockbyte/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- The U.S. State Department said on Wednesday that it was looking into reports that a second American may have been killed in the same battle that caused the death of Douglas McCain, an American jihadi.

"We've seen those reports," State Department spokesperson Jen Psaki said during Wednesday's briefing. She noted that the department did not have independent confirmation of those reports.

The White House confirmed on Tuesday that McCain, 33, was killed in Syria while allegedly fighting for the militant group the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria. McCain was apparently killed in the city of Aleppo.

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US Attorney's Office Declines to Press Charges in Death of Navy Yard Shooter


FBI(WASHINGTON) -- The U.S. Attorney's Office for the District of Columbia announced Wednesday that there will be no charges filed against law enforcement officers in the shooting death of Aaron Alexis, the man who attacked and killed 12 people at the Washington Navy Yard last year.

After reviewing witness statements, surveillance video, photographs, diagrams and other evidence and reports, the U.S. Attorney's Office decided that no actions undertaken by law enforcement officers had criminal intent and that their actions were undertaken in the interest of their own defense and the defense of others. Officers, the U.S. Attorney's Office said, "acted reasonably at all times to neutralize a life-threatening situation."

Alexis, a 34-year-old military contractor for the Department of Defense, entered the Navy Yard on Sept. 16, 2013, killing 12 civilians and injuring three civilians and a Metropolitan Police Department officer.

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Defense Rests in McDonnell Trial, Closing Arguments Could Begin Thursday


Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- The defense rested in the trial of former Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell on Wednesday, and closing arguments could begin as soon as Thursday.

McDonnell is accused of accepting gifts in exchange for special treatment of a businessman from Star Scientific. The CEO of the company testified earlier in the trial that he believes he was given access and a platform at the governor's mansion to promote a nutritional supplement.

McDonnell denied those claims earlier in the trial, saying he accepted the gifts but did not offer special treatment. He also spoke of the toll that his position as governor took on his marriage.

On Wednesday, the 23rd day of the trial, the McDonnells' daughter took the stand. The Washington Post says that Jeanine McDonnell Zubowsky discussed the tension between her parents when she was growing up.

McDonnell's daughter also said that the money she was given, she returned upon finding out that the businessman involved in the trial "was a criminal," according to the Washington Post.

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New Florida Rep, 23, Goes From ParentsÂ’ House to State House


iStockphoto/Thinkstock(TALLAHASSEE, Fla.) -- Boomerang kids, take heart: One of your own is making a splash in Florida politics.

Jennifer Sullivan, 23, still lives at home with her parents and is just about halfway through college. But the woman who admits she still quibbles with her siblings about who’s stuck with dish duty will soon represent more than 150,000 constituents in the Florida statehouse.

Elected to Florida’s House of Representatives by a 6-point margin Tuesday, Sullivan, a Republican, concedes her age made some voters nervous.

“I understand now that I have to prove myself,” she told ABC News. And she’ll waste no time demonstrating her worthiness once she gets to Tallahassee. She’s particularly eager to get to work repealing Common Core, the controversial education policy.

During the campaign, opponents knocked her for her age and inexperience. One GOP rival’s campaign brochure sneered, “State Representative isn’t an internship or job training course.” Another rival reportedly even attacked her for living at home. But Sullivan dismisses their criticisms as “desperate…grasping at straws.”

“A lot of people are finding that they are still living with their parents because they don’t want to go into debt,” she says. “That just wasn’t financially feasible for me to get an apartment.”

Like any other tech-savvy millennial, Sullivan is now tracking the response to her victory on social media, and is eager to rattle off the stats.

“I have about 54 unread text messages [and] over 300 Facebook notifications,” she says. “I’ve been able to stay up on Twitter so far.”

But she’s far from the stereotypical selfie-snapping, emoji-obsessed 20-something.

She and her friends “didn’t spend [the summer] on the beach chilling out,” she says. “They spent it knocking on doors…because they believe in what I stood for.”

The Vote for Jennifer campaign - nicknamed the #FreshFace campaign – operated out of her parents’ Lake County home. But juggling a hectic campaign schedule with her collegiate workload (she’s taking classes online, through Liberty University) meant she was rarely there.

“I’ve really just been home to sleep and eat, to be quite honest,” she says.

Sullivan, who was homeschooled, acknowledges that running a campaign from her childhood home did come with several distractions.

“Being the oldest of four siblings, it’s always, ‘Who’s going to do the dishes tonight?’” she laughs.

Still, she managed to stage what she calls “an incredible ground game,” raising $10,000 in just 10 days.

Though she knows that Sen. Marco Rubio, a rumored 2016 Republican presidential contender, was elected to the Florida statehouse at 28, Sullivan shrugs off the possibility of an illustrious political career.

“I’m not looking at the national scene,” she says, adding that she’d rather return to her district to work in the private sector when her time in the statehouse is up.

Her advice for other boomerangers with high aspirations?

“Younger [people] are oftentimes written off,” she says. “Don’t let anyone look down on you because you’re young.”

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Immigration Judge Calls Courts 'Alternate Legal Universe'


iStockphoto/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- Immigration courts are an “alternate legal universe,” one judge said on Wednesday. There are no bailiffs, no court reporters, no Miranda rights, no witnesses — and it’s happening every day on American soil.

There are more than 375,000 cases pending on the dockets of only 227 immigration judges.

“We look like the guy behind the curtain in The Wizard of Oz,” Dana Marks, a federal judge and the president of the National Association of Immigration Judges, told a gathering at the National Press Club Wednesday.

“Most members of the public don’t have a clue about the realities of our world,” she said. “Since there’s no statute of limitations in immigration court, the convictions which cause people to come before us in our courtroom can be decades old.”

Marks called immigration courts the “forgotten stepchild within the Department of Justice,” receiving just 1.7 percent of the $18 billion given to immigration enforcement annually.

“Because we have been left to the mercy of the political winds which constantly buffet immigration issues, we have been resource-starved for decades,” she said.

There is a solution, she says, but it would not be quick or cheap – and it would require an act of Congress.

“To be efficient, and operate economically, to guarantee fairness, our immigration courts need to be independent, both from the prosecutors and from the respondents who come before us,” Marks said.

One issue Marks and Denise Noonan Slavin, a Miami-based judge who is the union’s executive vice president, highlighted was the immigration judge’s dual role as judges – or unbiased arbitrators -- and employees within the Department of Justice, which often leads to blurred lines.

“The recent docketing changes brought about by the southwest border surge are another example of how we are serving two masters and not necessarily serving the public in the most efficient way,” Slavin said. “There is no other court that would turn the docket on its head at the request of one party. But the immigration court is flipping the docket by moving cases of newly arrived children to the front of the docket at the demand of the Department of Homeland Security.”

Slavin says this flip doesn’t make the most sense, especially when a judge could be deciding the fate of a child, whose parent’s own case may have been already on the docket and now pushed further down.

The administration requested judges to hear children’s cases with 21 days of apprehension following the influx of more than 60,000 children flooding the border since October 2013 – a 100-percent increase since last year. The administration has said they expect to return the majority of the Central American unaccompanied children.

“In the 27 years I’ve been an immigration judge, [I've] never been told what the ultimate outcome should be in a case. However, there are subtle pressures when you know you are supposed to do the case as quickly as possible,” Marks said. “There is a pressure to do things more quickly and that is more difficult.”

Marks adds that she and her colleagues have not seen an impact from President Obama’s initiative to add more judges and lawyers to the cases of unaccompanied minors.

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Ebola Outbreak Becomes Issue in Arkansas Senate Race


Office of Sen. Mark Pryor | Office of Rep. Tom Cotton(WASHINGTON) -- An unexpected issue popped up in the Arkansas Senate race this week -- Ebola.

Sen. Mark Pryor, D-Ark., released an ad titled “Emergency Response,” highlighting the recent Ebola outbreak, saying his opponent Rep. Tom Cotton, R-Ark., voted against funding for medical disaster aid.

“Tom Cotton voted against preparing America for pandemics like Ebola,” a male narrator says as news clips about the unprecedented Ebola outbreak play on screen.

“Congressman Cotton voted to cut billions from our nation’s medical disaster and emergency programs,” a female narrator says.

“He was the only Arkansas congressman to vote this way,” the male narrator says.

The Cotton campaign, which planned a news conference to rebut the TV spot, scoffed at the ad.

“Senator Pryor’s desperation is comical. In Senator Pryor’s world, he doesn’t have to take responsibility for rubber-stamping the Obama agenda over 90% of the time, but wants Arkansans to believe Tom Cotton is responsible for everything from Ebola to crabgrass and male-pattern baldness,” said David Ray, a spokesman for Cotton.

This is the first instance where the Ebola outbreak in West Africa has been used in a political ad here in the U.S. The Arkansas Senate race has seen a number of issues come to the forefront, including religion and border security, in a midterm election where the president’s health care plan was expected to dominate the agenda.

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Civil War Hero to Receive Medal of Honor, 151 Years Later


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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Charlie Crist Wins Democratic Primary for Governor of Florida


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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President Obama Talks About VA Reform, Need for Improved Mental Health Care


Official White House Photo by Pete Souza(CHARLESTON, N.C) -- During his trip to Charlotte, N.C., on Tuesday, President Obama discussed the newly released report on the scandal at the Department of Veterans Affairs and the need for better mental health care to battle the growing problem of veteran suicide.

"Despite all the good work that the VA does every day, despite all the progress that we’ve made over the last several years, we are very clear-eyed about the problems that are still there," Obama told the 96th national convention of the American Legion in Charlotte. "Those problems require us to regain the trust of our veterans, and live up to our vision of a VA that is more effective and more efficient and that truly puts veterans first. And I will not be satisfied until that happens."

"We are going to get to the bottom of these problems," Obama added. "We're going to fix what is wrong. We're going to do right by you, and we are going to do right by your families.  And that is a solemn pledge and commitment that I’m making to you here."

Obama emphasized his aim to "end this tragedy of suicide among our troops and veterans" -- pointing to 19 executive actions he announced Tuesday to improve veteran access to mental health care.

"As a country, we can’t stand idly by on such tragedy," Obama said. "So long as any servicemember or veteran is suffering, or feels like they have nowhere to turn, or doesn't get the support that they need, that means we haven't done enough."
 
Obama highlighted his push to expand suicide prevention training across the military and the VA, "so colleagues and clinicians can spot the warning signs and encourage our troops and veterans to seek help."

"We're calling on Congress to help us ensure that our troops get coverage for mental health care that's on par with the coverage for other medical conditions," he said.  "We're going to keep saying loud and clear to anyone out there who's hurting, it is not a sign of weakness to ask for help; it is a sign of strength. Talk to a friend. Pick up the phone. You are not alone. We are here for you. And every American needs to know if you see someone in uniform or a veteran who is struggling, reach out and help them to get help. They were there for America. We now need to be there for them."

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Obama Approves ISIS Surveillance Flights over Syria


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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Perry Adds Republican Strategist, McCain Aide to Legal Team


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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Kerry Praises Gaza Agreement, Hopes Cease-Fire is 'Durable and Sustainable'


Credit: US Department of State(WASHINGTON) -- Secretary of State John Kerry released a statement on Tuesday offering strong support for a cease-fire agreement reached between Israel and the Palestinian Authority.

Kerry has worked with Israeli and Palestinian leaders, as well as Egyptian leadership who hosted negotiations in an effort to bring calm to the region. He said Tuesday that he hopes the new cease-fire will be "durable and sustainable," ending rocket and mortar strikes.

Kerry also called for increased delivery of humanitarian aid to the people of Gaza once "calm is restored." He reiterated his eagerness to work with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas on reconstruction and aid for the Gazan people. Meanwhile, he assured Abbas and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that the U.S. will continue to be engaged in long-term peace negotiations.

Kerry is "aware of the challenges ahead," but remains optimistic that the two sides can come to an agreement that will bring the "future that the people on both sides deserve."

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Interim Director of Phoenix VA Facility Discusses Changes in Light of Critical Report


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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State Department Declines Comment on Reports of Intelligence Flights over Syria


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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