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Biden Posts Selfie with Obama on Instagram

Official White House Photo by Pete Souza(WASHINGTON) -- Hours after joining Instagram, Vice President Joe Biden posted his first selfie to the photo-sharing social network on Thursday.

The picture, which features Biden alongside President Obama, is captioned: "Found a friend to join my first selfie on Instagram. Thanks for following and stay tuned. –VP."

Biden was in Pittsburgh with Obama Thursday to talk about expanding job-training programs to help more Americans find jobs.

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Michael Bloomberg Donates $50M to Gun Violence Prevention Group

Andrew Burton/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg has invested millions of his own fortune into the push for stricter gun laws. Now, he’s upping the ante by pledging up to $50 million this year alone to a newly formed gun control organization that hopes to rival the influence of the powerful National Rifle Association.

Bloomberg’s group, Mayors Against Illegal Guns, has joined forces with Moms Demand Action under a new umbrella group, Everytown for Gun Safety. The group’s goals are to expand background checks at the state and federal levels and drive one million gun control supporters to the voting booths in November.

“What we are building here is a counter weight to the gun lobby. The truth is that the gun lobby has had this territory to themselves both in Washington and in state houses across the country and our job is to change that,” John Feinblatt, president of Everytown for Gun Safety, said Wednesday during a conference call.

“I think the NRA should be very afraid of Americans, who’ve had enough of the gun violence in this country and in particular moms,” Shannon Watts, founder of Moms Demand Action and a board member for Everytown for Gun Safety, said. “Moms are afraid our children will be taken away and in the end, I think that’s the emotion that will win the debate.”

But the new organization, whose board includes billionaire Warren Buffett and former Secretary of Homeland Security Tom Ridge, has a heavy lift ahead as it looks to challenge the NRA, which carries heavy political influence with lawmakers in conservative states.

Asked to comment, NRA spokesman Andreew Arulanandam said, “See you in Indianapolis next week. We will have a lot more to say then” -- referring to the organization’s annual meeting.

During the gun debate last year, Bloomberg’s group and the NRA went head to head over background check legislation.

At the time, Bloomberg even poured $12 million in advertisements into 13 states to convince senators to vote in favor of gun control legislation. Bloomberg’s return on investment was not very good. The Senate ultimately dealt gun control advocates a major blow when it failed to pass legislation expanding requirements for background checks before purchasing a firearm.

Four Democrats voted against the bill, including two senators who are up for re-election this year in conservative states -- Sens. Mark Begich, D-Alaska, and Mark Pryor, D-Ark. It’s those red states that could act as a major roadblock for future gun control legislation on the federal level as the NRA wields enormous influence with lawmakers in those states.

While he was handed defeat in the Senate, Bloomberg isn’t just looking at the federal level as a gauge on a return on his investment in the gun control cause. Feinblatt pointed to successes on the state level, including the states that have passed comprehensive background checks.

“We measure this in terms of lives saved and when you have 160 people in Colorado who would have gotten their hands on guns not getting their hands on guns, that has saved lives and you can’t put a price tag on that,” Feinblatt said.

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Book: White House Caught Off Guard by Biden's Gay Marriage Support

The White House(WASHINGTON) -- A new book claims Vice President Joe Biden blindsided the White House when he told NBC's Meet the Press on May 6, 2012 that he was "absolutely comfortable with" same-sex marriage and that gay and lesbian couples "are entitled to the same exact rights, all the civil rights, all the civil liberties," Politico reports.

According to author Jo Becker, whose Forcing the Spring hits bookstores next week, the administration's assertions that Biden was sent as a trial balloon were not accurate and some aides wanted President Obama to come down hard on Biden, which he didn't.

Forcing the Spring details the strides the LGBT community has made in getting same-sex marriage legalized over the past few years.

Biden, who was speaking entirely off the cuff, basically forced the president's hand. In a tweet after Meet the Press, Obama senior adviser David Axelrod wrote, "What VP said-that all married couples should have exactly the same legal rights-is precisely POTUS’s position."

Since it was an election year, Obama was apparently agonizing about when to show his support for same-sex marriage. However, on May 10, 2012, he did just that in an interview with ABC News’ Robin Roberts.

The president described his thought process as an “evolution” that led him to this place, based on conversations with his own staff members, openly gay and lesbian service members, and conversations with his wife and own daughters.

In 2004, as a candidate for the U.S. Senate, Obama cited his own religion in framing his views: “I'm a Christian. I do believe that tradition and my religious beliefs say that marriage is something sanctified between a man and a woman."

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Administration Downplays New Al Qaeda Video from Yemen

Erkan Avci/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- The State Department says that Americans shouldn't get too worked up over a recent video showing what appears to be a gathering of al Qaeda’s dangerous Yemen affiliate, al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula.

The video, which was posted on Islamic militant websites two weeks ago, features AQAP leader Nasir al-Wahishi addressing dozens of fighters.

According to the translation, Wahishi tells his followers, "The enemy crusader still has cards to play. We must remember that we are always fighting against the big enemy. We must eliminate the cross held by the cross bearer America."

Wahishi joined al Qaeda before the 9/11 terror attacks on the U.S. and escaped from a maximum security prison in Yemen in 2006.

As threatening as the new video might sound, State Department spokesperson Marie Harf told reporters at a Wednesday press briefing, "I don't think this increases our concern because quite frankly our concern was already incredibly high."

Top U.S. officials have previously described AQAP as the most dangerous of the al Qaeda affiliates, more so than the terror group’s core cadre led by Ayman al-Zawahiri in southwest Asia.

Harf said as much at the briefing, adding, "We know they've been gaining in strength. We have been increasingly concerned about them, as I said, since 2009. That's why we've worked increasingly to counter the threat from AQAP in a variety of different ways."

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Congress Gone Wild? Lawmakers Take on Spring Break

Architect of the Capitol(WASHINGTON) -- Congress’ annual two-week spring vacation from the nation’s capital is well under way, and many of the 535 lawmakers are following the tradition of sharing their wild (and in some cases, mild) experiences via social media.

What exactly does spring break mean for a typical Washington politician? From what we found, it’s fairly clear that most of them graduated from college a long time ago -- although New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker did spend some time back in high school this week.

Meanwhile, Rep. Jared Polis, D-Colo., tweeted a photo of himself with a mouthful of matzah (it’s Passover, after all) and Rep. Kyrsten Sinema, D-Ariz., strapped on some sneakers to train for next week’s Boston Marathon.

Then there were Sen. John Hoeven, R-N.D., and Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., who took to Twitter to share photos from their Eurotrip with Sen. John Barrasso, R-Wyo., to Latvia, Estonia and Lithuania. Nothing says spring break like oceanside military protocols.


Visited #Tallinn's beautiful medieval Old Town yesterday w/ Sen Hoeven #Estonia pic.twitter.com/rYP4IGyrTW

— John McCain (@SenJohnMcCain) April 15, 2014



Observed joint exercise yesterday w/@SenJohnMcCain, @SenJohnBarrasso, US, Latvian & Estonian soldiers pic.twitter.com/hPdp92ijit

— Senator John Hoeven (@SenJohnHoeven) April 16, 2014


House Speaker John Boehner traveled to Afghanistan along with seven other House Republicans to visit troops as well as Ambassador James Cunningham and General Joseph Dunford, according to the speaker’s office.


Video update from #Afghanistan: http://t.co/JBkxjes20o

— Speaker John Boehner (@SpeakerBoehner) April 14, 2014


Spring break, it seems, is a great time for lawmakers to pig out. Sen. Deb Fischer, R-Neb., tweeted out this photo of her and a large stone pig in front of Farmland, a subsidiary of Smithfield Foods.


Great day in Lincoln, Friend, & Crete. Stopped by the Farmland facility in Crete this afternoon. Thx for the tour! pic.twitter.com/CyFGMdRoqp

— Senator Deb Fischer (@SenatorFischer) April 15, 2014


 Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., hosted a good ole’ southern barbeque.


Great crowd for our #TeamGraham BBQ in Summerville. Thank you for the strong showing of support. #sctweets #scsen pic.twitter.com/7tExDMW4QY

— Lindsey Graham (@LindseyGrahamSC) April 14, 2014


And the Jewish Rep. Jared Polis, D- Colo., noshed on Matzah in honor of Passover.


~Matzah, matzah man... I wanna be a Matzah man~ pic.twitter.com/QuSrmRh7QB

— Jared Polis (@jaredpolis) April 15, 2014


Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Conn., daydreamed about pizza crust stuffed with hot dogs, chili and cheese.


Just learned New Zealand Pizza Huts sell pizza w crust stuffed w hot dogs stuffed w chili & cheese. Go there soon must I.

— Chris Murphy (@ChrisMurphyCT) April 16, 2014


Other lawmakers used the holiday as a chance to get in shape. Reps. Kyrsten Sinema, D-Ariz., and Joe Kennedy, III., D-Mass. kept busy training for the Boston Marathon.


We run for #BostonStrong. Help us support @OneFundBoston, donate http://t.co/mS9Hzzk9uv pic.twitter.com/V2ExMNQnpi

— Kyrsten Sinema (@kyrstensinema) April 15, 2014


 Rep. Shelley Moore Capito, R- W.Va., celebrated her dad’s 91st birthday.


Happy 91st birthday, Dad! pic.twitter.com/l4VYsMN9ZA

— Shelley Moore Capito (@RepShelley) April 16, 2014

A few lawmakers knew where to go to recapture the wild spring break zeitgeist -- back to school. Sen. Cory Booker, D-N.J., certainly captured the heart of the young, hip set. Way to go, #bro.


I enjoyed my visit to Tenafly High School today. Nice meeting you. RT @michaelroura thanks for the pic bro #TheMan pic.twitter.com/ijO05yzLWi

— Cory Booker (@CoryBooker) April 16, 2014


Reps. Walter Jones, R-N.C., Joe Heck, R-Nev., Patrick Murphy, D-Fla. and Lee Terry, R-Neb., also tried to drum up support from young people.


Enjoyed meeting with the NC State Young Americans for Liberty yesterday! pic.twitter.com/X2Gl6KxiiA

— Rep. Walter Jones (@RepWalterJones) April 16, 2014

Great meeting w/ students frm @UNLVDECA yesterday. These students are future business leaders of our community. #NV03 pic.twitter.com/w7sRFN0uvk

— Congressman Joe Heck (@RepJoeHeck) April 16, 2014

Great morning at All Saints Catholic School to discuss community involvement and their SIFMA stock market challenge. pic.twitter.com/1Qv4PRRmqJ

— Patrick Murphy (@PatrickMurphyFL) April 16, 2014

Had a great time speaking to @m_south_hs government students this morning. The Patriots asked some great questions! pic.twitter.com/g5SeUft9ok

— Rep. Lee Terry (@LEETERRYNE) April 16, 2014



And Rep. Kerry Bentivolio, R-Mich., apparently thought no one’s too young to care about Congress.


U.S. Congressman Kerry Bentivolio visits @KeithElementary to talk to 3rd gr Ss about MI Government #realworldcontext pic.twitter.com/fOdk6mJ5xj

— Melody Arabo (@mrsarabo) April 16, 2014


Some GOPers used their break to get a head start on higher political ambitions. Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, traveled to the early presidential primary state of South Carolina to talk to the Free Enterprise Foundation.


Honored to join the Free Enterprise Foundation's 8th Annual Awards Dinner this evening at The Citadel! pic.twitter.com/5UkSeoerT2

— Ted Cruz (@tedcruz) April 16, 2014


And 2012 vice presidential nominee Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., made a spring break appearance in the ever-crucial swing state of Ohio to talk about the economy.


Thanks to my friend @RepPaulRyan for visiting us in Cleveland to talk job creation and tax reform pic.twitter.com/9T7N8km1O3

— Rep. Jim Renacci (@RepJimRenacci) April 16, 2014

And failed 2012 presidential contender Rep. Michele Bachmann, R-Minn., who is retiring from the House this election cycle, kept her 2016 options open by traveling Liberty University in the swing state of Virginia.


We're excited to have Rep. @MicheleBachmann speaking in #LibertyConvo today! Watch live at 10am here: http://t.co/lAgjee7y8j

— Liberty University (@LibertyU) April 16, 2014

 Some didn’t even take off work at all. Rep. Daniel Lipinski, D- Ill., strapped on his working boots.


On Tuesday, @RepLipinski reviewed operations at the Hanson Quarry in McCook. https://t.co/AUNSOtGbvK pic.twitter.com/XAJqaGIPaz

— Rep. Daniel Lipinski (@RepLipinski) April 16, 2014

Rep. Patrick Meehan, R-Penn., hosted a field hearing at Drexel University with members of the House Homeland Security Committee to talk cybercrime.


Chairing a @HouseHomeland field hearing at @DrexelUniv on protecting consumer's personal data from cyberattack pic.twitter.com/dgiJMh8lQ8

— Patrick Meehan (@RepMeehan) April 16, 2014


Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Conn., spent part of his spring break using public buses to talk with constituents and jumping on the selfie bandwagon with Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn.


Hopped on the Q line in New Haven to hear what's on people's minds pic.twitter.com/wzN5gUfxOU

— Chris Murphy (@ChrisMurphyCT) April 15, 2014



@ChrisMurphyCT and @SenBlumenthal kick off #NationalLibraryWeek with the first #HPseLfie! http://t.co/LlxjOQyxBd pic.twitter.com/4TbeHoh9VB

— Hartford Pub Library (@HPLCT) April 14, 2014


 And what would spring break be without town halls?


Countdown to 700th town hall with No. 697 in Hood River County. Great questions at Hood River Valley High School. pic.twitter.com/h8X6SuD1Gu

— Ron Wyden (@RonWyden) April 15, 2014



Thanks to all who came out to my town hall tonight. #FL15 pic.twitter.com/9yHdQmg4wu

— Dennis Ross (@RepDennisRoss) April 16, 2014


Tons, and tons of town halls.


Discussed national debt (fitting for #taxday), education, SS & #Obamacare at my town hall meeting in Bastrop today pic.twitter.com/itxC3f6QSW

— David Vitter (@DavidVitter) April 15, 2014



Rep. Gosar at Golden Shores townhall: Government isn't the engine that drives business pic.twitter.com/hSNnslDVHx

— Rep. Paul Gosar, DDS (@RepGosar) April 16, 2014



Big thanks to everyone who came out to my town hall meeting tonight in Cookeville! #TN06 pic.twitter.com/0Z01nfm0Jn

— Diane Black (@RepDianeBlack) April 16, 2014


Way too many town halls.


Harlan Town Hall 31 ppl Topics-Ukraine, PostOffice,Obamacare, GasTax,regs, SocialSecurity, Benghazi,ForeignAid, FlatTax, immig, debt,MinWage

— ChuckGrassley (@ChuckGrassley) April 15, 2014



Kicking off the prairie chicken town hall in Roswell. pic.twitter.com/5dc3WPdE8g

— Steve Pearce (@RepStevePearce) April 15, 2014




Sen. McConnell speaks w/ Kentuckians about #Obamacare at his 65th hospital townhall @ Trigg Co. Hospital in Cadiz, KY pic.twitter.com/7fb1Kj6kls

— Sen. McConnell Press (@McConnellPress) April 15, 2014

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Obama and Cantor Clash on Immigration Overhaul

Official White House Photo by Pete Souza(WASHINGTON) -- Well, that didn’t go well.

President Obama phoned House Majority Leader Eric Cantor Wednesday to implore the GOP’s floor guardian to take up the Senate’s comprehensive immigration legislation, but judging by Cantor’s response, there’s no way that is happening.

“The president called me hours after he issued a partisan statement which attacked me and my fellow House Republicans and which indicated no sincere desire to work together,” Cantor, R-Va., stated. “After five years, President Obama still has not learned how to effectively work with Congress to get things done. You do not attack the very people you hope to engage in a serious dialogue.”

Earlier Wednesday, in a statement marking one year since the Senate bill was first introduced, Obama took Cantor and House Republicans to task for sitting on the bill for more than nine months.

“Unfortunately, Republicans in the House of Representatives have repeatedly failed to take action, seemingly preferring the status quo of a broken immigration system over meaningful reform,” Obama stated. “Instead of advancing commonsense reform and working to fix our immigration system, House Republicans have voted in favor of extreme measures like a punitive amendment to strip protections from ‘Dreamers.’”

Obama added that “the majority of Americans are ahead of House Republicans on this crucial issue,” citing “broad support” for overhaul.

“We have a chance to strengthen our country while upholding our traditions as a nation of laws and a nation of immigrants, and I urge House Republicans to listen to the will of the American people and bring immigration reform to the House floor for a vote,” he wrote.

In his statement reacting to the phone call, Cantor said he flatly told the president that “House Republicans do not support Senate Democrats’ immigration bill and amnesty efforts, and it will not be considered in the House.”

Tuesday, in a meeting with faith leaders, Obama reportedly ruled out taking executive action himself to overhaul the country’s immigration laws, particularly with regard to the enforcement of deportations.

Now, the Senate’s historic legislation appears more likely than ever to expire at the end of the 113th Congress.

After the Obama administration made several delays to certain provisions of the Affordable Care Act, House Republicans grew suspicious of dealing with the president on immigration overhaul, suggesting that they do not trust him to enforce legislation sent to his desk by the letter of the law.

Instead, Cantor says the president could do himself a favor by rebuilding his relationship with House Republicans through bipartisan collaboration on jobs legislation.

“I hope the president can stop his partisan messaging, and begin to seriously work with Congress to address the issues facing working middle class Americans that are struggling to make ends meet in this economy,” Cantor wrote.

A White House press aide refused to discuss the conversation, and a Cantor spokeswoman would not elaborate further than the majority leader’s statement.

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Obama Counsels Students on Options to a Four-Year Degree

Official White House Photo by Pete Souza(PITTSBURGH) -- It would be a cultural shift, but the Obama administration is hoping to change the perception of two- and four-year universities and what is needed for success.

Through two new skills-training programs, utilizing grant money announced in 2010, the administration is encouraging a competition to foster courses developed by industry at the community college level and an apprentice job scholarship program.

President Obama and Vice President Joe Biden appeared at a community college in Pittsburgh Wednesday to announce $500 million in grant funding for community college job-training programs and $100 million in funding for apprenticeship grants.

Speaking in an auto bay where students at the Community College of Allegheny County learn “mechatronics” -- “It sounds like something Godzilla would be fighting,” Obama said -- the two elaborated on the need for middle-class opportunities and presented a view of a rebounding U.S. economy in which companies are ready to add jobs but are having trouble finding skilled workers to fill them.

“In today’s economy it has never been more important to make sure that our folks are trained for the jobs that are there and the jobs of the future,” he said. “Find out what are the jobs that need to be filled and make sure folks are being trained and matched to those good jobs. We have to move away from a train and pray approach. We train them and we pray that they get a job.

“The problem there is when they go to a community college, when they go to four-year university, they are taking on debt. They are straining their budgets. We have to make sure it pays off for them. So we need to take a job-driven approach.”

Before the event the president and VP received a tour of the school and met with mechatronics students enrolled in a 360-hour program, who showed them a motor-control system, which was set up to simulate a garage door opener.

Obama joked with the students, “We’re lawyers, we barely understand garage door openers.”

The administration cites that 87 percent of apprentices are employed after completing their programs with an average starting salary of $50,000.

The president has mentioned community colleges many times but has fallen short of his initial plans to add over $10 billion in funding to them through grants.

He launched an American Growth Initiative in 2009 that was to inject community colleges with sweeping new funds. Here’s Slate’s Christopher Beam on that push in July 2009:

“Community colleges don’t get a lot of respect. Except, as of this week, from President Obama. In a speech Tuesday in Warren, Mich., he proposed sinking nearly $12 billion into revamping the country’s community-college system. The plan would provide $9 billion in grant money to boost academic programs and raise graduation rates, plus another $2.5 billion to upgrade school facilities. It would also fund open-source online courses so that schools don’t have to build more classrooms to admit more students.”

The $500 million Obama announced Wednesday isn’t new, according to the American Association of Community Colleges (AAOC);  it’s the fourth installment of $2 billion in funding Congress passed in 2009, in lieu of Obama’s original proposal.

A congressional aide confirmed that, after the CBO scored Democrats’ 2009 student-loan bill less favorably on a second pass, education funding was less than what the president and Democrats had initially hoped. Community-college funding was one of the programs that felt the axe.

“It had a very bittersweet ending for us,” David Baime, vice president of government relations for AAOC, told ABC News. While the group was “very pleased” to get $2 billion in grant funding for community colleges, Baime said, “unofficially we were very upset.”

Obama, while not necessarily more supportive of community colleges than other presidents, has nonetheless put a valuable spotlight on them, Baime told ABC.

The vice president joined Obama for the tour, introducing the president as “a buddy of mine.”

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Lawyers Who Cleared Christie Donated to RGA Before Report Released

ABC News (NEW YORK) -- The law firm that wrote the Chris Christie-sponsored report clearing the governor of any wrongdoing in the New Jersey bridge scandal made a sizable donation to the Republican Governors Association, which Christie heads, days before the report’s release.

The law firm of Gibson Dunn & Crutcher donated $10,000 to the RGA nine days before it released a report -- paid for by New Jersey taxpayers -- blaming September’s lane closures to the George Washington Bridge solely on aides and allies and pinning no responsibility on the governor, as reported Wednesday in The Record of North Jersey.

Gibson Dunn & Crutcher lawyers were paid $650 per hour for their work examining documents surrounding the lane closure that led to their report released March 24.  The law firm made its donation to the RGA March 18, according to tax records.

Christie spoke exclusively with ABC News’ Diane Sawyer the same day the report was released, telling her he was “relieved” to have the facts.

He rejected any suggestion that the outside law firm appointed by his office would “whitewash” its findings to protect him.

“These people have their own professional and personal reputations,” he said. “Six of them were former federal prosecutors. They’re not going to whitewash anything for me and put their reputations at stake.”

The Los Angeles-based law firm defended its actions.

“Gibson Dunn’s annual contributions to the Republican Governors Association long predate our retention by the Office of the Governor and even predate when the current Governor was first elected to office,” Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher spokeswoman Pearl Piatt said in a statement to ABC News Wednesday.

“The firm has donated to the RGA since 2009 at the behest of Bill Kilberg, a partner in the firm’s Washington, DC office who has served on the RGA’s Executive Roundtable since 2009.”

Christie’s office directed ABC News to Gibson, Dunn for comment.

The Record also reported: “The law firm made two donations to the Republican Governors Association in 2012 each for $10,000, one on Feb. 20 and the other on Dec. 31 of that year. The group donated $15,000 in 2011 and $10,000 in 2010 and 2009.”

It has not donated to the Democratic Governors Association this year, nor the previous two years.

The Republican Governors Association announced in early April that it had raised $23.5 million in the first quarter of 2014, doubling the amount raised at the same time in 2010.

Association officials have not responded to ABC News’ request for comment.

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Michele Bachmann’s Five Pieces of Advice to Young Conservatives

Steve Pope/Getty Images(LYNCHBURG, Va.) -- Rep. Michele Bachmann, R-Minn., the conservative firebrand and former presidential candidate, gave the keynote address Wednesday at Liberty University’s weekly Convocation.

It was Bachmann’s third time speaking at Liberty, the world’s largest private Christian college and home to over 100,000 students. In her speech, the self-proclaimed “Constitutional Conservative,” who is retiring at the end of the year, urged her young listeners to focus on the “things that really matter” politically and personally.

Bachmann gave young conservatives a few key pieces of advice:

1) “When a madman speaks, listen!”

When it came to Iran, Bachmann didn’t mince words.

“Usually they let you know what their intentions are ahead of time”, she said, using Iran as an example of a “madman” that represents a threat to both Israel and the United States. “We’re called the great Satan, Israel the little Satan [...] their intention is to annihilate the Jewish state of Israel, they have also stated that they want to annihilate the United States.”

Bachmann named three factors that make Iran an especially dangerous opponent; their fissile material, their delivery system and the possibility of weaponization. She also listed Libya, Egypt and Lebanon as countries that pose a threat to the United States and Israel.

2) Always “stand with Israel”

“Never before has Israel been in this situation where literally all nations of the world have come against her,” Bachmann said, adding: “I never thought I would see our country be in a position where we, too, are lining up against Israel.”

Bachmann stressed that it was God’s choice to create the land Israel and claimed with reference to a biblical verse that “every nation that blesses that state of Israel will be blessed and every nation that curses Israel will be cursed.”

She concluded: “If Israel gives up that 40 percent of land [...] it will be nearly a suicide pact.”

3) Beware the “future enslavement of literally millions of people”

According to Bachmann, the United States still remains the pre-eminent economic and military powerhouse of the world: “It feels pretty good to be in that situation [...] what wouldn’t feel good would be for the United States to lose [its current status and come to the point where] the U.S. is no longer the big dog in the world. What will it be like if the new leader of the world would be Russia?” she asked, adding, “China also has a different sense and view of the world.”

If any of these countries took over the position as economic and military powerhouse of the world, “the future enslavement of literally millions of people into oppression” and “godless communism” would be the consequence, Bachmann said.

4) “Get ready to serve and get ready for suffering”

“I’m not running again,” Bachmann told her audience, but God “is opening doors for you, too [...]. Be ready for those doors of opportunity!”

Furthermore, Bachmann claimed that there is a generation of young people that isn't learning “essential truths”: “If you want to be a leader, as the scripture tells us, you need to be willing to be a suffering servant first.”

5) “Never despise small beginnings”

Bachmann also drew upon her personal background. After her parents split up “we literally lost everything overnight. We moved into a tiny apartment. We qualified for public assistance. We had nothing.”

But, she assured: “The crucibles of suffering will be the greatest blessing God will ever bring to your life.”

As an example, Bachmann told the story of how she had worked three years as an adolescent in order to be able to afford contact lenses. When she finally had saved enough money to buy contacts and wore them riding her bike, she lost one of them. Coming home devastated, her mom drove her back and found her lens.

Bachmann concluded: “I was able to get back what I thought I’d lost; never despise small beginnings [...]. That suffering and that work taught me the value of a dollar. I put myself through college, law school, postdoctoral program and working [...]. It taught me servanthood and love for people and a broken heart for people in a challenge.”

After nearly eight years in Congress, Bachmann will retire at the end of 2014. She ended her speech with the words: “When we come together, when we contend for what matters, when we walk through that door of opportunity: That’s how a nation changes [...]. I’m ready to hand off the baton, and the question is: Are you ready to take it?”

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Joe Biden (and His Aviators) Now on Instagram

Instagram/@VP(WASHINGTON) -- Just a week after dusting off his old Twitter account, Vice President Joe Biden joined Instagram.

In his first post on the photo-sharing social network, Biden’s staff shared a photo of the vice president’s iconic Ray-Ban aviators, with a blurry Biden in the background.

The caption on the photo read, "Vice President Biden's getting ready to head to Pennsylvania with President Obama this afternoon, where he'll lay out steps we can take to train America's workers with the skills they need for good middle-class jobs."

A second photo of Biden departing a helicopter was posted around two hours later. The caption accompanying that photo read: "Wheels up for Pennsylvania: Vice President Biden is in Pittsburgh with President Obama to talk about the importance of expanding job-training programs so more Americans have the skills they need to find good middle-class jobs. Watch at 3:45pm ET on wh.gov/live."

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Washington's Cherry Blossom Trees: The Complicated Roots

iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- Washington’s cherry blossoms have become an iconic image of springtime in the nation’s capital. And while the trees can be appreciated solely for the ethereal beauty they cast on the shores of the Potomac River, the historical roots of the trees are more complicated.

Ann McClellan, a recognized expert on the trees who has written two books on Washington’s annual festival celebrating the blossoms, told the ABC News/Yahoo! News series Power Players that the first trees given to Washington from Japan in 1910 were a symbol of international friendship.

“When they gave the gift of trees they were really giving something of themselves, because they were grateful to the United States for brokering the treaty of Portsmouth, which ended the Russo-Japanese War,” McClellan said. “It was the first time Japan was treated as a bona fide member of the international community.”

The trees were given in honor of then-first lady Helen Taft, wife of the 27th president William Taft, who had developed an interest in the blossoming trees from her travels to Japan and was working to beautify the park area around today’s tidal basin, which was a swampland at the time.

“Mrs. Taft had seen the trees, not blooming but saw how they were planted and thought Washington, which was just under construction at that time, would be a great place for them, and boy was she right,” McClellan said.

Japan sent thousands of full-grown trees to Washington to beautify the park, but those trees would never be planted on the shores of the Potomac. After the Department of Agriculture inspected the trees, it was determined that the trees had to be destroyed.

“Of course, trees that have been in the ground have bugs, worms and all sorts of pests,” McClellan said. “So the Department of Agriculture inspected them, deemed them impossible, and forced them to be burned.”

The final decision to burn Japan’s gift was made by President Taft himself. But instead of causing a diplomatic crisis, Japan sent 3,000 more trees in 1912 that met the Department of Agriculture’s standards and were the start of the trees that still line the tidal basin today.

The trees, though planted successfully, were planted incorrectly.

“In 1912, when they planted the gift, the gift came with instructions; it was in Japanese, and nobody bothered to read it,” McClellan said. “Instead of planting the trees in groves and alleés as the instructions recommended, we instead planted them close together along the water’s edge of the tidal basin.”

The mistake meant that the growth of the trees was irreversibly stunted, McClellan said: “What that does is it creates this lovely cloudlike effect because the branches intersect but it means that they can't grow to their full height. ...We're all agog, so it's fine, but that is one of the reasons they tend to be a little smaller here.”

Since Mrs. Taft, first ladies have continued to play an instrumental role in maintaining the cherry blossoms.

“The first ladies have been very involved...especially Lady Bird Johnson was involved in them and the Japanese gave a gift of several thousand trees in her honor. Those are planted around the Washington Monument,” McClellan said.

For more about the trees, including McClellan’s cautions about the permanent damage that people cause to the trees by plucking their blossoms, check out this episode of Power Players.

Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio

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Diplomatic Incident over Kim Jong-Un’s Haircut

Ed Jones/AFP/Getty Images(LONDON) -- Kim Jong-un’s distinctive haircut is no laughing matter for North Korea. A London hair salon that put up a promotional poster of the country’s leader, with the tag line “Bad Hair Day?” is at the center of a diplomatic dispute.

The North Korean embassy has asked the British government to take action against the hair salon, calling the poster a “provocation.”

A British spokesman tells ABC News that the government in London “will respond in due course.”

After putting the poster in the window to advertise a special deal, the hair salon got a visit from two men in black suits from the North Korean embassy earlier this week.

Barber Karim Nabbach tells BBC News that the men demanded to know the name of the person who put the poster up.

“I said you’re not having my name. If you want to take it any further, bring your lawyers in and we can take it from there,” Nabbach said.

Nabbach said they contacted Scotland Yard about the visit, and police found the poster “funny.”

“Everyone finds it funny except for the North Korean embassy,” he said.

The embassy was unavailable for comment.

Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio

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Rep. Kyrsten Sinema Running Boston Marathon to Honor Victims and Survivors

US House of Representatives(WASHINGTON) -- “A marathon is a celebration of life and endurance and the human spirit,” Rep. Kyrsten Sinema says. “Runners are such a tight-knit community. Even if we don’t know each other, we treat each other like friends.”

Next week, Sinema, a freshman Democrat from Arizona, will be one of two members of Congress running in the 118th Boston Marathon, joining Rep. Joe Kennedy III, D-Mass.

“Boston is like the Holy Grail of running events,” she told ABC News. “I never thought I would ever find my toe at the starting line at Boston.”

Sinema, 37, is running in honor of Martin Richard, the eight-year-old boy killed by the first blast in last year’s twin bombing. She says she has raised $20,000 for Team MR8, a charity established in memory of Martin by his parents.

Of the 36,000 racing bibs available for the historic occasion, 5,500 slots are reserved for charity runners like Sinema, a self-described “endurance runner” who would not qualify based on speed. She said Martin’s parents chose her and a friend to run in honor of their son.

“I’m so privileged to be running in honor of Martin Richard and for the other victims and survivors,” she said. “That is a big responsibility to carry to that start line and to carry those 26.2 miles across that finish line, so I’m going to spend those four-plus hours with Martin and the other victims and survivors in my heart.”

While most members of Congress would probably struggle to run even one mile, Sinema says she has completed eight marathons as well as an Iron Man triathlon.

“This is going to be by far the most emotional marathon I’ve ever run,” she admitted.

Sinema calculates that she runs about 40 miles per week at a pace of about 10:30 per mile. Her best finish came this January in Phoenix when she completed the P.F. Chang's Rock N'Roll Marathon in 4 hours and 29 minutes.

“If I’m having a good day on Monday, I can smash that record, so that’s my intention,” she pledged. “It’s also the most exciting course in the world and it’s going to be a really, really emotional day so I have my fingers crossed that that will bring me across the finish line faster.”

Sinema is also holding several events this week in her district to continue raising money for others touched by the tragedy. In addition to Team MR8, she says she has raised nearly $10,000 for One Fund Boston, the foundation established by Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick to support the victims and survivors, and $4,000 for the Multiple Sclerosis Society of Greater New England.

So after last year’s horrific bombings, is she concerned at all about the security surrounding the marathon?

“I have zero concerns about security,” she said. “The City of Boston has done an incredible job preparing for this marathon and I have 100 percent confidence that it’ll be a flawless event.”

 Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio

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Highway Funds in Danger of Running Out

pictureimpressions/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- The Obama administration is telling Congress that it's either the president's way or funds for highway projects will soon run out.

That message is being delivered by Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx, who is currently on a bus tour of eight states.

The Highway Trust Fund is due to be depleted by August. If that happens, states won't have the money for big projects or even much needed repairs and improvements. That situation will of course lead to layoffs at a time when the economy finally seems to be rebounding.

Congress has been faced with this problem time and time again and the usual course of action is a quick money infusion that usually lasts a couple of months until things turn into crisis mode again.

President Obama is looking a long-term fix that would provide over $300 billion for four years. Some of the money would come from closing corporate tax loopholes, which Republicans are adverse to doing.

Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio

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Boehner Supports US Forces in Afghanistan Past 2014

Alex Wong/Getty Images(KABUL, Afghanistan) -- A top U.S. lawmaker is giving his support to keeping a residual U.S. force in Afghanistan after the planned withdrawal of most coalition forces by the end of 2014.

Meeting with U.S. and Afghan officials in Kabul, House Speaker John Boehner remarked that American troops "fought to bring peace and security to Afghanistan and to ensure it can never again be used as a safe haven for terrorists to attack the United States."

The Obama administration has been at loggerheads with Afghan President Hamid Karzai over signing a Bilateral Security Agreement that would leave an unspecified number of U.S. soldiers in the country in a training and advisory role past 2014.

Karzai, who wants various concessions from Washington, says he will leave it up to his successor to determine whether a post-war pact is right for Afghanistan.

A week-and-a-half ago, millions of Afghans went to the polls to select a new leader but the outcome may not be known for some time. Even then, a run-off is predicted between the two top candidates, which could further delay the signing of the BSA.

Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio

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