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How Congress Saved the Baseball Hall of Fame


iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- A two-time MVP outfielder and a United States senator say the congressional hearings on steroids in baseball nearly a decade ago had a direct impact on preventing players tainted by the baseball’s steroids era from being considered for the Hall of Fame.

Sen. Joe Donnelly, D-Ind., told the ESPN’s Perspectives podcast “Capital Games” that while he thought at the time the hearings shouldn’t have been a congressional priority, they doomed the candidacies of high-profile players like Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, Mark McGwire, Rafael Palmeiro and Sammy Sosa. That, in part, paved the way for this weekend’s crop of three clean players from the same era gaining induction in the Hall.

“What I think the hearing helped do was, that the American people looked up and said, ‘You know, it’s maybe the first time that it really hit us between the eyes that we have a real problem here.’ And I think it helped to change things,” said Donnelly.

Former Atlanta Braves outfielder Dale Murphy wasn’t a fan of the 2005 hearings, either, and wanted the commissioner to do more and to push for “amnesty” so former players could come clean about past steroid use. Still, he said, the hearings were effective, and helped baseball move beyond a dark period.

“I reluctantly have to say I think they made a difference,” said Murphy. He added that Hall voters are ”going to remember what you did or what you didn’t say and hold you accountable. ...I think it directly affects them.”

Murphy, who fell short in being elected to the Hall in his final year of voting eligibility last year, added that he would be upset if players who were proven to be cheats from that era were admitted into the Hall of Fame.

“That is a concern for guys that, you know, played in the ’70′s and ’80′s most of the time,” Murphy said during the podcast. “I guess the best way to say it, is that right now they’re not letting the guys in that are associated with those huge inflated numbers and steroids. If it comes to the point eventually -- which some people speculate will happen with the turnover of the voters and the age of the voters, which will take a long time -- if it does happen eventually where they get in, then I got a real beef. ...I got a problem with that.”

Murphy doesn’t anticipate any of those candidates getting in soon.

“It’s going to take such a long time, I think, and I really think the lack of honesty and openness has hurt the guys,” said Murphy. “I think eventually it’s going to happen, but I think it’s going to be decades.”

The Baseball Hall of Fame will add six new members to its ranks at this weekend’s ceremony in Cooperstown, New York. Three players and three managers -- all of whom were active and clean of drug allegations during some of baseball’s darkest days -- will get their plaques.

Though the now-famous congressional hearings drew criticism at the time, it’s quite possible baseball wouldn’t see a moment like this if not for Congress. The March 2005 session on steroids in baseball served as a wake-up call for baseball to clean itself up, ultimately opening the doors for the players who were clean during a tainted era to gain election to the Hall, according to ESPN baseball analyst Tim Kurkjian.

“It was really important at the time, and looking back it’s probably even more important today,” Kurkjian said.

“It showed that baseball needed congressional help to get to the bottom of this. We still haven’t gotten to the bottom of it,” said Kurkjian. “It was the start of cleaning up the game -- which still isn’t completely clean I’m sure. But it was a giant step in the right direction.”

This year’s Hall of Fame class includes pitchers Tom Glavine and Greg Maddux, slugger Frank Thomas, plus managers Bobby Cox, Joe Torre and Tony La Russa. The star-studded class comes a year after no former player won election to the Hall. All three of 2013′s inductees, in fact, died before the U.S. entered World War II.

The Hall notably still doesn’t include players implicated for using performance-enhancing drugs -- men including McGwire, Bonds, Sosa, Clemens and Palmeiro -- whose conduct received the now-famous congressional scrutiny nine years ago.

Donnelly, a Chicago White Sox and New York Yankees fan, said he was skeptical of Congress’ involvement in a baseball matter. But time has proven the value of that scrutiny, culminating with his son’s childhood hero, Frank Thomas, gaining entry on Sunday -- an important moment for fans of his generation, he said.

“Frank [Thomas] was doing it the right way. Frank’s kind of numbers were the numbers that people who just work hard every day would be able to achieve. And so, I think we’re in a different place now. I think the game is better for having that passed. And I think as we look, baseball is in a good place right now,” he added.

Murphy was a seven-time all-star who was a teammate of Glavine’s and played for Cox and Torre with the Atlanta Braves.

“It’s a good time for baseball,” Murphy said of the current Hall of Fame class. “I think we can maybe have an opportunity to show what guys can do, that you don’t really need that stuff… You need to have some talent, you need to have some brains, and you need to work hard.”

Murphy said the steroids era also had an impact on some of the players -- including himself -- who preceded it, since their statistics aren’t as gaudy as those who dominated the late 1990s and early 2000s.

He said he’d like to see an “adjustment” in statistics to take that into consideration. But for now, Murphy said he’s satisfied that players with tainted numbers aren’t getting in.

Kurkjian, who is among the writers who vote for the Hall every year, said he and other voters need more clarity on how to handle the steroids era. He suggested a commission made of representatives of Major League Baseball, baseball writers, Hall officials and even Hall-of-Famers themselves to chart a path forward.

“I still don’t know what the right answer is any more with all the steroid people. I think we need a nationwide discussion over what we’re supposed to do here. Should we be voting for steroid guys or not?” he said.

“The responsibility is enormous. It should be taken seriously, and yet at the same time I think we need somebody to clarify what we should be doing here. Because I, for one, am not sure what to do anymore,” he added.

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Nominee for Veteran Affairs Secretary Passes Big Test


ABC News(WASHINGTON) -- Former Procter & Gamble executive Robert McDonald is one important step closer to becoming the next secretary of Veteran Affairs, after a Senate panel Wednesday unanimously backed his nomination. The vote was 14-0.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Report: Montana Senator Walsh Accused of Plagiarism


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

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

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

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

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

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

However, even before the charges of plagiarism surfaced, polls showed Walsh running behind his Republican opponent, as Democrats try desperately to keep control of the Senate.
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House Republicans Announce Recommendations to Address Border Crisis


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Boehner Honors Doctor Who Saved Lawmaker's Baby


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

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

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

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

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

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GOP NY Governor Candidate to Confront Chris Christie over Remarks on Viability


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Former President Harding’s Love Letters to Mistress May Actually Help His Image, Historians Say


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Why Kerry Could Fly into Tel Aviv Despite FAA Flight Ban


State Department photo/ Public Domain(WASHINGTON) -- Just hours after Secretary of State John Kerry told Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that a temporary Federal Aviation Administration ban on U.S. flights to Tel Aviv was in the best interest of Americans, Kerry himself flew into Tel Aviv’s Ben Gurion Airport.

The FAA’s prohibition does not apply to military aircraft, including the 757 Kerry is flying on. Plus, Kerry traveled to Israel to meet with Netanyahu and others as part of his efforts to bring about a cease-fire to the fighting between Israel and Hamas in Gaza, spokesperson Jen Psaki said.

“Secretary Kerry is on the ground to continue his efforts to achieve a ceasefire and bring an end to the rocket attacks that led to the FAA notice,” she wrote in a statement.

The U.S. flight ban for Ben Gurion Airport went into effect Tuesday after a rocket from Hamas struck ground about a mile from the airport. It only affects U.S. carriers and has no effect on foreign airlines, but after the U.S. announcement, numerous foreign air carriers announced they would also suspend flights into the Israeli airport.

Netanyahu spoke on the phone with Kerry Tuesday night and urged him to help call off the ban. But according to Psaki, Kerry explained that the ban was intended only to keep Americans safe, not to discourage anyone from traveling to Israel.

“The only consideration in issuing the notice was the safety and security of our citizens,” Psaki said.

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Congressmen Agree on Baseball and Hot Dogs


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Despite Cameo, Ted Cruz Not a "True Blood" Fan


United States Senate(WASHINGTON) -- He may have landed a cameo on the hit show, but Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, is apparently not a fan of HBO’s True Blood.

Following a particularly grisly episode featuring Republicans murdered at a Ted Cruz fundraiser, the Tea Party darling blasted the show as “misogynist and profanity-ridden.”

“Well, I’m sorry to have lost the vampire vote, but am astonished (and amused) that HBO is suggesting that hard-core leftists are blood-sucking fiends,” Cruz wrote on Facebook Tuesday.

The episode, laced with tasteless (but admittedly creative) nicknames for Republicans, depicts guests cowering behind a Cruz poster dramatically ripped down by flying bullets.

The senator went even further on Twitter:

Then again, I guess I never had a chance w/ the vampire vote since the dead tend to vote overwhelmingly for Dems: https://t.co/U6uCqsRpuS

— Ted Cruz (@tedcruz) July 22, 2014

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NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio Eats Pizza in Italy with a Fork


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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Ready for Warren? Senator Says She's Not Ready to Run


ABC News(WASHINGTON) -- Are you ready for Warren?

That’s the question supporters of Sen. Elizabeth Warren are asking with the recent formation of a Ready for Warren Super PAC, which is taking a page from Ready for Hillary in laying the groundwork for a presidential campaign should the Massachusetts Democrat decide to run in 2016.

Though many of her fans are cheering “Run, Liz, Run,” Warren is putting the brakes on such enthusiasm.

“I am not running,” Warren told ABC News when asked if she’s mulling the idea of a presidential bid. It's the same answer she always gives -- in the present tense. She doesn't rule out whether she would ever run.

“I am focused on the 2014 elections,” she said. “We've got an election coming up … just a few months away -- that’s what we need to work on.”

As for her admirers calling for her to get in the race, Warren is keeping her distance.

“I do not support this,” she said.

To make clear that her focus is on the 2014 midterm elections, Warren has been crisscrossing the nation in recent months, campaigning on behalf of Democratic candidates who wish to align themselves with her populist message calling for economic reforms on behalf of the middle class.

The Massachusetts Democrat has ventured into some deeply conservative states, including West Virginia and Kentucky. But Warren dismisses the suggestion that her message fires up only liberals.

“The kinds of economic issues that I'm talking about, it's not Republican or Democrat,” she said. “People are getting hammered everywhere, and they care about these central ways that we can rebuild America's middle class: equal pay for equal work, reduce the interest rate on student loans, raise the minimum wage. … And I love being in Kentucky to talk about this and to be in West Virginia, standing up with great candidates like Natalie Tennant and Alison Lundergan Grimes.“

Though Warren has been an outspoken critic of the way business is done in Washington -- even ways that are critical of her own party -- she denies that her tough talk is causing tensions within the Democratic Party.

"I'll tell you where the tensions are, the tensions are with the Republicans," Warren said. "We want working people to earn more, we want to reduce the interest rate on student loans, we want to stitch up the loop holes that let millionaires and billionaires pay at lower tax rates than their secretaries; that's the stuff we're working on, and Republicans have filibustered every single piece of it.”

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Courts Issue Conflicting Rulings on Health Care Law


ABC News (WASHINGTON) -- After a brief hiatus, the hot debate over the Affordable Care Act was renewed once again Tuesday because of two opposite verdicts on subsidies.

In the first decision, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia ruled that the federal government cannot subsidize policies through federally run insurance exchanges.

Later, the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Virginia said that subsidies set up in dozens of states that didn't set up marketplaces under the ACA are indeed legal.

While the conflicting decisions put the future of the health care law, called "Obamacare" by its detractors, into question, the 4.5 million people who qualified for subsidies are still eligible for benefits while the White House appeals the D.C. court ruling.

More than eight million Americans signed up for the ACA. Those who did so through state exchanges won't be affected by either ruling.

Meanwhile, the law's opponents seized on the first court's decision as proof that the ACA will ultimately fail. House Speaker John Boehner said, "Today's ruling is also further proof that President Obama's health care law is completely unworkable. It cannot be fixed."

However, proponents like Elizabeth Wydra, chief counsel of the Constitutional Accountability Center, says the second ruling got it right, adding, "The available tax credits are essential to filling the Affordable Care Act's primary goals of assuring widespread coverage in the health care market and that Congress was fully aware of this when drafting the bill."

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Run the Government Like a Business, Most Say


Architect of the Capitol(NEW YORK) -- Americans haven’t exactly been thrilled with Big Business since the Great Recession, but when push comes to shove, most would rather see people with business experience run the country than career politicians.

A new Gallup poll says that just over eight in ten Americans feel that way. Meanwhile, 63 percent believe that the U.S. would be better governed if there were more women holding political office.

As for how to burst the political gridlock that has paralyzed Washington for years, 63 percent of the respondents believe it is more important to compromise, while 56 percent think that holding firm to principles should be the top priority.

In terms of ideology, about 60 percent say electing political moderates is the way to go, with 47 percent preferring conservatives and only a third choosing liberals.

Putting the Tea Party in charge ranked slightly higher than liberals, although 48 percent say that they would make things even worse.

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Intelligence Officials Present Evidence for How Malaysian Plane Was Shot Down


(WASHINGTON) -- Senior United States intelligence officials presented evidence on Tuesday that they say makes a "solid case" as to why the U.S. believes a Russian made SA-11 missile fired from separatist-held eastern Ukraine shot down Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 last week.

While the leading theory is that Russian separatists brought down the plane, the U.S. intelligence community still cannot determine who pulled the trigger or why. The officials pointed the finger at Russia for having "created the conditions" behind the shoot-down and labeled as "not plausible" new Russian claims that the plane may have been brought down by a Ukrainian fighter jet.

In a briefing with reporters, senior intelligence officials pointed to a variety of evidence, including the detection of a surface-to-air missile launch from a separatist-held area of eastern Ukraine. They cited Russian training of separatists in air defense systems, though not necessarily the SA-11, and Russian separatists having used other air defense systems to bring down 12 aircraft in recent months.

They also noted images posted on social media showing an SA-11 missile system near the area of that launch and one system headed towards Russia missing at least one missile in the hours after the shoot down.

Though the images are not independently verifiable, the officials say they complement their intelligence. The officials also pointed to postings to social media in which separatists bragged about the shoot-down and which were quickly deleted.

One of the officials said photographs taken at the crash site show damage to the plane's skin that is "consistent" with that seen from shrapnel from a surface-to-air missile system.

Another official said the evidence made, "a solid case it was an SA-11 fired from eastern Ukraine under conditions created by Russia."

The leading theory is that Russian separatists were behind the launch, probably by mistake by an "ill-trained crew," officials said, they are still trying to determine precisely who fired the missile.

"We don't know the rank, we don't know the name, we don't know the nationality of the individual who pulled the trigger or why they did it," said the official.

The U.S. intelligence community is still trying to determine whether the trigger-puller was a Russian, a separatist trained by Russia, or possibly a volunteer familiar with the missile system from the Ukrainian military and who may have joined the separatists.

The officials discounted as "not plausible" a new Russian narrative released Monday that presented the possibility that a nearby Ukrainian SU-25 fighter jet may have downed the airliner.

One official said the fighter is a ground-attack aircraft not equipped with air-to-air missiles and was flying too far away from the plane at the time. The official added that the plane would have had to travel a great distance to track the plane and then would have had to persuade Russian separatists to brag on social media that they had shot the plane down. The official described the Russian narrative as, "a classic case of blaming the victims."

The officials acknowledged that U.S. intelligence did not know until the day of the shoot-down that Russian separatists were in possession of an SA-11 system. The U.S. was aware that separatists had received air defense training at a large training facility in southwestern Russia outside of Rostov, but it was not specific to the SA-11 system.

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