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Kerry: U.S. 'Gravely Concerned' About Syria Chemical Attacks


U.S. Department of State(WASHINGTON) -- The U.S. is "gravely concerned" about the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons's findings last week of systematic and repeated chlorine attacks in northern Syria, Secretary of State John Kerry said in a written statement Sunday.

"The Assad regime must know that it will be held to account for such use in the international community," Kerry said, noting that the report raises "especially troubling concerns that continued chemical attacks on the Syrian people by the regime could occur."

The OPCW released its report on Wednesday. While it does not assign responsibility, Kerry pointed to witness accounts of helicopters being used in the attacks, which would indicate the Assad regime carried them out.

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White House Intruder Had Knife, Claims to Be Iraq Vet


iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- The man who jumped over a White House fence and made it all the way inside the executive mansion before being caught was carrying a three-and-a-half inch knife and told officials he was a veteran of three tours in Iraq, according to the complaint released Saturday.

In the wake of the incident Friday night, the Secret Service announced it is stepping up its security procedures at the White House complex.

Secret Service Director Julia Pierson ordered an immediate increase in "officer patrols and surveillance capabilities along the Pennsylvania Avenue fence line" of the White House complex, the Secret Service said Saturday.

The steps went into effect Friday night after Omar Gonzalez, 42, scaled the White House fence, sprinted across the North Lawn, and entered the White House.

The Secret Service dealt with a second security incident in as many days on Saturday after a man was arrested at the White House after trying to enter a barricaded entrance to the White House complex with his car.

Gonzalez was arrested just after going through the North Portico doors of the White House. He appeared at the U.S. District Court in Washington, D.C. on Saturday and was charged with unlawful entry while in possession of a deadly or dangerous weapon.

Gonzalez was carrying a Spyderco VG-10 black serrated folding knife in his front pants pocket when he was arrested, according to a police affidavit.

On Friday, Secret Service Spokesman Ed Donovan had initially said Gonzalez was unarmed at the time of his arrest.

The affidavit says after he was apprehended, the Copperas Cove, Texas man told a Secret Service agent "he was concerned that the atmosphere was collapsing and need to get the information to the President of the United States so that he could get the word out to people."

He told officials he served 18 years in the military and did three tours in Iraq, according to the affidavit. He also claimed to have lived in Washington, D.C., for three months but has no known address.

Army records indicate one deployment to Iraq from October 2006 to January 2008. The service record also shows Gonzalez enlisted twice, with a two-year between each. His first enlistment was from 1997 to 2003, then a second from 2005 to 2012 ended with retirement for an unspecified disability.

Gonzalez's drug test was negative and he has no verified criminal history and no convictions.

The suspect was ordered held without bond until he goes to federal court on Monday. The legal basis the judge used to detain him was that the government formally asked for a detention hearing, which gives her three days to hold him pending the hearing.

President Obama and his daughters had departed the South Lawn of the White House aboard Marine One just minutes before Gonzalez entered the residence of the White House.

Following Friday's incident, the White House said Obama has "full confidence" in the Secret Service.

"The President has full confidence in the Secret Service and is grateful to the men and women who day in and day out protect himself, his family and the White House," the White House said Saturday. "The Secret Service is in the process of conducting a thorough review of the event on Friday evening and we are certain it will be done with the same professionalism and commitment to duty that we and the American people expect from the United States Secret Service."

The agency said the arrest inside the White House was "not acceptable," and Pierson has ordered a review of the incident, which began Friday night with a physical assessment of the site and interviews with those involved.

In Sunday's incident, Kevin Carr, 19, was arrested and charged with unlawful entry after he drove his car up to a barricaded entryway to the White House complex and refused to follow orders from Secret Service officers, Brian Leary, a Secret Service spokesman, told ABC News.

Carr, from Shamong, N.J., did not hit the barriers with his vehicle.

Police temporarily closed the plaza in front of the White House and other streets in the area because of the incident. Police officers ordered pedestrians to get off Pennsylvania Avenue and onto the sidewalk in Lafayette Park just in front of the building.

Bomb technicians, fully suited, searched a white four-door sedan with New Jersey plates near the security area where Carr attempted to enter the White House complex with his car. At one point, a bomb squad robot was seen moving away from the car.

The Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee has been working with the Secret Service in investigating Friday evening's breach, a committee aide told ABC News. The findings of the Secret Service's review will be submitted to the Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson.

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Samantha Power Predicts: US Won’t Conduct Airstrikes in Syria Alone


ABC News(WASHINGTON) --  U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Samantha Power made a bold prediction Sunday on This Week, saying that if the United States should go forward with airstrikes against ISIS targets in Syria, it would not do so alone — even though no country has yet to publicly commit to joining the U.S. in such an effort.

“I will make you a prediction, George, which is that we will not do the air strikes alone, if the president decides to do the air strikes,” Power told ABC News This Week anchor George Stephanopoulos.

“It will be up to each country to announce for itself whether it’s prepared to participate, whether in a combat role or to provide military equipment,” the U.N. ambassador said earlier in the interview.

President Obama will appear in front of the United Nations General Assembly this week as he attempts to strengthen his case for international action against ISIS. Power told Stephanopoulos she believes the U.S. has the legal basis it needs to go forward with action against ISIS without a U.N resolution — one that Russia could potentially veto.

“The Iraqis have appealed to the international community to come to their defense not only in Iraq, but also to go after safe havens in foreign countries.  And what they mean by that of course is Syria,” Power said.  “So they have made an appeal to the international community for collective defense. And we think we have a legal basis we need.”

The ambassador insisted that the president and the nation’s top military leaders were on the same page regarding the president’s strategy to not use U.S. combat troops on the ground in the effort against ISIS — the extremist group that controls parts of Syria and Iraq and that is responsible for the recent beheadings of  American journalists James Foley and Steven Sotloff and British aid worker David Haines.

“The president is relying on military advice from Chairman [Martin] Dempsey and from Secretary [Chuck] Hagel.  They believe that the strategy the president has laid out can be successful in degrading and destroying ISIL [ISIS],” Power said.

“And there are troops on the ground, there are Iraqi troops, there are Kurdish troops, there are Syrian troops who have been fighting ISIL at great expense and great sacrifice; fighting on two fronts, fighting ISIL on the one hand and the regime on the other,” she added.


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Man in Custody After Second White House Security Breach, Secret Service Boosts Patrols


iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- One man is in custody and charged with unlawful entry after attempting to enter a barricaded entryway to the White House on Saturday.

Officials closed the plaza in front of the building following the security breach. The driver tried to enter at 15th and E streets and did not stop when ordered, according to Secret Service spokesman Brian Leary.

The incident comes just one day after another man jumped the White House fence and entered the executive mansion through the North Portico doors, eluding security and ignoring commands from staff.

Omar Gonzalez, 42, was arrested Friday following the intrusion.

Security stepped up patrols in light of Friday's breach, with columns of officers walking shoulder-to-shoulder over the North Lawn and Lafayette Park on Saturday, sweeping for any evidence the fence jumper may have left behind.

The Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, which handles Secret Service matters, has been in contact with the agency regarding Friday's incident, according to a committee aide.

President Obama and his family were not present at the White House during either attempted intrusion.

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Pentagon Official: US Sends Additional Personnel to Assist in Liberia Ebola Efforts


Dominique Faget/AFP/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Following the arrival of Maj. General Darryl Williams in Liberia, the United States will send two aircraft with 45 personnel this weekend to assist in the country's efforts to combat the Ebola virus outbreak.

Williams arrived with a 12-person assessment team earlier this week to determine the level of aid the U.S. military can provide to the anti-Ebola mission.

The additional workers arriving this weekend will help set up the headquarters for the joint command, which will be spearheaded by the Major General.

On Friday, Pentagon Press Secretary Rear Adm. John Kirby confirmed the two reprogramming requests the Department of Defense has made over the past week that could provide $1 million for Ebola efforts.

U.S. military personnel will not care for the sick individuals, rather, assist in training others. Workers will be provided with personal protective equipment, according to Kirby.

“The mission is to do some training, to build these units and do some logistics, some transports, the movement of material," he said. "It is not to treat...They're not doctors. They're not nurses. They're not trained for that and not equipped for that. That's not part of the mission. So they will be kept in locations where they can do their jobs without coming into contact with patients.”

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Defending Debbie Wasserman Schultz: Obama, Biden, Clinton Rush to Chairwoman’s Side


United States Congress(WASHINGTON) -- Congresswoman and Democratic National Committee Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz suddenly has a lot of friends.

After an embarrassing week during which Politico reported immense strain in Wasserman Schultz’s tenure as chairwoman, three of the most prominent Democrats in America have rushed to her side: Vice President Joe Biden, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, and President Barack Obama.

In addresses at the DNC’s Women’s Leadership Forum at the Marriott Marquis in downtown Washington on Friday, Biden, Clinton and Obama offered resounding tributes to Wasserman Schultz’s tenure as chairwoman and congresswoman, preceding remarks on equal pay, domestic violence and family structure with deep commendations of her work and integrity.

Even Wasserman Schultz herself was in a rosy mood: Taking the stage just after 8 a.m., and just after Pharrell’s ubiquitous “Happy” blared from the speakers, she was received by an enthusiastic, heavily female audience that gave her two standing ovations. She delivered an emphatic call to arms for the female vote this November in the midterm elections.

The forum also came a day after Wasserman Schultz was honored at the Kennedy Center by the Susan G. Komen breast cancer foundation after surviving a bout with the disease in 2008 while in Congress.

In the comprehensive examination of Wasserman Schultz’s legacy, Politico reported widespread tension and frustration with her term in office. She was painted as a self-interested executive in service of her own political career. According to the report, President Obama’s close advisers had readied a replacement for her after the 2012 election, but eventually decided to keep her in place.

Despite the unspoken irritation, Wasserman Schultz has overseen a DNC that cleared its debt and created a surplus. It currently heads into the midterms with $7 million to spend on its candidates, many of whom face uphill fights to reclaim or take over congressional seats.

But for those following press coverage of Wasserman Schultz this week, the elephant in the room seemed to be present for the biggest names in Democratic politics. Biden, Clinton and Obama wasted no time in defending her.

“I’ve worked with a lot of great chairpersons of the Democratic Party. … I’ve campaigned for thousands of candidates over the years, literally,” Biden said. “But I’ve never seen anybody work as hard and as tirelessly as Debbie has.”

“And by the way, if we want anybody to do that 60 seconds or 120 seconds we get to respond to some attack on the president or on the administration, the best person … is always Debbie,” Biden added.

Hillary Clinton was even more resolute.

“Debbie wears so many hats so well,” Clinton said. “Her courage in beating breast cancer and going on to pass groundbreaking legislation that is helping other women beat it too is an example for us all. It is a truly inspiring and moving story.”

“On the Hill and on the [campaign] trail, she fights for women, for kids, for families. She fights for all of us,” Clinton added.

The most complicated endorsement may have come from President Obama, whose taped video comments celebrating Wasserman Schultz’s achievements Thursday night at the Kennedy Center came as something of a surprise. The Politico report had conveyed a serious lack of confidence in her on the part of the administration.

Friday at the women’s leadership forum, Obama opened his speech by flattering his party’s chief.

“Speaking of leaders, I want to thank Debbie for the great work she’s doing to keep our party strong,” he said. “Nobody anywhere works harder than Debbie Wasserman Schultz.”

Obama’s Senate majority may rest on the shoulders of a woman who, while questioned privately, is at least in the good graces of her party’s top figures when the cameras are rolling.


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President Obama Uses Weekly Address to Discuss Fight Against ISIS


Official White House Photo by Pete Souza(WASHINGTON) -- President Obama used his weekly address to speak about the battle against the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria for the second consecutive week.

"Over the past week," the commander in chief said, "the United States has continued to lead our friends and allies in the strategy to degrade and ultimately destroy the terrorist group known as ISIL." ISIS is also referred to as ISIL or the Islamic State.

Obama discussed the ways in which ISIS poses a threat not just to Iraq, Syria and the Middle East, but notes the threats the group has made against America and its allies. "If left unchecked, they could pose a growing threat to the United States," Obama said.

"This isn't America vs. ISIL," Obama went on. "This is the people of that region versus ISIL. It's the world versus ISIL."

Read the full transcript of the president's address:

Over the past week, the United States has continued to lead our friends and allies in the strategy to degrade and ultimately destroy the terrorist group known as ISIL.  As I’ve said before, our intelligence community has not yet detected specific plots from these terrorists against America.  Right now, they pose a threat to the people of Iraq, Syria, and the broader Middle East.  But its leaders have threatened America and our allies.  And if left unchecked, they could pose a growing threat to the United States.

So, last month, I gave the order for our military to begin taking targeted action against ISIL.  Since then, American pilots have flown more than 170 airstrikes against these terrorists in Iraq.  And France has now joined us in these airstrikes.

Going forward, we won’t hesitate to take action against these terrorists in Iraq or in Syria.  But this is not America’s fight alone.  I won’t commit our troops to fighting another ground war in Iraq, or in Syria.  It’s more effective to use our capabilities to help partners on the ground secure their own country’s futures. We will use our air power. We will train and equip our partners.  We will advise and we will assist.   And we’ll lead a broad coalition of nations who have a stake in this fight.  This isn’t America vs. ISIL.  This is the people of that region vs. ISIL.  It’s the world vs ISIL.

We’ve been working to secure bipartisan support for this strategy here at home, because I believe that we are strongest as a nation when the President and Congress work together.  We’ve been consulting closely with Congress.  And last week, Secretary of State Kerry, Secretary of Defense Hagel, and military leaders worked to gain their support for our strategy. 

A majority of Democrats and a majority of Republicans in both the House and the Senate have now approved a first, key part of our strategy by wide margins.  They’ve given our troops the authority they need to train Syrian opposition fighters so that they can fight ISIL in Syria.  Those votes sent a powerful signal to the world: Americans are united in confronting this danger.  And I hope Congress continues to make sure our troops get what they need to get the job done.

Meanwhile, because we’re leading the right way, more nations are joining our coalition.  Over 40 countries have offered to help the broad campaign against ISIL so far – from training and equipment, to humanitarian relief, to flying combat missions.  And this week, at the United Nations, I’ll continue to rally the world against this threat.

This is an effort that America has the unique ability to lead.  When the world is threatened; when the world needs help; it calls on America. And we call on our troops. Whether it’s to degrade and ultimately destroy a group of terrorists, or to contain and combat a threat like the Ebola epidemic in Africa; we ask a lot of our troops.  But while our politics may be divided at times, the American people stand united around supporting our troops and their families.  This is a moment of American leadership.  Thanks to them, it is a moment we will meet.  Thank you.
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GOP Weekly Address: Democrats Have Chosen 'Divisive Politics Rather Than Facts and Common Sense'


US Congress(WASHINGTON) -- In this week's Weekly Republican Address, Rep. Cory Gardner of Colorado calls out President Obama and the Democrats in the Senate for blocking numerous jobs and energy bills that have already been passed by the Republican-held House.

Gardner notes that those hurt most by the gridlock are "not the big corporations...not the rich. It's people looking for work -- people in need of a good paying job."

The Congressman specifically mentioned the Keystone XL Pipeline, and the delay in construction that has last six years. "Thousands of Americans are missing out on the good paying jobs the pipeline would create," Gardner said.

Gardner continues, calling for "more Colorado in Washington and less Washington in Colorado."

"We have the power to change the course of our nation," Gardner said. "We are liberty and opportunity. Optimism and resilience. We are together -- an America on the rise."

Read the full transcript of the Republican address:

“Hello – I’m Cory Gardner – Representative for Colorado’s 4th Congressional district.
 
“Growing up in a small town on Colorado’s eastern plains, I learned that communities work best when people of different backgrounds, who may sometimes disagree, pull together and look out for each other.  That’s what my parents and grandparents were about, and that’s what I strive to do for Coloradans.  I believe Americans are at their best when they are giving each other a hand and looking out for those who need help, regardless of race, color, gender or creed.
 
“I know many of you would agree with me that Congress and the President could learn a thing or two from places like my home town and the extraordinary people across this nation, who work together each and every day to build a better life for themselves, their families and their neighbors.
 
“We face enormous challenges today, challenges that if left unresolved will undermine our ability to hand our children and grandchildren the nation that we know we are and the better life that we want them all to have.  

“Our families, friends, and neighbors are working harder every day only to see opportunity slip further from their reach – higher gas prices, food prices, college tuition - conditions made worse by the failed policies of the President and the Senate Majority.  President Obama continues to rely on policies of overreaching economic regulation based on European models of status quo instead of American ideals of growth and exceptionalism.
 
“And to be clear, it isn’t that I think President Obama or the Democrats in the Senate are trying to hurt the economy, but their policies have certainly done damage.  And those wrong policies are taking a terrible toll and hurting a lot of people who voted against the President and a lot of people who voted for him, especially those who are struggling to make ends meet.  We care about the victims of these misguided policies because they are our families, our friends, our neighbors, those who agree with us politically and those who disagree with us.  They are Americans.
 
“President Obama and his allies in Congress have forgotten that they were elected to represent all Americans.  They have lost their way and lined up with special interest actions that have blocked jobs, hurt the poor, sold out the most vulnerable amongst us, and have left too many behind.

“For too long, this Administration and Democrats in the Senate have obstructed policies that will get Americans back to work. They would have us believe that high unemployment and declining salaries are the new normal.  That we should just get used to the disappointment of low expectations.  That is not good enough for my community, and I know it is not good enough for yours.

“Just yesterday, the Keystone Pipeline delay turned six years old.  Thanks to the President’s inaction, we are no closer to building the pipeline today than we were six years ago.

“As a result, thousands of Americans are missing out on the good paying jobs the pipeline would create.
 
“Americans know that purely political failures like this are one of the main reasons Washington is broken. Republicans agree and that’s why we’ve repeatedly called for President Obama and the Senate to take action.  Pass our jobs bills and get America working again.
 
“And who is hurt most by the obstruction? It’s not the big corporations.  It’s not the rich.  It’s people looking for work – people in need of a good paying job.
 
“It’s disappointing that the President and his allies have chosen divisive politics rather than facts and common sense.
 
“We have a duty to put politics aside and Americans first. Congress, the House and Senate, and the President, have a patriotic duty to fight for all Americans.
 
“In my home state of Colorado, the responsible development of all types of energy resources has helped fuel a national energy revolution.
 
“And it isn't just traditional energy either -- new wind farms on the Eastern Plains and hydropower on the Western Slope provides a model of success for the nation.
 
“If the President would stop blocking responsible energy development on public lands, this nation could benefit even more.  Putting an end to the regulatory overreach would help areas of Colorado and our country that continue to struggle.
 
“This new energy economy means more jobs, more money for parents to send their kids to college, and more Coloradans feeling certain that the next generation will be left with greater opportunities than their own.  A better starting point that we can pass on to our children than the one we inherited from our parents.
 
“President Obama could learn a thing or two from Colorado when it comes to energy development.
 
“In fact, constituents regularly tell me we need more Colorado in Washington and less Washington in Colorado.
 
“And I agree.
 
“Colorado supports building the Keystone Pipeline because we know its benefits don’t end with its ability to create new jobs.
 
“The pipeline would be a major step forward in making us North American energy secure.
 
“At a time when the Middle East is becoming increasingly unstable, a prudent President would embrace a true all-of-the-above energy strategy.
 
“We've tried this approach in the House of Representatives, passing my legislation to expedite the approval of liquefied natural gas exports. This bipartisan bill would lift 45,000 people off of the unemployment rolls.

“Many of our allies are tethered by aggressive regional powers like Russia, which dominates the Eastern European energy market. Energy development here at home and boosting our allies abroad would make America safer - all while creating thousands of sorely needed jobs at home.
 
“Energy independence improves the stability of our families, the safety of our families, and provides economic security from the threat of terrorism by organizations that pose imminent threats to our nation like ISIL and others. 
 
“The President and congressional Democrats don’t understand that this isn’t about oil companies or billionaire donors – this is about the American people who are hurt by their decision to block jobs at the behest of their special interests.
 
“This is about putting Americans back to work and making our nation more secure.

This is about taking away that fear about your children’s future, knowing that they won’t have less opportunity to build a fulfilling life, but more. This is about sending a message to the world that the United States still believes in what made this country great--an unyielding belief that a brighter horizon is always within reach.  And this is about taking care of our neighbors, no matter which side of town they live in and which political party they belong to.

“We don’t have to live in an economy whose rationale seems to be one of managed decline instead of inspiration and innovation.

“We have the power to change the course of our nation by getting government out of the way and letting America work. We are the United States.  We are liberty and opportunity.  Optimism and resilience.  We are together - an America on the rise.

“I’m Congressman Cory Gardner from Colorado – let’s get to work.”

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Plan to Train Syrian Rebels Becomes Official as Obama Signs CR


Official White House Photo by Pete Souza(WASHINGTON) -- After passing first in the House and then in the Senate, President Obama's plan to train and arm Syrian moderates in the fight against ISIS was made official Friday with the stroke of his pen.

The president signed the Continuing Resolution that funds the government through Dec. 11 and includes the authorization for Title X.

Obama, sans a suit jacket, sat behind the Resolute desk in the Oval Office as he signed the stop gap funding measure. Before signing the bill, he smiled at cameras and said, “Here’s all that stands between you and the weekend.”

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Susan Rice: Training Syrian Rebels 'Will Take Many Months'


Alex Wong/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Training Syrian rebels to fight against ISIS “will take many months,” National Security Advisor Susan Rice reminded reporters at the daily White House briefing Friday.

Now that Congress has approved the strategy to arm and train the rebels, Rice cautioned “this is not going to happen overnight.”

“It is not something that one should expect will yield rapid and immediate fruit. This is a serious training program, and we are serious about vetting those that we will be training and equipping. So I can’t give you a precise deadline,” she said.

In addition to vetting the opposition fighters, the program also requires training facilities to be constructed, Rice noted.

As for airstrikes in Syria, White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest failed repeatedly to give a direct answer when asked whether the president has authorized the strikes.

In a back-and-forth in the briefing room Friday, Earnest would only confirm what is already known.

“The president made a decision more than a week ago, that he announced to the nation, that he’s ready to broaden our airstrike campaign,” he said.

“We are prepared and the president has been clear that the United States is prepared to act in Syria, and when and how we choose to do that will be an operational decision,” Earnest said.

But does the Pentagon have the go-ahead from the president? Is it just a matter now of when the Pentagon pulls the trigger?

Earnest wouldn’t say.

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Boko Haram Kidnapping Survivor Urges Obama to 'Bring Back Our Girls'


(WASHINGTON) -- Sleeping in her hostel, “Saa” remembers being awoken by the sound of gunfire last April.

“The Boko Haram people came into the school,” the shy, young Nigerian woman quietly recalls.

Soon after, Boko Haram militants ordered her and other female students to gather in a courtyard while everything in the school was burned.

Using a pseudonym and covering her head with a scarf to conceal her identity, Saa emotionally detailed her capture and subsequent getaway Friday for the first time in public in the United States.

After being loaded into a truck and beginning a trip to a destination unknown, Saa, overcome with fear, says she decided to make a run for it.

"I told my friend that I decided to jump down from the truck,” she said. “I'd rather die, [so] that my parents [would] have my coffin buried than to go with them because we don't know where we are going."

The 18-year-old and her friend jumped from the truck and fled into the surrounding forest. After spending the night under a tree, the duo managed to get help and was ultimately reunited with their families.

Today, Saa proudly credits her Christian faith for giving her the courage to evade her captors.

“I'm a Christian, I'm a real Christian,” she emphasizes. “I know God, and I'm following God the way I can.”

While the mystery of the missing girls captured the world’s attention months ago, headlines quickly faded as the search dragged on without much news. Saa now lives in the United States, where she is working to complete her high school education.

Asked what her message would be for President Obama if she had an opportunity to speak to him, Saa urged the president to recommit to finding hundreds of others whose whereabouts remain a mystery.

“We are thinking about them,” she said. “If he can agree to help and bring back our girls, it's good."

Emmanuel Ogebe, an international human rights lawyer who helped arrange Saa’s scholarship to continue her education in the United States, also pleaded with Obama to pump more U.S. resources into the stalled search.

“This is terror on steroids,” Ogebe said. “These people are desperate. They're regressing into another age, but [the United States] could be the hope, the beacon of light, that will help them weather the storm.”

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Obama Says 'It’s on Us' to Prevent Sexual Assault


The White House(WASHINGTON) -- President Obama Friday said a “fundamental shift in our culture” is needed to prevent sexual assault and domestic violence.

“As far as we’ve come, the fact is that from sports leagues to pop culture to politics, our society still does not sufficiently value women,” Obama said as he unveiled a new campaign to raise awareness and prevent sexual assault on college and university campuses.

“We still don’t condemn sexual assault as loudly as we should,” he said. “We make excuses. We look the other way. The message that sends can have a chilling effect on our young women.”

The White House is enlisting the help of celebrities and athletes to roll out the “It’s On Us” public awareness campaign, which seeks to educate and engage students, particularly young men, to prevent sexual assaults.

“It is on all of us to reject the quiet tolerance of sexual assault and to refuse to accept what’s unacceptable,” Obama said.

While the president did not reference the National Football League specifically, he noted that violence against women can no longer be ignored.

“The issue of violence against women is now in the news every day. We started to, I think, get a better picture of what domestic violence is all about,” he said. “People are talking about it. Victims are realizing they’re not alone. Brave people have come forward. They’re opening up about their own experiences. And so we think today’s event is all that more relevant, all that more important.”

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Joe Biden Ends Gaffe-Heavy Week with Another Gaffe


Official White House Photo by Pete Souza(WASHINGTON) -- Oh, Joe.

Vice President Joe Biden managed to step in it this morning while speaking about domestic violence and sexual assault at the Democratic National Committee’s annual Women’s Leadership Forum in Washington, D.C.

After giving an impassioned plea to end such abuse, Biden closed his remarks with a few comments about the challenges facing Democrats in the upcoming elections.

“This is not your father’s Republican Party. This is a different breed of cat,” he said, lamenting the absence of Republicans he said used to champion issues like voter fraud. “It’s Republicans that were involved, guys like [Charles] Mac Mathias, [Bob] Packwood and so many others.”

Perhaps that’s not the best example to use in a speech aimed at reaching out to women.

Oregon Republican Bob Packwood resigned from the Senate in 1995 amid sexual harassment and abuse allegations.

But the Packwood reference was not the only gaffe of the week for the VP. Earlier this week, Biden had to apologize after referring to moneylenders as “Shylocks,” a Shakespearean term considered to be anti-Semitic.

“People would come to him and talk about what was happening to them at home in terms of foreclosures, in terms of bad loans that were being -- I mean, these shylocks who took advantage of these women and men while overseas,” he said Tuesday.

After facing criticism from the Anti-Defamation League, Biden admitted, “It was a poor choice of words.”

And Wednesday, he referred to Asia as the “Orient,” a widely outdated term that is often considered to be offensive.

“You know, on the way back from Mumbai to go meet with President Xi in China, I stopped in Singapore to meet with a guy named Lee Kuan Yew, who most foreign policy experts around the world say is the wisest man in the Orient,” Biden said in Iowa this week.

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Chief Justice Roberts: Justices Scalia, Ginsburg Wouldn’t Be Confirmed Today


Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images(LINCOLN, Neb.) -- Chief Justice John Roberts expressed concern Friday over the bitter partisanship gripping Washington, saying two sitting justices who sailed to confirmation would never make it through the Senate today.

In a speech at the University of Nebraska College of Law, Roberts said the executive and legislative branches of government are in “a period of real partisan rancor that impedes their ability to carry out their functions.” He said the deepening gridlock threatens judicial confirmations and is eroding confidence in the third branch of government.

He cited the 2010 confirmation of Elena Kagan, who was elevated to the Supreme Court on a partisan Senate vote of 63-37. He compared that to conservative Justice Antonin Scalia, who was confirmed unanimously in 1986 and liberal Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who sailed through the Senate in 1993, on a vote of 96-3.

“Neither of them would have a chance today,” Roberts said. “That’s not good.”

He said that he fears Americans will see the Supreme Court as a “political entity.”

“I worry about people having that perception, because it’s not an accurate one about how we do our work,” Roberts said. “It’s important for us to make that as clear as we can to the public.”

It was a rare public appearance by Roberts, who answered questions from students and the legal community for about an hour. He has long lamented the changing perception of the court, but his pointed remarks about partisanship suggested that his worries are growing as the divide deepens between Congress and the White House.

In his remarks, he also offered a rare window into the workings of the Supreme Court, the most secretive and closed branches of the U.S. government.

When asked whether it was difficult for the justices to find agreement on some high-profile cases, he laughed and declared: “Difficult? Sometimes, it’s impossible!”

One of the most enjoyable parts of his job, he said, was assigning opinions to justices. He said he tries to make sure the workload is evenly divided, saying.

“You want someone to have the fair share of the important cases that people are interested in,” Roberts said, “and a fair share of what we call the dogs.”

He said he knows that many Americans are likely unaware that he is the chief justice of the United States, joking that many people may assume it’s Judge Judy.

“They don’t need to know who we are. They do need to know what we do,” Roberts said. “It’s critically important that people do appreciate that.”

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Obama Welcomes Results of Scotland's Vote to Remain in UK


Alex Wong/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- President Obama on Friday welcomed the results of Scotland's referendum, in which the country voted to remain a part of the United Kingdom.

By a vote of 55 percent to 45 percent, Scots on Thursday voted against an independent Scotland.

In a statement Friday, Obama congratulated Scots for their "full and energetic exercise of democracy."

"Through debate, discussion, and passionate yet peaceful deliberations, they reminded the world of Scotland's enormous contributions to the U.K. and the world, and have spoken in favor of keeping Scotland within the United Kingdom," the president said.

He added that the U.S. has no closer ally than the U.K. and "we look forward to continuing our strong and special relationship with all the people of Great Britain and Northern Ireland as we address the challenges facing the world today."

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