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Oct 042013

Airborne and Special Operations Museum(WASHINGTON) — It was supposed to be a tribute to the American soldiers who fought and died for their country 20 years ago in Somalia during the infamous “Black Hawk Down” operation. But outside of a quiet gathering of veterans of that deadly incident, the public has not been able to see the Army’s brand-new “Battle of Mogadishu” exhibit, which was scheduled to open on Friday at the Airborne and Special Operations Museum in North Carolina, thanks to the ongoing government shutdown.

Despite the notable anniversary, the museum, like so many other government buildings, is closed until further notice as part of the nationwide federal shutdown, according to a notice posted on the museum foundation’s website.

The museum planned to make a small exception to host a gathering of Black Hawk Down veterans as well as their friends and family, according to an attendee. But it’s unclear when the general public will be allowed to get a fresh look at what those men fought so hard for.

“We are disappointed that the hard work and the accomplishment of the Army staff in the building of this exhibit… We’re just disappointed that we’re closed,” said Paul Galloway, the executive director of the Airborne and Special Operations Museum Foundation, which supports the Army’s museum. “We’re looking forward to the time that we’re open to the public so they can see the exhibit. This exhibit is going to be worth seeing.”

The Oct. 3, 1993 mission was to “snatch” two top lieutenants of Somali warlord Mohamed Farrah Aidid from a building in Mogadishu – the center of violence in war-torn Somalia populated by countless armed civilians and militia members. The mission, though ultimately successful, went awry when two Black Hawk helicopters were shot down over the city and American troops were pinned down in several attempted rescues. With gunfire crackling around them almost non-stop, the dozens of soldiers stayed in the city overnight until reinforcements arrived on Oct. 4. In the end, 18 American soldiers were killed and dozens more wounded.

An Army spokesperson declined to comment on the museum’s closing.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio

Aug 232013

Joshua Roberts/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) — In light of the reported chemical attack in Syria this week, the White House has been busy meeting and discussing possible responses to the alleged actions of President Bashar al-Assad’s government.

While Syria is unlikely to grant the U.S. access to facts and evidence, the White House spent most of Friday working to fill in the gaps around the reports. The Syrian opposition has been helpful in providing evidence to the U.S. government.

A senior official told ABC News that the administration is “taking a look at options” that include missile strikes and providing arms to the rebels. With that said, sending American soldiers to Syria is not — and will not be — an option.

The official said that the meetings were different from past administration rhetoric, in that it is more urgent. The potential large death tolls could represent either a major escalation or proof that Assad has lost control of his country’s chemical weapons.

While administration officials hope to have a decision in the near future, “there is no timeline.”

The official told ABC News that whatever action the U.S. takes must serve to advance the U.S. strategy and goals in Syria and should take into consideration the potential consequences.

Meanwhile, Secretary of State John Kerry spent much of Friday making phone calls to a number of foreign representatives. In speaking with foreign ministers and secretaries from Europe and the Middle East, as well as representatives from the United Nations, the European Union and the Arab League, Kerry reiterated the United States’ commitment to gather the pertinent facts surrounding the events of this past week.

A statement from a senior State Department official additionally expressed American “concern and outrage over the disturbing reports, photos and videos we have seen, which shock the conscience.”

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio

Aug 142013

JIM WATSON/AFP/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) — Michelle Obama is an accomplished lawyer, mother of two and, of course, the first lady. And now, she’s adding hip-hop artist to her impressive resume.

The first lady is lending her star power to a new rap album to inspire people to live healthier, more active lives.

Before you get your hopes up too high, no, the first lady does not actually rap on the album. But she is playing a speaking role in a new song titled “Everybody,” featuring Jordin Sparks, Doug E. Fresh, Dr. Oz and the Hip Hop Doc.

Obama teamed up with Partnership for a Healthier America to make the album as part of her Let’s Move! healthy eating initiative.

The record, Songs for a Healthier America, features music by Matisyahu, Travis Barker, Artie Green, Ashanti and Monifah, among others, and includes songs titled “U R What You Eat,” “Veggie Luv” and “Hip Hop F.E.E.T.”

The music videos released with the album will reportedly be distributed to New York City schools before being circulated more widely.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio

Aug 142013

Photo by Davis Turner/Getty Images(NEW YORK) — North Carolina’s sweeping and restrictive new voting law is facing multiple legal challenges from civil rights groups that argue it discriminates against black and young voters.

Republican Governor Pat McCrory signed the bill Monday, which goes into effect in 2016. Among other things, the law requires voters to bring state-issued photo IDs to the polls, cuts down early voting time by one week, eliminates same-day voter registration, and bans pre-registration for youth voters who will turn 18 on Election Day.

The American Civil Liberties Union, along with two other groups, immediately filed a legal challenge that argues the law attempts to suppress minority voters, thereby violating the Constitution and the 1965 Voting Rights Act. The NAACP has filed a similar suit.

Allison Riggs, a staff attorney for the Southern Coalition for Social Justice, said in a statement, “Taken together, the new restrictions in this law will disenfranchise hundreds of thousands of eligible voters, depriving many of our most vulnerable citizens from being able to easily exercise a constitutional right.”

A third lawsuit will challenge the voter ID provision under the state’s constitution, according to The Nation.

McCrory and Republican lawmakers noted that voter ID laws are popular in opinion polls and stated that the North Carolina law is simply meant to prevent voter fraud.

But Democrats and civil rights groups argue that voter fraud is a negligible problem in North Carolina. And moreover, they say that Republicans are simply trying to improve their chances of winning elections by preventing young and minority voters — who tend to vote Democrat — from casting ballots.

North Carolina is the latest battleground on voting rights. Last June, the Supreme Court struck down a key provision of the Voting Rights Act that required certain states with a history of racial discrimination, including North Carolina, to get federal permission before changing their voting laws.

Since the restrictions were removed, several states have moved swiftly to enact new voting laws. The Justice Department has already indicated it will pursue legal action against Texas for its new voter ID law, and North Carolina could be next on the list.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio

Aug 142013

Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) — Former congressman Jesse Jackson Jr. will be sentenced Wednesday for misusing millions of dollars in campaign funds. Jackson faces a four-year prison sentence.

Jackson, the former Rep. from Illinois, pleaded guilty to using campaign funds to pay for living expenses, clothes and luxury items, according to USA Today. Jackson’s wife and former Chicago alderman Sandi Jackson pleaded guilty to falsifying the couple’s tax returns during a six-year period.

Jackson Jr. was first elected to Congress in 1995 and served up until he resigned in November 2012. Jackson won re-election last year before his resignation, which was connected to the finance scandal.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio