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Mitch McConnell picks Ron Paul aide to lead his own reelection bid

Kentucky Senator Mitch McConnell picked Ron Paul National Campaign Chairman Jesse Benton to lead his own reelection bid. In addition to his position with the Paul campaign, Mr. Benton also served as the Senior Vice President of Campaign for Liberty, an organization that supported Mr. Paul’s bid for president.

“We’re committed to running a presidential-level campaign in Kentucky, and that starts with a presidential campaign manager,” Mr. McConnell said in a statement obtained by The Washington Post. “Jesse is literally the best in the business at building and organizing conservative grassroots movements, and I’m thrilled he’s chosen to return to Kentucky to lead my campaign.”

Mr. McConnell’s decision is a strange one for several reasons; the Kentucky Republican’s election is still two years away and Mr. Benton’s previous boss, Republican presidential candidate Ron Paul, was an anti-establishment politician who has been critical of politicians like Mr. McConnell during his time in office.

Mr. Benton also resigned from his post at the Campaign for Liberty in order to take the job with Mr. McConnell. “As I stand at an important crossroads in my life, I have been blessed with wonderful opportunities but also face difficult choices,” Mr. Benton said in a resignation letter addressed to C4L President John Tate. “After much soul searching, I have decided that my passion lies in direct electoral politics, and I plan to work on campaigns rather than resume my work in grassroots advocacy.”

Although Mr. McConnell’s fundraising efforts are likely to be slightly smaller than the Paul campaign’s grassroots fundraising efforts during the 2012 presidential election, Mr. Benton brings with him a wealth of experience when it comes to online fundraising campaigns.

Given his background with grassroots-level political efforts, Mr. Benton will likely try to dig up a new source of voter support for Mr. McConnell’s reelection bid in 2014.

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Jimmy Carter: U.S. drone attacks violate basic human rights

Speaking to a group of students at Drake University Thursday, former President Jimmy Carter slammed the U.S. for conducting deadly drone strikes on non-Americans and Americans alike.

“We have now decided as a nation that it’s OK to kill people without a trial with our drones, and this includes former American citizens who are looked upon as dangerous to us, ” said Mr. Carter, according to the Quad-City Times.

In September, an American drone strike in Yemen killed Anwar al-Awlaki, a U.S.-born al-Qaeda operative. While many praised the U.S. for eliminating al-Qaeda’s top propagandist, a few, including Mr. Carter, questioned the morality and legality of killing a U.S. citizen without a fair trial.

“Not just terrorists, but innocent participants in weddings and so forth that happen to be there. I think this is acting in a way that turns people against us unnecessarily because there is a great deal of animosity about the United States that is unnecessary, in my opinion, because our drones are performing these things,” Mr. Carter added.

There have been numerous incidents in which a U.S. drone attack has killed civilians instead of its intended targets. U.S. drone attacks have also killed friendly soldiers. In November 2011, a U.S. drone strike killed 24 Pakistan soldiers near the Afghanistan border.

“Most Americans either don’t know about it or accept it. I’m not criticizing one leader compared to another because both Democratic and Republican leaders are participating in these violations. We should all look upon human rights as something that is precious to us because we need to get back and be the champion of human rights and I believe the champion of peace as well,” Mr. Carter said.

Mr. received the Nobel Peace Prize in 2002 for his efforts to find peaceful solutions to international conflicts.

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Paul Ryan returns to Capitol Hill for budget vote

Wisconsin Congressman Paul Ryan returned to Capitol Hill on Thursday, his first appearance since joining Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney on the campaign trail earlier this month.

Romney campaign spokesman Brendan Buck confirmed in an e- mail to Politico that Mr. Ryan would be present for the House vote on Thursday.

It is unclear whether the Wisconsin Republican, who has made fiscal conservatism a central focus of his bid with Mr. Romney, will vote in support of the budget measure under consideration. Thursday’s stop-gap budget measure would fund the government for six months from the start of the fiscal year beginning October 1. The stop-gap measure has repeatedly been employed by Democrats and Republicans in recent years, providing lawmakers with a convenient path for avoiding tough political decisions.

The vote could present  the pair of Republicans with a challenge. Both Mr. Romney and Mr. Ryan had advocated for implementing a long term budget that covers the entire fiscal year, saying stop-gap measures create uncertainty within the marketplace. Speaking earlier this week, Mr. Ryan said Thursday vote would provide voters with a chance to see how Republicans would govern under Mr. Romney, adding that the former Massachusetts governor will make federal spending reductions a priority.

“We’ve got to cut spending. We’ve got to get this budget deficit under control and get this debt under control. It is draining jobs. It is hurting our economy and it is clearly mortgaging our children’s future,” Mr. Ryan said during a campaign rally in North Carolina on Wednesday.

Already Mr. Ryan’s return to Capitol Hill has elicited criticism from top House Democrats. Speaking on Thursday, Ms. Pelosi slammed the Wisconsin Republican’s budget plan, saying Mr. Ryan’s proposal for steep spending cuts in Medicaid and Medicare will cost seniors and hurt the middle class.

“Destruction is the GOP’s political philosophy. It’s not that they have a better idea,” said Ms. Pelosi. “But doing nothing is their philosophy. They do not believe in a public role.”

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Joe Biden reflects on 'bittersweet' 9/11 anniversary

Eleven years after terrorists flew planes into the World Trade Center and the Pentagon and crashed a third plane into a field in Pennsylvania, Vice President Joe Biden marked the “bittersweet” 9/11 anniversary by offering some remarks to friends and family members of the passengers on United Airlines Flight 93.

“It is a bittersweet moment for the entire nation,” Mr. Biden said. “We wish we didn’t have to be here, wish we didn’t have to commemorate any of this.”

The Delaware Democrat lost his wife and 13-month-old daughter in a car accident one week before Christmas 1972. Mr. Biden’s other children, Beau and Hunter, were also injured but recovered under their father’s constant care. Speaking at the Flight 93 memorial Tuesday, Mr. Biden recalled his reaction to news of the deadly car accident.

“I know from my own experience that today is just as momentous a day for all of you, just as momentous day in your life, each of your families, as every September 11th has been, regardless of the anniversary,” Mr. Biden said. “For no matter how many anniversaries you experience, for at least an instant, the terror of that moment returns, the lingering moment of that phone call, the sense of total disbelief that envelops you. You feel like you’re being sucked into a black hole in the middle of your chest.”

 According to New York magazine, 2,819 people were killed on Sept. 11. The U.S. announced Monday that it will cover cancer care costs for 9/11 victims and first responders. Many of the first responders later came down with various forms of cancer after working in the toxic conditions following the attacks. This announcement will ease the pain for many families who were impacted by 9/11.

“My hope for you all is that as every year passes, the depth of your pain recedes and you find comfort, as I have, genuine comfort, in recalling his smile, her laugh, their touch, and I hope you’re as certain as I am … that she can see what a wonderful man her son is, turned out to be, grown up to be. That he knows everything that your daughter has achieved,” the vice president said.

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Paul Ryan: I 'misstated' marathon time

Republican vice presidential candidate and Wisconsin Congressman Paul Ryan now says he did not run a marathon in less than three hours, saying he “misstated”  his earlier claim in a nationally broadcast interview.

Speaking Saturday, Mr. Ryan acknowledged he had misstated his marathon time by more than an hour. The Wisconsin Republican, who officially accepted the Republican vice presidential nomination earlier this week, released a statement amending his earlier statement, saying recent reports questioning his time are accurate. The Wisconsin Republican was forced to release the statement after Runner’s World magazine found evidence he had completed one marathon, in 1990, and finished in just over four hours.

Mr. Ryan told radio host Hugh Hewitt last month he had run a marathon and finished well under three hours — an extremely fast time for an amateur runner.

“Under three [hours], high twos. I had a two hour and fifty-something,” Mr. Ryan said at the time.

“I was fast when I was younger, yeah,” the Wisconsin Republican replied after Mr. Hewitt expressed surprise.

The statement was released by Ryan spokesman Brendan Buck, who provided the statement to ABC News.

“The race was more than 20 years ago, but my brother Tobin — who ran Boston last year — reminds me that he is the owner of the fastest marathon in the family and has never himself ran a sub-three. If I were to do any rounding, it would certainly be to four hours, not three. He gave me a good ribbing over this at dinner tonight,” said Mr. Buck.