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Elton John Announces AIDS Partnership with US Government

US State Dept (WASHINGTON) -- Secretary of State John Kerry hosted superstar Elton John in Washington, D.C. Friday, where the two announced a $7 million partnership between John's AIDS foundation and the United States HIV/AIDS eradication effort, PEPFAR.

But perhaps caught up in the excitement of the announcement, Sir Elton gave Kerry a demotion, calling him "Senator."

It's not the first time Kerry had an unscripted moment with a famous philanthropist. There was also a bromantic moment caught on camera between him and actor Leonardo DiCaprio.

And that time Ben Affleck shook his hand/squeezed his bicep:

In the end, all those awkward photo ops are for a good cause. In addition to Sir Elton raising money for AIDS initiatives, DiCaprio was part of a campaign to help the world's oceans, and Affleck was in Washington to bring attention to the humanitarian situation in the Congo.

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First Lady Flubs Again on Campaign Trail

Samantha Appleton / The White House(DENVER) -- First lady Michelle Obama has been touring the country for Democratic candidates -- and making headlines along the way for notable gaffes.

Earlier this month in Iowa, she referred to Democratic Senate candidate Bruce Braley as Bruce “Bailey,” before correcting herself in a follow-up appearance in Iowa City.

In Colorado Thursday, she called Democratic Sen. Mark Udall a “fifth-generation Coloradan,” though he was born in Arizona.

It’s Udall’s opponent, Republican Rep. Cory Gardner, who is a fifth-generation Coloradan.

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Sarah Palin Backs Independent in Alaska's Governor's Race

(WASHINGTON) -- Sarah Palin has backed Alaska’s Independent gubernatorial candidate Bill Walker over Republican Sean Parnell, her former lieutenant governor.

Palin held an event earlier this week at her Wasilla home for Walker and his Democratic running mate.

Parnell was not only Palin's number two, but took over when she stepped down in 2009. The two had a high profile disagreement earlier this year, taking opposite sides on a referendum over Alaska’s oil and gas taxes, Palin's signature legislation while she was the state’s governor.

According to a release Wednesday from the Walker campaign, both Walker and his running mate Byron Mallot, along with their families, attended the reception hosted by Palin and her husband Todd.

The campaign says Sarah Palin addressed the crowd of about 100 guests, saying she is backing the candidates, known as the “unity ticket,” because she “trust[s] them to develop our God-given resources responsibly and to the maximum benefit of Alaskans.”

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Poll: Sen. Mark Udall Still Leads Colorado Senate Race

US Senate(WASHINGTON) -- Rep. Cory Gardner is still ahead of Democratic incumbent Sen. Mark Udall in the Colorado U.S. Senate race, with the Republican leading Udall 46 to 41 percent among likely voters, according to a new Quinnipiac University poll out Friday.

The results are similar to the five-point lead Gardner had in Quinnipiac's poll last week.

The poll also shows 6 percent are for Independent candidate Steve Shogan, while another 6 percent are undecided.

Among women, 45 to 41 percent are backing Udall, while 51 to 38 percent of men are for Gardner.

Gardner is leading with independent voters, getting 41 percent to Udall’s 40 percent.

And with just 11 days to go, much of Colorado’s likely voters have made up their mind with 92 percent decided.

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Jeanne Shaheen, Scott Brown Square Off in NH Senate Debate

US Senate(CONCORD, N.H.) -- New Hampshire Senate candidates Jeanne Shaheen and Scott Brown faced off again Thursday night in their second live televised debate.

The match up was dominated by questions on Ebola, and Shaheen accused Brown of “fear mongering” on the issue, as she did on the dangers of ISIS.

Brown tried to wiggle out of earlier comments he made that the country would not be worrying about Ebola if Mitt Romney was president, but the moderator read the entire quote pressing him.

Later in the debate, the issue of President Obama’s campaign schedule came up when Shaheen was asked why she doesn’t want him to stump with her in the Granite State.

She answered she never said she doesn’t want the president to campaign with her, but “the fact is he’s busy.”

When asked directly if she does want Obama to campaign with her, she said no: “We have a lot going on, I don’t think it makes sense for the president to come to New Hampshire right now.”

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Former Secretary of State Albright Burns Conan O'Brien on Twitter

Brendan Hoffman/Getty Images for Fortune Magazine(NEW YORK) -- Madeleine Albright proved to be a good sport when Conan O'Brien cracked a joke on Twitter that name-checked the former U.S. secretary of state.

On Thursday afternoon, the TBS late-night host quipped, "I picked out my Halloween costume. I’m going as 'Slutty Madeleine Albright.'"

Albright, 77, rose up to the challenge and tweeted a joke of her own, at O'Brien's expense: "I'm considering going as hunky Conan O'Brien -- but that might be too far fetched."

O'Brien got a kick out of Albright's response. He responded, "YES -- My first twitter war with a former Secretary of State! You're next, George P. Shultz!"

Perhaps trying to get the last word in the exchange, Albright wrote back, "Never get into a word war with a diplomat. We talk even more than comedians."

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Will First Lady Run for the Senate in '18?

Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- Senator Michelle Obama?

The New York Post's Page Six said Thursday that close friends of President Obama are egging on the first lady to run for the U.S. Senate seat from California in 2018.

In a report Thursday in Orbmagazine.com, California Senator Dianne Feinstein has been dropping hints that this will her last term. Feinstein is 81.

Neither the president nor his wife have indicated what their post-White House plans are after 2016.

However, the Post says that a friend familiar with the first couple mused that California would be the perfect environment since, "Barack could golf year-round, and Michelle could emerge from his shadow after 20 years and retake control of her own life."

The first lady has been previously quoted as saying she has no interest in a political life after her husband's second term is up.

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A Timeline of the Dramatic Congressional Campaign in California's 52nd District

Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call(WASHINGTON) -- If anyone in Hollywood writes a movie script based on one congressional campaign of the 2014 midterm election season, Tinseltown should look no farther than California's 52nd Congressional District.

The drama, which pits freshman Democratic Rep. Scott Peters against former City Councilman Carl DeMaio, who is seeking to become the first openly-gay Republican candidate to win a seat to Congress, has all the scandalous allegations of a blockbuster:

May 19: DeMaio fired former aide Todd Bosnich for allegedly plagiarizing a campaign report on congressional pensions.

May 27: DeMaio blamed Bosnich, who is also openly gay, for a May 27 burglary at campaign headquarters where computers were destroyed, phone lines were cut and a "campaign strategy book" was stolen and quickly leaked to Peters.

Oct. 10: Bosnich responded by claiming in an interview with CNN that DeMaio had made unwanted sexual advances towards him, even calling him into his office only to discover DeMaio supposedly masturbating there. Bosnich also passed an independent polygraph exam, which showed he had no deception when he repeated the allegations against DeMaio.

Oct. 19: As the two candidates took their positions at a televised forum last Sunday, DeMaio coolly refused to shake hands with Peters, who DeMaio then confronted about the campaign playbook. While Peters acknowledged that his campaign received "information" last June, he denied any culpability and said he immediately turned it over to police.

Oct. 20: San Diego County District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis announced DeMaio won't be criminally charged with sexual harassment. Neither will Bosnich face charges of burglary.

Oct. 22: DeMaio and Peters appear together at another event, and DeMaio again refuses to shake Peters' hand, gesturing that he was sick.

DeMaio is one of the GOP's most-prized recruits, with House Speaker John Boehner even shunning some conservatives to campaign alongside the Republican challenger. Now, DeMaio is attempting to rebound from two weeks of mudslinging in time for Election Day on Nov. 4.

With the sexual harassment allegations all but put to bed, DeMaio has publicly complained that Peters' campaign promoted Bosnich's story behind the scenes, unfairly exploiting his homosexuality to feed the media's infatuation with erotic allegations about a perverted candidate.

"I guess you can say anything about the gay guy and some people will believe it," DeMaio told The Hill last weekend. "I think that when we learned this week that Scott Peters' campaign was actively promoting this smear to reporters and making other claims that were outrageous, despicable, disgraceful, unethical -- it simply confirmed for me the lengths that this man would go and the lack of judgment that [Peters] possesses to simply hang on to a political seat in Congress."

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New Questions About White House Fence After String of Intrusions

iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- The latest fence-jumping incident at the White House has brought not only the Secret Service into scrutiny again but the fence itself. The bottom line: Is the fence enough?

Since President Thomas Jefferson had the first fence erected around the White House in 1801, there has been a constant tension between creating a safe house for the president, his staff and his family, and allowing the White House to be accessible to the public.

“Trying to balance protecting a location that is a museum, an office building, a residence to the first family and a symbol of freedom is very difficult,” a person familiar with Secret Service policies and procedures told ABC News. “You want to give the vast majority of visitors who are there for the right reasons an opportunity to enjoy it, [but] also want to make sure security is as aggressive and visible as possible in keeping people out.”

In fact, according to the White House Historical Association, the fence itself hasn’t been changed since 1976, when the wrought iron was reinforced with steel. Since then, security measures have been boosted around the fence, including closing Pennsylvania Avenue to vehicle traffic in 1995.

In the past there have been discussions about making the fence taller, but that idea was met with resistance based on “historical and other bureaucratic issues,” said the person, speaking on the condition of anonymity due to the sensitivity of security measures. Still, making the fence taller will only do so much because – as the cliché goes – someone will just get a longer ladder.

Others have suggested electrifying the fence or placing barbed wire on top of it.

“But is that really how we want the White House to look?” the person asked. “No matter how tall the fence, whether it is barbed wired or electrified, there will always be the potential that people will attempt to defeat it. That's why it’s so important people do their job and know the plan.”

Moves like electrifying the fence, placing barbed wire on it or making it taller have consistently been shut down by politicians such as Rep. Eleanor Holmes Norton, D-D.C. In a recent letter to then-Secret Service Director Julia Pierson, Norton stated, “These are First Amendment protected areas used by the public on a daily basis to both see the residence of the president and engage in their Constitutional right to petition the government, and must be kept open for their continued daily use.”

Even during times of turmoil, presidents have maintained that the White House must be available to the public, relying on the Secret Service to quickly stop any security breach, according to the White House Historical Association.

Of course, security at the White House involves much more than a fence.

“There is a system of foot patrols, vehicle patrols, bike patrols, surveillance systems, both technical and human-resource driven,” plus the use of intelligence and other countermeasures, the person said. “They all have to be working as one.”

Wednesday night’s incident -- in which Secret Service agents and dogs tackled 23-year-old Dominic Adesanya of suburban Washington after he allegedly jumped the White House fence -- is “a perfect example,” the person added. “Everyone knew their responsibility and executed a pre-existing plan.”

On Thursday White House spokesman Josh Earnest echoed that sentiment, saying, “Yesterday’s incident underscores the professionalism of the men and women of the Secret Service.”

“There is obviously no margin for error. It is a task that they approach with seriousness and professionalism,” he said, acknowledging that “last night’s efforts were better than” last month, when 42-year-old Omar Gonzalez jumped the White House fence and ran into the White House with a knife in his pocket before he was subdued.

According to the White House Historical Association, President Thomas Jefferson built the first fence around the White House in 1801, and since then the fence has evolved into the wrought iron gate enclosing the entire property.

Earnest said he would not “prejudge” an active review of Secret Service procedures by the Department of Homeland Security, but he said “it’s possible” changes could be made to the fence.

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Despite Diplomatic Friction, US and Cuba Working Together Against Ebola

iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- The United States and Cuba are working ever closer together to stamp out the Ebola outbreak in West Africa, inviting each other's top diplomats to meetings about the virus even though the countries don’t have formal diplomatic ties, U.S. officials said.

Ambassador Jeffrey DeLaurentis, chief of the United States Interests Section in Havana, Cuba, the de facto American diplomatic mission in Cuba, participated in a foreign ministers' briefing on Ebola on Wednesday, a State Department spokesperson confirmed on Thursday.

And last week, the Chief of Mission at the Cuban Interests Section in the United States, José Ramón Cabañas, sat in the audience during a similar Ebola briefing in the State Department's lavish Benjamin Franklin room and heard Secretary of State John Kerry pay Cuba a rare compliment.

"Already we are seeing nations large and small stepping up in impressive ways to make a contribution on the front lines," he said. "Cuba, a country of just 11 million people, has sent 165 health professionals, and it plans to send nearly 300 more."

But a State Department spokesperson said coordination with Cuba as part of the international effort against Ebola should not signal a breakthrough in other areas of the relationship, like a 52-year trade embargo between the two nations.

“We will continue to pursue more constructive relations between the United States and Cuba, consistent with our national interests, though significant issues remain between our two countries,” the spokesperson said, citing Cuba’s “poor” human rights record and its infringement on freedoms of expression and assembly.

The spokesperson also noted that Cuba has kept Alan Gross, a contractor who was jailed after distributing communications materials throughout the country for USAID, detained since 2009.

But the official reiterated that the U.S. and Cuba would continue working together on Ebola as two of the many nations concerned about the spread of the disease.

“The Ebola virus outbreak is a global problem that knows no borders. The United States is working with all members of the international community involved in this shared effort,” the official said.

A total of 4,877 deaths and 9,936 cases of Ebola have been reported in seven countries, according to the latest World Health Organization situation report.

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Bristol Palin Explains Brawl, Blames Media in Blog Post

Michael Buckner/WireImage(WASHINGTON) -- Two days after audio from a brawl involving the Palin family was released, Bristol Palin has defended herself and her family in writing, explaining her side of what happened on the evening of Sept. 6.

“Instead of listening to all the people who weren’t there ... let me tell you what actually happened,” she writes in a post on Patheos.

In her defense, Sarah Palin’s eldest daughter blamed a liberal media bias for unfair and incorrect reporting on the incident. She aimed to the set the record straight while also pointing out embarrassing incidents in other political families such as the Clintons and Bidens. She alleged coverage of those moments was downplayed because they involved Democratic families.

Some details of the Palins' run-in already emerged on that audio earlier this week and in other accounts. But here are the five best parts of Bristol Palin’s new post:

1. She Says the Brawl Started Because Someone Wanted to 'Get Famous'

Bristol Palin wrote that it all started when her group's “friend got knocked out from a cheap shot from behind” from a man who tweeted “about to get famous.” It was then, according to Palin, that her 20-year-old sister [Willow Palin] said to the man's mother, “Get ahold of your son.”

“But apparently the apple didn’t fall too far from the tree, because his mom pushed Willow. A grown woman pushed my little sister,” Bristol Palin wrote.

2. She Claims She Got Involved to Defend Her Sister, but Things Escalated Quickly

Bristol Palin said she had already gotten in a car, which was previously reported to be a stretch white Hummer. But, she wrote, when her sister “ran to me crying, telling me that some lady had pushed her down, I got out of the car to go talk to her. Any big sister would do this. Next to God, family is the most important thing to me.”

“After I got out of the car, I didn’t get far,” she wrote. “I never even got to talk to his mom, because a guy in his late thirties or early forties got in my face. He was towering over me - probably at 6 foot something and over 200 pounds. He puffed his chest out and started yelling.”

She then wrote about what she previously described in a police statement, saying a man she did not identify, but who a police report suggested was the homeowner, Korey Klingenmeyer, “looked right” in her “eyes” and said: “Get the f*** out of here, you slut.”

3. Palin Says She Didn't Punch a Man Several Times with a 'Strong Right Hook'

A witness at the party that night said Bristol Palin punched Klingenmeyer “six times,” but she denied that, saying she was “alarmed that things had gotten so bad so fast. But it got even worse when this guy started pushing me. He had his hands on me, pushing me down. That’s when I swung and hit his face.”

“Some would say I should’ve never retaliated in defense against him, but certainly he should never have pushed a girl. It didn’t phase him. He pushed me down to the ground and kept me there,” Palin wrote. “It was scary and awful. He held me down until someone got me out of the situation. That’s it - that’s the story. I didn’t ‘swing and hit him seven times with a strong right hook’ as so many so-called news stories have reported. After this incident, I still had a perfect manicure on all ten of my nails. Plus - I’m left handed. I wouldn’t even begin to know how to begin ‘swinging’ at someone. The incident was scary and infuriating. I had bruises all over me from being pushed down.”

4. Claims Liberal Bias Led to Reporting on the Brawl, Says She Has a Job and Normal Life, Attacks Media

Bristol Palin wrote that she has an everyday life, and has “stayed out of the public eye for the past few years” and she has a job where she “clock(s) in and out of work ... like most middle class Americans and chip away at making my son’s life just a little bit easier,” but she says the “media still choose to put the Palins into an entirely different category of people.”

“This ‘story’ is still running over a month and a half later. Rumors still run wild, unsubstantiated claims are printed as true, and random people who weren’t even there are considered ‘eye witnesses,’” she wrote.

5. Palin Attacks Bidens and Clintons, Says They Don't Get Same Negative Coverage as Conservative Women

Bristol Palin asserted media bias leads to coverage of her family, but claimed there is not the same kind of coverage of Democratic family scandals:

“In the meantime, did you even hear about Vice President Joe Biden’s adult son who kicked out of the Navy for cocaine? (That’s the real Vice President’s kid...) So pause for a moment and consider the hysteria over our stupid 'incident', compared to our actual Vice President’s son not even being able to hold on to a position in the Navy Reserve," she wrote.

"I’m sure you heard the happy news that Chelsea Clinton had a baby. But did you know her father-in-law and Clinton family pal Edward Mezvinsky is a convicted felon because of committing bank, wire, and mail fraud? Of course, you didn’t. Because the friends and family of the revered liberal elite are treated like delicate China. Don’t handle too roughly. They are precious. They are off limits. Don’t push on them too hard. In the meantime, I was pushed and held down by some guy ... and the media salivates like a dog that’s just been given a bone,” she continued.

Palin said the tough coverage stems from her being a conservative woman:

“Violence against women is never okay,” Palin wrote. “Even if that violence occurs against conservative women. Imagine for a second the outrage that would happen if Chelsea Clinton had gotten pushed by some guy. Had she tried to defend herself, the liberal media would’ve held her up as some feminist hero. But it wasn’t Chelsea. It wasn’t Hillary. It wasn’t someone they liked or someone they agreed with. It was a conservative. And once again, the hypocrisy of the media is laid bare.”

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Poll: Hickenlooper Pulls Ahead with Women, Independent Voters in Colo. Race for Governor

Doug Pensinger/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) — The Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper is at 45 percent among likely voters, while his GOP challenger Rep. Bob Beauprez comes in with 44 percent, according to a new Quinnipiac poll.

This is a significant tightening compared with their survey last month that showed Hickenlooper behind Beauprez 50 to 40 percent. Last week’s poll showed 46 percent for Beauprez and 42 percent for Hickenlooper.

Libertarian candidate Matthew Hess only has 1 percent, with Green Party candidate Harry Hempy only gathering 2 percent, according to Thursday's survey. Another 7 percent are undecided.

Notably, the poll shows women are key in the race, backing the incumbent 49 to 39 percent, while men back Beauprez 49 to 41 percent.

According to the poll results, Hickenlooper is in the lead with independent voters, taking 45 percent to Beauprez's 40 percent.

It isn’t likely many voters will be swayed between now and Election Day in Colorado. Ninety-one percent of Colorado likely voters say their mind is already made up, while only 8 percent say they could change their mind.

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Poll: Tight Race to the Finish for Iowa Senate Candidates

David Greedy/Getty Images(HAMDEN, Conn.) — With less than two weeks to go, it's still incredibly tight in the Iowa Senate brawl.

A new Quinnipiac poll out Thursday morning shows Joni Ernst at 48 percent support amongst likely voters to Rep. Bruce Braley's 46 percent, with just 4 percent still undecided.

A Quinnipiac poll released the previous week showed Ernst at 47 percent and Braley at 45 percent.

Thursday's poll results show independent voters backing Ernst 47 percent to Braley's 41 percent.

In the "reverse gender gap" for this race, women back Braley 53 to 40 percent while men back Ernst 55 to 38 percent.

A bright spot for Democrats -- among those who have already cast their ballot in early voting, Braley leads 58 to 37 percent.

Twelve days from Election Day, a staggering 93 percent say their mind is already made up, while 7 percent could still change it before decision day.

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Secret Service Dogs OK After Battling White House Fence Jumper

iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- The Secret Service dogs that tussled with a White House fence jumper, including one dog that was violently kicked by the suspect, are recovering on Thursday, officials said.

The canines, named Hurricane and Jordan, were taken to a veterinarian after the attack and treated for minor bruising. Both were cleared to return to duty.

Meanwhile, Dominic Adesanya, the man who police say climbed over the White House fence Wednesday evening, was released from a hospital and remained in police custody.

Hurricane and Jordan attacked Adesanya, 23, after he allegedly jumped the north fence. Video showed the suspect kicking one patrol dog before the second one took him down. Adesanya wrestled with the dog before he was taken into custody.

Adesanya was charged with two counts of felony assault on a police officer [the dogs], four counts of resisting/unlawful entry, a misdemeanor, and one count of making threats, also a felony.

Adesanya was confronted by the dogs almost immediately after landing on the White House grounds. That was in contrast to the last incident on Sept. 19 when alleged fence jumper Omar Gonzalez was able to sprint all the way to the White House and get inside before being tackled by an off-duty Secret Service agent.

The Secret Service launched its canine program in 1975 and uses dogs from Holland called the Belgian Malanois, because they're fast, sociable and their short hair allows them to work in the heat, according to the Secret Service's website. Each dog completes 20 weeks of training before it takes on a job with the Secret Service.

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Committee of Dems Change Course on Kentucky Campaign Funding for Ads

State of Kentucky(WASHINGTON) — Alison Lundergan Grimes has a reason to smile today.  Her campaign in Kentucky just cleared a hurdle that could have hurt her chances with voters.

After the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee announced its decision last week to stop spending money on television ads in the high-profile race, the committee changed direction to go back on the air in the Bluegrass State, a DSCC official confirmed to ABC News.

The committee’s initial decision to halt funding had been a signal they didn’t see a pathway anymore for Grimes’ uphill battle against Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. Instead, committee members decided to pour money into races they hoped to win, like that of Georgia.

The committee changed course, however, since the race in Kentucky has tightened, with undecided voters breaking toward Grimes.

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