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House unanimously approves back pay for 800,000 furloughed federal workers
Oct-05-2013 441 0


The House on Saturday unanimously approved legislation to provide retroactive pay for furloughed federal workers after the government shutdown ends. The vote was 407-0.

The White House said Friday that it “strongly supports” the legislation and urged its “swift” passage, even while warning that the single bill alone “will not address the serious consequences of the funding lapse.”

The Senate is still deciding how to proceed with the legislation, a Democratic leadership aide said, adding that it is unlikely the Senate will act on it today.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said on the Senate floor that it is "cruel" to promise pay in the future but not allow federal workers to go back to work while the shutdown continues.

"It's really cruel to tell workers they'll receive back pay once the government opens and then refuse to open the government," he said. "Let's open the government."

Reid said the message being sent to federal workers is: "Stay home. Watch TV. Play chess. Whatever you want to do, because we won't let you work."

Approximately 800,000 government employees are furloughed during the shutdown.

Workers deemed essential and who are currently on the job will be paid for their work during the shutdown, although their paychecks could be delayed. But furloughed employees need congressional approval to receive back pay.

After past shutdowns, Congress passed similar measures, but federal employee unions had warned early in this impasse that there was no guarantee that Congress would act..

During the budget stalemate, the GOP-led House has passed a series of bills to fund some of the most popular programs impacted by the funding lapse - like national parks and care for veterans. But the Senate has declined to take up those piecemeal measures, saying that the government should instead be fully reopened.

"I'm glad to see at the very least that the Senate has plans to take up this bill," Rep. Hal Rogers R-Ky., said of the Senate's likely action on the back pay legislation. "Stop the presses! The Senate's going to take up a bill!"

The back pay measure was introduced by Democrat Jim Moran of Northern Virginia, which has one of the country’s highest populations of federal workers.

"The issue is fairness," Moran said on the House floor. "It's just wrong for hundreds of thousands of federal employees not to know whether they're going to be able to make their mortgage payment, not to know whether they're going to be able to provide for their families."

In a statement, House Speaker John Boehner lauded the passage of the measure and called for a resolution to the shutdown that includes measures to modify the Obama-backed health care reform legislation.

“It’s encouraging to see both parties come together to provide fairness for the 800,000 federal workers hurt by this shutdown," he said. "Now we should do something about the 800,000 jobs being destroyed by the president’s health care law."

Democrats continued to say they want GOP leaders to allow a vote on a government funding bill without add-ons that would make major changes to Obamacare.

Saying that ensuring retroactive pay was "the right thing to do," Rep. Chris Van Hollen, D-Md., said the fact that furloughed workers remain unable to go to work "highlights the sheer folly" of the ongoing government shutdown.

The House's move comes as the shutdown stretches into its fifth day. In an interview with The Associated Press, President Barack Obama again called on House leaders to put the "clean" funding bill up for a vote.

"We know that there are enough members in the House of Representatives -- Democrats and Republicans -- who are prepared to vote to reopen the government today," he said. "The only thing that is keeping that from happening is Speaker Boehner has made a decision that he is going to hold out to see if he can get additional concessions from us."


NBC's Kasie Hunt grills Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, on whether or not he supports giving back pay to furloughed government workers during this government shutdown.

If the Senate does take up the bill, a fast-track process could allow the bill to be passed as early as Saturday, although that move would require every senator to agree.

In an interview with NBC News, Republican Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas -- whose lengthy argument against Obamacare last month galvanized the GOP opposition to the short-term budget bill that led to the ongoing shutdown -- would not say whether or not he will object to the agreement.

“I support the House working cooperatively to resolve this, to fund the government, and at the same time, to prevent the enormous harms Obamacare is inflicting on millions of Americans,” he said.

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Aug-20-2014 90 0
A St. Louis County grand jury will begin hearing evidence in the shooting death of Michael Brown Wednesday, as U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder arrived for a visit to Ferguson, Missouri.

County Prosecutor Robert McCulloch told reporters that the grand jury's work would begin Wednesday.

Holder's visit comes on the heels of a quieter night that still saw some scuffles between police and protesters, some of whom authorities accused of throwing water bottles and urine at them.

Sent by a President troubled by the shooting and the resulting violence, Holder is expected to check in on the federal civil rights investigation into Brown's death August 9. A white police officer shot the unarmed African-American teenager after stopping him as he walked on a Ferguson street.
Police have said Brown tried to shove Officer Darren Wilson back into his car and struggled for his gun. Witnesses who have spoken to CNN and other media say Brown was standing with his hands in the air when he was shot.

Holder's visit and the federal investigation are separate from the St. Louis County grand jury inquiry.

'Getting frustrated'

The grand jury will consider the case in secret -- much to the chagrin of those who have called for transparency.

St. Louis Alderman Antonio French, who has been a regular fixture at the protests, said people are getting impatient to see how prosecutors plan to handle the case.

"We're on day 12 now," he said. "I think the people expect to see something by now, and they're getting frustrated."

But charges against the officer from either investigation will not come quickly, CNN law enforcement expert Tom Fuentes said.

In the state investigation, forensic details, the autopsy results and toxicology tests are still pending.

And federal investigators will plod ahead slowly, Fuentes said

"If they choose to bring charges against Officer Wilson, they have to go to trial in 90 days."

So, they will take their time to make their case thoroughly, he said.

"They will rather be slow than wrong," he said.

More scuffles

Tuesday night's protests started peacefully.

A few hundred people walked up and down a small area. "Hands up! Don't shoot" was their mantra, as it has been every night.

Many of the demonstrators added a second chant: "We protesters, we don't loot."

Things remained peaceful until late, when a water bottle flew at police.

By that time, most protesters had cleared out. Journalists outnumbered those who remained.

Officers put on helmets and shields, lined up in front of some businesses and demanded a small crowd there clear out.

But when the bottle flew, officers broke into a sprint, chasing after young men.

This prompted a handful of agitated protesters to toss more bottles, glass and plastic.

Missouri State Highway Patrol Capt. Ron Johnson, who's tasked with maintaining peace, told reporters that someone had thrown urine on police.

After the chase, the number of riot police ballooned. Officers brought out dogs. One officer used pepper spray on some in the crowd.

Protesters locked hands in front of a police line, and some urged the crowd to remain peaceful.

Others donned T-shirts printed with the word "peacekeeper," and tried to defuse tensions. Some talked emphatically with young men, who appeared to want to charge at the police.

Johnson credited them for preventing further escalation.

Police arrested 47 people, Johnson said, including a car full of people who he said were armed and had made threats to shoot an officer.

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Aug-14-2014 164 0
President Barack Obama spoke with Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon on Thursday, sharing his concerns about recent violence in Ferguson after the shooting of unarmed teenager Michael Brown by a police officer.

"Now's the time for healing, now's the time for peace and calm on the streets of Ferguson," Obama told reporters.

Nixon, for his part, said he would be making changes to help change the tone in the community, but he did not say what they would be. But he said it was crucial to allow protesters to express their anger so long as they respect the rights of others.

"We will not get the healing that we all need if the only response from the public is, 'Y'all just be quiet,' " he said.

Nixon traveled to Ferguson to appeal for calm after a night in which heavily armed police and protesters clashed. Wednesday's violence was the fourth straight night of unrest after Brown's shooting Saturday.

Nixon said he would visit the St. Louis suburb amid calls for continued protests and rising anger among residents about a lack of progress in the case and the treatment of protesters.

Police have also received harsh words from national media organizations after the brief arrest Wednesday of two reporters and the tear-gassing of an Al Jazeera America camera crew.

"The worsening situation in Ferguson is deeply troubling, and does not represent who we are as Missourians or as Americans," Nixon said in a statement Thursday. "While we all respect the solemn responsibility of our law enforcement officers to protect the public, we must also safeguard the rights of Missourians to peaceably assemble and the rights of the press to report on matters of public concern."

Nixon's statement comes after a fourth night of violent clashes between police and protesters that began Sunday with unrest and looting in the city on St. Louis' northern border.

After ordering protesters and reporters to turn off their cameras, police fired smoke bombs, tear gas and rubber bullets at protesters after some threw objects at them Wednesday, according to media accounts. CNN crews have not been ordered to turn off their cameras during the protests.

Twelve people were arrested, Ferguson police Chief Thomas Jackson said. Two officers were injured.

History of trouble

While locals say race relations have long been troubled between the city's mostly African-American population and the mostly white police force, anger spilled out after Brown's shooting death.

Police have released few details of what happened but have said the officer -- whose identity has not yet been made public by officials -- was defending himself against an effort by Brown to grab his weapon.

Jackson said the officer was sent to a hospital for treatment of facial swelling after the incident, but he did not say how he received the wounds.

Witnesses dispute police account

Witnesses paint a different portrait than that offered by police, saying Brown was running away when the officer first shot at him.

A town in turmoil -- 5 things about Ferguson, Missouri

Two witnesses told CNN on Wednesday that while Brown did appear to tussle with an officer before he was shot, he didn't enter the police cruiser as authorities say he did.

The women's accounts corroborate that of a previous witness, all three of whom said the officer fatally shot the unarmed teen.

Tiffany Mitchell told CNN she drove to Ferguson on Saturday to pick up an employee for work just in time to see Brown tussling at the window of a police vehicle.

She and the employee, Piaget Crenshaw, told CNN's Don Lemon on Wednesday about Brown's last moments.

"It looked as if Michael was pushing off and the cop was trying to pull him in," Mitchell said.

Crenshaw, still in her building, watched the same events from her window. She later shot cell phone video of the aftermath, which CNN obtained from affiliate KMOV.

It looked like the two of them were arm wrestling, she said.

Neither woman, who gave their statements to St. Louis County police, say they saw Brown enter the vehicle.

Instead, a shot went off, then the teen broke free, and the officer got out of the vehicle in pursuit, the women said.

"I saw the police chase him ... down the street and shoot him down," Crenshaw said. Brown ran about 20 feet.

"Michael jerks his body, as if he's been hit," Mitchell said.

Then he faced the officer and put his hands in the air, but the officer kept firing, both women said. He sank to the pavement.

After that, Crenshaw hit record on her cell phone. News of the killing spread fast through the neighborhood, and Brown's uncle walked up to the body to see if it was really his nephew, Crenshaw said.

The video shows police directing him back behind police tape.

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Aug-12-2014 313 0
President Obama released the following statement about the death of Michael Brown, Jr.:

The death of Michael Brown is heartbreaking, and Michelle and I send our deepest condolences to his family and his community at this very difficult time. As Attorney General Holder has indicated, the Department of Justice is investigating the situation along with local officials, and they will continue to direct resources to the case as needed. I know the events of the past few days have prompted strong passions, but as details unfold, I urge everyone in Ferguson, Missouri, and across the country, to remember this young man through reflection and understanding. We should comfort each other and talk with one another in a way that heals, not in a way that wounds. Along with our prayers, that’s what Michael and his family, and our broader American community, deserve.

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Daryl K. Washington Aug-12-2014 91 0
When I first heard about the investigation and subsequent indictment of Dallas County Commissioner John Wiley Price, I had mixed emotions because I felt it might have been politically motivated and possibly not the truth. After nothing had yet been revealed after a three-year investigation, I thought that perhaps everything would be OK.

However, that changed when the charges were read and the facts were disclosed a couple of weeks ago.

There is a side of me that wonders how this can be happening to yet another high-profile Afrrican-American politician who spent most of his career as a leading voice against racial inequality and injustice.

When I arrived in Dallas in the 1980s, I saw this one guy who was not afraid to tackle the racial issues many were faced with here. I wanted to meet this guy, and soon I was able to do that because we attended the same church. John Wiley Price was a household name and someone I respected for his courage and political savvy to tackle sensitive issues — even if we did not always agree about what was the best approach.

John was respected by many, and we knew that if he was in the room, the concerns of African-Americans would not be ignored. John simply demanded fair treatment for African-Americans, and he had the backbone to say what many were afraid to.

What can be taken away from all of this is that, if you decide to be a public servant, you should do it because your heart is in it and not because of any financial incentives involved.

There’s a community of individuals who depend on elected officials to be honest, committed, transparent and to be individuals with plenty of integrity. When politicians lose the trust and confidence of their constituents, it becomes harder for many people to want to be a part of the political process.

Over the last five years, many highly respected African-American politicians who were admired by people of all races are now serving time in prison for committing crimes that appear to have been motivated by greed and power.

Individuals such as Jesse Jackson Jr., former Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick, former New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin, former Dallas Mayor Pro Tem Don Hill and former Louisiana state Rep. William Jefferson were individuals with promising careers who did not need to take any shortcuts to be successful.

They provided young black men with the examples so badly needed, and to now see them in their current predicaments has been a letdown and truly a disappointment to many who viewed them as role models.

As an attorney, I know that an indictment does not translate to guilt. But many will ask, why allow yourself to be included in that conversation?

Over the next few months, many of us will follow this case closely with the hope that it is somehow a great big mistake. However, there is no doubt in my mind that questions will remain in the minds of many, even if there’s an acquittal.

Many will wonder whether Price will ever be able to rebuild what it took years to build. Can he ever regain the trust from many who supported him for 30 years?

What can be taken away from all of this is that hard work, honesty and transparency trump bad behavior any day. Anything worth having requires hard work. Do things the right way or don’t do them at all. The problem of greed impacts all communities, but as an African-American leader, I’m focusing my commentary on African-American politicians because we’ve had to work too hard for equal treatment and respect to allow wrongdoings to put an end to promising careers.

Dallas lawyer Daryl K. Washington may be contacted at dwashington@dwashlawfirm.com.

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Dan Friedman Aug-08-2014 164 0
In a bid to protect Americans and prevent a “potential genocide,” President Obama authorized air strikes Thursday night against Islamic terrorists sweeping through Iraq.

The President, speaking in a late night White House address to the nation, said he gave permission for “targeted air strikes” to break the siege by the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria fighters in northern Iraq.

In recent days, tens of thousands of Iraqi civilians have been forced to flee their homes in the area of Sinjar. The displaced Iraqis have taken refuge atop nearby Mount Sinjar, where they are dying of thirst and starvation.

“We can act carefully and responsibly to prevent a potential act of genocide,” Obama said.

Most of the civilians are Yazidis, a small and ancient religious sect that ISIS has vowed to exterminate in their quest to make Iraq an Islamic state.

“They are without food, they are without water. People are starving and children are dying of thirst,” Obama said. “Meanwhile, ISIS forces below have called for the systematic destruction of the entire Yazidi people, which would constitute genocide.

“So these innocent families are faced with the horrible choice: Descend the mountain and be slaughtered, or stay and slowly die of thirst and hunger.”

Obama said the U.S. has already begun air-dropping food and water on Mount Sinjar at the request of the Iraqi government.

“When we face a situation like we do on that mountain with innocent people facing the prospect of violence on a horrific scale . . . I believe the United States of America cannot turn a blind eye.

“Earlier this week, one Iraqi cried to the world, ‘There is no one coming to help.’ Well, today, America is coming to help,” Obama said.

He said the American military would conduct air strikes to help forces in Iraq.

But Obama — whose first presidential campaign included the pledge to end the war in Iraq — insisted the action will not lead to American combat troops returning to Iraq.

The President said he was also concerned about protecting personnel at the U.S. Consulate in Erbil, a major city in northern Iraq that ISIS forces were poised to overrun.

“We intend to stay vigilant and take action if these terrorist forces threaten our personnel or facilities anywhere in Iraq, including our consulate in Erbil and our embassy in Baghdad,” the President said.

Obama’s action was garnering support among Washington lawmakers on the other side of the aisle.

“I fully support the President’s decision to authorize air strikes,” Rep. Pete King (R-L.I.) told the Daily News Thursday night.

Obama said the US has already began air dropping food and water on Mount Sinjar at the request of the Iraqi government.

King — chairman of the House Homeland Security Subcommittee — said more U.S. help might be needed later, including supplying weapons to the Kurdish forces who are battling to repel ISIS in northern Iraq.

King faulted Obama, however, for taking the threat of ground troops off the table.

“I don’t think he should be saying what he won’t do,” King said. “I don’t think he should be saying we’re not gonna use ground troops.”

In a joint statement, Republican senators John McCain of Arizona and Lindsey Graham of South Carolina said Obama is “right” to provide humanitarian relief and authorize air strikes.

But they warned more is needed.

“We need to get beyond a policy of half measures. The President needs to devise a comprehensive strategy to degrade ISIS,” the senators said.


As many as 50,000 Iraqi minorities — Christians and Yazidis — abandoned their homes over the weekend after fighters with the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria seized their towns and gave them a stark choice - convert, or be executed.
Khalid Mohammed/AP

As many as 50,000 Iraqi minorities — Christians and Yazidis — abandoned their homes over the weekend after fighters with the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria seized their towns and gave them a stark choice - convert, or be executed.

Secretary of State Kerry described ISIS’ actions in recent days as a “wakeup call.”

The ISIS fighters, who are Sunnis, have been sweeping across northern Iraq all summer, capturing towns, executing Shiites and imposing their strict form of Islam.

After nearly a week of fighting, the ISIS marauders captured Iraq’s largest dam on Thursday, taking control of water and power supplied to millions of people.

Iraqi Yazidi women demonstrate outside the UN offices in the Iraqi city of Arbil. The Yazidis, are a small community that follows a 4,000-year-old faith and have been repeatedly targeted by jihadists who call them 'devil-worshipers' because of their unique beliefs and practices.

Kurdish troops stand guard during an intensive security deployment on the outskirts of Sinjar, west of Mosul.

The fall of the Mosul Dam gave the radical group control over precious resources — and the power to cause almost incomprehensible death and devastation.

If the dam is destroyed or simply fails, it would unleash a 65-foot wave of water. Parts of Mosul, 31 miles downstream, could be swamped under 20 feet of water, and even areas of Baghdad, 200 miles away, would be flooded, according to experts.

A 2011 report by the Army Corps of Engineers said as many as 500,000 people could be killed.

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AP Aug-04-2014 92 0
Happy birthday, Mr. President. Today is President Barack Obama's birthday. He is 53 years old today.

Mr. Obama opened his birthday weekend on Saturday with a round of golf with friends before escaping to the Maryland mountains. He played an early morning round of Golf at Andrews Air Force Base in suburban Maryland, where the clouds threatening rain held off long enough for the president to get in 18 holes.

Rounding out his foursome were presidential pals Mike Ramos, Bobby Titcomb and Greg Orme, the White House said. All three are longtime friends dating back to Mr. Obama's childhood in Hawaii.

Although they teed off against eight other golfers, Obama and his team finished with the winning score, the White House said. In another birthday ritual, that victory earned Mr. Obama's three teammates a ride with the president aboard Marine One for the short flight to Camp David, the presidential retreat in the Catoctin Mountains.

Also aboard the president's helicopter: Mr. Obama's personal trainer Cornell McClellan. The other golfers, who weren't identified by the White House, were expected to travel to Camp David by car.

President Obama returned to the White House on Sunday afternoon.

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Jul-25-2014 149 0
Dallas County Commissioner John Wiley Price was arrested Friday morning by the FBI.

A sealed indictment filed Wednesday lists the following charges against Price:

Our sources confirmed Price's arrest, but other reports also said Dapheny Fain, Price’s longtime executive assistant, and political consultant Kathy Nealy also were arrested. Nancy Kennedy, Fain's attorney, told The Dallas Morning News that Fain has been charged but does not know yet what the charges are and has not been arrested.

"We're going to turn Dapheny in," Kennedy said.

Attorney Billy Ravkind, who said he learned of the arrest from media reports, said a pretrial bond hearing is scheduled for this afternoon.

"Next time we want to know something, we'll call the press," he said. "I guess I haven't been around long enough. I've never had this happen before. You win or lose cases in the courtroom. What the government does is irrelevant."

Ravkind said he has spoken to the prosecutor but not Price, who he said may be released pending an afternoon bond hearing.

The U.S. Attorney's Office has scheduled a press conference at 11 a.m. at the Earle Cabell Federal Building in downtown Dallas. The indictment will be revealed at that time, and federal officials will issue a statement at that time.

Price was arrested about 8 a.m.

We will update this story as more details become available.

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Jul-22-2014 132 0
It was a tale of two rulings -- the best of times and the worst of times for Obamacare in the federal appeals courts.

First, two Republicans on a three-judge panel of the D.C. Circuit court of appeals ruled against a key component of the law -- the federal subsidies for millions of people who signed up for health coverage.

The 2-1 decision on Tuesday created a legal path for a possible Supreme Court case that could essentially gut the 2010 Affordable Care Act, which passed with zero Republican votes.

A few hours later, all three judges on a 4th Circuit panel in Virginia decided the opposite by declaring the subsidies legal and proper.

Opposing rulings

The opposing rulings increased the chances for the issue to reach the nation's highest court, and demonstrated the deep political divisions over the law despised by conservatives intent on undermining it.

Republicans immediately publicized the D.C. panel's ruling against the subsidies as evidence of what they called fatal flaws in the health care law.

"This is yet more evidence that Obamacare is not working -- and cannot work -- for the American people," said GOP Sen. Lamar Alexander of Tennessee, who faces a conservative primary challenger questioning his right-wing credentials.

At the White House, spokesman Josh Earnest expressed confidence in the administration's legal position, saying Congress clearly intended for all Americans to have access to tax credits if needed so they could afford health insurance.

The issue: subsidies

The legal argument involves a provision in the health care law that says people who obtained coverage through state-run exchanges can get federal subsidies such as tax credits. It doesn't specifically say that those signing up on the federal exchange also are eligible.

Opponents of the law contend that lack of specificity renders illegal the subsidies for anyone who enrolled through the federal exchange.

Only 14 states and the District of Columbia set up their own exchanges, meaning that the 4.7 million who signed up for subsidized health coverage through HealthCare.gov could be affected.

"It will kill Obamacare," Republican Sen. Orrin Hatch of Utah said of an eventual Supreme Court ruling against the subsidies. "It would make it very difficult for Obamacare to continue because the cost of health care is going to go sky high for those who are not in the state exchange."

For now, the law remains unchanged and the subsidized policies are unaffected until the legal case plays out, Earnest told reporters. The Justice Department said the government would appeal the D.C. panel's decision.

Partisan divide

The easiest fix -- changing the law to specify that it allows subsidies for coverage purchased through the federal government as well as state exchanges -- would mean reopening the debate in Congress.

Unlike last time, when Democrats held majorities in both the House and Senate, Republicans now control the House and are expected to make gains in the November election, perhaps taking over the Senate too.

That means Obama and Democrats have no chance of getting Congress to approve any remedial change in the law.

Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, one of the leading crusaders against the health care act, argued Tuesday that the federal subsidies amounted to assuming funding powers the Constitution granted Congress.

Earnest, however, said Congress intended "to ensure that every eligible American who applied for tax credits to make their health insurance more affordable would have access to those tax credits, whether or not the marketplace was operated by federal officials or state officials."

Ambiguity

The opposing rulings Tuesday pivoted over the meaning of the word "ambiguous."

In Richmond, the 4th Circuit judges labeled the Affordable Care Act ambiguous on whether subsidies should be allowed for consumers getting insurance on federal exchanges.

When a law is ambiguous, courts give deference to a federal agency's interpretation of the law, which in this case is the Internal Revenue Service rule allowing the subsidies.

The D.C. Circuit decision concluded that Obamacare was unambiguous in restricting subsidies to insurance purchased on exchanges "established by the state," rather than the federal exchange.

In his dissent, though, appellate Judge Harry Edwards argued that labeling the phrase "established by the state" as unambiguous "strains fruitlessly to show plain meaning when there is none to be found."

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dana ford Jul-14-2014 208 0
U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder is worried about wholes that are greater than the sum of their parts.

Take, for instance, the current mix of bomb-makers from Yemen with foreign fighters in Syria.

Holder, GOP dismiss impeachment

"That's a deadly combination, where you have people who have the technical know-how along with the people who have this kind of fervor to give their lives in support of a cause that is directed at the United States and directed at its allies. And it's something that gives us really extreme, extreme concern," he told ABC's "This Week."

He estimated there are about 7,000 foreign fighters in Syria, coming from places like Europe and the United States.

"In some ways, it's more frightening than anything I think I've seen as attorney general," he said. "This is a situation that we can see developing and the potential that I see coming up, the negative potential I see coming out of the facts in Syria and Iraq now, are quite concerning," he said.

Since it started in 2011, the conflict in Syria has left more than 150,00 dead and some 680,000 injured.

Then there's the humanitarian crisis for the survivors, with the United Nations estimating that more than 9.3 million need help and that at least 6.5 million have been forced from their homes into other parts of Syria. Another 2.5 million are now refugees in neighboring countries.

And threats from that part of the world aren't the only ones Holder has to worry about. He also fears potential attacks on planes.

This month, the Transportation Security Administration said that security screeners at overseas airports may ask U.S.-bound passengers to turn on their electronic devices to prove they work and aren't explosive devices.

They won't allow devices without power on board planes. The traveler may then undergo additional screening.

It's part of an update to security measures aimed at combating potential new threats from terrorists in the Middle East and Europe.

"This is not a test ... We're doing something in reaction to things that we have detected," Holder told ABC about the upgrades.

"We are at a dangerous time," he said.

U.S. attorney general urges new laws to prevent terror from returning fighters

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