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April 17, 2014
Courtesy Facebook/LCC K-9 Comfort Dogs

The golden retrievers that gained national attention last year for helping those affected by the Boston Marathon bombing are plotting a comeback tour. Lutheran Church Charities said it's bringing back the familiar furry friends to this year's race to help those still rattled by last year's tragic attack.

"Dogs just bring a wonderful comfort," said the church's president, Tim Hetzner. "They're a calming presence and allow victims to open up and talk about what happened — which is a critical part of the healing process." The cuddly creatures were first dispatched to Newtown, Conn., following the shootings at Sandy Hook to help calm kids down.

Six therapy retrievers will be on a whirlwind tour of Boston this weekend. In addition to mingling with the public downtown, the pups are slated to visit hospitals, victims' families, and first responders. "Our goal is to bring mercy and healing to those that are not only physically affected, but emotionally affected, too," said Hetnzer.

After all, happiness is a warm puppy. Jordan Valinsky

9:50 a.m. ET

ESPN is pulling college football announcer Robert Lee from covering a Virginia game this season because his name is only one initial away from being shared with the Confederate general, the New York Daily News reports. While Lee's name might have raised eyebrows in Charlottesville, where violence erupted over protests concerning the removal of a statue of Robert E. Lee, the announcer is Asian-American and shares "no heritage to the former military leader of the Confederacy," the Daily News reports.

Lee was slated to cover a football game between Virginia and William & Mary when protests broke out in Charlottesville earlier this month. ESPN said in a statement that the decision was made due to "the reasonable possibility that because of [Lee's] name, he would be subjected to memes and jokes and who knows what else." The statement went on to say: "No politically correct efforts. No race issues. Just trying to be supportive of a young guy who felt it best to avoid the potential zoo." Jeva Lange

9:40 a.m. ET
George Frey/Getty Images

A federal jury in Las Vegas declined on Tuesday to convict any of the four men who participated in the standoff between Bureau of Land Management agents and supporters of Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy in 2014. The jury cleared Oklahoma resident Richard Lovelien and Steven Stewart of Idaho of all charges, and dismissed the main conspiracy and extortion charges against Eric Parker and O. Scott Drexler, both from Idaho. Federal prosecutors have not decided if they will retry Drexler and Parker, who was famously photographed aiming a rifle at BLM agents.

This was the second time the four defendants had been tried, after a jury deadlocked on the charges against them in April, while convicting two others of multiple charges. Prosecutors charged the six men and 13 others last year; two took plea deals, and the others were divided into three groups, based on the severity of the charges. The trial that just concluded was the lowest tier in terms of alleged involvement in the 2014 standoff, when Bundy and his supporters threatened violence against federal agents coming to seize some of his cattle to pay off more than $1 million Bundy owed the government for unpaid grazing fees.

Bundy and two of his sons, Ammon and Ryan, will be in the next round of trials. Ammon and Ryan Bundy were acquitted last year of charges stemming from their armed occupation of a wildlife refuge in Oregon. Peter Weber

9:35 a.m. ET
Scott Olson/Getty Images

President Trump's response to the Charlottesville, Virginia, white nationalist rally certainly didn't do his already dismal approval rating any favors. A Politico/Morning Consult poll released Wednesday, and taken entirely after the violence in Charlottesville, showed Trump's approval rating at a new low of 39 percent. The week before Trump blamed "both sides" for the rally's violence and hesitated to directly condemn white supremacists, his approval rating sat 5 points higher, at 44 percent.

Notably, Trump's rating decline can be mostly attributed to self-identified Republican voters' waning approval: Trump's approval rating among Republicans dropped from 81 percent last week to 73 percent. His approval rating among Democrats and independents dipped just 1 point, though 71 percent of Democrats deemed the president's response to be "inappropriate."

On the whole, only 16 percent said that Trump's response was "unifying." On Tuesday night, Trump doubled down on his response, claiming the media had downplayed anti-fascist protesters' actions.

The poll surveyed 1,987 voters from Aug. 17-19. Its margin of error is plus or minus 2 percentage points. Becca Stanek

9:24 a.m. ET
BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty Images

President Trump faced criticism in April over his announcement that he was "very much" in support of controversial Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, a statement that made his administration's decision Tuesday to deny Egypt millions in aid and military funding all the more surprising for critics, The New York Times reports.

Sisi had not visited the White House in eight years prior to Trump's invitation because former President Barack Obama was critical of Sisi's undemocratic rule and record on human rights. Additionally, Egypt has been a longtime ally of North Korea. On Tuesday, though, the Trump administration slapped down Egypt's $96 million in aid and froze $195 million for the military over the country's "lack of progress in human rights and a new law restricting the activities of nongovernmental organizations," the Times writes, adding: "Asked if Egypt's robust relationship with North Korea played a role in Tuesday's action, a State Department official would say only that issues of concern have been raised with Cairo, but refused to provide details about the talks."

"It is unusual that the Trump administration would take a punitive measure against Egypt, given the president's outreach to President Sisi and his general embrace of this Egyptian government," said Robert Satloff, the executive director of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy. "I would not say reports of difficulties with Egypt's human rights situation or its connection with North Korea are new." Jeva Lange

8:42 a.m. ET

Morning Joe aired exclusive excerpts from Hillary Clinton's forthcoming memoir about the 2016 campaign, What Happened, on Wednesday, including one passage about her desire to turn to Donald Trump during the second presidential debate and demand, "Back up you creep, get away from me."

Trump caught viewers' attention in October 2016 for looming behind Clinton throughout the debate. "Two days before, the world heard him brag about groping women," Clinton writes. "Now we were on a small stage and no matter where I walked, he followed me closely, staring at me, making faces. It was incredibly uncomfortable. He was literally breathing down my neck. My skin crawled."

"Well, what would you do?" Clinton asks in her memoir. "Do you stay calm, keep smiling, and carry on as if he weren't repeatedly invading your space? Or do you turn, look him in the eye, and say loudly and clearly: 'Back up you creep, get away from me. I know you love to intimidate women, but you can't intimidate me, so back up.'"

Clinton adds that her memoir is intended to "pull back the curtain on an experience that was exhilarating, joyful, infuriating, and just plain humbling." It is due out on Sept. 12. Listen to more of the excerpts on Morning Joe. Jeva Lange

7:51 a.m. ET

Photos released Wednesday by North Korea's state-run media appear to show the country is developing two new ballistic missiles that are easier to transport, hide, and quickly launch, CNN reports. "This is the North Koreans showing us, or at least portraying, that their solid-fuel missile program is improving at a steady rate," said David Schmerler, a research associate at the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies.

In the photograph, a diagram for a "Pukguksong-3" missile appears to show the latest model of the country's Pukguksong series and is "definitely new" in the words of Michael Duitsman, who is also a research associate at the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies. Another harder-to-see diagram appears to show a new Hwasong missile.

Both North Korean missiles are solid-fuel projectiles, as are all ballistic missiles owned by the United States and Russia, CNN reports. "Solid-fuel missiles are much faster to deploy ... a solid fuel missile is always fueled so all they have to do is drive it to the place they want to launch it," Duitsman told CNN. "It's much easier to put into action, much harder to catch before it launches because they're a lot less in terms of launch preparations that could be done."

The release of photos with missile diagrams in the background is no accident, with "the North ... trying to tell the world that its re-entry and solid-fuel technologies are no longer experimental but have reached the stage of mass production," defense analyst Kim Dong-yub of the Institute for Far Eastern Studies at Kyungnam University told The New York Times. "Though whether that's credible is another matter." Jeva Lange

6:48 a.m. ET

President Trump laid out his broad strategy for the Afghanistan War on Monday night, promising more troops and a path to victory, but Secretary of State Rex Tillerson used more cautious language on Tuesday afternoon.

While generally praising Trump's strategy, which he described as mostly giving more authority to the U.S. commanders on the ground, he said that with the lessons the U.S. military has learned from fighting the Islamic State in Iraq, "we believe that we can turn the tide of what has been a losing battle over the last year and a half or so and at least stabilize the situation and, hopefully, start seeing some battlefield victories on the part of the Afghan forces." He also had a message for the Taliban: "You will not win a battlefield victory. We may not win one, but neither will you."

That's pretty starkly different language than Trump used on Monday night, says Aaron Blake at The Washington Post, when the president repeatedly asserted that "we will fight to win" and "we will always win." The question, Blake posited, is "which definition of success will prevail and bring an end to the war?" Tillerson's formulation of "stabilizing the situation" is "more based in reality," but "not exactly inspiring for troops who are deployed or will be in the future," but complete victory for the U.S. military is far from assured, Blake notes, adding that it may end up being an argument about semantics: "Trump is clearly bent on declaring victory, no matter how resounding the eventual outcome is." Peter Weber

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