Review Category : Poltics

Jon Huntsman Calls Hacking Charges Against China Military Officers ‘Symbolic’

EMMANUEL DUNAND/AFP/Getty Images(NEW YORK) — Former U.S. ambassador to China Jon Huntsman described the hacking charges announced this week against five Chinese military officers by the Justice Department as “symbolic” and said the United States will need to get more serious about the actions it takes to counter China’s alleged cyber spying in the future.

“This is symbolic. You put five PLA members in a most wanted poster — we’re not going to make any headway on this until such time as we really target market access in this country,” he told ABC’s Martha Raddatz on This Week. “They want access to our market, they want to go public on our stock exchange, they want access to our banks and our financial services.”

Huntsman said the U.S. needed to become more serious about its responses beyond “symbolic measures.”

“While this will ratchet up the level of discussion, I don’t think it’s going to do much to really stop the activity that’s going on,” he said.

Huntsman served as Utah’s Republican governor before leaving that post to serve as ambassador to China under President Obama. He later left his position as ambassador and ran for the Republican nomination for president in 2012.

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Hawaii Becomes Third State to Raise Minimum Wage to $10.10

Purestock/Thinkstock(HONOLULU) — The governor of Hawaii on Friday signed a bill that will incrementally increase the state’s minimum wage to $10.10 within the next four years.

The legislation will also increase the tip credit within the next two years, “providing our lowest paid workers with the economic stability and security they deserve,” Gov. Neil Abercrombie said. The bill will bring the minimum wage in Hawaii to the same rate that President Obama raised all federal contract workers to earlier this year.

The current minimum wage in Hawaii is $7.25 per hour, which will increase to $7.75 per hour by Jan. 1, 2015. The rate will increase by 75 cents for each of the following two years and hit $10.10 by Jan. 1, 2018.

Any employee who receives $7 more than the applicable minimum wage in combined wages and tips will see their tip credit increase to 50 cents in 2015 and 75 cents in 2016.

Hawaii is the third state to match President Obama’s $10.10 minimum wage, following Connecticut and Maryland.

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Pentagon Cancels Three Military Engagements with Thailand Due to Coup

Digital Vision/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) — The Pentagon announced on Saturday that it would cancel scheduled military engagements with Thailand due to the ongoing coup.

Pentagon Press Secretary Rear Admiral John Kirby said in a statement that “it is important that the Royal Thai Armed Forces end this coup and restore to the people of Thailand both the principles and the process of democratic rule.” The U.S. and Thailand have had a “long and productive” military relationship, Kirby said, but the U.S. action was required due to “democratic principles and U.S. law.”

The Pentagon decision will cancel ongoing three events, including the ongoing Exercise Cooperation Afloat Readiness and Training 2014, a June visit by the U.S. Pacific Fleet Commander Admiral Harry Harris to Thailand and an invitation for the Royal Thai Armed Forces Commander General Tanasak to visit U.S. Pacific Command in June.

The Pentagon statement also said that additional engagements would remain under review until the coup is over, urging the Royal Thai Armed Forces to “act in the best interests of their fellow citizens.”

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Judge Allows Rep. John Conyers Back on Primary Ballot

Drew Angerer/Getty Images(DETROIT) — Just hours after Michigan’s Republican secretary of state ruled Rep. John Conyers didn’t turn in enough valid signatures to make the August primary, a federal district court judge allowed the 85-year-old Democrat back on the ballot Friday.

Conyers’ campaign failed to collect the required 1,000 signatures, prompting staffers for Secretary of State Ruth Johnson to say that the problems surrounding the misstep failed to comply with Michigan law.

Two people who circulated petitions for the representative were not registered to vote, while another one listed an incorrect home address.

Still, Judge Matthew Leitman ordered Conyers to be allowed back, condemning the state law’s requirements as “a severe burden on Mr. Conyers’ First Amendment rights.”

“[I]f the signatures excluded pursuant to the Registration Statute may not be excluded from Mr. Conyers’ total – and this Court holds that they may not be – then Mr. Conyers has enough signatures to qualify for placement on the ballot,” Leitman concludes. “He shall be placed on the ballot.”

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Obama Nominates Julian Castro for Housing Secretary in Cabinet Shuffle

Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) — In his latest round of musical chairs in his cabinet Friday, President Obama tapped U.S. Housing and Urban Development Secretary Shaun Donovan to run the White House budget office and named rising Democratic star San Antonio Mayor Julian Castro to be his next housing secretary.

“I’m absolutely confident that these two individuals are going to do a great job because they’ve done a great job in everything that they’ve done in the past,” the president said at a White House ceremony. “And most importantly, they’ve got huge heart. They’re involved in public service for the right reasons. And for that reason, I hope that the Senate confirms them both without games or without delay.”

Castro’s appointment would blast him up the political ladder, elevating him onto the national stage. The up-and-comer has already been rumored as a possible running mate for Hillary Clinton, should she decide to run for president in 2016.

If confirmed, Castro, a Mexican American, would also add another prominent Hispanic to Obama’s cabinet.

The 39-year-old “all-star,” as Obama called him Friday, burst into the spotlight when he delivered the keynote address at the 2012 Democratic National Convention, much like when Obama captivated the nation when he addressed the 2004 convention.

“They saw this young guy, pretty good speaker, not bad looking … talk about how America is the only place where his story could even be possible,” Obama joked of Castro’s keynote. “And I watched, and I thought: That’s not bad.”

Accepting the nomination, Castro said that “just because you are of modest means does not mean that your aspirations or your opportunity ought to be limited, and it certainly means that you can have the talent to succeed and achieve the American dream.”

In Washington, Castro would join his twin brother Joaquin, who is a congressman representing Texas’ 20th District.

The latest cabinet shake-up was touched off by the departure of embattled Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius. Office of Management and Budget Director Sylvia Mathews Burwell has been nominated to take her place, leaving her position open for Donovan to move over from HUD and his position then available for Castro.

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Pants-Dropper Scuffles With Secret Service at White House

Joshua Roberts/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) — A man approached officers at the northwest gate of the White House on Friday afternoon and proceeded to take off all of his clothes.

When the officers tried to subdue him, the disrobed man became combative and tried to assault them, according to a Secret Service spokesman.

The man was arrested and charged with two counts of assault and one count of indecent exposure, authorities said, noting that during the arrest, the man sustained minor injuries and was transported to a local hospital.

This is just the latest in a string of strange spectacles at the White House in recent weeks.

Earlier this month, the building was placed on lockdown after two men were spotted throwing cassette tapes and “miscellaneous papers” over the northern and southern fences.

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What Really Happens When Obama ‘Sneaks’ Out of the White House

Official White House Photo by Pete Souza(WASHINGTON) — On ABC’s hit series Scandal, President Fitzgerald Grant is often seen sneaking out of the White House for a clandestine meeting with the covert agents of B-613 or a secret rendezvous with Olivia Pope, but nothing could be further from the truth.

The real president isn’t sneaking anywhere.

President Obama explained earlier this week what it’s like to try and break out of the White House bubble.

“Every once in a while, I’m able to sneak off… I’m sort of like the circus bear that kind of breaks the chain, and I start taking off, and everybody starts whispering, ‘The bear’s loose,’” he said.

In truth, the chain never breaks. The bear cage just gets a bit bigger.

Even the president’s seemingly impromptu stops and surprise drop-bys are well-orchestrated events.

Friday morning, diners at Chicago’s Valois Restaurant where shocked when the president popped by for breakfast (two eggs over medium, with bacon and hash browns, to be exact), but the location, no doubt, was carefully selected and reviewed by an advance team and the Secret Service.

For security purposes, the so-called “off the record” stops are planned in secret and kept from reporters until the moment the president arrives and range from visits to local stores to stops by Little League games and pull-overs for burgers and shakes.

The visits give the president a chance to mingle with regular Americans and are often intended to highlight part of his broader political agenda, but they are also an opportunity for the most powerful man in the world to enjoy some seemingly regular activities.

Even a simple walk outside is anything but.

Earlier this week, Obama surprised his ever-present press pool when he strolled from the White House to the Interior Department for an event.

Tourists visiting the National Mall were also surprised.

One woman asked if he was real. “Someone’s gonna think you’re like wax!” she exclaimed as she posed for a picture with Obama.

But the security detail and throngs of officers on foot and bicycle were a tell-tale sign that he was the real deal.

At one point an aide seamlessly handed the president boxes of White House M&M’s to dole out to two little girls, ages 7 and “4-and-three-quarters.”

As he crossed the street, the president told motorists, “Sorry to hold you up… You’re trying to go home and here I am messing you up.” The street, of course, had been blocked off.

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Hagel Addresses Sexual Assault in Naval Academy Graduation Speech

U.S. Department of Defense(ANNAPOLIS, Md.) — Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel urged U.S. Naval Academy graduates to become leaders, encouraging ethical values and personal relationships during his commencement speech Friday.

Referring to recent cheating and sexual assault scandals, Hagel said all members of the military share responsibility for ridding the ranks of the issues. Whether they’re new recruits or four-star admirals, the Secretary of Denfese said everyone could help eliminate sexual harassment and assault.

“We all have to step up and take action when we see something that hurts our people and our values,” Hagel said at the Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium. “That’s what leaders do. We face challenges straight up and head on, with strength of heart and strength of will, no matter how tough the test.”

Hagel has previously addressed the all-time-high rates of sexual assault in the military, citing fixing it as a top priority. There were more than 5,000 reported incidents last year, alongside the 1,366 complaints of sexual harassment detailed in recently released Pentagon data.

Continuing his message of tackling the problem, Hagel told graduates Friday that they should check their moral compass for what goes on around them.

“Remember, your actions will define you in the eyes of everyone around you. It’s not just what you do, but how you do it,” he said. “Actions and inaction have consequences.”

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Kerry Agrees to Testify Before House Committee on Benghazi

Win McNamee/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) — Secretary of State John Kerry has agreed to testify before the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee on the Benghazi, Libya attack, the State Department said Friday.

The attack on the U.S. consulate, which occured on Sept. 11, 2012, killed four Americans, including U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens.

In a letter — obtained by ABC News — to the committee’s chairman, Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., Assistant Secretary of State for Legislative Affairs Julia Frifield said Kerry is prepared to appear before the panel on June 12 or June 20.

“In doing so, we believe this would remove any need for the Secretary to appear before the Select Committee to answer additional questions,” Frifield wrote.

State Department Deputy Spokeswoman Marie Harf reiterated that point during the State Department briefing on Friday, saying Kerry’s cooperation with the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee’s hearing means he will not be testifying before the select committee headed by Rep. Trey Gowdy, R-S.C.

“He will appear once on Benghazi,” Harf said.

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