Andrew Burton/Getty Images(NEW YORK) — New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, once the front-runner in pre-campaign jockeying for the GOP presidential nomination, is planning to formally kick off his campaign on Tuesday in Livingston, New Jersey, a source familiar with Christie’s plans said on Thursday.

The announcement is not much of a surprise in light of Christie’s recent political moves and visits that have all but telegraphed his intentions.

The governor said he was going to wait to make any formal announcement until after the state budget is enacted and that could be done as early as Thursday.

Officials with the campaign and governor’s office were not offering any comment Thursday.

Christie is scheduled to take caller questions during a monthly radio appearance Thursday night.

Christie comes to the presidential race in a far more challenging position than he and his allies thought he would when they were making their calculations in 2013 and 2014. A series of political and financial problems in New Jersey coupled with a massive lane-closure scandal at the George Washington Bridge have transformed the front-running, tough-talking governor into a candidate that many analysts view as little more than an also-ran.

Christie also faces a daunting challenge in a crowded field. He is widely viewed as too moderate for Republican voters in Iowa and South Carolina — two key early battlegrounds of primary and caucus season. And it remains to be seen whether he can make enough headway in New Hampshire, Nevada and Florida to be a factor.

The announcement is expected to be held at Governor Livingston High School, Christie’s alma mater. In recent days, though, his team has examined a number of options for the kickoff, trying to avoid imagery that could remind people of scars and battles of his more than five years as the Garden State’s chief executive.

Copyright © 2015, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Read More →

Lawrence Jackson/The White House(WASHINGTON) — Bruno Mars has headlined some huge concerts and festivals, had a mini Vegas residency and performed on prestigious awards shows, but next week, he’s landed an even more exclusive gig: He’s performing a Fourth of July USO show for military families at the White House.

He announced the news Wednesday during a Twitter exchange with first lady Michelle Obama.

“Hey, @FLOTUS you ready for the 4th of July? @the_USO and I are coming to perform in your backyard!” he wrote.

To which Mrs. Obama replied, “We’re ready for you, @BrunoMars! @The_USO, @JoiningForces, and I are thrilled you’re coming to celebrate #MilitaryFamilies on July 4th!”

This is the seventh year in a row that the White House has teamed with the USO to host its “Salute to the Military” concert. Among the acts who’ve played the South Lawn on Independence Day in the past: fun., Train, Foo Fighters, Michelle Branch, Pitbull and country star Brad Paisley.

Copyright © 2015, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Read More →

iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) — The U.S. Supreme Court sided Thursday with the Obama administration over its major healthcare overhaul, upholding federal subsidies across the country.

The decision will have a major impact on the millions of Americans who are receiving financial assistance from the federal government to buy health insurance.

Obamacare — technically titled The Affordable Care Act — gave states the option to build their own healthcare marketplaces or simply use one operated by the federal government.

In all, 34 states decided to rely on the federal “exchange.” And more than six million low- to moderate-income Americans are now receiving subsidies of on average $260 a month through the federal exchange, according to Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Burwell.

But in a lawsuit challenging the law, critics insisted the federal government is not allowed to subsidize insurance in states that rejected their own exchange for the federal system. Those critics based their argument on a single phrase in Obamacare that refers only to participants enrolled “through an Exchange established by the State.”

“If subsidies are authorized for all Exchanges, why does [the law] specify an Exchange ‘established by the State’?” petitioner David King and others wrote in their brief to the Supreme Court.

The White House has maintained, though, that in drafting and passing Obamacare, Congress clearly intended to offer insurance subsidies to those participating in both the federal and state exchanges.

Last week, Burwell said the administration was “in a very strong position in the case,” based on the wording of the law and “the intention of the law.”

She warned an adverse ruling would likely mean millions of Americans would lose subsidies and be unable to afford health insurance coverage.

With only the sickest people in the insurance marketplace then, costs for coverage “drive up,” she added.

In all, at least 10.2 million Americans have signed up for health coverage through Obamacare, according to Burwell’s department.

She indicated an adverse ruling would mean governors in states without exchanges would have to decide whether to create them, and Congress would face a decision over whether to intervene through legislation.

Copyright © 2015, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Read More →

Image Source Pink/Image Source/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) — The U.S. Senate gave President Obama his hard fought trade authority in a vote on Wednesday.

The Trade Promotional Authority bill now heads to President Obama’s desk after passing with 60 votes.

“The trade is good for the American farmers for manufacturers and small businesses,” said House Speaker John Boehner, R-OH, while praising the bill that many Democrats say will send American jobs overseas.

President Obama however promised he won’t make any trade deal that does that.

Copyright © 2015, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Read More →

Niyazz/iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) — From Star Wars to Back to the Future Part II, hovercrafts have long been part of movie magic. But with a new military deal, the Hoverbike may be more than a Hollywood dream.

In fact, ABC News has learned in an exclusive interview with Army Research Lab representatives that a full scale prototype is already in the works, with expected completion in three to five years.

The U.S. Army has contracted Malloy Aeronautics and SURVICE Engineering to develop this futuristic technology.

The new frontier involves “three-dimensional capability … for soldiers,” according to Timothy Vong, the Army Research Laboratory, or ARL, project coordinator representing the U.S. Army’s Research, Development and Engineering Command.

In an interview with ABC News Vong called the Hoverbike a “Tactical Reconnaissance Vehicle” and said the project is currently in the “proof of concept mode,” testing the feasibility of this technology.

ARL spokesperson Joyce Brayboy made it clear that the Hoverbike, which looks like a motorcycle whose wheels are parallel to the ground, is not intended to replace helicopters as some reports have suggested.

For now, the lab is focused on assessing the capabilities a Hoverbike might provide for the Army down the road. Although Vong would not disclose the contract’s size, which he said began roughly nine months ago, he did say the Army’s investment will increase “incrementally” as milestones are met.

The British firm Malloy Aeronautics, which designed the hovercraft, launched a Kickstarter campaign last August to fund production of a working scale model.

Even before then, SURVICE was talking with Malloy, according to SURVICE Manager of the Applied Technology Operation, Mark Butkiewicz.

He explained the ARL contract is intended to build on the current prototype and “take it to the next level.” Butkiewicz said his firm has provided engineering and Department of Defense support to Malloy, helping to make the contract happen.

Malloy Aeronautics originally developed a prototype of the bi-rotor Hoverbike in 2009, according to Grant Stapleton, director of marketing and sales at Malloy. Vong said that under the contract, Malloy can still pursue commercial uses for the Hoverbike.

Additionally, ARL’s Open Campus Initiative will give the company access to ARL resources. “Open Campus makes it less cumbersome to partner, collaborate and allow outside organizations to use ARL resources, especially in these early stages of the research,” explained ARL spokesperson Joyce Brayboy.

You can’t have Marty McFly’s souped-up DeLorean quite yet, but his hoverboard getaway may be here before long.

Copyright © 2015, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Read More →

Phototreat/iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) — The Pentagon is not considering renaming U.S. Army bases in the south that are named after Confederate generals.

It’s a question that came up given the current debate about Confederate symbols.

Some major Army bases in the south are named after famous Confederate Army generals. They included Fort Hood in Texas, Fort Benning in Georgia, Fort AP Hill in Virginia and Fort Bragg in North Carolina.

“As of now, there’s no discussion of adjusting our current naming policies,” said Army Col. Steve Warren, the Pentagon spokesman.

Warren said the decision to name military installations is handled by the services themselves, “and as of now, there are no current plans to change policies regarding how installations are named.”

The Army’s response to the possibility of reviewing base names came from Brig. Gen. Malcolm B. Frost, the chief of Army Public Affairs.

“Every Army installation is named for a soldier who holds a place in our military history. Accordingly, these historic names represent individuals, not causes or ideologies. It should be noted that the naming occurred in the spirit of reconciliation, not division,” he said.

Copyright © 2015, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Read More →

The White House(WASHINGTON) — President Obama had a heckler tossed from a White House reception in celebration of LGBT pride month after the woman refused to stop interrupting the president.

“Listen, you’re in my house,” Obama said, to the applause of the crowd, within the first couple of minutes of the event.

The heckler, Jennicet Gutiérrez, who is transgender and undocumented, had been shouting claims about bad detention conditions for LGBTQ immigrants in the United States.

“No, no, it’s not respectful when you get invited to somebody’s,” Obama said, again being interrupted by the heckler before he could finish his sentence. “You’re not going to get a good response by interrupting me like this.”

Persisting still to heckle the president, Obama then said “shame on you” and gestured to a security official, asking “can we escort this person out?”

“You can either stay and be quiet or we’ll have to take you out,” Obama then said, apparently giving the heckler one more chance.

Gutiérrez, 29, from Los Angeles, who is a founding member of the LGBTQ Latina advocacy group Familia TQLM did not cease and was removed from the East Room.

According to advocates, she was escorted from the room and released.

“The White House gets to make the decision whether it keeps us safe,” Gutiérrez said in a statement released by a group of advocacy organizations after her removal. “There is no pride in how LGBTQ and transgender immigrants are treated in this country. If the President wants to celebrate with us, he should release the LGBTQ immigrants locked up in detention centers immediately.”

The White House did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

ABC US News | World News

Copyright © 2015, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Read More →

Cheryl Gerber/Getty Images(KENNER, La.) — It’s official: Bobby Jindal is running for president.

The Louisiana governor announced his 2016 presidential campaign in a tweet Wednesday afternoon, roughly five hours before he was scheduled to speak in Louisiana. He becomes the 13th Republican seeking the White House in 2016.

Jindal’s tweet links to a page of videos of Jindal and his wife discussing his looming campaign with their children. A camera, apparently hidden out of sight, captures the family as they sit and discuss the campaign on a patio.

Jindal’s campaign message, according to aides, will be that Jindal is the youngest candidate with the longest resume. He will argue that Democratic frontrunner Hillary Clinton is trying to divide America by ethnicity, gender and economic status and that Clinton and Obama are leading America to socialism. He will also emphasize the fact that there are a lot of top talkers in the race, but very few doers, his staff said.

At political events this year, Jindal has argued for religious freedom and has alleged Christian values and faith have been threatened by the political left.

Jindal is the first Indian-American to enter a presidential race as a contender for a major party’s nomination.

He enters the race as a significant longshot: He hasn’t surpassed 1 percent in a major national poll since April, and he faces a crowded field of conservatives.

Copyright © 2015, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Read More →

The White House(WASHINGTON) — President Obama Wednesday the U.S. government is “changing the way [it] does business” when it comes to American hostage policy in the wake of the deaths of Americans at the hands of terrorists, including a promise not to threaten families of hostages with prosecution for attempting to pay ransoms.

“These families have already suffered enough, and they should never feel ignored or victimized by their own government,” Obama said from the White House. “No family of an American hostage has ever been prosecuted for paying ransom for their loved one. The last thing we should ever do is to add to a family’s pain with threats like that.”

Obama said that families of some of the 80 Americans who have been held hostage around the world since 9/11 told him directly that they felt “frustrated” by the government, how they felt “lost in the bureaucracy” and threatened for “exploring certain options” to bring their loved ones home — an apparent reference to threats over ransom payments.

In a past private meeting with Obama, one parent of a hostage bluntly asked what he would do if one of his own daughters was kidnapped and the President replied that he would consider doing whatever it might take to save her, according to a person who has been working with the families. One former official called the policy shift essentially a “behavioral change” by the government. Current officials told ABC News the change comes in the wake of what happened in the case of hostage James Foley.

While ISIS was threatening him with death last summer, his parents say a military official at the White House was threatening them with prosecution if they tried to raise a ransom for his freedom.

“It just made me realize that these folks talking to us had no idea what it was like to be the family of a kidnapped American,” Foley’s mother, Diane, later told ABC News. “I was surprised there was so little compassion.”

ISIS beheaded James Foley in a gruesome video posted online in August.

ISIS also eventually killed fellow journalist Steven Sotloff, aid workers Peter “Abdul-Rahman” Kassig and Kayla Mueller. Journalist Luke Somers was killed by terrorists with al Qaeda in Yemen during an attempted rescue mission by U.S. Navy SEALs last December. Aid worker Warren Weinstein was accidentally killed in a CIA drone strike on an al Qaeda house where he was held in Pakistan last January.

President Obama said Wednesday the updated hostage policy will ensure the families of American hostages that “we’re not going to abandon you.”

“We will stand by you,” he said. “I’m making it clear that these families are to be treated as what they are… our trusted partners. We are all on the same team.”

Under the new policy, the administration said the U.S. government can facilitate communication with hostage-takers and the government will also create a new office that will work with the American families of hostage victims, administration officials said. A senior official said the hostage inter-agency “fusion cell” will be physically housed at FBI headquarters and initially will be run by a senior FBI official. Officials from other agencies and departments may rotate in to run the program in the future.

“The Hostage Recovery Fusion Cell will improve how the U.S. Government develops hostage recovery plans, tracks developments in specific cases, shares information with families, and provides information to Congress and the media,” says a White House fact sheet released Wednesday.

In addition to the Hostage Recovery Fusion Cell, the White House said the government will create a Hostage Response Group, name an Intelligence Community Issue Manager for Hostage Affairs, name a Special Presidential Envoy for Hostage Affairs and create a Family Engagement Team to “prioritize continual collaboration with the family in the safe recovery of the hostage.”

Elaine Weinstein, wife of Warren Weinstein, said Tuesday the government’s actions have been a long time coming.

“This review will not bring Warren back. It is our most sincere hope that it was conducted fully and frankly so the U.S. Government can have an honest conversation about the areas where it falls short,” Weinstein said in a statement. “Our benchmark for this review’s success will be the actions arising from it more than its specific findings.”

Weinstein’s widow said creating a fusion cell is a good step but it should be led by an official at the White House National Security Council with access to the president rather than at the FBI’s headquarters down Pennsylvania Avenue.

“We hope to be the last family that fails to receive the level of coordinated government support that those who serve abroad deserve when trouble finds them,” she said in the statement.

Copyright © 2015, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Read More →

Joe Raedle/Getty Images(MADISON, Wis.) — Just a week after the Charleston, South Carolina, church shooting, Scott Walker will sign into law Wednesday two bills that make it easier to buy and carry guns in Wisconsin.

One bill eliminates a 48-hour waiting period for buying firearms and the other allows off-duty police officers to carry concealed guns on and near school campus grounds.

The governor’s spokesperson, Laurel Patrick, told ABC News the bill signing has been long-planned with law enforcement and was announced by the Milwaukee County Sheriff on June 11.

Copyright © 2015, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Read More →