KENNER, La. (AP) — Pitching himself as a “doer” in a field of talkers, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal declared his candidacy for the 2016 Republican presidential nomination Wednesday and set about trying to distinguish himself from better known rivals.
It’s a long-shot effort for an accomplished but overshadowed governor, and his prospects will depend in large measure on his continued courtship of evangelical voters. But several other contenders also are determined to win over that group.
“We have a bunch of great talkers running for president,” Jindal said at his opening rally. “We’ve had enough of talkers. It’s time for a doer. I’m not running for president to be somebody. I’m running for president to do something.”
An Oxford-educated son of Indian immigrants, Jindal can point to a political career filled with many achievements in a short time: a position as state health secretary when he was merely age 24, election to Congress at 32 and election as governor four years later.
But the GOP lineup does not lack seasoned politicians, some with much more star power. Jindal quickly struck at one of them, accusing former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush of wanting Republicans to “hide our conservative ideals.”
“But the truth is if we go down that road again, we will lose again,” Jindal said.
Jindal announced his campaign online earlier Wednesday. Video clips on his website showed Jindal and his wife, Supriya, talking to their three children about the campaign to come.
Aides discussed Jindal’s plans to focus on social conservatives, as he has done for months in extensive travels, and highlight his reputation as a leader steeped in policy.
Jindal intends to present himself as “the youngest candidate with the longest resume,” citing an extensive background in public policy and government, strategist Curt Anderson said.
In his speech, the Louisiana governor sought to position himself as an outsider: “I am running for president without permission from headquarters in Washington, D.C.”
Unpopular at home, Jindal waited until the state legislative session had ended and lawmakers found a way to close a $1.6 billion budget gap before he scheduled his presidential announcement. But he has been building his campaign for months with trips to key presidential voting states, particularly Iowa, where he has focused on Christian conservatives.
Raised a Hindu but a convert to Catholicism as a teenager, Jindal is competing for the evangelical vote with several contenders, including Texas Sen. Ted Cruz and former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee.
While Jindal will continue to focus on “religious liberty,” Anderson said, he aims to prove a candidate can be “both smart and Christian.” And in recent weeks, Jindal has worked to showcase more of the policy wonk reputation that got him elected governor, rather than just focusing on cultural issues.
He has drawn distinctions from other GOP contenders by noting he has published “detailed plans” on health care, defense, education and energy policy.
He has suggested governors are better equipped to become president because they have run state governments, balanced budgets and implemented policy. That’s an argument, however, that other White House hopefuls are making or can: Govs. Scott Walker of Wisconsin, Chris Christie of New Jersey and John Kasich of Ohio.
And Jindal doesn’t get glowing reviews of his governance at home, as both Republicans and Democrats blame the governor’s financial policies for causing repeated budget crises and suggest those policies are driven by political ambitions.
As the governor spoke inside, anti-Jindal protesters amassed outside.
Christopher Williams, a University of New Orleans student who called for the protest on a Facebook page, said participants had a variety of beefs with Jindal, such as his tax policy, education cuts and opposition to gay marriage.
“One thing that the governor has been able to do is unite people against him,” Williams said.
A path to a GOP primary victory remains difficult for Jindal. Republican candidate debates begin in August and it’s unclear if he will make the cut if based on standing in national polls.
Campaign manager Timmy Teepell, a former chief of staff who ran Jindal’s two races for governor, said Jindal will focus on the states that vote early in the presidential race, not a “national campaign.” Jindal has trips planned to New Hampshire and Iowa later this week.
AP reporter Kevin McGill contributed to this report.
WASHINGTON (AP) — President Barack Obama conceded Wednesday that the U.S. government had let down the families of Americans held hostage by terrorists and promised they would not face criminal prosecution for paying ransoms to their loved ones’ captors.
“These families have already suffered enough and they should never feel ignored or victimized by their own government,” Obama said as he detailed the results of a six-month review of U.S. hostage policy.
The president said for the first time that U.S. government officials can communicate directly with terrorists and help families negotiate for the release of hostages. More than 30 Americans are being held hostage abroad, White House officials said.
The review was sparked by sharp criticism of the Obama administration from families of Americans kidnapped by the Islamic State, al-Qaida and other groups. Families have complained about receiving confusing and contradictory information from the government and bristled at threats of prosecution for considering paying terrorists to secure the release of hostages.
By clearing the way for payment of ransom without fear of criminal charges, Obama is essentially allowing families to take actions the U.S. government has long said put Americans at risk. While the government will continue to abide by prohibitions on paying ransoms or making other concessions to terrorists, the Justice Department indicated it would ignore the law in situations involving families.
European governments routinely pay ransom to win the release of hostages. However, Obama and his predecessors have argued that policy provides terrorists with funds to fuel dangerous activities and puts Americans at greater risk of kidnapping.
Critics of the White House review argue that allowing families to do what the government will not could lead to those same troubling consequences.
“We have had a policy in the United States for over 200 years of not paying ransom and not negotiating with terrorists,” said House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio. “The concern that I have is that by lifting that long-held principle you could be endangering more Americans here and overseas.”
Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., said he, too, worries that paying ransom could encourage terrorism. But McCain, who met Wednesday with the family of Kayla Mueller, an Arizona woman killed after being kidnapped by the Islamic State, added that “to tell a family member — as this administration did — that they could go to jail is unconscionable.”
White House officials drew a distinction between the concessions private individuals could make to terrorists, which are largely financial, and the more wide-ranging deals the U.S. government could strike, including military activity and other foreign policy priorities.
Still, officials acknowledged that allowing some concessions and banning others could be perceived as a contradictory policy.
“There’s no doubt that the payment of ransoms fuels the very activity that we are trying to stop,” said Lisa Monaco, the president’s top counterterrorism adviser. “At the same time we’ve got a responsibility to stand with families as they make the most difficult decisions we could ever imagine.”
Ahead of his public comments, Obama held an emotional private meeting with former hostages, as well as families of Americans currently being held and those who have been freed or killed in captivity.
“I acknowledged to them in private what I want to say publicly, that it is true that there have been times where our government, regardless of good intentions, has let them down,” he said. “I promised them that we can do better.”
Despite the ban on the U.S. government making concessions to terrorists, the Obama administration did negotiate with the Taliban last year to win the release of Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, who was captured after walking away from this post in Afghanistan. Five Guantanamo Bay detainees were exchanged as a condition of his release.
White House officials say those negotiations were permissible because Obama sees a special responsibility to leave no American service member behind on the battlefield.
Four other Americans have been killed by the Islamic State since last summer: journalists James Foley and Steven Sotloff and aid workers Peter Kassig and Mueller. After the release of gruesome videos showing the beheadings of some hostages, Obama approved an airstrike campaign against IS in Iraq and Syria.
Luke Somers, an American journalist kidnapped in Yemen, was also killed during a failed U.S. rescue attempt. Warren Weinstein, an American held by al-Qaida, was accidentally killed by a U.S. drone strike against a terrorist compound in Pakistan.
The families of some of these hostages have been among the most vocal in pushing for changes in U.S. government policy. In a statement Tuesday, Weinstein’s wife, Elaine, said she hoped her family would be the last “that fails to receive the level of coordinated government support that those who serve abroad deserve when trouble finds them.”
The Mueller, Kassig and Sotloff families issued a joint statement saying they “have faith that the changes announced today will lead to increased success in bringing our citizens home.”
“The changes are a step in the right direction; we’re hopeful they will make a difference for families and their friends and loved ones facing this horror currently and in the future,” they said.
Foley’s parents released a statement Wednesday night saying: “We want to commend the hostage review team for their in-depth evaluation of the American hostage issue. We applaud their willingness to examine the previously inadequate response to the kidnapping of American citizens abroad.”
In a step aimed at streamlining communications with families, Obama also announced the creation of a “Hostage Recovery Fusion Cell” that will coordinate recovery efforts among various government agencies. Some families had pushed for the new office to be based at the White House, but it will be at the FBI.
The president said it was “totally unacceptable” that hostages’ families had felt lost in the bureaucracy and he said the fusion cell would be an important step in rectifying that problem.
Associated Press writers Erica Werner and Deb Riechmann in Washington and David Dishneau in Hagerstown, Maryland, contributed to this report.
Follow Julie Pace at http://twitter.com/jpaceDC
Kim Kardashian is joining a prestigious list that includes Teddy Roosevelt, Martin Luther King Jr., Dwight D. Eisenhower, Bill Clinton and Bill Gates.
The 33-year-old reality star is set to speak to San Francisco’s venerable Commonwealth Club next week to discuss her new book of selfies and her famous family. Also on the agenda, according to the Commonwealth website, is “the business of millennial culture” and “the objectification of women in media.”
Tickets for the June 30 event — described only as “a book signing” by Kardashian’s publicist — range from $40 for general admission to $300 for the VIP Party Package.
Kardashian’s appearance is sponsored by Glu Mobile Inc., the San Francisco-based video game company that made her megahit mobile game, “Kim Kardashian: Hollywood.”
A spokeswoman for the Commonwealth Club said Wednesday that the event was originally set to be held at the Paramount Theatre in Oakland, California, but it will probably be moved to San Francisco’s Castro Theatre.
Founded in 1903, the Commonwealth Club bills itself as the nation’s oldest and largest public affairs forum, dedicated to impartial discussion of public issues.
STEVENSON, Ala. (AP) — Google is converting an old coal-burning power plant in Alabama into a sleek data center running on renewable energy to fuel the additional computing capacity needed to process Internet search requests, show digital video, give directions, deliver email and store photos.
The $600 million project announced Wednesday marks Google’s first commitment in eight years to build a U.S. data center. It will be the Internet company’s 14th data center in the world, including six others in the U.S.
When it’s completed, the Alabama data center is expected to create about 100 new jobs, Gov. Robert Bentley said Wednesday.
The data center will rely solely on renewable energy, helping to minimize the pollution created by the power demands of rows upon rows of computer servers running around the clock. Two other Google data centers in the U.S., located in Iowa and Oklahoma, already run entirely on wind power. Google is taking over an outdated power plant on a 350-acre site owned by the Tennessee Valley Authority in Stevenson — about 60 miles northeast of Huntsville. The utility’s board of directors decided to close the plant earlier this year after the Environmental Protection Agency drafted tighter financial and environmental regulations for coal-fired plants, according to TVA officials.
Bentley said Google will use the plant’s existing electric transmission lines and work with TVA to incorporate renewable energy into TVA’s electrical grid. Google expects the Alabama data center to run on solar or wind power, or a combination of both.
The site’s conversion from a dirty source of power to a cleaner type of electricity is a “poignant symbol of how quickly our energy economy can change for the better,” said David Pomerantz, a senior climate and energy campaigner for Greenpeace.
Google Inc. sees potential to redevelop other industrial sites as it looks for other places to build data centers, said Gary Demasi, the company’s director of global infrastructure.
The Mountain View, California, company already has built a data center on the site of a former paper mill in Finland.
Google relies on the data centers to ensure a wide array of digital services and products are delivered to more than 1 billion people worldwide. The company’s search engine alone is a computing hog because it fields more than 100 billion queries each month and indexes pertinent links among the roughly 60 trillion website addresses that it now comes across while scanning the Internet.
Besides running the world’s dominant Internet search engine, Google also owns the most popular video site in YouTube, the top mapping service and its widely used Gmail for correspondence. In the past month, the company also unveiled a photo application that offers to store everyone’s digital pictures for free.
Alabama Department of Commerce Secretary Greg Canfield said in a statement that the state expects to have other opportunities to boost its economy with technology projects because the growing reliance on digital services is fueling demand for even more data centers. Facebook, Apple, Yahoo and Amazon.com also are amassing data centers to power their services.
LOS ANGELES (AP) — Several independent music label groups, including those representing Adele, Arcade Fire and Radiohead, say they can now support Apple Music after Apple reversed a decision not to pay royalties during the 90-day free trial period and adjusted other terms.
The streaming service, set to launch Tuesday, had drawn the ire of Taylor Swift and other indie artists, who were preparing to withhold releases because of the royalty-free trial.
Martin Mills, chairman of Adele’s Beggars Group, said in a statement Wednesday he was happy to endorse the current deal. Adele’s new album “25” is due out later this year.
It remains to be seen how much new music comes to the service, although Pharrell tweeted on Tuesday a teaser video to his single “Freedom” with the tagline “Only on (Apple) Music.”
NEW YORK (AP) — “Seinfeld” fans are getting an open invitation into Jerry’s apartment.
Hulu has teamed up with production shop Magnetic Collaborative to remake Jerry Seinfeld’s TV apartment for the iconic show’s Wednesday release of all nine seasons on the streaming video service.
Hulu created a free memorabilia museum with the world-famous Upper West Side apartment relocated in Manhattan’s Meatpacking District. “Seinfeld” lovers can walk through a real-life model of the apartment and see different set items such as the Monk’s Cafe table and booth, the Festivus Pole and George Costanza’s photo shoot set from different episodes. There is also a canvas “brick wall” full of signatures from the show’s many stars, guests and crew.
Larry Thomas, who played the memorable Soup Nazi, believes “Seinfeld” remains popular because of the show’s relationships and the crazy situations its main characters — Jerry, Kramer, Elaine and George — found themselves in.
“What ‘Seinfeld’ really was about was these people, the way they treat each other, the way they treat the world and, you know, the way the world treats them, and it had nothing to do with the ’90s or the technology or some of the other things,” Thomas said.
Executive producer and co-creator Larry David later created and starred in the HBO series “Curb Your Enthusiasm.” The ’90s sitcom was a ratings success during its NBC run from 1989 to 1998, and “TV Guide” named it the greatest television program of all time in 2002.
“When humor is this finely crafted it never gets old,” Thomas said. “The mark of good comedy is that you still laugh when you know the punch line. It goes right up there with ‘I Love Lucy’ and ‘Honeymooners,’ things that people can watch over and over again and still laugh.”
Thomas appeared as a mean and very particular soup chef in season seven. His character would shout, “No soup for you!” to anyone who did not order correctly. He said the character became much bigger than he expected, and remains the role that gets him the most recognition from fans young and old.
“Some people will go, ‘Oh, you are the Soup Nazi,’ and then they will proceed to tell me that they have never seen ‘Seinfeld,'” Thomas said.
The pop-up exhibit is open through Sunday at Milk Studios. Admission is free.