Hagel says China's territorial claims destabilize region; China calls remarks 'groundless'
SINGAPORE (AP) — Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel warned an international security conference Saturday that the U.S. "will not look the other way" when nations such as China try to restrict navigation or ignore international rules and standards.
China's territorial claims in the South China Sea are destabilizing the region, and its failure to resolve disputes with other nations threatens East Asia's long-term progress, Hagel said.
Later, a top Chinese general took issue with Hagel's comments during a brief meeting with the Pentagon chief.
Lt. Gen. Wang Guanzhong, deputy chief of the General Staff, told Hagel, "You were very candid this morning and, to be frank, more than our expectation." He added, "although I do think that those criticisms are groundless, I do appreciate your candor."
Reporters had to leave the room before Hagel responded. But Pentagon press secretary Rear Adm. John Kirby said Hagel told Wang that all regional disputes should be solved through diplomacy, and he encouraged China to foster dialogue with neighboring nations.
Analysis: Shinseki's resignation not from past Obama crisis playbook
WASHINGTON (AP) — This was not in the Barack Obama playbook.
The resignation under fire of Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki on Friday did not follow the usual arc of a crisis in the Obama administration. Time and again in the face of eruptions the president has preferred to not get sucked into the drama, to not cede in the heat of the moment, but to send in fixers and have the bloodletting occur in due course.
Instead, Shinseki tendered his resignation at the height of a political clamor for his departure and as revelations of systemic delays in veterans' patient care mounted by the day. Shinseki left even before the review Obama had ordered of the VA problems was completed.
For Obama, there was little doubt that his decision to let Shinseki go was painful. As he spoke Friday morning in the White House briefing room, he appeared somber, even grief-struck.
"He is a very good man," Obama said of the former four-star Army general and Vietnam veteran. "I don't just mean he's an accomplished man. I don't just mean that he's been an outstanding soldier. He's a good person who's done exemplary work on our behalf."
Veterans around the country describe their experiences in getting health care at the VA
The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs became an explosive political story this week, culminating with the resignation of VA Secretary Eric Shinseki.
The final straw appeared to be a report that described chronic wait times at the Phoenix hospital and found that about 1,700 veterans in need of care were "at risk of being lost or forgotten." The VA and independent investigators with the Office of Inspector General are still in the process of uncovering problems at dozens of other VA facilities around the country while some lawmakers are calling for criminal probes.
As the investigations unfold, The Associated Press reached out to veterans in Arizona and several other states to recount their experiences with VA medical care. Some described delays and oversights. Others said they were pleased with their care.
The ongoing investigations are currently focused on scheduling, delays in care and allegations that VA managers instructed employees to falsify records. But independent reports dating back a decade have found that, while access is a problem, VA care has consistently been equal to or better than that in the private sector.
Here is what some veterans had to say:
As second term national security adviser, Rice seeks to put 'points on the board' for Obama
WASHINGTON (AP) — Once seemingly destined to become secretary of state, Susan Rice now holds a lower profile job at the White House, juggling one global crisis after another for President Barack Obama and trying to ensure that his broad list of foreign policy priorities doesn't fall by the wayside in the widening storm of problems overseas.
She shows no bitterness about the turn of events that short circuited her diplomatic trajectory. As Obama's national security adviser, she commands a suite of offices steps from the Oval Office and has more daily access to the president than Secretary of State John Kerry.
Kerry travels the world and gets the headlines, Rice quietly orchestrates the foreign policy issues put on Obama's desk.
These days, Rice has been keeping a list of issues at risk of being ignored: A trade agreement with Asia-Pacific nations. Development projects in Africa. Protecting gay rights overseas.
She's sent the list around to some of those on the 400-person National Security Council staff she oversees and holds weekend meetings when necessary to keep tabs on issues that may have gotten overshadowed by Mideast instability or Russia's threatening moves in Ukraine.
Indian police arrest 3rd suspect in gang rape and killing of 2 teens that sparked outrage
LUCKNOW, India (AP) — Police arrested a third suspect and hunted for two others Saturday in the gang rape and slaying of two teenage cousins found hanging from a tree in northern India, a case that has prompted national outrage.
The three suspects detained in the attack in Uttar Pradesh state are cousins in their 20s from an extended family, and they face murder and rape charges, crimes punishable by the death penalty, said police officer N. Malik. Two fugitive suspects from the same village are also being sought, he said.
Facing growing criticism for a series of rapes, officials in Uttar Pradesh — which has a long reputation for lawlessness — also arrested two police officers and fired two others Friday for failing to investigate when the father of one of the teenage girls reported them missing earlier in the week.
India has a history of tolerance for sexual violence. But the gang rape, which was followed by TV footage of the corpses of the 14- and 15-year-old girls swaying as they hung from a mango tree, triggered outrage across the nation. The father who reported the girls missing, Sohan Lal, has demanded a federal probe.
"I don't expect justice from the state government as state police officers shielded the suspects," said Lal, a poor farm laborer who refused to accept a payment for 500,000 rupees ($8,500) offered by the state government as financial help. He told reporters Saturday that he would accept no help until the Central Bureau of Investigation, India's FBI, takes over the investigation.
Thailand's coup: AP correspondents answer your questions about the crisis
BANGKOK (AP) — Thailand's army seized power in a May 22 coup, the Southeast Asian nation's second in eight years. Here, four Associated Press correspondents who have been covering the crisis and the political turmoil leading up to it offer their insight into recent events:
Q: THAILAND IS KNOWN AS THE "LAND OF SMILES." WHY IS THERE SO MUCH POLITICAL TURMOIL?
Thai society is undergoing major change, and politics over the past decade has in part been a battle between the old royalist ruling class and an ascendant majority based in the north and northeast that has benefited from development and has begun to see itself as a political force.
Much of that struggle has played out around one man — former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, a billionaire tycoon deposed by a 2006 coup who now lives in self-imposed exile to avoid a prison sentence on a corruption conviction. The issue of whether to support or oppose Thaksin and his powerful political machine has divided friends, families and the nation.
China guards against another Tiananmen through surveillance, prevention and preparation
BEIJING (AP) — When visiting friends in China's capital, environmental activist Wu Lihong must slip away from his rural home before sunrise, before the police officers watching his home awaken. He rides a bus to an adjacent province and jumps aboard a train just minutes before departure to avoid being spotted.
In a neighboring province, veteran dissident Yin Weihong finds himself hauled into a police station merely for keeping in touch with old friends from the 1989 Tiananmen Square pro-democracy movement. While he's technically a free man, the treatment makes it virtually impossible to keep a job or have a normal home life.
A quarter century after the movement's suppression, China's communist authorities oversee a raft of measures for muzzling dissent and preventing protests. They range from the sophisticated — extensive monitoring of online debate and control over media — to the relatively simple — routine harassment of government critics and maintenance of a massive domestic security force.
The system has proven hugely successful: No major opposition movement has gotten even a hint of traction in the 25 years since Tiananmen. President and Communist Party leader Xi Jinping seems intent on ensuring things stay that way.
"It's extremely bad right now, much worse than in past years," said Yin, who spent several months in prison for his role as a student leader during the 1989 protests. "There's less and less space for civil society or, if you're like me, even to just live your life freely."
6 Cleveland officers indicted in chase that ended with deaths of unarmed driver, passenger
CLEVELAND (AP) — A nighttime car chase in Cleveland that ended on a schoolyard where more than 100 shots were fired at the suspect's vehicle appeared to be over when an officer opened fire again, a prosecutor said in announcing charges against the patrolman and five police supervisors.
Cleveland patrol officer Michael Brelo stood on the hood of the suspect's car and fired at least 15 shots through the windshield — five fatal — at the two unarmed people inside, Cuyahoga County prosecutor Tim McGinty said Friday.
McGinty cited a U.S. Supreme Court ruling this week that said police can't fire on suspects after a public safety threat has ended. He said the other officers on the scene had stopped firing after the November 2012 chase ended.
"This was now a stop-and-shoot — no longer a chase-and-shoot," McGinty said in announcing two counts of manslaughter against Brelo. "The law does not allow for a stop-and-shoot."
Driver Timothy Russell was shot 23 times. Passenger Malissa Williams was shot 24 times. No gun was found on them or in their vehicle. The chase had begun when an officer thought he heard a gunshot from a car speeding by the police and courts complex, jumped into his patrol car and radioed for help. Police don't know why Russell didn't stop.
Decades-old photos emerge of astronauts training in Hawaii for Apollo missions to the moon
HONOLULU (AP) — Before Apollo astronauts went to the moon, they went to Hawaii to train on the Big Island's lunar landscapes.
Now, decades-old photos are surfacing of astronauts scooping up Hawaii's soil and riding across volcanic fields in a "moon buggy" vehicle.
The Pacific International Space Center for Exploration Systems, a Hawaii state agency, is displaying the photos at its Hilo headquarters. Rob Kelso, the agency's executive director, found the images at the Johnson Space Center in Houston.
Astronauts from Apollo missions 13 through 17 trained in Hawaii as did some back up crews, Kelso said.
Some training was on Mauna Kea volcano, where glacial runoff crushed and refined rock into power. Astronauts also trained on recent lava flows.
NBA prepares to vote on Clippers sale; Sterling sues despite potential billion-dollar payday
LOS ANGELES (AP) — Donald Sterling won't get to fight for his Los Angeles Clippers in front of NBA owners next week. His only chance now is in court.
He could just pocket about $1 billion, his share of the proceeds from the record-breaking sale of a team that the league was prepared to take away from him. But don't count on it. His lawyers say he'll fight the league and his family to keep the team he bought for just $12 million in 1981.
His estranged wife negotiated the deal to sell the Clippers for $2 billion to former Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer, saying she owns half the team and controls the family trust. A person close to the family told The Associated Press that Shelly Sterling took over the family's assets because Donald Sterling, 80, was stripped of his ability to act as a co-trustee after two neurologists determined he was suffering from dementia.
The individual, who is familiar with the trust and the medical evaluations but wasn't authorized to speak publicly, said Sterling was deemed "mentally incapacitated" according to the trust's conditions because he showed "an inability to conduct business affairs in a reasonable and normal manner."
"There is specific language and there are protocols about what to do, and steps in order to get a sole trustee position and that's what took place in the last couple of days," the individual said.