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Tuesday
May032016

City in New York Declares State of Emergency Due to Contaminated Water

iStock/Thinkstock(NEWBURGH, N.Y.) — A State of Emergency was declared in a small town in the metropolitan area of New York Monday due to the discovery of contaminated water.

City officials in Newburgh -- with a population of roughly 30,000, is located about 60 miles north of New York City on the Hudson River -- detected elevated levels of Perfluorooctane Sulfonate (PFOS), a key ingredient found in Scotchgard and numerous stain repellents.

The New York State Department of Conservation and The Department of Health have recommended that steps be taken to reduce or eliminate the compound from the city's water system, according to a statement released by City Manager Michael Ciaravino.

Officials are asking people to conserve usage while the city draws water from other local resources for the time being.

Copyright © 2016, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Monday
May022016

Detroit School Teachers Plan to Continue 'Sick Out' for Second Day

iStock/Thinkstock(DETROIT) -- Detroit Public School teachers are fighting for their paychecks by continuing a "sick out" that started Monday and closed over 90 of the 105 public schools in the city.

"The teachers feel, and I feel, that no one is listening to us when we try to explain what's going on here. I feel like we're being held hostage by our legislatures," Detroit Federation of Teachers interim president Ivy Bailey told ABC News Monday. "The teachers are not only fighting for themselves, but more importantly, they're fighting for their students."

"We have teachers who are on 26 pay periods," Bailey explained. "What happens is they take their salary and they pro-rate it throughout the year [with] additional pay periods in the summer, so they can get paid over the summer -- because teachers do not get paid in the summer."

She explained that the state gave the district $48.7 million to get through the rest of the school year but that did not include money to cover summer payments.

"When we figured out what was going on and looked at the payments of those teachers, technically Thursday of last week is the last day that they're actually being paid," Bailey said.

"In theory, they're working without pay," she said. "There's no guarantee -- based on what the district has told us -- that they will receive payment after June 30, which is not fair. No one should work for free. And so rightfully so, we're all upset about that."

Bailey said when they asked if the money they received would include money for all employees who are on a 26 pay period, they were told "yes."

She said this is not happening anywhere else in Michigan -- just Detroit, where the economy has been struggling for years.

Detroit schools are currently under a state of financial emergency and are run by an emergency manager instead of a school board and superintendent.

"I'm hoping today will accomplish an awareness across the city of Detroit -- what's happening to our schools systems is an atrocity," Bailey said. "If you are an emergency manager and you're supposed to be the person who came here to straighten out our finances, and now they're worse than they ever were ... I believe we have every right to be upset. And there is no accountability for what has gone on with these emergency mangers."

Detroit Public Schools did not immediately provide a comment on Monday, but Transition Manager Judge Steven Rhodes said in a statement Sunday evening that the planned "sick out" would be "counterproductive and detrimental."

"It is unfortunate that the DFT [Detroit Federation of Teachers] has chosen to make a statement in this way," Rhodes said.

"I am on record as saying that I cannot in good conscience ask anyone to work without pay. Wages that are owed to teachers should be paid. I understand the frustration and anger that our teachers feel," Rhodes said. "I am, however, confident that the legislature will support the request that will guarantee that teachers will receive the pay that is owed to them. The DFT's choice for a drastic call to action was not necessary."

"I am confident that the Michigan Legislature understands the urgency of this situation and will act in a timely manner to ensure that operations of the school district continue uninterrupted," he said, adding that he's working with policy makers in Lansing "to move this legislation forward."

"A district-wide sick out will be counterproductive and detrimental to the efforts of everyone working to help the District," he said. Rhodes said he hopes to continue his "strong relationship" with the Detroit Federation of Teachers "so that jointly we can achieve our mutual goal of creating a New DPS under local control that we can be proud of.”

Copyright © 2016, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Monday
May022016

Former Penn State Coach Jerry Sandusky Appears in Court to Appeal Child Sex Abuse Conviction

iStock/Thinkstock(BELLEFONTE, Pa.) — Former Penn State assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky appeared in a Pennsylvania courtroom Monday as he appeals his child-sex abuse conviction.

In 2012, Sandusky was sentenced to 30 to 60 years in prison for the sexual abuse of 10 boys, following tearful testimony from his victims.

As officers led Sandusky into the courthouse Monday morning, the former coach, wearing an orange jumpsuit, told waiting reporters, "There’s much to say. For now, [defense attorney] Al Lindsay is gonna say it."

Defense attorneys and prosecutors then presented their arguments in an hour-long hearing before Judge John Cleland in a Centre County, Pennsylvania courtroom, near the State College campus of Penn State University.

Sandusky sat in the court as defense attorney Lindsay asked the judge for permission to question witnesses, including Sandusky's former lawyers, about the investigation and trial.

Prosecutors argued that a new hearing shouldn’t be granted.

Judge Cleland did not make a decision Monday, but warned the defense that he needs sufficient reason to continue with a hearing and it could not be a fishing expedition.

The judge did not set a date for ruling on Sandusky’s motions.

If his sentence stands, Sandusky, now 72, would be 98 at his earliest possible release date.

Copyright © 2016, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Monday
May022016

New Video Shows Dramatic CSX Train Derailment in DC

ANDREW BIRAJ/AFP/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- New surveillance video released by the Washington Metro Area Transit Authority shows the moment 16 CSX train cars derailed in northeast Washington, D.C., Sunday morning.

In the video, taken from a camera at WMATA’s Rhode Island Avenue metro stop, several cars appear to hurtle sideways off the tracks, creating a pileup near the station.

No injuries were reported, and workers were able to plug a damaged car leaking sodium hydroxide, a chemical often used in detergents and other household products, and contain a separate ethanol leak, according to the Federal Railroad Administration.

“CSX appreciates the continued support of D.C. first responders as safety remains the company's first priority,” the company said in a statement, adding that CSX is monitoring air quality to “confirm there are no adverse effects.”

The company says it has re-railed 15 of the 16 derailed train cars, and plans to tow the final car away from the site.

Copyright © 2016, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Monday
May022016

Man Allegedly Attempts to Take Off with $260,000 Worth of Stolen Air Miles

Miami-Dade Police Department(MIAMI) -- A man identified as a former student in Miami, Florida, admitted to stealing over $260,000 worth of airline miles after he obtained personal information of several individuals across the country and used that information to gain access to their American Airlines AAdvantage accounts, according to court documents.

According to an arrest affidavit, Milad Avazdavani, of Miami, admitted to police that he attempted to take over at least six individuals' American Airlines rewards accounts; he then attempted to redeem the miles to purchase trips to Dubai and Fort Lauderdale in addition to renting sports cars.

The alleged thefts mentioned in the affidavit took place between December 2014 and February 2015, according to the affidavit. Miami-Dade Police arrested Avazdavani in March of 2015.

Avazdavani, who is in jail awaiting trial, spoke publicly for the first time in an interview with the Miami Herald published Sunday, insisting he is not stupid enough to use stolen miles to book trips in his own name.

Avazdavani told the Herald he was guilty only of “bargain shopping” for travel deals on the internet, while pointing the finger at "a third party."

Police say Avazdavani admitted to obtaining the personal information of several individuals and using it to change the registered email addresses of their AAdvantage accounts.

Police were alerted to the alleged identity theft after victims were asked by American Airlines to confirm the authenticity of the change on their accounts.

After police searched Avazdavani's residence, police say they discovered credit cards belonging to other individuals and equipment designed to reprogram the magnetic strips of credit cards.

“We encourage our AAdvantage members to contact us immediately if they believe their miles have been used fraudulently,” said American Airlines Spokesman Ross Feinstein. “In this specific case, we assisted law enforcement throughout their investigation. Our corporate security team spoke to each AAdvantage member that was impacted to ensure their mileage was reinstated.”

The airline recommends that members use a strong password, monitor emails from American regarding account activity and keep a close eye on accounts.

Police documents indicate Avazdavani has been charged with multiple felonies, including grand theft and unlawful possession of a credit card.

The attorney listed for Avadzavani did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Copyright © 2016, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Monday
May022016

Questions to Ask Yourself Before Taking a 'Gap Year'

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- First daughter Malia Obama has finally made her decision to attend Harvard University, but not until the fall of 2017. Between then and now, the 17-year-old will be taking a so-called gap year, an option that appears to be as popular as ever among U.S. high school students, even those with limited means.

There’re no firm numbers on U.S. high school graduates who put off college for a year, but the American Gap Association has seen a 23 percent growth in enrollment for gap-year programs in the past year, the organization says.

While the idea of going abroad for service work or even non-academic experiential learning closer to home might turn off some parents, there’s something to be said for building homes in Thailand or teaching children English in Spain, experts say.

But there are also some key questions for families to keep in mind as students explore the possibility of taking off a year between high school and college.

Here are some of them:

How much will it cost?

“I get a lot of parents calling me saying they saved for four years of college, not five,” executive director Ethan Knight of the American Gap Association told ABC News.

But while these programs, not to be confused with studying abroad, can cost anywhere from $1,100 to $20,000, not including airfare, Knight said there are several scholarships and financial packages that can help relieve some of the financial burden.

Some colleges also offer credit toward students’ gap years to keep them on track with their education and save money on classes, he added.

Grace Milstein, 21, was able to afford a gap year to Israel from September 2012 to June 2013 with subsidies and grants that went toward her $20,000 program tag. Even though it was a big investment, she said of the time that included helping children with Down syndrome, it was “extremely beneficial,” and helped her focus more on her classes when she began attending New York’s Barnard College in fall 2013.

Knight said the financial strain can actually help students learn more about budgeting, adding “it was one of the highest aspects students recorded learning from their experiences.”

What if colleges make it difficult for students to take a gap year?


Not all schools will allow students to defer their acceptance for a year, with some making students re-apply the next year when they will attend school. But more colleges are creating programs that work alongside gap years, according to Knight.

Harvard University encourages students to take gap years and has between 80 and 110 students defer each year, the school says. So that was not a problem for Malia Obama, whatever she chooses to do.

Will students want to attend college when they come back?

“Parents fear that their children won’t want to go to college after being abroad for a year,” Knight said, adding that 90 percent of students who take a gap year go on to college.

There may be other less-obvious benefits, as well.

C. Hansell Bourdon, executive director of Carpe Mundi, a nonprofit that helps first-generation and low-income students take gap years, said, “Data is showing that it takes a student about six years to finish college. If you take a gap year, you actually finish sooner than the students that just go straight into school” because they usually have a clearer idea of their goals and plans after spending time abroad.

“In a way it can save you money,” she said.

Will it be a life-changing experience?

“When you take a gap year it makes you realize there are other world views and perspectives,” Chris Mathy, 22, a senior at Stanford, told ABC News. “When you realize there’s this other perspective, it makes you question your own perspective.”

It can even be more of a life-changing experience for men, who typically make up only 30 percent of the student population that takes a gap year, Knight, of the American Gap Association, said.

“They develop more in that period of time than women do,” he said.

Mathy agrees that he grew a lot as a person while taking a gap year in a small town in France, where he was the only man in the program. “I didn’t have American guys that I could hang out with, so I felt the need to go out of my way to meet more people,” he said.

Milstein, the Barnard College junior, agreed that “living in another country does challenge you to step up and learn another culture. As long as you’re doing something out of your comfort zone, it will be enriching.”

Milstein, who also took non-intensive elective courses in Israel based around her interests, knew she could not handle going to a competitive four-year college right after high school. “It was overwhelming,” she said.

But Knight stressed that not taking a gap year shouldn’t be seen as a disadvantage. “If a student is genuinely excited for college, they should go to college,” he said.

But, he added, college is “too much time and investment to go in if you don’t have a sense of purpose in it. College doesn’t immediately translate to getting a job.”

In any scenario, whether college or the gap year, adversity is what will lead to the greatest change and development in a person, Knight said.

“Pushing comfort zones is what makes it successful,” he added.

Copyright © 2016, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Monday
May022016

Lifesize Stonehenge Replica 'Foamhenge' Needs New Home

Mark Cline(NATURAL BRIDGE, Va.) -- On a historic plot of land in a small Virginia county rests a life-sized styrofoam replica of England’s most famous Stonehenge monument – “Foamhenge.”

Mark Cline, who conceived the idea 20 years ago, built Foamhenge in time for its first appearance on April Fool’s Day in 2004. Despite visitors flocking to see it from all over the world, the attraction has overstayed its welcome in its current location.

According to Cline, the Stonehenge replica rests on property that will become part of the Natural Bridge State Park.

"I am disappointed they don’t see the value of it, what it has done and what it can do," Cline said. "It’s been here 14 years, a lot longer than I thought it would be, so if it’s time for it to go I would like to see it go to a good home."

Mark Cline

In the meantime, Cline is looking to donate the replica. But he says it must come down before Aug. 1, and the new owners will incur any costs involved in dismantling it and putting the foam pieces back up in a new location.

"Free isn’t free, I still have some say in the area that I think it will work best," Cline said. "I want it to go somewhere that the area can benefit from it."

Mark Cline

Cline also has a second replica in Josephine, AL. He says Foamhenge was a business partnership between his company Enchanted Castle Studios and Natural Bridge State Park as a way to entice more tourists to the area.

Natural Bridge is a registered historic landmark. The land was purchased by Thomas Jefferson from King George III of England in 1774.

Copyright © 2016, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Monday
May022016

Wisconsin Fishing Buds Reel in 60-Year-Old 6-Pack of Beer

Courtesy Adam Graves(NEW LONDON, Wisc.) -- Christian Burzynski, Adam Graves and Andy Holst have been fishing in Wisconsin's Wolf River for a very long time. Their fishing rods have brought in a whole lot of junk over the years, but one surprise catch last month is still making headlines.

"We were amazed to see that what we pulled up was a six-pack of Budweiser," Graves, 33, told ABC News. "We couldn't believe it when we pulled it up because it is such an usual find."

The rusty cans show decades-old wear and tear of a rough time in deep waters. They weren't strong enough to hold their liquor, but the empty cans were weighed down with sand, and that made for a little extra effort to reel in the prized catch.

"All of us looked like, 'What the hell is that?'" Burzynski, 47, told ABC News. "It was kinda crazy to see these old cans. All six of the plastic rings were still intact."

"We posted it to an outdoor news Facebook page called Grim Outdoors," Graves said. "It was shared over 1,000 times."

All but one can was still attached to the bunch, Graves said. Also partially intact were their labels to reveal their brand. The fishermen say Budweiser officials estimate the cans are over 60 years old. Budweiser did not immediately respond to ABC News' request for comment.

Had the cans still been sealed, with the beer inside, Burzynski said he would have definitely raised a glass.

"I'm that type of guy who would say, 'Hey, let's go for it,' Burzynski said with a laugh.

As for Graves, he said he wasn't so sure he would go for it, unless there was a bet on the table. "Maybe if money was involved," Graves joked.

The men say they plan to keep the cans as a souvenir; something to show to their kids.

Copyright © 2016, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Monday
May022016

Colorado Supreme Court Rules Against Municipal Laws Limiting Fracking

iStock/Thinkstock(DENVER) -- The Colorado Supreme Court ruled Monday against two cities' attempts to limit fracking, saying the legislation passed by the cities of Longmont and Fort Collins are "invalid and unenforceable" because they conflict with existing state laws.

In 2012, voters in the city of Longmont passed a ban on fracking, while in November 2013, Fort Collins voters passed a five-year moratorium on fracking to give the city time to study health and safety impacts of the process, according to court documents.

The group that challenged Longmont and Fort Collins' rules against fracking, the Colorado Oil and Gas Association, called the court's ruling "a win" for the energy industry and the "people of Colorado who rely on affordable and dependable energy and a strong economy."

"Nearly all wells in Colorado are hydraulically fractured, or fracked, meaning a ban on fracking is a ban on oil and gas development," COGA said in a statement Monday. "With this legal battle over, we look forward to working with Longmont, Fort Collins and other communities to find a balance that allows for responsible oil and gas development while respecting the rule of law and meeting the needs of local communities."

Fort Collins city attorney Carrie Daggett said it will review the court's decision "carefully and fully to evaluate how it affects the City."

"These issues are complex, and we’ll thoroughly examine the decisions relative to Fort Collins and Longmont," Daggett said. "However, it is clear that the Supreme Court has found that the Fort Collins moratorium on hydraulic fracturing is in operational conflict with Colorado law and is therefore preempted."

Representatives for the City of Longmont or the City of Fort Collins did not immediately respond to ABC News' request for comment.

Copyright © 2016, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Monday
May022016

Federal Judge Orders Woman to Unlock iPhone Using Her Fingerprint

iStock/Thinkstock(GLENDALE, Calif.) -- The case of a California woman who was ordered to unlock an iPhone using her fingerprint is raising questions about whether compelling a person to unlock their smartphone could infringe on their right against self-incrimination.

A warrant was issued in February ordering Paytsar Bkhchadzhyan to unlock an iPhone seized from a Glendale, California, residence. She later pleaded no contest to a felony count of identity theft, according to the Los Angeles Times.

While much of the public discussion over encryption has focused on four to six digit passcodes, the California case is raising the question of whether a person's biometric markers -- such as a fingerprint or iris -- could be used to help authorities crack into a device.

Mark Bartholomew, a law professor at the University of Buffalo who studies encryption and cyber law, told ABC News "the law is very uncertain on this because it hasn't caught up to technology."

At issue is whether pressing a finger to unlock a phone and giving law enforcement access to all of its contents is tantamount to testifying without ever speaking a word.

"It's one of those things like always technology is way ahead of the law," Bartholomew said. "These issues of passwords, biometric safeguards, at the same time law enforcement wants them, over time these are going to be teed up for the courts and Supreme Court to weigh in on it."

But Albert Gidari, the director of privacy at Stanford Law School's Center for Internet and Society, told the LA Times that the action might not violate the 5th Amendment prohibition of self-incrimination.

"Unlike disclosing passcodes, you are not compelled to speak or say what's 'in your mind' to law enforcement," Gidari told the LA Times. "'Put your finger here' is not testimonial or self-incriminating."

Apple first added Touch ID to the iPhone 5s and has since included the security measure in all of its recent iPhones and iPads. Built into the home button, Touch ID can also be bypassed using passcodes.

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