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Wednesday
Feb232011

Hate Groups on the Rise in US

File Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(MONTGOMERY, Ala.) -- The Southern Poverty Law Center issued a report Wednesday highlighting the rise of hate groups in the United States over recent years.

The SPLC documented 1,002 hate groups operating in 2010 -- a 7.5-percent increase from the 932 groups active just one year earlier and a 66-percent rise since 2000.

The report's data marks the first time the number of hate groups has topped 1,000 since the SPLC began counting them in the 1980s.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Wednesday
Feb232011

Obama Awards Six Purple Hearts

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(BETHESDA, Md.) -- President Obama on Wednesday visited the National Naval Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland, where he awarded six Purple Hearts and met with wounded warriors and their families.

“During his visit to the National Naval Medical Center today, the President met with 22 service members -- 21 of whom served in Afghanistan, 1 of whom served in Iraq,” White House Spokesperson Nick Shapiro said in a statement. “While at the hospital, the President awarded 6 Purple Hearts.”

The president spent an hour and a half at the Medical Center before returning to the White House.  Mr. Obama visited the Medical Center almost exactly a year ago, for a physical, after which he visited with 12 service members who had been injured in Afghanistan or Iraq.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Wednesday
Feb232011

DEA Raids Pill Mills in Florida and Arrests Doctors

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(MIAMI) -- On Wednesday, agents from the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration and local police swept across South Florida, arresting individuals suspected of illegally prescribing painkillers and other prescription drugs to patients who often have nothing wrong with them.

The arrests were part of a yearlong probe that centered on Broward, Miami-Dade and Palm Beach Counties and involved undercover agents purchasing prescription drugs. Authorities say there are hundreds of pain clinics throughout the region that are involved in the illegal activity. The clinics are also known as "pill mills" because people come there to get prescriptions, often with no questions being asked.

"Thousands of people from all over the Eastern Seaboard are coming to South Florida to illegally buy prescription drugs," said DEA agent, Anthony Angeli. "People will come in vans, eight or ten people at a time. They get the scripts, and they go back."

Angeli said when they return home, the pills usually end up on the black market.

South Florida is ground zero in the nation's war against prescription drug abuse. State officials recently said that 85 percent of all oxycodone pills sold in the U.S. come from Florida and the top 50 medical prescribers of such drugs are located in the state.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, 20,000 people a year are dying from prescription drug overdose, including seven a day in Florida. Over the last decade the number of such deaths has more than tripled.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Wednesday
Feb232011

Ohio Murder Suspect Samuel Littleton Apprehended in W.Va.

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(PRINCETON, W. Va.) -- Samuel Littleton II, the suspect in the murder of an Ohio woman, was apprehended Wednesday in West Virginia. The car he had abandoned belonged to an elderly Ohio couple who have been reported missing, police said.

Littleton was apprehended late Wednesday morning in the woods behind a Walmart in Princeton, West Virginia, State Police Capt. J.L. Cahill said during a news conference.

The car that Littleton, 37, was last believed to be driving had been found and seized at a Walmart in Princeton late Tuesday. The discovery was made one day after he made a call from a pay phone in a West Virginia town to his father.

Littleton is wanted in the stabbing death of Tiffany Brown, 26, of Bellefontaine, Ohio.

"All we know is that the suspect is in custody," a spokeswoman for Princeton police told ABC News. "There are no further details being released at this time."

The car, a gray and green 2004 Mercury Grand Marquis, belongs to Richard Russell, 84, and his wife Gladis, 85, who were reported missing from Logan County, Ohio, on Wednesday. There is still no sign of the couple, who police have described as old and infirm.

"The investigation is considered 'national' in every sense," Bellefontaine, Ohio, police chief Brad K. Kunze, wrote in a statement.

"Clearly the Russells are innocent victims who were merely targeted by Littleton to help further his escape from justice," the release continued. "Dick and Gladis Russell are very fragile and do not deserve this unfortunate situation that they they have been placed [in]."

Littleton called a member of his family, possibly his father, from a telephone just down the street from the state police barracks in Princeton, the Bluefield Daily Telegraph reported.

Tiffany Brown was discovered stabbed to death in the basement of the Ohio house Littleton shared with her mother. Littleton is wanted on four felony counts: murder, felonious assault, abuse of a corpse and tampering with evidence.

Littleton knew the Russells because they sold him the house in which Brown's body was found, police said. 

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Wednesday
Feb232011

Bodies of Americans Killed By Somali Pirates Headed Home

USS Enterprise. Photo Courtesy - U.S. Navy(WASHINGTON) -- The bodies of the four Americans killed after Somali pirates hijacked their yacht headed home on the USS Enterprise from the dangerous waters off the Somali coast Tuesday night, military officials said.  Also on board the massive aircraft carrier were the 15 captured Somali pirates.

American officials have begun the process of determining how they will prosecute the 15 pirates who hijacked the yacht, called the Quest.

"There is an ongoing investigation into the hijacking," Navy Ensign Brynn Olson, spokeswoman for U.S. Central Command, told the Washington Examiner.

The deaths at the hands of pirates increases concern about the growing strength of piracy around the horn of Africa.

Piracy is a "top priority for NATO and there has been an increased presence," Olson said.

Jean and Scott Adam, a retired couple from California, along with their friends, Phyllis Mackay and Bob Riggle, from Washington state, were sailing the world on a Christian mission to distribute bibles when they were ambushed Feb. 18 by pirates some 300 miles off the Somali coast.

For three harrowing days, the hijacked yacht was sailing toward the Somali coast with four American hostages and 17 pirates packed on board.  President Obama had authorized Navy warships to follow the yacht and use deadly force if needed, hoping to keep the Americans safe.

Officials were negotiating with two pirates on board the destroyer USS Sterett.  In the midst of those negotiations, without warning, pirates on board the hijacked yacht fired a rocket-propelled grenade at the Sterett.  Then gunfire was heard onboard the yacht.

The Navy launched 15 Seals in two high-speed assault craft.  Some pirates appeared to surrender.

Despite the efforts of the Navy Seals, it was too late for the hostages. 

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Wednesday
Feb232011

Florida Police Arrest Teen Accused of Killing St. Petersburg Cop

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(ST. PETERSBURG, Fla.) -- Police in Florida arrested a teenager Tuesday believed to be responsible for killing a 25-year veteran officer of the St. Petersburg Police Department.

According to authorities, officer David Crawford was responding to a suspicious person call at 10:30 p.m. Monday when he was shot several times from close range.  He was then transported to a nearby hospital where he was pronounced dead.

Police searched extensively for the gunman, who fled the scene on foot, using dogs and closing off streets before arresting the 16-year-old boy, who is not being named because of his age.

Crawford's death marks the third time a St. Petersburg officer was killed in the line of duty in less than a month.  Sgt. Thomas Baitinger and K-9 Officer Jeffrey Yaslowitz were both killed by a wanted fugitive on Jan. 24.

The St. Petersburg Police Department is still mourning the loss of Sergeant Thomas Baitinger and K-9 Officer Jeffrey Yaslowitz, both of whom were killed by a wanted fugitive 28 days ago.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Wednesday
Feb232011

Rising Number of Dead Dolphins Washing Up Along the Gulf

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(HORN ISLAND, Miss.) -- Marine biologists are working to figure out what caused the deaths of nearly two dozen baby dolphins who have washed up on beaches in Mississippi and Alabama since the year began.

On Tuesday, researchers from the Institute for Marine Mammal Studies added to that total when they discovered the dead bodies of four more dolphins on Horn Island, Mississippi, according to ABC News affiliate WLOX-TV in southern Mississippi.

The institute said it is doing necropsies on the mammals, as well as taking tissue samples and running toxicology tests, to determine their cause of death.

There may be a connection between these deaths and last year's BP oil spill, which happened right around the time when dolphins are normally breeding, but it's too early to tell.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Wednesday
Feb232011

Illegal Immigrants in Kansas May See Tuition Breaks Vanish

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(TOPEKA, Kan.) -- GOP lawmakers in Kansas want to make sure illegal immigrants don't get a break when it comes to tuition at state colleges and universities.

The Kansas state House voted Tuesday to do away with in-state tuition breaks for undocumented aliens that were first approved in 2004.  The tally was 72 for, 52 against.

Democrats opposed the repeal, saying the vote was driven by irrational fears that illegal immigrants are moving to Kansas to take advantage of the program.

However, critics of the tuition breaks say it both violates federal law and also punishes foreign students who must pay full cost at Kansas colleges and universities.

The legislation now moves on to the state Senate, where its passage is less certain.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Wednesday
Feb232011

Ohio Protesters Locked Out of State Capitol Rotunda

Photo Courtesy - J.D. Pooley/Getty Images(COLUMBUS, Ohio) -- Temperatures were running high in Columbus, Ohio on Tuesday as state and local workers protested a GOP-sponsored bill that would virtually end collective bargaining rights.

State troopers refused to allow demonstrators to enter the state capitol rotunda as they did last week, when the protests began.  About 700 people were permitted to fill the statehouse atrium but couldn't wander beyond that.

Thousands remained outside the building to air their grievances.  One rally organizer complained, "People want to be in the statehouse.  It's the people's house."

The proposed bill is similar to legislation in Wisconsin that has led to a standoff between Republicans and union members, prompting Democratic lawmakers to leave the state to block a vote on the bill.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Tuesday
Feb222011

Border Vigilante Shawna Forde Sentenced to Death for Home Invasion Murders

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(TUCSON, Ariz.) -- Shawna Forde, a border vigilante, was sentenced to death Tuesday for the murders of a nine-year-old Arivaca, Ariz., girl and her father in a home invasion she orchestrated to rob the family.

The jury deliberated only a few hours before coming to the decision, but the one juror who spoke to reporters said the deliberations were difficult.

"We chose death because that's what seems fair," juror Angela Thomas told ABC affiliate KGUN-TV in Tucson.

"While Shawna Forde gets to delight in the picture of her brand-new grandson, there's another person in this equation who never will. There's another person in this equation who'll never get to wear her first pair of high heels or have her first kiss or go to prom or graduation," Thomas said. "There's a little girl in this equation who's father won't be able to walk her down the aisle."

She said the trial, which included graphic, detailed testimony about how Raul "Junior" Flores, 29, and his young daughter were gunned down in their own home while Flores' wife, pretending to be dead, watched, was extremely painful.

Forde, 43, founder of Minutemen American Defense, showed no emotion when the verdict was read, but her attorney, Eric Larsen, said he did not expect the jury to come back with a death sentence.

"No I did not," Larsen told KGUN-TV. "I fully expected that this community valued human life greater then this jury did."

Forde was convicted Feb. 14 of two counts of murder for orchestrating the home invasion. Prosecutors said she planned to rob Flores, who she thought was a drug dealer, to fund her border watch group.

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