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Friday
Jun102011

Arizona Wildfires Set to Cross State Line Into New Mexico

Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images(SPRINGERVILLE, Ariz.) -- More than 3,000 firefighters managed to contain a small slice of the massive Wallow fire in eastern Arizona but the inferno is threatening to cross the border into New Mexico on Friday.

Workers are using a DC-10 tanker air carrier from the sky and firebreaks on the ground in attempts to stop the blaze before it reaches the tiny town of Luna, New Mexico, seven miles from the Arizona border.

Incident Commander Joe Reinarz said Thursday that for the first time since the fire was sparked on May 29 firefighters were able to keep parts of it contained.  So far, the blaze has scorched over 350,000 acres.

"Saturday we can possibly look at getting the evacuees in Eagar, Springerville, and Southfork back in their homes if the conditions are right over the next day and a half, two days," Reinarz said.

They are attempting to halt a repeat of the blaze that scorched Greer, Arizona on Wednesday.  New numbers released overnight revealed that 22 buildings -- many of them family homes -- in that town were destroyed.

Sen. Jon Kyl, R-Ariz., fears a summer home he owns in the town may have been one of them.  Like their senator, thousands of residents are still in the dark, desperate to learn anything about what has happened to their houses since they were evacuated.

Still in the fire's path are Paso Electric's high-voltage transmission lines, which supply electricity for hundreds of thousands of people.  If these lines go, it may mean blackouts for many part of the region.

Alex Hoon, a National Weather Service meteorologist, told ABC News that this fire is actually creating its own weather, forming a pyrocumulus cloud, or fire cloud, that is dynamically similar to a firestorm.

"The fire is so intense has so much heat that it actually forms its own thunderstorm at the top of the smoke plume," Hoon said.

These storms spur the fire on by creating winds that start new fires by hurling burning debris as far as five miles through the air.  Winds in the region should continue to be mild throughout Friday hours, but will then become strong again.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Friday
Jun102011

Jury Convicts Chicago Businessman in Plot to Bomb Danish Newspaper

Brand X Pictures/Thinkstock(CHICAGO) -- A Chicago jury found a local businessman guilty Thursday of providing material support to the banned Pakistan militant group Lashkar-e-Taiba, as well as scheming to bomb a Danish newspaper that printed cartoons of the Muslim prophet Mohammad, which is considered sacrilegious in the Muslim world.

However, Tahawwur Rana was acquitted of the most serious charge of helping to plot the 2008 attacks on Mumbai, India that left 166 people dead, including nine of 10 attackers believed to have been recruited by Lashkar-e-Taiba.

During the trial, lawyers for Rana, a 50-year-old born in Pakistan who also has Canadian citizenship, insisted their client was fooled by a friend, David Coleman Headley, into using Rana's company as a cover for his scouting missions in Denmark.

Headley became a witness for the prosecution after admitting guilt to 12 charges related to the Mumbai attacks.  The plot to bomb the newspaper offices of Jyllands-Posten in Copehagen was abandoned because of stepped up security after the Mumbai incident and a lack of funds and manpower.

Rana is expected to receive sentences of up to 15 years on each count but his lawyers have already announced they will appeal the verdicts.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Friday
Jun102011

Alabama Governor Signs Tough Anti-Immigration Law

Governor [dot] Alabama [dot] gov(MONTGOMERY, Ala.) -- Until Thursday, Arizona had what many believed was the strictest anti-illegal immigration law in the nation.  But not anymore.

Over the objections of civil rights groups, Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley signed legislation that prevents illegal immigrants from either enrolling in or attending college, prohibits them from applying for or soliciting work, and makes it illegal for landlords to rent them property.

By contrast, Arizona's law imposes penalties on employers who hire undocumented aliens.  The most controversial part of that statute -- allowing police to question citizenship status during a reasonable arrest -- is currently blocked and will be decided by the U.S. Supreme Court.

Alabama's law permits police to make a "reasonable attempt" to ascertain a person's citizenship and immigration status during any lawful "stop, detention or arrest."

The American Civil Liberties Union announced immediately after the Alabama governor signed the law that it would file a lawsuit to stop it.  Al Noorani, executive director of the National Immigration Forum, said Alabama's law would create "a modern-day trail of tears for immigrants in the state."

On the other hand, many are praising the law, including noted social conservative Phyllis Schlafly, who said Alabama had turned into "the leader in comprehensive immigration reform."

It's estimated there are 120,000 undocumented aliens among Alabama's population of 4.9 million people, most of them Latinos.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Friday
Jun102011

Giffords Aide Admits Congresswoman Has Difficulty Speaking

Tom Williams/Roll Call/Getty Images(PHOENIX) -- Despite what has been reported in the media, the road to recovery for Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords has been slow and frustrating, according to her chief of staff.

Pia Carusone admitted to The Arizona Republic that the Democratic lawmaker, who was shot in the head during a meet-and-greet event in Tucson, Arizona on Jan. 8, has had difficulty relearning how to speak.

Giffords, who is undergoing intensive rehabilitation in a Houston facility, can communicate mainly through facial expressions and gestures but "when it comes to a bigger and more complex thought that requires words, that’s where she’s had the trouble."

Carusone says that doctors admit that the lawmaker's condition is far from what it was before the shooting five months ago that also took the lives of six people and wounded 12 others, besides Giffords.

Physicians acknowledge that the full extent of Giffords' brain injury is hard to ascertain because they cannot perform an MRI examination since there are bullet shards still lodged inside her head.

As for returning to Congress, Carusone says that's not on the immediate horizon.  The determination will ultimately have to be made by Giffords.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Thursday
Jun092011

Obama Calls Arizona Governor Brewer, Discusses Wildfire Assistance

Official White House Photo by Pete Souza(WASHINGTON) -- President Obama spoke with Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer on Thursday about the wildfires raging in her state. White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said that the president "expressed his concerns for the citizens of Arizona who are dealing with multiple severe fires."

Beyond deploying liaisons to the area, Carney said that FEMA has approved both of the requested Fire Management Assistance Grants to help respond and the U.S. Forest Service has deployed more than 2,500 interagency firefighters.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Thursday
Jun092011

Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel Releases City Workers' Salary Information

Scott Olson/Getty Images(CHICAGO) -- Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel's administration Thursday posted the salaries of every city employee to a public website in a bid to follow through on a campaign promise to bring transparency to government.

At $2.5 billion, payroll is one of the largest expenses for the city as it battles a $650 million budget deficit. The data showed that 2,400 city workers are paid $100,000 or more per year.

"During the campaign I promised to have the most open, accountable and transparent government that the City of Chicago has ever seen," Emanuel said in a statement. "Today's effort is another step toward this goal, as we create an administration that is accountable to the citizens of Chicago."

Of the 34,219 municipal workers, the highest-paid employee is Garry McCarthy, the Superintendent of Police ($260,004), followed by Emanuel ($216,210) and then Fire Commissioner Robert Hoff ($202,728).

Meanwhile, the city's inspector general Joseph Ferguson, in charge of fighting corruption in the metropolis, is paid $161,856, but Emanuel's administrative secretary is paid $162,500.

The lowest-paid city employee is administrative secretary Mark Angelson, with a symbolic salary of $1, followed by the foster parents and senior companions, all paid $2,756.

There are also some more surprising figures, such as the 31 employees who put boots on cars being paid $62,000 a year and 23 caulkers paid $91,500 each.

Chicago is not the first city to implement this transparency measure.

Responding to the scandal involving the extremely high pay for Bell City officials in Los Angeles County (one manager was paid twice as much as President Obama), Los Angeles City Controller Wendy Greuel posted the salaries of nearly 37,000 city employees online in February.

In New York, the Empire Center of New York Policy also posts the salaries of government employees online.

Only time will tell if more cities follow suit as states battle severe budget deficits across the country and citizens demand accountability from their elected officials.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Thursday
Jun092011

Woman Captures Her Attacker on Cellphone Video Moments Before Assault

Jupiterimages/Thinkstock(OAKLAND, Calif.) -- "Can you please leave?" a California woman asks a strange man as he walks out of her home.  He responds, "Yes."

Oakland, Calif., police now regard this simple yet chilling exchange captured on a cellphone moments before a sexual assault as a key piece of evidence as they search for the intruder.

The incident unfolded Tuesday morning when police say a 28-year-old woman was home alone and heard a loud crash.

"She went to investigate those loud noises and the video shows exactly what she saw," said Oakland police officer Holly Joshi.

The victim found the stranger brazenly making an exit from her home with a box full of electronics. He did leave as she requested, but moments later police say he returned and sexually assaulted the woman.

Police say she didn't scream or call 911 during the attack, but her presence of mind to film the initial exchange may be the smoking gun that leads to the perpetrator's arrest.

"She was very much behind the release of the video, she wants justice, she wants the public to be aware of this man so this doesn't happen to another woman," said Joshi.

The suspect is described as a black man in his early 40s, five feet nine, 160 pounds, with a bald head.

Oakland police hope the images, which like so many other pieces of cellphone video has spread virally across the country, will compel someone who knows him to come forward.

The victim was treated and released from a California hospital.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Thursday
Jun092011

Senator Kyl's Family Cabin in the Path of the Arizona Wildfire

U.S. House of Representatives(GREER, Ariz.) -- Sen. Jon Kyl, R-AZ., may have been in the debt ceiling talks Thursday for nearly two hours, but told reporters afterward that he’s got other things on his mind right now.  Namely: his family’s summer home in Greer, Arizona, currently in the Arizona wildfire’s path.
 
“I’m trying to find out whether or not my summer home up in the Arizona mountains is still there after the fire went through last night,” Kyl told reporters Thursday. “I’m just getting a little report from a totally informal source, they think it is, I really don’t know.  And that’s really on my mind right now.”
 
A concerned-looking Senator Kyl was fielding cellphone calls, getting updates on his home, in the Senate hallway after emerging from the closed-door debt ceiling talks. Aides to the senator said five homes in the Greer area have already been destroyed and the senator is relying on local reports in the area for updates on his family’s home.
 
The Kyl family spends their summers in their Greer cabin. On Saturday Kyl and his wife were told to voluntarily evacuate as the fire moved closer to their community.

The fire has been burning since May 29.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Thursday
Jun092011

Arrested for Feeding the Homeless in Violation of New Orlando Law

File photo. Doug Menuez/Thinkstock(ORLANDO, Fla.) -- Members of the organization Food Not Bombs were in good spirits as they passed out corn on the cob, rice, beans and other vegetarian dishes to the homeless and hungry in an Orlando park. This cheer was interrupted when police officers on bicycles arrived and arrested five of the volunteers.

This is not the first time this scene has played out for members of Food Not Bombs.

Since June 1, a dozen members of the group have been arrested for violating a new Orlando city ordinance that prohibits sharing food with large groups in downtown parks more than twice a year.

The mayor of Orlando even branded them "food terrorists."

Food Not Bombs is an international political organization that protests war, poverty and the destruction of the environment, according to their website. The group meets to distribute food twice a week in downtown Orlando's Lake Eola Park.

They won a district court case to prevent the enforcement of the new ordinance, but the decision was overturned in the appellate court.

A spokesperson for the city of Orlando said that the ordinance had its origins in complaints from residents and business owners about trash left after the food distribution, public urination and concerns about crime.

Lake Eola Park is the city's "crown jewel and a signature part of the city right in the middle of Orlando," according to the spokesperson. The city says the ordinance is a permit system that allows them to be aware of what is happening and where so that they can provide necessary services such as clean-up.

Food Not Bombs has no intentions of stopping their distribution of food in Lake Eola Park. They are planning on collecting enough signatures on a petition to challenge the ordinance again.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Thursday
Jun092011

Casey Anthony Jurors See Photos of Caylee's Remains

File photo. Michael Greenberg/Thinkstock(ORLANDO, Fla.) -- Casey Anthony wiped away tears Thursday and turned away from a monitor showing pictures of a skull from the remains of 2-year-old Caylee, the daughter she is accused of murdering.

George and Cindy Anthony, Caylee's grandparents, got up and left the courtroom before the photos were shown.

Jurors saw photos of a densely wooded area littered with fragments of beer bottles and signs for an old day care. A path through the wooded area led to Caylee's remains, barely discernible through all of the vegetation.

The front of the skull had duct tape on it, Orange County crime scene investigator Jennifer Welch testified. Around the skull was an off white canvas bag, a black plastic bag, a red Disney bag and a white blanket that was so worn the investigator originally thought it was a towel.

All that remained of Caylee's clothing were pieces of tiny shorts and the collar of a shirt.

Around the skull was medium length brown hair.

Before seeing the photos, jurors listened to the 911 recording that reported the discovery of a human skull in a wooded area near the Anthony's family home. The remains of Caylee were found on Dec. 11, 2008, nearly five months after the toddler was reported missing.

Caylee was last seen alive June 16, 2008 but wasn't reported missing until 31 days later. Casey Anthony is accused of murdering her daughter and could face the death penalty if convicted. 

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio







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