Tucson Tragedy: An Astronaut's Burden

Photo Courtesy - DON EMMERT/AFP/Getty Images(TUCSON, Ariz.) -- The anguish over the Tucson shootings has been felt across the country, and keenly at the Johnson Space Center in Houston.  Rep. Gabrielle Giffords' husband, Navy Capt. Mark Kelly, is a NASA astronaut. It so happens he's also the commander of STS-134, the space shuttle Endeavour, scheduled for launch on the evening of April 19 -- and currently listed as the very last flight in the space shuttle program.

It would be the highest-profile assignment of Capt. Kelly's career, but apparently -- at his suggestion -- NASA has named astronaut Rick Sturckow as backup commander for the mission.  He will take Kelly's place for now in leading training for the rest of Endeavour's crew.  He will not fly unless Kelly simply cannot make it.

"Mark is still the commander of STS-134," said Peggy Whitson, chief of the Astronaut Office. "He is facing many uncertainties now as he supports Gabrielle, and our goal is to allow him to keep his undistracted attention on his family while allowing preparations for the mission to progress. Designating a backup allows the crew and support team to continue training, and enables Mark to focus on his wife's care."

Endeavour is to deliver final components to the International Space Station -- where Mark's twin brother, Scott, is orbiting on a six-month mission. 

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


California School Children Okay After Consuming Rat Poison

Photo Courtesy - KGO-TV San Francisco(SAN FRANCISCO) -- Seven students at a California middle school were hospitalized Thursday after accidentally eating rat poison.

The children at Martin Luther King Jr. Academy in San Francsico thought the poison was a type of candy or cookies, according to ABC News affiliate KGO-TV.

The San Francisco Chronicle reported Friday the students were treated at area hospitals and are expected to be okay.

"The first two swallowed some, the second two chewed and spit it out, the third two licked it and the fourth slightly licked it," San Francisco Fire Department Battalion Chief Michael Thompson said.

Bromadiolone, the type of poison in question, is non-toxic to humans, particularly when consumed in small amounts.

The children reportedly found the pellets atop a classroom cabinet.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Rape Suspect Grills Alleged Victim, Then Asks for Lawyer

Photo Courtesy - ABC News(TAMPA, Fla.) -- A rape suspect who is acting as his own lawyer grilled his alleged victim on the details of the sex assault, and then asked the judge for a court-appointed lawyer -- who could now call the woman back to the stand and make her relive the ordeal again.

Rape suspect Luis Munuzuri-Harris had repeatedly rejected suggestions he use the public defender, but changed his mind after he questioned his accuser.

The woman's name is being withheld because she may be a victim of a sex crime.

Before asking for a lawyer, Munuzuri-Harris, 31, infuriated the judge with his tactics, as well as accusing the judge of trolling the Internet during the trial.

When scolded by Judge Chet Tharpe for inappropriate behavior and improper questions, Munuzuri-Harris told the judge, "I'm not a dog you need to bark orders at."

Tharpe has appointed a public defender for the defense, but he is also considering whether to declare a mistrial and start over. A new trial would also require the woman to repeat the details of the alleged attack.

Munuzuri-Harris faces felony charges including impersonating a police officer, sexual battery, aggravated assault and forced kidnapping. If convicted, he faces life in prison, according to court records.

The charges stem from a July 2010 night when prosecutors allege Harris drove along Bayshore Boulevard in Tampa impersonating an undercover narcotics officer. He allegedly pulled over the woman now accusing him of rape.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Tucson Shootings: Gabrielle Giffords to Breathe on Her Own?

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(TUCSON, Ariz.) -- Rep. Gabrielle Giffords may be removed from a breathing tube as early as Friday, her doctors say. She is able to sit up and dangle her legs, and is still responding to simple commands. Even caretakers have described her progress as miraculous.

The Jan. 8 shootings left six people dead and 14 wounded.  On Wednesday afternoon, the Democratic lawmaker opened her eyes for the first time since her surgery last Saturday.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Southern Cities Hit by Winter Storm Struggle to Thaw Out

Photo Courtesy - ABC News(ATLANTA) -- Disruptions from Sunday's winter storm that snarled traffic, grounded flights and left travelers stranded is still wreaking havoc on residents in the southeast.

In Atlanta, schools are closed Friday for the fifth straight day, roads remain icy and dangerous, and some passengers are still stranded at the Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport.

On the roads since Thursday morning, police have responded to more than 50 new accidents, including one fatality.  Atlanta drivers faced chaotic conditions after four-to-seven inches of snow and sleet turned many of the interstates into sheets of ice during the storm.  Highways and back roads are still coated with inches of ice, and many are wondering why Atlanta wasn't better prepared for the storm.

The state of Georgia is spending about $2 million a day on storm clean up.  Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution the city has added more than 115 pieces of equipment to its snow removal efforts.

Northeast of Atlanta, in Raleigh, North Carolina, below-freezing temperatures and wind gusts of up to 40 miles an hour are creating dangerous driving conditions.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Tucson Doctors Hail Congresswoman Giffords' Continued Progress

Photo Courtesy - Bill Clark/Roll Call via Getty Images(TUCSON, Ariz.) -- Doctors at Tucson’s University Medical Center said Thursday the prognosis for Arizona Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords’ recovery from a bullet wound to the head continues to be encouraging.

Chief trauma specialist Dr. Peter Rhee said that Giffords, who was shot at close range last Saturday at a meet-and-greet event she hosted, “is doing some fairly specific things with her left hand.  She is yawning.  She is starting to rub her eyes.”  He added that movement in her right was only slight.

Dr. Michael Lemole, who heads the neurosurgery department, told reporters that Giffords is able to move both her legs on command.

Given that the bullet allegedly fired by accused 22-year-old gunman Jared Lee Loughner passed through the congresswoman’s brain front to back, Rhee and Lemole admitted that Giffords' recovery has thus far been remarkable.

There have been no major setbacks, such as increased brain swelling, since the Jan. 8 shootings that left six people dead and 14 wounded.  On Wednesday afternoon, the Democratic lawmaker opened her eyes for the first time since her surgery last Saturday.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Black Bag Possibly Linked to Accused Tucson Shooter Found

Photo Courtesy - Pima County Sheriff's Department(TUCSON, Ariz.) -- A black bag believed to have been carried by Jared Lee Loughner on the morning of the Tucson strip mall shootings was found Thursday, according to the Pima County Sheriff’s Department.

It’s reported that a teenager came across the bag in a dry river bed while walking his dog not far from the Tucson house where Loughner lives with his parents.

There are also reports the bag contained several boxes of ammunition and other items purchased at a Walmart store last Saturday.

Loughner has so far been charged with five counts of shooting federal officials, including Arizona Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, who remains in critical condition, and U.S. District Judge John Roll, one of six people killed in the attack.  State charges are pending for the others slain and wounded.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


TSA Chief Explains Intel on Thermos Threat and Extra Screening

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- TSA Administrator John Pistole Thursday disclosed that intelligence information was obtained on December 23, 2010 that Al Qaeda on the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) was seeking to make a bomb using insulated drinking mugs and thermoses, leading to the extra check in security lines over the holiday.

Pistole also advised the public to expect additional screening if they travel with the thermal mugs and thermoses.

“In the near future if you want to take your thermos with you just be aware that your going to be subject to more physical screening," the TSA head said Thursday.

At an event sponsored by the American Bar Association’s Standing Committee on Law and National Security, Pistole provided details about a security bulletin issued by TSA on Christmas Eve that warned TSA officers to be alert about insulated drinking cups and thermoses and discussed how quickly the Department of Homeland Security acted on an intelligence tip.

“This plot was that they would use TATP [triacetone triperoxide] around the cylinder of a thermos; put it on either a passenger or a cargo plane and how ever the initiation or the detonator, they didn’t describe," he said. "So that’s general intelligence, what do we do about it? We put out an alert just making sure that all of our Transportation Security Officers, our TSOs, are alert to that and do additional physical screening in addition to the X-rays.”

Pistole also said intelligence indicated that the devices were being devised by AQAP’s master bomb-maker Ibrahim Hassan al-Asiri a.k.a: Abu Saleh who was behind last fall’s cargo bomb plot.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio 


Kama Sutra Malware Puts You in Position for Hack Attack

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- The Kama Sutra may help you score points in the bedroom, but a new PowerPoint file on the ancient guide to sex will only raise your chances of scoring something else: a rendezvous with computer hackers.

According to the security research firm Sophos, an illustration-heavy PowerPoint presentation demonstrating more than a dozen different sexual positions is actually a vicious piece of malware in disguise.

The file, called "Real kamasutra.pps.exe," masquarades as a legitimate PowerPoint deck. But as you click through slides describing various sexual positions, with such names as "The Frog," "Wheelbarrow," and "Lyons Stagecoach," your computer runs a program that lets hackers remotely control your computer.

Graham Clulely, a senior technology consultant at Sophos, said the malware was spotted for the first time earlier this week, but isn't particularly widespread.

"It's interesting, obviously, because of the rather old-school technique of trying to get you to click on the file by appealing to the cave man inside everybody," he said.

Once downloaded, he said the PowerPoint deck serves as a decoy while malware quietly installs itself in the computer. The malicious code gives hackers a backdoor to your PC, which they can they use to execute any number of unwanted tasks.

They could access your every computer file, watch your every key stroke, steal your passwords to online bank accounts and steal your identity.

"The ball is in the court of the hacker," he said.

Clulely said that while computer users may be well-schooled in the ways of computer security, they still often fall victim to techniques that use sex and money as bait.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Court Bars 'Fight Club' Video of Mentally Disabled Students Forced to Fight

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas) -- Prosecutors who are trying a former state school worker for allegedly forcing mentally disabled students fight each other won't be allowed to show the jury an explicit cell phone video of defendant Timothy Dixon allegedly forcing the students to fight.

Numerous videos show confused residents of a state school for mentally disabled adults in Corpus Christi, Texas being forced to take part in a so-called fight club run by night shift workers. As previously reported by ABC News, the videos were discovered by police in March 2009 after someone found Timothy Dixon's cell phone and turned it in. Police said Dixon, now 32, could be heard on a video calling the play-by-play of the fight as if he were a ring announcer.

But the Texas Court of Appeals upheld a lower court's decision that the evidence could not be used at the trial of Dixon, the alleged ringleader of the Fight Club, because police did not have the right to search the phone after it had been turned in. On Wednesday, the court refused to hear prosecutors' appeal of its decision.

"I understand it's an unpopular decision but according to the law it is the right decision," said Dixon's attorney, Ira Miller.

Dixon will remain free on bail while the case goes back to the district court. Charged with causing injury to the mentally disabled, he has pled not guilty.

Five other former Corpus Christi State School employees were charged in the case. D 'Angelo Riley, 24, and Guadalupe De Larosa, 23, pleaded guilty to three counts of causing injury to mentally disabled residents and are serving a four-year prison sentence. Jesse Salazar, 23, was sentenced to three years in jail, while Vincent Johnson, 24, received a two-year suspended jail sentence. Stephanie Garza, 23, was also implicated in the case but was granted immunity by the State. Charges against her will be dismissed if she fulfills her obligation to testify against Dixon.

Despite Wednesday's decision, prosecutors remain optimistic they have enough evidence to convict Dixon without the video evidence.

"This decision doesn't kill the case," said Doug Mann, Assistant District Attorney. "I would prefer to have the cell phone video played to our jury, but the direct testimony of the people who were present can vividly convey to the jury what was going on there and the fact that Dixon was the driving force behind it."

Michelle Crayton, whose brother George Brazil was one of the victims in the video, said she was disappointed in the Court of Criminal Appeals ruling. "I was hoping the video could be shown at his trial," said Crayton. "But even without the video it's a strong case because so many people have already seen them and saw that he was involved."

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

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