Peace Corps Vows to Aid Sexually Abused Volunteers

Getty Images/PeaceCorps [dot] gov(WASHINGTON) -- The head of the Peace Corps told Capitol lawmakers Wednesday that major changes were underway in light of testimony by former female volunteers who alleged they were raped and then ignored during their time with the agency.

Speaking before the House Foreign Affairs Committee, Peace Corps director Aaron Williams said the women who came forward to claim that superiors told them they were somehow asking to be sexually assaulted have "opened our eyes to what we need to correct and we need to correct it now."

Among other things, the Peace Corps will no longer use a training tape in which rape victims describe what they might have done wrong to encourage their attackers.

Williams promised the House panel, "Rest assured, this type of thing, blaming the victim, will not continue in the Peace Corps of today."

Congress decided to hold hearings on the problem following an ABC News investigation which found that over 1,000 female Peace Corps workers have reportedly been raped or sexually abused overseas and were often blamed by agency officials for the attacks.

The lawmakers also heard from former Peace Corp workers including Jess Smochek, who said she was gang-raped while serving in Bangladesh in 2002.  Smochek claimed her cellphone was taken away by a Peace Corps medical officer so she couldn't alert other women, and that the officer refused to examine her.  She was also told to say she was returning to the U.S. to have wisdom teeth removed.

Smochek was later instructed by an official to recount anything she might have done to encourage her attackers.

To add further insult to injury, Smochek said she found out afterwards that the agency's director in Bangladesh told other female volunteers that she was to blame for her rape and that women are the ones responsible for bringing on sexual assaults.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Plane Skids off Kentucky Runway During Emergency Landing

Digital Vision/Thinkstock(LOUISVILLE, Ky.) -- An airplane that was forced to make an emergency landing in Kentucky Wednesday night skidded off the runway upon touching the tarmac, injuring one person on board.

According to ABC News affiliate WHAS-TV in Louisville, Kentucky, the Vision Airlines flight requested to be grounded immediately at Louisville International Airport, citing hydraulic problems.  The plane, which departed from Atlanta and was on its way to Louisville, landed around 7:30 p.m. but was unable to stay on the runway.

One out of the 21 people on board was injured when the plane slid, but the person refused to seek treatment.  The incident also caused damage to power poles nearby.

It is not yet known what caused the plane to roll off the runway.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Judge Denies Request to Stop Planned Parenthood Defunding

Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images(INDIANAPOLIS) -- A federal judge Wednesday denied Planned Parenthood's request to block the state of Indiana from defunding the organization.  Indiana would be the first U.S. state to cut all funding to Planned Parenthood.

Federal District Court Judge Tonya Walton Pratt denied the request, stating that Planned Parenthood could not support its claim that it would suffer devastating harm if the law took effect immediately.

Planned Parenthood filed a restraining order in Indianapolis Tuesday, just hours after Governor Mitch Daniels signed a new law banning abortions after the 20th week of pregnancy and cutting $3 million in state funds used for birth control and screening tests for STDs.

A hearing is set for June 6 to rule on a temporary injunction.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Penn. Man Charged in Rape, Strangling of 9-Year-Old Skyler Kauffman

Comstock/Thinkstock(SOUDERTON, Penn.) -- After James Troutman allegedly raped and strangled 9-year-old Skyler Kauffman, he took a shower and calmly ate dinner with his fiancee, police claim.

Troutman, 24, confessed to killing the girl Monday night at the Souderton Gardens Apartment Complex in Pennsylvania and tossing her body in a dumpster. He was charged with murder Tuesday.

The little girl lived in Troutman's apartment complex along with her mother and grandmother. When Skyler didn't show up for dinner Monday night, her mother and grandmother became alarmed. They called police and an Amber Alert was issued.

Skyler's family had become alarmed by Troutman's behavior as recently as three weeks ago. Police were called to the building after Troutman allegedly locked Skyler and one of her friends in his apartment. The two girls managed to escape.

Troutman mentioned the April 18 incident when allegedly confessing to Kauffman's murder, but described the events differently. He claimed that "one little girl accidentally locked herself into his bathroom, she panicked and started yelling and causing a commotion," according to court documents.

Troutman lives with his fiancee, Heather Clemens, at the complex. Clemens came home Monday and found Troutman on the couch, according to court documents. At around 5 p.m. on Monday, Troutman left to play cell phone video games outside, Clemens told investigators.

Clemens said that she heard a female voice wailing and screaming "no," according to court documents. Clemens also told investigators that she heard "crashing sounds" and that "it sounded like someone was being thrown to the ground."

Clemens called her fiance, Troutman, who told her that he was working out at a local track. Souderton Police found a pool of blood in the apartment complex's basement and later found a trail of blood that led from the basement to a dumpster. In the dumpster, wrapped in a plaid comforter, was Skyler.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio 


NYPD Arrests Two Men Suspected in Terrorist Plot

Jupiterimages/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Two men described as home-grown radicals intent on committing a terrorist act in New York City were reportedly arrested by police Wednesday night.

Initial reports indicate the men were attempting to buy guns when they were arrested.

Details of the alleged terror suspects' identities are unknown.

The case, brought by the NYPD Intelligence Division, is currently slated for local prosecution under state terror statutes.

Though prosecuted in the aftermath of the killing of Osama bin Laden, it was not immediately known if the case had been developed prior to his death or if it arose afterward.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Obamas Host an Evening of Poetry at the White House

Stockbyte/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- Without mention of the rapper Common or the controversy surrounding his appearance, President Obama welcomed the audience to the White House poetry night, revealing that he too considers himself a poet.

"In the spirit of full disclosure, I actually submitted a couple of poems to my college literary magazine.  And you'll be pleased to know that I will not be reading them, tonight," he joked from the East Room of the White House Wednesday evening.

Speaking of the influence that poets have on American culture, President Obama noted their important role in telling our American story.  He made reference to Francis Scott Key penning the poem after the bombing of Fort McHenry during the War of 1812 that would later become the U.S. national anthem.

The president declared that the night was a celebration, hearing from the nation’s greatest and newest performers, and that a poem should affect people on a level that "cannot be explained in words," or else it hasn't done its job.

Lonnie Rashid Lynn, the hip-hop artist known as Common, also performed Wednesday evening at the White House, despite backlash from conservatives who have criticized his invitation.  While he's considered more mainstream than many rappers, Common's lyrics have at times disparaged police and former President Bush. 

At Wednesday night's event, Common recited lyrics to a rap song in poem form, which tipped his hat to the nation's first African-American president and started and ended with the words of Martin Luther King playing over the room's sound system.

“Thank you and God Bless,” Common said at the end of his performance without making any references to the controversy surrounding his appearance.  “I appreciate being here.”

Others in attendance Wednesday include poet Rita Dove, who made history decades ago when named the official poet laureate of the U.S., and actor/comedian Steve Martin, who is also a novelist and playwright.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio 


Billy Graham, 92, Hospitalized for Pneumonia

George Walker/Liaison(ASHEVILLE, N.C.) -- Evangelist Billy Graham was admitted to a North Carolina hospital Wednesday, after having what doctors only say was a health episode at this North Carolina home.  

He was brought to the hospital for what tests showed to be pneumonia and is now receiving the appropriate antibiotics, according to sources close to the matter.  

His doctors say Graham's heart is normal, he's resting comfortably and is fully alert, though there is no set time for his release.

His spokesman says Graham is generally in good health, but he is 92 and conditions related to his advanced age have kept him home bound in recent years.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Passenger Pleads Not Guilty to Trying to Open Jetliner Door

Delta Air Lines(BOSTON) -- A man arrested for allegedly trying to yank open the emergency door of a Delta Air Lines passenger jet in mid-flight pleaded not guilty in court Wednesday and later said it was a "big misunderstanding."

Robert Hersey, 34, of Arlington, Mass., was arraigned in a Boston court Wednesday for allegedly trying to open an emergency door while Delta flight 1102 was en route from Orlando to Boston Tuesday night. He pleaded not guilty to charges of interfering with a flight crew.

Hersey's attorney Ron Wayland said he was released on $1,000 cash bail, pending a pre-trail hearing on June 6. Judge Roberto Ronquillo Jr. ordered Hersey to stay alcohol-free while the case is pending.

Hersey told ABC's Boston affiliate WCVB that the entire episode was a "big misunderstanding." Witnesses have claimed that Hersey was intoxicated at the time, but he told the station that he was not inebriated, having only had a few beers and a hamburger before boarding.

Hersey was sitting in the exit row and allegedly grabbed the handle of the emergency door and tried to open it. Differences in air pressure prevented the door from being opened midflight, but his actions set off an alarm and scared passengers.

The Transportation Safety Administration said Hersey was subdued by two other passengers, one of whom was an off-duty police officer. The flight, carrying 148 passengers, landed in Boston without further disruptions.

The incident was the fourth mid-flight scare in three days.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Pilots to Get New Training: 'Most Substantial Change...In Two Decades'

Valueline/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- Federal aviation officials proposed new rules Wednesday for pilot training, following a crash in western New York.

Pilot error contributed the deadly crash of Continental flight 3407 outside Buffalo, N.Y., in 2009. When the aircraft experienced an aerodynamic stall, the captain performed the wrong maneuver. Investigators at the time said pilots need better training. Now, more than two years later, FAA Administrator Randy Babbit said they will get it.

Pilots will receive better training on how to recognize and recover from stalls and aircraft upsets, Babbit said, calling the overhaul “the most the last 20 years.”

“Under this proposal, flight crews would have to demonstrate, not just learn, critical skills in “real-world” training scenarios,” the FAA said in a statement. “Pilots would be required to train as a complete flight crew, coordinate their actions through Crew Resource Management, and fly scenarios based on actual events. Dispatchers would have enhanced training and would be required to apply that knowledge in today’s complex operating environment.”

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


What's in the Mississippi Floodwaters?

Creatas/Thinkstock(MEMPHIS, Tenn.) -- The great Mississippi River flood of 2011, cresting south of Memphis Wednesday, carries a mix of fertilizer, oil, pesticides, trash and farm runoff as it flows toward the Gulf of Mexico, say public health officials.

Some of it is nasty stuff, and officials say people are wise to be careful. They urge people not to touch the water unless they're wearing rubber boots and gloves, and wash thoroughly if they get wet.

"There could be a lot of untreated sewage coming downstream," said Wilma Subra, an environmental scientist and activist in Louisiana who has tangled with oil and chemical companies. "People need to be aware."

ABC News arranged some testing of its own, taking water samples from two places along the river to a laboratory near Memphis. E. coli and coliform -- commonly found in untreated waste water -- were 2,000 times acceptable limits. The lab did not find gasoline, oil or chemical toxins. There were trace levels of heavy metals, but no more than would be found ordinarily, the lab reported.

Subra said she would be concerned if the giant Morganza Spillway were opened upriver from New Orleans and Baton Rouge. It would protect the cities, but flood the wetlands of southern Louisiana. And it could be a health issue as people return to flooded homes to clean up.

"When in doubt, throw it out," said the Tennessee Department of Health in an advisory to people trying to clear out their homes when the water goes down. "Flood water picks up numerous contaminants from roads, farms, factories and storage buildings, including sewage and chemicals."

The state also warned that standing water provides a perfect breeding ground for mosquitoes.

Perhaps the largest effect: the overflow of nutrients into the Gulf of Mexico is likely to create an unusually large "dead zone" -- a giant patch of water off the Texas-Louisiana coast where fish and other marine creatures lack enough oxygen to survive. A dead zone forms there almost every July and August, but scientists said it will be bigger this year because algae, feeding on the excess fertilizer, will bloom and then die, choking off the oxygen supply.

Cities and towns in 31 states use water that flows into the Mississippi River Basin, many of them releasing treated wastewater into tributaries of the Mississippi. Engineers worried that sewage treatment plants could be overwhelmed by floodwaters.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

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