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Tuesday
May312011

National Hurricane Center Predicts Above-Average 2011 Season

Stockbyte/Thinkstock(MIAMI) -- Atlantic hurricane season begins Wednesday and the National Hurricane Center predicts that it will be an above-average summer with 12 to 18 named storms, six to 10 hurricanes and three to six major hurricanes, which are Category 3 and above.

Last year, despite a historically active hurricane season with 19 named storms, no hurricanes made landfall in the U.S. In fact, the last hurricane to make landfall in the U.S. was Ike in 2008.

National Hurricane Center spokesman Dennis Feltgen cautioned that the long-range predictions are missing an important piece of information.

"It's not telling you where they are going to make landfall -- that long-range science does not exist," Feltgen said. "It doesn't matter if there are 50 storms or one, if that one storm hits you it's a really bad year, and that's the one storm you need to be preparing for right now."

Feltgen said it is vital that anyone who could be affected by a hurricane have a personal plan in place.

"If you don't have one and you find yourself under a hurricane warning, odds are you are going to be making the wrong decisions at the wrong time," he said.

On average the month of June has one storm every two years. This year the first named storm will be called Arlene, the most used storm name of all time.

There are six lists that continually rotate and names are only removed from them after it is determined that a hurricane was so devastating that it would be insensitive to reuse the name.

The 2011 list is the same as the incredibly active and destructive 2005 hurricane season with a few notable exceptions -- five hurricanes names were retired from the 2005 list because of their fury. Dennis has been replaced by Don, Katrina by Katia, Rita by Rina, Stan by Sean and Wilma by Whitney.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Tuesday
May312011

US Can't Handle Cyber Attack on Electric Grid, Say Lawmakers 

Comstock/Chad Baker/Ryan McVay(WASHINGTON) -- The United States is ill-prepared to deal with a cyber attack on the nation’s electric grid, one of the biggest national security threats facing the country today, lawmakers warned.

“The sobering reality is this vulnerability, if left unaddressed, could have grave, societal-altering consequences,” Rep. Trent Franks, R-Ariz., testified before the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee Tuesday. “We face a menace that may represent the gravest short-term threat to the peace and security of the human family in the world today.”

Experiments by federal agencies in recent years have shown that cyber spies have intruded the U.S. electric system, and that it's increasingly susceptible to attacks by hackers and foreign governments.

The weakness in the system, some lawmakers argue, can also be exploited by terrorist groups like al Qaeda, which are advancing their technological capabilities.

Administration officials Tuesday admitted that nuclear reactors specifically are less secure than in the past, and smart grids -- new digital electricity networks that are being promoted around the country -- are more exposed than traditional systems. Because the new Internet-protocol-based systems utilize commercial software over the Internet, they make the system more vulnerable. Coordination between agencies is also lacking, some say.

Several bills have been introduced in Congress to tackle the issue, but none has made it to the president’s desk.

The GRID Act, introduced a year ago, aims to give FERC the authority to issue rules and procedures to protect the nation’s grid without prior notice or hearings. It would also expand the Energy secretary’s powers over such matters and require the Defense secretary to prepare a plan identifying emergency measures and procedures that would need to be taken in the case of a cyber attack. The president would have the authority to order and authorize immediate emergency measures without congressional approval.

The “pay-as-you-go” legislation wouldn’t cost taxpayers any money over the next ten years, according to the Congressional Budget Office.

Another related bill, the SHIELD Act, would make it a crime for a person to knowingly disseminate classified information related to U.S. intelligence activities.

Earlier this month, the White House released a more comprehensive cybersecurity plan calling for industries vulnerable to cyber attacks, like electricity, to create plans that would make their computer systems more secure.

The renewed warning by lawmakers came on the day The Wall Street Journal reported that the Pentagon would declare computer sabotage from another country an act of war. The story cited the Pentagon’s cyber strategy report, which is due to be released in a few weeks.

When asked about the story Tuesday, Pentagon spokesman Col. Dave Lapan said, “A response to a cyber incident or attack on the U.S. would not necessarily be a cyber response...All appropriate actions would be on the table if we are attacked in cyber.”

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Tuesday
May312011

High-Profile Sexual Assault Cases Shed Light on Vulnerable Housekeepers

(Digital Vision/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- After alleged sexual assaults by two high-profile international businessmen in New York City in the last couple weeks, many are saying it is time to give more protection to hotel workers, especially vulnerable housekeepers.

"These working women are afraid if they complain about a guest they won't be heard, they will be ingnored, they will be shamed," Lorena Lopez, a spokeswoman for the Housekeeper Equality Initiative, told ABC News.

Former head of the International Monetary Fund Dominique Strauss-Kahn is being held under house arrest in Manhattan after a grand jury indicted him on seven charges relating to an alleged sexual assault on a hotel maid at the Sofitel in midtown Manhattan on May 14.

Mahmoud Abdel Salam Omar, 74, a prominent former Egyptian bank chairman, was accused Sunday of allegedly sexually assaulting a housekeeper at the posh Pierre hotel in New York City.

Sources say on Sunday at 6 p.m., Omar called to have tissues delivered to his $1,000-a-night suite. A 44-year-old hotel maid alleges that when she arrived at the room, Omar, wearing pajamas, asked her to leave the tissues on a table. He then allegedly locked the door and tried to kiss and grope her.

The maid said she told Omar, "I am not here for that," at which point he allegedly stopped and asked her for her phone number. After slipping him false digits, the maid said she was able to get away, and immediately reported the incident to supervisors.

Omar was arrested on charges of sexual assault and unlawful imprisonment.

Hotel union officials insist requests of sex, sex for money and even outright assaults can all go underreported because housekeepers, who often come from immigrant backgrounds, are scared to lose their jobs.

"They're put in a very difficult situation," Lopez said. "If they speak out, their job might be on the line -- the guest is always right. They're afraid to speak out and complain to management because they know they might be disciplined and might be found guilty."

Hotels also don't always act promptly to address complaints of sexual assault, she said. In the case of the maid allegedly attacked by Omar, the superintendant to whom she reported the incident only noted it in a log book. It was only after another supervisor saw the entry the next day that police were contacted.

Union officials say hotels should make sure housekeepers work with another person in close proximity, doors are left open during cleaning and maids have the option of wearing long pants instead of dresses.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Tuesday
May312011

New Charges for Accused 9/11 Mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed

FBI/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) –- The U.S. government re-filed charges Tuesday against alleged Sept. 11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and four other suspected conspirators, paving the way once again for the group to be tried in a military tribunal.

The group, which in addition to Mohammed includes Muhammad Salih Mubarak Bin 'Attash, Ramzi Binalshibh, Ali Abdul Aziz Ali and Mustafa Ahmed Adam al Hawsawi, will face eight charges ranging from conspiracy and murder in violation of the law of war to terrorism.

"The charges allege that the five accused were responsible for the planning and execution of the attacks on New York, Washington D.C. and Shanksville, Pa. that occurred on September 11, 2001," the Department of Defense said in a statement announcing the charges. "Those attacks resulted in the deaths of nearly 3,000 people."

Mohammed was originally scheduled to be tried by military tribunal after his arrest in 2003, but the charges against him and his alleged co-conspirators were dropped when the Obama administration attempted to move the proceedings to the civilian federal court system. But after an outcry from New York city officials, where the trial would've taken place, and a protest in Congress, the government reversed its position in April.

Mohammed confessed to his role in the most horrific terror attack in U.S. history in 2008.

President Obama, both as candidate and as president, strongly objected to the military tribunals set up by the Bush administration. In 2006, he said their structure was "poorly thought out" and immediately upon taking office, he signed an executive order to close the detainee center at Guantanamo Bay. He later said that the tribunals "failed to establish a legitimate legal framework and undermined our capability to ensure swift and certain justice."

When the government announced Mohammed and the others would be tried in military courts, rather than civilian courts, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder said the Obama administration still intends to eventually close the detention center at Guantanamo Bay.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Tuesday
May312011

Iraqi Nationals in Kentucky Indicted On Terror Charges

Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images(BOWLING GREEN, Ky.) -- Two Iraqi nationals have been arrested in Kentucky and indicted on federal terrorism charges, the U.S. Justice Department announced Tuesday.

Waad Ramadan Alwan, 30, and Mohanad Shareef Hammadi, 23, both former residents of Iraq, are charged with attempting to support terrorists, including al Qaeda in Iraq.

Neither of the men is charged with plotting attacks within the United States.

Alwan is charged with:

  • Conspiracy to kill U.S. nationals abroad
  • Conspiracy to use a weapon of mass destruction (explosives) against U.S. nationals abroad
  • Distributing information on the manufacture and use of IEDs
  • Attempting to provide material support to terrorists and to al Qaeda in Iraq
  • Conspiracy to transfer, possess and export Stinger missiles


Hammadi is charged with:

  • Attempting to provide material support to terrorists and to al Qaeda in Iraq
  • Conspiracy to transfer, possess and export Stinger missiles


Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Tuesday
May312011

Missouri Officials: 10 People Still Missing After Joplin Tornado

Julie Denesha/Getty Images(JOPLIN, Mo.) -- State officials on Tuesday released a revised list of people who remain unaccounted for following last week's deadly tornado in Joplin, Mo.

Ten people remain unaccounted for, while 144 people who were once considered missing have been reported located, according to the Missouri officials.

"Our 24-hour a day effort continues," said Andrea Spillars with the Missouri Department of Public Safety. "Since Gov. Nixon directed the Department of Public Safety to take charge of locating all unaccounted-for individuals, and notifying the next-of-kin of all the confirmed deceased, the Highway Patrol has devoted all available personnel to this effort. The department, the Patrol and SEMA are committed to continuing this around the clock effort."

Officials have made contact with the next-of-kin of 120 deceased individuals.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Tuesday
May312011

Casey Anthony's Mom Cries Over Finding Caylee's Favorite Doll

Orange County Government, Florida(ORLANDO, Fla.) -- The mother of Casey Anthony, the Florida woman accused of murdering her two-year-old daughter Caylee, cried Tuesday as she testified about finding her granddaughter's favorite doll and using Clorox wipes and Febreze to get rid of a smell of death on it.

When Cindy and George Anthony picked up their daughter's Pontiac Sunfire from a tow yard on July 15, 2008, a powerful stench in the car prompted Cindy Anthony to ask her husband, "What died?"

Casey Anthony, 25, faces a series of charges related to the disappearance and death of Caylee, ranging from first degree murder to providing false information to law enforcement.  She could face the death penalty if convicted of the most serious charge.

With her voice quavering, Cindy Anthony described her first reactions after her husband pulled their daughter's car into their garage.  The grandmother of Caylee cried when she was shown a picture of the little girl's car seat.

"Casey's purse was on the front seat and Caylee's baby doll, her favorite doll was in the car seat like it was sitting where Caylee would have sat and I noticed Caylee's backpack in the trunk of the car," Cindy Anthony testified.

"Caylee's doll smelled like the car so I took it out…I sat the doll down and I went and got a Clorox wipe and I wiped the face and hands.  The body was soft and so it smelled pretty bad…I sprayed Febreze all through the car thinking that might help the odor…I used pretty much a whole can of Febreze."

Cindy Anthony said that receiving the notice that Casey's abandoned car had been towed proved her daughter had been lying to her and her husband about her whereabouts. Cindy Anthony and her husband removed the Pontiac's car battery just in case their daughter came home and tried to take the car.

The pickup of the car proved a turning point for the family. Caylee's grandparents hadn't seen her since mid-June, but it wasn't until the discovery of the car and their daughter's lies on July 15, 2008, that they called police. Cindy Anthony called authorities to report Caylee was missing and that her daughter's car smelled like there had been a dead body in it.

Cindy Anthony is the second member of Casey Anthony's immediate family to take the stand.  Her father, George, testified several times last week.

Earlier Tuesday morning, Lee Anthony, Casey's brother, scored a victory when Judge Belvin Perry approved a motion that will allow him to sit in daily during the trial. A similar motion was filed to allow George and Cindy Anthony to sit in on the trial. Lee Anthony is also expected to testify. 

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Tuesday
May312011

Bus Overturns Along I-95; Dead, Injured Among Wreckage

Handout Photo(CAROLINE COUNTY, Va.) -- At least four people are reported dead and others injured after a bus overturned along Interstate 95 near Caroline County, Va., early Tuesday morning, according to Virginia State Police.

The number of people injured in the crash was not immediately known, but the Richmond Times-Dispatch quotes a police spokesman who says nearly 60 people were on the bus at the time of the accident.

It was not immediately clear what may have caused the crash.

On Tuesday, the Department of Transportation issued an "unsatisfactory safety rating" and suspended all service of the North Carolina-based bus company, Sky Express Inc.  DOT says the company had violated several federal safety regulations.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Tuesday
May312011

Egyptian Banker Arrested on Sex Crime Allegation by Maid at NY Hotel

Digital Vision/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- A prominent, 74-year-old Egyptian former bank chairman, Mahmoud Abdel Salam Omar, was arrested at New York's Pierre Hotel Monday morning in connection with an alleged sex assault Sunday on a 44-year-old room maid.

The attack allegedly took place when the woman delivered tissues Omar requested to his room.

The incident recalled allegations against another international finance official at a New York City hotel earlier this month.  On May 14, a maid at the Sofitel Hotel claimed former International Monetary Fund leader Dominique Strauss-Kahn sexually assaulted her in his Manhattan hotel suite.  Strauss-Kahn is under house arrest in New York as his case proceeds.

Omar was arrested on charges of sexual abuse, unlawful imprisonment, forcible touching and harassment.

According to sources, the executive was clad in pajamas when he answered the door to let the maid in.  He then allegedly groped her breasts and tried to kiss her before she fled.

Sources told ABC News that when the maid arrived, he asked her to leave the tissues on a table inside his room.  Once she was in the room, he allegedly closed the door and locked it.

Omar then allegedly grabbed the maid, kissed her and fondled her breasts and buttocks.  She fought him off and, according to sources, told him she wasn't there for that.  He then grabbed her again.  This time, sources say, he rubbed up against her and she again resisted him.  He then asked for her phone number.  She gave him a false number, and he let her out of the room.

"Experienced NYPD detectives found the complainant to be credible," said New York Deputy Police Commissioner for Public Information Paul Browne, who promised "further details" upon Omar's arraignment.

Omar now heads El-Mex Salines Co., a solar salt producer in Egypt.  He had been chairman of the Bank of Alexandria, sources said.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Tuesday
May312011

44.6 Million Americans on Food Stamps

George Doyle/Stockbyte(WASHINGTON) -- The number of Americans who rely on the federal government for help buying food continued to increase in March.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture estimates 44,587,238 people received SNAP benefits, commonly referred to as "food stamps" -- up 1 percent from February and an increase of more than 11 percent over last year.

Nearly 21 million households are in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program.

Congress is considering plans to make deep cuts in this program.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio







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