UPDATE: Missing Fishermen Found Alive

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(ATLANTIC CITY, N.J.) -- The search for six amateur fishermen who failed to return from an overnight fishing trip off the coast of Atlantic City, N.J. over the weekend has ended with relief.  The men were found alive Monday night after sending out a distress call. 

Their 32-foot boat, called Black Magic, was located by Coast Guard search and rescue approximately 123 miles east of Atlantic City, N.J.  Officials say the boat was apparently disabled.

David Umberger, a Coast Guard search and rescue controller, said the men were lucky, as the weather conditions had been ideal for the search.  The boat is expected to be towed back to shore overnight.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio


U.S. Citizen and Creator of Al Qaeda English-Language Magazine Proud to be a Traitor

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- Al Qaeda on the Arabian Peninsula has released a second issue of their online English-language magazine called Inspire, which U.S. officials say is designed to incite and recruit Western extremists to undertake terrorist activity and attacks.  The magazine’s second issue includes an article from Samir Khan, an American citizen from North Carolina who left for Yemen last year and is believed by U.S. officials to be the creator of the magazine, which is a collection of articles on conducting attacks and messages from terrorist leaders. 

The latest issue includes articles allegedly penned by Osama Bin Laden and radical Yemeni-American cleric Anwar Al-Awlaki, who has become a prominent member of Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, the group that has claimed responsibility for the failed Christmas Day bombing of Northwest flight 253.

Khan was born in Saudi Arabia but grew up in New York and eventually moved to North Carolina, where he was known for operating a handful of websites from his parents' basement, including one that had praised Osama Bin Laden and showed footage of attacks against U.S. forces in Afghanistan and Iraq.  Khan’s websites had been shut down at times. 

In an article titled “I Am Proud To Be a Traitor to America," Khan writes about becoming a traitor and leaving the U.S. He writes, “I praise Allah and laugh at the intelligence agencies that were watching me for all those years. Back in North Carolina, the FBI dispatched a spy on me who pretended to convert to Islam.” Khan notes that he is “Al Qaeda to the core…[and] could no longer reside in America as a compliant citizen."

Copies of the second issue of Inspire were first reported and found by researchers with the Washington D.C.- based Middle East Media Research Institute.

The online magazine is another telling example of the vast amount of terrorism-related propaganda that is floating around on the Internet.  Last year, the FBI’s Directorate of Intelligence estimated that there were as many as 15,000 websites and Web forums that were supportive of terrorist activities, and that about 80 percent of those sites existed on U.S.-based computer servers.  U.S. counterterrorism and intelligence analysts remain concerned about the spread of Internet propaganda and its ability to possibly incite violence.

Last month, FBI Director Robert Mueller testified before Congress, “The Internet has expanded as a platform for spreading extremist propaganda, a tool for online recruiting and a medium for social networking with like-minded extremists.  And this has contributed to the threat from homegrown radicalization in the United States.”

The magazine has several news items on the controversy over the placement of an Islamic Center near Ground Zero as well as the controversial Pastor Terry Jones, whose plan to burn Korans on September 11th prompted widespread outrage both in the U.S. and in the Muslim world before he ultimately decided against it. The magazine says the issue of the Islamic center “reveals to us the religious discrimination that exists in America.” Regarding the Jones controversy, the magazine notes, “The Qur’an burning event led by Terry Jones teaches us the crookedness of U.S. laws, specifically the first amendment on the freedom of speech.  It reveals that its law is a crime to billions of people who share the same planet.”

The Department of Homeland Security and the FBI issued an intelligence note after the first issue of Inspire was published online.  DHS and the FBI noted they were concerned “that the sophisticated, colloquial English-language magazine could appeal to certain Western individuals and inspire them to conduct attacks in the United States in the future.”

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio

“I Am Proud To Be a Traitor to America.”

Police Release New Details in Disappearance of Disabled Girl

Photo Courtesy - ABC News(HICKORY, N.C.) -- Police revealed new twists Monday in the investigation of missing 10-year-old Zahra Baker, including the existence of a $1 million ransom note, positive dog alerts for human remains in cars belonging to both of her parents, and doubts about the parents' timeline dating back as far as a month.

The little girl who lost her hearing and her left leg in a childhood battle with cancer was reported missing from her Hickory, N.C. home Saturday afternoon.

Her stepmother, Elisa Baker, has been arrested on charges unrelated to the girl's disappearance.

Former neighbors of the Bakers in Sawmills, N.C., described a troubled relationship between Elisa and Zahra Baker, though they described Zahra as a "normal, happy 10-year-old" with good manners who played well with neighboring children.

Hickory Police Chief Tom Adkins appealed for anyone who has seen the little girl in the last month to step forward, saying that the parents' timeline of events had "inconsistencies."  Because the girl was homeschooled, police said they're having trouble contacting anyone other than her parents who saw her recently.

"At this point in the investigation, we are having a very difficult time establishing a true timeline," Adkins said. "We are running out of time, folks.  The longer this thing goes, the likelihood this outcome will not be positive.  So we need help....This is going all over the place.

"We need teachers, we need doctors, we need store clerks.  We need anyone that has seen this girl in the last week, in the last month, anything that they feel is important for us to know," he said.

Search warrants for the Bakers' two cars and home contained confounding details, including the discovery of a $1 million ransom note left on one of the family's two vehicles.  The note, however, was not addressed to Zahra's parents, but to her father's boss, Mark David Coffey.

"Mr. Coffey, you like being in control who is in control now we have your daughter and your pot smoking red head son is next unless you do what is asked 1,000,000 unmarked will be in touch soon [sic]," read the handwriting on the note, according to the warrant.

"No cops" was also written twice on the note.

Coffey reportedly owns the property on which the Bakers live and was present the day Zahra was reported missing.

The ransom note was discovered on the windshield of Baker's car by officers responding to a fire in the Baker's backyard about 5:30 a.m.  However, it wasn't until 2 p.m. that Baker called police to report Zahra missing.

The father told police that someone had poured gasoline in his car during the night and left the ransom note, and that he believes his daughter was taken by whoever threatened Coffey.

Adkins said the police are "questioning the validity of that note" and have received no further demands.

The warrant also revealed that a search dog gave a "positive alert for the presence of human remains in or on both vehicles" belonging to Elisa and Adam Baker.

Investigators seized several items from the Baker home, including two gas cans, burn samples from the morning fire, and drug paraphernalia, the warrant states.  Two samples of "possible blood" were taken from one of the cars, according to a warrant.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio


NYPD Hunts Ninth Gang Member in Brutal Gay Assault

Photo Courtesy - ABC News/WABC-TV New York(NEW YORK) -- New York City police are searching for a ninth suspect accused of participating in a savage, night-long gang assault against a man and two teenage boys whom they accused of being gay, authorities said Monday.

A citywide manhunt is in place for Rudy Vargas-Perez, 22, who police say participated in a torture session that involved slashing the victims with box cutters, burning them with cigarettes, sodomizing them with a plunger handle and, in one case, forcing a victim to select the weapon with which he would be beaten -- a bat or pipe.

Cops denied reports that Vargas-Perez had offered to turn himself in and then ran off.

Perez's eight accused accomplices, all allegedly members of the Bronx gang the Latin King Goonies, were arraigned in court Sunday on hate-crime, robbery, assault, sexual abuse and unlawful imprisonment charges.

The nine members of the gang earlier this month heard a rumor that one of their 17-year-old recruits was gay. Early in the morning on Oct. 3, the gang members allegedly lured the teenager to an abandoned apartment, stripped him, beat him and sodomized him a plunger handle.

Prosecutors say the men then lured another 17-year-old boy and a 30-year-old man in to the apartment, where they were also tortured, in an attack city officials have condemned for its brutality.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio


Six Men Missing Off New Jersey Coast

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images

(ATLANTIC CITY, N.J.) -- Officials are searching for six men who failed to return from an overnight fishing trip off the coast of Atlantic City, New Jersey.

The Coast Guard has deployed rescue crews to the area where the group is believed to be missing. The six were due back Sunday morning, a day after sailing a 32-foot boat from Forked River.

They were reported missing by the wife of one of the men.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio


Police: Who Left Dynamite in a Cemetery?

Photo Courtesy - ABC News(NEW YORK) -- FBI agents and New York City police spent much of Monday at a lower Manhattan cemetery after eight sticks of the military explosive C4 were found there.  There was no detonator with the C4.  Hours before, a rambling note was found on the windshield of a police cruiser in front of the nearby ninth precinct headquarters.

The note contained religious statements in it and authorities are looking into it.  So far, they see no connection between the note and the explosives. 

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio


Expulsion Possible for Students at Overdose Party

Image Courtesy - Getty Images(ELLENSBURG, Wash.) -- The students involved in an off-campus party in Washington state that resulted in 12 young people suffering possible overdoses of a date-rape drug may face expulsion for violating the university's code of conduct.

Authorities on Monday were trying to determine who organized the party that may have been part of a larger date-rape scheme. As many as 50 students attended the Roslyn, Washington party that occurred 30 miles from Central Washington University, where many of the partygoers are students, according to Rosyln-Cle Elum police.

But what began as a typical college party soon spiraled out of control when 12 students -- most of whom are believed to be female -- were rushed to the hospital after suffering apparent overdoses.

Authorities have said they believe some sort of drug was surreptitiously slipped into the victims' drinks, although they didn't found evidence of drugs during a search of the home.

Students' punishments could range from mandatory alcohol education class to suspension or expulsion, according to a school official.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio


Book Hurled at President Obama, Streaker Detained at Philly Rally

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(PHILADELPHIA) -- A paperback book was hurled towards President Obama seconds after he completed a Democratic rally in Philadelphia on Sunday. Aides say the incident did not affect the event.

It is not clear how close the book came to the president.

The U.S. Secret Service found and interviewed the man who threw it, calling him an “overexhuberant” supporter who wanted the president to have a copy of a book he had written, according to Special Agent Edwin Donovan of the Secret Service in Washington.

“He was deemed not to be a threat and was not arrested,” Donovan told ABC News.

At the start of the rally, local police arrested a naked man for trying to streak past President Obama as he spoke.

A White House official traveling with President Obama to Philadelphia says the staff was aware of the streaker but did not see his attempt to dash in front of the stage.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio


Whistleblower: New Details in Suit Against Military Translator Company

Photo Courtesy - ABC News(NEW YORK) -- New details of allegations of fraud have emerged against a contracting firm that provides translators to the U.S. Army. The allegations were contained in a revised lawsuit filed in federal court in Virginia by a former manager at the company who claims that his former employer, Mission Essential Personnel (MEP), is sending unqualified translators to Afghanistan.

Paul Funk, who oversaw the screening of Afghan linguists for MEP, had seen his previous complaint against MEP dismissed on September 23rd by Judge Leonie Brinkema for lack of specificity. However, Brinkema dismissed Funk's case without prejudice and gave him leave to refile his suit no later than Oct. 7.

In his amended complaint, Funk provides new specifics to back up his claim that MEP, which holds a contract worth up to $1.4 billion to supply interpreters to the U.S. Army, was giving passing grades on language exams to some applicants who failed to meet the Army's proficiency standards. As a result, Funk alleged in his suit, the Columbus, Ohio-based contractor shipped unqualified linguists overseas to be embedded with American troops.

In the new filing, Funk names dozens of translators who he says were hired after failing proficiency exams and sent to serve alongside American troops. Funk alleges the company knowingly hired unqualified translators because the moment they went on MEP's payroll, the company could then bill the United States government for the costs. Once the translators were "in the pipeline," the lawsuit alleges, "salary and other payments to these individuals would then be reimbursed, with a cost-plus payment, by the United States."

Funk's attorney Kit Pierson told ABC News he will attempt to get court approval to review MEP's internal records to further support Funk's claims.

"Today's amended complaint describes MEP's activities in painstaking detail," Pierson said. "We now plan to subpoena documents from MEP and look forward to a speedy trial."

In an earlier interview with ABC News, Funk said he had determined that more than one quarter of the translators working alongside American soldiers in Afghanistan failed language proficiency exams but were sent onto the battlefield anyway.

"I determined that someone -- and I didn't know [who] at that time -- was changing the grades from blanks or zeros to passing grades," said Funk. "Many who failed were marked as being passed."

MEP has emphatically denied Funk's claims, and executives with the company told ABC News they believe Funk is disgruntled and said he threatened to "wage war on the company" after he "resigned due to financial improprieties in his office." Company officials said the dismissal of Funk's earlier complaint offers ample support to their position that the claims are groundless.

"As expected, the plaintiff has refiled his case against MEP for the third time," MEP spokesman Sean Rushton said in an email to ABC News. "We have not had time to fully review the complaint. We look forward to addressing the allegations in the new complaint in an appropriate manner under the rules of the court."

Rushton added that the company is "dedicated to supporting America's servicemen and women. Our process for recruiting, vetting, preparing, placing, and managing linguists and other professionals is the best of its kind, employing multiple safeguards. The US Government has awarded MEP the highest ratings for its performance and increased fill orders for our linguists by 1,300 percent in three years."

Marc Peltier, MEP's chief operating officer, said in an interview with ABC News that he had "no reports from the field" of translators who could not communicate in Dari or Pashto. He said the company has received "100 percent outstanding" ratings from the Army and shared a copy of what he said was an internal company survey that showed 82 percent of its customers were satisfied with the performance of its translators. In a letter to ABC News, CEO Taylor said the company was founded to provide U.S. troops with "the highest level of assistance possible" and "has not just lived up to its goals, but in working with our troops in the field, represents a genuine success."

The newly filed complaint outlines in far greater detail Funk's description of how he believes the company allowed poorly skilled translators to be hired, and why.

The complaint describes specific instances where Funk alleges that prospective translators who had "submitted blank written examinations to determine [their language] proficiency had received passing grades." Funk said he repeatedly sounded alarms about the alleged deficiencies, including in one memo in which he allegedly wrote that "Written Testing appears to be compromised."

In the suit, Funk says he was asked to retest three applicants who had failed the exam.

"The explanation provided was that one of the three had not had a dictionary at the time of the examination," the revised complaint alleges. "When re-tested, each of the three individuals passed the written examination. Mr. Funk's Deputy Director, Idin Pirasteh, discovered – and reported to Mr. Funk – a 'cheat sheet' that had been used by one or all of these individuals for the re-examination. This cheat sheet contained written answers to the test questions."

Whistleblowers who file such suits stand to collect a portion of any monetary judgment, should the legal action succeed.

Funk was asked about the company's questions about his motives by the website TPM, and he dismissed them. "They tried to smear me at the very end, and I had nothing to do with any of the problems that they might have said or accused me of," he said, speaking by phone from Iraq, where he is now working for a different contractor.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio


Cheney Appears Frail at First Public Event Since Heart Surgery

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(BAKERSFIELD, Calif.) -- Former vice president Cheney appeared frail and noticeably thin during a public appearance this weekend at the Bakersfield Business Conference.

Cheney’s office did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The former vice president has been on the mend since a July procedure to implant a Left Ventricular Assist Device (LVAD) into his heart. Cheney said at the time he was "entering a new phase of the [heart] disease" when he began to "experience increasing congestive heart failure."

Cheney was released from the hospital August 9.

The California event was Cheney’s second appearance this month. Last week, he spoke at a closed press event for the Council of Insurance Agents & Brokers in Colorado Springs.

Cheney’s history of heart problems includes five heart attacks, dating back to his first in 1978 when he was just 37 years old. His most recent one took place in February.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio

ABC News Radio