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Saturday
Jan222011

Death Threats Target California Governor Jerry Brown

Photo Courtesy - Justin Sullivan/Getty Images(LOS ANGELES) -- Authorities are investigating graffiti threats against California Gov. Jerry Brown, Catholics, and minorities.

Complaints of disturbing graffiti started last week, when a death threat appeared near two Catholic churches in the cities of Anaheim and Irvine, Calif. Orange County officials have since been inundated with reports of similar graffiti targeting African Americans, Asians, and Hispanics. The most recent crossed a political line, promising to kill the governor on Valentine's Day.

Investigators found a swastika on one defaced wall, beside the ominous warning: "26 MORE DAYS 4 BROWN." A second threat read, "We gonna kill GOV. BROWN 2/14/11." The walls have since been cleaned.

The scribblings are linked by certain idiosyncrasies in penmanship and spelling, according to The Los Angeles Times.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Saturday
Jan222011

Obama Administration May Delay Fannie-Freddie Proposal

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- The government may not release a proposal on the restructuring of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac before the Congressional deadline of Jan. 31.

The overhaul of Fannie and Freddie has been a delicate and urgent issue, with much debate concerning the extent of government regulation. The Dodd-Frank Law was the most sweeping legislation prompted by the recession, but it failed to offer a solution to the mortgage monopolies.

The Obama administration has been preoccupied with the State of the Union address, and reportedly plans to releasing the so-called "white paper" the week of Feb. 7, according to The Financial Times.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Saturday
Jan222011

Settlement Reached in FEMA Trailer Suit

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(NEW ORLEANS) -- The companies that made FEMA mobile homes will pay $2.6 million to people left homeless by Hurricane Katrina in 2005 who sued them over alleged exposure to dangerous levels of toxic formaldehyde.

The settlement affects several thousand people, but it does not involve the claims for residents who lived in smaller FEMA "travel trailers,” which housed the majority of storm victims.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Friday
Jan212011

Keith Olbermann Leaves 'Countdown' on MSNBC

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- Controversial liberal news anchor Keith Olbermann has left the MSNBC cable network after hosting its most popular nightly show, Countdown, for almost eight years.

"MSNBC and Keith Olbermann have ended our contract," NBC Universal said in a statement Friday. "The last broadcast of Countdown will be this evening. MSNBC thanks Keith for his integral role in MSNBC's success and we wish him well in his future endeavors."

The reasons for Olbermann's departure were not immediately clear.

Olbermann suggested as he signed off Friday that he was told abruptly his show was ending.

"I think the same fantasy has popped into the head of everybody in my business who has ever been told what I've been told -- that this is going to be the last edition of your show," he said. "You go directly to the scene from the movie Network, complete with the pajamas and the raincoat and you go off on an existential, otherworldly verbal journey of unutterable profundity and vision. You damn the impediments and you insist upon the insurrections, and then you emit Peter Finch's guttural, resonant, 'So --.' And you implore, you will the viewer to go to the window, open it, stick out his head and yell-- Well, you know the rest.

"In the mundane world of television goodbyes, reality is laughably uncooperative," he added.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Friday
Jan212011

Expert: Mob Takedown Shines Light on Fading, Aging, 'Pathetic' Mafia

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- When more than 125 suspected mobsters were rounded up in the biggest anti-mob operation ever by the FBI Thursday, a quick glance at both the names of those arrested -- sporting nicknames like "Meatball" and "Junior Lollipops" -- and the ages of the high-value targets -- none younger than 60 -- give the impression that the once almighty La Cosa Nostra has fallen on hard times.

"[The mob] is not monolithic and I think there are a lot of reasons for that," mob expert and author George Anastasia told ABC News. "Part of it is effective prosecution, which this is an example of... But also, the mob is getting old."

According to the FBI, there were six major players arrested in the 127-man round-up including the former boss of the New England La Cosa Nostra, a street boss for the Colombo family, and two consiglieres -- suspected right hand men to mob leaders. Of those six, the average age was 72.

Another reason for the mafia's apparent decline is the death of "omerta" -- the code of silence. Snitches like Sammy "The Bull" Gravano helped bring down big mob figures like John Gotti in the past and Janice Fedarcyk, the assistant director in charge of the FBI's New York Division, said informants were "integral" to Thursday's massive bust.

Fedarcyk said Thursday the cases were "the cumulative result of years of investigative work, including the development of key cooperating witnesses -- a trend that has definitely been tipping in favor of law enforcement."

"Thirty or 40 years ago, organized crime, La Cosa Nostra, was a major player in the underworld. Their impact was greater, they made more money and the public payed a bigger price for what they were doing... As they've gotten hit again and again and again with indictments and prosecutions and as they've turned on one another, their influence has deteriorated and they don't have the same kind of impact they used to have," Anastasia said. "They just don't have the power."

Former FBI agent and ABC News consultant Brad Garrett said the Italian mafia has been losing turf to more vicious gangs and even terrorist organizations -- leaving the mob a shadow of its former self.

"Unfortunately, they seem to be pathetic, because the world they controlled no longer exists," Garrett said.

Anastasia said the other reason the traditional mob is slowly fading into the background is that any intelligent, skilled would-be members are choosing legitimate jobs in medicine and law, rather than aspiring to be "wise guys."

"The guys in the mob today are the guys who can't make it anywhere and they're not as smart as the guys say 40 or 50 years ago," Anastasia said.

But while diminished, Anastasia said the mob is still dangerous, especially the alleged leaders arrested Thursday.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Friday
Jan212011

Rep. Gabrielle Giffords Lands in Houston for Rehab

Photo Courtesy - Greg Bryan/Arizona Daily Star/Pool Photo(HOUSTON) -- Rep. Gabrielle Giffords has landed in Houston, where she'll begin the next step of her recovery, focusing on rehabilitation at a renowned brain injury facility at the Texas Medical Center.

Before departing for Houston, Giffords left the Tucson hospital where she had been treated since suffering a gunshot to her head in an attack two weeks ago.

Giffords is being accompanied to Houston by her astronaut husband, Capt. Mark Kelly, her trauma surgeon, Dr. Peter Rhee, and her mother, Gloria Giffords.

In a sign of progress, Giffords was taken outside Thursday for the first time since the attack to give her some sunlight. She stood up Wednesday for the first time with assistance and looked out of a hospital window.

Giffords suffered a gunshot wound to her head Jan. 8 when Jared Lee Loughner allegedly opened fire at the Democratic congresswoman's event outside a Safeway grocery store in Tucson.

The motive behind the attack that killed six people and wounded 14 might never be understood, Giffords’ husband said. 

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Friday
Jan212011

Rape Suspect Who Cross-Examined Victim Found Guilty

Photo Courtesy - ABC News(TAMPA, Fla.) -- Luis Munuzuri Harris, the accused rapist who personally grilled his victim about the sex attack while acting as his own lawyer, has been found guilty but plans to appeal -- raising the possibility his victim will have to retell the ordeal again.

After 10 hours of deliberations Thursday, a Tampa jury found the convicted felon guilty of sexual battery, grand theft, kidnapping, impersonating a police officer, fraudulent use of personal information and fraudulent use of a credit card.

The charges stem from a July 2010 night when Harris drove along Bayshore Boulevard in Tampa impersonating an undercover narcotics officer. He pulled over the woman and raped her.

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

The trial ended in flamboyant fashion, much like it began. Both Harris and the woman he was found guilty of raping sobbed at the reading of the verdict.

During closing arguments, Judge Chet A. Tharpe ordered bailiffs to forcibly remove Harris from the courtroom when he began shouting. Pointing at jurors, Harris hurled accusations about the rape victim's arrest record and yelled, "I'm not waiving speedy trial." Bailiffs covered Harris' mouth with their hands as they exited the courtroom.

Harris, 31, is expected to be sentenced Feb. 17.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Friday
Jan212011

Investigation Prompts New USA Swimming Background Checks

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- USA Swimming, the sport's national governing body, launched a new background check program this week requiring all coaches, employees, volunteers and anyone else working with swimmers to pass a criminal background check.

The move comes nine months after an ABC News investigation revealed that 36 USA Swimming coaches had been quietly banned from the organization for sexual abuse of young swimmers they coached.

USA Swimming's new background check requirement is "designed to deter individuals who should not be working with athletes from ever applying for membership," the organization said on its website. "Additionally, it serves to identify any unsuitable criminal history of those individuals who do apply for membership."

Individuals working with swimmers who have never had a background check must now do so through Acxiom Information Security Services, Inc. by Feb. 15. "This group includes the vast majority of the officials in USA Swimming," said one local swim club in Virginia on its web site, "a very large number of individuals."

The background check includes a national database search for criminal convictions, including a sexual offender search in all states and other watch lists from national and international databases. There are also additional county criminal searches in places of previous residence.

Individuals will automatically be disqualified from USA Swimming for any felony or misdemeanor involving a sexual crime. Other disqualifiers include convictions, deferred sentences or pending charges of violence, crimes involving firearms, animal abuse, drug use or possession, and child endangerment, neglect or abuse.

The background check is valid for two years and is repeated monthly.

The ABC News investigation revealed that San Jose swimming coach Andy King had received a clean bill of health in 2008 from USA Swimming's existing background check program, even though he abused more than a dozen teen female victims over three decades up and down the West Coast. Less than one year after being approved again by USA Swimming, King was abusing a 12-year-old girl in a shed during swim practices.

The report led the U.S. Olympic Committee to announce it would centralize and standardize background check programs across all 32 Olympic sports, affecting approximately one million athletes.

Two days after the story aired, USA Swimming apologized in a letter to its hundreds of thousands of swimmers, parents and coaches across the country and pledged to implement child protection safeguards.

Since the investigation, more victims have come forward to tell their stories. At least two additional USA Swimming coaches have pleaded guilty to sexual misconduct charges with young swimmers and more are under investigation.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Friday
Jan212011

Winter Storm Blankets East Coast, Packs Icy Temperatures

Photo Courtesy - ABC News(NEW YORK) -- Winter weather is again making for tricky travel along the East Coast.

Some parts have seen more snow in a single month than is typical of the entire season. A winter storm is bringing more than just flakes, but also frigid, frozen conditions from Washington, D.C., up north to Maine.

Even before this latest storm, New York City has seen 31 inches of snow -- more than the yearly average of 27 inches -- and another two months of winter remain.
 
Nine states were under wind-chill advisories overnight from the midwest and Great Lakes, and that air was forecast to move east.

Temperatures in International Falls, Minn., reached a record minus-42 degrees Friday morning.

Snow totals in the Washington, D.C.-Baltimore area were forecast to reach one inch, while two inches was predicted for Philadelphia. New York City was forecast to receive two-five inches. Areas around Boston were to receive between five-nine inches. Somewhere between a half-foot and 12 inches of snow was forecast for areas around coastal Maine.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Friday
Jan212011

Police Hunt Woman Who Raised Kidnapped Carlina White

Carlina White pictured with her daughter. Photo Courtesy - Family of Carlina White(NEW YORK) -- The woman who raised kidnapped girl Carlina White for 23 years has dropped from sight as federal and New York law enforcement officials launched fresh probes into the girl's disappearance from a hospital in 1987.

Anne Pettway, the woman White called "Mom" while growing up, has several aliases, as well as a criminal history that includes charges of embezzlement, forgery, theft and drugs.  She's currently on parole for embezzlement charges in North Carolina, the New York Post reported.

Pettway left her home in North Carolina and did not turn up at her mother's home in Bridgeport, Connecticut, where she told the Post earlier this week she was heading.

Authorities have not named Pettway as a suspect.  Pettway has defended herself saying that she was a good mom.

"I just hope that the officials be able to get her in their hands, so we can just hear her side of the story now," White told the New York Post.

Carlina White has since been reunited with her biological parents, Joy White and Carl Tyson, and has described a childhood of abuse, telling the New York Post that the woman hit her and threw things like shoes at her.

At just 19 days old, Carlina White was abducted from Harlem Hospital on Aug. 4, 1987.  Her worried parents, Joy White and Carl Tyson, had taken their feverish baby to the hospital.

The family claims a woman disguised as a nurse took Carlina White.  The woman had reportedly just lost her own baby.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio







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