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Friday
Feb042011

Senators Say FBI & DOD Could Have Prevented Ft. Hood Shooting

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(WASHINGTON) - The FBI and Department of Defense Thursday reacted to a new Senate report that blames the two departments for failing to recognize or act on the extremist views of the 2009 Fort Hood shooter, Army Major Nidal Malik Hasan.

The report, from Senate Homeland Security Committee chairman Joe Lieberman and ranking Republican Susan Collins, says the FBI and DOD could have prevented the shooting if they had identified Hasan’s radical Islamist views and disciplined or discharged him before the attack occurred.

"Our report’s painful conclusion is that the Fort Hood massacre could have and should have been prevented," Lieberman said at a press conference.

"The Fort Hood massacre resulted because of what I would call a tragedy of errors – just one after another - by organizations that normally perform effectively. But in this case – for a host of various reasons and frankly some things that are hard to explain – just totally failed to act in a way that as you look back at the evidence with the clarity of hindsight just shouts out, ‘Stop this guy before he kills somebody!’ And he was not stopped," Lieberman said.

Both the FBI and the Department of Defense reacted to the report and pledged continued efforts to mitigate such threats in the future.

"We appreciate the committee's efforts to examine circumstances surrounding the Fort Hood shooting incident," the DOD said in a statement. "The Department places a high priority on implementing recommendations that will strengthen policies, programs and procedures that contribute to the safety and health of our military forces."

Among new prevention and education policies at the DOD include educating personnel of potentially destructive behavioral indicators and new, more accessible personnel records.

The FBI said it has already undertaken improvements that came as a result of an internal investigation immediately following the incident, but will adopt those changes recommended by the report that they deem appropriate.

"While concluding that the FBI’s transformation to an intelligence-driven organization remains a work in progress, the report recognizes the FBI’s substantial progress and many successes, led by Joint Terrorism Task Forces, in disrupting terrorist plots by homegrown extremists," the FBI said in a statement.

The November 2009 shooting killed 13 people and wounded 32 others.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Thursday
Feb032011

Caught on Tape: Houston Teen Beaten By Police

Photo Courtesy - ABC News | KTRK-TV(HOUSTON) -- A surveillance video shot almost a year ago apparently shows Houston police officers relentlessly beating, kicking and stomping on a teen burglary suspect was just released to the public.

The footage was released by Quanell X, a Houston activist, on Wednesday. It was shown on ABC's Houston station, KTRK-TV.

Right after the attack, "We began to mobilize and organize the community for justice for Mr. Holley and for the community who wanted to view the tape," Quanell X told ABC News. "From day one, I was always subtly threatened by police officers, and the mayor of Houston who made a statement at the very beginning of the case that if anyone possessed a copy of the tape it would be considered theft and would be prosecuted."

The video shows Chad Holley, who was 15 years old at the time, running along a metal fence away from police officers when a police car speeds towards him and cuts him off. The car slams into Holley. Holley's body goes flying across the car onto the ground. His body rolls and he ends up on his stomach. He clamps his hands over his head. Policemen run up to him and begin attacking him. The boy remains limp on the grass while police officers kick him from all sides. Only his feet move, apparently in reaction to the officers' kicks. One police officer then begins stomping on Holley's feet, and some officers kneel down on the ground beside him and start punching him. After being beaten for about two minutes by several police officers, Holley is handcuffed, and then picked up and thrown against the back of the police car.

The footage was captured on March 24, 2010 by a camera at Uncle Bob's Self-Storage. The storage facility sent its surveillance video to the Houston Police Department and the District Attorney within a week of the incident.

Holley was found guilty in October 2010 of stealing cash, jewelry and a keyboard from a Houston townhouse. The surveillance video was not shown at his trial. He was put on probation for two years. His attorney, however, insisted that Holley had nothing to do with the burglary.

After the video was given to the police department last year, eight police officers were suspended without pay. Following separate investigations by the department's Internal Affairs Division and the Harris County District Attorney's Office, four officers -- Andrew Blomberg, Phil Bryan, Raad Hassan and Drew Ryser -- were indicted on misdemeanor official suppression charges and fired from the police department. Hassan and Bryan were also charged with violation of the civil rights of a prisoner.

Three other officers were fired, but not charged, and another five were suspended for two days.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Thursday
Feb032011

Super Bowl in Super Weather Mess: Dallas Hit with Bitter Cold, Ice

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(DALLAS) -- The week long party that traditionally leads up to the Super Bowl was brought to a standstill in Dallas this year by a winter storm that coated the area with ice and plunged temperatures into the teens. Around Cowboys Stadium in Arlington, wind chill readings even hit the subzero mark and the region is expected to receive up to an inch of snow over the next 24 hours.

Since a major storm Tuesday, which temporarily shut down Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport, temperatures have remained below freezing, keeping portions of the city frozen, and preventing city crews from clearing all the roads.

"All we need is a couple of warm hours and some sunlight and this will all be a memory, explained David Schechter, senior reporter at ABC affiliate WFAA-TV in Dallas. "Many are saying this is the worst weather event since the 1980's."

Adding to the misery in Dallas is the decision by, Oncor, the local power company to implement rolling power blackouts. According to Schecter, some area residents said they had to suffer through the outages, while hotels and other facilities associated with the Super Bowl got special treatment.

Cowboys Stadium, for example, was exempt from the electrical outages at the request of local officials, while two hospitals that were not supposed to be affected experienced them.

NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy said some hotels experienced "brief but expected" blackouts without any problems, and a hotel spokesman said both team hotels have backup generators so any power outage was brief.

Temperatures are expected to be above freezing Friday afternoon for the first time in more than four days and the National Weather Service forecast for game day on Sunday calls for highs in the mid-50s.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio 

Thursday
Feb032011

Early Census Numbers Show Strong Population Shifts

Photo Courtesy - Spencer Platt/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) – Early data released by the United States Census Bureau Thursday shows some significant changes in the four states that the numbers represent, and certain changes may serve as indicators for the nation as a whole.

The four states that had information released on Thursday were New Jersey, Virginia, Louisiana, and Mississippi. In all of the states, Hispanic populations rose significantly. In Mississippi, Hispanics represent just 2.7 percent of the population, but that marks a 105.9-percent rise. In Virginia, that figure rose 91.7 percent.

Virginia’s population ticked just over 8 million, with most of the growth coming in the northern part of the state, closest to Washington, D.C. Prince William County grew by 43.2 percent and Fairfax County expanded by 11.5 percent since the last Census numbers were taken in 2000.

New Jersey’s data shows that Newark is still the state’s largest city with a population of 277,140, but the normally populous areas outside of New York City did not continue to grow at a pace similar to years past. Bergen County, the state’s largest, increased only 2.4 percent in size, while counties in the southern, eastern parts of the state grew at rates nearly four times that pace.

Expected migration took place from New Orleans, where Hurricane Katrina struck in 2003. Since information had not been tallied since 2000, the city’s population decreased 29.1 percent since the last Census. New Orleans still remained the largest city with 343,829 people, and Baton Rouge was the second most populous at 229,493. Louisiana’s Hispanic population rose by 78.7 percent.

There were no drastic changes in Mississippi, which lists Jackson, Gulfport, and Southaven as its three largest cities.

The significance behind the Census numbers lies in possible redistricting, and the change of seats in each state’s individual legislature. New Jersey, for instance, has set a 60-day limit to come up with a plan to redistrict its 40 legislative districts.

Next week, Arkansas, Indiana, Iowa, and Maryland will receive their Census data. All states will have complete numbers by April 1.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Thursday
Feb032011

Abortion Activists Attempt to Discredit Planned Parenthood with Second Video

Photo Courtesy - PlannedParenthood dot org(RICHMOND, Va.) -- The anti-abortion activist group Live Action has released its second undercover video in as many days purporting to reveal an "endemic problem" at the nation's Planned Parenthood clinics, which Live Action accuses of facilitating the sex trafficking of minors.

The latest video, shot in Richmond, Va., follows Tuesday's release of footage from inside a New Jersey clinic in which an employee is seen coaching people posing as a pimp and underage prostitute on how to cover up their illicit business.

Planned Parenthood fired the employee Tuesday night, hours after viewing the tape, and said that supervisors had immediately notified law enforcement of the alleged sex trafficking ring weeks earlier, after the encounter occurred.

The new video was shot Jan. 12 and features the same staged scenario involving a man and woman posing as sex workers and inquiring about sexually transmitted disease (STD) testing, birth control options and abortions for underage girls.

But unlike the first video, the Richmond clinic worker appears to act professionally and appropriately, informing the couple of their legal rights to privacy under the law, regardless of their backgrounds.

"We see people from, um, every walk of life," said the clinic worker. "So, no judgment, no sharing of information, like, uh, nothing here."

The worker also laid out legal guidelines for a minor seeking an abortion, including the requirement of parental consent or permission from a judge before one can be performed.

"Our new video shows their Richmond clinic willing to aid and abet the sexual exploitation of minors and coaching a pimp about how girls as young as 14-15 could circumvent parental consent laws for secret abortions," said Live Action founder Lila Rose, a former associate of controversial conservative filmmaker James O'Keefe.

Rose has asked state Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli to investigate the centers to make sure they are compliant with state law. Cuccinelli's office said it had not yet received the letter.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio 

Thursday
Feb032011

Florida Grandfather Reclaims His Identity After 17 Years 

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(AUBURN, Calif.) -- A homeless man who allegedly stole the identity of a Florida grandfather who spent time in jail for a crime he did not commit was arraigned Thursday on multiple counts that include identity theft and welfare fraud, police said.

Joseph Kidd is accused of stealing Larry Smith's identity for 17 years, also costing Smith access to his medical benefits. The other charges against Kidd are giving false information to a police officer and grand theft of services.

In 1993, Kidd was arrested and fingerprinted in California for an unspecified, nonviolent crime as "Lawrence E. Smith," beginning a nightmare for the real Lawrence E. Smith, who lives in Lehigh Acres, Fla. Investigators say they have discovered that Kidd had a birth certificate, a marriage license and even a driver's license with Larry Smith's name on it. He married a woman in 2007, allegedly using the alias.

Amid the confusion, the real Larry Smith has been wrongly ticketed for driving a purple Camaro too fast in 2001, billed $300,000 by Medicare and almost had his driver's license revoked for offenses he didn't commit.

"I spent eight days in jail in 2006 and my wife was on the phone 24-7 saying that it's not me," Smith said. "She sent paycheck stubs from where I was working when these crimes occurred to prove it wasn't me."

Larry Smith said he can't recall ever meeting Kidd and has no idea why the man targeted him.

Kidd, using the name "Lawrence E. Smith," had violated his parole and police nationwide were looking for him in July of 2006, officials said. Florida police apparently thought the real Larry Smith was the wanted man and booked him into an Orlando jail.

Smith's wife took action, calling authorities to try and free her husband. Sue and Larry Smith were able to convince Florida authorities that he wasn't the Larry Smith they wanted. Police found Kidd, the man allegedly pretending to be Smith, in Arkansas. Kidd was extradited to California.

But, instead of correcting the error, police rebooked Kidd as "Lawrence E. Smith," officials said. Kidd served time in prison for his parole violation and when he was released, he was given a parole ID card with the alias on it as well.

"We get into law enforcement to do the right thing and when I see people who had the opportunity to do the right thing and took the short way out, it's frustrating," Det. Jim Hudson of California's Placer County Sheriff's Department said.

Hudson helped arrest Kidd Tuesday in Auburn, Calif. He said that Kidd, 56, is a transient and not a "respectable citizen." Kidd has been booked on several nonviolent crimes in California throughout the 17 years, Hudson said, declining to release details about the crimes for fear of damaging Smith's reputation any further.

Hudson, who focuses on cases of identity theft, was tipped off by Placer County welfare investigators after Kidd allegedly tried to apply for welfare benefits using Smith's name.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio 

Thursday
Feb032011

Son of Iowa Lesbians Fights Gay Marriage Ban

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(DES MOINES, Iowa) -- The latest Internet hero is Zach Wahls, a 19-year-old University of Iowa engineering student and Eagle Scout whose parents are lesbians.

Wahls gave a three-minute speech Tuesday before Iowa legislators urging them not to pass a constitutional amendment that would ban gay marriage and civil unions.

His words went viral across the Internet and had nearly a half million hits on YouTube Thursday.

"In my 19 years, not once have I ever been confronted by an individual who realized independently that I was raised by a gay couple," said Wahls. "And you know why? Because the sexual orientation of my parents has had zero affect on the content of my character."

Introducing himself as a "six-generation Iowan," Wahls said he had achieved the Boy Scouts' highest rank and attained a 99th percentile on his college aptitude test.

"If I was your son, Mr. Chairman, I believe I would make you very proud," he testified.

"I'm not really so different from any of your children, said Wahls. "My family really isn't so different from yours. After all, your family doesn't derive its sense of worth from being told by the state, 'You're married, congratulations!'"

Wahls' parents, Zacharia Wahls and Jacqueline Reger, of Iowa City, were married in Iowa in 2009. In his speech, he described his biological mother, who suffers from multiple sclerosis, as the "bravest woman I know."

Neither Wahls nor his parents returned calls and e-mails from ABCNews.com.

The year his parents wed, the Iowa Supreme Court unanimously legalized gay marriage, making it the third state and the first heartland state to allow same-sex couples to wed.

Gay marriage is now legal in New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Iowa, Vermont and Washington, D.C. New York, California, Rhode Island, New Mexico and Washington, D.C., recognize marriages by same-sex couples legally performed elsewhere.

Just last week Barbara Bush, the daughter of former President George W. Bush, expressed her support for same-sex marriage in a new online PSA video for the Human Rights Campaign, a gay rights group.

"My family eats together, goes to church on Sunday and goes on vacations, just like you," Wahls told legislators.

"No, the sense of family comes from the commitment we make to each other," he said. "To work through the hard times, so we can enjoy the good ones. It comes from the love that binds us. That's what makes a family.

"So what you're voting here isn't to change us. It's not to change our families. It's to change how the law views us. How the law treats us," he said.

A University of Iowa field poll from October of last year found that over 62 percent of Iowa voters oppose same-sex marriage, and only 28.1 percent supported gay marriage, reports the Iowa Family Policy Center.

The center's website states that the organization believes "that marriage is a permanent, lifelong commitment between a man and a woman. The group has lobbied for House Joint Resolution 6.

"IFPC affirms sexual relations within the bond of marriage, and opposes distortions of sexuality or special rights to those practicing distorted sexual behavior," said its website.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Thursday
Feb032011

Sen.Nelson: ‘Reasonable to Expect’ Kelly Will be on Shuttle Mission

Photo Courtesy - bill nelson[dot]senate[dot]gov(WASHINGTON) -- Astronaut Mark Kelly -- the husband of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords -- plans to announce Friday whether he’ll command the final space shuttle mission in April. A friend who talked to him Thursday told ABC News that it’s “reasonable to expect” that Kelly will be on board.

Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Fla., a former astronaut, said he spoke with Kelly Thursday morning while he was in Washington to speak at the National Prayer Breakfast. Based on the progress Giffords has made in her recovery from a shooting attack last month, Nelson said he thinks Kelly will choose to be part of the shuttle Endeavor crew.

“He's going to make his announcement tomorrow. I don't know what that's going to be. It is a tough decision for him but I think it's reasonable to expect that he will go on to command this mission in April, because I think Gabby is significantly improving every day,” Nelson, D-Fla., said on ABC’s Top Line Thursday.

Nelson pointed out that with Giffords recovering in Houston, he could be near her side while he trains for the shuttle mission -- training that’s scheduled to begin next week.

“The question is, is she improving enough so that he does not need to be by her side every day in order for her to continue the improvement? While he's training, she is right there in Houston. He'll still be able to see her. Obviously he would not see her while he goes into quarantine or when he is actually on the mission.”

“But that's only a choice for him and for the leaders of NASA to make. I don't know what that decision is, but that would be my advice from this perspective: if we hear that in fact she is improving as she is, then I think that would be a reasonable choice on his part.”

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Thursday
Feb032011

Suspected Gunman in Brazen Bellagio Casino Heist Arrested

(LAS VEGAS) -- Las Vegas police have arrested a suspect in a brazen casino heist, in which a man wearing a motorcycle helmet stole $1.5 million in chips at gunpoint from a craps table at the Bellagio Hotel in December.

Anthony Carleo, 29, was arrested Wednesday night on charges of robbery, burglary and drug trafficking according to the Las Vegas Metro Police.

Police said the trafficking charge resulted from the discovery of narcotics while investigating the robbery.

Carleo, the son of Las Vegas Municipal Court Judge George Assad, according to the Las Vegas Review-Journal, was arrested after meeting with undercover officers allegedly to sell the chips stolen in the heist.

He was arrested at a room in the Bellagio, staying as a guest in the very hotel he is accused of robbing, the paper reported. Police also executed a search warrant of the judge's home.

The Dec. 14 robbery at one of the strip's most famous casinos took place at just after 5 a.m., when a suspect dressed in black and wearing a helmet covering his face parked his motorcycle outside the casino and walked straight to the craps tables while brandishing a gun.

The robbery took less than three minutes, police said, before the gunman ran out of the casino and fled on his bike.

Carleo is being held on $15,000 bail, according to a search of the Clark County Detention Center's digital records, and will likely appear in court Friday.

Days before the Bellagio heist, a gunman wearing a motorcycle helmet and carrying a pistol robbed the poker room cashier at the Las Vegas Suncoast Casino, netting almost $20,000 in chips.

Police said at the time they believed the incidents were linked but there has been no word on whether Carleo will be charged for that crime as well.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Thursday
Feb032011

Rep. Giffords' Husband Attends National Prayer Breakfast

Photo Courtesy - Don Emmert/AFP/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- The husband of Arizona Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords made a special appearance at the annual National Prayer Breakfast in Washington, D.C. Thursday.

In his Navy captain's uniform, Mark Kelly made a rare trip away from his wife's hospital bedside and recited a prayer that was spoken over his wife hours after she was shot on Jan. 8.

"And behind you supporting you stands Raphael, God's angel of healing," Kelly prayed.

Kelly said Giffords' condition is what allowed him to be present at the event, and added that "it continues to improve."  He said doctors are pleased with the upward slope of his wife's recovery.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio







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