Convicted Murderer Justin Walker's Facebook Page Has Been Disabled by the Social Network

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(PALO ALTO, Calif.) -- Facebook has deactivated the page of a convicted murderer who had access to a BlackBerry in his Oklahoma prison because it violated the social network's policy.

"In Oklahoma, it is against the law to possess a cell phone in jail," Facebook spokesman Andrew Noyes told ABC News on Thursday. "Since his activity was unlawful in that state, we disabled the profile yesterday."

Facebook shut down Justin Walker's page Wednesday after ABC News reported on how the prisoner, incarcerated for murdering a sheriff in 2006, had managed to update his Facebook account from behind bars with photographs and complaints about prison life.

Cathy Lawrence, the mother of the man whom Walker killed, said Wednesday that she was furious to learn that he was able to get a BlackBerry in his cell and has been corresponding with friends and posting photos on Facebook.

"It probably wouldn't be printable what I think about Justin Walker having a cell phone in prison," Lawrence said from her home in Bristow, Okla. "I feel like he's allowed to keep on living his life and he deprived my son of his life and his four children of a father."

"It's insulting that Walker would do something like that," she added.

Walker, 32, was convicted in April 2006 of murder in the second degree after striking a plea deal in the death of Pawnee County Sheriff Dwight Woodrell Jr., who was shot and killed Oct. 13, 2001, while investigating a burglary.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio


First Lady Dedicates Homes for Ailing Service Members & Veterans

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(BETHESDA, Md.) -- At Bethesda Naval Medical Center, first lady Michelle Obama dedicated three new residences which will provide free lodging for veterans, service members and their families while they or a loved one are treated at a nearby hospital.

“Often, in order to heal, our service members need more than just the best medical treatment.  They also need folks who will travel that road to recovery with them,” Mrs. Obama said.  “That is what Fisher House provides for so many military families.  That chance to be together when they need each other most.  Houses like this one allow them to leave behind their worries about costs and logistics and focus on what matters most, helping their loved ones heal.”

The residences were donated to the military by the Fisher House Foundation, which has provided 53 homes at military and VA medical centers across the country.  The residences at Bethesda Naval Medical Center will provide free lodging to up to 60 families of veterans and service members seeking treatment at nearby facilities.  Fisher Homes consist of between eight and 21 suites with private bedrooms and baths, with families sharing a kitchen, dining and living area.

“This house and others like it across the country remind us of a simple truth that when our men and women in uniform are called to serve, their families serve too.  Their sacrifice is their families sacrifice as well,” Mrs. Obama said.  “And that’s particularly true in times of crisis when our service members and veterans are sick or wounded and are struggling to get well again.” 

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio 


Prop 8 Sponsors Call for Disqualification of Judge  

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(SAN FRANCISCO) -- Lawyers for the sponsors of Proposition 8 -- California’s ban on same-sex marriage -- filed a motion Wednesday night to have Judge Stephen R. Reinhardt, one of the three Ninth Circuit judges set to hear an appeal of the case, disqualified because Reinhardt’s wife, Ramona Ripston, serves as the executive director of the ACLU in Southern California.

On Monday, the appeals court is set to hear a constitutional challenge to the controversial ballot measure. Last summer, a district court judge struck it down.

In a motion for disqualification, the lawyers point out that Ripston not only served for the ACLU which filed an amicus brief in the case, but she also met with plaintiff’s lawyers.

According to the brief, “The facts of this case would plainly lead a reasonable person to conclude that Judge Reinhardt’s impartiality might reasonably be questioned. His wife and the organization she leads have not only been active in seeking to redefine marriage in California and active in opposition to Proposition 8, but they have been active participants in this very lawsuit: Plaintiffs’ attorneys consulted with Ms. Ripston before filing suit.”

Last February, the ACLU announced that Ms. Ripston was retiring effective February 2011.

Reinhardt, who was nominated to the bench by President Jimmy Carter, is set to hear the case with two other judges, N. Randy Smith, a George W. Bush nominee, and Michael Daly Hawkins, a Clinton nominee.

The filing comes after conservatives have questioned Reinhardt’s ability to remain objective in the case. Ed Whelan of the conservative Ethics and Public Policy Center has written, “How is it possible that Reinhardt’s impartiality in this case couldn’t reasonably be questioned when his wife took part in confidential discussions with plaintiffs’ lawyers over whether they should pursue the case?”

Judge Reinhardt has denied the  motion to disqualify him from Monday’s Prop 8 trial, writing, "For reasons that I shall provide in a memorandum to be filed in due course, I am certain that a reasonable person with knowledge of all the facts would [not] conclude that [my] impartiality might reasonably be questioned."

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio


Congress Approves Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act

Photo Courtesy - ABC News Radio(WASHINGTON) -- The House passed the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010 on Thursday by a vote of 264-157. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi had joined Democrats on Wednesday to call for the swift passage of the bill.

The $4.5-billion bill, which passed unanimously in the Senate last August, would expand eligibility for school lunch programs, establish nutrition standards for all school meals, and encourage schools to use locally sourced food. It would also raise the reimbursement rate to six cents per meal, marking the first time in over 30 years that Congress has increased funding for school lunch programs.

Passage of this legislation helps to advance the Obama Administration's goal of addressing the childhood obesity problem within a generation -- a sentiment at the heart of the first lady's "Let's Move!" campaign.

Despite their support, some Democrats opposed the way the Senate bill is funded, since it would take $2.2 billion away from food stamp programs. Rep. Rosa DeLauro, D-Conn., fought back against critics who questioned the legislation’s hefty price tag. "Some folks will say, ‘How can we afford this bill at the moment?,’" she said. "How can we afford not to pass it? Leaving millions of children hungry and malnourished now in the name of budget cutting is penny wise and pound foolish."

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio


Treasury Designates Pakistani-Based Terrorists

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(WASHINGTON) -- The U.S. Treasury Department has designated two of Pakistan's most infamous terrorists: Amanullah Afridi and Mati ur-Rehman, both of whom are high up in Pakistan-based terrorist organizations. Treasury Department "designations" prohibit U.S. citizens from engaging in any transactions with designees and freezes any assets the designees have under U.S. jurisdiction.

Afridi is senior leader of Lashkar-e Jhangvi (LJ), which is responsible for numerous terrorist attacks, including the January 2002 kidnapping and murder of the U.S. journalist Daniel Pearl. Mati ur-Rehman is LJ's chief operational commander.

The Treasury Department designated a third individual Thursday, Abdul Rauf Azhar, for being a senior leader of Jaish-e Mohammed (JEM).

"Today's designation of two terrorist organizations responsible for deadly attacks against innocent civilians in Pakistan, Afghanistan and India," said Under Secretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence Stuart Levey. "All three of today's targets are actively involved in leading or planning operations on behalf of these dangerous terrorist organizations."

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio


Relatives of Murdered Family Speak Out in Court

Photo Courtesy - ABC News(NEW HAVEN, Conn.) -- Heartrending statements made Thursday by relatives of the family brutally murdered during a 2007 home invasion brought the packed Connecticut courtroom to tears, as convicted killer Steven Hayes stared straight ahead, silently awaiting his sentence of death.

In a videotaped statement played to the courtroom, Cynthia Hawke-Renn, the sister of Jennifer-Hawke Petit, who was killed alongside her two daughters, Hayley and Michaela, said Hayes took away "the joy from every single day."

"Last night I had the repeated nightmare that I am Hayley struggling in flames and smoke," said Hawke-Renn. "With palpitations I awaken, left to wonder how does this nightmare ever end."

"I used to have trust and faith in humanity and you have taken that from me," she said. "You did not have to murder or rape any of them."

Hayes is convicted of raping and strangling Hawke-Petit and accused accomplice Joshua Komisarjevsky is charged with sexually assaulting 11-year-old Michaela Petit. Michaela and her older sister Hayley, 17, died after they were tied to their beds, doused with gasoline and the house was set on fire. Last month, the jury unanimously found the death penalty the appropriate punishment for Hayes' role in the triple murders.

Hawke-Renn said that Hayes will die a "peaceful" death when he's given a lethal injection, "one without pain."

"I would have given anything for my loved ones to have died in this same peaceful manner," she said.

William Petit Sr., the father of Dr. William Petit Jr., the husband and father of the victims who was badly beaten with a bat, was the only person to survive the attack on his Cheshire, Conn., home, said in his statement that his family "will never be the same."

"You destroyed our family," said Petit Sr., breaking down into tears. "[Dr. Petit] will never walk them down the aisle, he will never know the wonderment of grandchildren."

"He doubts if he should be living at all. We have lost the [Dr. Petit] we all knew," he said. "He puts on a brave face. It works for a while but there is no way of forgetting the brutal truth."

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio


Hearing Held on Repeal of 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell'

Photo Courtesy - Scott J. Ferrell/ Congressional Quarterly/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- The Senate Armed Services Committee opens a hearing Thursday on repeal of the "don't ask, don't tell" policy.

Defending his call for Congress to repeal the policy, Defense Secretary Robert Gates will ask senators to give the military time to work through what he says could be a wrenching change.

The key to success, as with most things military, is training, education and, above all, strong and principled leadership up and down the chain of command," Gates says.

The committee will hear from the military chiefs of each service on Friday.  The general in charge of the Marines has publicly warned about the consequences of repeal.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio


New Insurance Institute Report Calls for Bumper Standards

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(ARLINGTON, Va.) -- A new report by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety is calling for federal bumper standards after a study of collisions between passenger cars and SUVs showed extensive damage in low speed collisions.

The institute tested seven pairs of vehicles in rear end collisions at just 10 miles an hour.  Each crash consisted of a car and an SUV from the same manufacturer.

The testers found that because the bumpers of SUVs don't line up with those of cars, collateral damage follows when they get into a crash.

"Bumpers are designed to bump," says the institute's Joe Nolan.  "They're supposed to be the first line of defense in low speed collisions.  When the bumpers don't line up, then they're hitting other parts of the car that aren't designed to be impacted, like hoods and trunks."

In one test, a Nissan Rogue -- an SUV -- was pushed into a Nissan Sentra sedan at 10 miles an hour.

"Instead of hitting the Sentra's bumper, it hits the Sentra's trunk and tail lamps.  And in turn, the Sentra bumper hits the Rogue's air condition condenser and the radiator, spilling all of its fluid," says Nolan.

Nolan adds, "So [with] this 10-mile-per-hour crash we have total over $7,000 in damages and one vehicle that needs to be towed away from the scene."

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio


FTC Considers 'Do Not Track' Setting to Stop Online Data Mining

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- People concerned that every move they make on the Internet is being followed by advertising networks have an ally in the Federal Trade Commission, which supports tougher restrictions on online data gathering.  The FTC Wednesday endorsed a “Do Not Track” setting in browsers that would enable users to block online ad companies from gathering information on them.

Despite the industry’s insistence that it can police its own actions, the head of the nation’s top consumer protection agency says he doesn’t believe it.

FTC chairman Jon Leibowitz charged that “industry efforts to address privacy through self-regulation have been too slow, and up to now have failed to provide adequate and meaningful protection.”

An effort called the National Advertising Initiative, which supposedly allows users to opt out of advertising networks that track their movements, hasn’t been successful, according to Leibowitz.  Therefore, the FTC proposed a user-friendly “do not track” option that enables people to tell any website not to track them for advertising purposes.  Leibovitz wants browser makers such as Google, Mozilla, Microsoft and Apple to devise “do not track” technology for its customers.

Since the idea is in the planning stages, much needs to be worked out in the meantime, including whether the government can force the online advertising industry to comply without congressional action.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio


Michelle Obama Kicks Off the Holiday Season at the White House

Photo Courtesy - The White House(WASHINGTON) -- “It’s Christmas! It’s exciting!,” first lady Michelle Obama yelled from the festive East Room of the White House Wednesday afternoon.

Mrs. Obama got in the holiday spirit in the newly decorated White House Wednesday, welcoming the families of military members to see the new décor.

“This is a very exciting time here at the White House for me and our family,” Mrs. Obama said. “And I have to say the house looks more beautiful than it did last year.  It is really something special."

Mrs. Obama mentioned the highlights of this year’s Christmas decoration -- the giant Bo replica which she called “shocking,” and the 350-pound gingerbread house. Mentioning the theme of “Simple Gifts,” the first lady said that that is really what the holiday season is all about.

“In the end, the greatest blessings of all are the ones that don't cost a thing -- the time that we spend with our loved ones, the freedoms we enjoy as Americans, and the joy we feel from reaching out to those in need.”

For the second time in two years, the White House has teamed up with Toys for Tots to help collect toys.

After her speech, Mrs. Obama went to the State Dining Room of the White House where “creative stations” were set for children to make holiday ornaments, cards and decorated gingerbread cookies.

Mrs. Obama took off her formal jacket and helped decorate a card, and fold magazine pages to make a recycled Christmas tree.

A child gave Mrs. Obama a cookie she had decorated.

“That is delicious,” she said after taking a big bite of the cookie.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio

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