Obama Presents Robert Gates with Presidential Medal of Freedom

Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Defense Secretary Robert Gates knew he was going to receive a grand send-off Thursday from the military on his final day on the job, but he did not expect that President Obama would also honor him with the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civilian award.

President Obama and Vice President Biden were among the hundreds that gathered on a parade field outside the Pentagon that has sweeping views of Washington’s monuments.

The president praised Gates as “a remarkable public servant” and said he could think “of no better way to express my appreciation to someone who I have come to admire and whom I consider a friend.”  
Gates seemed genuinely surprised to receive the honor and jokingly told the president that it was “a big surprise, but we should have known a couple of months ago. You're getting pretty good at this covert ops stuff.”

Gates called serving as Defense Secretary the “greatest honor and privilege of my life.”  He thanked President Bush for “giving me this historic opportunity" and for President Obama’s confidence in asking him to stay on in the post even though Gates was “someone he did not know at all.”

President Obama said that Gates had earned the right to retire after serving seven Presidents, but that when Gates agreed to his request to continue to as Defense Secretary in his administration it was because he is a “humble American patriot, a man of common sense and decency: quite simply one of our nation’s finest public servants.”

Obama praised Gates for his advice on national security matters and dedication to having the Defense Department serve “our troops in the field as well as they serve us. “

The President described Gates’ greatest legacy as “the lives you saved and the confidence you gave our men and woman in battle who knew that there was a Secretary of Defense who had their backs and who loved them and who fought for them and who did everything in his power to bring them home safe."

In the end, Gates acknowledged that the troops would always be on his mind.  “I'll just say here that I will think of these young warriors -- the ones who fought, the ones who keep on fighting, the ones who never made it back -- till the end of my days.”

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Man Gets Past Airport Security; Boards Flight with Fake ID and Pass

Creatas/Thinkstock(LOS ANGELES) -- The Transportation Security Administration is facing many questions Thursday after a Nigerian man was arrested for getting past security and onto a flight at New York's John F. Kennedy International Airport with false documentation.

In a court document obtained by ABC News, an FBI agent who arrested Olajide Oluwaseun Noibe says he was able to board Virgin America Flight 415 to Los Angeles last Friday with a fake ID and stolen boarding pass.  The crew aboard the flight became suspicious they had a stowaway sitting in row three and turned Noibe over to authorities in Los Angeles, but for some reason he was released.

Noibe was then arrested on Wednesday at Los Angeles International Airport when he tried to get on a Delta flight bound for Atlanta.  After searching his bags, FBI agents say they found 10 boarding passes -- all apparently stolen.

Noibe is due in court in Los Angeles Friday.

Following the incident, the TSA said, "Every passenger that passes through security checkpoints is subject to many layers of security including thorough physical screening at the checkpoint.  TSA’s review of this matter indicates that the passenger went through screening.  It is important to note that this passenger was subject to the same physical screening at the checkpoint as other passengers."

The agency added that it could not "comment further on the specifics of the case given the ongoing FBI investigation."

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Los Alamos Fire: First Air Samples Show No Elevated Radiation

Joe Raedle/Getty Images(LOS ALAMOS, N.M.) -- The wildfire that surrounds the nuclear lab in Los Alamos, New Mexico, has grown to at least 61,000 acres amid mounting concerns about what might be in the smoke that's visible from space.

Such fear has prompted fire crews to set their own fires along the perimeter of the lab.  So far, the strategy is working.  The first air samples show lots of smoke, but no signs of elevated radiation.

"Those results show that what we see in this fire is exactly what we see in any fire across New Mexico," said Charles McMillan, the lab's director.

Environmental officials aren't taking any chances.  The Environmental Protection Agency is bringing in dozens of air monitors all around the state, along with a special airplane that takes instant radiation samples.  So far, officials have not been able to find anything amiss.

"Our facilities and nuclear material are protected and safe," McMillan told ABC News.

Some observers are worried not just about the barrels of nuclear waste stored at the lab, but also what's in the canyons that surround the sprawling complex.  Nuclear tests were performed in the canyons dating back to the 1940s.

"The trees have grown up during that time frame and the soil could be contaminated," said Rita Bates of the New Mexico Environment Department.  "If it gets heated and that stuff goes airborne, then we are concerned about that."

The canyons were a dumping ground for radioactive materials decades ago, but are now open to the public and are considered safe.

Still, one graduate student armed with a Geiger counter took to YouTube to show there was no shortage of metal or radioactivity.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


New York Teen Stabbed to Death on Graduation Day

Stockbyte/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- A star running back from a New York City high school was stabbed to death on his graduation day when his father got into a fight with parking lot workers over missing property, police said.

Isayah Muller, 19, from East Harlem, New York, died Tuesday evening at St. Barnabas Hospital in the Bronx.

His father, Andre Muller, 40, has been charged with assault and criminal possession of a weapon in connection with the brawl that resulted in his son's death, but is not charged with stabbing his son.  Police are still interviewing the parking lot workers.

The tragedy occurred after Andre Muller, Isayah, his mother Rosa, and the teen's girlfriend left the Truman High School graduation cemony at Lehman College in the Bronx and were heading to a celebration dinner at City Island, a fishing enclave in the north Bronx.

They had picked up their car at M.T. Jerome Town Corp Parking Lot on Jerome Avenue about 4 p.m. and were en route to the dinner when Andre Muller noticed property missing from his car, according to a New York Police Department statement.  New York newspapers reported the missing items were designer colognes that were meant to be gifts for Isayah.

"Andre Muller immediately turned the vehicle around and drove back to the lot, where an argument and fight ensued," the NYPD said.  During the melee, Isayah was stabbed, police said.

Cops responding to a 911 call came to the scene, but the Mullers were gone.  A frantic Andre Muller had driven his wounded son to a clinic 10 blocks away, police said.

Clinic staff called an ambulance, but Isayah died at 5:56 p.m.

Family and friends of Isayah, who was planning to attend Nassau County Community College, were reeling at the shocking news.

"I can't stop crying," said his sobbing great-grandmother, Rosalina Seda.  She said Isayah had just celebrated his 19th birthday.  She called him "remarkable," but was too upset to say more.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Will Casey Anthony Testify Before Defense Rests on Thursday?

Orange County Government, Florida(ORLANDO, Fla.) -- Casey Anthony's lawyer says he expects to wrap up her defense on Thursday, but it's still unclear if the Florida woman accused of murdering her daughter Caylee will take the stand and testify.

Judge Belvin Perry also warned the court to be ready to work through the July 4 holiday weekend.  He said it will be up to the jurors how much they want to work this weekend, but it is believed they will want to work since they are sequestered.

"I wouldn't make any plans for Sunday or Monday," Perry told the attorneys.

The announcement about the trial's progression followed an emotional day of testimony by George Anthony where he dealt a blow to his daughter's defense by saying she was the last one to see Caylee alive and by offering details about his 2009 suicide attempt.

The defense so far has used the testimony of others to try and bolster their theory that Caylee accidentally drowned in the family pool and that George Anthony, Casey Anthony's father, helped dispose of the body.  They claim that the 25-year-old mom hid the death like she hid years of alleged sexual abuse at the hands of her father.

George Anthony adamantly denied those claims today and with a pained voice revealed details about a suicide attempt he made just weeks after learning that Caylee's remains had been discovered in a wooded area near the Anthony family home in Orlando, Florida.

Anthony said he attempted suicide with a mixture of medications and beer, and described writing an eight-page suicide note.

The prosecution offered George Anthony's suicide letter in an attempt to rebut defense lawyer Jose Baez's suggestion that Caylee's grandfather tried to commit suicide out of guilt for some role he may have played in her death.

George Anthony told the jurors that in August 2008, he bought a gun in hopes of intimidating Casey Anthony's friends and associates to tell him Caylee's whereabouts and that he would then use the gun to kill himself.

During a morning of contentious questioning, Baez argued that George Anthony attempted to shift the focus of law enforcement to his daughter from the moment Caylee was reported missing and that his experience as a former police officer helped him do it.

But George Anthony's answers may not have helped his daughter's case.

"Definitely something happened to Caylee, she's no longer with us and Casey was the last one I'd seen with her…one and one adds up to two no matter how you try to spin it," George Anthony said.

Casey Anthony could face the death penalty if she's convicted of first degree murder.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Judge Rules Prison Officials Can Force Jared Loughner to Take Meds

Pima County Sheriff's Department(TUCSON, Ariz.) -- U.S. District Judge Larry Burns ruled in an emergency hearing Wednesday that prison officials could force Jared Lee Loughner, charged in the Tucson, Ariz. shooting that left six dead and 13 wounded, including Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, to take anti-psychotic medication.

In his decision, Burns said he was deferring to trained psychiatrists and medical personnel in Missouri, where Loughner has been confined in a prison medical facility, who have found Loughner to be dangerous.

The emergency hearing came after the release of a new court filing that offered insight into Loughner's disturbing behavior and raised more questions about whether he could ever be considered psychologically fit enough to stand trial.

Tuesday's filing said that on April 4 Loughner spat at his lawyer and lunged at her before prison staff restrained him.

The filing also said that an angry Loughner used profanities and threw a plastic chair at a psychiatrist multiple times during a taped interview on March 28. He also hurled a wet toilet paper roll at a camera that was in the room.

Prosecutors have used these incidents to argue in the court filings that Loughner should be given anti-psychotic medication. They claim he is a danger to others.

But Loughner's lawyers argued that he should not be forced to take medications without court approval. That approval came Wednesday.

Last month, Burns ruled that Loughner was not competent to stand trial because he was a paranoid schizophrenic and delusional. The judge has also denied two requests from Loughner's attorneys that they be notified before he is medicated.

Loughner has been held at a prison medical facility in Springfield, Mo., where psychiatrists are trying to restore his mental health so that he can participate in court proceedings. He arrived at the facility on May 28 and could spend up to four months there.

Loughner has pleaded not guilty to the 49 charges against him stemming from the Jan. 8 shooting.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Three Men Sentenced in NY Terrorist Plot

Brand X Pictures/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Three men convicted in a plot to blow up synagogues and military aircraft were sentenced Wednesday in New York.

Prosecutors called James Cromitie, David Williams and Onta Williams "ticking time bombs" who needed to be put away for life.  

Cromitie said, "I've never been a terrorist and I never will be a terrorist" as he apologized for getting caught in an FBI sting.  

The judge sentenced all three, convicted of plotting to blow up two synagogues in the Bronx and shoot down military planes at Stewart Air National Guard Base, to 25 years.  She said the government "created acts of terrorism" out of their fantasies of bigotry.  

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Seattle Storms the White House

Comstock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- President Obama welcomed the Seattle Storm to the White House Wednesday to honor their WNBA championship and thank them, as a basketball fan and a part-time coach, for “setting a good example for every young girl with big dreams.”

“As somebody who had an extraordinary time this year coaching a couple of games of Sasha’s, I can tell you nothing gets me more stressed but also nothing gave me more satisfaction than seeing young girls get confidence and improve and learn how to be competitive and still good sports," he said in the Rose Garden. "It is just wonderful."

“Since I’m usually surrounded by strong women in this house," he added, "seeing these young ladies behind us is a special pleasure. Because Michelle and I always teach our girls to set their sights high for themselves, expectations high for themselves. And we tell them if they work hard and do right, there’s nothing they can’t achieve.”

The Storm had quite a successful season.

"They tied the record for the most regular-season wins," the president said, "…went undefeated at home [and] became the first team in WNBA history to go a perfect 7-0 in the playoffs on the way to the title.

“This was no fluke,” Obama said. “It was the result of true teamwork and unselfish play...You see, the Storm family understands that being a champion doesn’t stop when you step off the court.”

The president commended the players for their community spirit and active involvement in their community, something they brought to the White House Wednesday in a basketball clinic as part of the first lady’s Let’s Move! initiative.

The president was joined by “some big fans” at Wednesday’s event, including "former college basketball star" and Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., and former Washington Gov. Gary Locke, who will soon be ambassador to China.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Feds Arrest Ten in First-Ever 'Bath Salts' Bust

Stockbyte/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Ten people were arrested on Tuesday by federal agents and charged in the first-ever federal prosecution dealing with "bath salts," a dangerous new designer drug that has been linked to emergency room visits and deaths across the country.

The Drug Enforcement Administration said a Seattle-area supplier led the ring and shipped the bath salts to a handful of New York City head shops. The bust was the first for a recently developed New York-based DEA task force targeting bath salts, a group of substances sold in convenience stores and head shops that mimic the effects of cocaine or ecstasy.

"This is so new to us," said DEA spokesman Rusty Payne. "In the last year it's just taken off in the U.S. -- we've never seen anything like it."

"Bath salts are one of the latest designer drugs to reach our shores, and they have proven to be a public health and safety menace with dangerous, and sometimes deadly, consequences," said Preet Bharara, the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York, where nine of the arrests were made.

"Bath salts" were the subject of a June 3 ABC News 20/20 investigation that found that despite being linked to several deaths, bath salts have been sold in stores and online with little oversight.

"Bath salts" have spurred approximately 2,500 calls to poison control centers nationwide since 2010, and have been connected to four deaths so far this year, including a 23-year-old Florida man and a 51-year-old woman in West Virginia.

The 26-year-old who authorities say is the "bath salt" ring's supplier, Miguel Ashby, was arrested in Washington State and charged with distribution of controlled substances. If convicted he could serve 20 years in prison.

The other nine defendants were employed at New York City head shops, including Addiction NYC, Tattoo Heaven, Crazy Fantasy Tattoo and Smoking Culture, and were arrested on charges related to either distribution of controlled substances, receipt of misbranded drugs, or delivery of misbranded drugs.

Authorities were able to charge the alleged drug ring under the Federal Analog Act, which allows any chemical that is "substantially similar" to a controlled substance to be treated as a controlled substance. Spokesman Rusty Payne said the DEA had invoked the Analog Act "for other drugs," but the new case marks the first time it's ever been done with bath salts.

There is no federal ban on all bath salt products, but more than 35 states have banned at least some of the chemicals commonly found in the drugs. Louisiana put an emergency ban on the drugs immediately after Dickie Sanders' death. In late April, New Jersey banned the manufacture, sale or possession of bath salts, and in May New York followed suit.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Iowa Pig Farm Filmed, Accused of Animal Abuse

Hemera Technologies/Thinkstock(CHICAGO) -- The images are graphically clear: Small piglets being hurled to a concrete floor; large, fully grown sows gnawing the bars on their tiny cages; pigs with open sores lying untended on the ground; piglets squealing as their tails are cut off without benefit of anesthetic; and workers tossing live piglets back and forth and describing them as "bouncy."

All were among the images on undercover video just released by the animal rights nonprofit Mercy for Animals, capturing production at Iowa Select Farms, the state's largest pig farm, and prompting some retailers to suspend purchases of pork from the company.

Gaining access as employees, "our investigators go in as eyes and ears for the public," said Nathan Runkle, executive director of Chicago-based Mercy for Animals. "They give their real names and real Social Security numbers and they shoot the video with a small undercover camera. Part of our message is there is not a single federal law that provides protection to factory animals. What we need are stricter, stronger laws."

Runkle said the video was shot between April and June and that the facility was selected at random. "We did not have insider information about abuse...but we found these kind of ugly practices rampant at this facility," he said of the allegations.

Runkle conceded that some of what he describes as abuse is "standard industry practice" in the pork industry. For instance, gestation crates are widespread within the pig farming industry. Sows spend most of their lives in a tiny space where they can't lie down or turn around, producing litter after litter of piglets until they die.

Seven states have already banned gestation crates, but Iowa Select Farms continues to use them. "If anyone subjected dogs or cats to this kind of treatment, they would be arrested," Runkle said.

Iowa Select Farms is the fourth-largest pork producer in the nation. It supplies pork to JBS Swift (Swift Pork Co.), which, in turn, sells products to some of the biggest retailers in the nation such as Costco, Safeway and Kroger.

Safeway issued a statement Tuesday calling the images "disturbing" and said it had immediately halted purchases from JBS Swift while a thorough investigation is conducted into the operation of Swift's supplier, Iowa Select Farms.

Likewise, Kroger said it was "concerned" and had asked JBS Swift to "suspend supplying product to Kroger from the facility that is shown in the video."

Craig Wilson, a vice president at Costco Wholesale, called the images "terrible" but said the company had no plans to suspend shipments of pork from Swift, preferring instead to "give them [Iowa Select Farms] an opportunity to knock it off and make things right."

For its part, Iowa Select Farms posted a statement from the company veterinarian, Dr. Howard Hill, on its website. "Iowa Select has a long-standing commitment to animal welfare....We have already initiated an investigation into the portions of the video that show unacceptable animal handling by a few employees."

This is not the first hidden camera investigation launched by Mercy for Animals and it won't be the last, Runkle said.

"Most of this abuse takes place in secret and the animals are left to pay the hidden price," he said of the allegations. "As a civilized society, it is our moral obligation to do something about it. Profit should not be an excuse for animal cruelty."

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

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