Court Rules Executive Branch May Target Anwar Al-Awlaki

Photo Courtesy - ABC News(WASHINGTON) -- In a victory for the Obama administration, a federal judge threw out a lawsuit Tuesday challenging the governments' authority to assassinate Anwar Al-Awlaki, a U.S. citizen hiding in Yemen.

Awlaki is a member of al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula. He has been linked to the attempted bombing of Northwest Airlines Flight 253 on Christmas Day 2009, the shootings at Fort Hood in Texas by Army Maj. Nidal Hasan and the recent seizure of bomb-making materials in the cargo of two planes.

According to ABC's Martha Raddatz, President Obama himself has authorized the targeted killing of Awlaki in Yemen, where he is believed to be hiding.

Two public interest groups, the American Civil Liberties Union and the Center for Constitutional Rights, had filed the suit on behalf of Anwar al-Awlaki's father, Nasser al- Awlaki. They sought a declaration from the court that the Constitution and international law prohibit the government from carrying out targeted killings outside of armed conflict, except as a last resort to protect against imminent threats of death.

But U.S. District Judge John Bates found the court had no jurisdiction to hear the case because it was brought by Awlaki's father, instead of Awlaki himself. Furthermore, the judge agreed with the government that the issue of whether Awlaki poses a national security threat to the United States is best left to the political branches and not the Court.

At a news conference Tuesday, Assistant Attorney General Tony West said, "We are pleased with the court's ruling. People need to remember that this really was an unprecedented case in which the plaintiffs were asking a court to review military decisions for the benefit of a leader of a foreign terrorist organization. And as we said when we filed this case, if Anwar al-Awlaki wants to access our court systems he ought to surrender to the authorities and be held accountable for his actions.”

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio


Mom of Four Kids Disappears After Holiday Party

Photo Courtesy - ABC News/WLS-TV Chicago(CHICAGO) -- Footprints in a snowbank are the only clues for officers searching for a Chicago woman who vanished after walking away from a late night car crash that left her husband dead in the driver's seat. A massive manhunt is underway for Tanya Shannon, a 40-year-old mother of four, who has been missing since early Sunday morning when authorities from the LaSalle County Sheriff's Office located her crashed car on the side of a rural road. In the driver's seat of the car was Shannon's dead husband, 41-year-old Dale Shannon, according to Sheriff Tom Templeton.

"She and her husband were at a company Christmas party Saturday night. They left the party heading to a family's house and on the way had a traffic-related accident in which Mr. Shannon was killed," Templeton told ABC News. "From the evidence that we've seen, Shannon was able to get out of the vehicle and go up to the roadway."

"From there we have no idea where she went," he said, adding that while alcohol was available at the party it does appear that the car crash was an accident. Further toxicology reports are being ordered, he said.

Footprints from a "slipper-like" shoe were found leading away from the car and up to the road, said Templeton, and one of the slippers was also located by the first responders. Inside the car, a pair of high-heeled shoes was also found.

Shannon is five-feet, two inches tall and weighs 125 pounds, has shoulder length strawberry blond hair and green eyes. She was last seen wearing a red dress and a gray fleece hooded jacket. She also wears glasses.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio


Some Glass Bakeware Can Spontaneously Shatter

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission estimates that nearly 12,000 people were injured by glass bakeware over a decade-long period. That figure includes injuries from dropping glass and breaking it -- but also from bakeware that shattered on its own.

Consumer Reports spent a year studying the issue and was so concerned that it is now asking the government to investigate. Consumer Reports tests found that hot glass bakeware can indeed shatter unexpectedly.

"It would break in a forceful way that would actually shoot shards across the room," Don Mays of Consumer Reports told ABC News.

Both major glass bakeware manufacturers -- Pyrex and Anchor Hocking -- say decades ago they switched to a different type of glass that's more environmentally friendly to produce.

"They're using something called soda lime which is a less expensive glass and it's more prone to this sudden fracturing that you're seeing," Mays said.

To compare the two, researchers put European bakeware, which is still make of the old type of glass, in a 400-degree oven, then set it on a damp counter to cool. Nothing happened. But when they did the same experiment with U.S. bakeware made from the new type of glass, the glass shattered every time.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio


Skip Ahead of Airport Security Lines by Becoming 'Trusted Traveler'

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(DENVER) -- As the controversy continues over airport security scanners and pat-downs, the Transportation Security Administration has given the green light to a "trusted traveler" lane at another one of the nation's busiest airports.

The lane at Denver International Airport is operated by New York-based Alclear LLC, a company that pre-screens fliers, giving them quicker access to security checkpoints.

While it won't help them avoid the revealing scanners or intimate checks by agents, travelers willing to submit to a one-time iris scan, fingerprinting and background check are issued a Clear card granting them the privilege of jumping to the front of the line.  Special kiosks scan fliers' eyes using biometrics technology.  A Clear employee checks the passenger's boarding pass and driver's license, just as a TSA agent would.

The program, which costs $179 a year, officially opened last week in Denver.

The Clear card was first launched by businessman Steven Brill in 2005 as a way to help frequent fliers avoid long airport security lines in the wake of the 9/11 attacks.  His company declared bankruptcy in 2009.  The Clear lanes at 23 of the nation's airports were abruptly closed and the memberships of as many as 200,000 customers were never refunded.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio


Supreme Court to Hear Arizona Immigration Debate

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- It is rare in the immigration debate for big business to come together with civil rights groups to challenge the constitutionality of legislation.

But the U.S. Chamber of Commerce has joined groups such as the National Immigration Law Center and the Mexican American Legal Defense Fund in filing suit against the state of Arizona for a law that severely sanctions employers for knowingly hiring illegal immigrants.  On Wednesday, the Supreme Court will hear arguments in the case.

The groups argue that the Legal Arizona Worker's Act, and similar legislation in other states, unconstitutionally conflict with existing federal law.  The legislation is part of an emerging trend, as state lawmakers complain the federal government is not doing enough in its traditional role of immigration regulation.

The United State Justice Department has filed a brief in support of the groups, arguing that the state laws are generating confusion among employers and employees.

"Those provisions," writes Acting Solicitor General Neal Katyal, "disrupt a careful balance that Congress struck nearly 25 years ago between two interests of the highest importance: ensuring that employers do not undermine enforcement of immigration laws by hiring unauthorized workers, while also ensuring that employers do not discriminate against racial and ethnic minorities legally in the country."

In some cases the state law imposes harsher sanctions on employers than under federal law.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio


Homeland Security Teams with Walmart in Expansion of 'See Something, Say Something' Campaign

Photo Courtesy - U.S. Department of Homeland Security(WASHINGTON) -- Monday in a conference call with reporters, Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano announced the expansion of the recent campaign, “If You See Something, Say Something” to hundreds of Walmart stores across the country. The campaign, which was first started in New York City, is designed to elevate awareness among the public to report possible suspicious activity to law enforcement.
Napolitano recently taped a PSA that will play in Walmart stores that have video displays in the checkout lanes. The video is expected to be shown in about 530 Walmart stores in Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Missouri, Nebraska, Texas, Arizona, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia, Washington, Wisconsin, West Virginia and Wyoming.

In recent months, Napolitano has recorded similar PSAs for use on mass transit in Washington, D.C.  Homeland Security has also briefed the hotel industry on the awareness campaign as the heightened threat environment continues. Following the Mumbai, India attacks in 2008,  Homeland Security began to raise security awareness regarding terrorist interest in targeting luxury hotels.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio


Retirement Delayed: Baby Boomers Worry About Benefits Cuts 

(WASHINGTON) -- It's possible that Congress, searching for ways to cut the deficit, might extend the age by which Americans can start getting Social Security benefits. 

While David Certner, legislative policy director for AARP, says his members fully support efforts to rein in federal spending, he adds that upping the age for Social Security eligibility isn't the right way to go about it. Raising the wage cap, currently $106,800, would be better, he says.

Right now, most Americans get their full benefits starting at age 62. But under a draft plan floated by the co-chairmen of President Obama's Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform, the retirement age would rise to 67 by 2050 and 69 by 2075.

Social strife in Europe over benefit cuts was one of the factors that prompted Congress to finally deal with Social Security's problems, before they reach a similar crisis stage.

The idea of raising the retirement age dealt a setback in November when the Government Accountability Office issued a report suggesting that such a move might cause more financial harm than good. By 2050, said the GAO, Americans age 65 or older will account for more than 20 percent of the population, up from 13 percent in 2000. Forcing older people to keep working might lead to an increase in the number of people applying for disability.  Increased disability costs could well exceed the savings from delayed retirement.

The AARP's Certner notes that many older Americans lack the two things essential for employment: good health and a job. "Maybe we should work past age 62," he says, "and AARP supports that. But age discrimination is an issue. For people who are older, it's more difficult to find a job, or, if you've been working and get laid off, to get re-hired." Depending on the type of job, says Certner, an older man or woman may physically lack the stamina to do it.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio 


Is There a Vet On Board? Dog Bites Two on US Airways Flight

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(PITTSBURGH) -- You can add dog bites to the list of things passengers and flight attendants have to contend with at 30,000 feet.

That was the case Monday morning onboard US Airways Flight 522, when a small dog described as a terrier traveling in the passenger cabin was let out of its carrier by its elderly owner. The dog promptly bit a passenger and a flight attendant. US Airways said the passenger was expressly told not to open the carrier door.

According to flight tracking website, the plane was west of Pittsburgh when the pilot of the Airbus A319 decided to divert the Phoenix-bound plane to Pittsburgh International Airport because of the canine bites. A US Airways spokesperson described the diversion as precautionary and said the captain did not declare an emergency.

Upon landing in Pittsburgh the plane taxied to a US Airways gate, where it was met by law enforcement officials and the fire department. An airport spokesperson tells ABC News the dog, whose breed was not immediately known, and its owner were deplaned and interviewed before being released.

Once the dog and its owner were off the plane, the flight continued to Phoenix without them. JoAnn Jenny, a spokeswoman with the Pittsburgh International Airport, said the dog and its owner were later released to board another plane to Phoenix.

Airlines, including US Airways, United, and American Airlines, limit the number and type of pets allowed in cabins. Those banned from carry-on can travel in the belly of the plane, where kennels are placed in a special pressurized and temperature-controlled section. In the winter, airlines may require documentation certifying that your pet is acclimated to temperatures lower than 45 degrees.

As for dogs, cats and other pets in the cabin? Passengers are not supposed to let them out of their travel carriers during flight, according to US Airlines.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio


'Further Treatment' Would Be 'Unproductive,' Say Elizabeth Edwards' Doctors

Photo Courtesy - AmericanPress dot org(CHAPEL HILL, N.C.) -- A written statement Monday made public the current status of Elizabeth Edwards' six-year battle with cancer.

"Elizabeth has been advised by her doctors that further treatment of her cancer would be unproductive.  She is resting at home with family and friends...." the statement read.

On her Facebook page, Edwards spoke out about sustaining through "difficult times," and thanked those who have continued to support her.

"You all know that I have been sustained throughout my life by three saving graces -- my family, my friends and a faith in the power of resilience and hope.  These graces have carried me through difficult times and they have brought more joy to the good times than I ever could have imagined.  The day of our lives, for all of us, are numbered.  We know that,"  Edwards stated on her Facebook profile. "It isn't possible to put into words the love and gratitude I feel to everyone who has and continues to support and inspire me every day.  To you I simply say:  you know," she added.

In recent years, Elizabeth Edwards has endured her illness alongside media reports about her ex-husband John Edwards' affair with campaign worker Rielle Hunter, which ultimately produced a daughter, Quinn.

After her husband's public admission in August 2008 that he had fathered a child with Hunter, Elizabeth Edwards filed for legal separation from John Edwards. 

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio


Proposition 8 Before Federal Appeals Court 

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(SAN FRANCISCO) -- A federal appeals court in San Francisco heard oral arguments Monday in the landmark legal battle over Proposition 8, California's voter-approved ban on same-sex marriage.

A three-judge panel of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals is weighing two questions: whether supporters of the ban have legal standing to bring an appeal, and whether the ban itself is unconstitutional.

In August, U.S. District Judge Vaughn Walker struck down Prop 8, saying it amounts to unconstitutional discrimination and ordered it lifted immediately. But the Ninth Circuit issued a stay on the injunction while the appeal is pending.

The effort to ban gay marriage in California was first launched in response to a state Supreme Court decision allowing same-sex couples to wed. Voters approved Proposition 8 in a November 2008 ballot with a 52-percent vote.

Despite the popular support, Judge Walker found that the measure was rooted in "unfounded stereotypes and prejudices" and that the plaintiffs in the case -- one lesbian and one gay couple -- demonstrated by "overwhelming evidence" that it violates rights to due process and equal protection under the Constitution.

The case, which will likely reach the U.S. Supreme Court, is one that experts say has the potential to transform social and legal precedent.

A recent California Field poll found that 51 percent support legalizing gay marriage with 42 percent opposed. Nationwide, public views are more narrowly divided, according to the most recent ABC News/Washington Post poll. Forty-seven percent of Americans polled favor gay marriage while 50 percent are opposed.

Five states -- Massachusetts, Iowa, Connecticut, Vermont and New Hampshire -- and the District of Columbia perform same-sex marriages. Four states recognize marriages performed elsewhere and nine states grant civil unions or partnerships.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio

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