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Tuesday
Dec142010

New Surveillance Video Surfaces of Brittany Smith and Her Alleged Abductor

Photo Courtesy - Roanoke County Police(SAN FRANCISCO) -- The man accused of kidnapping 12-year-old Brittany Mae Smith agreed Tuesday to return to Virginia to face charges of kidnapping and credit card fraud.

Jeffrey Scott Easley, 32, waived his extradition at a court hearing in San Francisco, Calif. The hearing lasted just minutes and no charges of murder were mentioned, despite Easley being named a suspect in the murder of Brittany's mother. Virginia police found the body of 41-year-old Tina Smith on Dec. 6 and later ruled her death a homicide.

Roanoke police will not comment on whether Brittany fits into the murder investigation, saying it's too early to comment.

"Easley is a murder suspect in the death of Tina Smith. So much of the past week has been spent trying to locate 12-year-old Brittany that really over the weekend, when investigators spoke to both of them, that's really when the murder investigation began," Roanoke County spokeswoman Teresa Hamilton Hall said.

New surveillance video emerged Tuesday of Easley and Brittany gassing up a car on Friday, Dec. 3, the day police believe Tina Smith was likely killed. In the video is a second man whose home police searched in connection with the murder.

Brittany was back home with her family Tuesday after being escorted from California by two Virginia detectives.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio 

Tuesday
Dec142010

'Birther' Faces 18 Months in Prison for Refusing Deployment to Afghanistan

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- An Army doctor who refused deployment to Afghanistan because he questioned whether President Obama was born in the United States pleaded guilty Tuesday for failing to obey orders but pleaded not guilty to the count of missing a flight he needed to be on.

Lt. Col. Terry Lakin is among the so-called "birthers," who continue to question whether the president was born in the United States and thereby eligible for the presidency. They argue that they have yet to see Obama's original, signed birth certificate, even though the president released a copy during his campaign.

Lakin was set to deploy from Fort Campbell, Ky. in April for his second tour of duty, but he never showed up.

In a YouTube video, the Colorado native admitted that he invited his own court-martial because he won't obey what he believes are "illegal orders" from a president who hasn't presented proof that he is a natural-born U.S. citizen.

"I will disobey my orders to deploy because I believe all servicemen and servicewomen and the American people deserve the truth about President Obama's constitutional eligibility to the office of the presidency and the commander in chief," Lakin said. "If he is ineligible, then my order, and indeed all orders are illegal, because all orders have the origin with the commander-in-chief as handed down through the chain of command."

Lakin faces up to 18 months in prison and dishonorable discharge.

"The minimal invasion to any politician's privacy from having to show an original signed birth certificate is far less than the harms to our country caused by someone not qualified whose election would thus subvert the law and the truth," he said.

Lakin's lawyer Neil Puckett said recently that the 18-year Army veteran intentionally disobeyed orders because he hoped his case would force the president to produce his original birth certificate. He said that Lakin is "very disappointed in the system."

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio

Tuesday
Dec142010

Gunman Kills Self after Opening Fire on Florida School Board

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(PANAMA CITY, Fla.) -- A gunman killed himself Tuesday after opening fire on a Florida school board meeting. He was confronted by two school officials -- one who attacked him with her purse, and another, the security chief, who fired his gun at the shooter.

Police said a 56-year-old man disrupted the Bay District School Board meeting in Panama City, Fla., walked up to the podium, pulled out a can of red spray paint and painted a large letter "V" with a circle around it.

"The shooter approached the front of the board members, spray painted a symbol on the wall and fired an unknown amount of rounds," said Panama City Police Department spokesman Sgt. Jeff Becker.

"After he painted the symbol he was confronted by a board member [Ginger Littleton] who knocked the gun with her purse," he said.

Inside the meeting was reporter Nadeen Yanes of ABC News affiliate WMBB-TV, who shot exclusive video of the incident.

The gunman released all of the women and children, but held an unspecified number of men.

A fire fight broke out between the gunman and Mike Jones, a former school board member and district security chief, Becker said.

"After reviewing the evidence, the suspect took his own life," said Becker.

Police would not confirm the shooter's identity until his family had been notified. Becker would not speculate on the shooter's motive or meaning of the "V" symbol. Becker also would not confirm the total number of bullets fired.

Yanes said at least 10 shots were fired.

No other injuries were reported.

Police are watching the video Yanes shot of the confrontation.

Beth Deluzain, executive director of the Bay Education Foundation, who works on the second floor of the building said she was not told to leave and things seemed to be under control.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio

Tuesday
Dec142010

Man Says Twins Who Sued Facebook 'Backstabbed' Him, Sues for Settlement Money

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(SUFFOLK, Mass.) -- Cameron and Tyler Winklevoss, the 29-year-old twin Harvard graduates, Olympic rowers and multimillionaire entrepreneurs, make no secret of their belief that Facebook founder and former colleague Mark Zuckerberg swindled them out of a fortune.

Despite taking a reported $65 million from the billionaire in a 2008 legal settlement, the twins are chasing a bigger legal payout from a partnership they say they forged with Facebook's "toddler CEO" when the three were students at Harvard.

"I'm not sure anybody can quite put themselves in our shoes and understand what it must have felt like to start an idea in 2002, to approach a fellow student in 2004, to have it stolen, sabotaged, ripped off," one of the Winklevoss brothers said in a recent interview with CBS' 60 Minutes.

But Wayne Chang said he knows exactly what it feels like to be cheated by a partner, because, he said, the Winklevoss brothers did the same to him.

"They pretty much treated me the way they say Facebook treated them," said the 27-year-old entrepreneur. "I got backstabbed."

Last December, in a complaint filed with the Superior Court in Suffolk, Mass., Chang claimed he is owed a part of the Winklevoss' settlement money from Facebook because his Web company had merged with the brothers' social network ConnectU to create the Winklevoss Chang Group.

And he's going after a piece of the $65 million. Chang said because the Facebook litigation was a shared asset of the company, he said he is entitled to a piece of the Facebook settlement. The Winklevosses filed a motion to dismiss the complaint, which Chang has formally opposed. A January hearing is scheduled regarding the motion to dismiss, Chang said.

"I just want what was rightfully mine," he said. "I just want to go for my share of the company, my share of the partnership."


Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio

Tuesday
Dec142010

Poll: Persistent Economic Discontent Casts Continuing Political Pall

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- A month after voters chucked the Democrats out of control of the House of Representatives, a boost in political optimism is nowhere to be found. While a plurality of Americans -- 41 percent -- see the House switch as a good thing, that's fewer than the number of Americans who said so the last two times it's happened, in 2006 and 1994. And 67 percent say the country's seriously off on the wrong track.

The reason is plain: A record 71 percent in the latest ABC News/Washington Post poll say they've been hurt by the recession, with nearly four in 10 hurt "a great deal." Fifty-seven percent say the economy has not yet begun to recover -- up eight points from a year ago. One in three reports a job loss in their own household within the past year; equally remarkably, 72 percent say a close friend or relative has lost a job or been laid off. Both are new highs since the recession began.

The economy aside, the federal budget deficit doesn't help the public's mood, and in that regard this poll, produced for ABC News by Langer Research Associates, finds some potential room to move: In order to address the deficit, nearly half of Americans, 48 percent, say they'd support gradually increasing the age at which people can receive full Social Security benefits.

On average this year, 38 percent of adults have called themselves independents, matching the average in 2009 as the most on record. That compares to 32 percent who call themselves Democrats and 24 percent who call themselves Republicans -- among the worst years in historical terms for both parties. Only in one previous period, 1994-95, did independents top the political chart.

The impacts of economic discontent appear in other ways. Barack Obama has a 72 percent job approval rating among people who say an economic recovery has begun, vs. 33 percent among those who say it has not -- a dramatic 39-point gap. His approval overall has slipped under 50 percent for just the second time in ABC/Post polls; it's 49 percent now.

And Obama's gone from a 35-point advantage over the Republicans in trust to handle the economy when he took office to +11 points last spring to -1 now, its first foray into negative territory. The GOP also runs essentially evenly with the president in trust to handle the issues of taxes and terrorism, and it leads, by the widest margin of his presidency, in trust to handle the deficit.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio

Tuesday
Dec142010

Vegas Casino Robbed of More Than $1 Million

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(LAS VEGAS) -- A daring casino heist netted approximately $1.5 million early Tuesday morning in Las Vegas.

It was approximately 3:50 a.m. when a suspect parked his motorcycle outside the Bellagio's north valet, entered the casino with a full-face helmet, approached a craps table and pulled a handgun before fleeing on motorcycle.

The white male, described as five-foot-10 to six feet tall and 220 pounds, is believed to be the same person who robbed the Suncoast Hotel & Casino Poker Room on Dec. 9.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio

Tuesday
Dec142010

New York Cops Fear Serial Killer May Be On the Loose

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- The decomposing remains of four people, at least two of them women, have been discovered along a New York beach and police are combing the area for more bodies in what they fear may be the victims of a serial killer's murderous spree.

The bodies appear to have been thrown from a vehicle into an area of thick brush near a Long Island beach, Suffolk County police told a news conference Tuesday. At least some of the bodies were wrapped in burlap sacks, and two appeared to be female, investigators said. The bodies were found within a quarter mile of each other.

The first body was discovered Saturday when Suffolk County police announced they had discovered human remains on Oak Beach. The body was found during a training exercise. The officers chose that spot to search because a woman was reported missing near there last May.

According to police, that missing person was Shonnan Gilbert, a 24-year-old woman alleged to have been a prostitute. Suffolk County Detective Lt. Gerard Pelkofsky told ABC News affiliate WABC in New York that Gilbert was last reported alive on May 1, and that she had allegedly arranged through Craigslist to meet a client on Fire Island, a tiny community about a mile from Oak Beach.

Police discovered three more bodies Monday and were expanding the area to be searched Tuesday in case there are additional bodies dumped along the beach.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio

Tuesday
Dec142010

Facebook Reveals Top Status Trends of 2010

Photo Courtesy - NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP/Getty Images(PALO ALTO, Calif.) -- If you're familiar with teen tech slang, you probably know how to decipher "LOL" and maybe even "TTYL" ("talk to you later," for the uninitiated). But try this one on for size: "HMU."

It may draw blank stares from Facebook's older members, but apparently it's all the rage among the site's younger users. According to Facebook, the phrase, which stands for "hit me up," was the number one status trend of 2010.

The social networking site on Tuesday released its Memology 2010 global list of the site's top status trends. Although natural disasters and major news events made the top 10 list, Facebook said "HMU" was the fastest-growing trend on the site. Facebook said the acronym is a digital way for people to ask their friends to hang out.

The acronym increased by about 75 percent each month, and by the end of the summer it was being used more than 80,000 times a day.

Status updates about the World Cup and movies took the number two and three spots on the list, respectively. At the start of the World Cup in June, Facebook said the phrase was mentioned 1.5 million times across the site; at the end, it was mentioned 1.3 million times.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio

The social networking site on Tuesday released its Memology 2010 global list of the site's top status trends. Although natural disasters and major news events made the top 10 list, Facebook said "HMU" was the fastest-growing trend on the site. Facebook said the acronym is a digital way for people to ask their friends to hang out.

The acronym increased by about 75 percent each month, and by the end of the summer it was being used more than 80,000 times a day.

Status updates about the World Cup and movies took the No. 2 and No. 3 spots on the list. At the start of the World Cup in June, Facebook said the phrase was mentioned 1.5 million times across the site; at the end, it was mentioned 1.3 million times.


Tuesday
Dec142010

Mark Madoff's Body Claimed By Manhattan Funeral Director

Photo Courtesy - AFP/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- The body of Mark Madoff has been claimed by the funeral director of the Gramercy Park Memorial Chapel in Manhattan's East Village. No family members were at the medical examiner's office in Manhattan when the body was claimed Tuesday, three days after Madoff's suicide. No funeral date has been set.

Madoff, the 46-year-old son of convicted Ponzi schemer Bernie Madoff, was found hanged Saturday morning while his two-year-old son slept in a nearby room. The suicide was timed to the two-year anniversary of his father's arrest.

Bernie Madoff will not attend his son's funeral and will instead hold a private service from behind bars, his lawyer announced Monday. The confirmation that Madoff would be absent from his son's burial came after debate over whether the Bureau of Prisons would allow him a furlough to begin with.

Madoff is currently serving a 150-year sentence at the Butner Federal Correctional Complex in North Carolina.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio

Tuesday
Dec142010

White House Drug Czar: Teen Marijuana Use on the Rise

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- Teens are beginning to think of marijuana as “medicine,” and more and more young people are toking up as a result, White House drug czar Gil Kerlikowske argues upon the release of a major survey on teen drug use.
 
The 2010 Monitoring the Future Survey queries 50,000 students in grades 8, 10 and 12 about their use of, and attitudes toward, illicit drugs.
 
The Office of National Drug Control Policy survey finds that daily pot use among high school seniors is at its highest point since the early 1980s, at 6.1 percent.  In the past month, 21.4 percent of 12th graders said they had used marijuana, continuing an upward tick that began in the middle of the decade.  On a monthly basis, more seniors now smoke pot than cigarettes, a phenomenon not seen in nearly three decades.
 
It’s the decreasing perception of the harm of marijuana that is leading to increased pot use, according to the drug czar.
 
“If young people don’t really perceive that [marijuana] is dangerous or of any concern, it usually means there’ll be an uptick in the number of kids who are using.  And sure enough, in 2009, that’s exactly what we did see,” Kerlikowske tells ABC News Radio.
 
On the other hand, he says, a broad understanding of the harms of tobacco and alcohol has led to lower cigarette smoking and binge drinking in teens.  Regular cigarette smoking continues its decline, and binge drinking (five or more drinks in one sitting) among high school seniors is down from 25.2 percent to 23.2 percent.  Tougher enforcement has also contributed to these declines, Kerlikowske says.
 
“We know that through education and enforcement, something can be done.  But I think we should also be very concerned about these marijuana numbers, particularly among these very young people,” Kerlikowske said.
 
Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio







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