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Tuesday
Nov302010

Student in Wisconsin Hostage Standoff Dies

Photo Courtesy - WBAY-TV Green Bay(GREEN BAY, Wis.) -- The young gunman who took more than 20 students and a teacher hostage Monday night has died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound.

Shortly after all the hostages were released unharmed, police heard three gunshots, prompting officers to "breech the door," police said.  The student then shot himself.

The gunman, identified as Samuel Hengel, a resident of Porterfield, Wisc., was transported to Bay Area Medical Center where he later died.

Authorities responded to the hostage situation Monday at Marinette High School. Police said a 15-year-old male student armed with a handgun was holding 23 students and a teacher hostage in a classroom.

Although a hostage negotiating team was assembled inside the school, direct contact was not made with the student and police were unaware of the suspect's demands or motive.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio

Tuesday
Nov302010

McCain Wants Heads to Roll for Wikileaks, Others Say Not Likely

Photo Courtesy - ABC News(WASHINGTON) -- Sen. John McCain demanded Tuesday that top brass be disciplined for the massive security breach of classified documents that are now spilling out of the Wikileaks website, but former Washington officials said it's unlikely that anyone will be held accountable beyond the lowly private who is now in jail.

"Let's go back to the principle of need-to-know. Why would a private first class have access to all of this information? Somebody is responsible for that and it isn't just the private first class. They should be held accountable for a change," McCain, R-Ariz., told ABC News.

Wikileaks' release of the latest tranche of secret diplomatic cables spurred federal agencies to launch investigations, promises of improved regulations, and vows to prosecute Army Private Bradley Manning and Wikileaks' director Julian Assange.

Manning has been held in a Quantico, Va., brig awaiting court martial since July, but no senior officials or military officers have taken responsibility for the historic security breach and none have been threatened with losing their jobs.

"We probably are not going to see heads roll," said Gen. Jack Keane, a retired four star general and former Acting Army Chief of Staff. "The supervisors in this case will likely get a pass because this is a major deception."

The military says it will not comment on who, if anyone else might be held responsible until it completes an ongoing investigation.

Manning is alleged to have downloaded vast numbers of secret diplomatic cables and military documents while working as an intelligence analyst, committing the greatest security breach in U.S. history using little more than a memory stick and a Lady Gaga CD.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio

Tuesday
Nov302010

'Anti-Gay' iPhone App Pulled From Apple Store

Photo Courtesy - Apple Computer, Inc.(CUPERTINO, Calif.) -- An iPhone application denouncing gay marriage is apparently history after thousands of people signed an online petition urging Apple to remove it from its App Store.

The application, called Manhattan Declaration, was a "call of Christian Conscience" that advocated "the sanctity of life, the dignity of marriage as the union of one man and one woman, and religious liberty," according to its website. But after its October launch, the application drew criticism from around the Web. Calling it "anti-gay" and "anti-choice," Change.org launched an online petition asking Apple to remove the application from its app store.

"Apple needs to hear from concerned people now! Let's send a strong message to Apple that supporting homophobia and efforts to restrict choice is bad business," it said.

On Monday, Change.org updated the petition to announce that Apple had apparently removed the application from its App Store after more than 7,000 Change.org members e-mailed the company in protest.

In a statement, Apple said, "We removed the Manhattan Declaration app from the App Store because it violates our developer guidelines by being offensive to large groups of people."

In a message on its homepage, the drafters of the Manhattan Declaration said they were "perplexed" at Apple's decision to remove their application.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio

Tuesday
Nov302010

'Christmas Tree Bomber' Was In Touch With Al Qaeda Mouthpiece

Photo Courtesy - Multnomah County Jail(WASHINGTON) -- Mohamed Osman Mohamud, the Somali-American college student charged with plotting an attack on a Christmas tree lighting event in Portland, Oregon, was in contact with, and wrote articles for, another prominent American al Qaeda propagandist for nearly two years, authorities say.

Mohamud, who was arrested in an FBI sting, is accused of attempting to detonate what he believed to be a car bomb in Portland's Pioneer Courthouse Square via cellphone during the annual lighting of the Christmas tree last Friday, which had drawn a crowd of thousands. The supposed explosive device was non-functional. Mohamud, 19, pled not guilty in federal court Monday to one count of an attempted use of a weapon of mass destruction.

The FBI affidavit alleges that Mohamud stated to undercover agents that he had wanted to take part in violent jihad since he was 15, and that he told FBI agents that he had written four articles since 2009 for two different online jihadist magazines edited and distributed by Samir Khan.

Khan, 24, is the Saudi-born, New York-raised editor behind Inspire magazine, the English language online publication of al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, or AQAP. Khan, who has said he is currently hiding in Yemen, has become a rising figure in jihadist propaganda and an "aspiring" Anwar Awlaqi, according to U.S. intelligence officials.

Under the pen name "Ibn al-Mubarak," alleges the FBI, Mohamud wrote three articles "discussing violent jihad" that appeared in 2009 in Jihad Recollections, the web magazine edited that Khan edited from his parents' North Carolina basement before relocating to Yemen.

One of the articles published under the name Ibn al-Mubarak was titled, "Getting in shape without weights," which appeared in the first issue of Jihad Recollections, urged aspiring jihadists to stay fit for God.

American forces, said the article, "cannot go to any battlefront without carrying along with them their bench, squat sets and sometimes even their machines," proof that jihadists should avoid costly devices to get strong.

In a 2009 article that praised al Qaeda's media wing, As-Sahab, Ibn al-Mubarak wrote that the organization has a "great influence on the hearts and minds of many Muslims because they help everyone realize the reality of the situation and not losing focus of the real issues at hand."

Mohamud allegedly told agents that he had written another article for Khan's new, Yemen-based web magazine, Inspire, but that it had not yet been published.

In its affidavit, the FBI says it became aware of Mohamud after he exchanged emails with a jihadist in Pakistan in 2009. Mohamud was attempting to travel to Pakistan for weapons and explosives training, but failed to follow the instructions of his contact to reach someone who could facilitate his travel.

The FBI then contacted Mohamud through an email with an undercover agent posing as the foreign facilitator, according to the complaint.

Soon after the email exchanges, the affidavit alleges, Mohamud told the FBI undercover agent that he wanted to go "operational" but needed training. The first undercover agent allegedly introduced Mohamud to a second undercover agent.

Mohamud then suggested to the two undercover agents that he detonate a bomb during the annual Christmas tree lighting ceremony, according to the affidavit. When the FBI agents suggested that Mohamud would have to use a car bomb, and might also have to die during the operation, Mohamud said he was willing, alleges the affidavit. Mohamud also allegedly determined where to park a van filled with explosives in the city square.

Mohamud told the agent that he sought a "huge mass that will...be attacked in their own element with their families celebrating the holidays."

On Friday, when the FBI loaded a van with a fake device, they asked Mohamud to detonate the fake bomb by dialing a number on a cellphone. After he failed to explode the device with his first call, alleges the affidavit, he dialed the number a second time and FBI agents swooped in to arrest him.

On Monday, Mohamud's attorney said he planned to use an entrapment defense.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio

Tuesday
Nov302010

Overcrowding in California's Prisons Reaches Supreme Court

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Lawyers for California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger will tell the Supreme Court on Tuesday that a federal court order telling the state to reduce its prison population by 40,000 over two years is too drastic, and will endanger public safety.

The controversy arose in 2009 when a panel of three federal judges ruled that crowding in California's prisons violated prisoners' constitutional right against cruel and unusual punishment.  The panel relied upon the Prison Litigation Reform Act passed by Congress in 1996 that allows federal courts, in certain circumstances, to order caps on prison population to remedy constitutional violations.  With the state appealing, the order has not gone into effect.

California argues to the Supreme Court that the three-judge panel had no jurisdiction to rule on the issue and that it did not give California a reasonable amount of time to comply with previous court orders to remedy the problem.

"The release of these inmates will jeopardize the safety of California residents unless substantial investments in rehabilitation programs for released inmates are made" lawyers for the state argue in court papers.  "There is, however, no guarantee that California, which remains mired in fiscal crisis, has the financial ability to offer those services, or that the political branches would agree to direct available funds to released prisoners rather than other pressing needs."

The case stems from two separate lawsuits that had been wending their way through California courts for years, challenging the health care available in the prison system.

Citing horrific prison conditions, lawyers for the prisoners argue in court briefs that because of overcrowding, the state has failed to meet its obligation "to ensure the safety of guards and prison personnel , the public and the prisoners themselves."

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio

Monday
Nov292010

UPDATE: Wis. Student Gunman Suffered Self-Inflicted Gunshot Wound after Release of Hostages

Photo Courtesy - ABC News(GREEN BAY, Wis.) -- At a press conference Monday night, Marinette Police Chief Jeff Skorik told reporters that the 15-year-old student gunman who took 23 students and their teacher hostage suffered a self-inflicted gunshot wound.

Shortly after all 23 student hostages and their teacher were released unharmed, police heard three gunshots, prompting officers to "breech the door," police said.  The student then shot himself.

The gunman has been transported to Bay Area Medical Center where his condition is unknown, according to Green Bay ABC News affiliate  WBAY.

According to earlier reports, authorities responded Monday afternoon to a reported hostage situation at Marinette High School.

Marinette Police said a 15-year-old male student armed with a handgun was holding 23 students and a teacher hostage in a classroom.

Although a hostage negotiating team was assembled inside the school, direct contact was not made with the student and police were unaware of the suspect's demands or motive.

School administrators said the high school will be closed Tuesday.  They have not determined when school will resume for Marinette students.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio

Monday
Nov292010

Hurricane Season Ends as One of the Busiest, Yet Mildest on Record

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- The 2010 hurricane season officially ends Tuesday, and although 19 storms in all were named, the season was one of the mildest on record.

"It was one of the busier ones that we've observed since our records began back in the 1800s, mid-1800s," says National Hurricane Center meteorologist Todd Kimberlain.  "We had 19 named storms, 12 of those became hurricanes, five of those were major hurricanes."

Of those named storms, only one made landfall in the U.S.: Tropical Storm Bonnie.  Bonnie moved over south Florida in late July, but only for a brief period of time.

Kimberlain says, "For the sheer amount of tropical cyclone activity that we had, to not observe one U.S. landfall is kind of unusual.  We would have expected something."

A few factors may have led to the storms' relatively gentle natures.  According to Kimberlain, "We had a very persistent trough of low pressure offshore the U.S. east coast and that directed a lot of storms north and then northeast out to sea.  There were other storms that formed down in the western Caribbean and they primarily affected Central America and Mexico because of a very strong ridge of high pressure over that area."

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio

Monday
Nov292010

WikiLeaker Seeks to Expose 'Lying, Corrupt and Murderous Leadership'

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- The chief WikiLeaker whom the U.S. promised Monday to prosecute said his Internet site was just beginning to unload its diplomatic secrets and said the documents will skewer "lying, corrupt and murderous leadership from Bahrain to Brazil."

Julian Assange, the Australian who heads the secret-sharing website, told ABC News Monday he believes his safety and freedom are in danger. He responded to questions by e-mail from a clandestine hideout.

He was undaunted by vows from the U.S. and Australia to prosecute him and said the forthcoming diplomatic cables are aimed at "lying, corrupt and murderous leadership from Bahrain to Brazil."

"We're only one thousandth of the way in and look at what has so far being revealed. There will be many more," he wrote defiantly.

Assange also dismissed a warning Monday by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who said the dump of secret documents "puts people's lives in danger," particularly those sources who provided the U.S. with information about abuses in foreign countries.

The Obama administration's top diplomat and lawyer put WikiLeaks and Assange on alert Monday, promising to prosecute any individual, regardless of nationality, who broke U.S. law by making public hundreds of thousands of secret diplomatic cables.

"[To] the extent that we can find anybody involved of breaking American law who has put at risk the assets and the people that I have described...they will be held responsible. They will be held accountable," Attorney General Eric Holder said at a press conference.

"Some mistakenly applaud those responsible," Clinton said. "There is nothing laudable about endangering innocent people...nothing brave about sabotaging peaceful relations between nations."

Though dedicated to bringing to light secret government documents, WikiLeaks operates in the shadows, running a sophisticated website, manned by an international team from a bunker in Iceland.

The current raft of documents, some 250,000 diplomatic cables that span decades and include various -- and sometimes embarrassing -- details about the way U.S. envoys see their foreign counterparts, is the latest document dump WikiLeaks received last year from Army Private Bradley Manning, currently awaiting court-martial.

Holder's declaration that he would seek to hold WikiLeaks responsible was met with praise from across the aisle.

Rep. Peter King, R-N.Y., said he supported the efforts Holder was taking and said Assange's "purposeful intent to damage not only our national interests in fighting the war on terror, but also undermines the very safety of coalition forces in Iraq and Afghanistan."

Both Holder and King agreed that WikiLeaks should not treated as a media outlet, but a criminal entity intimately involved in the effort to steal secret documents and make them public.

King also called on Clinton to declare WikiLeaks a foreign terrorist organization.

Over the course of the year, WikiLeaks has released secret military documents from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio

Monday
Nov292010

Report: Americans More Positive Regarding U.S. Progress in Afghanistan

U.S. Department of Defense (PRINCETON, N.J.) -- According to recent USA Today/Gallup poll results, Americans are increasingly optimistic about U.S. progress in Afghanistan. 

Although 54 percent of Americans polled say the U.S. is not doing well in Afghanistan, 45 percent -- the highest percentage since July 2009 -- believe the U.S. is advancing rather well.

As for an assessment of President Obama's handling of the war in Afghanistan, Americans appear to be divided almost evenly.  Forty-four percent approve of the president's direction, while 49 percent believe Obama could be managing the situation better.

Overall, those surveyed are more supportive of the Afghanistan war than the war in Iraq.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio

Monday
Nov292010

Federal Judge Bars Oklahoma Ballot Initiative on Sharia Law

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- A federal judge in Oklahoma on Monday barred the implementation of a ballot initiative, passed by 70 percent of voters in Oklahoma, that would have forbidden state courts from considering Sharia Law in their decisions.

"This order addresses issues that go to the very foundation of our country, our Constitution, and particularly, the Bill of Rights," Judge Vicki Miles-LaGrange wrote. "Throughout the course of our country's history, the will of the 'majority' has on occasion conflicted with the constitutional rights of individuals," she wrote.

The controversial initiative was passed even though its supporters acknowledged they had no evidence that the state's courts were considering Sharia -- the body of law based on Islam and the Koran -- in their decisions.

The initiative was immediately challenged by Muneer Awad, Oklahoma executive director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, who filed suit claiming the measure violated the Establishment Clause of the Constitution, which forbids the government from giving preference to one religion over another.

Opponents of the initiative say it is an unconstitutional scare tactic aimed at discriminating against Muslims. They say it will have a broad impact in the areas of family law that come before the courts and could prove to have national implications.

"The Court finds that plaintiff has shown that he will suffer an injury in fact, specifically, an invasion of his First Amendment rights which is concrete, particularized and imminent." Judge Miles-LaGrange wrote in granting Awad's request for a preliminary injunction. "The actual language of the amendment reasonably...may be viewed as specifically singling out Sharia Law, conveying a message of disapproval of plaintiff's faith."

State Senator Rex Conrad, who penned the legislation, told the Los Angeles Times, "Oklahoma does not have that problem yet...but why wait until it's in the courts?"

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio







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