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Monday
Nov082010

Convicted Russian Spy Ran Another Espionage Scheme from Prison

Photo Courtesy - CIA dot gov(SHERIDAN, Ore.) -- Former CIA operative Harold James Nicholson pleaded guilty Monday to spying for Russia -- again. Nicholson was convicted of espionage in 1997 and is serving a long prison sentence in Oregon.  In a remarkable tale of spycraft, authorities say he still managed to ply his trade from prison by using his son to do the dirty work.

Authorities say that in 2006, Nicholson enlisted his son Nathaniel, 25, in another espionage scheme. During visits with Nicholson at an Oregon prison from 2006 to 2008, Nicholson would give his son classified information he had gathered years earlier. Jim Nicholson schooled his son in CIA tradecraft and told his son to pass the classified information on to the Russians.

Assistant Attorney General for National Security David Kris said, "Harold Nicholson, one of the highest-ranking CIA officials ever convicted of espionage, dispatched his son around the globe to collect on past espionage debts from Russian agents. [Monday], he admitted using this scheme to continue to profit from his spying activities while in prison."

The plea agreement states the U.S. Attorney and Nicholson's lawyers will ask the court at sentencing to impose an eight-year prison sentence to be served consecutive to the sentence he is currently serving. Nathaniel is expected to receive a lesser sentence in return for his cooperation.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio

Monday
Nov082010

Steven Hayes Sentenced to Death for the Deadly Conn. Home Invasion

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(NEW HAVEN, Conn.) -- Steven Hayes was sentenced to death by a Connecticut jury Monday for his role in the deadly 2007 home invasion that killed Jennifer Hawke-Petit and her two daughters.

The verdict came halfway through day four of deliberation for the jury that spent the whole weekend holed up in a New Haven, Connecticut courtroom discussing the fate of Hayes, 47.

Hayes has been convicted of raping and choking Hawke-Petit to death, while accused accomplice Joshua Komisarjevsky is accused of sexually assaulting 11-year-old Michaela Petit. Michaela and her older sister Hayley, 17, died after they were tied to their beds and the house was set on fire.

The jury had struggled several times during deliberation to agree on a sentence for Hayes. On the first day of delibrations the jurors sent a note to Judge Jon Blue asking, "What does it mean to unanimously find the existence of a statutory mitigating factor?"

After meeting with the judge and resuming deliberations, a second note sought additional clarification on mitigating factors, specifically on mental capacity and "conforming to law."

Mitigating circumstances would allow the jurors to sentence Hayes to life in prison rather than to be executed. The note gave an example in which two jurors indicated that they saw no mitigating circumstances and Hayes should be to put to death.

In order for Hayes to be sentenced to death, the jury had to have found Hayes guilty of several aggravating factors beyond just committing the crime, according to the state.

Those aggravating factors included committing the murders during the commission of third-degree burglary as well as committing the offenses in a "heinous manner, extreme physical or psychological pain above and beyond that which was necessary" and with "grave risk."

Prosecutors have argued that Hayes and his accused accomplice Joshua Komisarjevsky broke into the Petits' home and battered the husband, Dr. William Petit, with a bat. Petit escaped to a neighbor's house to call for help.

Hayes is convicted of raping and choking Hawke-Petit to death, while Komisarjevsky is accused of sexually assaulting 11-year-old Michaela Petit. Michaela and her older sister Hayley, 17, were tied to their beds and the house was set on fire.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio

Monday
Nov082010

Oil Spill Investigators Say Safety Was Not Sacrificed to Cost

Image Courtesy - Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- The commission appointed by President Obama to investigate the Gulf oil spill at BP’s Deepwater Horizon drilling platform said in a presentation Monday it agrees with most of the findings of BP’s own investigation and that it found no instances where the companies involved in the project put cost-cutting ahead of safety.  

Fred Bartlit, Jr. is chief counsel for the Oil Spill Commission and said no individuals sacrificed safety. “To date, we have not seen a single instance where a human being made a conscious decision to favor dollars over safety.”

The commission’s preliminary conclusions blame flaws in the cementing job and negative pressure tests of the BP well, along with rig employee’s inattention to signals for the explosion.  Eleven workers died in that blast on April 20th and millions of gallons of crude spilled into the Gulf of Mexico. 

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio

Monday
Nov082010

Defense Secretary Gates Wants Congress to Repeal 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' in Lame-Duck Session

Photo Courtesy - ABC News(WASHINGTON) -- Defense Secretary Robert Gates wants Congress to repeal the military's controversial "don't ask, don't tell" policy in the upcoming lame-duck session, but he questions whether lawmakers will act.

"I would like to see the repeal of 'don't ask, don't tell,' but I'm not sure what the prospects for that are," Gates told reporters this weekend while traveling to Australia.

Lawmakers will return to Capitol Hill next Monday for a lame-duck session that is set to focus on taxes and spending. It appears unlikely that they will tackle "don't ask, don't tell."

Making matters worse for Gates and others who want a repeal of the 17-year-old ban on gays serving openly in the military is that the repeal will face even more of an uphill legislative battle come January.
That is when Republicans, most of whom oppose the repeal, will gain control of the House of Representatives and gain seats in the Senate.

The annual defense authorization bill, which included a repeal of the policy, was defeated in the Senate in September, falling four votes needed of the 60 to proceed to debate on the measure. The vote was 56-43, with three Democrats -- senators Harry Reid of Nevada, Blanche Lincoln of Arkansas and Mark Pryor of Arkansas -- voting against the bill, although Reid's vote was a procedural move to allow him to bring up the measure again at a later date.

The Democratic majority will shrink by six seats when the new Congress convenes in January.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio

Monday
Nov082010

Eighty-Thousand Eggs Recalled

Photo Courtesy - ABC News(JACKSON, MI) -- The largest producer and seller of eggs in the U.S has recalled 80,000 eggs because they may be contaminated with Salmonella.  Cal-Maine Foods of Jackson, Mississippi says it bought the eggs from Ohio-Fresh of Croton, Ohio and they were distributed to food wholesalers and retailers in Arkansas, California, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Missouri, Oklahoma and Texas.

The potential contamination was discovered during what Cal-Maine calls routine environmental sampling at one of Ohio-Fresh’s plants.  There have been no reported illnesses because of the eggs. 

Cal-Maine says it is cooperating with the federal Food and Drug Administration in issuing the voluntary recall.  Brands involved include Sunny Meadow, Springfield Grocer, Sun Valley and James Farm.  Cal-Maine advises consumers who believe they have tainted eggs to either throw them out or return them to the store where they bought them. 

´╗┐Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio

Monday
Nov082010

$14 Trillion Fiscal Challenge Faces GOP

(WASHINGTON) -- Representative John Boehner, Photo Courtesy US House of RepresentativesA stern test of fiscal discipline almost immediately faces Republicans who took control of the House of Representatives last week with vows to cut federal spending.  Congress is set to raise the country’s debt limit yet again.

The debate is already raging over what to do. Neither option -- refusing to raise the debt ceiling and risking a fiscal crisis versus relenting and risking alienating voters who entrusted the GOP to tighten the purse-strings -- is politically attractive.

Republican Senator Tom Coburn said in a Washington Examiner op-ed Friday “If Republicans vote to raise the debt without insisting on spending cuts, whatever credibility we may have will be gone.”

But Representative John Boehner, the likely new Speaker of the House, told ABC’s Diane Sawyer Thursday that there are “multiple options” for how to deal with the debt limit.  “Increasing the debt limit allows our government to meet its obligations,” he noted. “And I think that there are multiple options for how you deal with it. But for our team, I think we’re going to have to demonstrate that we’ve got to have reductions in spending. The government’s spending more than what we bring in. We can’t afford it.”

At this point experts say it appears Congress will have to raise the debt ceiling  early next year. The national debt is fast approaching the limit of $14.29 trillion.

Raising the limit is easier said than done.  Just look at the last time Congress voted to increase it. Last February, the Senate vote fell strictly along party lines, with all 60 Senate Democrats supporting the raise and all 39 Senate Republicans opposing it. Come next year, the Democratic majority in the Senate will have shrunk to 53.

If Congress were to refuse to increase the debt limit, the consequences could be severe for the global financial system. Think of the debt ceiling like the limit on your credit card. If you max out, your life doesn’t automatically shut down, but you do have to find other means of funding, such as borrowing cash from family and friends or selling belongings. The government, for instance, could continue operating with cash on hand or cash coming in. Or it could can postpone or delay paying certain obligations, such as payments to contractors. But resorting to moves like that sends an unnerving message to the rest of the world.

While election momentum might be on the side of Republicans, history is on the Democrats’ side. No Congress has ever voted against approving an increase in the debt ceiling.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio

Monday
Nov082010

FBI conducts stings against Child Prostitution Rings

Photo Courtesy - FBI(WASHINGTON) -- Over the weekend, the FBI, its local and state law enforcement partners, and the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC) concluded Operation Cross Country V, a three-day national enforcement action as part of the Innocence Lost National Initiative. The operation included enforcement actions in 40 cities across 34 FBI divisions around the country and led to the recovery of 69 children who were being victimized through prostitution. Additionally, nearly 884 others, including 99 pimps, were arrested on state and local charges.

“Child prostitution continues to be a significant problem in our country, as evidenced by the number of children rescued through the continued efforts of our crimes against children task forces,” said Shawn Henry, Executive Assistant Director of the FBI’s Criminal, Cyber, Response and Service Branch. “There is no work more important than protecting America’s children and freeing them from the cycle of victimization. Through our strategic partnerships with state and local law enforcement agencies, we are able to make a difference.”

Task Force operations usually begin as local actions, targeting such places as truck stops, casinos, street “tracks,” and Internet websites, based on intelligence gathered by officers working in their respective jurisdictions. Initial arrests are often violations of local and state laws relating to prostitution or solicitation. Information gleaned from those arrested often uncovers organized efforts to prostitute women and children across many states. FBI agents further develop this information in partnership with U.S. attorneys' offices and the U.S. Department of Justice’s Child Exploitation and Obscenity Section (CEOS) and file federal charges where appropriate.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio

Monday
Nov082010

Natalee Holloway's Mom Confronts Daughter's Suspected Killer in Jailhouse Meeting

Photo Courtesy - ABC News(NEW YORK) -- The visibly shaken mother of missing American teenager Natalee Holloway pleads for answers from the prime suspect in the girl's disappearance in recently released hidden camera video of the dramatic, face-to-face jailhouse encounter.

"I want to know what happened and I want to move on, Joran," Beth Twitty is seen telling prime suspect Joran van der Sloot during a secretive meeting in September at Peru's Castro Castro prison where van Der Sloot is being held in connection to a Peruvian woman's murder. "I want to move on in my life and I can't close the book."

But van der Sloot offers her nothing more than a vague admission to making "bad decisions" and says he'll tell her more in a letter.

"It's very hard for me to talk to you. It's really not easy," he says in the video which was part of a recently released Dutch documentary. "I've made so many bad decisions for all the wrong reasons... I'm really very addicted to perks, especially gambling. That's why I've told so many lies."

Twitty tells van der Sloot that she's trying to help him.

"I felt like you didn't listen to me and I wanted you to tell me what happened and let me take her home," Twitty tells van der Sloot, apparently referring to the last time the two spoke in person five years ago.

"That's always been my problem," van der Sloot says. "I've never listened to anyone who's meant well for me."

After the meeting's conclusion, Twitty is left crying alone in the room, apparently no closer to knowing what happened to her 18-year-old daughter who disappeared from a school vacation in Aruba in 2005.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio

Monday
Nov082010

Family of Missing Utah Mother Susan Powell Fights Back Against Husband's Accusations

Photo Courtesy - ABC News(NEW YORK) -- Harsh words from the husband of missing Utah mother Susan Powell has her family seething and adamant that she was not mentally ill when she disappeared nearly a year ago.

"It's blatantly untrue," Susan Powell's father, Chuck Cox, told ABC's Good Morning America Monday. "It's obviously a self-serving statement. It's untrue, it's all untrue."

Joshua Powell blasted his missing wife and her family in an interview this weekend with the Salt Lake Tribune. He called Susan Powell "extremely unstable" and blamed her family for keeping her in hiding and causing her to leave in the first place.

"She can't come back with them treating her this way," Joshua Powell said. "They want her to be perfect, a saint with no fallibility."

Joshua Powell's sister, Jennifer Graves, said she found her brother's claims that his wife was mentally ill to be ironic.

"In the Powell family, my family, we're the ones with the mental illness, documented," she said, noting that her and Joshua Powell's brother was diagnosed with schizophrenia. "I never saw Susan display symptoms," she said.

Graves, who is estranged from her own family but was close with Susan Powell and the couple's two children, has long maintained that she believes her brother had something to do with his wife's disappearance.

Although Powell is the only person of interest in the case, he said he has been unfairly scrutinized and predicted his wife would be next when she returns.

"She knows she will be chewed up like hamburger when she comes back," he told the Salt Lake Tribune.

And he stuck by his story that his wife disappeared Dec. 6, 2009, while he was out with their young sons on a middle-of-the-night camping trip in the woods during heavy snow and freezing temperatures.

Cox said that, after nearly a year, relatives are preparing themselves for the day his daughter's body might be found, but "we have the hope that she's still alive."

Loved ones get weekly updates from investigators who tell them they are still tracking down leads.

"They tell us the case is progressing," he said.´╗┐

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio

Monday
Nov082010

Winning Powerball Ticket Sold at Adult Bookstore in Michigan

Photo Courtesy - WJRT-TV Flint, MI(HIGHLAND PARK, MI) -- The winner of Saturday's $128 million Powerball jackpot will have to come forward to claim the mega-prize.  That may seem like a small thing when you consider the size of the jackpot, but it may be more complicated than that for the winner.

He or she was clearly determined to get lucky when they bought their ticket -- it was sold at Uptown Books, an adult bookstore in Highland Park, Michigan.  Michigan Powerball rules require the winner to be identified in order to claim their prize.

Uptown Books is in Highland Park, a small city actually enclosed by the city of Detroit.  The area has been hard hit by the difficult economic times and has a tough, gritty image.  The bookstore stands next to a strip club. 

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio







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