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Thursday
Nov042010

Space Shuttle Discovery's Launch Delayed Yet Again

Photo Courtesy - NASA/Bill Ingalls(KENNEDY SPACE CENTER, Fla.) -- The shuttle Discovery, which was supposed to launch on its last mission on Monday, was delayed to Wednesday, then Thursday, and now it is being held back at least until Friday.

Steady rainfall in Florida is to blame for this new delay.  The first delay was for a small leak, the second for a voltage fluctuation in a circuit breaker, which they decided they could overcome.  But, the weather is another matter.  A rocket ascending through a rainstorm is a natural lightning rod, and a rocket being fueled in the rain is not much safer.

NASA has already put out word via Twitter: "Space shuttle managers will meet at 5 a.m. EDT Friday to evaluate weather. Discovery's Friday launch attempt would be at 3:03 p.m."

Friday's weather forecast is sunny, but windy with gusts up to 30 mph.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio

Thursday
Nov042010

Obama Touts Green Energy, Strips Funding

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- While President Obama has touted his deep commitment to a clean energy industry, the administration has quietly drained more than half of the $6 billion allocated to a key renewable energy program and senior White House officials have proposed either fixing or scrapping one of the president's most widely heralded initiatives involving solar and wind power.

An internal White House memo sent to the president from key advisors on Oct. 25, obtained by ABC News, outlines the shortcomings of the administration's renewable loan guarantee program, which was to set aside millions of taxpayer dollars to backstop private efforts to build robust power plants that rely on solar, wind, and other renewable resources.

The memo was drafted by Obama's top environmental advisor, Carol Browner, top economic advisor Lawrence Summers and the chief of staff to Vice President Joe Biden, Ron Klain. It acknowledges what some environmental and congressional leaders have quietly complained about for months -- that the loan program has moved too slowly to approve projects and now is in trouble.

The program faces "near term risks," it says, and the senior advisers offer four options for addressing the problem. Among them is a plan to eliminate the initiative by folding the money into a different energy grant program. Obama's advisors bluntly concede in the memo that canceling the program would likely enrage environmental groups and anger key Democrats in Congress. "The White House will bear this criticism," it says.

Just three weeks before the memo landed on Obama's desk, the president used his weekly radio address to tout his commitment to the clean energy sector, saying "our future as a nation" depends on it. Obama used the occasion to criticize Republicans for "promising to scrap all the incentives for clean energy projects, including those currently underway, even with all the jobs and potential that they hold."

"To go backwards and scrap these plans means handing the competitive advantage to China and other nations," he said. "It means that we'll grow even more dependent on foreign oil, and in a time of economic hardship, it means forgoing jobs we desperately need."

The White House released a statement Wednesday saying the president remains committed to the program "and the role it plays in helping us bring about a clean energy economy and creating jobs in this burgeoning industry."


In the statement, Deputy Press Secretary Bill Burton said the memo was intended to "tee up a wide array of options and issues for consideration." He said the president is planning to take steps to help streamline the process "while still protecting taxpayers who, ultimately, are the ones investing in these projects."

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio

Wednesday
Nov032010

Ad Council Implements New Internet Safety Coalition to Educate Teens

Photo Courtesy - Ad Council | GrapeVine Productions(NEW YORK) -- The Ad Council Wednesday announced a new initiative to educate teens about making good choices about what to share online.

The initiative, dubbed the Internet Safety Coalition, is a collaborative effort drawing on the strengths of corporations, media and non-profits.  AOL, AT&T, Google, MTV Networks, the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children and the National Cable and Telecommunications Association are among Coalition members.

"We know that targeted and consistent communications programs have the power to change attitudes and behaviors regarding a multitude of social issues," said Peggy Conlon, president and CEO of the Advertising Council.

Creative materials based on research and tested on teens will be developed and incorporated into the marketing and communications efforts of Coalition members. 

GrapeVine Productions has already tested material featuring the tagline, "If you wouldn't wear it, don't share it," to be distributed via online videos, Web banners, social media messaging and logos.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio

Wednesday
Nov032010

FBI: All 5 D.C. Area Military Shootings Linked

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- The FBI's Washington Field Office confirmed Wednesday that all five military-related shootings in Northern Virginia -- at the Pentagon, the Marine Museum and two military recruiting stations -- have all been linked. 

Officials involved in the FBI investigation say they have determined that bullets from all five shootings appear to have been fired from the same weapon, according to ballistics results from the FBI Laboratory at Quantico.

Investigators on the case speculated Tuesday morning that recent media attention may have caused copycats to emerge.  However, after Wednesday's ballistics results, the search for suspects continues to narrow.

No one has been injured in any of the five incidents.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio

Wednesday
Nov032010

Pilot Union Calls for New Approach to Cargo Security

Photo Courtesy - ABC News | WFAA-TV Dallas-Ft. Worth(WASHINGTON) -- The largest pilots union has called for a new air cargo screening method based on risk rather than a "one-size-fits-all" approach.

The Air Line Pilots Association in a news release Wednesday asked for a tailored approach to screening amid concerns over cargo security.  

"We know that risk-based screening and other security enhancements are urgently needed to close existing gaps that put at risk passengers, cargo, and pilots, as well as persons on the ground, if a terrorist were to be successful in bringing down an aircraft over a major metropolitan area,” said Capt. John Prater, ALPA’s president.

ALPA argued that all-cargo operations should use a threat-based approach that treats trustworthy and reliable shippers differently from those who are less reliable or less known.
 
Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio

Wednesday
Nov032010

Kentucky Mine Closed Over Safety Violations 

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(ARLINGTON, Va.) -- A Federal Court has been asked to shut down a mine in Kentucky accused of habitual safety violations.

The U.S. Department of Labor's Mine Safety and Health Administration filed a motion Wednesday for preliminary injunction against The Freedom Energy Mine Co., owned by Massey Energy Co.

The department cited the Federal Mine Safety and Health Act of 1977 which allows for such injunctions against mine operators who continuously violate health and safety standards.

"Freedom Energy has demonstrated time and again that it cannot be trusted to follow basic safety rules when an MSHA inspector is not at the mine," said Joseph A. Main, Assistant Secretary of Labor for Mine Safety and Health.

"If the court does not step in, someone may be seriously injured or die."
MSHA claimed that they have made numerous attempts to resolve serious safety problems. This is the first time that the agency has used this type of legal action to close a mine.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio

Wednesday
Nov032010

Supreme Court Weighs Arizona's Tax Credit for Private Schools

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- The Supreme Court debated an Arizona law Wednesday that allows state residents to receive tax credits for contributions to nonprofit organizations. The groups, in turn, give scholarships to public school students who want to attend private schools.

The Arizona legislature passed the law in 1997 to encourage greater educational choice for disadvantaged elementary school children. Any taxpayer can participate, but parents are forbidden from earmarking a donation for their child.

The law has come under intense criticism, however, from some Arizona taxpayers who say, in practice, most of the nonprofit organizations -- called School Tuition Organizations (STOs) -- that receive the funds only provide aide to students at religious schools.

The taxpayers filed a lawsuit arguing the law is a violation of the Establishment Clause of the Constitution prohibiting government actions from favoring one religion over another. The taxpayers argue the policy funnels state money to religious schools.

The justices will have to decide whether the taxpayers have the legal right, or "standing," to bring the case. If the court finds the taxpayers are sufficiently harmed by the policy, it will then decide the constitutional merits of the case.

In most cases, taxpayers do not have the right to challenge government expenditures, but the court has granted exceptions to that rule in cases regarding the Establishment Clause.

Acting Solicitor General Neal Katyal argued in court the taxpayers in this case do not fit into such an exception because "not a cent" of their own money goes to fund religion.

But he was challenged by some of the more liberal members of the court.

Justice Sonia Sotomayor brought up the argument of the taxpayers: "Their point is that this tax money does belong to the state" she said, "... either you pay it to the state or you use it for this purpose." 

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio

Wednesday
Nov032010

Zahra Baker Case: Letters Apparently From Elisa Baker Say Husband Did Something 'Horrifying'

Photo Courtesy - CatawbaCountyNC [dot] gov(HICKORY, North Carolian) -- In jailhouse letters apparently written by the stepmother of missing 10-year-old Zahra Baker, she claims that neither she nor her husband killed the disabled girl, but that Zahra's father did something "horrifying" after the girl was dead.

Police in Hickory, North Carolina, where Elisa Baker is being held on an obstruction of justice charge, said they couldn't verify that she wrote the letters without looking at them.

Deputy Chief Clyde Deal told ABC News the handwriting was "similar" to hers and the content matched some of what the woman has been telling police.

"I don't necessarily have any reason to doubt [that Elisa Baker wrote the letters], but I can't say that she did write them either," Deal said.

The letters, obtained by ABC News, appear to shift any blame from Elisa Baker to her husband Adam Baker.

"We really didn't kill her, but what he did after the fact is kinda horrifying," Elisa Baker wrote to crime memorabilia dealer Eric Gein from jail. "[It] makes me scared of him. So I probably am gonna go ahead and file [for divorce]. I have lost my whole life anyway."

Elisa Baker reported her stepdaughter missing on October 9 and was arrested a day later on unrelated charges. She was later charged with felony obstructing justice for allegedly writing a fake $1 million ransom note in relation to her daughter's disappearance.

Gein, who runs the website SerialKillersInk.net, told ABC News he contacted Elisa Baker by letter weeks ago under an assumed name. The letters he received in return, first reported by AOL News, describe strained life in the Baker home. She allegedly signed one letter, "Dark Love Always, Elisa."

Further down the page between doodles of candles and a spider she writes, "Goth's Rule [sic]" and "Vamps Rule!" The comments are similar to those made on a MySpace page believed to belong to Elisa Baker.

Though police have been searching for Zahra's remains for weeks, Elisa Baker claims in the letters, "The cops know where she is and what he has done," apparently referring to her husband.

"[Adam Baker] knows what happened to Zahra, and yet I'm the one in here at least for now," she writes.

In the letters, Elisa Baker now claims Adam Baker actually wrote the phony ransom note.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio

Wednesday
Nov032010

California Voters Choose Clean Energy as a Pathway to Job Growth

Photo Courtesy - PRNewsFoto | Environmental Defense(SACRAMENTO) -- California voters proved they want clean-energy jobs Tuesday with the defeat of Prop 23, the industry-backed measure that would have suspended implementation of California's global warming law. 

The Environmental Defense Fund joined businesses and environmental activists in celebrating the victory. 

Prop 23 supporters claimed the growth of clean-energy industries would cost American jobs, but California voters rejected that claim and embraced the potential for clean-energy markets to boost economic growth.  It's expected that by the end of the next decade, the clean-energy market will be the world's third-largest industrial sector.  With China investing millions of dollars daily in its energy endeavors, the country is now considered the world's "clean-energy powerhouse."

California's global warming law is the most forward-thinking energy law in America.

"If America follows California's lead, it can be one of the biggest winners in this growing, multi-billion-dollar economy," said EDF California Climate Initiative director Derek Walker.

Walker added that the global warming law is an opportunity that must be seized for the good of the nation's economic and environmental future.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio

Tuesday
Nov022010

Bush Nearly Dropped Cheney from 2004 Ticket

Photo Courtesy - Randomhouse dot com(NEW YORK) -- Former President George W. Bush considered dropping former Vice President Dick Cheney from his 2004 campaign ticket, according to The New York Times, which obtained an early copy of the former president’s memoir.

In Decision Points, which will not hit store shelves until Nov. 9, President Bush explains the consideration was made in an attempt to "demonstrate that I was in charge," according to The Times.

Cheney offered to drop off the re-election ticket during a private lunch in 2003, writes the former president, who admitted Cheney was a "lightning rod for criticism from the media and the left."

"He was seen as dark and heartless -- the Darth Vader of the administration," Bush writes. "Accepting Dick's offer would be one way to demonstrate that I was in charge," notes The Times.

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