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Thursday
Apr282011

CBS' Lara Logan Thought She Would Die During Sexual Assault in Egypt

Chris Hondros/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- CBS correspondent Lara Logan thought she was about to die as she endured a sexual assault in Egypt's Tahrir Square while covering the political uprising in the country.

"There was no doubt in my mind that I was in the process of dying," Logan told CBS News' Scott Pelley in an interview that will air Sunday on CBS' 60 Minutes. "I thought, 'Not only am I going to die, but it's going to be just a torturous death that's going to go on forever.'"

Logan, 40, spent four days in the hospital following the Feb. 11 attack, in which an estimated 200 to 300 men separated her from her news crew and bodyguard, surrounded her, ripped off her clothing and beat her.

"For an extended period of time, they raped me with their hands," Logan told The New York Times.

She was rescued by a group of women and an estimated 20 Egyptian soldiers.

The violence against her unfolded amid jubilation at the news that longtime Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak had decided to step down. The uprising in Egypt appeared to have a domino effect by helping to spark political uprisings in other Middle Eastern nations.

Logan, who is the chief foreign correspondent for CBS, returned to work on Wednesday.

"I am so much stronger [now]," she told Pelley, adding she hoped her story would empower other victims of sexual assault, particularly female reporters.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Thursday
Apr282011

Household Gun Ownership at Its Lowest Since 1977

David De Lossy/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- Do you keep a gun in your home?  If you do, you're among a declining percentage of Americans who do.  A new report released by the Washington, D.C.-based Violence Policy Center shows household gun ownership in the U.S. has dropped to its lowest level since it peaked in 1977.

In 1977, 54 percent of American households reported having guns. That percentage dropped to 32.3 percent in 2010.

The report cited several factors for the decline of gun ownership, including an increase in single-parent homes headed by women, the aging of the current gun-owning population, the decreasing popularity of hunting, and a lack of interest in guns by youth.

Additional findings from the VPC report:

    * Personal gun ownership peaked in 1985 when 30.7 percent of Americans reported personally owning a gun.  By 2010, that number had dropped to 20.8 percent.
    * Male gun ownership peaked in 1990, when 52.4 percent of men reported personally owning a gun.  That percentage dropped to 33.2 percent in 2010.
    * Female gun ownership peaked in 1982 at 14.3 percent. In 2010, the rate of female gun ownership was 9.9 percent.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio 

Thursday
Apr282011

Warning System for Deadly Tornadoes Not Foolproof 

Jupiterimages/Thinkstock(TUSCALOOSA, Ala.) -- Tornado alerts can give people just minutes to find shelter, and officials said Thursday that despite the nearly 300 deaths from a string of lethal twisters their warning systems worked well and prevented even more casualties.

"We have come a long way in the early warnings," said Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal, whose state had at least 10 people killed by tornadoes. He said that when people hear the sirens or receive notice of an onrushing tornado they know to take cover.

Georgia's emergency management director, Charlie English, said, "We got good warnings from the National Weather Service....The reason there weren't more deaths is citizens are paying attention and taking cover."

It's not clear that the warning systems worked as well in Alabama, where at least 180 people died, including more than 30 in Tuscaloosa. But the deaths may also be blamed on the size of the monster tornado which even flattened the city's Emergency Management Agency.

The Tuscaloosa EMA was relocated to a stadium Thursday, officials said. In addition, fire stations and police precincts also suffered severe damage.

In Jefferson County, Ala., officials said there were about 10 to 15 minutes between the alarm of sirens and the mile-wide tornado moving into the town. At least 14 people died in Jefferson County.

The county's emergency management director, Johnny Burnette, said he first received a code red alerting him of the tornado warning by the National Weather Service.

"We activate the sirens and then we do an all-call to all departments," Burnette said. The "all-call" means alerting the fire department and police.

In Franklin County, Ala., where at least 18 people died, the deputy director of the county's emergency management agency feels confident about the county's warning system.

Different areas use different ways to alert residents.

"It depends on topography and population. In a rural county, it might not have sirens because nobody would hear them. In metro Atlanta, it might bounce off the top of a building. A lot of them use a reverse telephone system where residents receive phone calls, others have email," said Lisa Janak from Georgia's Emergency Management Agency.

In hard-hit Catoosa County, Ga., Sheriff Phil Summers said they have sirens and they are used in drills regularly.

He said they had "excellent warning" in the county seat of Ringgold that was hit by a twister, and he said the warning and the drills are the reasons why people in the city weren't killed. The problem, he said, was in the unincorporated area outside of Ringgold involving "people coming off the highway" staying at hotels or eating at fast food restaurants. He said five people died there.

"There's no system that's foolproof. Sirens might not wake you up in the middle of night. An email alert system won't work if they're sleeping. Reverse telephone..not all counties have them," Janak said.

Experts said that one of the best ways to protect yourself is to buy a NOOA radio with a battery backup. The radios are set off by the National Weather Service when there's a tornado warning. People can find them at most retailers and they start at $20.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio 

Thursday
Apr282011

Take Your Daughter and Son to Work Day at the White House

ABC/Donna Svennevik(WASHINGTON) -- First lady Michelle Obama welcomed the children of Executive Office employees at the White House Thursday to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue for “Take Our Daughters and Sons to Work Day.”
 
Mrs. Obama thanked the children for their patience, as their parents pull long hours at the White House. She said Malia and Sasha Obama can relate to the frustration.
 
“They’re working hard for the President and they’re working hard for the country, and I know that sometimes that means that you guys don’t get to do everything you want to do with your parents,” Mrs. Obama said. “Malia and Sasha are the same way.  When you have parents who are working for service, sometimes you guys sacrifice, right?  Sometimes they miss your games, right?  Sometimes they can’t help you with that project because they’ve got a meeting.  Sometimes they miss a birthday because they had to travel, right?”
 
Mrs. Obama said that their parents are working at the White House to “help make life better for you and for millions of other kids not just here in the United States but around the [world].”
 
A humorous question-and-answer session then ensued -- especially when a few kids weren’t exactly clear what it is exactly that their parents do for work.
 
Ten-year-old Cynthia informed the first lady that her mom works for the “Science and Technology thingy.”
 
“We value her service at the thingy,” Mrs. Obama said back.
 
Eight-year-old Daniel said his dad is the head of European Affairs. "I think," he added, unsure of himself.
 
There were also the questions that solicited something thoughtful, such as when Mrs. Obama was asked just how shocked she was when her husband was elected president, and Mrs. Obama revealed that she’s looking forward to the first woman president.
 
“I'll be excited when a woman becomes President of the United States,” Mrs. Obama replied, “ And that's going to happen one day, as well.  And that will be exciting and shocking for the very same reasons.”
 
Mrs. Obama was asked about the disadvantages of being first lady.
 
“Before we lived here, we were normal people,” she said, “I had a job, I drove my own car, I took my kids to school every day.  I went to Target and shopped for my groceries.  And, you know, that may sound like minor things, but once you can’t do any of that ever again, you start feeling like, well, this is a little strange.  So sometimes it becomes difficult to live in what we call a bubble.”
 
Mrs. Obama said, though, the upside to being first lady is much better.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio 

Thursday
Apr282011

President Obama: Leon Panetta to Pentagon, David Petraeus to CIA

President Obama announces new jobs for Leon Panetta (C) and U.S. Army General David Petraeus (R) in the East Room of the White House. (Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)(WASHINGTON) -- President Obama set in motion a major reshuffling of his national security team at the White House on Thursday, nominating CIA Director Leon Panetta to become Defense Secretary and Gen. David Petraeus to take the top job at the CIA. Their reassignments will create openings down the chain of command at the Pentagon.

Panetta will succeed Defense Secretary Robert Gates, who will leave his post this summer after serving since 2007. Gen. Petraeus, currently commanding forces in Afghanistan, will move into Panetta's job at the helm of CIA, as sources had confirmed to ABC News on Wednesday.

The move of Panetta, who was budget director for President Clinton during the 1990s, to the Defense Department is seen as a signal that the White House will apply a budget-cutting scalpel to spending at the Pentagon. President Obama's deficit reduction plan calls for $400 billion in cuts at the Pentagon over a dozen years.

Obama said that Petraeus' experience leading the fights in Afghanistan and Iraq will help him at the CIA.

In addition, Marine Gen. John Allen will be nominated to replace Petraeus at International Security Assistance Force in Kabul, Afghanistan, and former U.S. Ambassador to Iraq Ryan Crocker will be nominated as U.S. ambassador to Afghanistan. Joint Chiefs Chairman Mike Mullen is expected to leave his post in October, and Vice Chairman James Cartwright remains the frontrunner. Others in contention include Adm. James Stavridis, who commands U.S. forces in Europe, or Army Chief of Staff Gen. Martin Dempsey.

Gen. Ray Odierno, who succeeded Petraeus as the top commander in Iraq in 2008 and served there until 2010, is currently the commander of U.S. Joint Forces Command.

Finally, former U.S. Ambassador to Iraq Ryan Crocker will replace outgoing U.S. Ambassador to Afghanistan Karl Eikenberry. Crocker is also a former U.S. Ambassador to Pakistan and knows the region well.

Neither Panetta nor Petraues are expected to meet resistance on Capitol Hill.

If all goes according to plan, according to Pentagon sources, Panetta will be installed at the Pentagon by the end of the summer. Current Defense Secretary Robert Gates, who has served both under President Bush and President Obama, has long made clear he wants to leave the demanding job.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Thursday
Apr282011

Deadly Tornadoes Claim Hundreds of Lives Across South

Alex Stone/ABC News(RAINSVILLE, Al.) -- The death toll has now risen to at least 292 from the tornadoes and thunderstorms that tore through the South Wednesday night and early Thursday. NOAA, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, estimated there were 164 tornadoes Wednesday, a new record for a single storm system in modern times.

The twisters rampaged through cities like Tuscaloosa, Alabama, forced a pair of nuclear plants to go off line, left thousands homeless and more than a million people without power.

President Obama called the loss of life "heartbreaking," and promised those affected by the storms the full support of the federal government.

So far 164 tornadoes have been reported from Mississippi to New York, the worst tornado outbreak since 1974 when a super tornado outbreak killed more than 300 people. The deadliest tornado outbreak was on March 18, 1925 when 695 people died in the storms.

Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal toured the tornado area this morning and said, "It's hard to imagine nature can be this devastating." The governor said it was a remarkably wide swath of twisters and noted there were multiple tornadoes in some areas.

The majority of the deaths reported so far have been in Alabama, where at least 195 people were killed. Mississippi recorded 32 fatalities, Tennessee had 33, Georgia at least 10, and Virginia had eight.

Greg Carbin, warning coordination meteorologist at the National Weather Service, said the area can expect mild weather for the next few days but he could not predict whether more killer tornadoes were on their way.

President Obama called Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley to express condolences over the deaths in his state and the White House announced that the president will stop in Alabama Friday to tour the wreckage while on his way to Cape Canaveral for the launch of the space shuttle Endeavour.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Thursday
Apr282011

Phillip, Nancy Garrido Plead Guilty to Jaycee Dugard Kidnapping

El Dorado County Sheriff via Getty Images(PLACERVILLE, Calif.) -- The California couple who kidnapped Jaycee Dugard in 1991 before holding her captive for 18 years pled guilty Thursday to various kidnapping and sexual assault charges.

Phillip Garrido pled guilty to kidnapping and to all sexual allegations against him, as well as to all priors and enhancements. He faces a maximum sentence of 431 years to life in prison.

His wife, Nancy Garrido, pled guilty to kidnapping and one count of rape by force. The Sacramento Bee reported she was expected to serve just 31 years under a plea deal that was contingent upon her husband’s guilty plea.

"Were it not for Jaycee’s strong cooperation with our office and the prosecution of the Garridos, we would not have been able to firmly stand by our position to take this case to jury trial," said El Dorado County District Attorney Vern Pierson. "Jaycee’s courage and willingness to confront her abductors in court directly led to the Defendants’ plea and life sentences.”

Phillip and Nancy Garrido will be sentenced June 2.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Thursday
Apr282011

247 On US Terror Watchlist Bought Guns In 2010

David De Lossy/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- More than 200 individuals who were on the federal terrorism watch list passed background checks and were allowed to buy guns in 2010, according to a new government review.

A review by the Government Accountability Office determined that 247 people on the watch list bought guns last year, and also showed that between 2004 and 2009, more than nine out of ten individuals on the list who tried to buy guns succeeded.

"It defies common sense," said Sen. Lautenberg, D-N.J., who requested the GAO report, "that people on the terror watch list continue to be cleared to buy weapons legally in the United States."

Current federal law does not prohibit people on the terrorist watch lists from purchasing guns unless there is a prohibiting factor, such as being a fugitive, a felon, renouncing U.S. citizenship or suffering mental impairment. Sen. Lautenberg has introduced legislation that would close this loophole and prevent known or suspected terrorists from purchasing firearms.

"This is a homeland security issue, not a gun issue," said. Sen. Lautenberg, "and there's no reason we shouldn't be able to stop a terrorist from buying a dangerous weapon in the United States."

In 2009, though they are not known to have been on the terror watch list, two men who had been under federal scrutiny for possible terror ties bought firearms that they then allegedly used to kill U.S. soldiers.

In August 2009, accused Ft. Hood shooter Maj. Nidal Hasan purchased a handgun despite having been the subject of an FBI Joint Terrorism Task Force investigation for his contacts with radical Yemeni cleric Anwar Al Awlaki. Hasan is now charged with killing 13 people during the November 2009 shooting spree at the Army's Ft. Hood in Texas.

Just months before the Ft. Hood massacre, Carlos Bledsoe was arrested for allegedly shooting two Army privates and killing one in Little Rock, Arkansas. Bledsoe, also known as Abdul Hakim Muhammad, was allowed to purchase a rifle at a Walmart in the weeks before the shooting despite having been under investigation by the FBI for his extensive travels to Yemen.

The GAO sent a letter to Sen. Lautenberg on Wednesday detailing the results of its review. The letter notes, "From February 2004 through February 2010, individuals on the terrorist watch list were involved in firearm and explosives background checks 1,228 times, of which 1,119 (about 91 percent) of the transactions were allowed to proceed while 109 were denied."

Under existing federal law, legal firearms purchases are checked with the FBI's National Instant Background Check System, which runs record checks through the FBI's National Crime Information Center. Part of the NCIC database checks the FBI's Violent Gang and Terrorist Organization File for individuals with gang or terrorism records.

The FBI unit responsible for background checks on gun purchases does provide leads to the FBI about some high priority terrorism suspects; but that watch list is not inclusive of everyone the government may have concerns about.

Although an FBI background check was run on Carlos Bledsoe, the FBI counterterrorism investigators working his case were apparently unaware and never informed of his purchase.

At a June 2009 Senate Appropriations Committee Hearing, FBI Director Robert S. Mueller III explained the current notification system. "We are notified when there is a -- appears to be a purchase of somebody who is affiliated with a terrorist group," said Mueller. "But that is different than barring that individual from the outset from purchasing a weapon. But again, I have to defer to the Department of Justice in terms of the policy position that it is going to take on that issue."

Asked about Sen. Lautenberg's proposed legislation, Justice Department spokesman Dean Boyd said, "The Department is committed to doing everything within its power to keep firearms out of the hands of persons who may intend to use those weapons to commit terrorist acts. To the extent Congress wishes to provide the Department with additional tools that would improve the status quo, we remain committed to working with them to achieve that goal."

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Thursday
Apr282011

Former President Bush Leads War Vets on Long Bike Trip

Shaun Botterill/Getty Images(BIG BEND NATIONAL PARK, Texas) -- Former President George W. Bush completed a 62-mile mountain bike ride on the desert trails of Big Bend National Park in southwestern Texas Wednesday.

What made the three-day trip particularly special was that Bush was accompanied by 15 veterans who either lost limbs or were seriously wounded while serving time in Iraq or Afghanistan.  They're part of the nonprofit Wounded Warrior project.

The 43rd U.S. president also had a special guest along for the ride during the last leg of the journey: seven-time Tour de France champ Lance Armstrong, who has ridden with Bush before, in 2005.

Elated by the bike journey made with the veterans and Armstrong, Bush called the trip "real cool, unbelievable."

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Thursday
Apr282011

Deadly Tornadoes, Storms Hit South; Leave Several Dozens Dead

Ablestock/Thinkstock (file photo)(LINCOLN, Ala.) -- Deadly tornadoes and thunderstorms tore through the South Wednesday, killing over 200 people in five states in the latest round of storms to hit the region over the past several days, authorities said.

The majority of those deaths were reported in Alabama, where 180 people died, including 15 in the city of Tuscaloosa alone.

Mayor Walter Maddox confirmed that 15 people died Wednesday in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, a city of approximately 180,000 leveled by an estimated mile-wide tornado.

Maddox said at least a dozen city roads remain impassable and 83,000 homes were without power.  Several city buildings, including a fire station and a communication plant, have been damaged.

"We have way over 100 injuries throughout the city of Tuscaloosa," Mayor Maddox said Wednesday.  "We have hundreds of homes and businesses destroyed and hundreds more damaged."

Classes at the University of Alabama, which is located in Tuscaloosa, have been canceled for Thursday.

President Obama declared a state of emergency for the search and rescue response in Alabama, and Gov. Robert Bentley told ABC News affiliate WBMA-TV in Birmingham, Alabama that he expected Obama to declare another one to help pay for the cleanup.

The president will travel to Alabama on Friday to assess the damages, thank rescue workers and offer his condolences to the familes of victims.

Elsewhere, at least 10 people were killed by storms in Georgia, according to the Georgia Emergency Management Agency.

Another 32 were killed in Mississippi, the Mississippi Emergency Management Agency said.

At least 33 others are dead in Tennessee and eight more in Virginia, according to emergency management officials.

The weather system was expected to move into Georgia, Tennessee and Kentucky overnight and into the Carolinas by Thursday morning. 

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio