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HEAR THIS HOUR'S UPDATE

Wednesday
Oct192011

Obama: 'Fast and Furious' Blunderers 'Will Be Held Accountable'

ABC News(JAMESTOWN, N.C.) -- As the Justice Department investigates how U.S. guns were allowed to flow illicitly into Mexico under the watchful eyes of federal agents, President Obama said Tuesday in an exclusive interview with ABC News that “people who have screwed up will be held accountable.”

“Our overarching goal consistently has been to say we’ve got a responsibility not only to stop drugs from flowing north, we’ve also got a responsibility to make sure we are not helping to either arm or finance these drug cartels in Mexico,” Obama said in an interview with ABC News senior White House correspondent Jake Tapper.

“It’s very upsetting to me to think that somebody showed such bad judgment that they would allow something like that to happen,” he said.  “And we will find out who and what happened in this situation and make sure it gets corrected.”

Obama and Attorney General Eric Holder have come under scrutiny by some Congressional Republicans who allege high-ranking administration officials were aware of the program -- known as “Fast and Furious” -- and its flaws, but did not intervene.

Of the thousands of guns involved in the operation, several reportedly have ties to violent crimes in Mexico and along the U.S. border, including the murder of U.S. Border Patrol agent Brian Terry.

Earlier this month, Obama said he has “complete confidence” in Holder to oversee a Justice Department investigation into the gun-running operation, but the Attorney General has been accused of stonewalling -- and even perjuring himself about what he knew and when he knew it -- by those delving into the operation.

“I have complete confidence in him," Obama said of Holder at a news conference on Oct. 6, "and I’ve got complete confidence in the process to figure out who, in fact, was responsible for that decision and how it got made."

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Wednesday
Oct192011

Georgia Mom Faces Charges Again in Son's Traffic Death

Hemera Technologies/Thinkstock(MARIETTA, Ga.) -- A Georgia mother whose son was killed in a tragic hit-and-run accident will once again face charges in his death.  

A Cobb County, Ga., state court judge has ruled that Raquel Nelson, 30, will stand trial on charges of vehicular homicide and criminal jaywalking in the death of her 4-year-old son, A.J. Newman.

Nelson was convicted of the charges in an earlier trial this year, and faced up to three years of jail time -- a longer sentence than the hit-and-run driver who killed her young son.

In July, State Court Judge Katherine Tanksley sentenced Nelson to probation instead of jail time, but the judge also offered her a deal.  Nelson could undergo a new trial, and if acquitted, her record would be cleared.  Nelson accepted the offer.

According to the Atlanta Journal Constitution, earlier this month, Nelson’s attorney asked the judge to dismiss all charges against his client.  The judge did dismiss a charge of reckless conduct, but determined that Nelson would stand trial again on the other two charges.  The trial will begin on Oct. 25.

Nelson’s son was killed as she and her three children were attempting to cross a busy street, heading from a bus stop to their home across the road.  Nelson was charged with vehicular homicide because she was not crossing the street at the crosswalk in Marietta, Ga., at the time of the accident in April 2010.

A jury convicted Nelson, and there was an outpouring of support for the single mother as she headed back to court in July to learn whether she would be sentenced to jail time.  Tanksley sentenced her to 12 months probation and 40 hours of community service instead.

The driver of the car was given six months in jail for hitting Nelson, one of her daughters and her son last year, and then fleeing the scene.

Nelson was originally charged with reckless conduct, improperly crossing a roadway and second-degree homicide by vehicle.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Wednesday
Oct192011

Michelle Obama to Announce 25,000 Jobs for Veterans, Spouses

Alex Wong/Getty Images(HAMPTON, Va.) -- First Lady Michelle Obama is expected to make her first appearance on a presidential bus tour Wednesday, joining her husband at Joint Base Langley-Eustis in Virginia to make an announcement about jobs for military veterans and their spouses.

The first lady is scheduled to unveil a commitment by the American Logistics Association, a trade group of 270 private companies, to hire 25,000 veterans and their spouses by the end of 2013, administration officials say.

Among the ALA members participating in the pledge are ConAgra Foods, which has vowed to hire 3,000 veterans, Prime Team Services, which will add 1,250, and Tysons Foods, which will also recruit an undisclosed number of veteran workers.

Pat Nixon, president of ALA, said most of the jobs are in on-base retail facilities, such as grocery and wholesale stores, gas stations, convenience stores, recreation facilities and day care centers.

Officials called the announcement the “largest coordinated effort by the private sector to date to hire veterans and spouses.”  It’s one quarter of the goal set by President Obama on Aug. 5 when he urged businesses to hire 100,000 veterans and spouses by the end of 2013.

To date, 12,000 veterans and spouses have been hired under the Obama initiative, according to Bradley Cooper, executive director of the Joining Forces, which is spearheaded by Michelle Obama and Dr. Jill Biden to raise awareness about the special needs of veterans and military families.

“The message for businesses is we want to ensure that these talented veterans and spouses have the opportunities they deserve, and that businesses understand that value that veterans and spouses bring,” Cooper said.

“They’ve completed over the last 10 years incredibly complex missions with high stakes and an incredible number of variables...that would make most people’s heads spin.  They’re trained in state-of-the-art technologies, they managed dozens and in some cases hundreds of people,” he said. “It makes good business sense for them to be hired and positively impact a company’s bottom line.”

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Tuesday
Oct182011

NYPD Cop Disciplined over Occupy Wall Street Pepper Spray

New York City Police Department (NYPD) officers clash with a protester from the Occupy Wall Street movement in Zuccotti Park in New York. Scott Eells/Bloomberg via Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- An internal New York Police Department review has found a senior police officer violated NYPD guidelines when he used pepper spray on Occupy Wall Street protesters last month, ABC News confirmed.

According to a person with knowledge of the investigation, Deputy Inspector Anthony Bologna faces discipline of a loss of 10 vacation days as a result of the incident on Sept. 24.

According to officials, after the demonstrators left their base in Zuccotti Park and spilled over into the streets, blocking traffic, Bologna approached a group already corralled by police and sprayed the group with pepper spray.

Clips on the Occupy Wall Street website show the incident, when a group of young women who were penned in by orange netting were approached by Bologna, who then, without apparent warning, used pepper spray on them. Two of the women hit by the spray fell to the ground and one screamed.

Bologna has the option to appeal the decision.

“Deputy Inspector Bologna is disappointed at the results of the department investigation,” Roy Richter, president of the NYPD captain’s endowment association, said in a statement. “His actions prevented further injury and escalation of tumultuous conduct. To date, this conduct has not been portrayed in its true context.”

The Occupy Wall Street protests began in downtown New York City Sept. 17, and have continued with the occupation of a park in the city’s financial district and several large-scale marches, generally on weekends. Though many of the group’s marches have resulted in dozens of arrests, there has been very little violence, and conflicts between the protesters and police have been limited.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Tuesday
Oct182011

Lions, Tigers, Bears on the Loose in Ohio

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(ZANESVILLE, Ohio) -- As many as 48 wild animals, including cheetahs, grizzly bears, black bears, wolves, tigers and lions, are on the loose in the area of Zanesville, Ohio, after they escaped from a private wildlife preserve, police said Tuesday night.

Officers believe they have shot as many as 25 of the animals so far, but it is not clear exactly how many escaped, according to the Muskingum County Sheriff’s Department.

Muskingum County Sheriff Matt Lutz said that until the animals are rounded up, people should stay inside.

“These are wild animals, wild animals that you would see on TV in Africa,” Mutz said at a news conference Tuesday evening.

The owner of the preserve was found dead, but it’s not clear yet how he died, the sheriff said.

The animals’ pens were found open, and deputies are working with the animals’ caregiver, who says the animals were fed Monday.

They’re putting food in the animals’ pens in the hopes they might return to the pens where they can then secure the animals.

Police describe the animals as “mature, very big and aggressive.”

The Ohio State Highway Patrol has cordoned off seven square miles near Interstate 70 and officers are using infrared equipment to find the animals.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Tuesday
Oct182011

Daughter, 9, Is Dad’s Designated Driver?

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(DETROIT) -- A father in a Detroit suburb faces charges of child abuse after making his 9-year-old daughter drive him to a service station because he was too drunk to take the wheel, police said.

The outing was caught on tape by the station’s surveillance video, which shows the van pulling up to the station around 3 a.m. on Oct. 8, and the man, identified as 39-year-old Shawn Weimer, walking in with his daughter.

“Nine years old. Nine! Gas, break, listen, we’re leaving, and she’s driving. I’m drunk,” he can be heard saying to a clerk in the store.

Weimer was arrested after police officers in Brownstown Township, southwest of Detroit, were alerted by a 911 call.

“A 7-year-old is driving it and her dad is drunk and he’s in the passenger side,” the caller, who watched the girl get in the driver’s seat at the service station and pull the vehicle onto the road, told a 911 dispatcher.

“Are you sure the child’s driving, sir?” the dispatcher asks the caller.

When police stopped the car a few miles later, they were surprised to see the young girl really sitting behind the wheel, in a booster seat but still able to operate the van’s gas and brakes.

They were even more surprised at the 9-year-old’s reaction.

“She looks at the uniformed police officer, and says ‘What did you stop me for? I was driving good,’” Brownstown Detective Lt. Robert Grant said.

The girl later told detectives that this wasn’t the first time her dad had her serve as his designated driver.

“She explained to me that he did let her drive before,” Grant said. “On this night, she indicated, he was drinking whiskey and, for whatever reason, instead of the little girl being in bed at 3 a.m., he decided to go for a ride after drinking.”

Officers described Weimer as “argumentative” in telling them he was just teaching his daughter to drive.

Weimer and the girl’s mother are separated and she was spending the weekend with him.

He refused a Breathalyzer test and was arrested, Grant said.

Weimer was charged with second- and fourth-degree child abuse, one a felony and the other a misdemeanor, for the Oct. 8 incident.

He was also charged with being a habitual offender from previous convictions for unarmed robbery, felony firearm possession and receiving and concealing stolen property.  He could face 15 years in prison if convicted.

Weimer was also ordered to have no contact with his daughter, now back in the custody of her mother.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Tuesday
Oct182011

Missing Girl Linked to Philly Basement Dungeon

ABC News(PHILADELPHIA) -- A Florida teenager who ran away to be with her boyfriend in Philadelphia was found by police investigating a basement dungeon in which four mentally handicapped adults were being imprisoned, according to police.

Benita Rodriguez, 15, was reported missing in July from her West Palm Beach home. She traveled to Philadelphia to be with her boyfriend, Gregory Thomas Jr., whom she met when they were neighbors in Florida, police said.

Police said they are not certain yet whether Rodriguez knew about the alleged kidnapping and imprisonment operation in the Thomas home, but suspect that she may have just been "hanging out."

The teenager was located by police Monday night and her mother was notified, according to ABC News affiliate WPVI.

"I just want to hold her and love her," Juana Rodriguez, the girl's mother, told WPVI. "I can breathe, I can breathe. She's doing good, she's okay."

The age of her boyfriend was not immediately available.

The boyfriend's father, Gregory Thomas, Sr., 47, is accused of having helped to traffic the imprisoned individuals from Florida to Philadelphia with his girlfriend, Linda Weston, 51, the suspected ringleader in the case.

Police have said that Weston and Thomas, with the help of a third man, Eddie Wright, may have stolen the identities and Social Security checks of at least 50 people whose documents they found inside the home where Weston and Thomas were living.

Possible victims include individuals from Virginia, Texas, Arizona, Kansas and Florida, they said.

Police say that Weston, who was previously sentenced to eight years in prison for locking a man in a closet until he died of starvation, may have begun trafficking and stealing identification documents shortly after being released from prison, police said. Authorities expect the investigation to uncover many more victims and a widespread fraud scheme.

The victims that were discovered in the Philadelphia basement have been identified as Herbert Knowles, 40, Tamara Breeden, 29, and Derwin McLemire, 41. A fourth man's name has not been released.

The victims are being treated at Philadelphia hospitals while their families are notified that they have been found, police said.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Tuesday
Oct182011

Marines Will No Longer Allow Rolled-Up Sleeves

Sgt. Heather Golden/US Marine Corp(WASHINGTON) -- On the same day that the Marine commandant lifted a ban on wearing KIA bracelets, another fashion edit is raising howls from within the ranks.

Beginning next Monday, Oct. 24, Marines won’t be allowed to roll up the sleeves of their uniforms. Marine regulations currently allow for sleeves to be rolled up on camouflaged uniforms, and doing so is a matter of pride for Marines who feel it makes them look distinctive from the other services.

Marine regulations even have precise instructions for how those sleeves are to be rolled: "The camouflage utility coat will be worn outside the trousers. Sleeves may be rolled up at the option of local commanders. When authorized, utility sleeves will be rolled with the inside out, forming a roll about three inches wide, and terminating at a point about two inches above the elbow. ”

A Marine official says the Marine Uniform Board decided to make the change after Marine leaders observed that “deployed Marines were operating with sleeves down…their intent with this decision is to have one uniform policy, a single look.”

So the board has decided that “the Marine Corps will roll sleeves down and remain sleeves down year-round, beginning on Monday, 24 October. There will be official guidance released soon directing the uniform change.”

On Tuesday, Marine Commandant Gen. James Amos said Marines will be allowed to wear KIA bracelets honoring fallen fellow service members while in uniform. This uniform allowance is effective immediately.

A recent Marine Corps Times article generated controversy when it brought to light how some unit commanders were not allowing their Marines to wear bracelets to commemorate those killed in action in Iraq and Afghanistan.  

Marines of all ranks were wearing the popular bracelets, though they technically violated regulations that ban Marines from wearing jewelry while in uniform.    

In a statement released Tuesday afternoon, Amos said that he was allowing their use. "We are acknowledging the close personal nature of our 10 years at war and the strong bonds of fidelity that Marines have for one another, especially for those fellow Marines who we have lost,” said Amos.

“There’s not really a ban on the KIA bracelet specifically,” says the spokesperson for the Marines.  “There are regulations for wearing the uniform and specifically jewelry, and Marines are not allowed to wear bracelets. This falls under that spectrum.  Now, the KIA bracelet will be lumped into the same category as the POW/MIA bracelets, which are approved for wear.”    

According to the statement, effective immediately, “Memorial bracelets memorializing prisoners of war, missing in action, killed in action, and those who died of wounds or injuries sustained in a combat theater are authorized.”

Some senior Pentagon officials have been spotted wearing the bracelets, most notably former Joint Chiefs Chairman Adm. Mike Mullen.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Tuesday
Oct182011

Baby Lisa Parents Not Answering Vital Questions, Police Say

Kansas City Police(KANSAS CITY,  Missouri) -- The parents of missing toddler Lisa Irwin haven't submitted to an interview with detectives for the last 10 days to answer questions about things "they might only know," police said today.

The 11-month-old girl vanished from her crib Oct. 3. Police have not named any suspects in the girl's disappearance, but the story of mother Deborah Bradley has altered somewhat and she has admitted to being drunk that night, possibly even blacking out.

Kansas City Police Capt. Steve Young expressed some frustration Tuesday with Bradley and the girl's father, Jeremy Irwin.

"The last time that the mom and dad sat down with detectives to answer questions about things they might only know was Oct. 8," Young told ABC News.

"And that time, and previous times, there came a point when Deborah became uncomfortable and stopped the questioning," Young said.

Young conceded that the parents have spoken with detectives since Oct. 8, but only to clarify information about tips that have come in.

"We strongly believe that that parent's cooperation and involvement is critical [in finding Lisa]," Young said.

Police have previously accused the parents of halting their cooperation, although the parents have insisted they continue to answer officers' questions. Tuesday’s comments by police were more specific.
Young also responded to criticism by Joe Tacopina, the high powered defense lawyer who is now representing Bradley and Irwin.

Tacopina told Good Morning America today that the way some of the local authorities conducted themselves in the hours following Lisa's disappearance was "baffling."

"I am aware that he offered some vague criticisms of the police department," Young said. "I think all reasonable people know that are doing things and we know things that are not a matter of public record."

"Should we develop something that we think will benefit the case by making public, by all means we'll be doing that," the captain said. "But to make the assumption that we're putting all our eggs in one basket would be wildly inaccurate."

Young said the police have so far cleared over 550 tips and leads.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Tuesday
Oct182011

‘Spider-Man’ Bandit Strikes Again

Hemera/Thinkstock(WILMINGTON, N.C.) -- Like the “real” Spider-Man, he always manages to slip away -- but this guy is no hero.  The costumed bandit, dressed as Spider-Man villain “Venom,” has robbed several convenience stores in Wilmington, N.C., driven by a base appetite for Newport cigarettes and cash.

“He came, demanded me to open the register and get the cash and he was holding his gun like this,” clerk Mark Headstrong told ABC News affiliate WWAY, describing the robbery that occurred more than a week ago. “I responded to his request because he was holding a gun.”

The most recent robbery, the fourth to occur in a three-week period, happened Oct. 16. Just like the other stickups, the man entered a convenience store in the morning toting a gun and wearing a Venom mask, which is a black version of Spider-Man's mask. The thief demanded Newport cigarettes and cash, and although the cops were called to the scene, the suspect slipped away. A police K-9 team tried, unsuccessfully, to track him.

“We’re looking for any information of people that are selling cigarettes on the street,” Wilmington Police Dept. Lt. Tom Witkowski told WWAY. “This person has gotten a fair amount of cigarettes each time he’s committed one of these robberies, and we have information that he may be turning around and selling them on the street.”

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio