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Monday
Aug292011

Regulators Call for Further Investigation at Earthquake-Affected Plant in Virginia

Scott Olson/Getty Images(LOUISA, Va.) -- The Nuclear Regulatory Commission is sending more inspectors to a Virginia nuclear power plant to further review what damage that last week's earthquake may have caused.

The NRC is sending the inspectors to the North Anna station near Louisa, Va., about 40 miles northwest from plant operator Dominion's Richmond headquarters. The plant is less than six miles from the Aug. 23 earthquake's epicenter in Mineral, Va.

The NRC stressed that the expanded investigation does not necessarily mean the plant is any less safe, but they have formed an Augmented Inspection Team to conduct the investigation.

According to the NRC, an AIT is formed by the NRC "to review more significant events or issues at NRC-licensed facilities." This is an additional investigation after the NRC initially sent a seismic expert and another structural expert, according to an NRC statement released Monday, to "assist the agency's resident inspectors on site."

The agency reported that "no significant damage to safety systems has been identified," but the plant's operator, Dominion Power, has reported to the NRC that "initial reviews determined the plant may have exceeded the ground motion for which it was designed."

The plant's two units were automatically shut down after the station lost offsite power following the earthquake and emergency diesel generators were used to cool the reactors until offsite power was brought back. In the release, the NRC said the investigation will "determine the precise level of shaking that was experienced at key locations within the North Anna facility."

The NRC requires that the plant not restart "until it can demonstrate that no functional damage occurred to those features needed for continued safe operation."

Members of the surrounding communities should not worry and the plant remains in "cold shutdown," Roger Hannah, senior public affairs officer at the NRC, told ABC News.

Hannah said that Dominion and NRC workers checked the safety of the plant "immediately after the earthquake" doing "a very careful walk down" where they found "no indication that any of the safety systems were damaged." A "walk down" is what members of the industry call the initial inspections.

Hannah added that the NRC will be doing further analyses to see if the plant can withstand a larger quake than the range it now can currently withstand.

Jim Norvelle, a spokesman for Dominion Power, explained that the range is roughly between a 5.9 to a 6.2 on the Richter scale, but they actually measure earthquake damage via ground force acceleration, which measures the intensity of an earthquake at a specific geological location and measures east, west, north, sound and vertical, while a Richter scale measures the magnitude of an earthquake at the epicenter.

Norvelle told ABC News that the part of the nuclear plant that is built on rock is designed to withstand 0.12 g, or about 5.9 on the Richter scale, and the portion of the station built on soil can withstand 0.18 g, or about 6.2 on the Richter scale. Norvelle added that there is always a "safety margin" in play that goes above those numbers.

Norvelle agreed with the NRC that there has been "no significant damage" from the earthquake, including to any of the station's "pumps, valves, pipes, support structure, or safety equipment."

"What we have found is some thermal insulation shook off pipes. Some equipment on the electric transformers needed to be replaces. We have seen cracking in a wall of a commercial grade building, an office building adjacent to the power station," Norvelle explained. The office building is not built to the same standards as the nuclear plant.

Norvelle said Dominion is "fully cooperating" with the NRC and the NRC's team will be onsite for one week and then will return for a second week, after which a public exit meeting will be held to tell the community about what they found in their investigation. Norvelle said members of the community are welcome to come with questions and concerns.

Dominion told ABC News they will thoroughly evaluate the results of the investigation before reopening the plant.

"We all want to demonstrate to the NRC this power station is safe to operate and we have to do that before we think about restarting the units," Norvelle said.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Monday
Aug292011

Judge: Kids Can Live with Child Killer, For Now

Stockbyte/Thinkstock(SEATTLE) -- Trisha Conlon's teenage son will continue to live with a woman who shot and killed her own daughters 20 years ago, ruled King County Superior Court Judge William Downing in Seattle Monday. The judge issued the order pending an investigation of the welfare of both of Conlon's children.

For the past month the highly publicized custody battle between Conlon and her ex-husband, John Cushing, has made headlines in Seattle, where Conlon is fighting to make sure her children don't spend time with her husband's first ex-wife, Kristine Cushing, who currently lives with him on Vashon Island in Washington.

Conlon's son Sam, 13, typically lives with his father, John Cushing, as a result of the couple's unusual split custody arrangement, set up in 2005. Conlon's other son, Stephen, 14, usually lives with her.

Conlon, of Silverton, Ore., had two boys with her ex-husband, John Cushing, after they married in 1995. Nine years later they divorced and arranged split custody of the boys, alternating holidays.

The arrangement was working out fine until, Conlon says, she discovered her teenage sons had been spending time with their father's first ex-wife, Kristine.

John Cushing, a retired Marine fighter pilot who works for Boeing, had been married to Kristine Cushing for 17 years.

The couple lived with their two young daughters in Laguna Niguel, Calif., where Cushing was a stay-at-home mom. She filed for divorce in 1991, and, in the same year, began taking Prozac and seeing a psychiatrist.

Then, at home one night in October, she killed their 4-year-old, Stephanie, and their 8-year-old, Amy, with a .38-caliber handgun.

John Cushing eventually got back together with Kristine Cushing, remarrying her in 2005, one year after divorcing Conlon. That same year California authorities ruled Kristine Cushing posed no risk to others.

After discovering Kristine Cushing was spending time with her sons, Conlon eventually hired an attorney to change their 2005 custody agreement so that her kids no longer have contact with Kristine Cushing.

Judge Downing granted Conlon's motion for a custody modification Monday, overturning a commissioner's earlier ruling that her custody arrangement with her ex-husband didn't need to be changed. Even so, in his decision Downing asked that a court-appointed child advocate investigate on behalf of the children's interests and submit a report within 90 days.

At the end of the investigation, the court will decide if the teenagers' residential schedules ought to change.

But in the meantime, there will be no change in either of the kids' residential schedules. The judge also asked that John Cushing remove any firearms or weapons from the home, stop residing with Kristine Cushing if she isn't in compliance with the recommendations of her treatment providers, and comply with any "safety plan" imposed by Child Protective Services.

Conlon has declined interview requests via her attorney.

"Judges in these child custody cases are often weighing very complex issues against each other. Here the commissioner was clearly impressed with the fact that the boys had a longstanding ongoing relationships with their father," said Dr. Paul Appelbaum, a professor of Psychiatry, Medicine, and Law at the Columbia University College of Physicians & Surgeons in New York. "The boy who lived with him appeared to be doing very well ... to upset that apple cart at a sensitive time in the life of two young teenagers carries risks of its own."

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Monday
Aug292011

Hurricane Irene: Vermont Faces Worst Flooding in 84 Years

NASA/NOAA GOES Project(WASHINGTON) -- Hurricane Irene is gone but Vermont is the latest state to deal with her fury as two people are dead and one is missing in the worst flooding the state has seen in 84 years.

The death toll for the country from Irene's three-day rampage up the coast now stands at 32.

Hurricane Irene's last gasp caused catastrophic flooding in the mountainous state, the worst deluge the state has endured since 1927. It washed away roads, homes, bridges and the state's emergency operations center.

The storm is also blamed for the deaths of two people and the disappearance of a third.

A young woman died Sunday in the town of Wilmington when her car was engulfed by the Deerfield River. A man believed to have been inspecting the water system in the town of Rutland was also killed, according Mark Bosma, a spokesman for Vermont's Emergency Operations Center. Another man who was also inspecting the water system is still missing.

All state offices are closed and the National Guard has deployed six rapid response teams.

President Obama signed an emergency declaration for Vermont on Monday morning.

New York City is clanking back to life as its train, buses and airports slowly return to service, and communities from North Carolina to Vermont are toting up the damage, which is believed to be in the billions of dollars, making it the tenth billion dollar storm of 2011.

More than 5 million people along the East Coast were without power Monday.

Peter Banacos at the National Weather Service said rivers across Vermont and northern New York will gradually subside during the day.  

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Monday
Aug292011

Warren Jeffs in Coma, May Not Survive: Source

TRENT NELSON/AFP/Getty Images(HOUSTON) -- Warren Jeffs, the polygamous sect leader and convicted child rapist, is in a coma and may not survive, a source close to Jeffs tells ABC News.

Jeffs, 55, had been fasting for the past three days and became so weak that doctors at the Texas prison where he is serving a life sentence induced a coma, according to the source.

The leader of a radical polygamist sect of Mormonism known as the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of the Latter Day Saints (FLDS), is scheduled to go on trial a second time in October to face charges of first-degree bigamy. Conviction would be punishable by up to 99 years or life in prison and up to a $10,000 fine.

Jeffs was moved last Tuesday to a solitary cell at the Powledge Unit in Palestine, Texas, because of the large amount of media coverage surrounding his case, prison officials said.

He is now being treated at the East Texas Medical Facility in Tyler, Texas, the nearest major medical center to the Powledge Unit, Michelle Lyons, spokesperson for the Texas Department of Criminal Justice, told ABC News.

Lyons said Jeffs is in "critical but stable condition," but she added, "I cannot confirm that he is in a coma."

Prison officials are prohibited from releasing the specific medical conditions for which Jeffs is currently receiving treatment due to the federal health privacy policies.

"He did indicate to staff that he was fasting, but he is currently being treated for other medical ailments and conditions," she said of Jeffs.

A Texas jury found Jeffs guilty Aug. 4 of forcing two teenage girls into "spiritual marriage," and fathering a child with one of them when she was 15.

He was sentenced to life in prison with no chance of parole for 45 years. Jeffs must serve at least 35 years of a life sentence on one of the child sex charges, and at least 10 years on the other.

During the trial, prosecutors presented DNA evidence showing Jeffs fathered a child with a 15-year-old girl who lived at a Texas compound raided by police in 2008 where Jeffs ran the FLDS sect. Prosecutors also played audio recordings of a sexual encounter between Jeffs and a 12-year-old girl.

Jeffs accused police of discriminating against the West Texas compound because his followers looked and acted differently than mainstream society. Officials denied it.

Jeffs' sect broke off from the mainstream Mormon Church 72 years ago. His 10,000 followers across North America consider him a prophet who serves as God's spokesman on Earth.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Monday
Aug292011

Former NBA Player Javaris Crittenton to Surrender to Face Murder Charge

Toni L. Sandys/The Washington Post via Getty Images(ATLANTA) -- For much of his young life, Javaris Crittenton, 23, was wanted for his basketball skills. He was recruited by Georgia Tech and drafted by the Los Angeles Lakers.

Now he is wanted for murder.

Crittenton's attorney said Monday that he will surrender to authorities Tuesday morning.

According to ABC Atlanta affiliate WSB-TV, police say Julian Jones, 23, was walking near her home in southeast Atlanta on Aug. 19. Jones, a mother of four, was with two men. A black Chevrolet Tahoe carrying Crittenton drove up, and he allegedly shot at one of the men, whom he suspected stole jewelry from him in an April 21 robbery.

Initial reports suggested Jones was simply in the wrong place at the wrong time. Later reports said she knew the two men.

The two men fled. Jones had been shot in the leg. She died during surgery later that day.

In 2009 Crittenton was involved in a notorious locker room incident with Washington Wizards teammate Gilbert Arenas in which both brandished guns.

Crittenton was suspended from the NBA for having guns in a locker room with Arenas. He pleaded guilty in January 2010 to a misdemeanor gun charge and received a year of unsupervised probation. Arenas entered his guilty plea on Jan. 15. He served a short time in a halfway house.

CBS Sports reported Arenas tweeted the following on Saturday: "I really wanna say sumthing but I wont becuz theirs a dead woman involved."

The Federal Bureau of Investigation had issued an arrest warrant for Crittenton on the charge of unlawful flight to avoid prosecution. Special Agent Steve Emmett said Crittenton bought and traveled on a one-way ticket from Atlanta to Los Angeles last Wednesday.

"We didn't only lose a mother, a friend, or a daughter, or a fiancee. We lost a loved one who was really special to us in our hearts," Jones' mother, June Woods, told WSB.

"If you're a star player ... even if he was robbed ... he had enough money to replace it," said Jones' fiance, Harel Butler. "You can never put a price on her life."

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Monday
Aug292011

Obama on Katrina Anniversary: We Must Continue Recovery Efforts

In this composite satellite image, The Lower 9th Ward is seen (L-R) January 7, 2003 prior to hurricane Katrina, August 31, 2005 upon the levee being breeched, September 21, 2005 after the waters receded, and April 16, 2011 during the rebuilding efforts in New Orleans, Louisiana. DigitalGlobe via Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- On the six year anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, President Obama says that “what’s required of us is more than remembrance -- what’s required of us is our continued efforts to make sure that New Orleans and the Gulf Coast fully recover.”

The president highlights the work his administration has done to free up funding for recovery efforts in Louisiana and Mississippi, saying “we’ll keep at it until these communities have come back stronger than before.”

Going forward, Obama promises to make sure that the federal response to such disasters is the best it can be and he touts his administration’s preparedness for Hurricane Irene this past weekend.

“Before the storm made landfall, the Department of Homeland Security and FEMA worked closely with our state and local partners to preposition supplies and teams of first responders, and support their response efforts. Those response efforts are ongoing and we will continue that partnership, responding as quickly and effectively as possible, for as long as necessary, until the affected communities are back on their feet,” he says.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Monday
Aug292011

International Space Station to Go Unmanned for Months?

NASA(HOUSTON) -- A safety problem with a Russian rocket might force NASA to leave the International Space Station empty for months.

The six-member crew working on the ISS has already been told their return to earth will be delayed and they might not be replaced right away because of safety concerns with the rocket that carries astronauts up to orbit.

Not a problem, says NASA's Michael Suffredini, because the space station can be operated by remote control from earth.

"We're going to do what's safest for the crew and for the space station," Suffredini said.

With the NASA space shuttles retired, Russia's Soyuz spacecraft is the only way to get astronauts up to orbit. A failure in a Russian rocket caused an unmanned supply ship to crash -- and now it could be months before new crew members could be sent up to the space station.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Monday
Aug292011

Obama on Irene: 'It's Going To Take Time To Recover'

MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- In the wake of Hurricane Irene, President Obama said Monday that “it's going to take time to recover from a storm of this magnitude” and vowed that the federal government is doing everything in its power to help.

“This morning we're continuing to deal with the impact and the aftermath of Hurricane Irene… We're going to make sure folks have all the support they need as they begin to assess and repair the
damage left by the storm, and that's going to continue in the days ahead,” Obama said at the top of his Rose Garden remarks regarding the nomination of Alan Krueger to head the Council of Economic Advisers.

The president said that the “effects are still being felt across much of the country,” including in New England and states like Vermont, where there’s been significant flooding. Obama signed an emergency declaration for Vermont on Monday morning.

“So our response continues, but I'm going to make sure that FEMA and other agencies are doing everything in their power to help people on the ground,” the president said.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Monday
Aug292011

Irene Moves On: Rains, Floods Inundate New England

Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- Severe weather warnings for the East Coast of the United States are now over as Hurricane Irene has been downgraded again and is no longer a tropical system.

Irene was downgraded from a hurricane to a tropical storm and spared New York City the devastation many predicted, but it has not been so kind to the towns and cities in its path as it moved inland Sunday.

The force of the storm's winds diminished Sunday, but the torrential rains did not let up, swelling rivers and streams until they burst their banks in upstate New York, Connecticut, Massachusetts and Vermont.

Downtown Windham, New York was "wiped out" by flooding, with four feet of water rushing through Main Street, said Michael Scarey, the town's fire chief.

Torrential rains that started Saturday night dumped more than 10 inches of water on the normally quiet community, forcing evacuations, submerging school buses and garages, and shutting off access to the rest of the mountaintop.

West of the town, a house was ripped from its foundation and swallowed by the fast moving creek, which slammed it into a bridge.

There were similar scenes in other river towns in the storm's path Sunday, and it is feared that things will only get worse as rivers peak.

In Vermont, Brattleboro, Bennington, Montpelier and other towns had flooding from swollen rivers.

Irene did not cause quite the level of destruction many feared as it churned up the East Coast this weekend, but it packed enough punch to leave at least 20 dead, millions without power and an estimated $7 billion to $13 billion in damages.

After roaring through coastal North Carolina on Saturday, Irene raked the coasts of Virginia, Maryland, Delaware and New Jersey before hitting New York Sunday morning as a tropical storm with 65 mph winds.  By 10 a.m. Sunday, patches of blue sky and sunshine began peeking through in lower Manhattan.

In New York City, the 370,000 residents who were ordered to evacuate their homes were allowed to return on Sunday beginning at 3 p.m.

Close to 2 million people lost power in the New York City area.  The National Grid reported that 19,000-plus homes in Rhode Island lost power, and 6,000-plus homes were without power in Massachusetts.

In lower Manhattan at Wall Street and South Street, water from New York's East River breached the seawall Sunday morning, but has since receded.

Some areas are still prone to tidal flooding and heavy rains will be the ongoing issue as the storm passes through New England Sunday to eastern Canada overnight, FEMA officials said.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Monday
Aug292011

Dr. Phil to Casey Anthony's Parents: 'You Know the Truth'

Hand Out/ABC News(LOS ANGELES) -- Dr. Phil McGraw has filmed his sit-down with Cindy and George Anthony, the parents of Casey Anthony, who was acquitted in July of murdering her daughter Caylee in 2008.

Her parents broke their silence with the TV therapist in an exclusive interview that will be the main focus of the 10th season premiere of Dr. Phil, which will air Monday, Sept. 12 on CBS.

A promo for the interview shows McGraw holding the parents' feet to the fire.

"You know the truth, don't you?" he asks.  "There are millions of people that want to shake you awake," McGraw said of the parents, who only found out their granddaughter was missing 31 days after she was last seen alive.

George and Cindy Anthony's responses were not shown.

The pair became globally famous after Casey finally admitted her two-year-old was missing, stringing an elaborate web of lies as to who may have kidnapped her.  Caylee's body was found by Florida authorities six months later in a swampy area not far from where Casey Anthony lived with her parents.

Later, George and Cindy took the stand in their daughter's trial.  George Anthony was accused by the defense of having sexually molested Caylee, which led her to cover-up her daughter's accidental death, according to her lawyers.  He denied the accusations, but the defense was ultimately successful.

Casey Anthony is currently free, but in Florida undergoing a year of probation on check fraud charges.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio