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Entries in American (10)

Sunday
Apr212013

Boston Marathon Bombing Suspect Was 'Very American,' Neighbor Says

Robin Young, Here & Now(CAMBRIDGE, Mass.) -- The narrow street that is home to the Tsarnaev family looks like many others in the city just across the river from Boston, but neighbors were still reeling from the news that members of the family who lived next door could be suspected of being behind the Boston marathon bombings.

As soon as it became clear early Friday morning that the suspects were Tamerlan Tsarnaev and his younger brother, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, police swarmed the street. They focused on a brown house here where the Tsarnaevs lived in an apartment on the third floor.

Just over 24 hours later, there were no police in sight -- just neighbors still stunned that they could live so close to the alleged perpetrators.

Matthew Stuber, 29, who lives next door to the Tsarnaev family, described the younger Tsarnaev as a "sweetheart, a young, cute kid" who was "normal" and "very American."

He said Dzhokhar seemed close to his father, Anzor, whom he would help fix up cars outside their home, something neighbors think Anzor Tsarnaev did to make money.

Stuber, whose apartment is in a house that shares a yard with the house where the Tsarnaevs have an apartment, said he watched Dzhokhar, 19, playing soccer as he grew up and said he is convinced the only way he could have been involved in the attack is if he was "corrupted" by his older brother, who he suspects had a "strong influence" on Dzhokhar.

"He's just a boy," Stuber told reporters, standing in his doorway. "He was just a young boy. It's shocking. I certainly can't put it together that he fired a weapon potentially."

He said it has been hard for him to fathom that Dzhokhar Tsarnaev could be the same person seen on video placing the explosives down in the crowd, including by 8-year-old Martin Richard, who died in the blast.

"It's very hard to think that act wasn't faceless," Stuber said. "He chose a spot. He saw their faces immediately. To me it's kind of hard to believe a young boy with no life experience is at all capable ... maybe I'm putting too much blame on the brother."

Stuber said the area was swarmed by police early Friday morning and they watched it unfold on television, despite being next door, too afraid to come out of their home. Eventually, police told them to leave, and they didn't return until Saturday.

Despite living close to the family, Stuber said he wasn't close with them. He described Dzhokhar as "introverted" and said he'd just seen him come home from the University of Massachusetts-Dartmouth about two weeks ago, saying he looked exactly the same and was just hanging out with friends in the yard.

Another neighbor, Harvey Smith, who lives in the basement apartment in the same building as the Tsarnaev family, also said he did not know them well, despite living there since before the family moved in around 2002, he said.

Although he is speculating, Smith agreed with Stuber that he believes the elder brother had sway over the younger, describing Tamerlan as "more domineering."

"I would imagine because he's the older brother," Smith told reporters from the front of the home that housed their apartments. "He was taller and bigger and had that personality."

Smith added: "I wish the whole thing never happened. ... I thought he was a good kid just like everybody else."

Smith was clearly still stunned by the revelations of the past two days, describing the situation as "awful" and saying he is still in shock.

"Very much, very much," Smith said, when asked whether he was surprised. "I can't even believe I'm talking to reporters."

He said he spoke with the FBI Friday, and they asked "a lot of questions, which I answered."

There was no sign of any law enforcement outside the home Saturday.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio

Monday
Jun132011

American Law Student Arrested as 'Spy' in Egypt

Comstock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- An American law student has been detained by Egyptian authorities on charges he is a "highly trained" spy working for Israel, Egyptian media reported Monday.

The U.S. State Department confirmed Sunday's arrest of 27-year-old dual U.S.-Israeli citizen Ilan Chaim Grapel in a statement, but declined to comment concerning allegations voiced in Egyptian state media that he was working for the Israeli intelligence force, Mossad, "with the aim of harming [Egypt's] economic and political interests."

Grapel's mother, Irene Grapel, told ABC News the charges against him were "complete fabrications."

"I was dumbfounded," said Irene Grapel of when she learned her son had been detained. "I don't know where to put the next step."

Irene Grapel said her son had traveled to Egypt to work with a non-profit organization that helped other African refugees in Egypt. "He volunteered his time to go there," she said.

Both Irene Grapel and the State Department said Ilan Grapel had been visited by U.S. officials and appeared to be in good health in captivity. Irene Grapel said that speaking with her son Monday was "just great."

"My imagination was running wild last night, thinking of what they could be doing to him," she said. Before the popular revolt against former Egyptian dictator Hosni Mubarak, those detained by Egyptian police were sometimes subjected to harsh interrogation and torture.

Grapel, from New York, served in the Israeli military as a paratrooper and was injured in combat in 2006 in the Lebanon War. His mother said he is currently enrolled in Emory Law School and had received a small stipend from the school for his work in Egypt. School officials were not available to confirm Grapel was part of a program, but the year previous a man by the same name won a grant to work with the Supreme Court of Israel, according to the school's website.

Ilan Grapel's mother said it was likely many pictures Grapel took and posted on Facebook of the widespread protests in Egypt, coupled with his history in the Israeli military, that prompted his detention. A picture of Grapel smiling in his Israel Defense Forces uniform was featured in several Egyptian news reports.

Egypt's state news reported Grapel was to be detained fifteen days, but that time could be lengthened if Egyptian authorities wished to question him further. An official with the Israeli Foreign Ministry told The Jerusalem Post early Monday they had yet to receive details of an arrested Israeli citizen.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Tuesday
May032011

Report: Are TVs Becoming a Thing of the Past?

Ryan McVay/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- A new study suggests a growing number of Americans are turning away from their televisions, but they are not tuning out completely.

For the first time in 20 years, the number of American households with TVs has dropped from nearly 99 percent to 96.7 percent. 

The Neilsen company blames two factors.  One is poverty -- growing number of people can't afford the higher tech digital equipment. The other is computer migration -- younger people weaned on laptops are increasingly getting their programming from the internet.

The shift may make Neilsen officials change the way they define television households, to include internet viewers.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Wednesday
Mar232011

American Soldier Charged in Afghan Thrill Kills to Plead Guilty

Photos.com/Thinkstock(FORT LEWIS, Wash.) -- An American soldier accused of being part of a "kill team" that murdered innocent Afghan civilians for fun will plead guilty to murder Wednesday in a military courtroom at Fort Lewis, Washington and then testify against his four co-defendants, according to his attorney.

In a confession taped last year and obtained by ABC News, Jeremy Morlock, a 22-year-old corporal from Wasilla, Alaska, admitted his role in the murders of three unarmed civilians, but told Army investigators that his unit's "crazy" sergeant had hatched the plan.  Earlier this week the German magazine Der Spiegel published a photo of a smiling Morlock posing with the body of one of the alleged victims.

Morlock reached a deal with Army prosecutors last month, said his civilian attorney, Geoffrey Nathan, in which he will plead guilty to three counts of murder, one count of conspiracy to commit assault and battery and one count of illegal drug use.  According to Nathan, the deal will require Morlock to serve 24 years in prison, with parole eligibility after seven years, and to testify against the other defendants at trial.  Morlock had been facing life in prison if convicted of the charges.

Morlock, a member of the Army's 5th Stryker Brigade, is one of five soldiers charged in the deaths of three Afghan civilians that occurred in Southern Afghanistan between January and May 2010.  Prosecutors allege that Morlock, Staff Sgt. Calvin R. Gibbs, Spec. Adam C. Winfield, Spec. Michael S. Wagnon II, Pfc. Andrew H. Holmes and Morlock participated in one or more of the murders and staged them to make unarmed Afghans appear to be armed insurgents.

On the confession tape, shot in May 2010 at Kandahar Airfield, Afghanistan, Morlock told investigators that Gibbs planned the killings.

"He just really doesn't have any problems with f---ing killing these people," Morlock said, and then laid out the scenario he said the sergeant used to make it seem the civilians were killed in action.

"And so we identify a guy.  Gibbs makes a comment, like, you know, you guys wanna wax this guy or what?" Morlock told investigators.

The corporal said Gibbs gave orders to open fire on a civilian at the same time Gibbs threw a hand grenade at the victim.

"He pulled out one of his grenades, an American grenade, you know, popped it, throws it, tells me where to go to whack this guy, kill this guy, kill this guy," said Morlock.

Morlock said Sergeant Gibbs carried a Russian grenade to throw next to the body of the dead Afghan, to make it seem he was about to attack the American soldiers.

The corporal said he opened fire as directed, fearful of not following Gibbs' orders.

"It's definitely not the right thing to do," Morlock told the investigators.  "But I mean, when you got a squad leader bringing you into that, that type of real, that mindset, and he believes that you're on board with that, there's definitely no way you wanted him to think otherwise."

The investigator asked Morlock, "Because you felt maybe the next shot might be coming your way?"

"You never know.  Exactly," answered Morlock.  "I mean Gibbs talked about how easy it is, people disappear on the battlefield all the time."

A lawyer for Gibbs declined to comment to ABC News.  Gibbs, Winfield, Wagnon and Holmes are in military custody and face life sentences if convicted. 

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Monday
Mar212011

Japan Disaster: Body Found of First American Victim

Courtesy Julia Anderson(TOKYO) -- The U.S. Embassy in Tokyo believes it has identified the first American to die in Japan's devastating tsunami -- Taylor Anderson, 24, of Richmond, Va. -- according to U.S. officials.

Anderson's family has not positively identified the body, officials said. The State Department told ABC News that it was unable to confirm Anderson's death; however, her family released a statement on Monday.

"It is with deep regret that we inform you that earlier this morning we received a call from the U.S. Embassy in Japan that they had found our beloved Taylor's body. We would like to thank all those whose prayers and support have carried us through this crisis. Please continue to pray for all who remain missing and for the people of Japan. We ask that you respect our privacy during this hard time," the statement said.

Anderson was a teacher in the city of Ishinomaki as part of the Japan Exchange and Teaching Program; she'd been participating in the program for two and a half years.

Jean Anderson told ABC affiliate WVEC-TV that her daughter was last seen after the earthquake. She was riding her bike toward her apartment after ensuring that students at her school had been picked up by their parents. The tsunami hit the shores of Ishinomaki shortly afterward.

The family received news Tuesday that she was safe and in a shelter but that information was false.

Ishinomaki is located in the Miyagi Prefecture, a coastal area that took the full force of the tsunami.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Saturday
Mar122011

American in Cuba Sentenced to 15 Years in Prison

AFP/Getty Images(HAVANA) -- A Cuban court on Saturday found American Alan Gross -- who was held in the country for more than a year -- guilty of illegally bringing communications equipment into the country. He was sentenced to 15 years in prison.

“Today’s sentencing adds another injustice to Alan Gross’s ordeal,” said U.S. National Security Council spokesman Tommy Vietor in a statement. “He has already spent too many days in detention and should not spend one more. We urge the immediate release of Mr. Gross so that he can return home to his wife and family.”

A Maryland native, Gross was detained in December 2009 as he tried to depart Havana's airport.  He had been working as a U.S. government subcontractor distributing communications devices to Jewish communities in Havana, according to U.S. officials. He was accused of "acts against the independence and territorial integrity of the state."

Gross was working for the Bethesda-based Development Associates International on a USAID program that promotes democracy.  He has been held in Havana's maximum-security Villa Marista prison, most of that time without charge.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Sunday
Mar062011

Trial Concludes for American Held in Cuba

AFP/Getty Images(HAVANA) -- The trial for American Alan Gross, who has been held in Cuba for more than a year, has ended.

Gross faces a possible 20-year sentence for allegedly bringing communications equipment into the country illegally.

“The matter is now before a panel for decision,” Gross’ lawyer, Peter J. Khan, said in a statement. “The family remains hopeful that Alan will be home soon.”

State Department spokesman PJ Crowley confirmed the trial’s end.

“There is not yet a verdict,” Crowley tweeted. “We hope he will be released and allowed to return to his family.”

On Thursday, the State Department called on Cuban authorities to clear Gross of all charges.

A Maryland native, Gross was detained in December 2009 as he tried to depart Havana's airport.  He had been working as a U.S. government subcontractor distributing communications devices to Jewish communities in Havana, according to U.S. officials. He is accused of "acts against the independence and territorial integrity of the state."

Gross was working for the Bethesda-based Development Associates International on a USAID program that promotes democracy.  He has been held in Havana's maximum-security Villa Marista prison, most of that time without charge.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Friday
Mar042011

American Held in Cuba for a Year Goes to Trial

ABC News(HAVANA) -- After being held in Cuba without charges for over a year, 61-year-old American Alan Gross will appear in a Cuban court Friday, facing a possible 20-year sentence for allegedly bringing communications equipment into the country illegally.

On Thursday, the State Department called on Cuban authorities to clear Gross of all charges.

"We hope it will be resolved so that Mr. Gross can return home to the United States.  He's been in prison for too long," spokesman P.J. Crowley said. Cuban officials have told the Americans they will allow U.S. officials to witness the trial.

Gross, a Maryland native, was detained in December 2009 as he tried to depart Havana's airport.  He had been working as a U.S. government subcontractor distributing communications devices to Jewish communities in Havana, according to U.S. officials. He's now accused of "acts against the independence and territorial integrity of the state."

Gross was working for the Bethesda-based Development Associates International on a USAID program that promotes democracy.  He has been held in Havana's maximum-security Villa Marista prison, most of that time without charge.

A U.S. State Department official, asking not to be named, told ABC News, "We deplore the Cuban government's announcement that Cuban prosecutors intend to seek a 20 year sentence against Mr. Gross.  As we have said many times before, Mr. Gross is a dedicated international development worker who was in Cuba providing support to members of the Cuban Jewish community.

"He has been held without charges for more than a year, contrary to all international human rights obligations and commitments regarding justice and due process," said the official.  "He should be home with his family now.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Friday
Nov192010

'Nation's Report Card' Shows American Students Struggling with Reading, Math

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- A new report card on America's schoolchildren has sounded an alarm bell, underscoring just how far many of the nation's students fall short.

The latest National Assessment of Educational Progress from the U.S. Department of Education shows that many high school seniors are graduating unable to read at grade level, and one in four cannot read at even the most basic level.

"This is an education electrocardiogram, and what it says is we're not making progress fast enough, and this patient needs to be shocked into life," said Bob Wise, the former governor of West Virginia who now is president of the Alliance for Excellent Education.

Fifty-two thousand high school seniors nationwide took the exam last year. The average score actually was up two points since 2005, but it's still four points below 1992. Math scores also were up slightly.

"I find it difficult to get excited about a two-point increase," said Ronald Ferguson, director of Harvard's Achievement Gap Initiative. "I'm happy that it didn't go down, but I don't see any reason to expect that it should have gone down."

Education Secretary Arne Duncan seemed to agree in a prepared statement released Thursday.

"Today's report suggests that high school seniors' achievement in reading and math isn't rising fast enough to prepare them to succeed in college and careers," he said.

Just 38 percent of 12th graders were proficient in reading, and only 26 percent were proficient in math. The latest report also found that the scores of black and Latino 12th graders lagged behind those of whites and Asians.

"There's a long way to go," said David Driscoll, who serves on the National Assessment Governing Board. "We have to worry about this gap because even though some kids are performing well, whole groups of kids are not."

These problems remain despite years of effort from President George W. Bush's No Child Left Behind Act aimed at eliminating the achievement gap by 2014.

The new report also found that 86 percent of high school seniors said they expected to graduate college, ironic given that the data indicates many of those students aren't even performing at the high school level, much less prepared to go to college.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio

Tuesday
Oct262010

American Al Qaeda May Now Pose Most Clear Threat to Homeland

Adam Gadahn, an American member of al Qaeda. Photo Courtesy - AFP/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- American al Qaeda may now pose the most clear and present threat to the homeland, top government sources tell ABC News.

Americans have risen high in al Qaeda's leadership and are now helping shape strategy for attacks on the U.S.

One source told ABC that it is clear these homegrown al Qaeda want to spill American blood.

American al Qaeda may be even more dangerous than foreign fighters, sources say, because they know the nation's psyche and its "soft" targets, and its American recruits can often move about the country freely. In fact, during a speech to the top police chiefs in the country Monday, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano shared a stark assessment:

"The stark reality that I shared with Congress recently and that I'm sharing with you today is that we at the Department of Homeland Security, and I venture to say the FBI as well, are operating under the premise that individuals prepared to carry out terrorist acts are already in the country, and may carry out these acts of violence with little or no warning," Napolitano said.

So who are these self-proclaimed traitors now in the al Qaeda leadership? The Yemeni-American cleric Anwar Al Awlaki, once a propagandist, has now gone operational, and sources say Awlaki is emerging as a top threat to America, perhaps even enemy number one after Osama bin Laden himself. Awlaki has ties to the Fort Hood shooter, and U.S. officials say he was a key figure behind the Christmas plot to blow-up an airplane over Detroit.

While Awlaki is known to many Americans, he is now joined by a supporting cast of radicalized, and dangerous, former Americans. Adnan Shukrijumah lived in Florida and was in the U.S. at least 15 years as a permanent resident. He is now believed to be a top al Qaeda operational leader. The government says he helped plan a failed plot on the New York City subway system last year.

Anwar Awlaki and Shukrijumah are both believed to be actively plotting attacks right now. And sources tell ABC that al Qaeda desperately wants another hit on the homeland before the tenth anniversary of the 9/11 attacks.

Another American al Qaeda is Adam Gadahn, formerly of California. He's perhaps the top propagandist for al Qaeda. Just this past weekend he used the internet to urge Muslim immigrants in the suburbs of Detroit to murder their non-Muslim neighbors.

Samir Khan lived in Queens, N.Y., and in Charlotte, N.C., but now he says, "I am proud to be a traitor to America." Sources say he is a major player behind "INSPIRE," an online al Qaeda magazine which is aimed at radicalizing and recruiting young Muslim Americans. The magazine recently called for conducting lunch hour attacks at Washington, D.C., restaurants.

Yahya Ibrahim, a radical Egyptian cleric, allegedly penned the article that mentions this but the whole magazine is believed to be written by Khan and Awlaki.

These calls for violence fit with what senior counterterror officials have told ABC News: that American al Qaeda are urgently pushing for its followers to launch attacks like the 2007 assault in Mumbai, India. They believe even a small scale attack, if successful, will generate international coverage and shake American confidence.

Former FBI official Brad Garrett says, "We would be just as traumatized if someone walked into a mall or train station then if you had another 9/11."

Counterterrorism officials are clearly warning Americans that the threat from the new American al Qaeda is very real.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio







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