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Monday
Feb182013

Chicago Teen Killed Hours After Sister Attends Obama Speech On Gun Violence

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(CHICAGO) -- A Chicago teenager was shot and killed Friday only hours after her sister attended President Obama's speech on the city's rampant gun violence. Janay McFarlane, 18, was killed while walking with a friend during a visit to her dad, Herbert McFarlane, in North Chicago.

"All this gun violence going on, you never think it would be your child," he told ABC's Chicago station WLS. "This is the hardest thing for me in my life."

Herbert McFarlane told WLS that the loss of Janay is especially hard because she leaves behind a 3-month old son, who likes to wear an "I love Mommy" shirt. The shooting occurred in Lake County, a northern suburb miles from the epicenter of the gun violence on the city's South Side.

"I'm in Lake County to get away from violence and now it happened in Lake County where I moved to," he told WLS.

McFarlane and her child spent time both in Lake County and on the South Side where her mother lives.

Only hours before McFarlane was shot and killed, President Obama returned to his hometown to speak on the South Side at a Hyde Park high school. McFarlane's sister, Destini Warren, 14, sat behind the president during the speech.

More than 500 people were shot and killed here last year, and this year the situation has worsened with the most deadly January the city has seen in over a decade. The shooting death of Hadiya Pendleton, a 15-year old who performed in Washington, D.C. at events connected to the president's inauguration last month, garnered national attention.

"Too many of our children are being taken away from us," Obama said in Hyde Park, with McFarlane's sister in the audience.

"Last year there were 443 murders with a firearm on the streets of this city, and 65 of those victims were 18 and under," he said. "So that's the equivalent of a Newtown every four months." He was referring to Newtown, Conn., where 20 first graders were gunned down by Adam Lanza along with seven adults.

Only hours later in Chicago, another 18-year old was shot and killed.

"I felt like someone took a knife and stabbed me in the heart, and a piece of my heart I will never get back," Angela Blakely, Janay McFarlane's mother, told WLS.

North Chicago Police on Sunday reportedly questioned two people in connection to McFarlane's death. Her family said McFarlane was an unintended target of the shooting.

Messages left by ABC News with the North Chicago Police Department and the Lake County Coroner's Office went unreturned Monday.

Another Chicago teenager, Frances Colon, was also shot and killed Friday just hours after she had told her father that she saw President Obama's helicopter fly over her neighborhood.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio

Friday
Feb152013

President Obama Honors Newtown Victims with Citizens Medal

The President on December 14, 2012(WASHINGTON) -- In an emotional ceremony at the White House Friday, President Obama honored six educators who “gave all they had for the most innocent and helpless among us” with the Presidential Citizens Medal.

Principal Dawn Hochsprung, school psychologist Mary Sherlach, and teachers Lauren Rousseau, Victoria Soto, Rachel Davino and Anne Marie Murphy lost their lives in the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., last December. On Friday, they were among 18 Americans recognized with the nation’s second-highest civilian honor.

“When they showed up for work at Sandy Hook Elementary on December 14th of last year, they expected a day like any other, doing what’s right for their kids, spend a chilling morning readying classrooms and welcoming young students,” Obama said at a ceremony in the East Room of the White House.

“They had no idea that evil was about to strike. And when it did, they could have taken shelter by themselves. They could have focused on their own safety, and their own well-being. But they didn’t. They gave their lives to protect the precious children in their care,” he said.

One by one, the families of the victims, many visibly emotional, came on stage to accept the medal on behalf of their loved ones. Each was met with a consoling hug from the president.

“I’ve gotten to know many of you during the course of some very difficult weeks, and your courage and love for each other and your communities shines through every single day, and we could not be more blessed and grateful for your loved ones who gave everything they had on behalf of our kids,” Obama said.

“That’s what we honor today, the courageous heart, the selfless spirit, the inspiring actions of extraordinary Americans, extraordinary citizens,” he said.

 

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio

Wednesday
Jan232013

NRA's LaPierre Fires Away at Obama and His Inaugural Address

KAREN BLEIER/AFP/Getty Images(RENO, Nev.) -- In a scathing attack on President Obama, the executive vice president of the National Rifle Association told a gathering of hunters in Nevada Tuesday night that the administration is determined to either tax their firearms or take them away.

Wayne LaPierre, who has previously denounced the president's plan to curb gun violence in the U.S., claimed that remarks made in Obama’s inaugural address suggested that principles trumped the absolutism of Second Amendment rights.

LaPierre said that was a direct assault on the rights of the NRA and its members.

According to the NRA official, “When absolutes are abandoned for principles, the U.S. Constitution becomes a blank slate for anyone’s graffiti.”

LaPierre also spoke out against a possible federal registry to collect the names of gun owners, saying the real intent of the government was “Either to tax them, or to take them.”

Alleging that the president is only interested in protecting himself and his wealthy allies, LaPierre said that Obama believes "the only principled way to make children safe is to make lawful citizens less safe and violent criminals more safe."

He added that criminals will also benefit from expanded gun control measures.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio

Wednesday
Jan162013

NRA President Defends Ad Attacking Obama, Vows ‘Battle’ Ahead

Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- In an interview with ABC News Wednesday evening, NRA President David Keene said the gun-rights lobby is aggressively preparing for “battle” with the White House and Congress over President Obama’s sweeping new proposals to curb gun violence.

Keene criticized Obama’s announcement Wednesday -- during which the president was surrounded by four children from around the country -- for, “using kids to advance an ideological agenda.” And Keene expressed cautious confidence that few of the legislative measures would ultimately pass.

“It’s going to be very tough for the president to accomplish some of these things, but that doesn’t mean he can’t do it if he really turns it on,” Keene told ABC.

“All bets are off when a president really wants to go to war with you,” he said. "We’re gonna be there and we’re gonna fight it."

Keene said passage of the 1994 assault weapons ban remains fresh in the minds of NRA leaders, noting that initial widespread congressional opposition gradually gave way to a narrow margin in favor, thanks in part to pressure from then-President Bill Clinton.

NRA members would hold accountable any politicians who, “sell them out to some pie-in-the-sky scheme such as the president is proposing,” he said.

The group launched a new “Stand and Fight” advocacy campaign Tuesday night, opposing Obama’s gun control measures, anchored by a controversial new TV ad that began airing online and on the Sportsman Channel.

The ad calls President Obama an “elitist hypocrite” for sending his daughters to a private school with armed guards while questioning whether all other U.S. schools should have the same security measures. The White House blasted the ad as “repugnant and cowardly.”

“When the question is the protection of children, which is what this is all about… it’s perfectly legitimate to ask why some children should be protected and other children should not be protected,” Keene said, defending the ad.

“We were not talking about the president’s kids. We were talking about an elite class who criticizes others in their desire to be safe while making sure that they and their families and their children are always protected."

“We’re not talking about the Secret Service protection the president’s children enjoy -- they ought to have that wherever they go,” he added.

Keene also ribbed Obama for using children as “props” for his announcement:  “We didn’t line them up on a stage and pat them on the shoulder while we were urging somebody to take our position,” he said.

The NRA has acknowledged some areas of common ground for curbing gun violence included the Obama proposal -- namely beefed up resources for mental health care, better background check data and increased presence of school resource officers (police) at public schools.

But Keene said many of those steps were just “fig leaves.”

“What the president did is say … ‘I care about armed security.’ He can check off that box on the Gallup polls. He can say to the people concerned about it, ‘It’s part of my package.’ … He said the problem of severely, mentally ill, 'We’re going to study it.'"

Obama called for federal aid to states for the hiring of up to 1,000 new resource officers and school counselors. Currently, there are armed resource officers at 28,000 U.S. schools.

“That’s a drop in the ocean in terms of the problem,” Keene said. “It’s simply a fig leaf so he can pursue an anti-gun agenda. It has less to do with security and more to do with guns.”

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio

Sunday
Dec162012

Sandy Hook Massacre: Newtown, Connecticut Mourns Victims of School Shooting

ABC News(NEWTOWN, Conn.) -- President Obama will visit Newtown, Conn. Sunday to meet with the grieving families and thank the first responders from Friday's school shooting, as the community begins the long process of healing.

The pictures of the young victims killed at Sandy Hook Elementary School emerged Saturday, along with a remarkable story of survival.

Twenty children and six adults were killed at the school when shooter Adam Lanza went on a shooting rampage.

Later this evening, the community will gather for an interfaith vigil, where the president is scheduled to address mourners, some from out of state who came to offer help and others who knew the young victims or their families.

Addressing the nation on Friday, Obama mourned the children who "had their entire lives ahead of them -- birthdays, graduations, weddings, kids of their own."

CLICK HERE TO SEE PHOTOS

Story of Survival

The lone survivor of her class tricked the gunman by playing dead, the girl's pastor told ABC News, before running out of the school covered in the blood of her classmates.

"She ran out of the school building covered from head to toe with blood and the first thing she said to her mom was, 'Mommy, I'm OK but all my friends are dead,'" said Pastor Jim Solomon. "Somehow in that moment, by God's grace, [she] was able to act as she was already deceased."

Five first graders in another class were also killed, along with six staff members.

"The mom told me, and I thought this was very insightful, that she was suffering from what she felt was survivor's guilt because so many of her friends no longer have their children but she has hers," the pastor said.

Remembering the Victims of the Sandy Hook Shooting

There was Emilie Parker, the little girl with the blond hair and bright blue eyes, who would have been one of the first to comfort her classmates at Sandy Hook Elementary School, had a gunman's bullets not claimed her life, her father said.

Noah Pozner and his twin sister had just celebrated their sixth birthdays. His twin sister survived the shooting, but Noah did not.

Six-year-old Jesse Lewis went to school on Friday, excited to make gingerbread houses. He died, along with his teacher, Victoria Soto, 27, whose family said was shielding some of her first graders when she was hit by bullets.

As the community mourns and families bear the pain of planning 26 funerals before Christmas, school board members hope to get students back to a familiar routine.

"Well, all the mental health experts we've talked to...tell us that the best thing we can do is to get back to normal operations as soon as possible," said Bill Hart, a member of the Newtown Board of Education.

"We know some teachers won't be prepared to come back, he said. "We are going to be prepared with substitutes. We've got counseling for all. We're prepared to do whatever we have to do to help all of our community."

 

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Friday
Dec142012

'Our Hearts Are Broken Today,' President Obama Says

The White House(WASHINGTON) -- Wiping away tears for the victims of the Newtown, Conn., school shooting, President Obama came to the White House briefing room Friday afternoon to mourn the victims of this morning’s carnage.
 
“The majority of those who died today were children, beautiful little kids between the ages of 5 and 10 years old,” the president said, pausing to collect himself as tears began to stream from his eyes. “They had their entire lives ahead of them -- birthdays, graduations, weddings, kids of their own.”
 
The president noted that “among the fallen were also teachers, men and women who devoted their lives to helping our children fulfill their dreams. So our hearts are broken today -- for the parents and grandparents, sisters and brothers of these little children, and for the families of the adults who were lost.”

 

The president’s public reaction was not only more emotional than after any previous shooting during his presidency -- many of which he recited in a grim list -- but more political. While the president has avoided any serious discussions of gun control, on Friday he hinted about the subject.
 
“As a country, we have been through this too many times, whether it's an elementary school in Newtown or a shopping mall in Oregon or a temple in Wisconsin or a movie theater in Aurora or a street corner in Chicago,” the president said. “These neighborhoods are our neighborhoods, and these children are our children, and we're going to have to come together and take meaningful action to prevent more tragedies like this, regardless of the politics.”

[TRANSCRIPT: President Obama Reacts to the Newtown, Conn. Shooting]

The president noted that he spoke with Connecticut Governor Dan Malloy, offering his condolences and any needed resource, and FBI director Robert Mueller.
 
But the president, who was first informed of the shooting at around 10:30 am Friday morning by homeland security adviser John Brennan, said he reacted to the news “not as a president but, as anybody would, as a parent.”
 
“I know there's not a parent in America who doesn't feel the same overwhelming grief that I do,” he said.
 
The father of Sasha, 11, and Malia, 14, said that Friday night he and First Lady Michelle Obama would “do what I know every parent in America will do, which is hug our children a little tighter, and we'll tell them that we love them, and we'll remind each other how deeply we love one another. But there are families in Connecticut who cannot do that tonight, and they need all of us right now.”
 
Whether President George W. Bush after 9/11, President Bill Clinton after the Oklahoma City bombing, or President Ronald Reagan after the Space Shuttle Challenger disaster, commanders in chief are sometimes called to be consolers-in-chief at moments like this.
 
“In the hard days to come,” the president noted, the Newtown “community needs us to be at our best as Americans, and I will do everything in my power as president to help, because while nothing can fill the space of a lost child or a loved one, all of us can extend a hand to those in need to remind them that we are there for them, that we are praying for them, that the love they felt for those they lost endures not just in their memories but also in ours. May God bless the memory of the victims and, in the words of Scripture, heal the broken-hearted and bind up their wounds.”
 
Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Thursday
Dec062012

President Obama Lights National Christmas Tree

Mark Wilson/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- With a little help from the first family and a slew of star performers, President Obama lit the new National Christmas Tree Thursday night, continuing 90 years of holiday tradition.

“In times of war and peace, triumph and tragedy, we’ve always come together to rejoice in the Christmas miracle,” the president told a chilly crowd of 17,000 huddled outside on the Ellipse.

“But our tree has been having a hard time recently,” he said.

The giant blue spruce that is now illuminated in bright green lights and ornaments is the third National Christmas Tree in as many years. The long-standing tree was toppled in a storm last year. It was quickly replaced, but that tree didn’t take hold.

“It just goes to show, nobody’s job is safe here in Washington,” Obama joked. “But I feel good about this one. It was planted just days before Hurricane Sandy, and it made it through the storm in one piece.”

The president then paid tribute to the “heroism and perseverance” of those impacted by the superstorm “who’ve showed us that Americans will always be stronger than the challenges that we face.”

He told the story of Midland Beach, N.Y., where the community, ravaged by the storm, rallied together to plant a new Christmas tree. The tree had one message, according to a resident: “It’s Christmas time, not disaster time.”

“For centuries, the message of Christmas — of peace and goodwill to all — has guided millions of people around the world through good times but also through bad times. This year is no different,” Obama said before wishing all Americans a merry Christmas and happy holidays.

The president, joined by the first lady, their two daughters, Sasha and Malia, and the first grandmother, were serenaded by Jason Mraz, James Taylor, Colbie Caillat and The Fray, among others.

TV star Neil Patrick Harris hosted the annual ceremony and ABC’s Modern Family star Rico Rodriguez, better known as Manny, tried to steal his way into the first family in a humorous bit.

As The Fray took to the stage to sing “Santa Claus Is Coming To Town,” lead singer Issac Slade asked the crowd if they’ve been good this year. “Most of the time, most of the time,” the president was caught saying with a grin.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Thursday
Nov152012

Obama Meets with Parents Who Lost Sons in Sandy

MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- Thursday, on his first trip to New York City after superstorm Sandy walloped the Northeast, President Obama met with the parents of the two young boys -- Brandon and Connor Moore -- who died after being swept out to sea.

"I had the opportunity to give some hugs and communicate thoughts and prayers to the Moore family," Obama said of Damien and Glenda Moore. "They lost two young sons during the course of this tragedy. And obviously, I expressed to them, as a father, as a parent, my heartbreak over what they went through. And they're still obviously a little shell-shocked."

Obama said the resiliency and generosity of the Moores, who had lavished praise on New York police Lieutenant Kevin Gallagher "for staying with them and doing everything he could so that ultimately, they knew what had happened with the boys, and were able to recover their bodies, and has been with them as a source of support ever since."

"That's not in the job description of Lieutenant Gallagher. He did that because that's what so many of our first responders do," he added.

"I'm very proud of you, New York," said the president, "You guys are tough."

Sandy, which hit the Northeast on Oct. 29, has left more than 100 people dead, thousands displaced and billions of dollars of damage.

On Thursday the president saw the storm's destruction in New York first-hand, visiting with victims and volunteers at a FEMA disaster recovery center in one Staten Island neighborhood. (There were more than 40 deaths in New York City alone from Sandy, half of those on the borough of Staten Island.)

The White House announced Thursday it has already approved more than $600 million in direct assistance to individuals. The president also announced he had assigned Housing and Urban Development Secretary Shaun Donovan, a former New York City housing commissioner, the job of coordinating the federal government's long-term response to Sandy's devastation in the New York and New Jersey region.

"We thought it would be good to have a New Yorker be the point person," Obama said on Staten Island following a tour of the recovery efforts.

The president made the announcement following an aerial survey of parts of Queens, Brooklyn and Long Island, including Far Rockaway and Staten Island, flying over sand-covered streets and destroyed homes piled along beaches.

He also saw the Breezy Point neighborhood, home to many of the city's firefighters and police officers, where more than 100 homes were leveled in a raging wind-whipped fire that spread even as flood waters rose.

"There are still going to be complaints over the next several months," the president said. "Not everybody is going to be satisfied" with the pace of recovery. The president asked "insurance companies and some of the other private sector folks who are involved in this ... to show some heart and some spirit in helping people rebuild as well. But when I hear the story of the Moores and I hear about Lieutenant Gallagher, that's what makes me confident that we're going to be able to rebuild."

Obama was accompanied by New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano and Secretary Shaun Donovan.

New York senators Chuck Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand, both Democrats, also joined Obama for the trip aboard Air Force One to New York.

Days after the storm Obama took his first trip to see the damage, touring New Jersey's hard hit shoreline with Gov. Chris Christie, a Republican. Just six days before the election, Christie, one of Mitt Romney's most high profile surrogates, praised the president for his oversight of federal emergency efforts. Christie thanked Obama, adding the two had a "great working relationship" and Obama "sprung into action immediately."

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Wednesday
Oct312012

President Obama, NJ Gov. Chris Christie Tour Superstorm Sandy's Devastation

JEWEL SAMAD/AFP/Getty Images(BRIGANTINE, N.J.) -- President Obama surveyed the devastation wreaked by the superstorm Sandy Wednesday with New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie in what both men said was a non-political event. But it was a powerful image of bipartisan cooperation just six days before the election.

Following a helicopter tour of the state's battered shoreline, Obama expressed his sympathies and promised the full weight of his office and the federal government in providing aid.

"We are here for you, and we will not forget," Obama said. "We will follow up to make sure you get all the help you need until you rebuild."

"I don't want anybody to feel that somehow this is all going to get cleaned up overnight," Obama said. "But what I can promise you is that the federal government will be working as closely as possible with the state and local officials, and we will not quit until this is done."

Obama was accompanied on the tour by Christie, a vocal supporter of Obama's challenger, Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney. However, Christie has praised the president for his oversight of federal emergency efforts.

Christie again thanked the president Wednesday, saying the two men had a "great working relationship" and that the president "sprung into action immediately."

Although it was not a political statement, Christie's comments were an unlikely endorsement of the president's leadership at a crucial juncture in the presidential race.

Together, the two men cut a surprising image of bipartisanship and cooperation ahead of next week's vote, as polls show the race in a dead heat nationally.

New polls in three key swing states show Obama holding his lead in Ohio and wiping away Romney's advantages in Virginia and Florida.

[ PHOTOS: East Coast Hit by Superstorm Sandy ]

Obama leads 49 percent to 47 percent in Virginia and had a 48 percent to 47 percent edge in Florida, according to the Quinnipiac University/New York Times/CBS News poll.

Obama's leads in those two states were within the margin of error, meaning the candidates were essentially tied. But Romney was leading in those states just a few days ago in other polls.

In Ohio, Obama is maintaining a five-point lead, with a 50-45 margin, according to Quinnipiac.

In a new video Wednesday, Obama campaign manager Jim Messina said he thinks Obama is in the dominant position heading into Election Day because, "We are ahead or tied in every single battleground state."

The Romney campaign disputed the results of the Quinnipiac survey, claiming it overestimated the size of the Democratic turnout.

Ohio, Virginia and Florida are among the most vital of the battleground states for both campaigns.

The Quinnipiac survey was the first major poll of the swing states released since superstorm Sandy made landfall in Atlantic City, N.J., Monday evening, wreaking billions of dollars in damage and delivering an October surprise that no pundit predicted. The polling, however, was done before Sandy arrived and may have altered voter attitudes towards the candidates.

Romney Wednesday went back to a day of full campaigning after a brief respite out of respect to the storm victims, and his campaign hoped that the momentum generated in the days before Sandy would hold through Election Day.

He was to attend two "victory rallies" in Florida today with a number of high-profile conservatives, including former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Sen. Marco Rubio.

Obama was to return to campaigning Thursday with events in Green Bay, Wis., Las Vegas and Boulder, Colo.

Meanwhile, Romney and conservative super PACs were spending big in the Democratic-leaning states of Minnesota, Pennsylvania and Michigan.

Republicans said Romney's slim lead in nationwide polls gave them the opportunity to go after Obama in blue-leaning states, which the president did not yet have fully locked up. The Democrats, however, said Republicans were spending money in blue-leaning states because the swing states were already saturated with political ads, and buying new ads would be prohibitively expensive for outside groups.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Sunday
Oct212012

Church Marquee Calls Obama 'Muslim,' 'Communist'

SAUL LOEB/AFP/GettyImages(LEAKEY, Texas) -- A pastor is causing a commotion in his Texas town – and possibly hurting his non-profit status – because of a politically motivated church marquee.

The Church in the Valley marquee reads, "VOTE FOR THE MORMON, NOT THE MUSLIM! THE CAPITALIST, NOT THE COMMUNIST!"

The sign was an obvious reference to President Barack Obama, who conservatives say is a secret Muslim even though he says he is a Christian and attends church with his family. He said in an August interview with a religious magazine that it's not his job to convince people he's Christian. Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney is a Mormon.

Pastor Ray Miller declined an interview with ABC affiliate KVUE but told the station the sign was his idea because he feels strongly about the election. He said this is not the first bold statement he has made on the marquee, which changes every week.

Since all churches and houses of worship are tax-exempt under federal law, they're barred from participating in political campaign activity.

"They are permitted under the tax laws to engage in other political activities (e.g., distribute voter guides and invite candidates to speak at church functions) so long as such activity does not support or oppose a candidate," a 2008 report on the subject reads.

As of 2002, however, the Internal Revenue Service reported that only two churches have ever lost non-profit status over campaign involvement.

Even if the IRS doesn't notice the marquee, it's gotten some attention.

While some town residents of Leakey, Texas, think the sign is a problem, others told KVUE that the church should be able to put whatever it wants on its sign.

"It's their prerogative, it's their opinion, it's their church," resident Pamela Rice told KVUE.

Visitors to the church's review page on Google weren't so forgiving, calling miller "evil," and "racist."

"You give real Christians a bad name!!!!" wrote Diane Weaver, who appears to be a resident of the town.

Miller did not immediately respond to ABCNews.com's request for comment.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio







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