Entries in Washington D.C. (27)


Late Winter Cold Delays Washington Cherry Blossom Bloom

iStockphoto(WASHINGTON) -- Every year, thousands of tourists travel to Washington DC to see the famous cherry blossoms come out in spectacular fashion. This year however, later winter cold blasts have delayed the bloom, and it’s making things difficult for determined tourists.

“I kept changing the flights, changing the hotel. I think I had four hotel reservations at one time,” said Jerry Connelly, who has come to Washington from Florida to take pictures of the bloom.

“By Tuesday, I want to see those pictures where everything is white, puffy.”

According to the National Parks Service, the average peak bloom date is April 4, but this year it is expected to be sometime between April 6-8 due to cold weather.

The cherry trees were a gift from Japan in 1912. They were a symbol of friendship from the people of Japan to the people of the United States.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio


DC Family Research Council Shooting: Gunman Identified

Hemera/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- A gunman opened fire on a security guard at the Washington D.C., headquarters of a conservative Christian organization on Wednesday only to be tackled and subdued by the guard whom he had just shot in the arm, authorities said.

The suspect, identified by law enforcement sources as Floyd Corkins of Herndon, Va., is alleged to have entered the offices of The Family Research Council and yelled at the guard about the organization's policies.  The shooter then fired a handgun at the guard at around 10:50 a.m. ET.

Corkins, who himself was not shot, was subdued by the injured guard and others, officials said.  Police arrested him and authorities said he was being interviewed by the FBI.

Corkins, 28, was a volunteer at the DC Center for the LGBT Community, a community center in Washington for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people.

"I was shocked to hear that someone who has volunteered with the DC Center could be the cause of such a tragic act of violence," the center's executive director, David Mariner, said in a statement released to ABC News.  "No matter the circumstances, we condemn such violence in the strongest terms possible.  We hope for a full and speedy recovery for the victim and our thoughts are with him and his family."

The security guard, who has been hailed by police as a hero for averting a rampage, was taken to a nearby hospital.

"The security guard here is a hero, as far as I'm concerned," said Metro Police Department Chief Cathy Lanier.  "He did his job.  The person never made it past the front."

Later in the afternoon, authorities widened the security perimeter around the building when a suspicious package was discovered.  They were also searching the suspect's car and home in Virginia.

Charges likely will be filed Thursday by the U.S. Attorney's office in Washington, sources said.

Family Research Council President Tony Perkins issued a statement on the organization's website.

"The police are investigating this incident," Perkins said.  "Our first concern is with our colleague who was shot today.  Our concern is for him and his family."

The Family Research Council was founded in 1983 by James Dobson.  Today, Perkins heads the organization, which is a vocal lobbying group for conservative Christian social issues, including opposition to abortion and gay marriage.

Perkins supported Chick-fil-A President Dan Cathy, whose company has publicly taken a position against gay marriage.

"Chick-fil-A is a Bible-based, Christian-based business who treats their employees well.  They have been attacked in the past about their stand.  But they refuse to budge on this matter, and I commend them for what they are doing," he said.

The suspect was carrying items from a Chick-fil-A restaurant, law enforcement sources said.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


US Capitol Weathers DC’s Devastating Storm

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- While Washington cleans up Monday morning after last weekend's severe weather, one of the oldest and most historic buildings in the nation’s capital appears to have escaped relatively unscathed: the U.S. Capitol.

A spokeswoman for the Architect of the Capitol tells ABC News that there were no reports of damage to the Capitol or any other buildings throughout the 274-acre Capitol campus, which also includes the Supreme Court of the United States. Most of the storm’s wrath was suffered by trees, although none of the damaged ones were memorial trees.

“We had some minor tree damage, a few suffered from broken limbs, but our folks had things cleaned up by Sunday morning,” Eva Malecki, communications officer for the AOC, wrote in an email. “No other damages reported.”

According to the AOC, about 4,200 trees adorn the grounds of the Capitol. About 150 trees are memorial trees, planted by a member of Congress.

The storm packed 60-80 mph winds and ripped through the sweltering Washington region late Friday night, killing at least six people in Virginia, two in Maryland and one in D.C.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Stolen Book of Mormon Found in Washington DC

ABC News(WASHINGTON)-- Federal authorities have arrested a man in Washington, D.C., for stealing a rare, first-edition copy of the Book of Mormon from an Arizona bookstore.

Police in Mesa, Ariz., said the FBI and U.S. Marshal’s Service found the book in the Washington, D.C., apartment of Jay Linford. The 182-year-old book was reported missing on May 28 by Helen Schlie, the owner of Rare and Out of Print Books and Art.  The book was valued at $100,000.

The 88-year-old shop owner kept the book in an unlocked file cabinet in the bookstore.  Schlie does not have security cameras in her store, but has a night watchman.

She told ABC News shortly after the book was stolen that she pinpointed a 20-minute window of time when her guard took a bathroom break that the theft must have occurred.

“So many people know where the book was.  I’ve never had it under glass.  I’ve always let people touch it and hold it and take pictures with it,” she told ABC News after the book was stolen.

Police say Linford is being held on $40,000 bond pending extradition to Arizona.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


George Clooney Arrested Outside Sudanese Embassy in DC

Win McNamee/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Movie star George Clooney was led away in handcuffs Friday after storming the Sudanese Embassy, protesting the actions of the country's president.

Clooney made the rounds in Washington, D.C., this week, hoping his superstar power will help shine a light on the situation in Sudan. 

The actor testified before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and held private meetings with the Secretary of State and President Obama about the African nation's dire humanitarian situation along with the Obama administration's policy. 

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He led a protest Friday outside of Sudan's embassy calling on Sudanese President Omar Al-Bashir, an alleged war-criminal, to stop the violence and allow humanitarian aid into the country.

Following his arrest, Clooney's publicist released a statement, saying, "They were protesting the violence committed by the government of Sudan on its own innocent men, women and children.  They were demanding they allow humanitarian aid into the country before it becomes the largest humanitarian crisis in the world."

The Hollywood actor has been working with John Prendergast from the advocacy group The Enough Project for years.  He co-founded the Sudan Sentinel Project, which tracks human rights abuses on the border of Sudan and South Sudan using satellite cameras.

Clooney's said in the past that he wants to draw attention to the atrocities Al-Bashir's allegedly directed against his own people for decades, to "make him famous."

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Employed DC Workers Accused of Collecting Unemployment Benefits

Nick M Do/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Dozens of current and former government workers in Washington, D.C., have been accused of fraudulently receiving unemployment checks, scamming Uncle Sam out of nearly $1 million.

It’s believed that as many as 90 people in various branches of the government are involved in the scheme to fraudulently get paid jobless benefits. They’ve all been placed on leave and now face firing and possible prosecution.

What’s more, at least another 60 former city workers were also alleged to have received unemployment checks when they were on the government's payroll.

Lisa Mallory, director of the D.C. Department of Employment Services, said as much as $800,000 was collected by the 150 current and former employees since 2009. Some of the accused received as much as $20,000, according to investigators, while others’ checks only totaled a few hundred dollars.

Mallory acknowledged while cases of suspected fraud are normally turned over to the inspector general, her office wanted to ensure that other government workers were aware of the seriousness of this alleged crime, adding, “Our focus is really on trying to deter.  We want to make sure that individuals who owe this money are actually held accountable for these overpayments.”

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Winter Storm Expected in the Northeast

Comstock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- A winter storm that started falling on Friday has caused many flights to be cancelled in the northeast and Midwest.

Hundreds of flights were cancelled at Chicago's O'Hare International Airport on Friday due to the snow storm. A winter weather advisory is in effect in New York, New Jersey and Connecticut until 6 p.m. on Saturday.

In New York 3 to 6 inches of snow is expected for Saturday and Mayor Michael Bloomberg said city crews are already out salting roads.

A mix of rain and snow is expected in the nation's capitol and Philadelphia.

More than 700 flights have been cancelled nationwide due to the snow storm.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


US Says Iran-Tied Terror Plot in Washington, DC Disrupted

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- FBI and DEA agents have disrupted a plot to commit a "significant terrorist act in the United States" tied to Iran, federal officials told ABC News Tuesday.

The officials said the plot included the assassination of the Saudi Arabian ambassador to the United States, Adel Al-Jubeir, and subsequent bomb attacks on the Saudi and Israeli embassies in Washington, D.C.

Bombings of the Saudi and Israeli embassies in Buenos Aires, Argentina, were also discussed, according to the U.S. officials.

The stunning allegations come against a backdrop of longstanding tensions between Iran and the United States and Saudi Arabia. In the last year, Saudi Arabia has attempted to build an anti-Iran alliance to push back against perceived aggression by Iran in the region.

The State Department has listed Iran as a "state sponsor" of terror since 1984. Officials in Argentina have said Iran was behind an attack on the Israeli embassy in Buenos Aires in 1992.

The new case, called Operation Red Coalition, began in May when an Iranian-American from Corpus Christi, Texas, approached a DEA informant seeking the help of a Mexican drug cartel to assassinate the Saudi ambassador, according to counter-terrorism officials.

The Iranian-American thought he was dealing with a member of the feared Zetas Mexican drug organization, according to agents.

The DEA office in Houston brought in FBI agents as the international terror implications of the case became apparent.

The Iranian-American, identified by federal officials as Manssor Arbabsiar, 56, reportedly claimed he was being "directed by high ranking members of the Iranian government," including a cousin who was "a member of the Iranian army but did not wear a uniform," according to a person briefed on the details of the case. Counter-terrorism officials said they believe the cousin may be part of the special operations unit of the Revolutionary Guard, the Quds force.

U.S. officials said Arbabsiar met twice in July with the DEA informant in the northern Mexico city of Reynosa, across the border from McAllen, Texas, and negotiated a $1.5 million payment for the assassination of the Saudi ambassador. As a down payment, officials said Arbabsiar wired two payments of $49,960 on Aug. 1 and Aug. 9 to an FBI undercover bank account after he had returned to Iran.

Federal agents said the DEA and the FBI recorded a number of meetings and phone calls between the informant and Arbabsiar, some of them from Iran.

Officials said Arbabsiar flew from Iran through Frankfurt, Germany, to Mexico City Sept. 28 for a final planning session, but was refused entry to Mexico and put on a plane to New York, where he was arrested.

Arbabsiar, a naturalized U.S. citizen, expressed "utter disregard for collateral damage" in the planned bomb attacks in Washington, according to officials.

He also reportedly told the undercover DEA informant that his contacts in the Iranian government could provide "tons of opium" for the Mexican cartels, according to officials who have reviewed the case file.

Officials said Arbabsiar is now cooperating with prosecutors and federal agents in New York, where the case has been transferred.

Senior Justice Department officials in Washington are reported to still be closely reviewing the specific language to be used in any charging documents.

A spokesperson at the Saudi embassy in Washington, D.C., said she was unaware of the plot.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Occupy DC Protesters March through Washington Demanding Jobs

Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- The mantra of the Occupy D.C. protests rang out loudly and clearly through downtown Washington Thursday afternoon.

“Where are the jobs?” protesters yelled outside the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

“We need jobs” they shouted in front of the White House.

“Banks got bailed out, we got sold out,” they chanted while marching down K Street.

The group plans to “occupy,” or camp out in, Washington’s Freedom plaza until the government creates a serious jobs program, adds an amendment to the Constitution to take “big money” out of elections by repealing the Citizens United Supreme Court decision and investigates Wall Street bankers that were involved in the financial crisis, said protestor Peter Burr, 64.

“There are very, very few people in the United States who are not being impacted by this, and I don’t know if it will take weeks or months but gradually they are all going to speak up,” said Burr, who drove from Nashville, Tenn., to participate in Thursday’s event.

Occupy D.C. is an offshoot of the Occupy Wall Street movement that has taken up residence in downtown New York City for the past three weeks.  Both the president and vice president spoke out in solidarity with the “occupy” protestors Thursday.

“What is the core of that protest?” asked Vice President Joe Biden at the Washington Ideas Forum.  “The core is: The bargain has been breached.  The core is the American people do not think the system is fair or on the level.  That is the core is what you’re seeing with Wall Street.”

At a White House press conference, President Obama said the Wall Street protest “expresses the frustrations that the American people feel.”

“We had the biggest financial crisis since the Great Depression, huge collateral damage all throughout the country, all across Main Street,” Obama said.  “And yet you’re still seeing some of the same folks who acted irresponsibly trying to fight efforts to crack down on abusive practices that got us into this problem in the first place.”

As about 600 citizens marched through the streets of downtown Washington they chanted, “We are 99 percent,” as in the 99 percent of Americans who share the same amount of wealth as the top 1 percent.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


American Indicted in Remote-Controlled Plane Terror Plot

FBI(WASHINGTON) -- A federal grand jury has indicted a 26-year-old American on terror charges relating to an alleged plot to strike the nation's capital with several explosive-laden, remote-controlled airplanes.

Rezwan Ferdaus, a U.S. citizen from Ashland, Mass., and Northeastern University physics graduate, was nabbed in an elaborate FBI sting after he told undercover officers exactly how he planned to arm "small drone airplanes" with explosives in order to hit the Pentagon and U.S. Capitol building before opening fire on the survivors, federal officials said in a statement.

Ferdaus was indicted on six counts, including "attempting to damage and destroy a federal building by means of an explosive" and "attempting to provide material support to terrorists."

An attorney for Ferdaus has not returned requests for comments on the charges against him.

According to the indictment, Ferdaus believed his attack could "decapitate" the U.S. "military center".

"Individuals, self-radicalized, they're not looking to cause big mass casualties like 9/11," said former FBI agent and ABC News consultant Brad Garrett, "because they're trying to inflict fear."

Federal officials said Ferdaus appeared to have been radicalized online by Islamist videos and writings.  By 2010, Ferdaus believed he was working for al Qaeda when he began modifying cellphones to serve as electrical switches for improvised explosive devices (IEDs) to be passed on to fighters in the Middle East.

"During a June 2011 meeting, he appeared gratified when he was told that his first phone detonation device had killed three U.S. soldiers and injured four or five others in Iraq.  Ferdaus responded, 'That was exactly what I wanted,'" the Department of Justice said in a statement after Ferdaus' arrest Wednesday.

The cellphones, however, never got anywhere near the Middle East as Ferdaus was actually handing them over to undercover officers for the FBI.  Still, Ferdaus appeared to want to do more, investigators said.

"Ferdaus envisioned causing a large 'psychological' impact by killing Americans, including women and children, who he referred to as 'enemies of Allah,'" the DOJ's statement said.  "According to the affidavit, Ferdaus' desire to attack the United States is so strong that he confided, 'I just can't stop; there is no other choice for me.'"

Ferdaus allegedly wanted to command a team of six operatives that would use up to three remote-controlled aircraft filled with explosives in the "aerial" part of the attack before firing on any survivors in a follow-up "ground" attack.

Federal investigators said Ferdaus traveled to Washington, D.C., to "conduct surveillance" and take photographs of his targets before acquiring his weapons, including six AK-47 assault rifles, grenades and what he believed to be C-4 explosives.

"Although Ferdaus was presented with multiple opportunities to back out of his plan, including being told that his attack would likely kill women and children, the affidavit alleges that Ferdaus never wavered in his desire to carry out the attacks," the DOJ said.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

ABC News Radio