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Tuesday
Jan252011

End of the Line for Cursive?

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- The handwriting may be on the wall for cursive. At least that's what some people fear as schools across the country continue to drop cursive handwriting from their curricula.

Forty-one states have so far adopted the new Common Core State Standards for English, which does not require cursive. Set by the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO) and the National Governors Association (NGA), the standards provide a general framework for what students are expected to learn before college.

No longer included in that framework is cursive. States are allowed the option of re-including it if they so choose, which is what Massachusetts and California have done.

The latest to contemplate abandoning the script is Georgia, where teachers and administrators will meet in March to discuss erasing the longhand style from its lesson plans, says Georgia Department of Education spokesman Matt Cardoza.

The argument is that cursive is time-consuming and not as useful as the keyboard skills students will need as they move on to junior high and high school, he says.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Tuesday
Jan252011

Lawmakers Seek to Crack Down on Distracted Pedestrians

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- Lawmakers in New York and Arkansas are taking aim at pedestrians who are distracted by electronic devices while running or walking on sidewalks and streets.

New York Sen. Carl Kruger is looking to impose a fine on walkers or joggers using a cell phone, iPod, or other electronic device while crossing the street in a big city.

"If somebody is found using a cell phone or texting or receiving an instant message while crossing the street then they would be subject to a $100 fine," Kruger said.

The senator added that the fine would not be wiped out by simply mailing in a check.

"You get the fine, you have to appear in court, you have to lose some time.  You have to appear before a judge.  You're gonna get admonished for what you did.  And you're going to have to pay that civil fine," he said.

Kruger said the proposed fine is not a ploy to raise money but rather the result of reported deaths around the country in connection to distracted pedestrians.  Of those deaths, two were in his district in Brooklyn, where, in one incident, he said "a gentleman was standing on the corner, ready to cross the street, wired into his iPod, crosses over, walks right into a New York City bus."

Moreover, Arkansas Sen. Jimmy Jeffress is proposing a bill that would forbid pedestrians from wearing headphones in both ears when they are on or near streets, intersections or highways, the Los Angeles Times reported.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Tuesday
Jan252011

TSA 'Not Capable' of Detecting Moscow-Like Attack, Critics Say

Photo Courtesy - Jeff Swensen/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- A $212-million federal program designed to spot suspected terrorists at American airports is "not capable of detecting what took place in Moscow," according to the chairman of the House Transportation Committee, Rep. John Mica of Florida.

The program, called SPOT, was created in 2006 by the Transportation Security Administration (TSA), and now has more than 3,000 "Behavior Detection" officers at 161 airports.  The officers receive four days of classroom instruction on how to spot certain unusual behaviors.

But the Government Accountability Office says the TSA has relied on unproven behavioral science and Congressional critics say the program has done nothing to deal with the actual vulnerabilities of airport security.

"I see the classified results and it gives me great concern, I saw what happened [in Moscow] and I have even more concern," Rep. Mica told ABC News Tuesday.

The suicide bomb attack at the Moscow airport highlighted a physical vulnerability long recognized by both security officials and terrorists.

"Every airport in the world, including every airport in the United States, has virtually no security until you get to the security checkpoint," said Richard Clarke, an ABC News consultant and former White House counter-terrorism official.

"Very large parts of all airports are inherently insecure," Clarke added.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Monday
Jan242011

Supporters of Slain Border Agent Seek Justice, Answers

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(TUCSON, Ariz.) -- Less than one month before a gunman went on a bloody rampage in suburban Tucson, killing six and wounding 13, a similarly gruesome scene played out in a dark canyon just outside the city.

Bandits armed with AK-47s attacked a group of U.S. Border Patrol agents, including Brian Terry, a three-year veteran of the force who was shot in the back and killed.

Hundreds of law enforcement officers, friends and family of Terry gathered Friday for a memorial service at a Tucson sports arena. And some voiced frustration that justice for their fallen comrade hasn't come fast enough.

"The FBI is being completely mum on where the investigation is at," said National Border Patrol Council President T.J. Bonner in an interview. "We're pressing to get some answers not only for our organization but the family."

Bonner said the lack of details on the investigation was particularly troublesome in light of federal investigators' robust response to the shooting of U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords at an event two weeks ago.

"It's incumbent upon the FBI to be more forthcoming about what they know and what they don't know," he said.

Federal law enforcement officials contacted by ABC News said four suspects are in custody, detained immediately following the shooting Dec. 15, but that a fifth suspect remains at large. Some observers believe he likely escaped to Mexico.

"We've got to hunt them down and put them in jail, whether they're drug traffickers, alien smugglers or, in this particular case, people who shoot and kill border patrol agents," said Immigration and Customs Enforcement Director John Morton.

An FBI spokesman declined to discuss the ongoing investigation or identify the names of the men in custody but said that the suspects were being held on "immigration charges."

No murder charges have been filed in Terry's death.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Monday
Jan242011

Justice Clarence Thomas Amends 20 Years of Disclosure Forms 

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas amended 20 years' worth of financial disclosure forms Monday after a liberal watchdog group questioned the omission of his wife's place of employment.

"It has come to my attention that information regarding my spouse's employment required in Part III B of my financial disclosure report was inadvertently omitted due to a misunderstanding of the filing instructions," Thomas wrote in a letter to the committee that handles the reports.

The Ethics in Government Act of 1978 requires all federal judges to disclose their spouse's employer. They are not required to list the total income.

Thomas' formal recognition of the errors follows a complaint filed Friday by the group Common Cause that had expressed concern about the "apparent gaps" in his disclosures as required by law.

Thomas amended the reports Monday, noting that his wife, Virginia Thomas, drew income from the Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank where she worked from 1998 to 2003. Thomas also noted that she worked at Hillsdale College for three months in 2008.

None of Thomas' forms, covering activities through Dec. 31, 2009, mention his wife's work at Liberty Central, a conservative political education group she co-founded in January 2009 in part to energize Tea Party activists.

But the group did not officially launch until May 2010, which will only be covered during in the next disclosure period.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Monday
Jan242011

Fla. Standoff Suspect Dies after Killing Two Cops, Wounding Marshal

Photo Courtesy - ABC News(ST. PETERSBURG, Fla.) -- As many as 200 rounds were fired in a close-quarters firefight inside the attic of a Florida home, leaving two cops dead along with an ex-con who was wanted for aggravated battery.

After the initial volley of gunfire, and news that two St. Petersburg Police Department officers and a deputy U.S. marshal had been wounded, SWAT officers entered the home again in a dangerous rescue operation that involved more gunfire, tear gas, and an armored truck that rammed the house in order to create a hole in the side of the building.

One of the wounded officers was trapped inside the attic, and in order to rescue the mortally wounded cop the SWAT team had to battle its way back into the attic under heavy gunfire.

Cops showed up at the home about 7 a.m. Monday looking to interview a relative of Hydra Lacy, 39, who was wanted for aggravated battery. The relative, believed to be his wife, told officers Lacy was hiding in the attic and was potentially armed.

The cops walked into an ambush. Officer Jeffrey Yaslowitz went up into the attic and was quickly shot down. Yaslowitz, the father of three, is a member of the department's canine unit whose shift had ended but had volunteered to help respond to a call for backup at the Lacy home.

An unidentified deputy marshal on his heels was wounded twice in the exchange. The marshal is in stable condition at Bayfront Medical Center.

Sgt. Tom Baitinger, 48, a veteran detective, tried to rescue Yaslowitz from the attic. He was wearing a bulletproof vest and holding a ballistic shield in front of him, but Police Chief Chuck Harmon indicated with his hands that the bullet came from above. Baitinger, who died, had been with the department since 1996.

For hours, police tried to contact the gunman, unsure if he "was wounded, or laying in wait," said Police Chief Chuck Harmon.

Six hours after the initial melee and the last moment of contact with the gunman, a heavily armored SWAT team entered the home and found the gunman dead.

At an afternoon press conference Harmon held mementos of the fallen cops -- a badge, a gold wedding ring, and two rubber bracelets -- given to him as the men were rushed to the hospital.

"This crook, this criminal, this murderer, this cop killer -- whatever you want to call him -- did a terrible injustice," Harmon said. "I feel a lot of anger…I feel remorse for the families It will take days of healing before we get through this."

St. Petersburg Mayor Bill Foster said, "It's a dark day for the city of St. Petersburg," and said the officers and the cops who went into the building to rescue them "showed tremendous bravery."

Monday's shooting came as law enforcement officials released data showing that 10 cops have been killed nationwide in the line of duty so far this year, a very bloody start to the year. Last year, 61 officers died in the line of duty.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Monday
Jan242011

Activists at March for Life Rally Demand Tougher Abortion Laws

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Anti-abortion activists convened in Washington, D.C. Monday to protest the Supreme Court's decision in Roe v. Wade, the 38th anniversary of which fell on Saturday, as Republican lawmakers ratcheted up their rhetoric and vowed to step up the fight against abortion.

"We are here because Roe v. Wade is bad law. We are here because we believe it was wrongly decided," said Sen. Roger Wicker, R-Miss. "We believe Roe v. Wade has led to a three-and-a-half-decades-long holocaust in the United States of America and it amounts to a stain on our national conscience and it's time for it to end."

Wicker, who for years has attempted to pass his "Life at Conception Act," announced that he will reintroduce the bill in the Senate Tuesday. The legislation would establish that human life begins at conception and calls for legal protection for fetuses.

"It's time for the 14th Amendment protection to be afforded to the unborn," he said.

The rally comes as the new Republican Majority House has made abortion one of its top priorities and reopened the controversial debate. Last week, Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, introduced legislation that would ban federal funding for abortion, calling it one of the House's "top legislative priorities."

On Monday, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor vowed to continue fighting on the issue.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Monday
Jan242011

Accused Tucson Gunman Jared Loughner Smiles Through Hearing

Photo Courtesy - Pima County Sheriff's Department(PHOENIX) -- With a smile on his face, accused Tucson gunman Jared Loughner pleaded not guilty Monday to several charges stemming from the deadly shooting earlier this month.

Shackled at his waist and ankles, Loughner did not stop smiling once during the court proceedings, staring straight ahead as the crowded courtroom looked on.

With a fresh buzz cut and clad in a wrinkled jumpsuit, Loughner stood as directed when the judge entered the courtroom.

Loughner, 22, is accused of the Jan. 8 shooting that killed six and injured several others, including Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, who suffered a gunshot wound to the head.

Loughner faces five federal charges: one count of attempted assassination of a member of Congress, two counts of killing an employee of the United States and two counts of intent to kill employees of the United States. He will likely face state charges as well.

He is being held at the Phoenix Correctional Institution, 140 miles north of Tucson.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Monday
Jan242011

Obama Pledges More Support for Military Families

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- President Obama on Monday announced new initiatives to help support military families across the country that he said is not just a moral obligation, but a matter of national security.

The initiatives focus on putting a new emphasis on the quality of life for military families, the education and development of military children, redoubling efforts to help military spouses pursue their educations and careers, and increasing child care for military moms and dads with young children.

“These are lasting commitments by the government to address your needs and concerns for years to come,” said first lady Michelle Obama. “My hope is that these recommendations will live on no matter the president, no matter the party.”

On Thursday, Mrs. Obama will travel to Columbia, S.C. to meet with service members and speak about this initiative at Fort Jackson.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Monday
Jan242011

Vice President Biden Reports for Jury Duty in Delaware

Photo Courtesy - Pete Souza/The White House(WILMINGTON, Del.) -- Vice President Joe Biden’s office said Monday morning the vice president reported for jury duty with the Superior Court of Delaware at the New Castle County Courthouse in Wilmington.

"I don't consider myself different than any other person," Biden told The News Journal of Wilmington. "This is important ... It is an honor to be a part of the system."

Biden’s hometown paper reported the vice president chatted with other potential jurors in the waiting room and said that he had to make some phone calls during a break, including one to President Obama.

This time last year, it was President Obama who received a jury summons but unlike Biden, the president told the suburban Chicago courthouse that he would not be able to serve.

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