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Thursday
Oct212010

Terror Suspect Invited to Lunch at Pentagon After 9/11

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- A terror suspect, now believed to be hiding in Yemen, had lunch at the Pentagon just weeks after the 9/11 attacks, ABC News confirms.

Just weeks after Sept. 11, American-born radical cleric Anwar Aulaqi was invited to a private lunch at the Pentagon as part of an effort to reach out to the Muslim community.  When asked by ABC News if Aulaqi had actually attended the lunch, Pentagon spokesman Colonel David Lapan said, "We believe that to be true."

"We believe it was hosted by a small group within (but not including) the Department of Defense General Counsel's staff," a Pentagon spokesman tells ABC News.

Days before, Aulaqi had been interviewed by the FBI about the hijackers. The 9/11 commission report later found:

"Another potentially significant San Diego contact for [9/11 hijackers] Hazmi and Mihdhar was Anwar Aulaqi, an imam at the Rabat mosque.  Born in New Mexico and thus a U.S. citizen, Aulaqi grew up in Yemen and studied in the United States on a Yemeni government scholarship.  We do not know how or when Hazmi and Mihdhar first met Aulaqi.  The operatives may even have met or at least talked to him the same day they first moved to San Diego.  Hazmi and Mihdhar reportedly respected Aulaqi as a religious figure and developed a close relationship with him."

Aside from 9/11, Aulaqi has also been linked to the failed Christmas Day airline bombing and the Fort Hood shootings.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio

Thursday
Oct212010

Mom, Teens Charged for 'Pen Bomb' at School

Photo Courtesy - ABC News(CHARLOTTE, N.C.) -- A North Carolina teenager, along with his brother and mother, have been charged with several felony counts for possession of weapons of mass destruction in connection with an exploding pen that seriously injured a student and three firefighters.

Jessie Bauguess, 16, is accused of bringing the exploding pen to Turning Point Academy in Charlotte, N.C., on Monday.  Police said Bauguess used information from the Internet to learn how to turn a pen into a weapon.  The pen contained triacetone triperoxide, also known as TATP, which is the same explosive used by Richard Reid, the shoe bomber.

The device injured a 15-year-old boy after the pen he took from a cup on his teacher's desk exploded.  The extent of the injuries wasn't revealed by police.

"All he did was go get a pen.  So he could do his classroom work.  I mean, you're not expecting a pen to blow up in your face," said the mother of the injured boy, who declined to be identified.

Bauguess made his first court appearance Wednesday to face charges of malicious use of explosives with injury, malicious use of explosives with damage to property, possession of a weapon on school grounds and three counts of arson/unlawful burning resulting in injury to a firefighter, according to ABC affiliate WSOC.  He is currently being held on a $500,000 bond.

Bauguess' 15-year-old brother was taken into custody and also charged with malicious use of explosives following a police search.  "They were apparently playing with or using very dangerous chemicals that could result in an explosion," said Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Captain Gregg Collins.

On Wednesday, Bauguess' mother, Tracy Bauguess, turned herself in after police searched the family's home and reported finding a significant amount of explosives.  During the search, a small amount of TATP spontaneously detonated and injured three firefighters.  The firefighters were treated and released.  She was charged with three counts of malicious injury and possession of a weapon of mass destruction.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio

Thursday
Oct212010

NAACP Report Claims Tea Party Gives Platform to Racists, Bigots 

Photo Courtesy - National Association for the Advancement of Colored People(BALTIMORE) -- A controversial new report about the Tea Party alleges that white power groups and militias have tried to infiltrate the movement in order to “push these protesters toward a more self-conscious and ideological white supremacy.”

The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People released the findings of the study called “Tea Party Nationalism,” funded in part by the liberal-backed Firedoll Foundation and written by white nationalism experts Devin Burghart and Leonard Zeskind.

According to Judson Phillips, founder of the Tea Party Nation, the report is nothing more than a “liberal smear,” given that the more organized facets of the movement have repudiated racism.  There are also questions about the timing of the report’s release, with the midterm elections less than two weeks away.

Burghart and Zeskind focused more on fringe Tea Party groups online and low-level county chapters, where allegations of racism have cropped up.  They also cited five members in particular, including one former Tea Party official with ties to anti-Semitic or white nationalist groups.

NAACP President Ben Jealous said that his group’s support of the findings was not meant to attack the Tea Party as a whole but to simply repudiate any racists who may try to associate themselves with the movement.  Jealous called most Tea Party supporters “sincere, principled people of good will.”

"Tea Party Nationalism" also claims that a large number of Tea Party backers are 'birthers,' who believe that President Obama was born outside the U.S., and therefore wasn't eligible to run for the White House.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio

Thursday
Oct212010

Anita Hill Refusing Comment on Call for Apology from Thomas' Wife 

Photo Courtesy - Scott Wintrow/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- Back in 1991, Anita Hill had plenty to say about her former boss, Clarence Thomas, who was in the process of being confirmed by the Senate to become only the second African-American to sit on the U.S. Supreme Court.

Today, Hill has no comment about the entire affair, or why Thomas’ wife Virginia called her unexpectedly last weekend to ask for an apology from Hill, who accused Clarence Thomas of sexual harassment when they worked at the Department of Education and, later, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

In an excerpt of the message obtained by ABC News, Virginia Thomas says on a voicemail message to Hill: “I would love you to consider an apology sometime and some full explanation of why you did what you did with my husband. So give it some thought and certainly pray about this and come to understand why you did what you did.”

Hill told Senate lawmakers at the confirmation hearings 19 years ago that Clarence Thomas repeatedly made inappropriate sexual comments, often described in graphic detail.

Thomas, who alleged he was a victim of a “high-tech lynching” by political foes, was ultimately confirmed by a 52 to 48 vote and has proven to be one of the most conservative high court justices in history.

A spokesman for Brandeis University, where Hill is a faculty member, says the school stands by Hill’s testimony and her contention that the call from Virginia Thomas was inappropriate.

Robert Reich, who served as labor secretary in the Clinton administration, added Wednesday that, “If [Clarence] Thomas doesn’t apologize for this latest foray, his wife should apologize.”  Reich was a classmate of Clarence Thomas at Yale and is an associate of Hill's at Brandeis.  He said that Hill’s integrity is beyond reproach.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio

Thursday
Oct212010

Penthouse Founder Bob Guccione, Dead at 79 

Photo Courtesy - Ron Galella/ WireImage(PLANO, Texas) -- Bob Guccione, the founder of the provocative men's magazine Penthouse, has died at a hospital in Plano, Texas after a long battle with cancer.  The publisher started the magazine in 1965, billed as a more artistic and more graphic competitor to Hugh Hefner's Playboy, which started in 1953.

The magazine, and Guccione's fortunes, rose and fell through the years.  In 1982, he made the Forbes 400 ranking of America's wealthiest people, with a net worth of $400 million.  He was quoted as saying his magazine had earned billions in its heyday, but in his later years his fortune was drained by bad investments, back taxes, and expensive mainstream publishing ventures like the former science magazine, Omni.

In 2002, Guccione's personal fine art collection was sold to try to pay his debts.  In 2006, he was forced to sell his 22,000-square-foot New York City mansion.  He and his wife, April Guccione, moved to Texas in 2009.  His son, Bob Guccione, Jr., is best known for creating the music magazine Spin.

The Penthouse name, magazine, and affiliate websites are now owned by another company which purchased the brand at a bankruptcy sale.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio

Wednesday
Oct202010

Biggest U.S. Industrial Accidents May Be Waiting to Happen, Experts Say

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- Western Hungary still is digging out from under 24.7 million cubic feet of caustic red sludge -- a toxic tide unleashed when a containment pond at an old aluminum factory gave way.  The breach killed nine, injured 150, forced home evacuations and ruined property over a 15.6 square mile area.

Hardly had the mud subsided, though, when an environmental group fingered another 150 industrial sites in the Danube region, each a potential disaster in the making.  Here in the U.S., what industrial dangers lie in wait?  Experts suggested this list of the most unsavory possibilities to ABC News:

Manure Lagoons

"Manure lagoon" may sound like the title of a Captain & Tennille hit single; but the phrase in fact describes impoundments of animal waste in liquid form on cattle, hog, dairy or chicken farms.  These can contain millions or even tens of millions of gallons of excrement.  Dams designed to contain the waste have on occasion failed.

There is concern about lagoons on hog farms in North Carolina and Iowa, as well as on dairies in California and Texas, says Newell, who adds that these pools are a nationwide problem.

Chlorine Gas

"It's not like you go to sleep and die painlessly.  It's a horrible death."  Rick Hind, legislative director for Greenpeace, is talking about what happens when you inhale chlorine gas, used widely in water treatment and the plastics industry.  "It reacts with any liquid to turn into hydrochloric acid.  You die of pulmonary edema. Your lungs melt and you drown in the fluid of your lungs."

Industrial Worm

Stuxnet -- a computer worm more sophisticated and potentially more destructive than any previously discovered -- has been attacking industrial facilities for about a year.  Who made it and why remain a mystery, but security professionals regard it as so extraordinarily complex that it could only be the work of a nation-state or a sophisticated, well-financed private group.

The worm enters Windows-based industrial control systems of factories, chemical plants, power plants and transmission systems by way of a corrupted memory stick and is thought to do such things as change autonomously the speed of pumps and other equipment, thus creating dangerous situations of over-pressure or under-pressure. It doesn't need human guidance to work its mischief.

Pipeline Blasts

The explosion that leveled a San Bruno, California, neighborhood in September -- sending flames 300 feet into the air -- wasn't the first and likely will not be the last conflagration caused by a ruptured natural gas pipeline (in this case, one belonging to the Pacific Gas & Electric Company).

The age of a pipeline matters less than inspection and maintenance.  So says Carl Weier, head of the Pipeline Safety Trust, a government-financed watchdog group.  "Most of the pipelines in this country are 40 to 50 years old.  If properly maintained, they don't present a danger."  However, even a new pipeline, he says, will go to failure if not well inspected and maintained.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio

Wednesday
Oct202010

Petit Murderer Steven Hayes Attempted Suicide Multiple Times Behind Bars

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(NEW HAVEN, Conn.) -- Steven Hayes, the man trying to avoid the death penalty for his role in a gruesome triple murder during a Connecticut home invasion, has tried to kill himself multiple times while behind bars, according to court testimony heard Wednesday.

Dr. Paul Amble, a Yale University professor of psychiatry who conducted a four-hour evaluation of Hayes earlier this year, testified that the defendant has made multiple attempts to commit suicide while incarcerated, once as recently as August of this year.

Amble told the court that Hayes tried to kill himself "several times" prior to the Petit murders and admitted to wanting to die after the July 2007 triple murder as well.

"[Hayes] described his persistent desire to die were because of his feelings of guilt, remorse and his condition of confinement," said Amble.

Since entering the MacDougall-Walker Correctional Institution, Hayes has attempted to overdose on a variety of pills.  In October 2007, prison authorities found 20 pills that Hayes had hoarded in his cell, and in January 2009, puncture wounds on his left forearm were spotted.

In January, Hayes "ingested a toxic level of thorazine," an anti-psychotic drug that Amble testified Hayes was not prescribed.

In August, just a month before his trial was slated to begin, Hayes tried to overdose on Ibuprofen, according to Amble.

Hayes told Amble that he often fantasized about killing himself and even thought about sticking his head in the toilet in his cell and doing a backflip, presumably to break his neck.

Entering prison at 200 lbs, Hayes has since lost 70 lbs, in part because of his paranoia that the prison staff was "contaminating his food."

Hayes, unlike his lawyers, told Amble that he'd prefer the death penalty to life spent in prison.

The details of Hayes' life in prison and suicide attempts come a day after the jury considering whether to condemn him to death heard the twisted reasoning of Hayes' co-defendant about how the home invasion morphed into a horrifying massacre.

The jury Tuesday heard wrenching journal entries by Joshua Komisarjevsk in an attempt by the defense to spare Hayes' life and paint Komisarjevsky as the alleged ringleader.

Hayes, 47, was convicted earlier this month on 16 felony counts.  Komisarjevsky, 30, will be tried separately.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio

Wednesday
Oct202010

Federal Appeals Court Reinstates 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' 

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(WASHINGTON) --  A federal appeals court Wednesday reinstated "Don't Ask, Don't Tell," the military's policy forbidding openly gay troops from serving.

A three-judge panel granted the Justice Department's emergency request to allow the policy to remain on the books so that the appeals court could have more time to fully consider the issues presented.

An attorney for the gay rights group pushing to change the policy suggested Wednesday's reversal would be only temporary.

"While we are disappointed with the court's ruling granting a temporary administrative stay, we view the decision as nothing more than a minor setback," said Dan Woods, a partner at the law firm White & Case, which is representing Log Cabin Republicans in Log Cabin Republicans v. United States of America.

"We didn't come this far to quit now, and we expect that once the Ninth Circuit has received and considered full briefing on the government's application for a stay, it will deny that application, and the district court's injunction, which it entered after hearing all the evidence in the case, will remain in place until the appeal is finally decided," Woods said.

On Oct. 12, California District Court Judge Virginia Phillips issued a worldwide ban on the policy, and shortly thereafter the Department of Defense said it would abide by the judge's order.

That meant the policy no longer was in effect from Oct. 12 until Wednesday's ruling, meaning gay and lesbian troops and recruits temporarily did not have to hide their sexual orientation.

But gay rights advocates urged caution to those serving, warning that the policy could be reinstated at any time.

"The bottom line:  If you come out now, it can be used against you in the future by the Pentagon," Aubrey Sarvis of the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network said in a statement.  "As the Department of Justice fights to keep this unconstitutional and oppressive law, we are monitoring active-duty clients' cases and fielding calls every day to our hotline."

In court papers, lawyers for the Obama administration urged the appeals court to lift the ban on enforcement of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" because it would cause the government "irreparable injury" and "short-circuit" a comprehensive review process of the policy currently under way at the Department of Defense.

They argued it would also interfere with other pending litigation in other federal courts, and it would cause confusion among the troops.

"A stay pending appeal," government lawyers wrote, "would obviate the confusion and uncertainty that might be caused by temporary implementation of the district court's injunction, with the looming possibility that the statutory policy could be reinstated on appeal."

But lawyers for the Log Cabin Republicans, which brought the case to court, argued against a stay.

"Each argument that the government asserts as a basis for a stay," they said, "has already been raised to the district court, which rejected them all -- not cursorily, or in passing at an oral argument, but in extensive reasoned opinions at multiple stages of the proceedings below."

The Obama administration already has notified the appeals court that it is planning to appeal Judge Phillips' finding that "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" violates the due process and free speech rights of service members.

The legal wrangling has infuriated gay rights activists.  The Obama administration has vowed to work to repeal the policy in Congress, but has said it does not want the issue decided by the courts.  As such, government lawyers are in the awkward position of defending a statute that the administration admits it is against.

Gay rights groups urged President Obama to abide by the ruling and allow the nearly 16-year-old policy to immediately end.  However, President Obama, has said he will continue to fight the policy in court and will work with the lame duck Congress to repeal it after the elections.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio

Wednesday
Oct202010

President Bill Clinton Lost Nuclear Codes While in Office, New Book Claims

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- When you're president of the United States, you can lose a vote, you can lose popular support, and you can lose a round of golf. But you're never, ever supposed to lose the biscuit.

That's what they call the card the president is meant to keep close at hand, bearing the codes that he has to have in order to launch a nuclear attack.  For several months during the Clinton administration, a former top military officer says they lost the biscuit.

Gen. Hugh Shelton, who served under Clinton as Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, tells the story in his just-published memoir, Without Hesitation: The Odyssey of an American Warrior.

"At one point during the Clinton administration," Shelton writes, "the codes were actually missing for months. [...] That's a big deal -- a gargantuan deal."

Shelton claims the story has never been released before, but Ret. Air Force Lt. Col Robert Patterson told a very similar account in his own book, published seven years ago.

Patterson was one of the men who carried the football, and he says it was literally the morning after the Monica Lewinsky scandal broke that he made a routine request of the president to present the card so that he could swap it out for an updated version.

"He thought he just placed them upstairs," Patterson recalled.  "We called upstairs, we started a search around the White House for the codes, and he finally confessed that he in fact misplaced them.  He couldn't recall when he had last seen them."

In Patterson's telling of the story, the president lost the biscuit in 1998, but according to Shelton, the card went missing in 2000.

If the facts seem murky, that's not unusual when national security matters are involved.  Consider the old story that Jimmy Carter left his biscuit in a suit that got sent to the dry cleaners.  Today, no one will confirm the story, but no one will deny it either.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio

Wednesday
Oct202010

Facebook Users Wear Purple, Stand Up Against Anti-LGBT 

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- Purple was the color of choice on Facebook Wednesday, as millions of users showed support for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender teens.

Answering the call from the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD) to "wear purple on Oct. 20 for Spirit Day," Facebook fans around the world changed their status messages, created purple versions of their profile pictures, joined Facebook groups and more.

Oct. 20 was designated Spirit Day by Canadian teenager Brittany McMillan to honor the teenagers who recently committed suicide after anti-LGBT bullying online, according to GLAAD.

Rallying around the cause, several Facebook groups encouraging people to wear purple have popped on the site. One of the biggest, "R.I.P. ;; In memory of the recent suicides due to gay abuse, wear purple," has attracted more than 1.6 million attendees.

In news feeds across the site, Facebook fans from California to Canada and Vienna to Venezuela posted messages of support.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio







ABC News Radio