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Tuesday
Dec282010

North Carolina Third-Grader Buys $15,000 in Gifts for Sick Kids

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- A precocious nine-year-old's determination to make sure sick children had gifts during the holidays paid off with stunning results.

Katie Greene, a North Carolina third-grader, went into this holiday season with dollar signs in her eyes -- not for her own gifts, but for those she would help deliver to several area hospitals using money she planned to raise from her school, family, friends and various community groups.

She ended up collecting a whopping $15,708.

"I'm really hard to turn down," Katie told ABC News of her marketing strategy.

In the weeks leading up to Christmas, Katie launched her own version of a speech circuit, meeting with youth and church groups and her classmates to ask for donations. She also set up shop at craft shows and sold raffle tickets.

It's a project she has undertaken for the last three years -- since she was six -- but this year topped her previous efforts by far.

"I had this idea," she said. "It's just gone off. I think I'm doing a really good job."

That first year, Katie raised $162. Three years later, she set a goal of $15,000 and raised more than $700 on top of it.

Though Katie wasn't allowed to deliver her gifts in person due to concerns over infection and privacy, she said she knew of one little boy -- named Kevin -- who liked to watch movies. So she bought him gift cards to Best Buy and Amazon so he could have his purchases shipped to him.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio

Tuesday
Dec282010

Florida Lottery Winners Exclude Co-Worker

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(THE VILLAGES, Fla.) -- Jeanette French wasn't at the Golf Shop the day her co-workers hit the jackpot, winning $16 million in the Florida lottery.

For nine years, French, 72, has been part of the group of employees at The Villages' Hacienda Hills Country Club that pools money each week to buy lottery tickets, each putting in a dollar.

In the past, when group members were unavailable to put their dollar in the pot, a fellow member would spot them, her lawyer, Tom Culmo, told ABC News.

Culmo said that was the case with his client.

"She had communication with one of the other employees who said he would put in a dollar for her," he said. "Employees would routinely cover for each other. She paid back the dollar Thursday morning, and she was given the ticket to check to see if they had won.

"After she realized the group won, she gave back the ticket. She wasn't worried if she handed back the ticket she wouldn't be part of the group," Culmo said.

But the group refused to split the winnings with her, claiming that French did not contribute to the pot. French has filed a lawsuit against them.

"We filed an emergency petition for an injunction to prevent the lottery from dispersing the money," Culmo said. "The court granted the injunction. However, as of late last week, the seven other winners retained a lawyer and we have worked out an agreement that will allow the seven winners to collect 1/8th of the winnings per person.

The remaining eighth will remain in a trust account until the situation is resolved or the court determines who should get the money," Culmo said.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio

Tuesday
Dec282010

Awkward Animal Rescue: Dog’s Head Stuck in Brick Wall

Photo Courtesy -- Riverside County Animal Services(DESERT HOT SPRINGS, Calif.) – Animal rescue officials in Riverside County, Calif. got an odd call Monday. An eight-month-old German shepherd had somehow got his head stuck in a hole in an 18-inch brick wall.

A friend of the dog’s owner called Riverside County Animal Services after she heard the dog whimpering.

“My initial reaction was, ‘Wow, how’d he get in there?,’” said Riverside County Animal Services Sgt. James Huffman, “and why is there a hole that big in the wall?”

Huffman and another officer worked together to remove the animal without harming it. It took roughly 30 minutes for the team to free Rebel the dog from his awkward predicament.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio

Tuesday
Dec282010

Students Horrified by Facebook Page to ‘Honor’ Classmate's Death

Photo Courtesy -- Getty Images(FORT SMITH, Ark.) – A Facebook page meant to honor an Arkansas teen after he died in a car accident was suddenly diluted with inappropriate and offensive material by the creator of the page, according to local ABC News affiliate KHBS-TV.

After Southside High School student Travis McAfee died in a car accident on Christmas Eve, more than 700 people liked a Facebook page entitled “In Loving Memory of Travis McAfee.” Soon after, however, the page administrator posted offensive images – some pornographic – and sexual slurs meant to make light of MacAfee’s death.

The creator also linked a YouTube video to the page. In the video, a man wearing sunglasses and a hat claimed to be the page administrator and expressed his feelings regarding McAfee’s death. "When I first heard that Travis passed away, I just couldn't stop help but laughing,” said the man. “I mean my lungs, still to this point, hurt from all the laughing I was doing."

Students have contacted local police regarding the incident.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio

Tuesday
Dec282010

Pastor Accused of Robbing Parishioner's Home of Luxury Goods

Pastor Sandy McGriff. Photo Courtesy - ABC News/WFAA-TV(DALLAS) -- A Dallas pastor who is accused of climbing through a window to steal fur coats and purses from her parishioner's home on Christmas Eve claims she was just trying to protect the property from burglars.

Sandy McGriff, 52, was apprehended by Dallas police in the afternoon on Christmas Eve when she was spotted stuffing items belonging to Serita Agnew, a parishioner at the The Church of the Living God where McGriff is the pastor.

McGriff told ABC’s Dallas affiliate WFAA that she was checking on Agnew's house when she caught two men breaking in. Asked why she didn't just call the police rather than climbing through the window, McGriff told WFAA, "My mistake, I should have."

But police say that McGriff was not only caught with $12,000 worth of Agnew's possessions, but also gave a different name at the time of her arrest, which she then tried to evade. According to public records, McGriff has an extensive criminal record that includes theft and a prostitution conviction from the 1970s,

"She was caught by patrol officers breaking into a residence and a neighbor had called and said that there was a suspicious vehicle in Agnew's driveway," said Dallas Police Public Information Officer Kevin Janse. "When officers pulled up [McGriff] was walking out the back door with property in her hands."

"McGriff said the homeowner, who was a friend of hers, allowed her to go inside to get the property, but when officers contacted the homeowner she said she had not permitted anyone to enter her home," he said.

McGriff is charged with burglary and resisting arrest and transport, according to Janse -- charges that could put her in prison for as many as 20 years, if convicted.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio

Tuesday
Dec282010

Who Are This Year's 'Most Admired' People?

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- President Barack Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton again top a poll ranking the "most admired" living persons, a list dominated by national politicians.

In the USA Today/Gallup poll, President Obama was the most admired man for the third year in a row, followed by former presidents George W. Bush and Bill Clinton.

Hillary Clinton was the most admired woman for the ninth year in a row, edging out Sarah Palin and Oprah Winfrey.

The rankings also included other figures in business, media and popular culture, including Bill Gates, Nelson Mandella, Glenn Beck, Queen Elizabeth, Angelina Jolie and Aung San Suu Kyi.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio

Tuesday
Dec282010

Winter Snowstorm Gives Way to Freezing Temperatures

Photo Courtesy - ABC News(NEW YORK) -- The brunt of a powerful snowstorm that battered the Northeast Sunday and Monday has moved on, but its lingering impact has left airports struggling to open, thousands of travelers scrambling to reach their destinations and municipalities hustling to clean up.

From North Carolina to Maine, people are digging out from more than two feet of snow in some places.  New York City received nearly two feet of snow along with 60-mile-per-hour winds.  More than 18 inches fell in Boston.

Freezing temperatures that have moved in along the East Coast are expected to remain there through the week.  A freeze warning has been issued for parts of Florida, where temperatures could reach below freezing.

Elsewhere in the country, the West Coast is bracing for snow and rain.

Forecasters predict a blast of winter weather to roll into the Northwest Tuesday night.  Chris Collins, a forecaster at the National Weather Service in Portland, Ore., said there could be heavy snow in the mountains of Oregon and Washington.

Eleven states from California to North Dakota are under a flood and-or weather warning or advisory.  Southern California, which was pounded by heavy rain last week, is expected to receive wet weather again Wednesday. 

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio

Tuesday
Dec282010

Eight Killed in New Orleans Warehouse Blaze

Photo Courtesy - ABC News(NEW ORLEANS) -- Eight people were killed after a fire destroyed an abandoned warehouse in New Orleans early Tuesday morning.

The two-alarm blaze broke out in a warehouse in New Orleans' Ninth Ward around 2 a.m. after a fire in a barrel grew out of control.  Fire officials said a group of people occupied the building to seek refuge from the cold weather and built the fire indoors to keep warm.

Eight people were found dead inside and two others managed to escape.  Their identities have not been released.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio

Tuesday
Dec282010

Stranded Fliers Might Not Get Home Until Thursday

Photo Courtesy - ABC News(NEW YORK) -- Some airline passengers stranded in the northeast from this weekend's blizzard might have to wait until the end of the week to make it home.

Flights slowly started to return to the air Monday night, but the backlog created by the storm might take days to clear as airlines struggle during one of the busiest times of year to reposition airplanes and crew, and find seats on already-crowded planes for stranded passengers.

"You are trying to put them on planes that are already packed.  There isn't a lot of room to re-accommodate folks," said AirTran Airways spokesman Christopher White.  His airline is hoping to return to normal operations by late Wednesday or early Thursday.

Those with confirmed tickets for flights Tuesday, Wednesday or Thursday typically get priority over passengers whose flights were canceled earlier in the week.

New York's three area airports re-started some operations Monday night.  A LaGuardia Airport spokesman said they planned to open a second runway Tuesday morning.

For airlines, the problem might not be whether planes can take off and land, but whether there will be enough staff at the airport to load baggage, take tickets and do security screenings of passengers.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio

Monday
Dec272010

Whistleblower Pilot Reveals His Identity

Photo Courtesy - ABC News (SACRAMENTO, Calif.) -- The airline pilot who spoke out anonymously after he was reprimanded by the Transportation Security Administration for posting videos to YouTube showing security flaws at a major airport revealed his identity Monday.

"My name is Chris Liu, and I'm an airline pilot," Liu said during an exclusive interview with ABC affiliate KXTV in Sacramento, Calif., at his home in Colfax.

Liu, 50, told KXTV he decided to come out of the shadows because he wanted to be an active player in efforts to improve airport security.

"You have passengers and air crew upstairs being screened, while ground crew downstairs come and go with the swipe of a card," he said.

This past weekend, he had said he hoped he could soon safely identify himself.

"I look forward to fully joining the debate on the national security problems that I helped to expose through my YouTube videos," the pilot wrote on his website, The Patriot Pilot.

On Sunday, Liu's attorney, Don Werno, told KXTV that the man still feared retaliation from the TSA, and that he wanted to keep his job as a pilot.

In an interview with ABC's World News last week when he was still keeping his name a secret, Liu said it was the "fallacy of the system" that inspired him to post the videos on YouTube.

Late last month, he took a series of videos with his cell phone to show major flaws he said still exist in airport security systems. The videos show how easily ground crews at San Francisco International Airport were able to enter secure areas.

"As you can see, airport security is kind of a farce. It's only smoke and mirrors so you people believe there is actually something going on here," he said on one video.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio







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