Southern Cities Hit by Winter Storm Struggle to Thaw Out

Photo Courtesy - ABC News(ATLANTA) -- Disruptions from Sunday's winter storm that snarled traffic, grounded flights and left travelers stranded is still wreaking havoc on residents in the southeast.

In Atlanta, schools are closed Friday for the fifth straight day, roads remain icy and dangerous, and some passengers are still stranded at the Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport.

On the roads since Thursday morning, police have responded to more than 50 new accidents, including one fatality.  Atlanta drivers faced chaotic conditions after four-to-seven inches of snow and sleet turned many of the interstates into sheets of ice during the storm.  Highways and back roads are still coated with inches of ice, and many are wondering why Atlanta wasn't better prepared for the storm.

The state of Georgia is spending about $2 million a day on storm clean up.  Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution the city has added more than 115 pieces of equipment to its snow removal efforts.

Northeast of Atlanta, in Raleigh, North Carolina, below-freezing temperatures and wind gusts of up to 40 miles an hour are creating dangerous driving conditions.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Tucson Doctors Hail Congresswoman Giffords' Continued Progress

Photo Courtesy - Bill Clark/Roll Call via Getty Images(TUCSON, Ariz.) -- Doctors at Tucson’s University Medical Center said Thursday the prognosis for Arizona Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords’ recovery from a bullet wound to the head continues to be encouraging.

Chief trauma specialist Dr. Peter Rhee said that Giffords, who was shot at close range last Saturday at a meet-and-greet event she hosted, “is doing some fairly specific things with her left hand.  She is yawning.  She is starting to rub her eyes.”  He added that movement in her right was only slight.

Dr. Michael Lemole, who heads the neurosurgery department, told reporters that Giffords is able to move both her legs on command.

Given that the bullet allegedly fired by accused 22-year-old gunman Jared Lee Loughner passed through the congresswoman’s brain front to back, Rhee and Lemole admitted that Giffords' recovery has thus far been remarkable.

There have been no major setbacks, such as increased brain swelling, since the Jan. 8 shootings that left six people dead and 14 wounded.  On Wednesday afternoon, the Democratic lawmaker opened her eyes for the first time since her surgery last Saturday.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Black Bag Possibly Linked to Accused Tucson Shooter Found

Photo Courtesy - Pima County Sheriff's Department(TUCSON, Ariz.) -- A black bag believed to have been carried by Jared Lee Loughner on the morning of the Tucson strip mall shootings was found Thursday, according to the Pima County Sheriff’s Department.

It’s reported that a teenager came across the bag in a dry river bed while walking his dog not far from the Tucson house where Loughner lives with his parents.

There are also reports the bag contained several boxes of ammunition and other items purchased at a Walmart store last Saturday.

Loughner has so far been charged with five counts of shooting federal officials, including Arizona Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, who remains in critical condition, and U.S. District Judge John Roll, one of six people killed in the attack.  State charges are pending for the others slain and wounded.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


TSA Chief Explains Intel on Thermos Threat and Extra Screening

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- TSA Administrator John Pistole Thursday disclosed that intelligence information was obtained on December 23, 2010 that Al Qaeda on the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) was seeking to make a bomb using insulated drinking mugs and thermoses, leading to the extra check in security lines over the holiday.

Pistole also advised the public to expect additional screening if they travel with the thermal mugs and thermoses.

“In the near future if you want to take your thermos with you just be aware that your going to be subject to more physical screening," the TSA head said Thursday.

At an event sponsored by the American Bar Association’s Standing Committee on Law and National Security, Pistole provided details about a security bulletin issued by TSA on Christmas Eve that warned TSA officers to be alert about insulated drinking cups and thermoses and discussed how quickly the Department of Homeland Security acted on an intelligence tip.

“This plot was that they would use TATP [triacetone triperoxide] around the cylinder of a thermos; put it on either a passenger or a cargo plane and how ever the initiation or the detonator, they didn’t describe," he said. "So that’s general intelligence, what do we do about it? We put out an alert just making sure that all of our Transportation Security Officers, our TSOs, are alert to that and do additional physical screening in addition to the X-rays.”

Pistole also said intelligence indicated that the devices were being devised by AQAP’s master bomb-maker Ibrahim Hassan al-Asiri a.k.a: Abu Saleh who was behind last fall’s cargo bomb plot.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio 


Kama Sutra Malware Puts You in Position for Hack Attack

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- The Kama Sutra may help you score points in the bedroom, but a new PowerPoint file on the ancient guide to sex will only raise your chances of scoring something else: a rendezvous with computer hackers.

According to the security research firm Sophos, an illustration-heavy PowerPoint presentation demonstrating more than a dozen different sexual positions is actually a vicious piece of malware in disguise.

The file, called "Real kamasutra.pps.exe," masquarades as a legitimate PowerPoint deck. But as you click through slides describing various sexual positions, with such names as "The Frog," "Wheelbarrow," and "Lyons Stagecoach," your computer runs a program that lets hackers remotely control your computer.

Graham Clulely, a senior technology consultant at Sophos, said the malware was spotted for the first time earlier this week, but isn't particularly widespread.

"It's interesting, obviously, because of the rather old-school technique of trying to get you to click on the file by appealing to the cave man inside everybody," he said.

Once downloaded, he said the PowerPoint deck serves as a decoy while malware quietly installs itself in the computer. The malicious code gives hackers a backdoor to your PC, which they can they use to execute any number of unwanted tasks.

They could access your every computer file, watch your every key stroke, steal your passwords to online bank accounts and steal your identity.

"The ball is in the court of the hacker," he said.

Clulely said that while computer users may be well-schooled in the ways of computer security, they still often fall victim to techniques that use sex and money as bait.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Court Bars 'Fight Club' Video of Mentally Disabled Students Forced to Fight

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas) -- Prosecutors who are trying a former state school worker for allegedly forcing mentally disabled students fight each other won't be allowed to show the jury an explicit cell phone video of defendant Timothy Dixon allegedly forcing the students to fight.

Numerous videos show confused residents of a state school for mentally disabled adults in Corpus Christi, Texas being forced to take part in a so-called fight club run by night shift workers. As previously reported by ABC News, the videos were discovered by police in March 2009 after someone found Timothy Dixon's cell phone and turned it in. Police said Dixon, now 32, could be heard on a video calling the play-by-play of the fight as if he were a ring announcer.

But the Texas Court of Appeals upheld a lower court's decision that the evidence could not be used at the trial of Dixon, the alleged ringleader of the Fight Club, because police did not have the right to search the phone after it had been turned in. On Wednesday, the court refused to hear prosecutors' appeal of its decision.

"I understand it's an unpopular decision but according to the law it is the right decision," said Dixon's attorney, Ira Miller.

Dixon will remain free on bail while the case goes back to the district court. Charged with causing injury to the mentally disabled, he has pled not guilty.

Five other former Corpus Christi State School employees were charged in the case. D 'Angelo Riley, 24, and Guadalupe De Larosa, 23, pleaded guilty to three counts of causing injury to mentally disabled residents and are serving a four-year prison sentence. Jesse Salazar, 23, was sentenced to three years in jail, while Vincent Johnson, 24, received a two-year suspended jail sentence. Stephanie Garza, 23, was also implicated in the case but was granted immunity by the State. Charges against her will be dismissed if she fulfills her obligation to testify against Dixon.

Despite Wednesday's decision, prosecutors remain optimistic they have enough evidence to convict Dixon without the video evidence.

"This decision doesn't kill the case," said Doug Mann, Assistant District Attorney. "I would prefer to have the cell phone video played to our jury, but the direct testimony of the people who were present can vividly convey to the jury what was going on there and the fact that Dixon was the driving force behind it."

Michelle Crayton, whose brother George Brazil was one of the victims in the video, said she was disappointed in the Court of Criminal Appeals ruling. "I was hoping the video could be shown at his trial," said Crayton. "But even without the video it's a strong case because so many people have already seen them and saw that he was involved."

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Pilot Delays Takeoff for Dying Two-Year-Old's Grandfather

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(LOS ANGELES) -- A desperate Arizona man praised a Southwest Airlines pilot Thursday for displaying an act of human kindness some say is rare in the airline industry. The pilot delayed a takeoff so Mark Dickinson could reach the bedside of his dying two-year old grandson.

Dickinson was in Los Angeles on a business trip last week when he learned that his grandson Caden Rodgers was lying in a Denver hospital, brain dead and about to be taken off life support.

A few days earlier the boy had suffered terrible head injuries, allegedly at the hands of Theodore Madrid, the boyfriend of Dickinson's daughter Ashley Rogers. Madrid, now charged with first-degree murder, was watching the boy while Rogers was at work when Caden was injured.

Dickinson arrived at Los Angeles International Airport to find a long, slow-moving security line. He says airport workers weren't buying his story about Caden and refused to let him jump to the front of the line.

"I thought, 'Oh my God, I'm not going to make my flight.' I didn't know when I was going to get the next one. I resigned myself to the fact that it was my fault," said Dickinson.

He called his wife Nancy back home in Palominas, Ariz., for help. She called Southwest Airlines customer service to plead Mark's case and beg them to hold the plane until Mark could get there.

By the time he got through the security checkpoint, his departure time had already passed. He grabbed his belongings and made a mad dash for the gate, convinced he'd never make his connecting flight in Tucson.

"I was running in my socks through the terminal," said Dickinson, an engineer for Northrop Grumman.

When he got to the gate, Dickinson was shocked to find the plane was still there, the door to the jetway still open.

"I looked over by the jetway and there was the pilot," Dickinson said. "He said, 'Are you Mark?' I said, 'Yeah' and he said, 'Well, we're holding the flight for you.'"

Southwest spokesperson Marilee McInnis said the airline has identified the pilot but according to policy is holding off releasing his name to reporters until he gives permission. He was flying Thursday and could not be immediately reached.

A Southwest spokesman said the pilot is a veteran who is also a member of Southwest's "Corporate Culture Committee."

The pilot held the packed flight for 12 minutes at LAX, which ABC News aviation consultant John Nance calls "an eternity."

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Cops' Chilling Request for 'Every Ambulance' to Tucson Shooting

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(TUCSON, Ariz.) -- Officers responding to reports of the mass shooting in Tucson Saturday can be heard in audio recordings released Thursday pleading for "every ambulance" in the area to respond to the gruesome scene.

"We need multiple med units," an officer, who does not give his name, says on the radio transmissions released Thursday by the Pima County Sheriff's Office. "Get every ambulance we have out here."

"There's a man with a semi-automatic," says another unidentified officer. "We have a caller who believes Gabrielle Giffords was shot. It sounds like many people are shot. I'm counting at least 10."

That man later is identified as Jared Loughner, the 22-year-old now accused of the shooting that killed six and injured at least 13, including Rep. Giffords, D-Ariz.

Another officer says over the radio, "Customers have tackled the suspect. They have him held down at the Safeway."

The Pima County Sheriff's Department also announced Thursday that a man walking his dog near Loughner's house found a black bag.

It was not immediately clear whether the black bag is the same one Loughner was seen removing from the trunk of his car the morning of the shooting.

"He's telling us that in the bag is what appears to be ammunition and some items from what he described to us as from a local Walmart," said R.J. Kastigar, the bureau chief at the Pima County Sheriff's Department.

Police also know Loughner bought ammunition from a Walmart on the morning of the shooting.

"This is one of the critical pieces of evidence we've been looking for," Kastigar said.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Missing 13-Year-Old Cheerleader 'Scared' of Mom's Boyfriend

Photo Courtesy - ABC News(COLORADO CITY, Texas) -- Hailey Dunn, the Texas girl missing for nearly three weeks, was scared of her mother's boyfriend Shawn Adkins and said he would stand in the doorway of her bedroom at night watching her.

"Hailey did not like him. She was afraid of him and she didn't want him there," Hailey's paternal grandmother, Connie Jones, told ABC News Thursday.

Adkins, 25, was called one of several persons of interest on Wednesday by investigators in Colorado City, Texas. He was the live-in boyfriend of her mother, Billie Dunn. The couple is reportedly no longer together in the aftermath of Hailey's disappearance.

Adkins was the last person to see the 13-year-old cheerleader on December 27, 2010. Dunn, 33, reported her daughter's disappearance the next day.

Hailey's grandmother said she prays that Dunn was not involved in Hailey's disappearance.

City Manager Peter Kampfer said that investigators have received over 250 leads.

"The law enforcement task group is pursuing all leads. They are aggressively focusing on the criminal aspect of this investigation at this time," Kampfer said.

Kampfer would not comment on whether Hailey's mother is a person of interest or still under investigation.

Adkins' car, a white Chevrolet Lumina, and cell phone have been seized. The mother's cell phone has also been seized and her home has been searched.

Records show that police were called to Dunn's home in February of last year after Adkins threatened to hurt Billie and Hailey Dunn.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Ariz.: Who is Judge Larry A. Burns and Could the Case Be Moved from Ariz.?

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(TUCSON, Ariz.) -- After the federal judges of the Arizona district court -- all colleagues of Judge John Roll -- recused themselves from hearing U.S. v. Jared Lee Loughner, the chief judge of the 9th Circuit appointed U.S. District Court Judge Larry A. Burns to hear the case.
Burns, 56,  currently sits in California and was nominated to the bench by George W. Bush in May 2003. Before then, he served as an assistant U.S. attorney in California and a deputy district attorney. He is a California native and is perhaps best known for presiding over the bribery case of Rep. Randy Duke Cunningham.
Burns also handled the prosecution and sentencing of Javier Arellano-Felix, head of the notorious Arellano-Felix drug cartel, on murder, drug trafficking and RICO charges; and a challenge to the presence of a Latin cross on Mount Soledad in La Jolla, Calif.
No decision has been made on whether the case will be moved from Arizona. Loughner can file a motion on change of venue arguing that such a great prejudice exists against him that he cannot receive a fair trial in Arizona. The court then can transfer the proceeding to another district convenient to the parties, victims and witnesses. The motion can be made at or before arraignment.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

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