Suspended Connecticut High School Student Can Go to Prom

WTNH/ABC News(SHELTON, Conn.) -- After becoming an adolescent folk hero, James Tate can go to his senior prom after all.

The Connecticut teen who attends Shelton High School was transformed into a media sensation last week, when it was revealed that he was being banned from attending the dance after pulling off a grand romantic gesture. Tate and two friends posted huge cardboard letters on the side of the school that asked a girl "will you go to the prom with me? HMU." The last three letters mean "Hit Me Up," as in "Let Me Know."

Sonali Rodrigues, a friend of Tate's, agreed to accompany him, but the school slapped a one-day, in-house suspension on her suitor for his abuse of school property -- which also meant the prom was also out of bounds.

News of Tate's predicament spread quickly. A Facebook page dedicated to getting school administrators to change their minds attracted plenty of support. Tate also appeared on Jimmy Kimmel Live!, Today, and other shows. All the attention apparently worked: last Saturday, the Shelton High School headmaster reversed her decision.

Dr. Beth A. Smith said the school was altering its policy that lifts the ban forbidding Tate from going to the big dance on June 4.  Administrators will now decide what to do about suspended students on a case-by-case basis.

Smith admitted that the "international notoriety" the case received factored into the decision-making process.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Space Shuttle Endeavour Fully Fueled; Moving Closer to Final Launch

NASA(CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla.) -- Space shuttle Endeavour is one step closer to leaving for its mission to the International Space Station after its external tank was loaded with over 500,000 gallons of super-cooled liquid hydrogen and liquid oxygen Monday morning, just hours ahead of its launch.

The six-man crew, headed by Arizona Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords' husband, astronaut Mark Kelly, have completed their medical exams and are making preparations for the shuttle's final launch at 8:56 a.m.  They will be suiting up close to 5 a.m. and will be briefed on the weather, which forecasters predict as 70 percent favorable for lift-off.

Endeavour's launch will mark the second to last flight for NASA's space shuttle program.  The shuttle's crew will embark on a 16-day mission into space, where they will will install a $2 billion alpha magnetic spectrometer on the ISS.  The instrument could prove or disprove the Big Bang Theory of how the universe was formed.

Rep. Giffords, who was critically wounded during the shootings in Tucson, Arizona in January, is expected to be on hand at the Kennedy Space Center to watch Kelly and the other five astronauts ascend into space.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Three Children Among Six Killed in Illinois Fire

Stockbyte/John Foxx(AURORA, Ill.) -- A deadly fire in Illinois on Sunday, has claimed the lives of six people, among them three children.

The fire reportedly broke out shortly after 4 a.m. at a three-story apartment building in the city of Aurora. Officials say when fire crews arrived on the scene they were met by heavy flames coming from the first floor of the building. Firefighters were reportedly able to pull several people from the burning structure, however, not everyone survived.

Three people were reportedly pronounced dead on the scene, while the other three died after being taken to local hospitals. Among the dead are three boys, two women and one man. The ages of the boys have been given as nine years, six years, and eight months, according to the Chicago Tribune.

At least 12 other people suffered injuries in the fire, two of which were said to be in critical condition.

The cause of the fire was being investigated.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Are Navy SEALs More At Risk Following Bin Laden's Death?

MILpictures by Tom Weber(WASHINGTON) -- They are revered as the smartest, bravest and most elite in the American military and yet, there is concern for their safety.

The U.S. government believes there are publications offering money to find out the identities of the Navy SEAL team that killed Osama bin Laden.

During a town hall meeting at Camp Lejeune, N.C., on Thursday, Defense Secretary Robert Gates admitted bin Laden's death has intensified the threat of extreme retaliation against them.

"When I met with the team last Thursday, they expressed a concern about that, and particularly with respect to their families," Gates said.

The Department of Defense is looking into ways to "pump up security" for the commandoes. For years, bin Laden was the world's most wanted man, and some fear his death has shifted the crosshairs directly onto Team 6.

In Virginia Beach, where the Seals are based, there's a dangerous new pastime called "SEAL spotting," in which journalists and fans try to pick out members of the elite team.

Don Mann, a former member of SEAL Team 6, said he has been approached by at least 25 reporters asking him to identify one of the SEALs involved.

"A lot of reporters are trying to get interviews. They are trying to get the story, and I wish they would stop," he said. "We are only doing harm to the SEAL community."

Some in the military and intelligence communities are calling it an unprecedented breach of confidentiality to even identify them specifically as Team 6. After all, they were a part of, at least in name, a "top secret operation."

The defense secretary himself said he was surprised about the amount of information that's been disclosed.

"Frankly, a week ago in the situation room we all agreed we would not release any operational details from the effort to take out bin Laden, and that all fell apart on Monday -- the next day," Gates said.

Government officials are discussing plans to make sure the SEALs and their families are safe, and are also considering legal action to stop any publication that might identify any of the SEALs involved.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Water Works: More Spillway Flood Gates Opened

ABC News(BUTTE LAROSE, La.) -- The flood gates along the Morganza spillway continued to open Sunday, as authorities try to divert the rushing waters of the Mississippi River away from the masses.

U.S. Army Corps of Engineers opened two more flood gates on Sunday, this after opening two other gates the previous day. There are a total of 125 gates along the Morganza spillway.

Flood gates are expected to remain open for up to three weeks, forcing thousands of people who reside in the path of the diverted water to have to flee their homes. The move to open the spillway gates is being undertaken with the hope of inconveniencing the few in order to save the majority. The diverted water will travel several miles through a path made up of homes and farmland.

Officials say the flood gates are being opened at a relatively slow pace for several reasons such as ensuring the diverted water doesn’t scour the spillway structure, giving wildlife a chance to escape, and allowing residents in the flood’s path more time to pack up and leave.

Experts say if the gates remained closed and the levees along the Mississippi failed, Baton Rouge and New Orleans could both be flooded -- leaving a disaster worse than Katrina.

President Obama is expected to meet with families affected by flooding along the river when he travels to Memphis, Tenn., on Monday. Friday, Republicans on the House Appropriations panel awarded $850 million to the Federal Emergency Management Agency  (FEMA) for disaster payments.

The Coast Guard also is likely to close the river to barge traffic in the coming week, costing the U.S. economy $295 million a day. It's just the latest in a costly year of extreme weather disasters.

The massive Mississippi floods -- a seven-state, 560-mile liquid trail -- are adding to the nation's laundry list of expensive destruction. Already, there have been five separate billion-dollar storms and floods this year.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Astronaut: Space Shuttle Launch 'Like Going into Combat' 

NASA/Kim Shiflett(CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla.) -- The number is bleak and every astronaut who flies into space knows it: There is a one in 75 chance they will not return home.
Mike Fincke, who will set a U.S. record for time in space, 380 days, during STS 134 Endeavour's mission scheduled launch Monday, said the risk became more real to him when he became a father.

"I know it is risky, but I have chosen to do this because of what we learn," he said. "Think of everything you have that makes life easier -- smart phones, wifi, that is the result of microelectronics developed for the space program. Whole worlds are opened up to my children because of the Internet."

The memory of the Columbia accident in 2003 is still vivid for them -- the seven astronauts were colleagues, and friends. If it were not for the Columbia accident the space shuttle program would probably not be ending this year.

Greg Johnson, Endeavour's pilot, is cool, competent with a devilish sense of humor and a calm acceptance of the danger ahead.

"I feel the risk, and I compare launching on the space shuttle a little like going into combat," he said. "Any sane astronaut will feel the fear, or concern just prior to liftoff. If they don't admit they are lying to you."

Johnson is a veteran fighter pilot; he flew 38 combat missions for the Air Force during Operation Desert Storm. He remembers sitting in Endeavour's cockpit before his first flight in 2008 waiting for the engines to ignite.

"I had a sense of wow, I don't have control over this, and I was hoping all the engineers and everybody that was on the team making this mission happen did their homework when they were in college," he said.

The explorers flying on Endeavour are led by Commander Mark Kelly, flying on his fourth mission. Kelly was thrust into the spotlight after the assassination attempt on his wife, Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, earlier this year.

He considered withdrawing from the mission to stay by his wife's side, but ultimately chose to command Endeavour's last flight, which is expected to be a complicated 16-day mission to deliver and install the $2 billion Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer, a science platform to prove or disprove the Big Bang Theory of the formation of our universe.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


NASA: Endeavour Launch to Take Place Monday

RUCE WEAVER/AFP/Getty Images(CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla.) -- The final launch of the space shuttle Endeavour looks to be on track for Monday morning.

NASA announced Saturday that crews were working through countdown milestones with no issues, with Endeavour scheduled for liftoff at 8:56 a.m. on Monday. The weather around launch time also appears to be in favor of the shuttle setting off on its final journey as scheduled, as NASA says forecasts call for a 70 percent chance of acceptable weather conditions around launch time.

Endeavour’s mission crew consists of Commander Mark Kelly, Pilot Gregory H. Johnson and Mission Specialists Michael Fincke, Greg Chamitoff, Andrew Feustel and European Space Agency astronaut Roberto Vittori.

The shuttle's launch has drawn widespread attention as it's commanded by the husband of Arizona Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, who was shot in the head during a shooting rampage in Tucson in January. Six people were killed and 13, including Giffords, were injured in the shooting.

The 14-day mission into space, when it happens, could yield new clues to the origin of the universe. The shuttle will carry a $2 billion alpha magnetic spectrometer, an instrument that will be installed on the space station. It could prove or disprove the Big Bang Theory of how the universe was formed.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


New York Rangers Player Found Dead

Bruce Bennett/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- New York Rangers player Derek Boogaard was found dead inside his Minneapolis apartment on Friday.

Boogaard, 28, was found dead by his two brothers shortly after 6 p.m., officials say, however the cause of death was not immediately known and investigators say it may be some time before it is determined, according to a report by the Star Tribune in Minneapolis.

Boogaard began his NHL career with the Minnesota Wild, where he played in 255 games from 2005 through 2010. He then joined the Rangers in July, 2010, and upon learning of his death, Rangers president and general manager Glen Sather described Boogaard as being a kind and caring person.

“He was a very thoughtful person, who will be dearly missed by all those who knew him,” Sather said in a statement. “We extend our deepest sympathies to his family, friends and teammates during this difficult time.”

Rangers captain Chris Drury issued a statement on Saturday expressing his thoughts on losing a teammate.

“On behalf of all Derek's teammates, I would like to say that he was a great friend and a great teammate and that we are all going miss him dearly,” Drury said. “This is a tragic loss for the hockey community. All of our thoughts and prayers are with him and his family.”

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Six Accused of Providing Financial Support to Pakistani Taliban

Joe Raedle/Getty Images (File)(MIAMI) -- An Imam from Miami and his two sons are among six people charged with providing material support to the Pakistani Taliban, a designated foreign terrorist organization.

Hafiz Muhammed Sher Ali Khan, 76, and his sons Irfan Khan, 37, and Izhar Khan, 24, all of whom reside in Florida, face a slew of charges U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Florida Wifredo A. Ferrer said Saturday. The three other people facing charges are Pakistan residents Ali Rehman, Alam Zeb and Amina Khan.

Hafiz Khan and his younger son were arrested in Miami, while the older son was taken into custody in Los Angeles. The other three defendants are said to be still at-large in Pakistan. The six suspects were indicted following an investigation by the FBI and members of the Joint Terrorism Task Force.

Authorities allege that from sometime in 2008 through November 2010 the suspects provided the Pakistani Taliban with money, financial services, and other forms of support. The defendants are accused of seeking to aid the terrorist organization in its fight against the Pakistan government and the government’s perceived allies such as the United States.

All six are charged with conspiring to provide, and providing, material support to a conspiracy to murder, maim and kidnap persons overseas, as well as conspiring to provide material support to a foreign terrorist organization. Hafiz Khan, Rehman and Zeb are also charged with providing material support to the Pakistani Taliban.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Jury Selection Continues in Casey Anthony Trial

Comstock/Thinkstock(CLEARWATER, Fla.) -- In a week that was supposed to yield an entire jury of 12 members and eight alternates for the trial of Casey Anthony, who is on trial for the 2008 killing of her 2-year-old daughter Caylee, the pace of selection has been painfully slow due to concerns of impartiality amid exhaustive media coverage.

On Friday six jurors were dismissed from the pool of prospective panelists, and the defense used its first peremptory strike against juror #1011 -- a man who had lied about a D.U.I. in 2006. Eight potential jurors are scheduled to return for further questioning over the weekend.

Throughout the jury selection process, which was moved from Orlando to Clearwater, defense attorneys are attempting to ensure that they can place jurors who might be sympathetic to their client.

Potential jurors have been subjected to a barrage of questions by the attorneys ranging from which television programs they watch and how they feel about the death penalty to questions about sexual, verbal and mental abuse by elders.

Every juror on a death penalty case has to be willing to say that they could impose the death penalty -- though it doesn't mean that they will ultimately choose that sentence, it is to ensure that if necessary, they could.

Casey Anthony is accused of killing her daughter, Caylee Anthony, who was last seen alive in June 2008. Anthony has pleaded not guilty to the charges. The child’s death was ruled a homicide of undetermined means, after her remains were found in December less than a mile from the home she and her mother shared.

Caylee's disappearance wasn't reported until July 2008, when Anthony told police she had not seen Caylee in nearly a month, since dropping her off with a babysitter. Anthony was arrested and charged with murder in October 2008.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

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