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Thursday
Jun232011

Obama Tells Troops 'Our Job Is Not Finished'

ABC News Radio(FORT DRUM, N.Y.) -- The day after announcing his strategy to begin withdrawing from Afghanistan, President Obama visited troops at Fort Drum on Thursday, telling soldiers who have fought in the war-torn country that we have turned a corner but “our job is not finished.”

In an informal gathering Obama told members of the 10th Mountain Division that the drawdown will not be precipitous.  “We’re going to do it in a steady way to make sure that the gains that all of you helped to bring about are going to be sustained,” he said.

On Wednesday night, the president announced that he is bringing 10,000 U.S. troops home from Afghanistan by the end of this year and another 23,000 by the end of next summer. On Thursday, however, he warned that “there’s still some fighting to be done.”

“We’re still going to have 68,000 [troops in Afghanistan].  And, frankly, the 10th Mountain Division is still going to be represented there until we have fully transferred to the Afghan military and security forces,” he said.

The president recognized the 270 soldiers that the division has lost since the attacks on 9/11. “We will never forget their sacrifice.  And the reason that I know many of you continue to do the outstanding work that you do is not only love of country but it’s also love for each other, and your commitment to making sure that those sacrifices were not in vain,” he said.  

“So, for all the sacrifices that you’ve made, I want to say thank you.  For all the sacrifices that your families have made, I want to say thank you,” he said. “And to all of you who are potentially going to be redeployed, just know that your Commander-in-Chief has your back.”

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Thursday
Jun232011

Former Prisoners Planned Ft. Hood Style Assault, Feds Allege

info.lewis-mcchord.army.mil(SEATTLE) -- Two men who converted to Islam in prison have been arrested and charged by federal authorities with plotting a Ft. Hood-style assault on a Seattle military installation.

Abu Khalid Abdul-Latif, born Joseph Anthony Davis, and Walli Mujahidh, born Frederick Domingue Jr., are accused of planning to attack the Military Entrance Processing Station in Seattle with grenades and machine guns. Abdul-Latif, 33, and Mujahidh, 32, allegedly purchased machine guns from undercover agents to use in the assault. Their alleged objective was to deter further American military action in Islamic countries.

The defendants allegedly planned to attack Joint Base Lewis-McChord, a sprawling Army and Air Force installation south of Seattle that houses almost 20,000 military personnel and family members, but then changed targets. The Military Entrance Processing Station on East Marginal Way in Seattle is where enlistees report.

According to officials, both men were monitored and their weapons rendered inoperable so that they posed no danger to the public.

"The complaint alleges these men intended to carry out a deadly attack against our military here at home. The Seattle building targeted is shared by civilians and a day care," said U.S. Attorney Jenny A. Durkan. "This is a sobering reminder of our need to be vigilant and that our first line of defense is the people who live in our community. We were able to disrupt the plot because a citizen stepped forward and reported it to authorities. I commend the joint efforts of the FBI, the Seattle Police Department, the Joint Terrorism Task Force who quickly recognized the seriousness of the threat and ensured the safety of the community."

According to officials, Abdul-Latif, of Seattle, and Mujahidh, of Los Angeles, met while in prison for earlier offenses. Both converted to Islam while incarcerated.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Thursday
Jun232011

Feds: Pentagon Terror Scare Man Was Building Bomb

Digital Vision/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- Yonathan Melaku, the Northern Virginia man who caused a terror scare near the Pentagon last week, has now been charged with shooting at four military sites. Authorities say the Marine Reservist videotaped himself shouting "Allahu Akbar" when he fired his gun, and they believe he also may have been building a bomb.

Federal officials said in court papers that Melaku had videotaped himself shouting "Allahu Akbar" after firing shots at the National Museum of the Marine Corps in Triangle, Virginia in October. The shots did almost $90,000 of damage to museum windows, say authorities. The shooting incidents at the museum, the Pentagon and two military recruiting centers occurred late at night or early in the morning between mid October and early November of last year.

According to the U.S. Attorney's office, if convicted Melaku faces a minimum of 35 years in prison and a maximum of life in prison.

Melaku, a 22-year-old Ethiopian native, has not been charged with any terrorism offenses, but was in possession of ammonium nitrate when arrested at Arlington National Cemetery last Friday. Federal agents say they found a typed list of bomb-making materials with the heading "timer" when they searched his home in Alexandria.

"According to an FBI bomb technician," says an FBI affidavit, "the items on this list are consistent with the requirements for a time power unit and firing mechanism of an improvised explosive device (IED). Those items, combined with Ammonium Nitrate, would in fact make up several significant components required for the manufacture of an IED."

Agents also conducted a review of Melaku's computer and found "numerous documents concerning bomb-making and explosives," according to the affidavit in the case.

At a press conference Thursday, James McJunkin, FBI Assistant Director in Charge of the Washington Field Office, declined to say how far Melaku was from making a viable bomb, but an FBI affidavit alleged that several items on the bomb-making list had been crossed off.

The FBI affidavit also says that while "driving in proximity to what appears to be the National Museum of the Marine Corps and repeatedly firing a handgun from the vehicle out of the passenger-side window….at the conclusion of multiple shots Melaku exclaimed 'Allahu Akbar' repeatedly. It appears Melaku was alone in the vehicle and that he had positioned the video camera in order to record his shooting at the Museum."

At the time of the shootings last fall, the FBI said it suspected the shooter was a disgruntled military man.

"We believe this suspect has a grievance surrounding the U.S. Marine Corps," John Perren, then the acting assistant director of the FBI's Washington field office, said of the shooter in October 2010. "We'd like to know what this grievance is and what we can do to try to help solve it."

The military shootings began Oct. 17, 2010 at the National Museum of the Marine Corps, when someone fired at least 10 bullets at the building. Two days later, six or seven shots were fired at the Pentagon, and bullets became embedded in the building's blast-proof windows. On Oct. 26, shots were fired at a Marine Corps recruiting center in Chantilly, Va.

The shooter struck a second time at the Marine Corps museum on Oct. 29, then hit a Coast Guard recruiting station in early November.

Melaku was arrested in the early-morning hours Friday in Arlington National Cemetery after he ran from a police officer on patrol. Police found three shell cartridges and baggies containing a substance that turned out to be ammonium nitrate in his backpack. The ammonium nitrate was determined to be inert.

Authorities feared he may have been targeting the Pentagon and the nearby Marine Iwo Jima Memorial. The resulting investigation shut down traffic around the Pentagon and Arlington National Cemetery for hours Friday morning, snarling morning rush hour traffic.

Melaku is still a Marine reservist, but as a result of last Friday's arrest paperwork has been filed for the Lance Corporal to be separated administratively from the service. His arrest brought to light that he was already wanted on a grand larceny charge for alleged car break-ins in Leesburg, Virginia. He is currently in custody in Loudoun County.

"Melaku was notified Tuesday at the Loudoun County Adult Detention Center that he will be processed for administrative separation due to charges of serious offense," said the Marine Corps in a statement.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Thursday
Jun232011

'Whitey' Bulger Arrest: Girlfriend Led Feds to Top Fugitive

A screenshot from the FBI website of the ad seeking information on Catherine Grieg. FBI(SANTA MONICA, Calif.) -- "Have you seen this woman?" asked the public service announcement -- offering a reward of $100,000--that aired in 14 cities on shows like The View and Ellen earlier this week.

The ads focusing on blue-eyed, bleached blonde Catherine Greig, 60, longtime galpal of Boston mobster Whitey Bulger, paid off in a tip Tuesday night that led to the couple's arrest Wednesday in Santa Monica, Calif., Richard DesLauriers, special agent in charge of the FBI's Boston office, said at a press conference Thursday.

Greig -- who in the past has been known as Helen Marshall and Carol Shapeton, among other aliases -- was using the name Carol Gasko, he said.

She was arrested in the couple's apartment and now faces charges of harboring a fugitive, which carry a maximum sentence of five years, according to Carmen Ortiz, U.S. Attorney for Massachusetts. "Whether or not there are any other offenses or charges we can press will be part of the ongoing investigation," she said.

The FBI had honed in on Greig for more than a year in its relentless pursuit of Bulger -- focusing on her fondness for getting work done and having her teeth cleaned.

Last May, the bureau ran ads asking "Have you treated this woman?" with full-page photos of her in Plastic Surgery News -- mentioning Greig's numerous procedures in the hopes of finding someone who remembered her from a medical office. She'd had breast implants, a nose job and a facelift, the ads said.

Ads also ran in the American Dental Association's newsletter -- because Greig, a dental hygienist, is known to have her teeth cleaned at least once a month.

Greig also loves dogs -- she and Bulger were pictured with their black miniature poodles, Niki and Gigi, before they went on the lam in 1995. She and Bulger then lived in a house in Quincy, Mass., and she also co-owned a house in South Boston with her twin sister, Margaret McCusker.

A South Boston native, Greig married a firefighter, Bobby McGonagle, when she was 20. His family was also involved in the "Irish Mafia," and both of his brothers were killed by Bulger, according to Howie Carr, author of Hitman, a book about Bulger."She was living for 16 years with a guy who killed both her brothers-in-law," Carr told ABC-TV.

She had met Bulger in a barroom and was his mistress for years while he lived with his common-law wife, Teresa Stanley. Stanley originally left town with Bulger in 1995 but then decided to come back home -- at which point Bulger switched to Greig to be his companion for life on the run, according to the Boston Herald.

McCusker, who in 1999 admitted lying to a grand jury about contact with her sister and was sentenced to six months' home confinement, expressed joy that she will see her sister at last.

"I am very emotional about all this but I have to say I am happy my sister is going to coming home," she told ABC. "I talked to her the first couple of years but I haven't talked to her since. It's been a very long time. We are twins, we are close. This is extremely emotional, I didn't know if she was alive or dead, and suddenly it is within my grasp."

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Thursday
Jun232011

North Dakota Residents Flee as Historic Flood Waters Rise

File photo. Hemera Technologies/Thinkstock(MINOT, N.D.) -- Residents of Minot, N.D., have now resigned themselves: the Souris River will overflow, and the city will flood. More than 11,000 residents, nearly a quarter of the population, have already been forced to flee as waters rise towards historic levels and submerge entire neighborhoods.

"We could have a really catastrophic type of event here. We will -- there is no doubt about it anymore. I think people have to understand if you were on the edge before you may not be on the edge now," Curt Zimbelman, mayor of the town of 41,000, told evacuees Wednesday night.

ABC News Fargo affiliate WDAY filmed a submerged neighborhood where 15-20 homes are completely surrounded by water in the southwest part of Minot.

Minot is also home to more than just families - Minuteman III nuclear missile silos are also in the flood's path. At least two silos are being protected by sandbags and pumps, but are reported to be safe.

"We are already higher than the historic flood of 1969 and based on current predictions we will crest seven feet higher than we did in 1969 and about five feet higher than ever recorded going back to the flood of 1881," Zimbelman told ABC News. "These levels are above any rating curves than the National Weather Service has dealt with in the past."

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is releasing pent-up water from the Lake Darling Dam, which will push water downstream towards Minot at 17,000 cubic feet per second -- more than three times the record flow rate before this year. Those raging waters are expected to start pushing against the makeshift Minot levees rated to withstand water flows of up to about 9,500 cfs on Thursday or Friday, according to WDAY.

The Souris River, which loops down from Canada through north-central North Dakota, has been bloated by heavy spring snowmelt and rain. It is not expected to crest until Sunday or Monday.

Minot is expecting the worst flooding it has seen in nearly four decades, when severe flooding of the Souris River devastated the city in 1969. The same river reached 1,555.4 feet above sea level during that destructive flood time, and this time it could reach 1,563 feet.

This is the second time Minot residents have had to flee their homes. About 10,000 people were told to evacuate potentially affected areas earlier this month when the river climbed to 1,554 feet. They were eventually allowed to return, but were told to remain on high alert. Many of the same people have now been forced back out of their homes.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Thursday
Jun232011

Casey Anthony’s Family Denies Report They Think Daughter Is Guilty

Orange County Government, Florida(ORLANDO, Fla.) -- George and Cindy Anthony's attorney has denied a media report that the couple think their daughter, Casey Anthony, killed their granddaughter, Caylee.

Casey Anthony, 25, is accused of killing daughter Caylee, 2, in the summer of 2008. She could face the death penalty if convicted.

Attorney Mark Lippman said the family want to know what happened to their granddaughter and, under no circumstances, want to see Casey Anthony receive the death penalty.

"The Anthony family maintains that they simply want justice in this case," Lippman said in a statement issued late Wednesday night.

The attorney also denied the defense's claims that George Anthony helped dispose of his granddaughter's body and sexually abused Casey Anthony.

"The Anthony family maintains they do not, under any circumstance, support any theory that the defense has put forward regarding George Anthony's actions," Lippman said.

The defense claimed in opening statements last month that Caylee accidentally drowned in the family pool on June 16, 2008, 31 days before she was reported missing. They claim George Anthony, Casey Anthony's father, helped dispose of the body and that Casey Anthony hid her daughter's death through a coping mechanism she learned from years of sexual abuse at the hands of her father.

George Anthony has previously denied those claims on the witness stand in his daughter's first-degree murder trial.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Thursday
Jun232011

Census 2010: One-Quarter of Gay Couples Raising Children

Creatas/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- An estimated one-quarter of all same-sex households are raising children, according to U.S. Census data, providing one of the first portraits of gay American families.

For the first time ever, the census counts same-sex couples and their children, and as data trickles out state by state, more gay families are being tallied in the South.

Just last week, reports from Hawaii and Alabama -- two very different states geographically and socially -- revealed that 27 and 23 percent of same-sex couples were raising children, respectively, according to an analysis by the Williams Institute, a UCLA School of Law think tank that focuses on lesbian, bisexual, gay, and transgender issues.

Data released Thursday on five more states showed that 28 percent of families in Wyoming are raising children.  In California, the percentage is 21 percent, Delaware, 19 percent, Kansas, 26 percent, and Pennsylvania, 20 percent.

The emerging profile of same-sex families comes just as New York legislators are poised to vote on a bill that could legalize gay marriage. The controversial bill is one vote away from being passed and could make New York the sixth and largest state to legalize same-sex marriage.

Five other states -- Massachusetts, Connecticut, Iowa, Vermont, and New Hampshire, as well as the District of Columbia -- allow gay marriage.  Advocates say census counts matter in these political debates.  They argue that the data is important for understanding their needs and forming policies in the best interest of their children.

"This is the first time it accurately reflects families that have always been there," said Stuart Gaffney, a spokesman for the gay rights group Marriage Equality USA.

"It's something we find out when they are lobbying in legislatures like Albany right now and reps say they don't have someone in their district who it matters to," he said.  "That's why it's so critical to show we are in every state, every city and every county in the United States.  There are constituents and they need to know we are here."

Statistics on the children of gay couples have previously been released at the state level, but never in a way that allowed demographers, legislators, and gay rights advocates to glean a national picture.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Thursday
Jun232011

Atlantis Crew Trains, Readies for Final Space Shuttle Flight

NASA TV(CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla.) -- The four astronauts who will take part in NASA's final space shuttle mission next month are in Florida this week training and readying for their launch.

Space shuttle Atlantis' crew -- Commander Chris Ferguson, Pilot Doug Hurley, and Mission Specialists Sandy Magnus and Rex Walheim -- arrived at the Kennedy Space Center Monday night to kick off their pre-launch countdown rehearsal.  Since then, the astronauts have practiced landings and emergency escape procedures, and have inspected the payloads inside the shuttle's cargo bay, according to NASA.

Speaking to reporters from the launch pad on Wednesday, Ferguson said, "I don't think that the full magnitude of the moment will really hit us until the wheels have stopped on the runway.  I'm not sure words will really be able to capture for the crew and for the entire shuttle workforce just how much the shuttle program has meant to us for the last 30 years."

Atlantis' flight, set for July 8 at 11:26 a.m. EDT, will be the final one for the space shuttle program.  The four-person crew will embark on a 12-day mission to the International Space Station.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Thursday
Jun232011

Boston Bans Segways on Sidewalks; Tour Company Sues

Kim Carson/Digital Vision/Thinkstock(BOSTON) -- When a local tour company in Boston showed people around the Massachusetts city on Segways -- those two-wheeled self-balancing people movers -- local residents seemed ready to start a revolution.

So now, Boston has passed an ordinance banning Segways from public sidewalks, and Mayor Thomas Menino has signed it.

But Boston Glides, the one tour company that uses them, is literally making a federal case of it. There is an injunction in place while a lawsuit makes its way through the legal system.

"Boston is known as a walkable city, and to have these motorized devices on the sidewalk is just absolutely dangerous to pedestrians," said City Council member Sal LaMattina, who first proposed the ban, in a comment to the Boston Herald.

Boston Glides shot back.

"Where they're coming from, I have no idea," said Edan Shekar, a guide for the tour company, in a telephone interview with ABC News. "We've never had an incident.  They're trying to legislate us out of business and if they succeed, I'm going to be out of a job."

Shekar said the tour company, which has 30 employees, limits Segway groups to six people.  He said the Segways are capable of a maximum speed of nine miles per hour, five mph on the bumpy sidewalks of the North End.

"People are scared of the machines at first, I think," Shekar said.

There has actually been a study suggesting they have reason.  A group of emergency room doctors, in a study last September in the Annals of Internal Medicine, said Segway-related injuries "are significant and seem to be increasing," especially among inexperienced users.

"Further investigation into the risks of use, as well as the optimal length and type of training or practice, is warranted," they wrote.

Segways have found niche markets as novelties for tour groups, as a quick way for police to maneuver in public places, and as an aid to warehouse workers (Amazon.com was famous as an early user).  People who have used them say the scooters, balanced with the help of two computers, are remarkably hard to tip over.

But Boston is hardly the first place to pass restrictions on their use, and Boston Glides said it will be forced out of business if it is forced into traffic on the streets.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Thursday
Jun232011

Alleged Crime Boss James 'Whitey' Bulger Arrested in California

FBI(SANTA MONICA, Calif.) -- Notorious alleged crime boss James J. "Whitey" Bulger, who inspired the Jack Nicholson character in the Oscar-winning film The Departed, was arrested Wednesday in California, according to the FBI.

Bulger, who has been on the run for over a decade, was arrested without incident along with his girlfriend, Catherine Greig.  Recent publicity produced a tip that led agents to Santa Monica, where they located the couple at a residence, according to FBI Boston Special Agent in Charge Richard DesLauries.

The FBI had been conducting a surveillance operation in the area where the couple was arrested.  Santa Monica Police were later notified about the arrest, according to police Sgt. Rudy Flores.

Bulger has already been removed from the FBI "Ten Most Wanted" list on the bureau's website.

Both Bulger and Greig are currently scheduled for an initial appearance in U.S. District Court in the Central District of California in downtown Los Angeles on Thursday, according to DesLauries.

According to the FBI's website, Bulger was being sought in connection with murders committed from the early 1970s through the mid-1980s in connection with his leadership in organized crime.  Some of the crimes listed in connection with Bulger include conspiracy to commit murder, conspiracy to commit extortion and narcotics distribution, among others.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio







ABC News Radio