'Nation's Report Card' Shows American Students Struggling with Reading, Math

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- A new report card on America's schoolchildren has sounded an alarm bell, underscoring just how far many of the nation's students fall short.

The latest National Assessment of Educational Progress from the U.S. Department of Education shows that many high school seniors are graduating unable to read at grade level, and one in four cannot read at even the most basic level.

"This is an education electrocardiogram, and what it says is we're not making progress fast enough, and this patient needs to be shocked into life," said Bob Wise, the former governor of West Virginia who now is president of the Alliance for Excellent Education.

Fifty-two thousand high school seniors nationwide took the exam last year. The average score actually was up two points since 2005, but it's still four points below 1992. Math scores also were up slightly.

"I find it difficult to get excited about a two-point increase," said Ronald Ferguson, director of Harvard's Achievement Gap Initiative. "I'm happy that it didn't go down, but I don't see any reason to expect that it should have gone down."

Education Secretary Arne Duncan seemed to agree in a prepared statement released Thursday.

"Today's report suggests that high school seniors' achievement in reading and math isn't rising fast enough to prepare them to succeed in college and careers," he said.

Just 38 percent of 12th graders were proficient in reading, and only 26 percent were proficient in math. The latest report also found that the scores of black and Latino 12th graders lagged behind those of whites and Asians.

"There's a long way to go," said David Driscoll, who serves on the National Assessment Governing Board. "We have to worry about this gap because even though some kids are performing well, whole groups of kids are not."

These problems remain despite years of effort from President George W. Bush's No Child Left Behind Act aimed at eliminating the achievement gap by 2014.

The new report also found that 86 percent of high school seniors said they expected to graduate college, ironic given that the data indicates many of those students aren't even performing at the high school level, much less prepared to go to college.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio


Discovery to Launch No Earlier than Dec. 3

Photo Courtesy -- ABC News(HOUSTON) – NASA has announced that they will launch Discovery no sooner than early December after a launch status meeting was postponed Thursday.

The launch status meeting has been moved to Monday due to concerns that more analysis and repairs must be made before Discovery can launch safely.

NASA has been working to fix a leaking hydrogen system that caused the initial delay, and to repair cracks on the exterior of the shuttle.

The Kennedy Space Center will begin the launch countdown no earlier than Nov. 30, and will attempt to launch Discovery no earlier than Dec. 3.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio


Malaysian National Indicted in Hacking of Federal Reserve Bank

Photo Courtesy -- US Secret Service(WASHINGTON) – The United States Secret Service has lead an investigation into how a Malaysian national hacked into the U.S. Federal Reserve.

In a joint release Thursday with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, the Secret Service announced the indictment of Lin Mun Poo by the United States Attorney's Office for the Eastern District of New York.

Poo, a resident and citizen of Malaysia, is accused of hacking into the computer system of the Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland, Ohio. It was also found that Poo was in possession of around 400,000 stolen credit and debit card numbers that were obtained by hacking into the systems of various financial institutions.

"These crimes not only affect our nation's financial infrastructure, but are also an ongoing threat to our national security,” said Brian Parr, Special Agent in Charge of the U.S. Secret Service New York Field Office.
The investigation, which culminated with the arrest of Poo on October 21, uncovered that the computer system of a Department of Defense contractor was hacked, potentially compromising highly sensitive military logistics.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio


Twins' Double-Shooting at Colo. Shooting Range Was Result of a Suicide Pact

Photo Courtesy - ABC News (DENVER) -- The double-shooting of Australian twins at a Colorado shooting range was the result of a suicide pact made between the sisters, investigators said Thursday.

"Based on the physical evidence collected, the surviving sister's statements, and video surveillance footage from the shooting center (which will not be released) the Arapahoe County Sheriff's Office believes that this incident was indeed a suicide and attempted suicide," said a statement released by the sheriff's office.

The two women, 29, had been living in Colorado for five weeks. Their relatives began traveling to the U.S. Wednesday to determine which of the women is dead. Police have been unable to determine which of the identical twins was killed.

Both of them were shot in the head. One died instantly and the other was rushed to a hospital in critical condition where she has been unable to talk to investigators since the shooting Monday.

The women, whose names won't be released until it's clear which one was killed, were simultaneously shot Monday after renting pistols at the Family Shooting Center in Cherry Creek State Park, south of Denver.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio


Texas' New Approach Tames Animal House Frats

Photo Courtesy -- University of Texas(AUSTIN, Texas) – After the deaths of two students, the University of Texas has turned to prevention education to tackle hazing.

Four years ago this month, Tyler Cross, a Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity pledge at the University of Texas, fell five stories from a dorm room window, dying upon impact. He was 18 years old and had a blood-alcohol content twice the legal limit.
The previous year, a Lambda Phi Epsilon pledge, Phanta "Jack" Phoummarath, was found dead with a blood-alcohol level of 0.41.

Law enforcement and university officials labeled both tragedies, while accidental, a result of hazing.

The umbrella of hazing includes not only drinking in excess, but many things students may not normally consider - personal servitude, partial nudity, calisthenics, eating contests and uncomfortable clothes, to name a few.

At UT, administrators and student organizations are working together to educate groups on how to run and develop their clubs and groups in a safe way.

This fall is the second full year for the "mutual agreement program," which begins after a fraternity, sorority or other university organization has violated the state's anti-hazing law. The program establishes a process, a sort of probationary period, during which the organization is re-evaluated, its members educated and is brought back into compliance without suffering severe penalties.
So far, 19 organizations have entered into this program, which was developed under the instruction of university president Bill Powers, who took office in 2006, the year Cross died.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio


Americans Continue to Perceive Crime Increases

Photo Courtesy -- Getty Images(PRINCETON, NJ) – As both the FBI and the Bureau of Justice Statistics report drops in crime from 2008 to 2009, the American people continue to think that crime is on the rise, according to Gallup’s annual crime survey. Two-thirds of Americans say they believe crime has increased in the U.S. since last year, according to the survey.

Americans are less quick to say, however, that crime levels have increased in their neighborhoods this year as only 49 percent believe there has been a rise locally.

As for the level of crime in the U.S.,  60% of Americans believe the crime problem in the U.S. is "extremely" or "very serious," up from 55% in 2009. That is the highest level Gallup has measured since 2000. 

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio


Teen's Death Again Spotlights Four Loko Danger

Phusian Products(DALLAS) -- Texas authorities have arrested a convenience store clerk for selling the controversial alcoholic energy drink Four Loko to a group of teenagers involved in a car wreck that left a teenage girl dead.

The girl's death came the same week that the federal government called for an investigation of similar drinks that blend alcohol and caffeine, calling them "unsafe."

Satish Phuyal, 22, a clerk at the 6 Pack XPress in Arlington, was charged Wednesday night with selling alcoholic beverages to a minor.

Phuyal is the second person charged in relation to the death of Valeria Rodriguez, 14, who was killed early Sunday morning when the SUV her 14-year-old boyfriend was driving crashed into a guardrail, causing the car to roll over and Rodriguez to be thrown from the vehicle.

Phuyal has not yet obtained an attorney, authorities said.

The boyfriend, whose name has not been released by police, has been charged with intoxication manslaughter.

A third teenager in the car, a 16-year-old boy who also has not been identified, told investigators the group bought five cans of Four Loko, a malt liquor beverage sold in 23.5-ounce cans that contains roughly the same amount of alcohol as four beers and the caffeine equivalent of two to three cups of coffee.

"Any retailer that's selling alcohol to minors is too many," Capt. Capt. Robert Charlie Cloud of the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission told ABC News affiliate WFAA-TV. "We're going to do what we can to ensure that that doesn't happen."

On the heels of several states' banning the alcoholic energy drinks from store shelves, the Food and Drug Administration Wednesday sent letters to four manufactures, including Phusion Projects, the maker of Four Loko, telling them that the combination of alcohol and caffeine is dangerous.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio


Steven Slater Raps in Endorsement Deal

Photo Courtesy - ABC News(NEW YORK) -- Former JetBlue flight attendant Steven Slater became an overnight hero to working people when he quit his job by grabbing a beer and deploying his plane's emergency chute.

These days, though, he's rapping about an iPhone application.

Forget those lucrative endorsements that other overnight celebrities get. It seems Slater could only secure a gig as the spokesman for a service that lets passengers use an airplane's Wi-Fi network to send text messages.

Specfically, he raps about a "Mile High Text Club" contest by Toktumi, the company behind the Line2 app. Travelers are to submit their craziest flight stories, and Slater will be one of the judges. The prizes range from a shopping trip to New York to free use of the Line2 service.

"After talking with Steven, I realized that despite his dramatic approach -- which he regrets -- he was making a statement about the need to return civility and common courtesy to flying," Toktumi CEO Peter Sisson said in a statement. "He's a perfect judge for a contest concerning the current state of air travel." He was a flight attendant for 20 years, and both his parents had long careers in the airline business."

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio



Kids Say Their Principal Came to See If They Were Really Sick

Photo Courtesy - WABC-TV(CHESTER, N.Y.) -- Students who had called in sick to school last month say they got the surprise of their life when their principal barged into their bedrooms in an attempt to catch them lying about being too ill to go to class.

Michael DiQuattro, the father of the two boys, Vincenzo, 12, and Robert, 16, say his sons are now "terrified" to go to school following the alleged incident.

According to DiQuattro, Ernest Jackson, the principal at Chester Academy in Chester, New York, arrived and entered the home where his kids were living without permission on Oct. 23. DiQuattro only filed the police complaint this week because he said his sons were "too scared to tell even him" about what happened.

"The principal took it upon himself to arrive at my children's home at about 9:30 in the morning along with the guidance counselor," DiQuattro told "They bascially let themselves in, walked up the stairs and into my children's rooms."

DiQuattro said that his older son, Robert, had stayed home to watch the younger son who had flu-like symptoms because their mother could not take a day off work. Both were dressed only in their underwear when DiQuattro allegedly entered the home.

"They were not yelling or letting it be known they were in the home and my son saw Jackson out of the corner of his eye when he was in the bathroom throwing up," said DiQuattro.

"Jackson put his hand on Vincenzo's head to check his temperature and told him, 'You don't have a temperature, you're coming with me,'" the father said.

Calls and e-mails sent to Jackson were not immediately returned, but Jackson's wife told ABC News' New York affiliate WABC that "there was more to the story that hasn't come out yet."

DiQuattro claims that Jackson then went to find his other son, Robert, who called his mother to tell her what was happening.

"At that point the principal ran out of the house and said, 'See you at school,'" said DiQuattro.

DiQuattro says he wants Jackson removed from his post as principal.

"I want him out of the school. He shouldn't be around kids. He's sick in the head," DiQuattro said. "Nobody gave him permission to enter my kids' house. He violated their rights."

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio


Two of Bernie Madoff's Aides Arrested, in FBI Custody

Photo Courtesy - Mario Tama/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- Two longtime aides to Bernard Madoff were arrested by federal prosecutors Thursday morning as part of an ongoing investigation.

Joanne Crupi was arrested at her home in Westfield, New Jersey, while Annette Bongiorno was arrested at her home in Florida.  Crupi and Bongiorno are being held in FBI custody in New York and Florida, respectively.  They are charged in a federal indictment that's expected to be unsealed in New York on Thursday.

Bongiorno, 61, worked for Madoff for more than 40 years as a secretary and back office staff supervisor.  Federal prosecutors have already moved to seize her $1.2 million mansion in Boca Raton.

Crupi was also a longtime Madoff employee.  Federal prosecutors have already seized her $2.25 million house in Mantoloking, on the Jersey shore.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio

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