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Wednesday
Dec152010

BP Oil Spill: Government Sues, Seeking Billions

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- The Justice Department filed suit Wednesday against BP and eight other companies it says are responsible for this summer's massive Gulf of Mexico oil spill. The government is trying to recover tens of billions of dollars in penalties and damages.

The lawsuit seeks to recoup costs and damages under the Oil Pollution Act and impose additional penalties to the tune of up to $20 billion under the Clean Water Act.

Under the Clean Water Act, the companies can be fined up to $4,300 a barrel. The federal government estimates some 4.9 million barrels spilled into the Gulf following the April 20 Deepwater Horizon rig explosion that killed 11 people.

"We intend to prove these violations caused or contributed to the massive oil spill," Attorney General Eric Holder said Wednesday.

He said the federal government intends to hold the companies "accountable for violations of the law."

The lawsuit says inadequate cement contributed to the disaster, but Halliburton Co., which supplied the cement, is not named in the suit.

Holder said additional defendants, potentially including Halliburton and Cameron International, the manufacturer of the critical blow-out preventer, could still be named in both the civil and criminal suits.

Hundreds of class-action suits brought by the fishing, tourism, and seafood industries are already making their way through the courts.

In addition to the federal government, Alabama and Louisiana have also filed suit against BP and other companies.

The firms currently named in the federal suit are: BP Exploration and Production Inc., Transocean Holdings LLC, Transocean Offshore Deepwater Drilling Inc, Transocean Deepwater Inc, Anadarko Exploration & Production, Anadarko Petroleum Corporation, MOEX Offshore 2007 LLC (a division of Mitsui Oil corporation), Triton Asset Leasing, and BP's insurer QBE Underwriting/Lloyds.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio 

Wednesday
Dec152010

Americans' Approval Rating of Congress Is Lowest in Gallup History

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(PRINCETON, N.J.) -- New Gallup poll results say Americans' approval of Congress has "hit a new low."

Thirteen percent of Americans polled say they approve of Congress' progress.  On the other hand, 83 percent disapprove of the way Congress is handling its job.  The polling organization says this rating is the "worst Gallup has measured in more than 30 years of tracking congressional job performance."

The current poll results are based on an assessment taken just as Congress is nearing the end of an important lame-duck session in which the time-sensitive bipartisan tax agreement has been up for debate.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio

Wednesday
Dec152010

'WikiLeaks: The Video Game' Stars Assange and Obama

Photo Courtesy - ABC News(NEW YORK) -- A new video game called WikiLeaks: The Game allows gamers and those who can't get enough of the WikiLeaks saga to play their own fictional role in the drama.

Downloading classified files off the president's actual computer would land you in jail. But in the gaming world, it makes you a winner.

"After all the serious news, it crossed my mind that people would be ready or enjoy something lighthearted about the subject," Sebastiaan Moeys, who created the game, told ABC News. Moeys runs a network of web sites that include several other video games.

The 21-year-old Moeys said it took him about a week to develop the game. He launched it Dec. 10, and since then, it's been played by more than a million people.

A glance at Facebook and Twitter shows thousands linking to the game.

"The reaction overall has been positive. People think it's fun to play, it's a good laugh, a few minutes of fun," Moeys said.

In recent days, the U.S. Air Force clamped down on media organizations that posted the classified information released by WikiLeaks, and the Defense Department banned USB drives from military computers. But Moeys said that, so far, he hasn't been asked to shut down WikiLeaks: The Game.

"Some people are asking me, 'Aren't you getting into trouble by using Obama?' I respond by saying I think he would find it funny too," Moeys said.

He said he has no current plans to make a sequel to WikiLeaks: The Game, but he hasn't ruled it out.

"There has to be something new, something interesting, some new development," he said. "I would want it to be original and to really add something."

With the way the WikiLeaks drama continues to unfold, a sequel might be right around the corner.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio

Wednesday
Dec152010

ABC News Exclusive: Sex Predators Still Getting Hired in Schools

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- A General Accountability Office (GAO) investigation obtained exclusively by ABC News has found that people with histories of sexual misconduct are still getting hired by school systems across the country, despite state laws designed to prevent it from happening. The report, requested by Rep. George Miller, D-CA, highlights 15 cases in which teachers or coaches were hired or kept on school staffs despite evidence they were sexual predators. In six of those cases, these offenders used their school positions to sexually abuse more children.

In one case, the victim was a young, disabled boy. In another, the victim was a girl in sixth grade.

"I think this report tells us that we should be very concerned," Miller told ABC's Pierre Thomas. "We should construct or at least ask the states to construct a system that can be as foolproof as possible. The current system clearly has huge gaps in it....And that is just not acceptable."

The GAO found that the predators beat the criminal and background checks that are in place in many states, in a variety of ways. In some cases, schools did not perform the required criminal history checks. And even when checks were performed, they sometimes were limited to in-state criminal records, and did not reveal the teaching candidate had a criminal record in another state.

But the biggest problem may be what Miller calls "passing the trash." These were cases GAO found in which school systems just let suspected sexual offenders resign -- and even wrote them glowing letters of recommendation -- so they could find teaching jobs elsewhere.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio 

Wednesday
Dec152010

Are Atlantic City Murders Tied to N.Y. Serial Killer?

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(ATLANTIC CITY, N.J.) -- Law enforcement officials in New Jersey believe that four women killed in New York and dumped along a remote beach road may be linked to the deaths of four prostitutes who worked the boardwalk area of Atlantic City in 2006.

Atlantic County Prosecutor Ted Housel has reached out to detectives in Suffolk County, N.Y., who are investigating the skeletal remains of four women found along Gilgo Beach on Long Island. Two of the women may have been escorts who found their clients on Craigslist, authorities said.

"We have been in contact with authorities in Suffolk County, New York. It would not be fair for us to comment on their investigation," Housel said in a statement to ABC News Wednesday.

The DA said, however, that his office is still investigating the deaths of the four women in 2006. According to his office, the women were prostitutes and their bodies were found in a marsh area off a New Jersey road in West Atlantic City, an eerie similarity between that and the current case in New York.

The Atlantic City victims were also all discovered wearing no shoes, and had died as a result of strangulation. So far the police investigating the Long Island bodies have been unable to determine how they died or who they are.

Suffolk County Police Commissioner Richard Dormer told ABC News Wednesday that the FBI has now joined in on the investigation.

"The FBI has offered all available resources in support of our investigation," Dormer said.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio 

Wednesday
Dec152010

Border Patrol Agent Shot, Killed Near U.S. Mexico Border

Photo Courtesy - John Moore/Getty Images(RIO RICO, Ariz.) -- A border patrol agent was shot and killed late Tuesday in an area 15 miles north of the U.S. border with Mexico, authorities said.

Agent Brian Terry was on patrol when he encountered a group of suspects in the Peck Canyon area near Rio Rico, Ariz., before he was shot, according to a statement from U.S. Customs and Border Protection.

Officials detained four suspects and are still pursuing a fifth. Border patrol agents and local law enforcement officers have been fanning out across the area with K9 teams to track down the suspect.

"Our thoughts and prayers are with the Terry family for their tragic loss," said CBP Commissioner Alan Bersin. "Our commitment to Agent Terry and his family is that we will do everything possible to bring to justice those responsible for this despicable act."

It is unclear whether the suspects were believed to be illegal immigrants or engaged in illicit trafficking or smuggling.

The FBI and Santa Cruz County Sheriff's Office are leading the investigation into Terry's death.

The Arizona National Guard, which presently has 560 troops dispersed along the border to support the Border Patrol, said its members were not involved with the incident.

Terry's murder is the first death of a border patrol agent in the line of duty since July 2009, when Agent Robert Rosas was killed on patrol along the border in southern California. 

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio

Wednesday
Dec152010

Mark Madoff's Wife Says Private Memorial Later This Week

Photo Courtesy - EMMANUEL DUNAND/AFP/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- Mark Madoff's widow, Stephanie, has announced there will be a private service for Mark Madoff, and asked that she and her family be allowed to grieve privately.

"My husband Mark took his own life," said Stephanie in a statement, "and regardless of what you feel about my father-in-law and his monstrous crimes, Mark's children are innocent victims and this is tragic for them. I am devastated and now raising two small children alone."

"I ask that you please show decency and understanding toward all of Mark's children and allow us to mourn in private."

In the statement, Stephanie said Mark Madoff had been cremated and there would be a private memorial service "later this week at an undisclosed location." She also said she appreciated the expressions of "heartfelt sympathy and support she had received" from people who knew and loved her husband.

"I will miss and love him forever," she said in closing.

Madoff's body was claimed by the funeral director of the Gramercy Park Memorial Chapel in Manhattan's East Village on Tuesday, three days after Madoff's suicide. Madoff, the 46-year-old son of convicted Ponzi schemer Bernie Madoff, was found dead in his apartment Saturday morning, two years to the day after Bernie's arrest.

Among the expressions of support for Mark Madoff was a memorial Facebook page titled "Rest in Peace Mark Madoff.". On it, high school friend David Nadler called Mark Madoff "one of the best people I ever knew."

In a separate post, Ed Langone wrote that the "very sad news" of Mark's death made him "think back to the days of the Heights School, East Hills, when everybody was just little kids, and the real world hadn't set in yet." Both are grade schools in Roslyn, New York, where Mark grew up. "A terrible tragedy all around, I feel sorry for his kids," wrote Langone.

Another poster, who identified herself as a former Madoff employee in London, wrote "SLEEP TIGHT MARK XXXXX."

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio

Wednesday
Dec152010

US Army to Deploy Smartphones in Combat as Early as Spring

Photo Courtesy - US Army/ABC News(FORT BLISS, Texas) -- For many Americans, the smartphone is a constant source of intel on daily life, from tracking the whereabouts of friends and family to navigating city streets and finding the best price at the mall.  And as early as this spring, the U.S. Army could make iPhones, Androids, Blackberrys and similar devices standard-issue communication and intelligence-gathering tools on the front lines of the world's most dangerous battlefields.

"This is a profound and fundamental change about how soldiers will be able to access and share information," said Michael McCarthy, director of the mission command complex of the Army's Future Force Integration Directorate at Fort Bliss, Texas.

Troops with smartphones will be able to use text messages to more closely coordinate with their peers in the field and commanders at remote locations.  They'll also be able to stream real-time surveillance video from overhead drones to more effectively target the enemy, among other advantages, McCarthy said.

While the Army is still ironing out the details of a budget for the program, the benefits are expected to come at a relatively low cost to the military -- and taxpayers -- since the technology is commercially available and doesn't require significant investment for research and development.

The "Connecting Soldiers with Digital Applications" initiative began more than a year ago but is now several months ahead of schedule, officials say.  Tactical field tests with the smartphone technology have moved to advanced stages.

In the most recent exercise last week, a company-size Army unit used iPhones while running a simulated checkpoint, conducting tactical raids, and practicing local security sweeps.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio

Wednesday
Dec152010

Poll: Americans Broadly Support Military Service by Gays

Photo Courtesy - Bill Clark/Roll Call/ Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- Seventy-seven percent of Americans support allowing gays and lesbians to serve openly in the U.S. military -- the highest percentage in polling going back 17 years -- capping a dramatic long-term shift in public attitudes on the issue.

The result in the latest ABC News/Washington Post poll comes as the House prepares to vote on legislation that would repeal the current “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy, a measure previously approved in the House as part of a larger bill, but stalled in the Senate.

When first asked in an ABC/Post poll in 1993, 63 percent of Americans favored allowing service by homosexuals who don’t reveal their sexual orientation -- the “don’t tell” policy.  Far fewer, 44 percent, supported service by gays who openly reveal their sexual orientation.

Both views have changed, the latter most sharply.  Today, 83 percent favor allowing service by gays who don’t tell, up 20 points, and, as noted, almost as many also favor service by gays and lesbians who do disclose their sexual orientation, up 33 points from its 1993 level.

These numbers have been largely stable the last few years.  The former, 83 percent, matches its high last February.  The 77 percent figure is two points above its previous high in ABC/Washington Post polls in 2008 and last winter.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio

Wednesday
Dec152010

Terrorist Threat Posted on Facebook Leads to Arrest

Photo Courtesy - Nicholas Kamm/AFP/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- A Virginia resident, who authorities say chatted on Facebook about blowing up Washington, D.C. subway cars, has been arrested and charged with making threats across state lines.

The FBI alleges that Awais Younis, who was born in Afghanistan but now lives in Arlington, Virginia, made comments online about placing pipe bombs on crowded metro subway cars and under a manhole cover in Georgetown.

Authorities say when a friend responded to the Facebook comment by saying “You wouldn’t do that.”  Younis allegedly replied, “Watch me.”   The friend then contacted the FBI.

Investigators say on his Facebook page Younis, who is in his 20s, is seen posing with an AK-47 assault rifle outside a tent in Afghanistan.  The photo's caption is, “My family business.”

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio







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