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Thursday
May192011

Massey Energy At Fault In Fatal West Virginia Mine Explosion

SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- An independent report issued Thursday blames mine operator Massey Energy for last year's deadly West Virginia coal mine explosion that claimed the lives of 29 men.

The report lists three major safety violations:

  • Not enough ventilation to clear dangerous gases.
  • Too much coal dust which, when ignited, causes a powerful explosion.
  • Water sprayers on the coal cutting machine were inadequate. Out of 30 nozzles on one part of the machine, seven were missing. Of 23 on another part, nine nozzles were clogged. The spray of water would have prevented any ignition.

According to the report, the mining machine hit a rock and created a spark, which ignited a pocket of gas. The crew saw it and shut down the machine, the report says, but the fireball moved and hit the coal dust. It was not one explosion, but a series of massive blasts that spanned two miles of the mine, the report says.

While Massey Energy is the main party at fault, the report also criticizes federal and state regulators for "failing to use all the tools at their disposal" to protect the miners.

Of the 29 dead, 19 died of carbon monoxide intoxication. The other 10 fatalities stemmed from injuries caused by the blast.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Thursday
May192011

Who Gets the Osama Bin Laden Reward?

AFP/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- No one will receive the $25 million reward for the capture of Osama bin Laden, say U.S. officials, because the raid that killed the al Qaeda leader in Pakistan on May 2 was the result of electronic intelligence, not human informants.

"We do not expect a reward to be paid," said a senior U.S. official familiar with the bin Laden hunt, meaning that the $25 million bounty offered by the U.S. under the Rewards for Justice program after the 9/11 terror attacks will probably remain uncollected.

The reason is simple, say officials involved in or knowledgeable about the hunt for the world's most wanted man: the CIA and the military never had an al Qaeda operative as an informer willing to give him up. Instead, what killed bin Laden was electronic surveillance, and an operational mistake by one of his closest associates. After a slow drip of intelligence year after year, a final flurry of data collection and analysis brought a team of SEALs to bin Laden's Abbottabad, Pakistan, compound on a moonless night.

In previous manhunts, such as the capture of 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and former Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein, or the killing of his two sons, U.S. intelligence and military commandos had the help of insiders and human sources. In each case, someone received millions of dollars in reward money for their efforts.

The long and sometimes circular path that led to bin Laden was paved by satellites, drones, phone surveillance and luck. U.S. officials have said the intelligence was a "mosaic" and "multi-streamed," meaning from every avenue in the government's arsenal, the strongest of which is still the technological wizardry of the CIA, National Security Agency, the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency and the Department of Defense.

Bin Laden's survival for nearly 10 years was the result of the limits of American power and intelligence -- the ability to recruit sources inside al Qaeda or support networks in Pakistan, and his death was the result of the overwhelming superiority of American electronic, signals, and technological capabilities.

By the summer of 2009, the trail for bin Laden had gone cold. The CIA simply had no tangible evidence of any place he'd been since he'd slipped away from U.S. air attacks in his redoubt in Afghanistan's Tora Bora mountains. Marty Martin, a former top CIA official who led the hunt for bin Laden from 2002 to 2004, said that for years his colleagues were baffled as to where the fugitive had hidden.

"We could see from his videos what his circumstances were," Martin said of bin Laden's video messages that were released in the years after his Tora Bora escape. "In the immediate years afterward he looked battle fatigued and on the run. He didn't look healthy. We knew he was moving. But where? We simply didn't know. Then, he gained weight and looked healthy. I told my analysts, 'He's gone urban, moved somewhere stable and safe.'"

During all the years the trail went cold, the CIA had been unable to develop a human source inside al Qaeda or inside their support network. Several former intelligence officials involved in the hunt for bin Laden said developing a spy inside bin Laden's inner circle was never very likely because of the level of commitment his followers possessed. The man who turned in Khalid Sheikh Mohammed was an Afghan informer who provided low-level support to the al Qaeda chief of operations, not a fellow operative. Beyond that, the CIA tried to monitor those who facilitated communications and operations for al Qaeda, while learning as much as they could from detainees.

But in 2009, the CIA caught a break. The Pakistani intelligence service, known as the ISI, delivered a gift: a cellphone number they gathered when they recorded a call made from Pakistan to the Middle East. The number belonged to an al Qaeda courier that the CIA had long been searching for, Abu Ahmed al Kuwaiti.

After the 2009 phone call that the Pakistanis tapped, however, al Kuwaiti's number went dark. But the courier had exposed himself, and the CIA suspected that if they could find where al Kuwaiti lived, they might be about to find bin Laden.

The call had located al Kuwaiti in northwest Pakistan and gave the CIA a starting point for a renewed hunt. A year later, in the summer of 2010, despite fastidious operational security by al Kuwaiti -- he normally drove 90 minutes from the compound before inserting the battery in his cellphone, preventing signals intelligence pinpointing his starting point -- he made a twofold mistake. For the first time in almost a year, he used the cellphone simcard that U.S. intelligence had linked to him, and he made a call with that simcard close to bin Laden's compound.

The National Security Agency, the world's most powerful signals intelligence organization, had been waiting to pounce on any calls made from that simcard since 2009. The NSA picked up the call and located al Kuwaiti in Abbottabad, Pakistan. They were even able to pinpoint the neighborhood the call had probably come from. From there, the CIA and National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA) began searching aerial satellite photographs to deduce which house would likely be bin Laden's.

When they discovered a newer building with high perimeter walls, custom construction and a third floor terrace wall of seven feet -- the CIA knew they had their target. The search was almost over.

By August of 2010, CIA director Leon Panetta briefed President Obama and had a new stealth drone begin flights over the compound, undetected by Pakistani air defenses. The CIA was sure a high-value target lived in the compound, and given al Kuwaiti's relationship to bin Laden -- learned in bits and pieces from interrogations of captured detainees since 2002 -- was "60 to 80 percent" sure bin Laden was hiding in the compound, according to Panetta.

The CIA, the NGA and the Pentagon studied reams of signals intelligence, electronic emissions, infrared technology, almost all from drones and satellites, in order to learn the compound's construction and the number of people living inside. Intelligence analysts even studied the water tables underneath the Abbottabad valley to determine whether it was likely bin Laden had built an escape tunnel underneath the house.

"We were pretty sure it was too wet to build a tunnel," one US official familiar with the CIA's intelligence said.

Martin, the retired CIA official, said bin Laden also undoubtedly learned from his al Qaeda operatives' mistakes.

"He was not stupid. If you see your men killed by drones or captured, you learn from experience what kind of entourage to have and how to change your profile."

Bin Laden had taken away all signs of his importance that for years the CIA had searched for from the sky: armed guards, rings of protection, transportation convoys -- he left it all behind and hid behind an 18-foot wall for five years. When the Navy SEALs eventually stormed the compound, only a few rifles and handguns were seized. He had dropped virtually all his protection so that spy satellites, and drone surveillance would be unable to differentiate his compound from any other in the area. The SEALs also found, and killed, the courier whose single errant phone call, snapped up in a web of electronic surveillance, had led them to Abbottabad.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Thursday
May192011

Hurricane Outlook Shows Stormy Season Ahead

Sandy Huffaker/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Forecasters are predicting an above normal Atlantic hurricane season this year, with up to 10 hurricanes and between 12 to 18 named storms. As many as six of those could become major storms -- with winds faster than 111 miles per hour -- the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) said Thursday.

Hurricane season begins June 1. Coastal residents are urged to have a disaster plan ready.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Thursday
May192011

CDC Prepares for Zombie Apocalypse...Kind Of

Christopher Robbins/Digital Vision(WASHINGTON) -- The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention -- a government agency -- hasn't outright predicted a zombie apocalypse, but rest assured, if one should occur, the CDC says it's prepared.

In a post that caught the attention of geeks and politicos alike, the CDC this week posted a guide, called "Preparedness 101: Zombie Apocalypse," to ensure public safety in the event of a zombie uprising.

"The rise of zombies in pop culture has given credence to the idea that a zombie apocalypse could happen," the CDC says in a blog post. "In such a scenario zombies would take over entire countries, roaming city streets eating anything living that got in their way.  The proliferation of this idea has led many people to wonder 'How do I prepare for a zombie apocalypse?'"

As you may have guessed, the post isn't all that serious (Editor’s note: We are not denying the possibility of a zombie apocalypse); it's merely intended to prepare the public for more practical emergencies, like hurricanes or wide-spread illness.

The page was developed to remind people to assemble emergency supply kits with items like water, food, and both prescription and non-prescription medication. This, they say, will "get you through the first couple of days before you can locate a zombie-free refugee camp," or, perhaps more realistically "in the event of a natural disaster, it will buy you some time until you are able to make your way to an evacuation shelter or utility lines are restored."

The agency also suggests that families map out an emergency plan. "This includes where you would go and who you would call if zombies started appearing outside your door step." But of course, "You can also implement this plan if there is a flood, earthquake, or other emergency."

[READ THE FULL POST ON THE CDC WEBSITE]

And don't worry. If zombies do take over, the CDC says it "would conduct an investigation much like any other disease outbreak."

No word on what they've got planned for Judgment Day.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Thursday
May192011

Apocalypse Now?: Is 'Rapture 2011' Really the End of the World?

Comstock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Some people believe that May 21, 2011 marks the end of the world, or at least the beginning of the end. And while there are some who dispute this prediction, there are those who are convinced that beginning Saturday, more than 200 million people will be swept up to heaven in the Rapture while the rest of humanity will suffer five months of unspeakable misery before the ultimate end of the world in October.

"I am utterly absolutely, absolutely convinced it's going to happen," said Harold Camping, the 89-year-old evangelist and president of Family Radio whose biblical calculations have ignited Rapture fever across America and the world.

Camping pinpointed May 21, at about 5:59 p.m. ET, as the exact time when those chosen by God will ascend to heaven while cataclysmic earthquakes begin to rock earth, and he spent big bucks on 5,000 billboards, posters, fliers and digital bus displays across the country.

Inevitably, many have mocked Camping's prognostications, but the recent series of devastating natural disasters -- the Japan earthquake, recent tornadoes and floods in America - is evidence enough for some people to prepare for the worst.
 
Robert Fitzpatrick, a 60-year-old retiree from New York, spent his $140,000 life savings to have 3,000 posters put up in New York City's subway and bus system, warning of this impending End of Days.

"Judgment day will begin very shortly before midnight Jerusalem standard time. I think it's going to be instantaneous. Everything will be destroyed and God is going to create a new heaven and a new earth," he said.
 
Leaders among mainstream Christian denominations have largely condemned date-setting, citing Bible verses that say no man can know the time of the Rapture.
 
"The people following his predictions are apocalyptic enthusiasts already looking for signs of the end times,” said Stephen O'Leary, an expert in religious communication at University of Southern California. “They want to reinforce their idea that these are the last days.

Camping himself has predicted the End of Days before: Sept. 6, 1994.

Camping had been "thrown off a correct calculation because of some verses in Matthew 24," a Family Radio spokesman told ABC News.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Thursday
May192011

Schwarzenegger’s Mistress Split from Husband Weeks After Giving Birth

Myspace(NEW YORK) -- The woman with whom Arnold Schwarzenegger secretly fathered a child more than a decade ago separated from her husband just a few weeks after the secret child was born back in 1997, reports People, and filed for divorce in 2008.

According to court documents obtained by the magazine, when Mildred Patricia Baena filed for the divorce, the papers indicated that her then-husband, Rogelio de Jesus Baena, was not the father of her child, even though the birth certificate stated that Rogelio was the dad.  The documents don't indicate why Mildred waited 11 years to file for divorce, but they do state that the reason was “irreconcilable differences.”

Known as Patty, Baena reportedly worked in Schwarzenegger and Maria Shriver's home as a housekeeper and assistant for more than 20 years.  Her son, who has not been identified, is believed to be about 14 years old.

According to The New York Times, there was a period 14 years ago when Baena was working, while pregnant, at the Schwarzeneggers' Brentwood, California mansion during the same time that Shriver was pregnant with Schwarzenegger's son, the youngest of their four children together.

Neither Mildred Baena nor her ex have made any public comments since ABC News confirmed her identity on Tuesday.

In related news, Schwarzenegger's estranged wife, Maria Shriver, has hired divorce lawyer Laura Wasser, according to People magazine.  Even so, a source says Shriver has not yet decided whether she'll pursue a divorce from her husband of 25 years.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Thursday
May192011

Mark Kelly Says Wife Gabrielle Giffords Is Doing 'Really Well'

DON EMMERT/AFP/Getty Images(HOUSTON) -- Space shuttle commander Mark Kelly says his wife, Arizona Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, is doing "really well" after undergoing cranioplasty surgery in Houston Wednesday morning.

Speaking at a news conference Thursday morning from Endeavour, which docked with the International Space Station on Wednesday, Kelly said he was able to speak to Giffords' mother and his twin brother, astronaut Scott Kelly, by telephone during the operation.

"She's doing really well," Mark Kelly said.  "Everything went as planned.  Her neurosurgeons are very happy.  She's recuperating and she's actually getting back to therapy today.  So it went really, really well."

Giffords was shot in the head earlier this year in Tucson, Arizona.  A portion of her skull from the left side of her head was removed to ease the stress and pressure on her brain due to swelling.

On Wednesday, doctors inserted a plastic replacement, whose shape was generated by a computer to match the shape of the lost bone.

Earlier in the week, Giffords was on hand at the Kennedy Space Center to watch her husband blast off into space for Endeavour's final flight.

ABC News has been told that Kelly, as a gesture of love, took both of their wedding rings on the flight with him.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Thursday
May192011

Mother of Maine Mystery Boy Arrested for Murder

Jupiterimages/Thinkstock(CHELMSFORD, Mass.) -- A Texas woman has been arrested in connection with the killing and dumping of a 6-year-boy's body along a Maine rural road, according to the New Hampshire attorney general's office.

Julianne McCrery, 42, was arrested Wednesday on a Massachusetts fugitive of justice charge, according to a news release issued by the attorney general.

"The fugitive from justice charge arose from an arrest warrant issued in the State of New Hampshire on the charge of second-degree murder," the release stated.

On Wednesday, sources told ABC News that McCrery had confessed to killing and dumping her son's body.

The Irving, Texas woman told police that she accidentally gave her 6-year-old son, Camden Hughes, too much cough syrup, the sources said.

Initial autopsy results indicate asphyxiation was Camden's cause of death but final results are pending.

McCrery is expected to be arraigned Thursday morning in Concord District Court in Massachusetts.

She was taken into custody after a Massachusetts state trooper spotted her Wednesday morning at a rest area near Chelmsford, Massachussetts, police said.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Thursday
May192011

The Seven-Year Itch Is Still Alive and Well, Census Shows

Jeffrey Hamilton/Digital Vision/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- A new Census Bureau report shows that after seven years, some married couples are itching to go their separate ways.

The problem for the unhappy spouses, according to the government, is that the break-up usually doesn't become final for another year. 

The 2010 survey found that the median period for first-time married couples who eventually divorce is seven years, while the median time for the legal end of their unions is eight years.

Meanwhile, the Census Bureau found that 75 percent of people in their first marriages are still together.

The survey also shows that people married for a second-time make up eight percent of all couples, while people in their third marriage comprise one percent.

While fewer Americans are getting hitched these days, the longevity of marriages appears to be on the increase.  The Census Bureau says that 55 percent of marriages have lasted 15 years or more while a third have made it to their silver anniversary.  Six percent of all married couples have managed to stick it out for 50 years or longer.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Wednesday
May182011

Navy Aircraft Goes Down During Takeoff at Pt. Mugu Base

Thinkstock Images/Getty Images(POINT MUGU, Calif.) -- A military tanker plane carrying 158,000 pounds of fuel and three people went down after attempting to take off Wednesday at Point Mugu Naval Air Station in California, according a military spokesperson.

Skid marks could be seen at the end of the runway where the crash appears to have occurred, ABC affiliate KABC in Los Angeles reported.

Due to the significant amount of fuel onboard, several firefighting agencies were called upon to put out the flames engulfing the aircraft.

All three people aboard the older model Boeing 707 escaped with minor injuries.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio







ABC News Radio