About the author  ⁄ WFIN

Nathanael Callon(DALLAS) — At least five people were killed, three others are missing and hundreds of homes were destroyed as large parts of the central and southern Plains states faced flash floods and tornadoes.

In Claremore, Oklahoma, about 30 miles northeast of Tulsa, firefighter Jason Farley died when he was swept away while attempting a water rescue, Deputy Chief Matt Wilson of the Claremore Fire Department told ABC News.

Alyssa Ramirez, 18, a student at Devine High School in Texas, died Saturday driving home from her school’s prom, after her car got stuck in floodwater, ABC News affiliate KSAT-TV reports.

According to the National Weather Service, one other person died in Union, Mississippi when a tree fell on the victim’s car.


In Wimberley, about 40 miles southwest of Austin, hundreds of homes were destroyed, many of them washed away, after more than 9 inches of rain was reported and the Blanco River rose.

Trey Hatt, Communications Specialist for the city of San Marcos, told ABC News that three people remain missing from the Wimberley area – and 550 properties and 1,100 structures were impacted by the flood waters.

A tornado touched down in Houston early Sunday, severely damaging an apartment complex and sending at least two people to the hospital. The National Weather Service identified the tornado in a preliminary report as an EF-1 with 100 mile per hour winds.

The threat for severe weather will encompass a large swath of Texas and the southern part of Oklahoma yet again on Memorial Day with large hail, damaging winds, and an isolated tornado possible across the region.

Heavy rain and more flash flooding are expected for areas that are already extremely saturated.

ABC News Videos | ABC Entertainment News

Copyright © 2015, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmailby feather Read More →

Photo by Brendan Hoffman/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) — Five-year-old Yasmeen Faruqui didn’t feel like doing her homework. She insisted she wanted to write to President Obama instead. And he wrote back.

“Please stop war for our world, instead have a meeting,” reads Yasmeen’s handwritten note, posted to Twitter by her aunt. “Please give a speech to tell everyone they can marry who they want.”

“Tell your niece I really like her letter. Couldn’t agree more!” the commander-in-chief replied Friday on Twitter. It’s just the sixth tweet on his new account.

Yasmeen’s words were all her own, her mother told ABC News. (After all, only a 5-year-old would note she’s “almost six” in a letter to the leader of the free world.)

“I just let her do her thing,” Tasha Faruqui said. “Those are absolutely her spontaneous ideas. … She has a mind of her own!”

Yasmeen, who’s set to participate in a family member’s same-sex wedding ceremony this fall, was bothered when her playmates insisted “boys can’t marry boys.”

“I don’t think that’s wrong,” she told her mom.

“She’s very much an independent thinker,” Yasmeen’s aunt, Fahmida Zaman, told ABC. “She attempts to respectfully color outside the lines.”

Because her father serves in the Navy, war has always scared Yasmeen. When she heard the president had read her letter, she went through the roof.

“This means the war’s going to end! He got the letter,” Yasmeen yelled.

When her mother explained that isn’t quite how diplomacy works, Yasmeen was still ecstatic: “Now he got my message and he can share my message,” she told her mom.

“I think it says a lot about our president, responding to a letter of a 5-year-old. That’s pretty remarkable,” Zaman said. “It lets her feel like her voice is heard.”

Copyright © 2015, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmailby feather Read More →

Broward Sheriff’s Office(PALM BEACH, Fla.) — A Florida mother is out of jail after spending more than a week behind bars during an ongoing dispute over circumcising her son.

Heather Hironimus posted bond and was released Saturday night, according to authorities in Palm Beach County.

Hironimus, 31, had been taken into custody May 14 after she went missing for several months with her 4-year-old son, allegedly to avoid a court order to circumcise him, according to court records. She was taken to jail on charges including interference with custody, according to the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s office.

On Friday, she signed paperwork to allow the procedure, attorney Ira Marcus, who represents the boy’s father, Dennis Nebus, told ABC News.

Doing so released Horonimus from the civil pick-up order, but not interference with child custody — a criminal charge — so she remained in jail until Saturday night.

In May 2014, Hironimus lost a legal battle to Nebus when a Palm Beach County judge ruled that the boy should be circumcised, according to the Orlando Sun Sentinel.

In March 2015, the judge ordered Hironimus to bring the boy in to schedule the circumcision procedure, according to the newspaper. But Hironimus never showed up in court — prompting a warrant for her arrest, the newspaper reported, also noting that she avoided being arrested because she was living in a domestic violence shelter.

Hironimus filed a federal suit against both Nebus and the judge last month, claiming that her son did not have a medical need to be circumcised. At the boy’s age, Hironimus’ federal suit says, there could be negative psychological effects resulting from circumcision. She expressed that he did not want to be circumcised and was afraid of the procedure.

Nebus’ attorney Ira Marcus told ABC News on Sunday: “We assume the family law court will resolve the issues … dealing with my client and the child.”

Hironimus’s lawyer did not immediately respond to ABC News’ request for comment on Sunday.

Copyright © 2015, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmailby feather Read More →

papa1266/iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) — Close to 162,000 trailer hitches are being recalled over fears that weak steel can cause the hitch to break.

The recall affects the “U-Haul Power Tow” TS1 and TS2 models, which were sold exclusively at U-Haul outlets, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

The company behind the hitches, Curtis Manufacturing, said that manufacturing changes in China reduced the strength of the steel in the hitches, which can break when towing near the maximum-rated load.

According to the NHTSA, there have been no injuries or property damage reported.

Curtis Manufacturing plans to notify owners and replace the parts free of charge.

Copyright © 2015, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmailby feather Read More →

zabelin/iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) — U.S.-backed Iraqi security forces have “showed no will to fight” in recent battles with ISIS, resulting in the group’s alarming recent territorial gains, according to Defense Secretary Ash Carter.

“We have an issue with the will of the Iraqis to fight [ISIS] and defend themselves,” Carter said in an interview on CNN. “We can give them training, we can give them equipment; we obviously can’t give them the will to fight.”

The unusual public rebuke of the Iraqi military, which the U.S. has been training and equipping for years, comes after a week of significant ISIS victories. The jihadist group took control of the key provincial capital of Ramadi and the ancient city of Palmyra. ISIS is now estimated to control half of Syria and broad swaths of Iraq.

In Ramadi, the Iraqi forces “were not out numbered, but in fact they vastly outnumbered the opposing force, and yet they failed to fight,” Carter said.

The Pentagon has said the decision to withdraw from Ramadi was made by a local Iraqi commander for reasons that are not entirely clear.

“I don’t believe anybody felt that Ramadi would fall, and I think it’s of great concern to everyone,” retired Gen. Peter Chiarelli, former Army vice chief of staff, said on ABC News’ This Week.

The White House called the episode a “tactical setback” and vowed that there will be a counteroffensive. Republican critics of the administration say the ISIS gains reflect as much a lack of coherent U.S. strategy in Iraq as alleged weakness of the country’s security forces.

The “will to fight” issue among ISF is at the heart of President Obama’s approach to Iraq, and one key reason why he’s resisted calls for more aggressive U.S. military intervention to confront ISIS.

“I know that there are some in Republican quarters who have suggested that I’ve overlearned the mistake of Iraq, and that, in fact, just because the 2003 invasion did not go well doesn’t argue that we shouldn’t go back in,” Obama told The Atlantic this week.

“I will continue to order our military to provide the Iraqi security forces all assistance that they need in order to secure their country, and I’ll provide diplomatic and economic assistance that’s necessary for them to stabilize. But we can’t do it for them,” Obama said.

A majority of Americans support U.S. airstrikes against ISIS in Iraq and Syria, but fewer back deployment of more boots on the ground, according to the most recent ABC News/Washington Post poll.

Copyright © 2015, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmailby feather Read More →

Photo by Getty Images(VIENNA) — Iranian officials said on Sunday they will grant inspectors from the United Nations “managed access” to military sites as part of a deal regarding the country’s nuclear program.

The country’s foreign ministry made the announcement after a reportedly contentious meeting with Iranian leaders.

Amid western fears, Iran insists its nuclear program is for powering the country and other peaceful purposes, though not creating nuclear weapons.

Last week, Iran’s supreme leader said U.N. inspectors would not be allowed access to the country’s nuclear sites or its scientists.

Tehran is particularly sensitive to foreign officials meeting with the country’s nuclear experts, as five of the country’s scientists were killed in attacks in recent years.

Leaders from the U.S. and other countries are hoping to finalize a nuclear deal with Iran by next month.

Copyright © 2015, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmailby feather Read More →

ABC News(PANMUNJOM, South Korea) — Female activists including Gloria Steinem, Medea Benjamin, and two Nobel Peace laureates crossed the border between North and South Korea on Sunday, calling for peace and for more women to be involved in that process.

The group of 30 women arrived at Dorasan Station dressed in white with colorful traditional Korean scarves wrapped around them.

“It was an enormous, enormous triumph,” Steinem said of their trip inside North Korea. “We feel very celebratory and positive that we have created a voyage across the DMZ in peace and reconciliation that was said to be impossible.”

Some anti-North Korean groups heavily criticized the event, saying the women were naive and ignored raising human rights issues by the communist state.

“They don’t deserve to come here,” one woman shouted at a small protest near the border. “There’s no peace in North Korea and they go and praise Kim Jong-un and his family? There are millions starving to death but these women are blind to reality.”

The group repeatedly stressed that this was not a political event and the purpose was to open dialogue on the civilian level.

“It’s a very repressive country, but it was great for us to go there … and have some real dialogue and some interactions with women,” said Benjamin, the co-founder of Code Pink, a left-wing peace activist group. “I met women who’ve never met an American before in their lives and they had such terrible ideas about us and we became close friends. We were all crying when we left this morning saying goodbye.”

Hundreds of South Korean women greeted the activists at the southern part of the Unification Bridge and together marched over a mile by the barbed wire fences to a peace festival at nearby Nuri Peace Park.

The women originally planned to cross the border through the truce village of Panmunjum, where North and South Korean soldiers stand guard on each side of the military demarcation line. But the South Korean government had refused to give authorization, citing concerns over their safety.

The organizers expressed disappointment but said the crossing itself was a successful “historic event” getting “both Korean governments to communicate.”

The group made entry into South Korean by a bus instead, as recommended by the South Korean government, through a road that connects South Korea and the North Korean city of Gaesong.

This is not the first time a non-political group crossed the inter-Korean border. Bikers from New Zealand took the same route in 2013 and another group of Korean-Russians drove SUVs through the DMZ last year.

ABC News Videos | ABC Entertainment News

Copyright © 2015, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmailby feather Read More →

Photo Illustration by Scott Olson/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) — The National Security Agency has begun “winding down” the once top-secret bulk collection of Americans’ phone records after Congress failed to renew or change the program before a holiday recess, a senior administration official told ABC News.

“We’ve said for the past several days that the wind-down process would need to begin yesterday if there was no legislative agreement. That process has begun,” the official said.

The government has relied on Section 215 of the Patriot Act, which expires at midnight on May 31, to authorize collection of telephone metadata for all U.S. calls. That data was said to include phone numbers and duration of a call, but not the content of the call or any other personally identifying information.

Former NSA contractor Edward Snowden revealed the existence of the phone surveillance program with his leaked cache of documents in 2013.

Lawmakers left town for a week-long holiday break without addressing the program as its expiration looms.

The Obama administration did not seek renewal of the bulk collection program, instead proposing that phone companies retain the records and make them available for case-by-case review by the government with a court order. A bipartisan version of that proposal — the USA Freedom Act — passed the House of Representatives earlier this month but was blocked in a late-night vote in the Senate.

Defenders of the phone surveillance program insist that ending it will hamper the FBI and NSA in their pursuit of suspected terrorists and spies, though there is little evidence it has been directly responsible for any thwarted plots.

The Senate also failed to advance a short-term extension of the program to allow more time to negotiate a compromise.

Lawmakers will have just 8 hours to resolve their differences over the phone program and other expiring provisions of the PATRIOT Act, which is widely seen as a critical tool for law enforcement, when they return at 4 p.m. on Sunday, May 31.

Copyright © 2015, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmailby feather Read More →

Photo by Sonia Moskowitz/Getty Images(PRINCETON, N.J.) — Princeton University mathematician and Nobel Prize winner John Nash, whose life was the subject of the film A Beautiful Mind, was killed in a taxi crash along with his wife in New Jersey on Saturday.

Nash and Alicia Nash were in a taxi on the New Jersey Turnpike when the driver lost control and crashed into a guard rail, said New Jersey State Police Sgt. Gregory Williams.

Nash was 86; his wife was 82.

Authorities don’t believe Nash or his wife were wearing seat belts since they were both ejected from the taxi, said Williams. The crash remains under investigation.

Nash won the Nobel Prize for Economics in 1994.

Copyright © 2015, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmailby feather Read More →

Credit: Architect of the Capitol(WASHINGTON) — The Senate blocked a House bill early Saturday morning that would have extended three sections of the Patriot Act which are set to expire on June 1.

Sixty votes were needed to pass the House-approved USA Freedom Act. But the vote late Friday night saw the bill get just 57 votes in support. After the bill failed, Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., attempted to get it passed by unanimous consent, but failed to do so.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell made multiple attempts to pass shorter extensions, but was blocked four times, including three objections from Sen. Rand Paul, R-Kentucky.

“For those who want reform and want to prevent the government from holding the data, the Freedom Act is the only way to do it,” Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., said Saturday. “The House has passed it, the President wants it, all of the Intelligence personnel have agreed to it.”

Boxer pointed blame across the aisle after the Saturday morning efforts to get the USA Freedom Act passed, saying “we tried with the majority to protect this country and the Republicans objected.”

A senior administration official told ABC News on Saturday that the NSA has begun “winding down” its once-secret bulk collection of Americans’ phone records in the wake of Congress’ failure to extend the existing program.

“We’ve said for the past several days that the wind-down process would need to begin yesterday if there was no legislative agreement,” the official said. “That process has begun.”

Follow @ABCNewsRadio
Copyright © 2015, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmailby feather Read More →