Review Category : National News

F-35 Fighter Continues Next-Gen Attack on Taxpayer Wallets

Photo by U.S. Navy photo courtesy Lockheed Martin via Getty Images(NEW YORK) — Already the most expensive defense weapons program in history, the price tag on the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter jumped up another $4.3 billion in the last year – the latest hike in a program that’s gone $113 billion over its original projected cost, according to a new report from the Government Accountability Office.

The stealth F-35, long touted as the future backbone of America’s dominance in the air, has experienced a seemingly unending string of cost increases and delays since development began in 2001. Three variations on the plane are meant to replace legacy fighters for the U.S. Air Force, Navy and Marines and lead the way in next-generation electronic warfare. But the plane is so complex and was put into production so prematurely, according to the Pentagon’s top weapons buyer, that he once said that the error amounted to “acquisition malpractice.”

The sophisticated jets were originally slated to join the battlefield in 2012, but the GAO report, published Thursday, estimates the first variation – the Marines’ – won’t reach initial operational capability until this summer at best. The Navy’s won’t reach that point until 2018, if all goes well.

“[K]ey gaps in product knowledge persist. One of the critical technologies – the aircraft prognostic and health management system – is not mature and the program continues to experience design changes,” the GAO report says. “Developmental testing is progressing, but much of the testing remains, which will likely drive more changes…Software development and testing remains a significant risk. Further delays in development may put future milestones at risk.”

In September 2013 the Department of Defense Inspector General blasted the plane’s military overseers for not keeping a closer eye on how the plane was being made. In a report released then, the IG said it found 719 “issues” with the jet’s primary manufacturer, Lockheed Martin, and five other major contractors as they assembled the planes. In response, the military and Lockheed Martin said the report was based on old information and the program had taken corrective measures.

The same month as the IG report, Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., said the F-35 program was “one of the great national scandals that we have ever had, as far as the expenditure of taxpayers’ dollars are concerned.”

At a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing this week, McCain got an update on the F-35 from Marines Commandant Gen. Joseph Dunford, who repeated the goal to have IOC by the summer, and Chief of Naval Operations Adm. John Greenert, who expressed concern about the plane’s software integration ahead of the F-35 joining his service in “’18 or ’19.”

“But so far, so good,” Greenert said. “We have to keep a really close watch on it.”

Representatives for Lockheed Martin and the military’s Joint Program Office, which is in charge of the F-35, did not immediately respond to requests for comment for this report.

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Secret Service DUI Probe: Obama Disappointed, But Backs New Chief

jackethead/iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) — President Obama is “disappointed” by the latest allegations of U.S. Secret Service misconduct, but retains confidence in his new director, Joe Clancy, to lead an overhaul of the agency, a White House spokesman said Thursday.

The president was informed earlier this week — five days after the incident — that two senior agents on his protective detail had allegedly driven while under the influence of alcohol, collided with a White House barricade and left the scene undisciplined, administration and Capitol Hill sources confirmed to ABC News. The agents, Mark Connolly and George Ogilvie, have been reassigned while the investigation is pending, according to Secret Service.

The Department of Homeland Security Inspector General says it is reviewing the March 4 incident, which took place at the southeast entrance to the White House complex at 15th Street and E Street in downtown Washington, D.C. No one was charged and no police reports were filed.

ABC News has learned that the agents, who had possibly been drinking alcohol and driving in a government vehicle, drove through crime scene tape that was set up at that location from an earlier investigation of a suspicious package. The vehicle collided with an orange plastic barrel but sustained no damage, sources said. Multiple sources insisted there was no “crash,” but that the behavior was suspicious enough to raise concerns of uniformed officers on the scene.

“Apparently two agents who have supervisory roles had been at a retirement party, and they left that party and went to the White House in a vehicle, in a Secret Service vehicle, and when they got to the entrance of the White House, they apparently flashed their badges or whatever, and it was obvious that…to the guards that were there, that they may have been a bit impaired,” Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., the ranking Democrat on the House Oversight Committee, told ABC News.

“They went on to go through what was then an active crime scene investigation,” Cummings said.

When uniformed officers confronted the agents, a supervisor ordered them to let the agents go without charge, government sources said. The supervisor is still on the job, House Oversight Committee Chairman Rep. Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, told ABC News. Unlike the agents in the car, the supervisor has not been reassigned pending the investigation.

The episode is the first major test for Clancy, a Secret Service veteran who assumed the post last month, tasked with fundamentally transforming the culture and image of the agency.

“Director Clancy has shown a commitment to addressing the issues” raised by the incident, White House spokesman Eric Schultz said. “That includes implementing structural reforms.”

“Nobody has higher standards for the Secret Service than Director Clancy,” Schultz added.

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Ferguson: St. Louis Police, Missouri State Highway Patrol to Take Over Security

Photo by Michael B. Thomas/Getty Images(FERGUSON, Mo.) — St. Louis County Police and Missouri State Highway Patrol will take control of the policing of the Ferguson protests starting Thursday evening after two officers from different jurisdictions were shot outside of the police station on Wednesday night, authorities said.

The decision comes as the officers were released from the hospital Thursday morning after sustaining non-threatening injuries following a night of renewed protests, the St. Louis County Police said in a Facebook post.

“Both were in serious condition before being released from Barnes Jewish Hospital,” the post read.

The cops, who have not been identified, were “lucky” they weren’t killed, St. Louis County Police Chief Jon Belmar had said.

At a news conference held before the Facebook posting, Belmar said they heard “three or four shots ring out” before the officers were hurt. Both were seriously wounded by a shooter standing about 150 feet away.

“We are lucky by God’s grace that we didn’t lose two police officers,” he said.

One officer, 41, was struck in the shoulder; the other, 32, in the face, Belmar said.

“With both officers, we don’t have any remarkable long-term injuries,” he added.

Belmar said the shots were fired from an undetermined location north or northwest of the Ferguson Police Department building.

“Ladies and gentleman, we were very close to having what happened to the NYPD. We could have buried two police officers,” Belmar said.

The search for the suspect or suspects is the “number-one priority” within the St. Louis County police department, according to Belmar. The St. Louis County Police Department said Thursday that detectives were “talking with people as part of their investigation” but that “no arrests have been made.”

In a tweet, President Obama wrote: “Violence against police is unacceptable. Our prayers are with the officers in MO. Path to justice is one all of us must travel together. –bo”

U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder, in a statement released Thursday morning, said, “This heinous assault on two brave law enforcement officers was inexcusable and repugnant. I condemn violence against any public safety officials in the strongest terms, and the Department of Justice will never accept any threats or violence directed at those who serve and protect our communities….Such senseless acts of violence threaten the very reforms that nonviolent protesters in Ferguson and around the country have been working towards for the past several months.”

Holder also said he wished the officers “a full and speedy recovery.”

“We stand ready to offer any possible aid to an investigation into this incident, including the department’s full range of investigative resources. And we will continue to stand unequivocally against all acts of violence against cops whenever and wherever they occur,” he added.

Tensions simmered in the city on Wednesday night after the resignation of the city’s police chief, Tom Jackson. Hundreds of protesters gathered throughout the night, staring down police officers in riot gear.

A handful of people were arrested. Some people chanted, and other flare-ups were reported — unrest rekindled after a Justice Department report documented widespread racial bias in the city.

Jackson’s resignation makes him the sixth person who has been fired or forced to resign since the report was released March 4 detailing what it described as rampant racial bias in policing in the St. Louis suburb.

Lt. Col. Al Eickhoff will take over as the acting chief of police as the city launches a national search for a new chief of police, the letter stated.

Jackson had initially come under fire in August for his department’s handling of the shooting death of unarmed teenager Michael Brown.

Brown’s parents released a statement Thursday, calling the police shooting “senseless.”

“We reject any kind of violence directed toward members of law enforcement. It cannot and will not be tolerated,” the family said. “We specifically denounce the actions of stand-alone agitators who unsuccessfully attempt to derail the otherwise peaceful and non-violent movement that has emerged throughout this nation to confront police brutality and to forward the cause of equality under the law for all. We must work together to bring peace to our communities. Our thoughts and prayers remain with the officers injured during this morning’s shooting and their families.”

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Oklahoma Football Team Stages Silent Protest over Racist Frat Video

Photo by JP Wilson/Replay Photos via Getty Images)(NORMAN, Okla.) — The University of Oklahoma football team held a silent protest Thursday instead of practicing in response to a video showing members of Sigma Alpha Epsilon reciting a racist chant.

#OUnited pic.twitter.com/xCwzjFGc7w

— Oklahoma Football (@OU_Football) March 12, 2015

Quarterback Trevor Knight was among those players who posted a statement saying the team had not practiced this week and asked that the university continue its investigation into the executive board of the fraternity.

“These types of incidents occur nationwide every single year, and our hope is to shed light on this issue and promote meaningful change at a national level,” read the statement posted on his Twitter account.

Together we stand #OUnited pic.twitter.com/XuZ1RRZ0CU

— Trevor Knight (@trevor_knight9) March 12, 2015

The university closed the SAE house on campus and expelled two students after the video emerged earlier this week, which shows fraternity members chanting, “There will never be a n***** at SAE” and also referred to lynchings and keeping African-Americans out of the fraternity.

“The chant was not invented by the two that led it, but was taught to underclassmen by people of higher authority,” the statement continued. “Being a student at the University of Oklahoma is a privilege, and allowing this culture to thrive is against everything it means to be a Sooner. Ignorance is no excuse.”

The statement added that the players will continue to address the issue when practice resumes next week and will wear black. The players also thanked head coach Bob Stoops and the coaching staff for their support.

The university also issued a statement Thursday, saying President David Boren planned to meet with the captains of the football team following spring break. He also asked the vice president of student affairs to investigate each officer of the fraternity to “determine their responsibility and to make recommendations on appropriate disciplinary action.”

pic.twitter.com/F5Hyzosbgz

— Oklahoma Sooners (@OU_Athletics) March 12, 2015

Statement from OU Director of Athletics, Joe Castiglione pic.twitter.com/2xk0oTdHJs

— Oklahoma Sooners (@OU_Athletics) March 12, 2015

Former fraternity members have claimed the same language was used at other colleges, but the national headquarters has denied being the source of the chant.

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Oklahoma Football Team to Stage Silent Protest over Racist Frat Video

Photo by JP Wilson/Replay Photos via Getty Images)(NORMAN, Okla.) — The University of Oklahoma football team held a silent protest Thursday instead of practicing in response to a video showing members of Sigma Alpha Epsilon reciting a racist chant.

#OUnited pic.twitter.com/xCwzjFGc7w

— Oklahoma Football (@OU_Football) March 12, 2015

Quarterback Trevor Knight was among those players who posted a statement saying the team had not practiced this week and asked that the university continue its investigation into the executive board of the fraternity.

“These types of incidents occur nationwide every single year, and our hope is to shed light on this issue and promote meaningful change at a national level,” read the statement posted on his Twitter account.

Together we stand #OUnited pic.twitter.com/XuZ1RRZ0CU

— Trevor Knight (@trevor_knight9) March 12, 2015

The university closed the SAE house on campus and expelled two students after the video emerged earlier this week, which shows fraternity members chanting, “There will never be a n***** at SAE” and also referred to lynchings and keeping African-Americans out of the fraternity.

“The chant was not invented by the two that led it, but was taught to underclassmen by people of higher authority,” the statement continued. “Being a student at the University of Oklahoma is a privilege, and allowing this culture to thrive is against everything it means to be a Sooner. Ignorance is no excuse.”

The statement added that the players will continue to address the issue when practice resumes next week and will wear black. The players also thanked head coach Bob Stoops and the coaching staff for their support.

The university also issued a statement Thursday, saying President David Boren planned to meet with the captains of the football team following spring break. He also asked the vice president of student affairs to investigate each officer of the fraternity to “determine their responsibility and to make recommendations on appropriate disciplinary action.”

pic.twitter.com/F5Hyzosbgz

— Oklahoma Sooners (@OU_Athletics) March 12, 2015

Statement from OU Director of Athletics, Joe Castiglione pic.twitter.com/2xk0oTdHJs

— Oklahoma Sooners (@OU_Athletics) March 12, 2015

Former fraternity members have claimed the same language was used at other colleges, but the national headquarters has denied being the source of the chant.

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Video Shows Multiple Girls Beating 15-Year-Old in NY McDonald’s

WABC-TV(NEW YORK) — A 15-year-old girl was beaten by several other girls inside a Brooklyn, New York, McDonald’s, and a video of the event captured bystanders watching the fight and interjecting remarks but not intervening for several minutes.

One suspect, who the New York Police Department would not identify, is in custody, though no charges have yet been filed, according to the NYPD.

At least five girls can be seen in the video pushing, punching and slapping the victim, who was wearing a blue hoodie. At one point, the victim can be seen being pushed down to the floor and covering her head with her hands. Yet, the attackers are shown continuously kicking and even dragging the 15-year-old girl.

The video of the beating goes on for more than two-and-a-half minutes. The last few seconds show a few people trying to help the girl get up and sit down, and someone can be heard yelling, “Go get ice! Go get ice!”

An NYPD spokesman who would not give his name said police were unaware of the incident, which occurred Monday afternoon, until they saw the cellphone video surface online.

“We don’t know if anyone called 911,” the NYPD spokesman said. “It appeared online, we saw what happened and we were at the scene after the fight.”

However, the New York Daily News reported that police said McDonald’s employees did call 911.

The victim has not cooperated with authorities, who are actively investigating, the NYPD spokesman added. Police are trying to speak with the victim’s family, he said.

The 15-year-old beating victim was a student at nearby Erasmus High School, which became aware of the incident after it took place, according to a school spokesman.

“A staff member went to the location and accompanied the student to a hospital and waited with her until her parents got there,” the school spokesman said. “Both police and EMS were at the scene when the school staff member arrived.”

The New York City Department of Education said it will have extra counselors available at the Erasmus High School campus for anyone who needs support.

“The actions in this video are abhorrent, and our primary concern right now is for the well-being of the student,” New York Department of Education Deputy Press Secretary Jason Fink told ABC News in a statement.

The 15-year-old student was discharged from a hospital later Monday night but returned Wednesday night because she blacked out, possibly from concussion after effects, community activist Anthony Herbert told ABC News.

Herbert said his organization, Advocates Without Borders, was trying to get the victim and her family to come forward and press charges.

“If we don’t say something, these kids will run away and get away with this [with] impunity,” Herbert said. “I’m working right now to engage a lot of community leaders to create a community outreach task force to address the issues that lead our young people to get caught up in violent activity.”

According to Herbert, the victim said she had an ongoing issue with one of her attackers and she was expecting a fight at the McDonald’s but did not know there were going to be multiple girls ganging up against her.

Paul Goodman, the franchisee of the McDonald’s where the fight allegedly occurred released the following statement: “The safety of my employees and customers is my top priority. In keeping with my restaurant policy, my employees contacted the police at the onset of this situation. As part of the Flatbush community, I will continue to work with the NYPD and community leaders to ensure the safety of customers. Since this is now a under police investigation it would be inappropriate for me to comment further.”

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Nebraska No-Show Cable Guy Prompts Alleged Bomb Threat

iStock/Thinkstock(LINCOLN, Neb.) — Most people have experienced some kind of irritation when dealing with cable providers, but one customer took it to the next level when she allegedly threatened to bomb the Time Warner Cable office in Nebraska.

Mikka Phillips, 23, was frustrated that she took time off work Tuesday to wait at home for her cable appointment and no one from Time Warner Cable showed up to install her service, according to the Lincoln Police Department.

When she called Time Warner Cable to complain, police said, Phillips was told that the company had tried to contact her at the last phone number they had on record, but it was no longer in service.

In the recorded phone call, police said, Phillips “became very angry and started cursing” at the customer service representative before she allegedly added, “I swear to God I’m blowing up that building.”

Police said she then cursed some more before hanging up the call.

The alleged threat was taken seriously and Time Warner’s building in Lincoln was evacuated and searched for a bomb, though no explosives were found.

“The safety of our employees and customers is our top priority, and we take every threat seriously. We are prepared for a number of scenarios in the unlikely event the well-being of our customers and employees is jeopardized,” the company said in a statement.

ABC News has been unable to reach Phillips, and it was not immediately clear whether she has an attorney.

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First Images of Utah, ‘Miracle’ Baby After Surviving Deadly Car Crash

Obtained by ABC News(SALT LAKE CITY) — The first images and video have been released of the recovering “miracle” baby who was in a partially submerged car for nearly 14 hours.

Lily Groesbeck survived hours in a wrecked car in freezing temperatures before being rescued by first responders Saturday. The car was found partially in the Spanish Fork River, outside Salt Lake City, with water so frigid rescuers could only stay in it a few moments at time. Her mother, who was driving, did not survive.

After being rescued, 18-month-old Lily was initially taken to Primary Children’s Hospital in Salt Lake City in stable condition. The video shows Lily, prior to her release from the hospital on Wednesday, playing with her father and singing along to “The Wheels on the Bus.”

“Her improvement is astounding. Right now she’s watching Dora and singing ‘Wheels on the Bus’ with Grandpa,” Lily’s aunt, Jill Sanderson, wrote on the family’s fundraising page earlier this week. “She is smiling and laughing for family members. We’re blown away by Lily’s progress and so grateful to her rescuers.”

Rescuers did not initially realize the toddler was in the car, although officers and firefighters at the scene reported hearing a voice asking for help before locating her. Officials said they believe her mother, Lynn Jennifer Groesbeck, 25, died on impact.

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Ferguson Shooting: Police Officers Released from the Hospital

Michael B. Thomas/Getty Images(FERGUSON, Mo.) — Two Missouri police officers shot overnight in Ferguson were released from the hospital Thursday morning after sustaining non-threatening injuries following a night of renewed protests, the St. Louis County Police said in a Facebook post.

“Both were in serious condition before being released from Barnes Jewish Hospital,” the post read.

The cops, who have not been identified, were “lucky” they weren’t killed, St. Louis County Police Chief Jon Belmar said earlier Thursday.

Belmar said they heard “hear three or four shots ring out” before the officers were hurt, both of whom were seriously wounded from a shooter standing about 150 feet away.

“We are lucky by God’s grace that we didn’t lose two police officers,” he said.

One officer, 41, was struck in the shoulder; the other, 32, in the face, Belmar said.

“With both officers, we don’t have any remarkable long-term injuries,” he added.

[PHOTOS: Tense Moments Following Shooting in Ferguson, Missouri]

Belmar said the shots were fired from an undetermined location north or northwest of the Ferguson Police Department building.

“Ladies and gentleman, we were very close to having what happened to the NYPD. We could have buried two police officers,” Belmar said.

The shooter has not been arrested. The search for the suspect or suspects is the “number one priority” within the St. Louis County police department, according to Belmar.

In a statement Thursday morning, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder said, “This heinous assault on two brave law enforcement officers was inexcusable and repugnant. I condemn violence against any public safety officials in the strongest terms, and the Department of Justice will never accept any threats or violence directed at those who serve and protect our communities. … Such senseless acts of violence threaten the very reforms that nonviolent protesters in Ferguson and around the country have been working towards for the past several months.”

Holder also said he wished the officers “a full and speedy recovery.”

“We stand ready to offer any possible aid to an investigation into this incident, including the department’s full range of investigative resources. And we will continue to stand unequivocally against all acts of violence against cops whenever and wherever they occur,” he added.

Tensions simmered in the city Wednesday after the resignation of the city’s police chief, Tom Jackson. Hundreds of protesters gathered throughout the night, staring down police officers in riot gear.

A handful of people were arrested. Some people chanted, and other flare-ups were reported, unrest rekindled after a Justice Department report documented widespread racial bias in the city.

Jackson’s resignation makes him the sixth person who has been fired or forced to resign since the report was released March 4 detailing what it described as rampant racial bias in policing in the St. Louis suburb.

Lt. Col. Al Eickhoff will take over as the acting chief of police starting Thursday as the city launches a national search for a new chief of police, the letter stated.

Jackson had initially come under fire in August for his department’s handling of the shooting death of unarmed teenager Michael Brown.

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Secret Service Agents Under Investigation for Allegedly Drinking and Driving

jackethead/iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) — Two United States Secret Service agents are under investigation for allegations that they were under the influence of alcohol while driving a government vehicle near the White House, a Secret Service official confirmed to ABC News Wednesday.

The incident, which was first reported by the Washington Post, is being investigated by the Department of Homeland Security Office of Inspector General. A Secret Service spokesperson said that the incident occurred on March 4.

Two senior members of the president’s detail had left a late-night party for a retiring agent when they allegedly hit the barricade near the White House.

The White House said Wednesday that President Obama is aware of the allegations and supports Secret Service Director Joe Clancy’s decision to turn the investigation over to the DHS Inspector General for a thorough review.

“We are aware of the alleged incident,” an Obama administration official told ABC News. “At the request of the Secret Service Director, Joe Clancy, the Department of Homeland Security’s Office of the Inspector General is conducting an investigation into the allegations. We’re not going to comment further while that investigation is ongoing.”

Both agents have been reassigned to non-operational assignments pending the outcome of the investigation.

The Secret Service has been under fire in recent years over a string of incidents including a White House incursion by a fence jumper who made it into the East Room as well as eight agents being dismissed after reports that they allegedly solicited prostitutes during an official trip to Colombia.

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