Review Category : National News

Girl in ‘Slender Man’ Attack Improves, But Questions Remain

iStock/Thinkstock(WAUKESHA, Wis.) — The 12-year-old victim of a bizarre stabbing by two friends after a sleepover continues to recover, with hospital officials in Wisconsin upgrading the girl to fair condition.

Her friends, identified as Morgan Geyser and Anissa Weier, both 12, are being charged as adults with attempted first degree intentional homicide, accused of stabbing the victim 19 times on Saturday. They have yet to enter a plea.

According to court documents, the friends believed they would become agents for a fictional Internet character named “Slender Man” by carrying out the killing. You need to kill a person to show your dedication to Slender Man, Weier allegedly stated, according to court documents.

“Many people do not believe Slender Man is real,” she allegedly said, and she wanted to “prove the skeptics wrong.”

Law experts remain perplexed. Wendy Murphy, a criminal attorney and academic at the New England School of Law, says the girls accused in the stabbing have “no conscience” — and she wonders if warning signs preceded their alleged actions.

“I would be surprised if, when all is said and done, this all really came out of nowhere,” Murphy said.

Mark Wegner, the principal of the school the girls attended, told ABC News that school officials were stunned by news of the stabbing.

“They were good kids. There wasn’t any kind of issues, any problems with discipline, anything like that,” Wegner said. “There was nothing that was on the radar for any issues at all here at the school.”

The passing bicyclist who spotted the bleeding victim and called 911, saving her, posted a statement on his door Wednesday.

“Our family wishes to offer its thoughts and prayers to the victim, her family and the entire community, which is profoundly shocked and saddened by the recent event,” the statement reads.

The situation has rocked Waukesha, a 70,000-population city ranked by Money magazine as one of the “100 Best Places to Live” in 2012.

Wegner said the community’s character has emerged due to the situation.

“When things like this happen, people naturally kind of pull together, and I think that is occurring already,” Wegner said. “It’s a tragic situation but something that will pull us together as well.”

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Sterling Clears Sale of Clippers to Ballmer

ROBYN BECK/AFP/Getty Images(LOS ANGELES) — Donald Sterling, who bought the Los Angeles Clippers for around $12 million in 1981, has decided to allow the sale of the team to go through to former Microsoft Chief Executive Steve Ballmer for an estimated $2 billion.

This apparently ends the ongoing battle between Sterling and the NBA, which had suspended and fined the Clippers owner for racist comments he made to an assistant in April. Commissioner Adam Silver also demanded that Sterling sell the L.A. franchise, upon the approval of most of the NBA’s 29 owners.

Sterling filed a $1 billion lawsuit against the NBA, contesting the charges against him, and there was also talk he might try to block the sale of the Clippers to Ballmer that was brokered by his wife, Shelly Sterling, last week.

However, Sterling’s attorney, Max Belcher, said Wednesday his client would not contest the sale to Ballmer nor would he move forward with his lawsuit, provided the NBA drop its charges against Sterling and pursue no lawsuits on their own.

The $2 billion sale of the Los Angeles Clippers, a record for a NBA franchise and second only to the Los Angeles Dodgers for a U.S. pro sports team, still needs to be approved by the NBA owners.
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The Chilling Scene After Jet Crashes in California Neighborhood

iStock/Thinkstock(IMPERIAL, Calif.) — A Marine jet crashed into a neighborhood in Imperial, California Wednesday, exploding and setting nearby homes on fire.

The pilot ejected safely and was transported to a local hospital with minor injuries, officials with Marine Corps Air Station Miramar said. No civilian injuries have been reported.

Smoke from the crash could be seen for miles.

The flames smoldered, fueling residents’ fears.

Emergency crews rushed to the crash site.

The flames consumed nearby cars, turning them into twisted metal and ash.

Heavy black smoke billowed from the crash site.

People were transfixed by the scene.

@10News pic.twitter.com/CSQNtjabd3

— AbelH3 () (@AH3_) June 5, 2014

Firefighters used water to subdue the flames, eventually putting the fire out, the end to a scary — but miraculously not fatal — jet crash.

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Bowe Bergdahl Appeared ‘Drugged’ in Proof-of-Life Video

ABC News(WASHINGTON) — Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl appeared drugged but not near-death in a proof-of-life video, several U.S. senators said Wednesday evening after a classified briefing where a clip was shown as part of a multimedia presentation by several senior administration officials at the Capitol.

“It appeared that [Bergdahl] was drugged, and that he was barely responsive in the video itself,” Sen. Saxby Chambliss of Georgia, the ranking Republican on the Senate Intelligence Committee, told reporters. “I don’t think from a health standpoint there was any issue that dictated the release of these five nasty killers in exchange for Bergdahl.”

Sen. Joe Manchin said he was not convinced that Bergdahl’s life was in danger based on what he saw on the video, which remains classified, particularly given his apparent condition shown in a video released by the Taliban who captured his transfer back to U.S. custody in Afghanistan Saturday.

“That did not sell me at all. The proof of life was basically five months ago. December? At that time he was impaired,” Manchin, D-W.V., said. “That is not the person that was released here. He was not in that type of dire situation when he was released.”

Administration officials have argued that Bergdahl’s health had deteriorated to the point where President Obama believed his immediate extraction was necessary, despite the legal requirement that Congress be notified 30 days in advance of the transfer of any Guantanamo detainees.

Manchin also raised questions about Bergdahl, 28, and his parents’ outreach and communication with the Taliban. “We all agree that we’re not dealing with a war hero.” he said. “We’re dealing with a soldier who should be looked in more extensively. There’s a lot to be answered here and there’s a lot of peculiar behavior that’s gone on between the family, this solider and his actions.”

Several senators who attending the classified briefing also said the administration officials failed to present a compelling case that the five Taliban will not re-enter the fight after they are able to leave Qatar next year. “I was not satisfied from the briefing that I received today that the conditions that they’ve agreed upon are sufficient to ensure that they won’t re-engage back in the fight against us and threaten either Americans or our allies in some way,” Sen. Kelly Ayotte, R-N.H., said.

“We have a 29 percent re-engagement rate from Guantanamo and I would argue that the conditions upon which these five detainees will be held is a real troubling aspect of this whole thing because four of them, at least, are very high-level members of the Taliban.”

Sen. Marco Rubio, a member of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence and potential candidate for president in 2016, said by negotiating with the Taliban, Obama has established a precedent that could encourage terrorists to kidnap soldiers in the years to come.

“The president has now set a precedent that will encourage enemies of the United States to target American men and women in uniform, to capture them in order to carry out some other exchange in the future,” Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., added. “There is no question that the president violated the law by not notifying Congress, but to me the most pressing challenge that we face is the fact that the president has now released five of the most dangerous individuals in Guantanamo, if not the five most dangerous.”

Manchin said he was also worried that the released detainees will re-engage the fight. “These are all high-level people. This is not low level,” he said. “These are people who basically have the ability to go back and hit the ground running, and we’re concerned about that.”

U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel called Bergdahl’s family by phone Wednesday.

Meanwhile, Berdgahl’s hometown of Hailey, Idaho, has canceled his homecoming celebration – organizers there are citing security concerns after the town was inundated with negative e-mails and angry phone calls.

Hagel has agreed to testify before the House Armed Services Committee next week about the Bergdahl transfer.

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Military Jet Crashes in Southern California Neighborhood

@danielurias(IMPERIAL, Calif.) — A military fighter jet crashed in a residential neighborhood in southern California on Wednesday, setting fire to at least one home.

The plane went down in a neighborhood in Imperial, California, east of San Diego.

The military says the pilot ejected safely, but there was no immediate official word on whether there were casualties on the ground.

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Suspect Arrested in Fatal Stabbing of 6-Year-Old in New York City

Stockbyte/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) — A suspect has been arrested in connection with a stabbing of two children last weekend in New York City.

Police said Daniel St. Hubert, 27, was caught a short time after police publicized his name. He was charged with a crime that shocked the Brooklyn neighborhood where 6-year-old P.J. Avitto lived. Avitto and a friend were thinking of getting ice cream on Sunday evening when police say St. Hubert attacked the children in the elevator of their building with a kitchen knife.

The friend, seven-year-old Mikayla Capers, survived, but Avitto died at the hospital.

At the time of the stabbing, St. Hubert had been on parole little more than a week, police said.

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Obama’s Polish Gym Workout Captured on Video

File photo. Pete Souza / The White House(WARSAW) — It all started on Tuesday when a website published photos of a man who looks like President Obama working out in a gym. The photos posted by the website Plotek.Pl came from a Facebook user identified as Jean Ekwa.

And Wednesday the celebrity gossip website TMZ upped the ante — posting a video of the president pumping iron. WATCH IT HERE.

The U.S. Secret Service confirmed the authenticity of the video, adding a few details in a statement to ABC News:

  • The referenced images and video of the president exercising were taken during an “off-the-record,” or unscheduled, movement at the Marriott Hotel Warsaw gym.
  • Hotel guests were not asked to leave the gym during this off-the-record movement, nor were they asked to refrain from taking pictures.
  • All guests entering the hotel are screened prior to entry.
  • Secret Service agents were in proximity to the president while he was in the gym.
  • This is no different than if the president visited a restaurant off the record and other diners took pictures of him.

President Obama arrived in Poland Tuesday morning for the start of a four-day, three-country tour through Europe. He flew on to Brussels on Wednesday.

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Bounce Castle Survivor’s ‘Eyes Were Opened in Shock’

ABC News(LITTLETON, Colo.) — The 11-year-old Colorado boy who flew nearly 300 feet across a park Saturday while trapped inside a bounce house said he had “blacked out” by the time the house finally came to a stop.

“It was like I was picked up into the air and I was just thrown around a lot,” A.J. Ruder told ABC News. “I couldn’t get a grip on anything.”

“By the time I hit the ground, I just pretty much blacked out,” he said.

A.J. and his family were at a park in Littleton, Colorado, Saturday to cheer on his siblings playing in a lacrosse tournament. He and a friend, 12-year-old Madison Kelsay, also there for the tournament, were playing on the bounce house slide when a sudden gust of wind slammed the slide repeatedly and violently into the ground.

Madison fell out of the bounce house almost immediately while A.J. remained trapped inside until the house came to a stop and his parents came to his rescue.

“He was emotionless, expressionless,” A.J.’s dad, Brian Ruder, told ABC News. “His eyes were opened in shock.”

Madison’s mother, Cassie Kelsay, remembered approaching the bounce house and just seeing a body lying on the ground.

“It was just complete terror,” she said.

“I remember my mom coming up and she started crying,” said Madison.

Both A.J. and Madison escaped with minor injuries.

A.J. told ABC News he never wants to go into a bounce house again, while Madison said it will be a long time before she goes back inside one, if ever.

The owner of the company operating the bounce house slide, Airbound, told ABC News it was properly staked to the ground at the time it took off in the air.

“We feel terrible for what happened,” the company told ABC News in a statement. “Safety is our No. 1 concern.”

The Colorado bounce house accident came just weeks after two children were seriously injured when a gust of wind sent a bounce house they were playing in sailing in upstate New York.

In 2011, 13 people were sent to the hospital after a bouncy slide in Long Island, New York, flew away, also in a gust of wind.

Both the Ruder and Kelsay families said they would like to see tighter restrictions on bounce houses to prevent future accidents.

“The last thing I want to see is another kid go through this,” said Shane Kelsay, Madison’s father.

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Bear Tranquilized After Breaking into Utah Man’s Cabin

iStock/Thinkstock(SALT LAKE CITY) — A young, female black bear has been tranquilized and released into the wild after it broke into a Utah man’s house.

Spencer Ball, a cabin owner in Big Cottonwood Canyon, Utah, was having breakfast in his living room on Monday when he spotted the unwelcome guest licking a hummingbird feeder on his porch, ABC News affiliate KTRK reported.

After smelling the bucket full of peanuts in Ball’s living room, the bear pushed open a lever doorknob and walked straight into the living room, KTRK reported.

“Bears’ sense of smell is very acute,” said Scott Root, outreach manager at Utah Division of Wildlife Resources. “Doors are not completely airtight and bears can smell what is inside the house.”

Ball added, “[The bear] looked around everywhere. It was aware I was here.”

He slowly retreated upstairs, dialed 911, grabbed a pistol and barricaded himself in a bedroom.

A few hours later, biologists from the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources arrived and tranquilized the bear. The biologists released it into the Spanish Fork Canyon, away from cabins, campers and livestock.

“This was a very lucky situation,” Root said. “The bear didn’t do anything aggressive.”

Ball, who had been living in his cabin since 1991, said he had never seen a bear near his home before. According to Root, house break-ins by bears are very rare.

“This is a habitat for bears, but they tend to stay away from humans,” Root said. “The bears that visit houses tend to be the younger bears who are living on their own for the first year.”

Root encourages local residents to clean up their grills, trash cans and bird feeders.

“It is usually the odor of food that attracts them,” he said.

“If you encounter a bear in the woods, avoid direct eye contact with it, raise your arm to appear larger and make a lot of noises,” Root added. “Bears are not used to loud noises, and they tend to run away.

“Wild animals are unpredictable, so always stay alert,” Root said. “Bring a bear spray with you if you can.”

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New Hope for Coal Miners Seeking Black Lung Benefits

ABC News(NEW YORK) — Citing an investigative report by ABC News and the Center for Public Integrity, the U.S. Department of Labor has ordered officials handling black lung claims from mine workers to stop relying on the medical opinions of a leading Johns Hopkins doctor whose work for coal companies helped lead to benefits being denied to thousands of miners over the last two decades.

The Labor Department’s senior attorney told ABC News the agency is now preparing to notify every miner whose benefits were denied based in part on the doctor’s X-ray readings that they should consider reapplying for those benefits.

“This sends a signal that the Department of Labor hasn’t sent in a long time,” said Sen. Robert Casey, D-Penn. “That they’re not going to tolerate a system that’s rigged.”

The Labor Department action comes in response to a joint, year-long investigation by ABC News and the Center for Public Integrity that found the head of the Hopkins black lung program, Dr. Paul S. Wheeler, had not reported a single instance of severe black lung in the more than 1,500 claims that the news outlets reviewed going back to the year 2000.

Labor department officials said they were unaware of Wheeler’s record until the ABC News report was broadcast.

“It was shocking,” said Patricia Smith, the Labor Department solicitor, in an interview to be broadcast Wednesday night on ABC’s World News With Diane Sawyer and Nightline.

In a bulletin sent this week, the Labor Department’s district directors were instructed to “(1) take notice of this reporting and (2) not credit Dr. Wheeler’s negative readings…in the absence of persuasive evidence” challenging the conclusions of the news organizations.

“My judgment of his credibility is that unless someone can convince us otherwise, that anyone who has done that many readings and never found black lung isn’t probably credible,” Smith said.

In court testimony in 2009, Wheeler said the last time he recalled finding a case of severe black lung, a finding that would automatically qualify a miner for benefits under a special federal program, was in “the 1970s or the early 80s.”

Hopkins suspended Wheeler’s black lung unit a few days after the ABC News/CPI report was broadcast and posted online.

Hopkins said it would conduct its own internal investigation, which a spokesperson said remains ongoing.

Reached by phone Tuesday evening, Wheeler said he hopes to be cleared by the internal Hopkins investigation — which he said is being conducted by the Washington, D.C., law firm Patton Boggs.

“The hospital still believes in my approach,” he said.

Wheeler told ABC News he is unmoved by the Labor Department bulletin.

“They’re not doctors,” he said. “If they were from qualified medical institutions, I would be very unhappy.”

Wheeler’s readings and others like it had become a key component of the legal effort by coal companies to fight mine workers as they sought to collect the roughly $1,000-a-month benefit intended to compensate them if they contracted the deadly lung disease during a career of hard work in underground shafts.

Wheeler said during a lengthy interview with ABC News last fall that he could not conclude the coal miners had black lung without first seeing a biopsy — a step not required by the government program that provides financial support to coal miners who have fallen ill with the deadly disease. He said other maladies were as likely, or more likely, to cause lung damage that could be mistaken as black lung.

“That’s my opinion, and I have a perfect right to my opinion,” he said.

For his work, coal companies paid Hopkins $750 for each X-ray he reads for black lung, about 10 times the amount miners typically pay their doctors.

One leading expert in black lung, Dr. Jack Parker of West Virginia University, called Wheeler’s X-ray readings “intellectually dishonest.”

This week’s move by the Labor Department came just hours before a scheduled ABC News interview about several new cases in which coal workers saw their applications for black lung benefits turned down based in part on Wheeler X-ray readings that had been submitted prior to the ABC News report.

Among them was the case of Gerald “Wayne” Cordle, who spent 26 years in the mines but in recent years began feeling short of breath when he would mow the lawn or climb stairs. Each year, he said, it continued to get worse.

It was only after his doctor diagnosed him with black lung that he applied for benefits that miners are entitled to receive if they contract a severe form of the deadly lung disease.

In January, two months after the ABC News/CPI report, the Labor Department rejected Cordle’s claim citing, in part, Wheeler’s conclusion that his X-ray did not show black lung.

“Well it was really a letdown, a big letdown,” Cordle said, “because I felt like I was entitled to it by all indications.”

“The reports I was getting on my X-rays said I had complicated black lung, and then they come up with one x-ray [from Dr. Wheeler], and the Labor Board rules in their favor,” he said.

Cordle’s lawyer, Joseph Wolfe, filed an appeal citing the news reports about Wheeler and the Hopkins black lung program. In the appeal, he noted that Wheeler’s track record as documented in the news reports “diminishes the probative value of his readings in this case.”

“What I noticed was that the Department of Labor hadn’t connected the dots,” Wolfe said. “They gave him equal weight [to other doctors] when he’s been discredited — even Johns Hopkins, which is the number one hospital in America, has dropped their program.”

On May 29, Casey and U.S. Rep. George Miller, D-Calif., wrote a letter to Labor Secretary Tom Perez asking why Hopkins X-rays were continuing to be used to deny coal miner black lung claims. Moreover, the letter asked the department “to assess, based on the new information presented in the investigative report, whether it has the authority to review, and where appropriate, reopen cases where claimants may have been wrongfully denied black lung benefits because the Department was misled by tainted medical evidence.”

“To the extent it is permissible, I am sure you would agree that the claims of these miners and their survivors deserve a second look,” the letter says.

Smith said the Labor Department began work on a strategy soon after the news report aired to help resolve what she said was recognized as an imbalance in the process of evaluating black lung claims by coal miners.

“We sat down among ourselves here in the department and we tried to think of ways to improve the system,” said Smith, who is the senior Labor Department lawyer.

Now, Cordle may be one of the first beneficiaries of the Labor Department’s new approach.

Smith said the department was aware of Cordle’s case, along with several others, which she said would likely be re-examined.

Smith said the department has also initiated two pilot programs aimed at giving miners a second look at medical evidence that was being used against them, and has drafted new regulations aimed at requiring coal company lawyers to turn over all medical evidence they gather — even when that evidence proves the coal miner has a severe case of black lung disease. Those are now under review.

Miller, who is the ranking Democrat on the committee that oversees labor issues, told ABC News he believes there is more work to be done.

“The coal mining company’s lawyers have unlimited funds to discredit the reading of an X-ray with black lung and the coal miner is very limited because it’s coming out of his pocket,” Miller said. “So this whole deck is stacked against a miner who may be very seriously ill with black lung and disabled and can’t go to work and yet it may take many years to get the first payment to that coal miner.”

“This gives new meaning to the phrase justice delayed is justice denied,” Casey said. “There is more work to be done.”

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