Review Category : National News

Government Greatly Expands Database Listing Known and Suspected Terrorists

iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) — A government database listing people considered a terrorist threat to the U.S. has grown substantially over the past four years.

Regularly criticized by civil libertarians, the Terrorist Identities Datamart Environment, or TIDE, contained 550,000 names as of March 2010. Currently, there are 1.1 million names in the database.

What has privacy advocates up in arms is that TIDE not only lists people who are known terrorists but also those suspected of being a threat or being related or associated with known or suspected terrorists.

The government does not have to prove any ties to terrorism to include someone on the list. It’s estimated that about 25,000 Americans or legal permanent residents are included.

Furthermore, four in ten on the government’s terrorism watch list, an outgrowth of TIDE, supposedly have no link to terrorism, according to the publication, The Intercept.

TIDE came about following the 2001 attacks in New York, Washington and Pennsylvania by al Qaeda that killed nearly 3,000 people.

The expansion of the database was the result of the near-downing of a Detroit-bound jet on Christmas Day 2009.

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TV Reporter Accused in Handbag Shoplifting Plot

Placer County Sheriff’s Office(SACRAMENTO, Calif.) — An Emmy-winning TV reporter in California is drawing her own headlines, accused of shoplifting thousands of dollars worth of merchandise.

Sabrina Rodriguez, a reporter for Sacramento’s Fox40, was part of a handbag stealing tag-team, police said, acting as a lookout as her then-boyfriend, Nicholas Gray, swiped purses last year from a Coach outlet store.

Gray lifted more than $2,500 in wallets, police said.

Rodriguez, charged with grand theft and second-degree burglary, has not entered a plea. Gray — who had not yet been charged — is behind bars on unrelated charges, including arson.

In court documents, prosecutors said surveillance videos showed Rodriguez picking up and shaking a wallet at Gray, before Gray took the wallets off the store display and placed them in his bag.

While police said Rodriguez admitted to being in the store, she said she didn’t know anything about the alleged thefts.

Prosecutors said a series of text messages suggest otherwise, with Gray allegedly writing, “so easy — I got 100 dlr purses” and ‘I got 8 $350 cashmere sweaters plus skirts I got rent.”

Rodriguez allegedly texted to Gray, “awesome. I love when a plan comes together.”

ABC News Chief Legal Affairs Anchor Dan Abrams said the messages between Gray and Rodriguez could play a huge role as the case proceeds.

“The text messages could be absolutely crucial if the defense here is ‘I had no idea that any of this was happening,’” Abrams said.

Rodriguez resigned from her job Tuesday.

“I am now focusing on life decisions as I move forward with the support of family, friends, viewers and the community,” Rodriguez told ABC News in a statement.

Rodriguez is free on bail and will be back in court this month.

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US General Slain in Afghanistan Remembered for His Passion, Intelligence

U.S. Army/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) — An American flag hangs outside the Falls Church, Virginia, home of Maj. Gen. Harold Greene. Two stars are visible in the window, reflecting his rank.

Greene was killed Tuesday while visiting a military academy in Afghanistan — the highest ranking U.S. official to have been killed in action since the Pentagon attack on Sept. 11, 2001. Greene served 34 years in the Army as an engineer.

Greene’s visit to an Afghan military academy was supposed to be routine, with the general there to observe progress made by the Afghan troops in training.

“He really believed in what he was doing there and was really proud to serve,” said Lt. Col. Juanita Chang.

But Tuesday’s meeting was interrupted by gunfire. One of thousands of the Afghan security forces trained by the United States opened fire, killing the general and wounding 15 others, including eight Americans, one of the bloodiest insider attacks during the war in Afghanistan.

Within seconds, soldiers fired back, killing the gunman.

Greene had been sent to Afghanistan in January — his first deployment to a war zone — following a promotion to deputy commander of training in Afghanistan.

Military officials were saddened to learn about Greene’s death.

“The loss of this individual will be very, very difficult on the force as a whole,” said retired Gen. Peter Chiarelli.

The Army’s top soldier, Gen. Ray Odierno, issued a statement Tuesday evening saying the Army’s thoughts and prayers were with Greene’s family as well as the families of those injured in the attack.

“It is their service and sacrifice that define us as an Army,” Odierno’s statement reads.

Greene received his two-star promotion in August 2012. His wife, Sue Myers, a retired colonel; daughter Amelia, a recent college graduate; and son Matthew, also an active duty soldier, were by his side during the promotion ceremony.

Beyond his service, Greene was also a scholar, holding a Ph.D. and three masters degrees. The registered engineer was a New York native.

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Bus Collision in NY’s Times Square Leaves 15 Injured

ABC News(NEW YORK) — Two double-decker buses collided Tuesday, topping a lamppost in New York’s Times Square in the middle of hundreds of tourists.

“We were just about to cross the street and then this bus driver — crazy, really crazy bus driver — came at a very high speed,” one woman said. “And he hit the lady standing right next to my daughter. And she flew through the air and landed right there. I pulled her back and we hit this pole and yeah, that was it.”

Fifteen were injured — 14 pedestrians and a tour guide on a Gray Line bus. None of the injuries were said to be life-threatening. Five of the pedestrians were injured by the falling light pole.

A tour guide on one of the buses had to be removed after her head got caught under the dashboard. Authorities said she was not badly injured.

“I was sitting on a bench, and I turned around and heard screaming, and I ran,” Rose Cantillon told ABC News affiliate WABC-TV.

Bystanders swooped in to help the injured as some were carried away on stretchers.

Five city blocks were shut down during rush hour, just steps from where tourists line up for tickets to Broadway shows. Police continued to investigate the cause of the crash.

“It was scary. I was praying, hoping nobody get killed,” another eyewitness said. “All I [saw] is just people laying on the ground.”

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Army Probe Set to Open for Ex-Taliban Captive Bowe Bergdahl

Photo via Eugene Fidell(WASHINGTON) — The lawyer representing Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl said the former Taliban prisoner is mentally ready and looking forward to answering questions Wednesday in the opening round of an Army investigation led by Major Gen. Kenneth Dahl.

Bergdahl’s attorney Eugene Fidell told ABC News he spent the day at Ft. Sam Houston preparing Bergdahl for questioning, reviewing investigative reports and materials made available by the Army.

Photos taken during their working session and provided to ABC News show an apparently healthy, intent Bergdahl in military fatigues.

Regarding possible penalties that Bergdahl could face, Fidell told ABC News: “I don’t think any reasonable person would want to send someone who’s already been held captive for five years by the Taliban to jail.“

Bergdahl was freed in a controversial swap earlier this year for five Taliban prisoners who had been held in the American detention center at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

However, there could be unforeseen delays as a military lawyer, based in Honolulu and who has been added to the legal team representing Bergdahl, will not be available until Oct. 1, Fidell said.

Fidell had no comment on whether Bergdahl had spoken with his parents.

Fidell, who teaches military law at Yale, has been tasked with leading Bergdahl’s legal team as the Army investigates the circumstances of Bergdahl’s disappearance from his Afghan outpost and his capture by the Taliban in 2009. Military sources previously told ABC News Bergdahl may have simply walked off the Army base of his own volition, echoing the findings of an internal investigation completed in 2009, according to defense officials.

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Seven Florida Residents Charged with Selling Steroids to Professional Athletes, Students

Ingram Publishing/Thinkstock(MIAMI) — Officials charged seven Florida residents with conspiring to sell performance-enhancing drugs to professional athletes and students, including one man linked to one of the biggest performance-enhancing drug scandals in Major League Baseball.

Among the defendants is Anthony Publio Bosch, 50, who was charged Tuesday with conspiring to distribute steroids through several anti-aging clinics in Miami.

Through his operation, he allegedly worked with recruiters for high school and professional athletes as well as a black market distributor. Officials say many of Bosch’s clients believed him to be a doctor, though he did not have a license to practice medicine, nor did he possess authorization from the Drug Enforcement Administration.

Bosch previously admitted to supplying performance-enhancing drugs to New York Yankees player Alex Rodriguez.

“Anthony Bosch, the self-acclaimed “Best Fake Doctor Ever” has turned in his lab coat for an orange jumpsuit,” said Special Agent in Charge Mark R. Trouville. “Mr. Bosch’s alleged actions were a danger to the minors and adults who consumed his concoctions. I’m so proud of the men and women of the DEA and our law enforcement partners who conducted this investigation, which focused on greedy drug traffickers, who exploited athletes of all ages for their personal gain.”

Six others were charged as a result of the 21-month-long DEA investigation, which included a separate case involving the distribution of “molly.”

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Police: Missing Oregon Mom Found Dead

iStock/Thinkstock(YAMHILL COUNTY, Ore.) — An Oregon mom missing for nearly two weeks has been found dead, authorities said Tuesday.

Jennifer Huston’s SUV was found in a rural and remote area of Yamhill County, the Newberg-Dundee Police Department said. Police swept the area and found her body a short distance away.

Police said nothing indicates foul play but added that the case is an open death investigation.

Huston, 38, disappeared on July 24 after leaving to run errands. She was last seen at a gas station near Portland. Her family has been searching for her ever since, and her distraught husband pleaded for her return in an interview with ABC News last week.

The couple had two sons, ages 2 and 6.

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Bus Collision in NY’s Times Square Leaves 14 Injured

ABC News(NEW YORK) — At least 14 people were injured when two tour buses collided in New York City’s Times Square Tuesday.

Photos from the scene show significant damage to the front of one of the double-decker buses and a downed traffic light.

None of the injuries are said to be life-threatening.

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Bus Collision in NY’s Times Square Leaves 14 Injured

ABC News(NEW YORK) — At least 14 people were injured when two tour buses collided in New York City’s Times Square Tuesday.

Photos from the scene show significant damage to the front of one of the double-decker buses and a downed traffic light.

None of the injuries are said to be life-threatening.

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American Nurse with Ebola Back in US, Making ‘Slow Improvement’

iStock/Thinkstock(ATLANTA) — Nancy Writebol, the American nurse who contracted Ebola while volunteering in Liberia, is said to be improving and is settling in at Emory University in Atlanta.

“Nancy is still very, very weak, but shows continued, but slow improvement,” said SIM USA president Bruce Johnson at a news conference Tuesday afternoon. “She is showing signs of progress and moving in the right direction.”

Unlike her fellow missionary, Dr. Kent Brantly, who walked into the hospital when he arrived on Saturday, Writebol, 59, was taken in on a stretcher. But Johnson said that should not be taken as a reflection of her condition.

“When she was put aboard the aircraft about 1 a.m. Monrovia time today, they took her there on a stretcher, but she could stand up and walk with assistance onto the plane,” Johnson said.

“Nancy is 58 years old, Kent is 33,” Johnson added. “That’s a big difference just in terms of age. … For her to be on a stretcher is not an indication of where she is in Ebola.”

He added that doctors are encouraged by Writebol’s increased appetite and said that she had yogurt before embarking on her nearly day-long plane ride journey to Atlanta.

Writebol’s two sons will be visiting her in the hospital and will get a chance to speak with her through a protective glass barrier. Her husband, David Writebol, who was with her in Liberia as part of his work with SIM, will be returning in the coming days, though those specific plans have not been formalized.

Johnson added that it is still unclear how Nancy Writebol, who is not a doctor but was working in a personnel capacity while at SIM’s hospital in Monrovia, contracted the disease which is believed to spread via contact with infected bodily fluid.

“When this kind of situation happens, it’s all hands on deck and not only Nancy but all of our staff there were asking, ‘How can we help?’” Johnson said. “We don’t know how Nancy contracted this or what she was doing at a particular moment because we don’t know where that contact point was.”

He added that Brantly and Writebol were receiving such good medical care in Liberia that their organizations originally were not going to send them to America for treatment.

“They were receiving extraordinary care in Liberia … but then the opportunity became available,” Johnson said.

Johnson also relayed a statement from David Writebol, who said that watching the Liberian hospital staff take care of his wife “was like watching the love of Christ take place right in front of your eyes.”

Part of the reason why officials decided to fly the Americans to Georgia, Johnson said, was a hope that the team at Emory would be able to work with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, possibly fueling groundbreaking research on Ebola.

The plane carrying Nancy Writebol was the same one that carried Brantly when he arrived in the United States on Saturday. Before landing at Dobbins Air Reserve Base in Atlanta Tuesday, Writebol’s plane stopped in Bangor, Maine, and before that, at a Portuguese air base off the coast of Africa.

Brantly’s wife, Amber, said she has been able to see her husband improve in Emory’s isolation ward every day.

“I know that Kent is receiving the very best medical treatment available,” she said. “I am also thrilled to see that Nancy arrived safely in Atlanta today.”

Relatives of both Brantly and Writebol met for the first time Monday night and prayed together. Brantly’s family has called on the public to pray for Writebol and the Writebols are said to be very thankful for that support.

Nancy Writebol’s arrival in the United States came as U.S. hospitals were exercising caution with a handful of other potential Ebola cases and after health officials in New York lessened fears that a case of Ebola was possible at New York’s Mount Sinai hospital.

“After consultation with CDC and Mount Sinai, the Health Department has concluded that the patient is unlikely to have Ebola,” an official at the New York City Health Department said. “Specimens are being tested for common causes of illness and to definitively exclude Ebola.”

That was not the only international scare reported overnight, as the Saudi Arabian Health Ministry reported that it was testing a man who recently traveled to Sierra Leone, one of the countries with confirmed cases of Ebola.

The man, 40, who has not been identified, is reportedly presenting symptoms of hemorrhagic fever and is in critical condition but is still undergoing tests to rule out other illnesses. He remains in isolation at a hospital in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia.

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