Review Category : National News

NASA Completes Initial Assessment of Virginia Launch Site Following Rocket Explosion

Image Credit: NASA/Terry Zaperach(WALLOPS, Va.) — NASA said on Wednesday that the Wallops Incident Response Team completed its initial assessment after Orbital Science Corporation’s Antares rocket exploded seconds after liftoff on Tuesday.

“I want to praise the launch team, range safety, all of our emergency responders and those who provided mutual aid and support on a highly-professional response that ensured the safety of our most important resource — our people,” Wallops Director Bill Wrobel said. The initial assessment is just a “cursory look,” the NASA press release notes, though it found numerous broken windows and imploded doors at buildings in the immediate area.

The most severe damage was found at a sounding rocket launcher adjacent to the launchpad and buildings nearest the pad, and there was damage to the transporter erector launcher and lightning supression rods at Pad 0A.

Soil, air and water samples will be taken from the incident area to ensure that the environment is safe. No hazardous substances were detected in initial sampling.

Also on Wednesday, Orbital said in a statement that the “major elements of the launch complex infrastructure…avoided serious damage.”

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Steady Stream of Lava Visible From Space

Photo by Andrew Hara/Getty Images(PAHOA, Hawaii) — Lava has rolled nearly 300 feet closer towards a main road on the Big Island of Hawaii and there is no indication that it is going to stop.

The spread of the lava and the smoke coming off the volcanic liquid can be seen from space, and NASA released images showing its destructive path.

The lava is oozing forward at about 10 yards per hour near Pahoa Village Road and is headed in a northeastern direction. The flow is now 240 yards from the road, officials said.

Residents in the down slope of the lava flow path have been given an evacuation advisory and those with respiratory issues have been warned to stay indoors.

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Eric Frein Manhunt Hopes Deflated by Balloon’s Failure

Pennsylvania Dept of Transportation(CANADENSIS, Pa.) — A giant helium balloon sent to Pennsylvania to aid in the manhunt for accused cop killer Eric Frein was returned after just one day, police said.

The unmanned balloon came from Ohio and was supposed to be quieter than a helicopter and provide similar technology to aviation equipment being used in the search, but at a lower cost, police said. But it was returned just a day later, police said on Wednesday.

“Due to the tree canopy and rugged terrain of our search area the balloon was not as helpful as everyone hoped it would be,” said Trooper Tom Kelly, a spokesman for the Pennsylvania State Police.

The balloon was the latest tactic police employed in the ongoing search for Frein, accused of killing one state trooper and injuring another when he allegedly ambushed the Blooming Grove police barracks on Sept. 12.

Police believe he’s been hiding in the woods for nearly seven weeks.

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Eric Frein Manhunt Hopes Deflated by Balloon’s Failure

Pennsylvania Dept of Transportation(CANADENSIS, Pa.) — A giant helium balloon sent to Pennsylvania to aid in the manhunt for accused cop killer Eric Frein was returned after just one day, police said.

The unmanned balloon came from Ohio and was supposed to be quieter than a helicopter and provide similar technology to aviation equipment being used in the search, but at a lower cost, police said. But it was returned just a day later, police said on Wednesday.

“Due to the tree canopy and rugged terrain of our search area the balloon was not as helpful as everyone hoped it would be,” said Trooper Tom Kelly, a spokesman for the Pennsylvania State Police.

The balloon was the latest tactic police employed in the ongoing search for Frein, accused of killing one state trooper and injuring another when he allegedly ambushed the Blooming Grove police barracks on Sept. 12.

Police believe he’s been hiding in the woods for nearly seven weeks.

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How Vine Star’s Speedo Stunt Hit Turbulence at 30,000 Feet

Jerome Jarre(MIAMI) — A prank involving a skintight swimsuit and an inflatable pool toy aboard an American Airlines flight caused turbulence for a social media star and ended up with police meeting him at his flight’s destination in Miami, the airline said.

Jerome Jarre, a Vine star with 7.5 million followers, tweeted that he was about to be arrested and asked for help from his followers as the drama unfolded Tuesday.

LANDING IN MIAMI IN 3 MINUTES. ABOUT TO BE ARRESTED. I NEED YOUR HELP!!!

— JEROME JARRE (@jeromejarre) October 28, 2014

The prank, which Jarre said he planned to release as a YouTube video, did not go over well with the crew on the Mexico-Miami flight, which had law enforcement meet the plane at the gate, though Jarre wasn’t charged, according to American Airlines.

“Speedos are great on the beach but no one wants to see them dancing down the aisle at 30,000 feet,” an American Airlines spokesman told ABC News.

In an email sent to ABC News, Jarre said his “goal was not to scare anyone but making people laugh.”

Jarre managed to keep tweeting right before meeting police, asking his followers to help him avoid deeper trouble by tweeting and retweeting with the hashtag, #AmericanAirlinesCHILLOUT.

JUST LANDED. ABOUT TO BE ARRESTED. PLEASE TWEET & RT #AmericanAirlinesCHILLOUT

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Up to 50 Hawaiian Buildings at Risk as Lava Flow Advances

ABC News (PAHOA, Hawaii) — A lava flow has reached properties in a small Hawaiian town, burning at least one building, with 40 to 50 homes and businesses at risk, officials said.

Thick clouds of smoke blanketed Pahoa on the Big Island as the river of molten lava seeped toward front doors.

Residents such as Sarah Williams focused on packing, trying to save anything they could.

“We’ve had so much to do that we’ve really just stayed focused on what we’ve had to do,” she said. “Luckily, it’s slow. But that’s also the downside, is it’s painfully slow in a way.”

The lava has left fiery destruction in its wake, swallowing structures and other materials in a ball of flames. Utility poles are being insulated and surrounded by dirt, with authorities hopeful that the lava will go around the utility poles.

Since Kilauea’s current eruption began in 1983, unstoppable lava flows have added 500 new acres to the island and destroyed at least 181 homes, a visitor center, a church and a community center, according the National Park Service.

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Extra Chills Coming in Halloween Forecast

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) — After a very mild start to the week for most of the country, a cold front is bringing some of the coldest weather of the season to the eastern United States just in time for Halloween. And yes, there is a chance of Halloween snow for some.

Two storm systems could affect the country for Halloween. One will be in the Great Lakes and the other will be along the West Coast.

In the Great Lakes, cold air will be spilling in with gusty winds and snow showers, especially from Michigan to West Virginia where some areas could get a few inches of very wet autumn snow. The Northeast will be mostly dry Friday with cooler temperatures mostly in the 50s.

The second storm system will move into the West Coast from San Francisco to Seattle with rain in the lower elevations and snow in the Sierra and Cascade Mountains.

Most of the Plains and the South will be dry. However, it will be turning cooler from Dallas to Atlanta with highs at or below normal. The only areas in the country that will have a true summer-like feel will be in the desert Southwest with Phoenix topping out in the 90s. Orlando, Florida and Miami can expect temperatures in the 80s.

If you have plans this weekend on the East Coast, you should monitor the possibility of development of a coastal storm. Major cities along the I-95 corridor will see rain and wind but further north and inland, rain could turn to snow.

The heaviest accumulations of snow will be away from the coast in Vermont, New Hampshire and Maine. Higher elevations of the White Mountains could get more than a half a foot of snow. Portland, Maine could see a dusting as well.

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Air Force Cadet: I Blew the Whistle on Football Players, Sex Assaults

ABC News(NEW YORK) — As the Air Force Academy football team heads to West Point for the big game against Army this weekend, the new superintendent is going on the offense against allegations the school has a culture of tolerating sexual violence by football players and other cadet athletes.

“We want to acknowledge it, we own it and we want to move on. We want to do better,” said Lt. Gen. Michelle Johnson in an interview to be broadcast Wednesday night on ABC’s World News Tonight with David Muir and Nightline.

Johnson was appointed superintendent after an investigation led to the court-martials of two football players for sexual assault and the dismissals or resignations of 15 other cadets.

The case was first reported by the Colorado Springs Gazette.

“It’s profoundly disappointing, especially at our institution,” said Johnson, adding the Air Force does not intend to deny there had been a problem she described as “bad.”

The Air Force’s rival this weekend, West Point Academy, is playing under its own cloud of scandal, as the school’s athletic program has come under fire in recent days for allegedly using the lure of booze and women to recruit high school phenoms.

The Air Force Academy has recruited cadet athletes to produce a video urging others to report any instance of sexual assault or violence, as well as other initiatives it says it has implemented on campus to address the issue and “instill a culture of commitment and climate of respect.”

“I feel like now that this has been out in the media, we hold each other better accountable,” said Christian Spears, a member of the Air Force football team.

But even as the Air Force Academy says it is trying to move forward, members of Congress are raising questions about the dismissal of a cadet who worked undercover to expose sexual violence.

”It’s a case of retaliation,” said Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., who along with Sen. John Thune, D-S.D., has asked for a new investigation of the Air Force handling of the case.

For nearly a year, Eric Thomas worked as an undercover cadet, secretly feeding information to agents of the Air Force Office of Special Investigation about alleged sexual assaults and other crimes and misconduct by his fellow cadets.

“If I heard it was sexual assault, I would report it,” Thomas told ABC News. “The information I’m providing is what every other cadet should provide.”

Thomas’ information helped break a code of silence about the sexual assaults and members of the football team, said Brandon Enos, the agent with the Office of Special Investigations who handled Thomas at the time.

“I can confidently say there would have been no convictions at the academy probably to this day without Eric,” Enos told ABC News in his first broadcast interview.

But despite the success of what was called Operation Gridiron, Thomas was branded a problem and dismissed from the Academy for misbehavior.

“I was crucified, I was told how much of a terrible cadet I was,” Thomas said.

Thomas claims that many of the demerits he accumulated were because of his undercover assignment which required him to leave campus without approval and to attend parties with other cadet athletes.

An investigation by the Air Force Inspector General concluded most of the demerits he earned were not connected to his undercover work.

And the then-superintendent Lt. Gen. Michael Gould, said he had no hesitation in kicking Thomas out of the academy.

“He deserved to be disenrolled,” he told ABC News. “You would not want that particular individual to be an officer in our Air Force today.”

Gould said he did not accept that Thomas played an important role in uncovering cases of sexual assault at the Academy.

“I don’t really buy into the fact that he helped bring these cases,” Gould said.

But even the Air Force Inspector General gives Thomas credit for helping to bring the cases in Operation Gridiron.

“His work definitely helped the Office of Special Investigations in their investigation and later on helped obtain a couple of court-martial trials,” said Tim Timmons of the Inspector General’s office.

And the agent who handled Thomas, Brandon Enos, says he was ordered not to come to Thomas’ defense at the hearing where his status was being decided.

“Here’s a man that actually upheld the honor code and he gets hammered and kicked out of the academy,” said Enos. “And the message that sends to everybody is, ‘You don’t talk about sexual assaults.’”

Enos says he also faced retaliation for his efforts in bringing the cases, and was forced out of the Air Force after being given what he calls punishment assignments.

“I was vacuuming floors, taking out trash, just really degrading things,” Enos said.

Thomas approached Protect Our Defenders, a group that traditionally represents service members who have been raped or sexually assaulted, for help with his case. He is now being represented by the organization’s Pro Bono Legal Network.

“Special Agent Enos and (then) Cadet Thomas were punished for taking sexual assaults at the Academy seriously and attempting to hold accountable those who perpetrated violence and created a dangerous and hostile environment,” said Nancy Parrish, president of Protect Our Defenders. “But after their work led to the first prosecutions of sexual assault at the Academy in over ten years, the Air Force Academy responded by sweeping further cases under the rug.”

Sens. Gillibrand and Thune say an independent investigation is required “to get to the bottom of the facts concerning the circumstances” of what happened to Enos and Thomas.

Thomas now works at a nutrition store at Ellsworth Air Force base near his home in South Dakota, still holding onto the dream that he might one day fly jets for the Air Force.

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Why Baltimore Is Hesitant to Open a 100-Year-Old Time Capsule

Mount Vernon Place Conservancy(BALTIMORE) — The 100-year old time capsule discovered at Baltimore’s Washington Monument during a restoration project is so old that officials are hesitant to even open it.

It will be moved to nearby Walters Art Museum where conservators will assess its condition and determine when it will be safe to open the box, according to the Mount Vernon Place Conservancy.

The contents may have been exposed to the monument’s dampness for a century and may be in poor condition, officials said.

Designed by architect Robert Mills, the nearly 200-year-old monument was the first one to honor the nation’s first president. Work began on the monument in 1815 and ended 1829. Mills designed the larger Washington Monument in the nation’s capital years later.

The sealed copper box was behind a plaque commemorating the monument’s centennial on Defender’s Day, Sept. 12, 1915.

The initial discovery was made while project superintendent George Wilk II was investigating how the plaque was attached to the wall, the conservancy said.

The capsule may contain copies of commemorate programs, issues of The Baltimore Sun newspaper and other items, the conservancy said.

“We were hoping that the plaster in the niche might give us clues as to the appearance of the original plaster in the museum room,” Lance Humphries, chair of the conservancy’s restoration committee, said in a statement. “Little did we realize that there was an actual time capsule stashed behind the plaque.”

The Mount Vernon Place Conservancy has led a $5.5 million restoration of the monument since January.

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Vanished Broncos Fan ‘Decided to Go for a Walk,’ Police Say

Tia Bakke(DENVER) — A Colorado man who vanished at a Denver Broncos game, then turned up more than 100 miles away five days later, told police he “had his fill of football and decided to go for a walk,” according to a police statement.

Paul Kitterman, 53, was “medically sound” when they found him in a K-Mart parking lot Tuesday, the Pueblo, Colorado Police Department said.

“He wanted to walk ‘somewhere warmer,'” the Pueblo police statement read. “Kitterman mentioned sleeping in treed areas and in bushes during his journey to Pueblo and even mentioned disposing of his Broncos hat as he did not want to be recognized.”

Kitterman told police he was tired, so a police department chaplain found a room for him to sleep in while officials called his relatives to come pick him up.

“He was speaking and answering questions intelligibly that were asked of him,” the statement read.

Kitterman’s relatives earlier thanked the public for its help but did not explain his disappearance.

“The family is happy to report Paul has been found and they are now with him and he is safe,” relatives wrote in a statement posted on a Facebook page dedicated to Kitterman’s case.

“We know there are many questions that some of you may have but for the time being we are asking that you respect [their] privacy as they have been through a lot,” the family statement read. “We love all of you and we will never forget your kindness, compassion, and your willingness to help us find Paul.”

Denver Police said Kitterman, a construction worker from Kremmling, Colorado, was found in Pueblo, Colorado, on Tuesday. He was unharmed and “no foul play was suspected,” police said, revealing few other details and deferring questions to Kitterman’s family.

Kitterman’s friend Tia Bakke, who was at the game on Thursday, said that he did not have his cellphone or any credit cards with him at the time he disappeared, bringing only about $50 cash to the game.

Before he was found, Kitterman was last seen at the game on Thursday around halftime when he told his stepson that he was going to meet Bakke and another friend who were sitting in a different section.

Bakke said that he appeared to be in a good mood when while at Sports Authority Stadium, and he said that it was “awesome” to experience his first Broncos game in person.

“He would never bail on his son or anyone, so by Friday night we knew something was really, really, wrong,” Bakke told ABC News.

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