Review Category : National News

‘Not This Clinic': VA Calls Alleged Mistreatment of Veteran ‘Unacceptable’

Photo by John Moore/Getty Images(OAKWOOD, Ga.) — A troubling video by an Iraq War veteran posted to YouTube Tuesday has led the Department of Veterans Affairs to issue an statement acknowledging what appears to be mistreatment of a man seeking help for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.

The veteran, identified by the nonprofit North Georgia Veteran’s Outreach Center as Chris Dorsey, is shown in the video approaching a counter at the VA Community Based Outpatient Clinic in Oakwood, Ga.

After waiting for more than five minutes, Dorsey tells a man at the counter he was previously receiving care at a clinic in Athens, Ga., but had lost his job and needed to switch clinics.

In the video, the man at the counter can be heard saying, “We’re not accepting any new patients.”

Dorsey replies, “The VA is not accepting any new patients?”

The man then says, “Not this clinic.”

Dorsey then walks away from the counter, saying, “Wonder why 22 veterans kill themselves every day.”

In a statement to ABC News, the Department of Veterans Affairs said the message Dorsey was given “is completely unacceptable and will not be tolerated.”

“It is inconsistent with our ICARE values, which include commitment and advocacy to and for our nation’s veterans, our patients,” the statement reads. “VA staff should have established a full understanding of Mr. Dorsey’s medical situation and determined if an appointment was available for him at another location or if he was eligible for the Choice Program and could be seen outside of VA.”

The VA’s statement said leadership at Atlanta’s medical center is reaching out to Dorsey to try and give him help, and facility officials “are implementing a plan to re-train front line staff in the appropriate way to inform veterans about the options they have available to them.”

The video surfaced at a time of increased scrutiny for the department, following a series of scandals involving extensive wait times and falsified records in several VA hospitals. As the VA has attempted reforms, a recent New York Times report suggests the number of veterans on waiting lists of one month or more is 50 percent higher than when the scandal first broke more than a year ago.

ABC News has reached out to Dorsey for comment, but has not yet received a response.

Copyright © 2015, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

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Texas Farmer Killed After Tractor Disturbs Bee Hive

Crews exterminated a 15-20 foot long bee hive on a farm in Lozano, Texas on June 28, 2015, after a farmer died from a bee attack. (Raul R. Zuniga Jr.)(LOZANO, Texas) — A third-generation Texas farmer was killed by a bee attack after he disturbed an enormous hive.

Rogerio Zuniga was on his tractor in Lozano, Texas on Sunday when he hit an 18-inch diameter pipe enraging the bees inside.

The bees swarmed from the abandoned irrigation pipe and killed him, an official told ABC News on Wednesday.

“He jumped off the tractor and ran about 100 yards away from the swarm before he collapsed in the field,” said San Benito Fire Department Chief Raul R. Zuniga Jr., who is Rogerio’s cousin.

Rogerio’s family noticed the tractor was abandoned in the field and discovered his body, which was covered in bees, Raul said.

“He had gaping wounds, the bees shredded him basically. It was horrible,” Rogerio’s sister Lisa Zuniga told CBS affiliate KGBT-TV.

The fire department found 15 to 20 feet of honeycomb inside the pipe that Rogerio hit.

“We got help from the county and an exterminator, but we broke the concrete pipe to get into it. The thing was just filled with bees,” Raul said. “They were extremely aggressive, too. One of the guys on my team got stung through his veil.”

The process took about four hours to clean up as crews continued to be swarmed by the bees.

The exterminator noticed the bees swarming towards another location — where Rogerio’s mother lives — and found more honeycomb inside four tires.

“In our area bees have always been a problem, but not to this extent,” Raul said. “I was told the weather has been causing them to swarm and that most colonies are infected with Africanized bees that seem to be more aggressive.”

Copyright © 2015, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

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Independence Weekend Weather Forecast

ABC News(NEW YORK) — Parts of the west will be sizzling while others will be dodging storms this July 4th weekend.

For most of the Midwest and Northeast, the weather is shaping up pretty nicely. Anywhere from Minneapolis and Chicago to New York and Boston can expect a good amount of sunshine with mild to warm temperatures for much of the weekend. Scattered showers and thunderstorms are on tap for the center of the country, stretching from Oklahoma to Washington, D.C.

Meanwhile, parts of the Southeast, Mid-Atlantic, and Ohio and Tennessee Valleys should be on the lookout for pop-up thunderstorms, especially during the afternoon hours. It won’t be a washout, but some of these storms could put a damper on outdoor activities like cookouts and firework displays.

No surprise for July, the southeast will be hot and humid with temperatures in the 90s inland and mid to upper 80s along the beaches.

The Northern Plains should stay mostly dry, but the Central Plains to Rockies and desert Southwest will be in the path for scattered showers and thunderstorms, mainly in the afternoon hours. Again, these will be hit or miss. Dry lightning could also occur with some of these storms — meaning lightning with little to no rain.

Out West, it will continue to bake, especially in the Pacific Northwest. The region has been dealing with a record-breaking heat wave since last weekend.

Washington State, Oregon and Montana have seen some of the highest June temperatures on record soaring into the 100s and even 110s. Salt Lake City and Boise, Idaho have had their hottest June on record. In Las Vegas, it’s the longest stretch ever with temperatures of 105 degrees or higher.

With no relief in sight, temperatures remain in the 90s and 100s with slightly cooler temperatures along the coast.

As a warning, people participating in firework displays out West will need to be extra cautious due to the dry conditions, wildfire threat and ongoing drought.

The good news is there are no major storm systems affecting any particular part of the country. But whether you are battling the heat out West or the scattered storms in the East, always stay updated on your local weather to be safe outdoors this holiday weekend.

Copyright © 2015, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

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Military: Don’t Worry If Most Expensive Fighter Jet Ever Can’t Dogfight Well

U.S. Navy photo courtesy of Lockheed Martin by Andy Wolfe/Released(NEW YORK) — The makers of one of the most expensive weapons programs in history went on the defensive Wednesday, saying a recent report on the F-35 fighter jet’s failures in old-school dogfighting against a decades-old, much cheaper legacy fighter “does not tell the whole story.”

The report in question, posted on the national security news website War Is Boring, was based on an internal five-page brief in which an F-35 test pilot wrote a scathing criticism of the next-generation jet’s abilities in a January dogfight with an F-16, one of the planes the F-35 is designed to replace. Essentially, the pilot reportedly wrote, the F-35 was no match for the F-16 in close-up, high maneuvering fighting — whether the F-35 was trying to get the F-16 in its sights or trying to evade the F-16’s mock weapons.

“The F-35 was at a distinct energy disadvantage,” the test pilot reportedly wrote. “There were not compelling reasons to fight in this region.”

Wednesday morning, the Pentagon’s F-35 Program Office did what the actual $138 million jet apparently couldn’t: fight back.

In an email to reporters, Joe DellaVedova, a spokesperson for the F-35 office, attempted to provide context in defense of the fighter jets. First, DellaVedova wrote, the F-35 in the demonstration was only designed for “flight sciences” and was “not equipped with a number of items” that the jets currently coming off the production line have. For instance, it didn’t have the sensors that “allow the F-35 to see its enemy long before it knows the F-35 is in the area.”

He said that the Lockheed Martin-made F-35 didn’t have the stealth coating that regular F-35s have, making them “virtually invisible to radar,” and the test jet wasn’t equipped with “the weapons or software that allow the F-35 to turn, aim a weapon with the helmet, and fire at an enemy without having to point the airplane at its target.” (According to War Is Boring, the test pilot complained the size of the helmet made it too hard to see behind the plane.)

But none of DellaVedova’s comments directly address the central claim in the War Is Boring report — that the plane isn’t good at maneuvering in close-up dogfighting — likely because DellaVedova said it isn’t really designed to be.

“The F-35’s technology is designed to engage, shoot and kill its enemy from long distances, not necessarily in visual ‘dogfighting’ situations,” he said.

The F-35 is also primarily designed to attack targets on the ground. It’s the duty of the F-35’s next-generation counterpart, the F-22 Raptor — which had its own share of dogfighting difficulties — to take on other fighter jets in the air.

Still, DellaVedova said in a follow-up email to ABC News that the test pilot’s report is “the beginning of what engineers and software designers may need to address in the future.”

“As the F-35 is still in the midst of the System Development and Demonstration (SDD) phase, much work is on-going to improve the capabilities and deliver them to the warfighter,” DellaVedova said. “The F-35 of today is not what the F-35 will be in the coming years.”

The F-35 is the most expensive weapons program in history, with each jet costing around $138 million and the entire program running up to $339 billion — well over an estimated $1 trillion in operational costs over the next 50 years. It’s also woefully behind schedule; the first planes were supposed to have gone operational three years ago.

Despite DellaVedova’s comment about intense testing still being done, the Marine Corps, one of the F-35’s customers, expects to field its first aircraft this summer.

ABC News requested additional context about the F-35’s dogfighting capabilities in the form of the For Official Use Only (FOUO) report on which the War Is Boring report was based. DellaVedova declined.

Copyright © 2015, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

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Misty Copeland Is American Ballet Theatre’s First Black Female Principal Dancer

Kevin Mazur/Getty Images for Tony Awards Productions(NEW YORK) — A fervent dream became reality Tuesday for ballerina Misty Copeland as she became the first black female principal dancer in the 75-year history of the American Ballet Theatre.

It is one of the highest honors for a performer.

“I’m just so honored, so extremely honored,” Copeland said Tuesday during a news conference. “My dream has been ABT [American Ballet Theatre] since I was 13. … Now I feel like I can breathe.”

Copeland, 32, who calls herself an “unlikely ballerina,” was born in Missouri and grew up in poverty in the Los Angeles area with her five siblings and single mother. She never had the traditional classical ballet training that begins in childhood. She began dancing in gym socks on a basketball court at the age of 13, when an instructor took notice and encouraged her to seek formal training.

Fans learned the story behind the ballet powerhouse when she appeared in an Under Armour sportswear ad as a narrator read a typical rejection letter that Copeland had received.

In August 2014, she shared with ABC News some of the negative comments she’d encountered.

“I’m black. We [blacks] don’t exist in the ballet world. I’m too muscular. I’m too short. My bust is too big,” she said then.

But Copeland said she never let those insults sway her.

Within two years of beginning ballet, she was winning dance competitions. And just four years after that first class, Copeland landed a spot with the American Ballet Theatre, one of the most prestigious companies in the world.

“It’s just been a very long road,” Copeland said Tuesday. “It has not been an overnight sensation, not at all. It’s been 13, 14 years of extremely hard work.”

In 2007, Copeland made history by becoming the third black female soloist at the American Ballet Theatre. In 2014, she released a memoir titled Life in Motion: An Unlikely Ballerina.

This year, Time magazine put her on its cover but many wondered whether Copeland, a soloist at ABT for eight years, would ever make the leap to principal dancer.

On June 24, Copeland made her New York debut in the role of Odette/Odile in Swan Lake at the Metropolitan Opera House. She said Tuesday that her path to becoming a principal ballerina had been a long one but it was just the beginning.

“I’m just excited to continue to do the roles that I’ve gotten to do this season — and do more — and to continue to grow as an artist and hopefully see more brown dancers come into the company in my lifetime,” she said.

Copyright © 2015, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

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ABC Exclusive: North Carolina Man ‘Started Punching’ Shark When It Attacked

ABC News(NEW YORK) — Patrick Thornton was at the beach with his family, swimming in the water, when he felt a tug at his foot.

That tug happened to be a 5-foot shark.

The 47-year-old was attacked Friday in the shallow waters of Avon Beach on North Carolina’s Outer Banks, one of six shark attacks on North Carolina beaches in June. The Charlotte, North Carolina, resident fought back.

“It took a pretty big chunk out of my right leg, so I started punching the shark, and then it grabbed my back and must have bit me in the back,” Thornton said.

Thornton managed to get the shark off of him. His niece and nephew, located nearby, made it to shore. But his son Jack stayed in the water, paralyzed with fear.

“I ran over and grabbed Jack, and as I was bringing him to the shore, the shark came and bit me again in the back, and this time he bit me really, really hard,” Thornton said.

Thornton says he punched the shark again. Finally, it swam off.

Once onshore, Thornton was rushed to the hospital, suffering wounds to his right leg and deep punctures in his back.

If a shark attacks, experts say, you should use whatever you can to fight back.

Thornton is now home and recovering. He says it might be a little while before he visits the beach again.

“I will probably spend more time in the mountains,” he said.

ABC US News | World News

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Federal Officials Investigating After South Carolina Church Catches Fire

Clarendon County Fire Department(GREELEYVILLE, S.C.) — A historically black church in South Carolina with a history of being targeted caught fire Tuesday night and investigators were trying to determine the cause, according to officials and reports.

Officials said investigators from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms were on scene at Mt. Zion AME Church in Greeleyville, but the cause was not clear. State and federal authorities are involved with the investigation.

The church was burned to the ground by the KKK in 1995 and President Clinton spoke at the dedication of the newly rebuilt church the next year.

The fire comes amid heightened fears about church burnings in the wake of the massacre of nine people at the historically black Emanuel AME Church in Charleston.

As the fire continued to smolder overnight, the cause remained a mystery. It was unclear if there were injuries or how much damage was done.

On Tuesday, federal officials said a string of five church fires in the South appeared not to be racially motivated or related, although some were deemed to be arson.

The ATF, which issued the statement, said that the investigation was in the preliminary stages.

“We are in the early stages of these investigations, but at this time we have no reason to believe these fires are racially motivated or related,” the statement said of the fires, which have occurred in the past nine days.

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Church Fires: ATF Has No Reason to Believe They’re Racially Motivated or Related

Evan F. Sisley/AFP/Getty Images(NEW YORK) — Federal investigators say they have no reason to believe that a series of church fires in the South were racially motivated or related, according to a statement from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms.

The fires came amid heightened tensions caused by the racially charged massacre at a Charleston, South Carolina church that left nine people, including a pastor, dead and an uproar over the Confederate flag flying at the South Carolina statehouse.

On their Facebook page, the ATF said that it has special agents and certified fire investigators at the five different scenes: Greater Miracle Temple Apostolic Holiness Church, Tallahassee, FL, Fruitland Presbyterian Church, Memphis, TN, Glover Grove Baptist Church, SC, Briar Creek Road Baptist Church, SC and God’s Power Church of Christ, Macon, GA.

“We are in the early stages of these investigations, but at this time we have no reason to believe these fires are racially motivated or related,” the statement said of the fires, which have occurred in the past nine days.

At the end of the post, they included a picture of a church fire that occurred in January, but they did not include any details about the location of that particular fire.

At least two of the five churches highlighted by the FBI — Briar Creek Road and God’s Power Church of Christ — have already been ruled arson.

The cause for the other three remains under investigation.

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David Sweat Claims He Was Almost Caught Twice During 3-Week Manhunt

Authorities in upstate New York spent three weeks searching for escaped prisoners Richard Matt and David Sweat. Jon Chodat(MALONE, N.Y.) — Escaped prisoner David Sweat told investigators he was almost discovered twice during the three weeks authorities were searching the woods of upstate New York for him and fellow inmate Richard Matt — including one time that police walked right by him as he hid in a hunting tree stand, officials said.

In the first close-call, Sweat told investigators both he and Matt were hiding near a cabin when three people came to check on it, Clinton County District Attorney Andrew Wylie told ABC News Tuesday.

The people were discussing whether they should stay at the cabin or leave and Sweat said he and Matt were close enough to hear their conversation, Wylie said.

Sweat told the investigators he and Matt stayed hidden until the three people left, according to the DA.

The second instance happened within the past week, after Sweat and Matt separated, Sweat allegedly told investigators.

Sweat claimed he was hiding in a hunting tree stand when an officer walked past him, Wylie said.

Investigators were interviewing Sweat to better understand how the men escaped June 6 from Clinton Correctional Facility in Dannemora, New York, and how they were able to avoid police for so long.

Sources briefed on the matter told ABC News Tuesday that interviews with Sweat have concluded for now.

According to Wylie, Sweat was advised of his Miranda rights. “He knows he has a right to an attorney, he knows he doesn’t have to talk to authorities,” he said. It was not clear if Sweat has a lawyer.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Sweat split up from Matt days before their captures, because he felt like “Matt was slowing him down.”

Sweat is recovering at Albany Medical Center after he was apprehended, shot and wounded Sunday in the area of Constable, New York, about 1.5 miles south of the Canadian border.

His condition was listed as fair Tuesday. He is expected to remain at the hospital “for at least a few days” before he is moved to a maximum-security prison, sources said.

Matt, meanwhile, was shot and killed Friday in Elephant’s Head, New York, about 16 miles south of where Sweat was found, police said.

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Residents Return to ‘War Zone’ After Wildfire Engulfs Homes

iStock/Thinkstock(SEATTLE) — Homeowners forced to evacuate recently because of a rapidly moving wildfire in Washington state returned Tuesday to find that the blaze had burned so hot that few of their belongings remained or were even recognizable.

“[It] looks like a war zone,” Diane Reed told ABC News affiliate KOMO-TV. “I’ve never seen anything like it … To just sit back and think, I don’t even have a fork or a plate or clothing — just your basic things that we all take for granted. It’s just gone.”

The grass fire started Sunday on a remote hillside outside of Wenatchee, Washington.

Fueled by triple-digit temperatures — Wenatchee had a record high of 109 on Sunday — as well as strong winds, the blaze exploded, making its way quickly into residential and commercial areas, outpacing firefighting teams. Thousands of residents were told to leave their homes as firefighting teams went door-to-door.

Rainfall provided some relief Monday but in the end, at least 24 homes were reportedly burned to the ground and four businesses were destroyed. Nearly 3,000 acres were scorched.

Vern and Julie Smith said they barely had time to react to evacuation orders before the fires reached their property. Their home was lost to the blaze Monday.

“You grab your family, kids and our animals,” Julie Smith told KOMO-TV. “We stayed with friends across the Wenatchee River and watched this area burn all night.”

Julie Smith said, though, that not all was lost.

“What made our house a home was our love and what we’ve done together,” she said.

On Tuesday, a scorched hillside remained as well as the some of the hoses left behind by firefighters.

Wenatchee, a town with a population of 30,000, suffered a double whammy. As fire ripped through neighborhoods and burning embers ignited several large businesses downtown, nearly half the city was ordered to shelter in place after an industrial fire and ammonia leak released a dangerous smoke plume.

Strike teams continued to pounce on hotspots Tuesday around the city but many residents said they worried that the worst may not be behind them.

“I think the worst is over, but you have to be vigilant,” one resident said.

No residents were injured in the wildfire. Fire officials were still investigating the cause.

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