Review Category : National News

Nearly a Dozen from Twin Cities Gone to Fight in Syria

iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) — In addition to the American rapper from Minneapolis recently killed in the bloody fighting in Syria, nearly a dozen former residents of Minnesota’s Twin Cities have left their homes to take up arms with extremist rebel groups in the Middle Eastern nation, U.S. officials told ABC News.

Earlier this week the White House confirmed the death in Syria of Minnesotan Douglas McAuthur McCain, who records show was born in Chicago but was schooled in Minneapolis. An opposition group in Syria, the Free Syrian Army, claimed McCain was fighting with ISIS, a brutal terrorist organization that recently executed American journalist James Foley on camera. The FSA also claimed another American ISIS member had been killed in recent fighting.

Representatives for several U.S. agencies said they could not confirm that a second American had been killed, but there are scores of U.S. nationals in the line of fire. Other top U.S. officials have previously said more than 100 Americans have joined the fighting in Syria — nearly a dozen of them from the Twin Cities alone, as two U.S. law enforcement officials told ABC News Thursday. And a community leader said at least one who left for Syria recently is a teenage girl.

Kyle Loven, the FBI’s Chief Division Counsel in Minneapolis, said residents traveling to Syria is a “relatively recent dynamic,” but still only an “evolution” of young disaffected Minnesotans leaving their homes to fight and die with extremist groups abroad.

“The phenomenon began in 2007 with the young Somali men traveling from Minnesota to Somalia,” Loven said. “In Somalia, it started as a nationalistic call…[but] we’ve now seen where some individuals perhaps are not interested or not inclined to travel to Somalia, [they] start to branch out to other hot spots around the globe, obviously Syria being among them.”

The problem of Americans from Minneapolis traveling to Somalia to join the al Qaeda group al-Shabab became such a concern to U.S. officials that the Justice Department launched the multi-year law enforcement mission Operation Rhino, dedicated to investigating “a pipeline that supplies men” from Minneapolis to Somalia. The effort, which tracked some 20 suspected American jihadists, resulting in the conviction of several American ex-al-Shabab members.

One of the young men caught up in the initial wave of terror recruits was Troy Kastigar, who turned out to be an old high school classmate and close friend of Douglas McCain’s.

“If you guys only knew how much fun we have over here — This is the real Disneyland. Come here and join us,” a bearded Kastigar says from Somalia in a video posted online by al-Shabab after his death in 2009.

Mohamud Noor, a community leader in Minneapolis, told ABC News Friday that the young men going to fight in recent months for ISIS, which is a rival of al Qaeda’s, and those who joined al-Shabab before “have the same characteristics.”

“They are young men who are vulnerable, who have been taken advantage of because of their situation,” Noor said. “This is a youth who has lost direction, who has no hope in life, and the only way they can find [it] is to find other means of living.”

Another community leader, Abdirazak Bihi, said, “As recently as a week ago, a young girl was recruited along some others, and was sent to Syria and called her family from Syria a couple days ago.”

“Yes, people are recruiting, there are recruiters here,” Bihi said.

But Noor acknowledges that that doesn’t explain why so many are specifically being recruited from his city, and says that one reason so much focus is on the Twin Cities is because there is a large “newly-arrived” immigrant community, with many Somalis and Middle Easterners, and because the community isn’t shy about reaching out for help when someone does disappear, possibly into battles a world away.

Loven said that al-Shabab’s previous success in recruiting Minnesotans may have shown the area’s disaffected youths to be particularly susceptible to the jihadist propaganda. Earlier this week, for instance, al-Shabab released a recruitment video online that specifically called for those living in Minnesota to come join their fight.

“We’re taking this very seriously,” Loven said. “We don’t want to see our young people from Minnesota be attracted to this type of propaganda, end up in foreign battlefields, only to be injured, killed or what have you. That’s a concern not just for law enforcement, but for all people here in Minnesota.”

Follow @ABCNewsRadio
Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio

facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmailby feather Read More →

Shuttle Bus Crashes Near Chicago O’Hare Airport; More Than a Dozen Injured

@amyndickerson/Twitter

(CHICAGO) — Access to Chicago O’Hare Airport is limited after a shuttle bus crashed into a concrete barrier in the westbound lanes of I-190 Friday morning.

Police have blocked the lanes that lead to the airport creating a major traffic jam.

Fifteen people were injured in the crash. Their conditions are unknown.

O’Hare Airport officials have confirmed that the bus accident occurred on a road leading to the terminals, but declined to provide anymore information.

This story is developing…

Follow @ABCNewsRadio
Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio

facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmailby feather Read More →

Nashville Tops List of ‘Most American’ Cities

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) — Nashville is about American as apple pie. Maybe even more so now that the personal finance website WalletHub has named it 2014′s most American U.S. metro area.

To reach that conclusion, WalletHub graded 366 metro areas on a series of 26 metrics that included age, gender and income.

Nashville scored at near the top of key rankings such as socio-demographic makeup, housing, economy and education to capture the crown.

Interestingly, WalletHub determined that Tulsa, Oklahoma, most closely resembled the U.S. in terms of age while Denver looked most like America in regards to race.

At the bottom of the list was McAllen, Texas.

Here are the top 25 most American cities:

  1. Nashville, TN
  2. Cincinnati, OH
  3. Indianapolis, IN
  4. Charleston, SC
  5. Jacksonville, FL
  6. Greenville, SC
  7. Oklahoma, OK
  8. Phoenix, AZ
  9. Albuquerque, NM
  10. Winston, NC
  11. Birmingham, AL
  12. Greensboro, NC
  13. Orlando, FL
  14. Charlotte, NC
  15. Columbus, OH
  16. Louisville/Jefferson County, KY
  17. Lexington, KY
  18. Tulsa, OK
  19. Baton Rouge, LA
  20. Columbia, SC
  21. St. Louis, MO
  22. New Orleans, LA
  23. Kansas City, MO
  24. Tucson, AZ
  25. Little Rock, AR

Follow @ABCNewsRadio
Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio

facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmailby feather Read More →

Miley Cyrus’ Homeless VMAs Date Turns Himself In, Posts Bail

Polk County Community Corrections(POLK COUNTY, Ore.) — Jesse Helt, the homeless man who accompanied Miley Cyrus to the MTV Video Music Awards, turned himself into authorities in Oregon and posted bail after being sought on an arrest warrant for a probation violation.

Helt was originally arrested in 2010 for “criminal mischief,” among other charges. He pleaded guilty/no contest to the charges and received probation, which he violated the following year, authorities said.

A booking photo released by Polk County Community Corrections officials shows Helt wearing a black shirt, his expression blank.

The arrest comes four days after Helt entered the public spotlight. He took the stage at Sunday’s awards show after Cyrus won the video of the year award for “Wrecking Ball.”

“I’ve survived in shelters all over this city, I’ve cleaned your hotel rooms, I’ve been an extra in your movies, I’ve been an extra in your life,” Helt told the award show audience. “Though I may have been invisible to you on the streets, I have many of the same dreams that brought many of you here tonight.”

Helt and Cyrus had met through My Friend’s Place — an organization that helps homeless youth find shelter, healthcare and education.

Linda Helt, Jesse’s mother, said she was thankful that he faced his legal obligation.

“I’m proud of him for doing what’s right,” she told ABC news. “I don’t condone running away from a problem.”
Follow @ABCNewsRadio
Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio

facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmailby feather Read More →

Missing University of Montana Student Died in Accident, Authorities Say

iStock/Thinkstock(CUSTER COUNTY, Idaho) — A missing University of Montana student was found dead Thursday, more than a week after he went missing while driving back to school to start his junior year of college.

Lucius Robbi’s body and car were found in Custer County, Idaho, authorities said.

According to the Custer County Sheriff’s Office, Robbi died in a one-vehicle accident Aug. 19 after his car traveled down a 60-foot embankment, colliding with several large pine trees.

Search crews on the air and ground initially had trouble finding the accident site due to heavy brush. Additionally, storms in the area obscured the vehicle’s tracks, authorities said.

According to the sheriff’s office, a helicopter crew spotted the tip of one of Robbi’s orange kayaks, leading to the discovery of his car.

The California resident, 21, was a skilled outdoorsman, planning to explore on his return trip to college.

Robbi’s mother, Tina Glaessner, wrote a message Thursday to friends, family and volunteers in a Facebook group established following Robbi’s disappearance.

“The family of Lucius Robbi wants to thank all of the many friends who came together to search for him,” Glaessner wrote. “You were amazing, and the overwhelming outpouring of love and the heroic effort you made to find Lucius created a bond between you and all of us that will connect us forever.”

The Idaho State Police is continuing to investigate the fatal accident.

Follow @ABCNewsRadio
Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio

facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmailby feather Read More →

Jazz Musician Arrested in Wake of Philip Seymour Hoffman’s Death Takes Plea Deal in Drug Case

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) — One man arrested as part of a drug investigation in the wake of the death of actor Philip Seymour Hoffman accepted a plea deal on Thursday.

Robert Vineberg, a jazz musician, pleaded guilty to fourth-degree criminal possession of a controlled substance, a class C felony. Vineberg was promised that he would be sentenced to five years of probation and 25 days of community service. He must continue his drug treatment program.

Vineberg will also give up over $1,200 that police found in his home.

The musician will be sentenced on Oct. 14.

He was not linked directly to Hoffman’s death.

Follow @ABCNewsRadio
Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio

facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmailby feather Read More →

Church Puts God and Sex Together on Billboard

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(WILKES-BARRE, Pa.) — A Pennsylvania church is marking its first anniversary with a controversial billboard that proclaims God loves sex.

The billboard was placed along a major highway running through Wilkes-Barre, Pa., by Restored Church, a non-denominational worship center opened in September of last year by two friends who met as college roommates.

The billboard, according to one of the church’s founders, is meant to draw attention to the church’s new sermon series launching next month that will focus on sex and the Song of Solomon from the Bible.

“If the culture can be so bold, I think the church can be so bold and speak directly on the subject and be up front about it,” Restoration Pastor Dan Nichols told ABC affiliate WNEP.

The billboard was first highlighted by a tweet from the church’s account on Aug. 27. It is scheduled to remain up for the next four weeks, according to WNEP.

The billboard is up! pic.twitter.com/ZYkTjsXvLL

— Restored Church (@restored_church) August 27, 2014

Restored Church currently has a congregation of around 100 people, Nichols told WNEP. The church’s mission, according to its website, is to “…Communicate the good news of Jesus with our lives in order to reach the lost and aggressively develop committed followers of Jesus.”

The church’s bold display of its message led one pastor from another church to write a letter to the editor in a local newspaper criticizing the billboard for being misleading, according to WNEP.

Tim Walker, Nichols’ college roommate and fellow pastor at the church, told WNEP the criticism is not dissuading them from talking about sex and marriage.

“We really put a lot of thought into this,” Walker said.

Calls placed to the church for comment were not returned as of this writing.

Follow @ABCNewsRadio
Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio

facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmailby feather Read More →

Church Puts God and Sex Together on Billboard

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(WILKES-BARRE, Pa.) — A Pennsylvania church is marking its first anniversary with a controversial billboard that proclaims God loves sex.

The billboard was placed along a major highway running through Wilkes-Barre, Pa., by Restored Church, a non-denominational worship center opened in September of last year by two friends who met as college roommates.

The billboard, according to one of the church’s founders, is meant to draw attention to the church’s new sermon series launching next month that will focus on sex and the Song of Solomon from the Bible.

“If the culture can be so bold, I think the church can be so bold and speak directly on the subject and be up front about it,” Restoration Pastor Dan Nichols told ABC affiliate WNEP.

The billboard was first highlighted by a tweet from the church’s account on Aug. 27. It is scheduled to remain up for the next four weeks, according to WNEP.

The billboard is up! pic.twitter.com/ZYkTjsXvLL

— Restored Church (@restored_church) August 27, 2014

Restored Church currently has a congregation of around 100 people, Nichols told WNEP. The church’s mission, according to its website, is to “…Communicate the good news of Jesus with our lives in order to reach the lost and aggressively develop committed followers of Jesus.”

The church’s bold display of its message led one pastor from another church to write a letter to the editor in a local newspaper criticizing the billboard for being misleading, according to WNEP.

Tim Walker, Nichols’ college roommate and fellow pastor at the church, told WNEP the criticism is not dissuading them from talking about sex and marriage.

“We really put a lot of thought into this,” Walker said.

Calls placed to the church for comment were not returned as of this writing.

Follow @ABCNewsRadio
Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio

facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmailby feather Read More →

Navy SEAL Who Planned Bin Laden Raid Retires, Will Take Over University of Texas System

FREDERIC J. BROWN/AFP/Getty Images(TAMPA, Fla.) — Adm. William McRaven, the Navy SEAL who planned the raid that resulted in the death of Osama bin Laden, gave up his control of Special Operations Commands on Thursday.

The transfer was completed at a change of command ceremony. McRaven will take over the University of Texas system. In July, it was announced that he would take the position of chancellor of the university system after the last chancellor, Francisco Cigarroa, announced his resignation.

McRaven gave a commencement address at the University of Texas at Austin, the school where his military career began as a member of the university’s Naval ROTC unit.

Follow @ABCNewsRadio
Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio

facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmailby feather Read More →

NFL Announces Changes to Personal Conduct Policy Following Outcry Over Ray Rice Suspension

Photo by Andrew Burton/Getty Images(NEW YORK) — The National Football League announced a change to its personal conduct policy following outcry regarding a controversial suspension for one of its players.

Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice was suspended for two games in connection with a video that surfaced earlier this year in which he allegedly struck his now-wife, Janay, and knocked her unconscious during an altercation at an Atlantic City, N.J. casino. The outcry that the suspension, issued by NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, was too light was fierce and immediate.

Goodell initially defended the decision, pointing out that the length of the suspension matched the NFL’s existing policy.

Still, on Thursday, the commissioner sent a letter and an accompanying memo to each NFL team owner outlining changes to that very policy. Most notably, any player in violation of the NFL’s personal conduct policy involving assault, battery, domestic violence or sexual assault will be subject to a suspension of six games for a first offense, with possible consideration for “mitigating factors,” and a lifetime ban for a second offense.

Goodell’s letter discusses “respect” and “the integrity of the game.” He notes that the steps taken Thursday “are based on a clear, simple principle: domestic violence and sexual assault are wrong. They are illegal. They have no place in the NFL and are unacceptable in any way, under any circumstances.”

In addition to the altered suspension policy, team personnel will be expected to undergo comprehensive training to help “understand and identify risk factors associated with domestic violence.” Goodell also called upon expansion of the NFL’s existing college, high school and youth football programs.

Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Connecticut, said that the announcement alone was not enough. The league, he said, “must match words with actions.” While he applauded Goodell’s action, Blumenthal said that “the real work begins” now in hopes of solving the problem of domestic violence.

Follow @ABCNewsRadio
Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio

facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmailby feather Read More →