Review Category : National News

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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911 Call Reveals Victim’s Struggle in ‘Slender Man’ Stabbing

AbleStock.com/Thinkstock(WAUKESHA, Wis.) — A newly released 911 call shows how a passerby helped save a Wisconsin girl’s life on the morning her friends allegedly stabbed her 19 times.

The pair — identified as Morgan Geyser and Anissa Weier, 12 — allegedly lured their victim into the woods, leaving her for dead. A passing bicyclist spotted the bleeding girl after she crawled out of the woods.

“Yes, she’s breathing,” the bicyclist told a dispatcher. “She says she can take shallow breaths. She’s alert.”

The good Samaritan calmly reassured the girl while waiting for help to arrive.

“There’s a squad car coming now,” he told her.

Geyser and Weier have been charged as adults with attempted first-degree intentional homicide. According to court documents, the friends believed they would become agents for a fictional Internet character named “Slender Man” by carrying out the killing. Then they could walk to his proverbial mansion.

According to the criminal complaint, Weier believed in the fantasy so deeply that she packed a picture of her family in her backpack so she wouldn’t forget them. She thought she would never go home.

“The bad part of me wanted her to die. The good part of me wanted her to live,” she told police.

ABC News’ chief legal affairs anchor Dan Abrams said the judge has a lot of latitude in whether the case should be tried in juvenile or adult court.

Additionally, the suspects’ ages could factor into the case’s outcome.

“Their age will definitely help the defense in making the argument that these children are not guilty because they did not really understand what they were doing,” Abrams said.

Geyser’s lawyer, Anthony Cotton, said his client may have mental health issues and shouldn’t be tried as an adult.

“To say it’s every parent’s worst nightmare is cliche, but it is,” Cotton said. “It’s the worst nightmare they could ever be dealing with.”

Geyser’s family broke down while leaving court Tuesday. They later released a statement, expressing sympathy for the victim and her family.

“We have been overwhelmed with anguish,” they said.

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Rising Number of Prison Inmates Released Without Supervision, Report Says

Digital Vision/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) — An increasing number of state inmates are serving their prison terms and being released without any supervision, according to a new report.

The study from Pew Charitable Trusts, released Wednesday, details that more than one in five state inmates are freed to their communities without parole or probation officers.

“There’s a broad consensus that public safety is best served when offenders have a period of supervision and services when they leave prison,” said Adam Gelb, director of Pew’s public safety performance project. “Yet the trend is toward releasing more and more inmates without any supervision or services whatsoever. Carving out a supervision period from the prison sentence can cut crime and corrections costs.”

The number of inmates who maxed out their sentences in prison grew 119 percent between 1990 and 2012. The rates vary, with fewer than 10 percent of prisoners released without supervision in states like Arkansas, California and Louisiana, while more than 40 percent were the same in Florida, New Jersey, and Utah, among others. In particular, non-violent offenders contributed to the boost.

At least eight states have adopted reforms to ensure the supervision of released inmates, and the Pew report includes recommendations for lawmakers.

“The prevailing philosophy used to be that we just turn inmates loose at the prison gate with nothing more than a bus ticket and the clothes on their back,” Gelb said. “Now, policymakers on both sides of the aisle are starting to realize that if you’re serious about public safety, you need more effective strategies.”

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Employees Record Supervisor’s Racist Remarks, Accuse Him of White-Only Policy

ABC News(MEMPHIS, Tenn.) — Employees at an industrial Tennessee cotton gin filed a federal complaint against their former supervisor, accusing him of making racist comments and enforcing a whites-only policy at work.

The two men, Untonia Harris and Marrio Mangrum, said the intolerance at Atkinson Cotton Warehouse went on for months. Eventually, Harris had enough and recorded the supervisor’s statements with his cell phone.

In one of the conversations, the supervisor told Harris he couldn’t drink from certain water fountains.

“What they do when they catch me drinking your water?” Harris asked the supervisor in one of the recordings.

“That’s when we hang you,” the supervisor responded.

Another recording featured Harris talking to the supervisor about using a microwave.

“Why can’t I use the microwave man?” Harris asked.

“No. You’re not white,” he responded.

The supervisor even took to comparing black employees to monkeys, the men said.

“We all know what monkey means,” Mangrum said. “That’s very offensive.”

“I had to bite my tongue a lot,” Harris said.

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission was investigating the discrimination claims.

Lawyers watching the case said the warehouse will need to settle.

“I’m sure there will be other witnesses who can also confirm these things were said,” said employment and labor law attorney Matthew Billips.

The company that runs the warehouse, Federal Compress, released a statement to ABC News saying it had “zero tolerance” for discrimination and that the supervisor was no longer employed with the company.

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Bergdahl’s Former Roommates Paint Different Picture of Controversial Soldier

ABC News(HAILEY, Idaho) — Controversy has surrounded newly freed Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl since his release from Taliban captivity, with some in the military, including members of his own unit, claiming he is a deserter, not a war hero.

But Sherry Horton knows a different Bergdahl than the one the world has come to see in the chilling proof of life videos the Taliban released.

“He’s a very interesting guy, he was very quiet, he was an observer,” Horton said.

Horton, the artistic director of Sun Valley Ballet in Idaho, said she was Bergdahl’s ballet teacher and later, she became his roommate in his hometown of Hailey, Idaho, when he was about 18 or 19 years old. She describes Bergdahl as someone who was interested in mixed martial arts, culture, languages and learning new things.

“He was a wonderful [ballet] partner, all the girls enjoyed dancing with him because he was so strong and steady,” she said.

Horton said Bergdahl didn’t talk about Afghanistan much, and they more or less lost touch after he was deployed, but said he wanted to go.

“One of the reasons he joined [the army] was to go and help and he believed in what we were doing to help Afghan people,” she said. “He didn’t seem disillusioned or anything…nothing comes to mind that stood out at the time to make me think he wasn’t happy with what he was doing.”

After spending five years in Taliban captivity, Bergdahl was freed last weekend and is currently undergoing evaluation at an American military medical facility in Germany. But when news of Bergdahl’s release spread, several in the military, including his own platoonmates, expressed anger at the price the United States had to pay to get him back, both in the five mid- to high-level Taliban figures exchanged for him and in the effort and lives lost in ultimately fruitless searches for Bergdahl shortly after his 2009 capture.

“He knew what he was doing when he deserted us. It was premeditated. It was thought out,” said Spc. Cody Full. “He was not captured. He was not forcefully taken off the base. He left on his own accord… I don’t think someone who deserts during a time of war should be able to desert and get away with it.”

The Pentagon has never stated that Bergdahl walked off his base, noting that any inquiries into what happened were missing Bergdahl’s side of the story. An official investigation, classified “secret,” was opened but it was never completed, a Pentagon spokesperson said Tuesday.

Full, who was honorably discharged in November 2011, said he roomed with Bergdahl when they were stationed in Alaska before their deployment to Afghanistan. After deployment, Full said Bergdahl was in the room across from his in the building where his platoon was housed.

While in Alaska, Full said Bergdahl kept to himself mostly.

“We tried to involve him in team activities multiple times. Playing video games maybe drinking a few beers after work or on the weekends, barbecuing, doing things outside of work, as teammates and friends and platoonmates,” Full said. “The majority of the time he wasn’t interested.”

Then, after they were deployed, Full said Bergdahl started to openly criticize their mission.

“He voiced his concern to our team leader and multiple others a few times. He talked about how he didn’t understand why we were doing what we were doing and how we needed to do this or do that,” Full said.

A senior official told ABC News that it’s unclear how Bergdahl got off base the night in June 2009 when he disappeared and it’s still unclear how he came in contact with the Taliban. But the senior official said a note that Bergdahl left at his post before he walked away could help tell the story.

When Bergdahl was released, the White House praised the return of the soldier, but Full said he found Bergdahl’s hero’s welcome “frustrating.”

“There was real heroes over there that upheld their oath, swore by their oath, upheld their military procedures, followed orders, did what was expected of them when you become a member of the armed forces and some of them didn’t come home and he’s getting to come home and he’s not a hero,” he said. “Somebody that deserts is not a hero.”

Horton said she wasn’t surprised to hear his platoonmates’ feelings about Bergdahl and the controversy surrounding his release.

“It hurts because once again they don’t know him, they haven’t talked to him either so they are making–they are prejudging, so it’s hurtful,” she said. “One of the reasons why he wanted to join the army was because one of his really strong beliefs was our rights as Americans, freedom of speech…this is one of the things that was closest to Bowe, is that we have these rights.”

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