Review Category : Top Stories

Contract Talks Continue With City Safety Services

11/24/2015 – 4:38 am

Findlay officials are negotiating new contracts with police and firefighter unions. Current three-year contracts expire at the end of this year. The Courier reports that by the end of the year, the City Council will likely approve an ordinance to give the Mayor the authority to execute a new contract with firefighters. Once police contract negotiations are almost done, talks with the city sewer union workers will begin.

If contract negotiations are not completed by the end of the year, the current contracts will carry over until a new one is agreed upon. Safety forces in Ohio are not permitted to strike. Under the current three-year contracts, union employees were not eligible to receive raises until this year when they all received a two percent pay hike.

More: The Courier

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Jammed: America’s 50 Worst Traffic Bottlenecks, Ranked

iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) — Just before one of the busiest travel weekends of the year, a group called the American Highway Users Alliance has ranked the 50 worst traffic bottlenecks in the country.

While weather problems, rush hour and even construction are sources of congestion, bottlenecks due to a lack of roads and poor infrastructure planning are the biggest and most consistent issue facing drivers in major metropolitan cities, the report notes.

Interstate 90 around Chicago O’Hare International Airport is considered the worst bottleneck in the country, resulting in 16.9 million hours’ worth of wasted time. That’s an estimated $418 million of lost productivity a year AHUA says.

Too many people behind the wheel with not enough space to accommodate them is to blame, the report notes, adding that the problem is getting worse: Hours of delay per traveler has doubled in cities all sizes since 1982, the report noted.

As for the bottlenecks themselves, the study’s top 50 list includes trouble spots in the following Metropolitan Areas: 12 in Los Angeles, nine in and around New York City, three in Chicago, three near Washington, D.C., three in Houston, three in Boston, three in Dallas, three in Miami, two in Atlanta, two in Philadelphia, and two in San Francisco/Oakland.

The top 10 worst spots along the nation’s highways:

1. Chicago, Illinois — I-90 between Roosevelt Rd. and N. Nagle Ave.
2. Los Angeles, California — I-405 between SR-22 and I-605
3. Los Angeles, California — I-10 between Santa Fe Ave and Crenshaw Blvd.
4. Los Angeles, California — I-405 between Venice Blvd. and Wilshire Blvd.
5. Los Angeles, California — US-101 between Franklin Ave. and Glendale Blvd.
6. Los Angeles, California — I-110 between Exposition Blvd. and Stadium Way
7. Los Angeles, California — US-101 between Sepulveda Blvd. and Laurel Canyon Blvd.
8. New York and New Jersey — Lincoln Tunnel between 10th Ave. and John F. Kennedy Blvd.
9. New York, New York — I-95 between I-895 and Broadway
10. Austin, Texas — I-35 between East Riverside Dr. and E. Dean Keeton St.

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Homegrown Extremists Could Seek to Replicate Paris, FBI and DHS Say in Joint Bulletin

MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) — The FBI and Department of Homeland Security have issued a joint bulletin reviewing the tactics and techniques used by terrorists in the Nov. 13 Paris attacks, sharing their assessment of the potential for similar attacks to occur in the United States.

The bulletin states that homegrown violent extremists, either inspired or directed by Syria-based operatives, represent the most likely ISIL threat to the homeland. Sent to more than 18,000 law enforcement agencies around the country, the bulletin warns that such extremists, “could seek to replicate the effects of the Paris attacks using similar weapons and tactics, although on a smaller scale.”

Authorities believe the Paris attackers practiced a “high degree of operational security” and may have planned their attack in Belgium “outside the purview of French security services,” and that a cell phone found by French authorities likely associated with an attacker contained encrypted applications, “likely intended to make it difficult for security services to exploit the contents.”

Soft targets in the U.S. continue to be a vulnerability ISIL may try to exploit, according to the joint assessment. “We judge ISIL will almost certainly consider a diverse selection of soft targets for attacks in the West – including in the United States – that extend beyond targeting government, military, and law enforcement officials and facilities, based on the target selection in the attacks and other recent plots in the West.”

Officials remain concerned about people from the U.S. who connect with violent extremists overseas because they “could gain combat skills…and possibly become further radicalized or persuaded to conduct organized or lone offender violent extremist-style attacks, potentially targeting the United States and US interests abroad,” according to the bulletin.

ISIL supporters “who may be located in the Homeland continue to have the ability to conduct relatively unsophisticated attacks with little to no warning,” the document states.

The document also shares the assessment that ISIL plots involving multiple teams of operatives with members who have trained in Syria or Iraq are “more likely to occur in Europe and other overseas locations than in the United States,” due to to geographic and societal factors.

ISIL, the document states, “may expand efforts to conduct attacks against soft targets based on the success of the Paris attacks,” but authorities are “unaware of any intelligence indicating any active, credible ISIL plots of the type seen in Paris targeting the Homeland.”

The social media messaging campaign praising the Paris attacks and encouraging new attacks like in videos released in the past week referencing targets such as Times Square and Washington, D.C., are expected to continue, though the bulletin states similar videos released previously were deemed “aspirational in nature.”

The bulletin calls for increased vigilance by state, local and private sector partners and the difficulty of detecting pre-operational indicators or behaviors which might indicate planning for an attack. “We face an increased challenge in detecting in-progress terrorist plots by individuals or small groups acting quickly and independently or with only tenuous ties to foreign handlers.”

The document makes reference to a foiled attack in which police in Germany disrupted a possible plot against a sporting event because of a tip by an alert hardware store clerk. The clerk called police after he noticed a couple had purchased an unusually large amount of hydrogen peroxide, a chemical used to make the powerful explosive TATP, according to the bulletin.

The document reminds authorities to be aware of suspicious activities such as people who appear to be conducting surveillance, expressing unusual interest in security or a sharing media glorifying violent extremist acts.

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Five People Shot During Protest in Minneapolis

iStock/Thinkstock(MINNEAPOLIS) — Five people were shot late Monday near a Black Lives Matter protest in Minneapolis.

A statement from Minneapolis Police Department said, “Minneapolis Police responded to 1400 Morgan Avenue North on the sound of multiple shots fired. Shortly after, numerous 911 calls came in reporting that 5 people had been shot at 14th and Morgan. This is located one block north of the Minneapolis Police Department’s 4th Precinct.”

“Dozens of officers responded almost immediately attending to victims and secured the scene. Additional resources were called in and are actively investigating the shootings, interviewing a multitude of witnesses. The Police Department is working to identify suspects. The police are asking that anyone with information to please come forward.”

Three of the victims were taken to hospital by private vehicle, these are described as having non-life threatening injuries. Two additional victims were taken to hospital by ambulance with non-life threatening injuries, police said.

Protests have been taking place near the Precinct since the shooting of 24-year-old Jamar Clark on Nov. 15.

Authorities have said that Clark was shot during a struggle with police after he interfered with paramedics who were trying to assist an assault victim.

But some people who said they saw the shooting, allege Clark was handcuffed.

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Los Angeles Man Freed After Spending 16 Years in Prison for Sex Crimes

iStock/Thinkstock(LOS ANGELES) — A man convicted of three rapes in Los Angeles has been exonerated.

On Monday, Luis Lorenzo Vargas’s conviction was thrown out by a Los Angeles judge after he spent 16 years behind bars.

Vargas’ lawyers said the three rapes were committed by the “Teardrop Rapist,” a serial rapist that is still on the loose for dozens of sexual assaults.

The “Teardrop Rapist” is known for a tattoo in the shape of a teardrop under his eye. Vargas was convicted based on eyewitness identification because he has a similar tattoo, according to a statement from the California Innocence Project.

“Bad eyewitness identifications are one of the leading causes of wrongful convictions,” said Professor Justin Brooks, Director of the California Innocence Project. “It’s time for [Vargas] to get back to his family and his life. Hopefully, this new evidence will help police catch the true perpetrator.”

DNA tests from some of the attacks were requested last year by the California Innocence Project and the results revealed DNA did not match up with the incarcerated 46-year-old.

After the results came out and a petition to reopen the case was filed, the Los Angeles County district attorney’s office requested the judge to reverse the conviction, saying the office “no longer [had] confidence in the convictions.”

According to the Los Angeles Times, Vargas will be placed in federal custody even though he was released due to an immigration hold.

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Ahmed Mohamed Seeking $15 Million in Damages After Clock Arrest

JIM WATSON/AFP/Getty Images(IRVING, Texas) — Ahmed Mohamed, the high school student who was arrested when he brought in a homemade clock to show his teacher, is demanding apologies from his school district and $15 million in damages.

According to attorneys representing Mohamed’s family, letters were sent to the city of Irving and Irving School Distrtict with the demands.

The letters state that the family suffered physical and mental anguish and the 14-year-old student’s civil rights were violated.

They also say they want $10 million to come from the city of Irving and $5 million from the school district to be paid to the family.

Mohamed was arrested in September when his teacher mistook the clock for a bomb and his story sparked worldwide attention. In October, his family revealed they would be moving to Qatar where they had accepted an offer for him to study at the Qatar Foundation’s Young Innovators Program.

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2 People Charged in Killing of Indianapolis Pastor’s Pregnant Wife

Coutesy of the Blackburn Family(INDIANAPOLIS) — Two people have now been charged in connection with the killing of an Indiana pastor’s pregnant wife.

Larry Jo Taylor, 18, faces 13 charges in connection to the Nov. 10 slaying of Amanda Blackburn in an alleged home invasion that turned deadly, and his alleged accomplice, Jalen Watson, faces nine similar charges, including murder, officials say.

The charges were filed on Monday and neither has entered a plea. A third suspect, whom police have not apprehended, has not been publicly identified.

Indianapolis police said in a statement that Taylor, Watson, 21, and the third suspect robbed two homes before attempting to burglarize the Blackburn home. They stole a car at the first home, police said Monday, and were able to get into the Blackburn home through the unlocked front door.

“As further alleged in the probable cause affidavit, Watson and the third individual are believed to have left the Blackburn home in the stolen vehicle, driving to an ATM with Amanda Blackburn’s debit card. The two were in communication with Taylor, who was still at the home, via cellphones,” the police statement said.

“After leaving the scene, Larry Taylor is alleged to have stated to witnesses that he killed Amanda Blackburn.”

Police reported that Blackburn was shot three times: once in her left arm, once where a bullet entered and exited her upper back, and police said previously she had been shot in the head.

“We are glad this part of the criminal justice process has concluded; however, the wheels of justice begin to turn now,” the Indiana Metropolitan Police Department told ABC News overnight. “Our detectives truly have worked several days without sleep putting all the pieces of this puzzle together.”

Indiana Metropolitan Police Department Chief Rick Hite said in a statement Sunday: “We are thankful to our federal, state and local partnerships that aided in the apprehension of the suspect in this terrible and senseless crime. All victims of criminal homicides deserve closure, and as a community we must send a collective message that violence is not option.”

Police said last week a handgun had been found near the home Blackburn, 28, shared with her husband and son at the time of the Nov. 10 shooting. The weapon was submitted for testing at a crime lab to determine whether it was connected with the Blackburn killing, IMPD Lt. Richard Riddle said last week.

Pastor Davey Blackburn found his wife’s body when he returned from the gym, authorities said. He told ABC News’ “Good Morning America” that “Amanda didn’t have an enemy in the world. I can’t imagine any reason why. That’s why this has baffled us as much as anybody,” he said.

“That’s why we’re trusting the investigators. They’ve been so good to us through this whole process, trying to keep us up to speed on what they have.”

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U.S. Authorities Step Up Security Ahead of Holiday Season

Albin Lohr-Jones/Pacific Press/LightRocket via Getty Images(NEW YORK) — As the holidays approach, Americans will see extra security this week on mass transit, at airports, shopping centers and other potential soft targets across the United States.

On Monday the Transportation and Security Administration (TSA) said it has measures in place to protect the millions of Americans traveling nationwide this Thanksgiving.

“We are doing everything to keep travelers safe this holiday season,” said TSA Public Affairs Manager Lisa Farbstein.

The agency said it expects to screen 40 percent more passengers in the days leading up to Thanksgiving. There are more than 900 TSA canine teams deployed nationwide tasked with screening passengers and cargo.

The FBI maintains that there is no specific, credible terrorist threat to the U.S., but local and federal law enforcement are on high alert ahead of Thanksgiving and Black Friday as travelers and shoppers head out in full force.

The deadly attacks in Paris earlier this month, as well as the continued terror threat in Brussels, has people on edge, as authorities try to reassure Americans of their safety.

“As we approach the holiday season, we continue to encourage the public to travel, attend public events, and freely associate, but remain vigilant,” said DHS Secretary Jeh Johnson last week.

Over the weekend, Johnson stood alongside New York City Police Commissioner William Bratton and Mayor Bill de Blasio to highlight an active shooter drill in a closed subway station. Following the exercise on Sunday, Johnson said that law enforcement is working overtime and is continually reevaluating its posture to ensure the homeland is safe.

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said on Monday there’s a new app residents can download that will help enhance the state’s ability to fight terrorism. The new campaign, called “see something, send something,” is designed to encourage New Yorkers to report suspicious activity.

“We have stepped up our preparedness in the aftermath of the Paris attacks, and we continue to remain vigilant against those who seek to spread fear and violence,” Cuomo said in a statement.

FBI Director James Comey said that despite no known specific threat, he remains concerned about so-called lone-wolf terrorists and those that may have been inspired by attacks overseas by ISIS.

“We are watching people of concern, using all of our lawful tools. We will keep watching them, and if we see something, we will work to disrupt it,” Comey said at press conference last week.

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Suspect Arrested in New Orleans Med Student Shooting

The Gold Family(NEW ORLEANS) — New Orleans police have arrested the main suspect in the shooting of a medical school student.

Euric Cain, 21, was arrested Monday in connection to the shooting of Peter Gold, a 25-year-old student who stepped in when he saw a man, identified by police as Cain, dragging a woman down a street at around 4 a.m. on Friday.

The “enraged” gunman then shot Gold in the stomach, police said, in a terrifying moment caught on a surveillance camera.

The gunman tried to shoot Gold a second time, police said, but the gun jammed. The gunman then took the woman’s purse and fled, police said

Cain was arrested earlier this month for possession of a stolen cellphone during a carjacking, police said.

Cain faces charges of attempted first-degree murder, second-degree kidnapping and armed robbery, police said. A $12,500 reward had been offered.

“We’re going to find you, we’re going to prosecute you, and you’re going to spend the rest of your life behind bars,” New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu said Sunday.

A representative from Tulane University told ABC News on Sunday that Gold, a fourth-year medical student, continues to improve and remains in guarded condition. He remains in the same condition today.

Gold’s friend and classmate Ryan O’Halloran told ABC News: “Doesn’t surprise me that he would have pulled over his car and attempted to save somebody.”

“He’s a great guy,” said O’Halloran, adding that the popular Gold is “a guy who generally always has your back.”

Tulane President Mike Fitts said Friday that Gold was “expected to make a full recovery.”

“I ask that you keep Peter and his family in your thoughts and prayers,” Fitts said. “He is an outstanding student who represents the best of Tulane in every possible way.”

The Gold family told ABC News in a statement, “While we deeply appreciate everyone’s concern, support and prayers as our family faces this crisis, our sole focus at this time is on Peter’s recovery. We ask that everyone respect our need for privacy while we join Peter as he begins to recover from the injuries he has sustained.”

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Fewer Adults Wearing Seat Belts in Back Seat of Cars, Alert Says

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) — The Governors Highway Safety Association says people need to remember to use their seat belts when in the back seats of vehicles.

A new report from the association said that fewer adults use seat belts when they’re in the back of a car. Only 78-percent of adults buckle up in the back seat compared to 87 percent in the front seat.

In vehicle crashes involving a death, the report says an even lower percentage of people use rear belts, only 60 percent in the rear of the car compared to 74 percent in the front.

“They might have the false perception that they’re actually safer back there, which we really know is– you know, only very slightly safer in the back,” Kara Macek with the Governors Highway Safety Association said.

Macek said it doesn’t matter how far you are traveling either.

“If you’re in crash, your risk of serious injury and fatality is just as great, no matter if you’re going one block, one mile, or cross-country. So no matter when you get in a car, and what car it is, you need to buckle up.”

The report also suggested that rear seat belt laws should be created in the 32 states that don’t have them and belt use in cabs and ride-sharing services should be strongly encouraged.

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