Review Category : Top Stories

Oregon Occupiers Will Turn Themselves in to FBI Thursday

ROB KERR/AFP/Getty Images(BURNS, Ore.) — Armed occupiers of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in Oregon have said they will turn themselves in Thursday morning, ending a more than month-long standoff.

On Wednesday night, the FBI released a statement saying they had surrounded the remaining occupiers.

According to the agency, one of the occupiers rode an ATV outside the barricades established by the militia. When the FBI tried to approach the driver, he sped back, they said.

The FBI said that it had secured barricades both in front of and behind where the occupiers are camping.

Occupier Sean Anderson said he spoke with the FBI and that he and three other holdouts agreed to turn themselves in at an FBI checkpoint at 8 a.m. Thursday. Anderson said they would leave their weapons in their vehicles and walk to a checkpoint established nearby, carrying an American flag.

Anderson relayed the information to Nevada lawmaker Michele Fiore over a phone line streaming online. He said he expects Fiore to meet him and his fellow occupiers at the checkpoint Thursday when they turn themselves in.

Meanwhile, Cliven Bundy, father of Ammon Bundy — the leader of the wildlife refuge occupation, was arrested by FBI officials. The Bundy Ranch posted on Facebook earlier Wednesday that Cliven Bundy was on his way to the Malheur Wildlife Refuge.

He was at the center of a standoff with federal officials in 2014 in Nevada, over the use of public lands.

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County Commissioner Candidates Spar Over Differences

2/10/2016 – 11:02 pm

Photo Caption: Candidates Brian Robertson and John Harrington with WFIN News Director Doug Jenkins during the forum at The University of Findlay.

There are differences between both Republican candidates for Hancock County Commissioner, and that was apparent at the Commissioners Forum at the University of Findlay Wednesday night. Current Commissioner Brian Robertson and challenger, Findlay City Councilman John Harrington each presented their views on the role of a County Commissioner in Hancock County.

The main topic of the evening was flood mitigation. Both noted that in their mind it was the biggest issue facing Hancock County. Robertson cited his experience in business and talked about work he’s done on the issue since taking office including traveling to Washington DC to meet with the Army Corps of Engineers and elected officials.

Audio: Brian Robertson

Harrington said while the Army Corps has been frustrating at times they still have the expertise to properly manage flood mitigation in Hancock County.

Audio: John Harrington

While there was much talk about flood mitigation, it also needs to be funded. A 1/2 percent sales tax was implemented to help fund any programs in the county. On what to do once that tax expires, Robertson said that any decision will need to be based on getting results.

Audio: Brian Robertson

Harrington said that the increase helped to pay for both flood mitigation and funds to the general fund. Given that, letting it expire would require a great deal of thinking as to how other programs would be adversely impacted.

Audio: John Harrington

Both campaigns have issued a great deal of literature both highlighting their candidates records and noting issues with each other. Harrington said that as a county commissioner, he’d make it a point to attend any and all meetings countywide rather than just pay lip service.

Audio: John Harrington

Robertson noted that as a member of the city council, Harrington has missed many committee meetings over his term. Robertson said that his goal is to change the status quo in Hancock County politics.

Audio: Brian Robertson

On ongoing cooperation between the City of Findlay and Hancock County Robertson said that there has been some significant collaboration between the two entities, including tax funding that went to help support both.

Audio: Brian Robertson

Harrington cited the recent Health Department merger as particularly good, but said that Robertson did not acknowledge working with Findlay Mayor Lydia Mihalik, who Robertson lost to in the race for Mayor in 2012.

Audio: John Harrington

Robertson responded by saying that he has worked close with Mayor Mihalik in many cases but his day to day interaction with the city has been with Service-Safety Director Paul Schmelzer.

Audio: Brian Robertson

Harrington said that he was of the mind that both entities needed to work better together.

Audio: John Harrington

 

Hancock County has implemented a 3% bed tax to help support the new Marathon Performing Arts Center and the Hancock County Fairgrounds. Harrington said that it was a fair tax that would help to support both entities.

Audio: John Harrington

Robertson said that many people are in favor of the tax as the money it will generate will help to support both funds. As to it’s long term usage, given that it will expire in seven years, he said that by then the county will have much different needs than it does today.

Audio: Brian Robertson

 

Voters will decide on the Republican nominee during the primary on March 15th.

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Florida Chill Draws Hundreds of Manatees to Warm Spring

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) — Hundreds of manatees have gathered together in a Florida spring to escape the winter chill, drawing scores of visitors.

While there are believed to be more than 1,000 manatees currently gathered in Kings Bay, the headwaters of the Crystal River in Florida, most of the animals are crowded together in a one acre-area of the 60-acre bay known as Three Sisters Springs, according to a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service official.

For decades, hundreds of manatees have swum to the bay every winter to escape the Gulf of Mexico’s cold waters, according Ivan Vicente, a visitor services specialist for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service at Crystal River National Wildlife Refuge.

But this year, the bay is believed to be seeing the largest number of manatees ever gathered together in recent history, Vicente told ABC News today. He added that an official state survey would confirm the 1,000 estimate this Saturday.

The Three Sisters Springs in particular are seeing an “overwhelming” number of manatees, Vicente said.

“The waters in this particular area appear to be the most ideal wintering habitat for manatees in Kings Bay,” he explained. “The water is just over 72 degrees, which is nice and warm for them. The water is shallow and the area is confined by beautiful trees that protect it from harsh winds.”

Visitors have been flocking to the Three Sisters Springs area to see and photograph the gentle giants snuggled together up close.

The manatees – which are on average 10 feet long and weigh 1,500 pounds – “can rest in these springs for weeks and weeks without food,” Vicente said. “Not having food isn’t a problem as long as the manatees can do so without too much disturbance from humans, so they can conserve their energy.”

However, manatees may sometimes “take a break from resting” and “get very, very close to people” since they’re “very curious creatures,” Vicente said.

But there’s no need worry if the animals do get close to visitors, as manatees are not known to be violent at all, he said.

“There has never been a recorded manatee-related emergency ever,” Vicente joked.

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FBI Surrounds Remaining Occupiers at Oregon Wildlife Refuge

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) — The FBI has surrounded the remaining occupiers at the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in Oregon, the bureau said in a statement Wednesday night.

According to the agency, one of the occupiers rode an ATV outside the barricades established by the militia. When the FBI tried to approach the driver, he sped back, they said.

The FBI said that it has secured barricades both in front of and behind where the occupiers are camping.

The bureau said negotiations continue.

“It has never been the FBI’s desire to engage these armed occupiers in any way other than through dialogue, and to that end, the FBI has negotiated with patience and restraint in an effort to resolve the situation peacefully,” said Greg Bretzing, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI in Oregon. “However, we reached a point where it became necessary to take action in a way that best ensured the safety of those on the refuge, the law enforcement officers who are on scene, and the people of Harney County who live and work in this area.”

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Royal Caribbean Cruise Ship Battered by Storm Arrives Back in New Jersey

iStock Editorial/Thinkstock(BAYONNE, New Jersey) — The Royal Caribbean cruise ship that was rocked by stormy weather arrived back in New Jersey Wednesday night, where it is expected to be inspected by the Coast Guard.

The Anthem of the Seas arrived in Bayonne, New Jersey around 9 p.m.

The ship, which left from the same port on Saturday and was due to head out on a week-long cruise to the Bahamas, was supposed to arrive sooner after the captain made the decision to turn around, but that arrival time was pushed back further because the “weather isn’t great,” a Royal Caribbean spokesperson said on Tuesday.

“The Captain has been very sensitive to the rough ride guests have already experienced. So he’s slowed down his speed to smooth it out,” the spokesperson said.

Coast Guard officials are expected to be on hand to inspect the ship.

“The Coast Guard will participate in an investigation that will help determine if there are any contributing causal factors or lessons learned from this event that could help prevent injuries or damage in the future, as occurs with any commercial vessel operating in U.S. waters under similar circumstances,” the Coast Guard said in a statement released Wednesday.

In a statement Wednesday night, the cruise line apologized “for exposing our guests and crew to the weather they faced, and for what they went through.”

They said the ship encountered “sustained 120-mph winds” which “far exceeded forecasts.”

“Even so, it is our responsibility to eliminate every surprise we possibly can,” said the company, which plans to bolster its planning system going forward.

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Vincent Van Gogh’s ‘Yellow House’ Bedroom Recreated, Available to Rent for $10

iStock Editorial/Thinkstock(CHICAGO) — Vincent Van Gogh once said, “I’m not an adventurer by choice but by fate.”

Now the Art Institute of Chicago is launching an interactive experience that will allow you to live out your own artistic adventure just like the painter.

With the help of Airbnb, you can stay in an exact replica of Van Gogh’s famous “The Bedroom” from his beloved “Yellow House” for just $10 a night. The masterpiece was created to celebrate the Art Institute’s exhibition of “Van Gogh’s Bedrooms” series, which runs through May 10.

“Response has been great so far,” Art Institute spokeswoman Amanda Hicks wrote to ABC News. “We’re releasing the rooms in cascading blocks, so that people can have multiple opportunities to check in and grab a night during the run of the Van Gogh exhibition (Feb 14 – May 10). We have two re-creations of the bedroom in play right now. The one we did as the AirBnB venue, and another one in the museum itself that is a to-scale replica built on a gallery floor that marks out the actual blueprint of the second story of Van Gogh’s yellow house in Arles, France.

“The re-created bedroom in the museum is an immersive digital/sound experience, surrounded by big screens that scroll images and text from Van Gogh’s letters and sketchbooks, with music tying it all together. It’s really exciting!”

Van Gogh’s actual “Yellow House” was located in Arles, France, and the recreated room is in the Chicago neighborhood of River North.

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Ferguson Sued by Justice Department Over Alleged ‘Racial Bias’ in Policing

Ramin Talaie/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) — The Justice Department has filed a federal lawsuit against Ferguson, Missouri, after the city rejected a deal that would have brought sweeping changes to its embattled police department, which allegedly engaged in “racially discriminatory policing.”

The lawsuit, announced Wednesday by Attorney General Loretta Lynch, alleges a pattern or practice of law enforcement conduct that violates the First, Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments, as well as federal civil rights laws and says the citizens there “have waited decades for justice.”

“The residents of Ferguson have waited nearly a year for their city to adopt an agreement that would protect their rights and keep them safe,” Lynch said. “They have waited nearly a year for their police department to accept rules that would ensure their constitutional rights … They have waited decades for justice. They should not be forced to wait any longer.”

Ferguson came under the national spotlight after a city police officer fatally shot unarmed teenager Michael Brown in August 2014. Officer Darren Wilson was never charged in the shooting, but a Justice Department investigation into the Ferguson police department found what Lynch called “systemic and systematic” racial bias within the force’s policing practices.

After the results of that investigation were announced last year, the Justice Department began “painstaking negotiations” lasting 26 weeks, seeking to reach a deal that would address the Justice Department’s findings, according to Lynch. An agreement was reached weeks ago, but last night the Ferguson City Council “rejected” the deal “approved by their own negotiators,” said Lynch, calling the move “extremely unfortunate” and “profoundly disappoint[ing].

“I think that the city of Ferguson had a real opportunity here to step forward, and instead they’ve chosen to turn backwards,” Lynch added. “They’ve chosen to live in the past, and they’ve chosen to adopt a means of really ignoring the voices of their citizens, they’re choosing to ignore the complaints of their citizens.”

Ferguson leaders expressed concern that the agreement reached would cost the city up to $3.7 million in the first year alone.

Nevertheless, the failure to reach final agreement left the department “no further choice” but to file suit, said Lynch, whose department is now urging a federal judge to compel a litany of changes within the Ferguson police department.

The lawsuit filed today lays out much of what the department detailed in its 104-page report last year.

According to the Justice Department, from October 2012 to October 2014, African Americans were more than twice as likely to be searched, to receive a citation or to be arrested, than other stopped individuals. In addition, of all incidents from 2010 to August 2014, African Americans accounted for 88 percent of all incidents in which a Ferguson police officer reported using force; and while African Americans make up 67 percent of Ferguson’s population, they made up more than 90 percent of all charges involving “manner of walking in roadway,” “failure to comply,” “resisting arrest,” and “disturbing the peace.”

“The city and residents of Ferguson deserve what every American is guaranteed under the Constitution: the right to be free from excessive force, from unconstitutional stops [and] from unconstitutional arrests,” Lynch said during her announcement today. “We intend to aggressively prosecute this case and we intend to prevail.”

The City of Ferguson said it is aware of news reports about the expected suit but had no immediate comment.

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Two Police Officers Killed in Maryland After Shootout

iStock/Thinkstock(BALTIMORE) — Two Maryland police officers died Wednesday from injuries sustained in a shootout with a suspect, according to the Harford County Sheriff’s Office.

“It is with great sadness that I tell you that both deputies that were shot earlier today have succumbed to their injuries,” Harford County Sheriff Jeff Gahler said on Wednesday.

The two sheriff’s deputies were responding to a call at a shopping center in Abingdon, Maryland, when they were fired upon, authorities said. The suspect injured one of the officers and fled the scene. The second deputy followed in pursuit and was also wounded.

Additional deputies onsite exchanged gunfire with the suspect and fatally wounded him, authorities said, noting he was pronounced dead at the scene. At least one of the deputies was airlifted to an area trauma center.

There are no additional suspects or threats to the community, according to the Harford County Sheriff’s Office. The officers’ identities have not been released.

The incident is still under investigation.

Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan released a statement on the shooting, saying he was “heartbroken.”

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Department of Justice Announces Suit Against Ferguson, Missouri

Ramin Talaie/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) — The Department of Justice has announced a federal lawsuit against the city of Ferguson regarding policing there.

Attorney General Loretta Lynch announced the details in a press conference Wednesday evening.

The City of Ferguson said it is aware of news reports about the expected suit and had no further comment at that time.

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Elderly Being Conned into Trafficking Drugs

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement(WASHINGTON) — Floridian Ralph Soles, 74, said he was caught transporting methamphetamine into New Zealand two years ago. He was arrested and spent the next 18 months in custody, he said, eventually gaining his release on appeal.

“I lost a lot,” Soles said. “When I came home, I didn’t have a home. I didn’t have a home to go home to.”

The Lakeland, Florida, resident is one of dozens of elderly U.S. citizens who’ve been unwittingly conned into becoming drug mules, officials say.

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CPB) announced on Wednesday an investigation into the scam for the first time and issued a warning at a Senate hearing convened by the Special Committee on Aging.

“Those who target vulnerable populations, to include our elderly, are among the worst kinds of criminals,” ICE Director Sarah R. Saldaña said.

ICE Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) and CBP, along with foreign counterparts as a part of “Operation Cocoon,” have intercepted 144 people who were allegedly transporting drugs, which included methamphetamine, cocaine, ecstasy and heroin, according to ICE.

Fifteen people affiliated with a transnational criminal organization were also arrested in connection to these alleged crimes, ICE said.

More than 30 elderly U.S. citizens are still incarcerated overseas in connection with the drug scam, according to investigators.

The average age of the conned narcotics couriers was 59, ICE says. The oldest individual involved in the scheme was 97, but he was stopped by HSI agents before leaving the United States, according to ICE.

Before Soles traveled overseas, he said he was emailed repeatedly by a man who said he wanted to invest in Soles’ company.

Soles, who at the time managed investments in commercial businesses and properties, said he eventually responded to the man, who called himself “Lawrence Green.”

The so-called Green and Soles began talking on the phone and became friends, he said.

In 2013, he got on a plane for Johannesburg, South Africa, to meet with Green to “set-up a bank account,” Soles said. But when he arrived, he added, Green informed him that he had gone on vacation to Fiji and asked Soles to meet him there.

So Soles said he agreed to make what he thought was a business trip.

Before taking off, Soles was asked to bring a suitcase with him, he said, adding that a man brought the suitcase to Soles’ hotel, where he said he looked inside and saw nothing but clothes.

The first leg of his flight took him through Bangkok, Thailand, where he said he went in and out of the airport during his layover, he said. He then flew for the second leg to New Zealand, where he was stopped by authorities, Soles said.

“They knew what they were looking for, because there was something in that suitcase,” he said.

He was arrested, convicted and spent a total of 13 months behind bars, he said, eventually gaining his release after being acquitted at a second trial.

The scammers entice their victims, like Soles, with the promise of an inheritance or business opportunity and then a request that they fly to various countries to meet with “attorneys” or “business partners,” ICE officials said.

Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, chairwoman of the Special Committee on Aging, said in her opening statement Wednesday, “Once the seniors are ensnared, the criminals then deceive them into smuggling drugs by asking them to travel overseas, where they are given packages with unknown contents to carry across international borders.”

The seemingly harmless items have included chocolates, picture frames, tea, markers, canned goods, shampoo bottles, soap and wooden hangers that actually conceal drugs, which can result in arrest and detention by authorities.

Soles said he later found out that drugs had been sewn into the lining of the suitcase he was asked to take.

He said he wants the U.S. government to get more involved in helping the elderly in similar situations abroad and is speaking out so others who are still in jail overseas don’t feel as alone.

“I’m 74 years old,” he said. “I lost basically two years of my life. I got a heck of an education.”

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