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iStock/Thinkstock(TAMPA, Fla.) -- An orangutan that got loose at Tampa Bay's Busch Gardens amusement park after it escaped its enclosure Friday has been captured, park officials said.

The orangutan was tranquilized with a dart, said Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission spokesperson Gary Morse. It has been returned to its cage and is doing okay, Morse said.

It was not immediately clear how long the orangutan was at large. The commission is on the scene and investigating how it managed to escape.

Video posted to social media shows a crowd looking on as the orangutan sits atop a tree.

In another video, a man behind the camera asks if the orangutan can "destroy" them if it "wanted to."

Park-goers were "erratic," the Instagram user wrote, using the hashtag #NoOneKnewWhatToDo.

The park remained open as officials worked to recover the orangutan. In a statement, Busch Gardens said it safely moved guests out of the Stanleyville area, the African-themed section of the park.

"The animal care team responded immediately and the animal is back safely and securely in the habitat without incident," Busch Gardens said. "The safety of our guests, employees and animals is our number one priority."

Orangutan escapes at Busch gardens Florida pic.twitter.com/GnoxZUru9m

— Bryan Clor (@gunners0720) July 1, 2016

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ABC News(NEW YORK) -- In the air, over the water and on the street with hundreds of heavily-armed officers, the New York Police Department says it is ready for war if ISIS or any terror group attacks New York City.

“I think that it’s inevitable that there’ll be another attack in this country,” Chief James Waters, the head of the NYPD’s Counterterrorism Bureau, told ABC News during a tour of his department’s newly formed Critical Response Command. “We are well-prepared to respond to that.”

Some 525 specially trained officers rotate shifts so that at any given time, 24/7, some 100 of them are ready to roll out with high-powered weapons, radiation detectors and bomb-sniffing Labrador Retrievers that can detect the chemicals known to be used by ISIS for its suicide explosives.

Tune in to "World News Tonight With David Muir" for the full Brian Ross report.

The operation is run from a command center in an undisclosed location in lower Manhattan, where the feeds from more than 9,000 surveillance cameras are piped in and displayed – feeds from the Brooklyn Bridge to Times Square to inside the city’s subways.

“It gives us an optic into what goes in New York City on any given day, and it tells us an awful lot with 9,000 cameras and the license plate readers. It gives us a sense to keep our finger on the pulse of what's happening here in the city,” Waters said.

The Chief said the security operation as a whole has been referred to as a “ring of steel,” an expansion of the concept first used in London. “It’s our way of protecting New York,” he said.

Though officials have said there is no specific threat to New York or any American city this holiday weekend, ISIS has repeatedly called for attacks on the city, and Waters said he always thinks that New York is a prime target.

The NYPD intelligence analysts are working around the clock to get ahead of any potential attackers, looking far beyond the city limits to do so.

“We look at the global threat environment,” said Meghann Teubner, Director of Counterterrorism Intelligence Analysis in the NYPD’s Counterterrorism Bureau. “What’s happening in the world? Are there any new trends that we need to be concerned with? Any new tactics that terrorist groups may be using that have any implication for us here in New York City?"

Capt. Gene McCarthy, executive officer in the NYPD’s Critical Response Command, said the department has analyzed recent major terror attacks from the Charlie Hebdo attack in Paris to the shootings in San Bernardino, California and Orlando, Florida.

“We are constantly looking at tactics, techniques and procedures that are used at those events and how we can better prepare ourselves here in New York City,” McCarthy said. Critical Response Command was formed in November 2015, just before the second major attack in Paris.

The 9,000 surveillance cameras are a mix of NYPD-owned cameras and those owned by “stakeholders,” private entities that provide their feeds to the police. License plate readers on roads can capture three million license plates a day, Chief Waters said, and the plate data is kept for five years.

As for fears of Big Brother-style privacy invasion from thousands of lenses, Waters said all the cameras are in public locations.

“So your expectation of privacy is just that – if you’re walking down the street, or if you’re driving your car and your license plate is read,” he said. “This is to protect us.”

Should someone slip through the cracks and attempt an attack, the NYPD’s “last line of defense” is a unit of Labrador Retrievers that are specially trained to detect explosive suicide vests, according to NYPD Lt. Brian Corrigan, who works with the animals.

“Instead of them just going after a static package where the handler directs them to search a package or an item, these dogs will air-scent, and will track any odor that is coming off a person or what the person is carrying,” Corrigan said. “The dogs play a major role. They are pretty much the last line of defense for stopping that potential suicide bomber.”

Waters said the dogs are so good they can “stand and watch an entire subway train pull in and everyone coming up to the street and they can clear a whole train, just by standing in one place.”

If an attacker does manage to start shooting in a public place, Capt. McCarthy said NYPD officers are trained not to hesitate – to go in and “stop the shooting.”

“Whether they’re police officers walking a foot post, CRC officers performing specific, directed missions or a tactical response team, the mission is to stop that shooting,” McCarthy said. “Once the shooting stops, there is a reassessment. If it turns into a barricade or a hostage type situation, we would bring more experienced, trained officers in to deal with. But the initial object is to stop that shooting and remove victims, remove witnesses, remove people that are sheltering in place, get them out of harm’s way.”

Teubner said recently ISIS attacks abroad prompted the NYPD to operate “in a heightened threat environment” and in a broad sense, she said the threat of attack keeps her up at night.

“I think I’ve aged a lot in the past two years, probably have gray hair and wrinkles,” she said, “just to see the shifting threat environment and know the depth and breadth of the threat we face now with a more diverse and diffused kind of threat environment.

“But I think the city should feel safe, the people, the civilians walking on the streets, they should feel safe and they should see the presence of law enforcement officers out there doing their job,” she said.

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Kichigin/iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- If you’re like most Americans, you’re headed for a weekend full of barbecues and fireworks.

But prior to the fun in the sun kicks off, inevitably, comes the hassle of travel.

Millions of Americans will be taking to the sky this weekend.

Airlines have nearly 11 million seats for the four-day Independence Day weekend travel period (Friday - Monday), according to analysts at Hopper, an airfare prediction app. The most popular destinations are New York, Las Vegas, DC, Chicago, and LA Hopper says.

With so many people, that means those pesky TSA lines could be a bit longer than usual - and according to Hopper, travelers should brace for especially long lines around 10:30 a.m. and 5:30 p.m., usually some of the busiest times at the checkpoint.

If you’re driving to your destination, steer clear of Friday afternoon. According to crowdsourcing navigation app Waze, drivers will see a 17 percent increase in traffic between 3 p.m. and 5 p.m. on Friday. Predictably, traffic will also increase by as much as 65 percent or more around 10 p.m. Friday, as tired revelers drive home from fireworks viewings, says Waze.

Your best bet? Waze suggests hitting the road Saturday before 11 a.m. or after 3 p.m.

And of course, don’t drink and drive!

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FBI(FAYETTEVILLE, N.C.) -- A woman on the FBI's Top 10 Fugitives list, wanted for allegedly shooting and killing a 9-month-pregnant woman, was captured early Friday morning at a motel in Fayetteville, North Carolina, according to the FBI in Milwaukee.

Shanika Minor was wanted for allegedly shooting and killing a pregnant woman after a confrontation on March 6, the FBI said. The victim was a neighbor of Minor's mother.

The woman was due to give birth within the week, the FBI said, noting that the woman and her unborn child both died before emergency medical personnel arrived.

After the shooting, Minor fled the scene and had not been seen since, the FBI said.

Minor was apprehended early Friday morning at a motel near the airport in Fayetteville after someone called the FBI Public Access Line giving her possible location, the FBI said.

She was taken into custody without incident and is being held the Cumberland County Detention Center, the FBI said.

A reward of up to $100,000 was offered for any information leading directly to her arrest.

An arrest warrant was first issued for Minor on March 9 charging her with first-degree intentional homicide and first-degree intentional homicide of an unborn child. A federal arrest warrant was issued on April 27 charging Minor with unlawful flight to avoid prosecution.

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File photo. (iStock/Thinkstock)(TALLAHASSEE, Fla.) -- Florida Gov. Rick Scott has declared a state of emergency in Martin and St. Lucie Counties due to a thick green algae bloom choking the area's waterways.

"I live on the water and I can’t even go out by back door. It smells vile," Chris Palas, who lives in Stuart, Florida, told ABC News Friday. "It is just horrible. It is just horrendous. It looks like pea soup. It is just not at the surface. It is deep."

"The health department put out signs on the beach saying there is no swimming," he said. "And clearly from the smell, it has got to be toxic, and who knows how it is going to affect us long-term."

Palas said the stench makes her whole family feel sick: "The headaches, the sinus pressure is extreme. It is just an awful feeling. As a mom, I have a 5-year-old daughter and you just worry, how is this going to affect her long-term?"

Scott issued an executive order on Wednesday to address the algae problem, saying in a statement, “Florida’s waterways, wildlife and families have been severely impacted by the inaction and negligence of the federal government not making the needed repairs to the Herbert Hoover Dike and Florida can no longer afford to wait."

The governor added that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers "continues to discharge millions of gallons of water into the St. Lucie and Caloosahatchee estuaries resulting in the growth of blue-green algae," and blamed the Obama administration's inaction.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in Jacksonville announced it would reduce the amount of freshwater flowing from Lake Okeechobee starting Friday.

“It has been a challenging year for south Florida,” Col. Jason Kirk, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Jacksonville District Commander, said in a statement on Thursday. “Our water managers have dealt with such large quantities of rain and runoff entering the lake that it would cover the entire state of Delaware in two feet of water. However, after visiting with local elected officials in Martin County yesterday and viewing the algae first hand, we felt compelled to take action, even though we need to remain vigilant in managing the level of Lake Okeechobee.”

Palas and her husband filmed a manatee, covered in the green muck and struggling to breath, swimming next to the dock in their backyard. The video garnered nearly one million views on Facebook and over 25,000 shares, and depicts the environmental impact of the algae bloom.

Palas said the incident broke her heart: "I was really sad, it was awful."

"My husband said, 'Oh my gosh, we have got to get some water and help it,' so he went to grab his hose and within seconds the manatee just came right up to the hose," Palas explained. "All this green algae was coming out of his nostrils."

"My daughter, a 5-year-old, just said, 'I think he’s going to die,'" Palas said. "My daughter went to bed crying. You can’t help but wonder what is going to happen long-term to these animals."

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iStock/Thinkstock(DENVER) -- Right on the heels of an announcement by Denver officials to increase security downtown, a video has been making the rounds of a disturbing attack on the bustling 16th Street Mall, one of the city's most popular spots.

In the video posted on social media, a shirtless man can be seen chasing people on the pedestrian mall Wednesday around 6 p.m. as he wildly swings a pole and hits them with it.

On Thursday, Mayor Michael Hancock said that the videotaped alleged assault was indicative of the activity and individuals Denver authorities were battling in the downtown area.

Denver police said Clarence Seeley, 32, had been arrested on suspicion of aggravated assault and second-degree assault. The District's Attorney's Office said on Friday that Seeley had not yet been formally charged.

In a news release, police said he'd allegedly threatened and hit random people with a "plastic (PVC-type) pipe."

One victim, a 35-year-old man, suffered a head laceration from the assault, but refused medical treatment, police said. The first two people assaulted in the video had left the scene and had not yet reached out to police.

Deputy Police Chief David Quinones said Thursday that Seeley was also suspected in multiple incidents within a four- to five-block area that had been reported over a period of 40 minutes before the mall incident. Quinones said that Seeley had been in Denver for about nine days.

On Monday, Denver officials introduced a new security plan for the mall that included more uniformed police officers this summer -- to the tune of $650,000 in taxpayer money -- as well as the hiring of a private security company.

Hancock blamed the recent trouble on a flood of what he termed "urban travelers," transients drawn to Colorado for its legalized marijuana.

"These are travelers to our city," he said Thursday. "[They] come here primarily to engage in the hanging out on our mall and to do other things in the city. ... When we asked them why did you come, it was very clear. They were very candid with us. They came here for marijuana."

Police said they were also investigating an unrelated video of a man leaving work and being assaulted by aggressive panhandlers.

"This is the type of behavior that we are addressing on the mall," Quinones said. "This is the type of behavior that we have said repeatedly will not be tolerated on the mall."

"We're going to take this very seriously," Hancock said. "Our job is to protect the citizens of Denver."

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tomloel/iStock/Thinkstock(BALTIMORE) – The lawyer for "Serial" podcast star Adnan Syed who was granted a new trial on Thursday for his role in allegedly murdering his high school ex-girlfriend says his client is not a flight risk nor is he a danger to the community, saying he should be granted bail.

In an interview with ABC News, Justin Brown said "We are just starting to look into that and I think we have a very compelling case.” He's not a flight risk and he is not a danger to the community and therefore he should be allowed out on bail."

But Brown said whether or not they will try to proceed with a bail hearing is yet to be determined.

Syed, now 36, has been incarcerated for more than half his life, sentenced to life in prison in 2000 for the murder of his ex-girlfriend Hae Min Lee. She was found buried in a shallow grave in Baltimore's Leakin Park.

On Thursday, a retired Baltimore judge issued a ruling granting Syed a new trial on the grounds that he received ineffective counsel from a defense attorney in 2000, who failed to cross examine an expert witness on key evidence.

This was a ruling issued after new evidence was presented during a second post-conviction relief hearing in February this year, including testimony from alibi witness Asia McClain Chapman who says she spoke with Syed at the exact time the state claims he killed Lee.

When asked whether his client is innocent, "I am. I have full confidence in his innocence," Brown said Friday.

Brown gave credit to the 2014 hit podcast "Serial" that launched Syed's case to international stardom.

"But for the podcast Serial, we would not be sitting here today," Brown said.

Brown also acknowledge the state might try to appeal the judge's ruling, and that the state has 30 days to decide its next steps. The Maryland Office of the Attorney General said in a written statement that they will continue to be in the pursuit of justice for Lee and her family, saying they will seek for a win in an appellate court.

Lee's family has not issued a statement of its own since the ruling was announced Thursday.

"We might have to go up through the Maryland Appellate courts and defend the opinion that was issued yesterday but we are pretty confident that the opinion is very solid and it’s based on the facts," Brown said.

McClain Chapman's witness testimony was determined to not have compelled the judge in issuing his ruling.

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Stockbyte/Thinkstock(BALTIMORE) — The Baltimore Police Department's updated use of force policy, which emphasizes the "sanctity of life" and the need to "de-escalate," goes into effect Friday -- the first update in more than a decade and coming in the wake of the death of Freddie Gray.

This is the first time the BPD's use of force policy has been updated since 2003, Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake announced at a press conference on Wednesday. The updated use of force policy announcement comes during the Department of Justice's ongoing investigation into the department's patterns and practices.

"Some of the key points in this use of force policy include the emphasis on the sanctity of life, that's actually in the policy now, and the need to de-escalate when possible," said Police Commissioner Kevin Davis said at Wednesday's press conference.

Other updates include clearer terminology and definitions, and the requirement that officers provide, "aid, including EMS or immediate hospital transport, to injured persons and those claiming to be injured," Davis announced.

Officers are also now required to intercede and notify a supervisor if they see fellow police officers using excessive force.

Last fall Gray, 25, died in Baltimore police custody, sparking nationwide outrage and allegations of police brutality, as well as six officers being charged. Gray had allegedly asked to go to the hospital before he passed away but police officers ignored his requests.

Three of the officers have been acquitted, including one who was charged with murder.

Rawlings-Blake emphasized that the updated police policy does not in any way neglect officer safety.

"Officer safety is paramount and I've been assured that the safety of our officer's is not at risk with the changes that have been made to the use of force policy, in fact our officers are in a better position as a result of these changes," Rawlings-Blake said at the press conference.

Police Commissioner Kevin Davis reiterated the Mayor's sentiments, adding "I've consistently said that we are not doing this to our police officers we are doing this for our police officers."

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Jacob Triplett(NEW YORK) — Royal Caribbean's Anthem of the Seas Cruise ship was forced to turn around off the coast of New York Thursday after a child had an accident in a pool and required medical help, according to the cruise line.

The 8-year-old boy was found Thursday afternoon. The Coast Guard said it was notified just before 7 p.m.
The FDNY met the ship -- which had left from Bayonne, NJ, earlier in the day -- upon its return. The child was medevaced to Staten Island University Hospital North, according to the Coast Guard. Early Friday morning, the Coast Guard had confirmed the ship returned out to sea after the child was evacuated.

The child's condition was unknown, the Coast Guard said.

The child's condition was unknown, the Coast Guard said.

The ship left Bayonne, NJ, Thursday afternoon and was set to embark on a 9-day cruise to Bermuda and the Caribbean.

According to Royal Caribbean, the boy was treated by the ship's medical team "after an accident in one of the ship’s swimming pools, but required additional medical attention."

"The ship altered its course and sailed back towards Bayonne, New Jersey for a medical evacuation. Royal Caribbean’s Care Team is providing support to the guest’s family," Royal Caribbean added in its statement.

The incident comes just months after the ship was forced to turn around in February when it encountered hurricane-force winds and 40-foot waves off the coast of the Carolinas.

That same month the ship turned around again to avoid a major storm.

This is a developing story. Please check back in for updates.


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Courtesy Treat Family(WEST GLACIER, Mont.) — The family of a 38-year-old Montana man who was fatally attacked by a grizzly bear while mountain biking has spoken out, saying the Forest Service Law Enforcement Officer "put his life on the line every day."

Brad Treat, 38, was mountain biking with a friend on a trail in West Glacier just after 2 p.m. Wednesday when the grizzly attacked, pulling him off his bike. The pair likely surprised the bear as they rode by, said Flathead County Sheriff Chuck Curry.

Treat's companion was able to exit the area and summon help and was not injured in the attack, Curry said.

Treat's sister-in-law, Melissa Treat, told ABC News he was "amazing man, an all around stand up guy, a devoted husband, amazing brother, loving son and loyal friend."

"He would go above and beyond to help those in need," Melissa said.

Melissa said her brother-in-law loved the outdoors and enjoyed hiking, kayaking, running and biking.

"It was hard to find him indoors," she said. "He loved being outside and enjoying nature."

U.S. Department of Agriculture secretary Tom Vilsack said in a statement Thursday, "I am saddened to hear of the passing of Officer Brad Treat...We are grateful for Officer Treat’s selfless service and share in mourning a life that was taken too soon."

The incident is under investigation by the Montana Department of Fish Wildlife and Parks, the U.S. Forest Service and the Flathead County Sheriff's Office. The area has been closed by the Forest Service for public safety pending the completion of the investigation, Curry said.

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File photo. (iStock/Thinkstock)(WESTPORT, Wash.) -- A harbor seal pup was recently euthanized by wildlife officials in Washington state after it was carried off a beach by a woman who mistakenly thought the seal had been abandoned, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration West Coast Marine Mammal Stranding Network.

The incident happened this May when a woman saw the seal pup on a beach near Westport, Washington, and carried it away in a recyclable shopping tote, NOAA public affairs officer Michael Milstein told ABC News Thursday.

"She then took it home and realized she really didn't know what to do for it or how to take care of it," he said. "She later called the local aquarium, Westport Aquarium, which is part of our network of volunteers."

The aquarium's director, Marc Myrsell, told ABC News Thursday that when he saw the seal on the woman's deck, it was "alive but extremely lethargic."

"Usually these animals will snap and struggle to get away if you try to approach them, but this pup was so lethargic," Myrsell said. "Putting him in the carrier to take him to a center was like picking up a sleeping human baby."

He said he and officials with the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife originally hoped to return the pup to the beach where the woman had found it. However, it was "unfortunately so unresponsive, and so much time had gone by" that they decided the most humane thing to do would be to euthanize it.

The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife did not immediately respond to ABC News' requests for additional information.

Though the incident happened in May, the pup's tragic story only recently started getting attention after the NOAA issued a news release this week reminding local residents of an "increasing alarming spate of similar incidents," according to Milstein.

"The best thing people can do to help marine mammals on the beach is to leave them alone, staying 100 yards away, if possible," the NOAA said in the news release. "Disturbing, feeding or attempting to move young seals or other marine mammals is illegal because it can stress the animals, interfere with their natural behavior and cause adult seals to abandon their pups."

Milstein told ABC News Thursday that typically "there are only about six to 10 illegal seal pickup cases a year in the Oregon-Washington area," but there have already been at least four known incidents this year.

"The decision to euthanize an animal is one that we do not take lightly at all," said Kristin Wilkinson, a regional stranding coordinator for the NOAA's West Coast Marine Mammal Stranding Network.

She said that in the case of this seal pup, it was in such bad condition that its chances of survival were extremely low.

She added that rehabilitation centers are often full and that wildlife officers have to make tough decisions about how many animals can be accepted. Typically, pups assessed to have a higher likelihood of survival are ones that are taken into rehab centers, she said.

"We're very passionate about marine mammals, so of course we all want to see them survive in the wild," Wilkinson said. "We only resort to euthanization if the situation becomes so dire that it would be the most humane thing to do."

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ABC News(NEW YORK) -- The Anthem of the Seas Cruise ship was forced to turn around off the coast of New York Thursday when a child needed medical help after being found in one of the craft's pools, according to the cruise line.

The 8-year-old child was found this afternoon and the Coast Guard was notified just before 7 p.m., officials said.

The child's condition was unknown, the Coast Guard said.

Boy needed medical attention, so #AnthemoftheSeas sailed back to Bayonne. He is currently being treated at the hospital. (2 of 3)

— RCLcorp (@RCLcorp) July 1, 2016

The ship left Bayonne, NJ Thursday afternoon and was set to embark on a 9-day cruise to Bermuda and the Caribbean.

According to Royal Caribbean, the boy was treated by the ship's medical team "after an accident in one of the ship’s swimming pools, but required additional medical attention."

"The ship altered its course and sailed back towards Bayonne, New Jersey for a medical evacuation. Royal Caribbean’s Care Team is providing support to the guest’s family," Royal Caribbean added in its statement.

The incident comes just months after the ship was forced to turn around in February when it encountered hurricane-force winds and 40-foot waves off the coast of the Carolinas.

That same month the ship turned around again to avoid a major storm.

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Courtesy Treat Family(WEST GLACIER, Mont.) --  The family of a 38-year-old Montana man who was fatally attacked by a grizzly bear while mountain biking has spoken out, saying the Forest Service Law Enforcement Officer "put his life on the line every day."

Brad Treat, 38, was mountain biking with a friend on a trail in West Glacier just after 2 p.m. Wednesday when the grizzly attacked, pulling him off his bike. The pair likely surprised the bear as they rode by, said Flathead County Sheriff Chuck Curry.

 Treat's companion was able to exit the area and summon help and was not injured in the attack, Curry said.

Treat's sister-in-law, Melissa Treat, told ABC News he was "amazing man, an all around stand up guy, a devoted husband, amazing brother, loving son and loyal friend."

"He would go above and beyond to help those in need," Melissa said.

 Melissa said her brother-in-law loved the outdoors and enjoyed hiking, kayaking, running and biking.

"It was hard to find him indoors," she said. "He loved being outside and enjoying nature."

The incident is under investigation by the Montana Department of Fish Wildlife and Parks, the U.S. Forest Service and the Flathead County Sheriff's Office. The area has been closed by the Forest Service for public safety pending the completion of the investigation, Curry said.

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iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- The Pentagon lifted the ban on transgender people serving openly in the military Thursday, with Defense Secretary Ash Carter noting that the armed services "don't want barriers unrelated to a person’s qualifications to serve."

Carter made the announcement at a Pentagon news conference. The change is effective immediately.

Top Pentagon officials finalized details of the plan earlier in the week.

"The Defense Department and the military need to avail ourselves of all talent possible in order to remain what we are now — the finest fighting force the world has ever known," Carter said. "We don't want barriers unrelated to a person’s qualifications to serve preventing us from recruiting or retaining the soldier, sailor, airman or Marine who can best accomplish the mission."

The plan directs each branch of the armed services to implement new policies affecting recruiting, medical care, housing and uniforms for transgender troops. The military services will conduct training for commanders and medical personnel over the next 90 days who have transgender personnel in their units. Over the next nine months, there will be training for all military services and medical personnel.

"When the training is complete, no later than one year from today, the military services will begin accessing transgender individuals who meet all standards, holding them to the same physical and mental fitness standards as everyone else who wants to join the military," said Carter.

Last July he announced he would lift the ban and formed a task force to review how that process would commence. He directed the task force to work under the assumption that the ban would be lifted.

The task force's assessment continued beyond the original six-month deadline, and recommendations were not presented until February.

"All this represents a sea change from even a decade ago," said Carter. "It’s important that we do it."

According to a Rand Corp. study, an estimated 2,500 active service members out of 1.3 million are transgender, and about 65 service members seek to make a gender transition each year. The study determined that any medical or institutional costs associated with the policy change would be minimal.

Once the plan is fully in place, the military’s health care system will pay for gender reassignment surgery. Any treatment will be categorized as nonurgent and subject to a service member’s current readiness status.

 Army Intelligence Officer Captain Jennifer Peace, who says she was “outed” to her command in January 2015, was one of a few service members who met with Carter in the week leading up to the announcement lifting the ban on transgender men and woman.

"Being transgender, for me this announcement is such a huge relief. It is very validating to hear," Peace told ABC News. "Transgender service members are qualified to serve and we support the nation’s readiness. It really hit home."

Peace says she has been transitioning since 2014 and has been in the military for 12 years. When she first was visibly making gender changes, she expressed how hard it was being forced to “maintain male grooming standards” and being in a place where “no one wanted me in either restroom.”

She helps counsel those serving in uniform who find themselves in similar situations to ensure they receive equal treatment.

She said it will help to have the support of the secretary of defense, and sees the attitudes of other service members starting to change overall.

"This is going to make things better, although there are still going to be speed bumps in the way. But now commanders will have guidelines,” Peace said.

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iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Adnan Syed, a convicted killer who gained international fame from the podcast "Serial," is getting a new trial after spending 17 years in prison for a murder he says he did not commit.

A retired Baltimore City Circuit Court judge issued his ruling Thursday after reviewing new evidence, including the testimony from an alibi witness that was presented during a second post-conviction hearing earlier this year. Syed was convicted of killing his former high school classmate Hae Min Lee. Lee was found strangled in Leakin Park in 1999. The pair had dated.

During a press conference Thursday, Syed's attorney Justin Brown said his next goal is to get Syed out of prison.

"The conviction is vacated, so the conviction is erased, it’s gone. As of this day he’s not convicted anymore," Brown said. "One of the first things we’re going to be looking at is whether we can get him out on bail," but that it's up to the state whether they are going to appeal the judge's ruling or go forward with a new trial.

Late Thursday evening, the Maryland Office of the Attorney General released a statement, confirming they will continue to seek justice in the murder of Lee.

"The court ruled in the State’s favor on a number of issues, but there does appear to be at least one ground that will need to be resolved by the appellate courts The State’s responsibility remains to pursue justice, and to defend what it believes is a valid conviction," the statement said.

Syed’s lawyers, Brown and Christopher Nieto, called seven witness during the hearing earlier this year. They argued for a new trial for Syed on two points: Asia McClain Chapman, an alibi witness who said she saw Syed at the Woodlawn Public Library at the same time the state says he killed Lee was never sought out for her testimony in Syed’s 2000 trial, and cellphone location data that was deemed “unreliable” by AT&T that was used against him during his trial, pinpointing him near the wooded area where Lee was buried.

Both of these issues, Syed’s lawyers argued, are due to “failures” of Syed’s 2000 trial lawyer Cristina Gutierrez.

Judge Martin Welch in his issued opinion wrote that he found Syed's trial attorney "rendered ineffective assistance when she failed to cross-examine the state's expert regarding the reliability of cell tower location evidence," according to court documents obtained by ABC News. But on the issue of failing to contact McClain, the judge found that Syed's lawyer's performance "fell below the standard of reasonable professional judgement," but that this error did not prejudice Syed's defense.

Welch wrote that "trial counsel's failure to investigate McClain's alibi did not prejudice the defense because the crux of the State's case did not rest on the time of the murder," adding later, "The potential alibi witness, however, would not have undermined the crux of the State's case: that Petitioner buried the victim's body in Leakin Park at approximately 7 p.m. on January 13, 1999," the documents read.

Chapman tweeted on Thursday, "Wow...I'm speechless. New Baby, New Trial." Chapman, who was pregnant when she testified during the post-conviction relief hearing in February of this year, gave birth Wednesday.

Brown celebrated the judge's decision Thursday afternoon, saying "I’m feeling pretty confident right now. This was the biggest hurdle. It’s really hard to get a new trial."

When asked why Gutierrez was ineffective during cross examination of the cell evidence, Brown said: “She is deceased right now. We can’t ask her. There’s no explanation for not cross-examining the cell tower expert.”

Syed's best friend, 35-year-old Saad Chaudry, said he's "feeling good" about the judge's decision.

"It’s amazing. And I mean the timing is just awesome that it’s this month during the month of Ramadan, so many prayers from all over the world," the businessman said.

Chaudry added that "hope has been restored" and that he thinks his friend is "appreciative" of Thursday's outcome, calling it "balanced and fair."

In the state’s closing arguments earlier this year, Maryland Deputy Attorney General Thiruvendran Vignarajah called Gutierrez a “meticulous” and “tenacious” lawyer, saying she did everything she could do to “vigorously advocate” for Syed, “pouring every ounce of her great talent” into defending him.

“To have her name smeared as it is, as a vehicle to make this case … it is not fair,” Vignarajah said.

The state called only two witnesses of its own to testify against Syed: a former Woodlawn Public Library security guard, and FBI Special Agent Chad Fitzgerald, who corroborated the testimony of a cellphone expert who placed Syed at the scene of the burial.

The security guard was called to verify that there were not security cameras in the library. However during testimony he said “it’s possible” there were.

Perhaps the most notable part of the hearing was when Brown called McClain (now Campbell) to testify as the alibi witness or “missing piece of the puzzle.”

McClain testified that she was with Syed at the time of the killing, but she says she didn’t call the police initially to divulge her story because of fear.

“I started to call the police and then I chickened out. I think I hung up 'cause I got scared.”

She didn’t make herself known to Gutierrez, but she wrote letters to Syed. Syed told Gutierrez, but she didn't pursue the angle.

Copyright © 2016, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

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