KONP.com Home
 

National News List

Third American Victim in Germanwings Crash Identified

Thursday March 26, 2015

ABC News(WASHINGTON) -- The third American victim who died in the Germanwings plane crash has been identified as Robert Oliver.

Oliver, 37, was an American citizen born in Barcelona, Spain.

He worked as a real estate coordinator for the Spanish-based fashion company Desigual, a company spokeswoman told ABC News. Oliver covered German real estate for the company and was headed to Dusseldorf on a business trip with a Spanish colleague called Laura Altamira at the time of his death, according to the Desigual spokeswoman.

The first two Americans on board were named on Wednesday as mother-daughter pair Yvonne and Emily Selke.

Yvonne Selke lived in Virginia and worked at consulting firm Booz Allen Hamilton, largely working with the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency. Emily Selke graduated from Drexel University in 2013 as a music industry major.

Among the 144 passengers on board were 16 German high school students and their two teachers who were traveling back from a language exchange trip in Spain.

Six crew members were also on board, including co-pilot Andreas Lubitz, who investigators believe kept his captain outside of the cockpit as he deliberately forced the plane to descend into the French Alps.


Copyright © 2015, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.


Rep. Aaron Schock Bids Congress Farewell

Thursday March 26, 2015

United States Congress(WASHINGTON) -- Rep. Aaron Schock returned to the Capitol on Thursday, casting a final vote in the House before delivering a farewell address to close a nearly two-month drama for the Illinois Republican.

On the final day of legislative business before his March 31 resignation becomes official, Schock cast a vote in favor of a bipartisan deal to eliminate the so-called “Doc-Fix.”

“I leave here with sadness and humility,” Schock said. “For those whom I've let down, I will work tirelessly to make it up to you.”

“I know that God has a plan for my life,” he added. “I believe that through life's struggles, we learn from our mistakes, and we learn more about ourselves. And I know that this is not the end of a story, but rather the beginning of a new chapter.”

Schock made headlines this winter when his congressional office was redecorated to mirror the PBS television show, Downton Abbey. Like Schock’s congressional career, the popular British drama is ending after about six years.

After his speech, Schock chatted with colleagues at the back of the House chamber and in the Republican cloak room before rushing out of the Capitol.

The four-term congressman ignored questions about a nascent criminal investigation into his financial dealings.

Asked what’s next, Schock replied, “Easter.”

Pressed about the criminal probe, Schock politely answered “Have a nice day” before ducking into an awaiting vehicle.

During his farewell address, Schock pointed out that Abraham Lincoln held the same congressional seat in central Illinois for a single term before he became president.

“Few faced as many defeats in his personal, business and public life as [Lincoln] did,” Schock said. “His continual perseverance in the face of these trials - never giving up - is something all Americans should be inspired by, especially when going through a valley in life. I believe that through life's struggles, we learn from our mistakes, and we learn more about ourselves.”

He also recalled taking the oath of office in 2009, when he was sworn in as the youngest member of the 111th Congress.

“I remember feeling so excited about the opportunity that lied ahead,” Schock said. “I remember vividly this chamber and all it meant to me and the country -- the men and women debating the big issues of the day, not always agreeing, but always fighting without apology for what they believed in.”


Copyright © 2015, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.


National Guardsman and His Cousin Arrested for Trying to Join ISIS

Thursday March 26, 2015

iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- The FBI has arrested two men -- one of them a current member of the Illinois National Guard -- for allegedly trying to join ISIS, the terrorist group wreaking havoc in Syria and Iraq, authorities said Thursday.

Army National Guard Specialist Hasan Edmonds, 22, was arrested Wednesday at Chicago Midway International Airport as he was trying to fly to Egypt, according to authorities. His cousin, Jonas Edmonds, 29, was arrested at his home.

Both men are from Aurora, Illinois, and will be appearing in federal court later Thursday.

Hasan Edmonds first came onto the FBI’s radar in late 2014 as he hatched a plan for him to join ISIS overseas while Jonas Edmonds launched an attack inside the United States, according to the Justice Department.

This comes a week after a former U.S. Air Force veteran was indicted by federal authorities for allegedly trying to join ISIS.

Tairod Nathan Webster Pugh, 47, who is from New Jersey but had been living overseas for years, was secretly arrested two months ago after being deported back to the United States.

On his laptop, FBI agents allegedly discovered more than 180 jihadist propaganda videos and noticed he had been conducting online searches for such phrases as "borders controlled by Islamic state," "kobani border crossing," and "who controls kobani."

Last month, three New York City men were arrested on charges they allegedly conspired to join ISIS but also expressed willingness to carry out attacks on the terror group's behalf in the United States. The men had planned to travel to the Middle East and had also pledged to launch attacks in this country, including one on President Obama or planting a bomb in Coney Island, Brooklyn, federal officials said.

Over the past 18 months, about 30 people have been charged with joining terrorist groups in Syria and Iraq or trying to do so.


Copyright © 2015, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.


UVA Student Martese Johnson Makes First Court Appearance

Thursday March 26, 2015

Zach Gibson/Getty Images(CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va.) -- University of Virginia student Martese Johnson entered no plea Thursday to charges stemming from his bloody arrest last week.

Johnson was expected to enter a not guilty plea, but the prosecution asked for a continuance so the investigation could continue.

Martese and lawyer Daniel Watkins agreed to this and his next appearance will be May 28. Attorneys hope that the Virginia State Police investigation will be done by then.

Nearly 100 supporters showed up to the Charlottesville District Court, all dressed in black in a show of unity. The court appearance lasted all of 90 seconds.

Johnson, 20, was bloodied during an arrest near the campus last week, sparking protests on the campus over alleged police brutality as well as a state investigation of the incident. He was arrested outside a Charlottesville bar by state Alcoholic Beverage Control (ABC) agents who are charged with enforcing alcohol laws in Virginia.

In Virginia, there is no legal requirement that customers entering a restaurant where alcohol is served must be over the age of 21. Therefore Johnson had every right to attempt to enter Trinity so long as he was using his lawful identification. Trinity’s decision to enact a 21-and-over policy after 10 p.m., for busy evenings, did not make Johnson’s attempt to enter illegal.


Copyright © 2015, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.


Bipartisan Vote Sends Permanent 'Doc Fix' Bill to Senate

Thursday March 26, 2015

iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- By an overwhelming bipartisan vote, the House of Representatives pulled together on Thursday to send the Senate what supporters are calling the most-significant entitlement reform of the past 20 years.

In a rare display of bipartisanship, House Speaker John Boehner and Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi came together to strike a deal, repealing the Sustainable Growth Rate and replacing it with a long-term solution to Medicare repayment, as well as extending funding for community health centers for two years.

By a vote of 392-37, the bill, formally known as Medicare Access and CHIP Reauthorization Act of 2015, now heads to the Senate where Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid comes under pressure to back the bipartisan deal.

Just four Democrats opposed the House vote, while 180 supported it. Thirty-three Republicans also voted against the measure.

To date, Reid has been somewhat reluctant to endorse the deal, pouring cold water on the idea of bringing the measure up for a vote quickly in the Senate.

“The SGR is still a work in progress, and I personally am going to wait until we see it having pass the House before we start speculating on what we need to do with it, if anything,” Reid, D-Nev., said Tuesday.

Since 2003, Congress has spent nearly $170 billion in short-term patches to avoid cuts imposed by the SGR.

“This is a bill that will provide better health care for seniors and real savings for taxpayers,” Boehner, R-Ohio, said during a news conference shortly before the vote. “This'll be the first real entitlement reform that we've seen in nearly two decades, and that's a big win for the American people. It was a true bipartisan agreement.”

Boehner urged the Senate to pass the bill prior to the March 31 deadline.

“I was pleased to hear the president would sign the bill, and I would urge the Senate to pass it expeditiously,” Boehner said.


Copyright © 2015, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.


Facebook Reveals Plan for Unmanned Internet Airplanes

Thursday March 26, 2015

Justin Sullivan/Getty Images(SAN FRANCISCO) -- In his mission to connect the world, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg revealed on Thursday that his company has been quietly testing unmanned aircraft that can beam Internet access from the sky.

"Aircraft like these will help connect the whole world because they can affordably serve the 10 percent of the world's population that live in remote communities without existing Internet infrastructure," Zuckerberg wrote on his Facebook page Thursday.

He said he would share more about the initiative in a keynote address Thursday afternoon at Facebook's F8 developer conference.

The aircraft has already gone on one test flight in the United Kingdom, Zuckerberg said. It's expected the final design will produce an airplane with the wingspan of a Boeing 737 but lighter than a car.

Running on solar power, Zuckerberg said it's expected the plane could fly at altitudes of more than 60,000 feet for months at a time.


Copyright © 2015, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.


Battle of the Phones: Samsung vs. HTC

Thursday March 26, 2015

Justin Sullivan/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- If Samsung's Galaxy S6 and Galaxy S6 Edge faced off in a beauty contest with the HTC One M9, it would be hard to say which phone would take the crown.

Samsung and HTC's new devices are sleek, but ultimately what's on the inside will help guide people in the market for a new Android phone as to which device is right for them.

Samsung's Galaxy S6 smartphones are available for pre-order beginning Friday and will be available in the United States on April 10. HTC's One M9 will be sold directly from their site on Friday to customers in the U.S. with the device reaching stores on April 10.

Keeping in mind that the key difference between the Samsung Galaxy S6 and the Galaxy S6 Edge is the latter's curved side that comes with additional functionality, here's a breakdown of how Samsung and HTC's offerings stack up against each other:

Price

The HTC One M9 will cost around $649 for an unlocked device with 32 GB of storage. Samsung hasn't released pricing for the Galaxy S6 devices, however expect them to start at a comparable price point for the 32 GB option, with the 64 GB and 128 GB choices costing more.

Screen Size

Samsung's phones have a 5.1-inch display, and HTC's latest flagship offering measures 5 inches.

Camera

The camera is often the tipping point for most people when deciding between similar smartphones. Bother cameras are sharp but have their differences.

Samsung boasted that it would have the "fastest, brightest camera on the market" and showed how it was able to illuminate a night scene and turn on with a quick double tap of the home key in less than a second.

The Galaxy S6 phones have a 5 megapixel selfie camera with a 120-degree wide angle lens, while the rear camera packs 16 megapixels.

The HTC One M9 also boasts a wide angle, ultrapixel front facing camera that can take in more light, while the rear camera has 20 megapixels.

Charging

Samsung's new devices are outfitted with wireless charging, making power cords obsolete. In 10 minutes, Samsung says the devices can get enough charge for four hours of everyday use.

Samsung's Galaxy S6 devices are powered with 2,550 mAh of battery life. Comparably, HTC's One M9 has a battery capacity of 2,840 mAh which packs up to 25.4 hours of talk time, according to the company's website.

Standout Features

Samsung's latest flagship devices standout for ditching the plastic backing of their ancestors in favor of a sleek aluminum and glass body. Also expect Samsung Pay, a contact-less payment system to rival Apple Pay, to come to users of the phones sometime this summer.

HTC's One M9 looks a lot like its predecessors but comes with a newly enabled customization feature, letting users change the look and feel of their phone's interface.

Another standout offer from HTC is "Uh Oh Protection." The free insurance policy promises to replace your new phone if it's damaged in the first year.


Copyright © 2015, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.


What We Know About Germanwings Flight's Final 10 Minutes

Thursday March 26, 2015

Peter Macdiarmid/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- Details about the final 10 minutes of the Germanwings flight that crashed Tuesday in the French Alps are becoming a bit clearer Thursday.

Audio from inside the cockpit indicates co-pilot Andreas Lubitz, a 28-year-old German citizen, was in control of the Airbus A320. That's according to Brice Robin, public prosecutor of Marseille, who spoke at a news conference Thursday.

"The intention was to destroy the plane," Robin said.

Here's a breakdown of what we know about Flight 9525's last moments, based on information released by authorities:

At 10:30 a.m., the plane is flying at 38,000 feet.

At some point around this time, the pilot is heard asking the co-pilot to take over the controls. A chair is heard moving and a door is heard closing.

At 10:31 a.m., the plane starts losing altitude.

The co-pilot is alone at the controls, and the accelerated descent is made manually. The pilot is heard knocking on the door and asking over the speaker to enter the cockpit. There is no response from the co-pilot.

The plane’s altitude drops down to roughly 6,000 feet.

Air traffic control can be heard calling, but there is no response. The pilot is heard “violently” banging on the door, as he tries to get back into the cockpit, according to Robin. The co-pilot is heard breathing until the final moment of impact, leading officials to believe he was alive until the crash.

At 10:40 a.m., the plane crashes, and the radar contact is lost.


Copyright © 2015, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.


Germanwings Co-Pilot Appeared to Want to ‘Destroy the Plane,’ Prosecutor Says

Thursday March 26, 2015

F. Balsamo - Gendarmerie nationale / Ministere de l'Interieur via Getty Images(MARSEILLES, France) — The co-pilot of the Germanwings plane that crashed in the French Alps this week appeared to want to "destroy the plane," Brice Robin, public prosecutor of Marseille, said Thursday.

"The intention was to destroy the plane," he said, later adding: "Death was instantaneous."

Speaking at a news conference conducted mostly in French, Robin confirmed reports about the pilot being heard on the voice recorder asking co-pilot Andreas Lubitz, a German citizen, to take over the controls, with a chair heard being moved and door heard closing.

The co-pilot, 28, took control, Robin said, and the accelerated descent was made manually.

Whatever the cause, Germanwings initially took exception to the prosecutor's comments, tweeting this morning, "We are shocked by the statements from French authorities that the co-pilot deliberately crashed the aircraft."

But at a news conference later in Cologne, Carsten Spohr, CEO of Lufthansa, which owns Germanwings, said, “We have to accept that the plane was crashed on purpose.” He added, “It seems to be true that the co-pilot denied the pilot access to the cockpit.”

He asked people not to rush to judgment, however, which he called "speculation" about the co-pilot's intentions, adding, "the motivation could be of various nature."

He stressed that the co-pilot, who had 630 hours of flying time, had undergone extensive psychological and aviation review since beginning training in 2008 and joining the company as a first officer in 2013, though his training was interrupted six years ago for an unspecified reason.

"In our worst nightmare, we could not have imagined that such a tragedy could take place at our company," Spohr said, speaking in German and agreeing with French authorities that terrorism was not involved.

He declined to characterize the crash as a suicide, saying there has to be something else involved. "It is a puzzle for us," he said.

As for the chain of events, prosecutor Robin said all had seemed normal as the pilots communicated in a "amicable" way for the first 20 minutes of the flight.

But later, the captain can be heard on the voice recording knocking on the door and asking over the speaker to re-enter the cockpit, but there was no response from the co-pilot, Robin said.

The co-pilot can be heard breathing until the moment of impact, Robin said, so officials believe he was alive until the crash in which all 150 people on board are presumed to have died.

Air traffic control can also be heard calling, with no response from the cockpit.

Lubitz, who lived in Montabaur, Germany, had no reason to lock the pilot out of the cabin, no reason not to respond to air traffic control and no reason to disable the plane's ability to maintain contact with other plans in the area, Robin said.

Toward the end of the descent, investigators can hear "violent" banging on door as the pilot tries to get in, Robin added.

Lufthansa CEO Spohr said pilots are able to enter a code to re-enter the cockpit but that the pilot inside is able to disable the system electronically. So either the captain did not enter the code or Lubitz blocked his entry, he said.

"We have total confidence in our pilots and co-pilots," he said.


World News Videos | US News Videos

Copyright © 2015, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.


"Downton Abbey" Will End After Next Season

Thursday March 26, 2015

ITV(NEW YORK) -- It appears the rumors are true. Popular PBS drama Downton Abbey will end after its sixth season.

Series executive producer Gareth Neame announced the news Thursday. In a statement, he says: "Millions of people around the world have followed the journey of the Crawley family and those who serve them for the last five years. Inevitably there comes a time when all shows should end andDownton is no exception."

"We wanted to close the doors of Downton Abbey when it felt right and natural for the story lines to come together and when the show was still being enjoyed so much by its fans," the statement continues. "We can promise a final season full of all the usual drama and intrigue, but with the added excitement of discovering how and where they all end up."

"We, like the fans, simply cannot wait to see what will happen to the Crawley family and their beloved staff as this incredible series culminates in Season 6," PBS president and CEO Paula Kerger said in a staement. "The series has enjoyed such success over the past five seasons and we’ll certainly be working alongside Carnival, Masterpiece and PBS member stations to make Season 6 the biggest yet. Until then, Sunday nights on PBS continue to offer fans a full slate of ‘must view’ British and, soon, American historical drama."

Season five of Downton Abbey just ended in the U.S. on PBS. The cast is currently filming the show's sixth season.


Copyright © 2015, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.


NASA Studies Kelly Twins to Understand Space's Impact on Human Body

Thursday March 26, 2015

Peter Kramer/NBC/NBC NewsWire via Getty Images(NEW YORK) — NASA will examine how a year of zero gravity will affect the human body when Scott Kelly blasts off for an extended stay on the International Space Station.

But NASA isn’t just going to look at Kelly and fellow astronaut Mikhail Kornienko. The team also will be following Scott Kelly’s identical twin brother, Mark Kelly, as an earthbound control group.

Officials hope to understand what exactly happens to a human body hundreds of miles above Earth's surface.

“We need to figure out how people are going to live in space for really long periods of time, especially if we want to send somebody to Mars or maybe we want to build a base on the moon," Mark Kelly told ABC News' David Kerley.

There are a number of studies being conducted, with collaborations among various universities, including Stanford University, Colorado State University, Johns Hopkins University and Cornell University.

The astronauts will be subject to a battery of tests looking at things such as muscle mass, bone loss and even the shape of their eyeballs. In a previous NASA study, some astronauts reported a change in vision after the physical shape of their eyeballs changed.

NASA medical officer Dr. Steven Gilmore said being able to compare samples between identical twins would be helpful for the research.

“You can look at, in detail, how the genes and the proteins that are made from them change as a result of this unique environment," he told ABC News.

Researchers will look at how genes go "on and off" during space flight and if being away from Earth in the vacuum of space affects proteins in the body.

NASA wants to know how the stressors unique to space flight could change the body. This means seeing how microgravity, confinement in the space station and radiation changes affects the proteins and metabolic systems in the body.

NASA also wants to discover how blood flow changes -- a result of microgravity -- can have unexpected effects on the body. One hypothesis is that astronauts' eyes change shape in space because blood volume on their upper body increases without gravity.

“Your nose gets stuffy, your eyes get a little bit of pressure,” said Jennifer Fogarty, a clinical transitional scientist in a NASA video. "You feel like you have a really bad head cold."

The study results could be key in finding a way to send humans to Mars to create a permanent colony on the moon.

“That's one of the things that make it exciting and something I’m really happy to be a part of," Scott Kelly said on ABC News' This Week.

Scott Kelly is scheduled to lift off Friday for his year in space.


Copyright © 2015, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.


DEA ‘Sex Parties’ Funded by Drug Cartels, IG Report Says

Thursday March 26, 2015

DEA.gov(WASHINGTON) — Senior Drug Enforcement Administration agents working overseas allegedly participated in “sex parties” with prostitutes funded by drug cartels, according to a newly-released Department of Justice Inspector General report on the handling of sexual misconduct allegations by law enforcement agencies.

The conduct occurred over a period of years, according to the report. In addition to soliciting prostitutes, the foreign officers interviewed for the report allege three DEA supervisory special agents were “provided money, expensive gifts, and weapons from drug cartel members."

Some DEA agents who participated in the parties denied knowing about cartel involvement, but the IG report says, “information in the case files suggested they should have known the prostitutes in attendance were paid with cartel funds.”

The sex parties occurred in government leased living quarters where “agents’ laptops, BlackBerry devices and other government-issued equipment were present,” posing a security risk and “potentially exposing them to extortion, blackmail, or coercion.”

In another instance, two DEA special agents allegedly solicited prostitutes for a farewell party for a senior DEA official.

That official, an acting assistant regional director, allegedly had “sexual relations with prostitutes” and there were “allegations operational funds were used to pay for the party and the prostitutes,” according to the report.

The report also alleges that one prostitute was assaulted by someone associated with DEA supervisors following a payment dispute. The report was critical of DEA’s treatment of allegations of sexual misconduct, often dealing with incidents as local management issues and not reporting information up the chain of command.

The report also looked at allegations of misconduct against the U.S. Marshals Service, ATF and the FBI.

One case of alleged sexual harassment involved an FBI “Supervisory Management and Program Analyst’s repeated unprofessional behavior, including cornering his subordinates in their cubicles and displaying the size of his genitals by tightening his pants,” the report details. Subordinates of that employee endured his conduct for three years before it was reported to headquarters. The analyst was eventually suspended, demoted and reassigned to another office.

The Department of Justice said in a statement that it is working “with the law enforcement components to ensure a zero tolerance policy on sexual harassment and misconduct is enforced and that incidents are properly reported."


Copyright © 2015, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.


What Drew Barrymore Said About Her Post-Baby Body

Thursday March 26, 2015

Peter Kramer/NBC(LOS ANGELES) -- For every star who seemingly bounces back to her pre-pregnancy size weeks after giving birth, there's Drew Barrymore to keep it real.

"After making two babies, holy cow, does your body do some crazy stuff! It’s hard to stay positive and love yourself," the 40-year-old actress admitted about her post-baby body in Glamour magazine. "You feel like a kangaroo with a giant pouch; everything’s saggy and weird. But you think about how beautiful it is that you’re able to make children."

She added, "When I lose sight of that, I exercise, read Dr. Seuss’s Oh, the Places You’ll Go!, and spend time with my kids. Then I start to see things that are bigger than myself."

Barrymore isn't afraid to look less than perfect in public, either.

"You don't always have to look stunning on Instagram," she told Glamour. "I've been makeup-less, pregnant, and stuffing food in my face in many pictures; that makes it all the more exciting when I do do something more attractive. I don't like it when everyone looks so perfect all the time. Where's the humor in that?"

Barrymore is married to Will Kopelman, with whom she has two children -- Olive, 2, and Frankie, 11 months.


Copyright © 2015, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.


Andreas Lubitz, Germanwings Co-Pilot, Received Training in Arizona

Thursday March 26, 2015

Sascha Steinbach/Getty Images(NEW YORK) — The co-pilot who was at the controls when the Germanwings flight crashed this week received some of his training in America, the airline's CEO revealed Thursday.

Andreas Lubitz, 28, was a German citizen and started working for Germanwings' parent company Lufthansa at a flight training center outside of Phoenix in 2008, company officials said.

The facility, called Airline Training Center Arizona, was owned by Lufthansa and is used by its pilots in addition to other training locations in Germany, Switzerland and Austria, officials said.

A spokeswoman for Germanwings told ABC News that he also received some of his training in Bremen, Germany.

In spite of undergoing some of his training in 2008, he reportedly took breaks during the process and only became an official Germanwings pilot in 2013.

"Six years ago there had been an interruption to his training," Lufthansa CEO Carsten Spohr said at a news conference Thursday. "We checked his skills and his competence and then he went back to training school. After that he was successful."

He went on to explain that the interruption lasted for a few months but he did not elaborate on the reason and said it was something that could happen regularly in their program.

Spohr said Lubitz passed training school "with flying colors."

"He was fit in all areas, 100 percent," Spohr said.

He had 630 hours of flying experience by the time he was at the controls during Tuesday's fatal crash into the French Alps, only 100 hours of which were on the same model plane, the Airbus A320, officials said.

U.S. law enforcement officials have offered cooperation on the investigation.

"The FBI has offered assistance to our French partners, who are leading the investigation into the crash of Germanwings Flight 9525," the agency said in a statement Thursday. "We stand ready to fulfill any requests for information or assistance by crash investigators, as we work with partner nations whose citizens were impacted by this tragedy."



Copyright © 2015, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.


Lawmakers Told Top DHS Official Played Politics, Appeared to Violate Ethics

Thursday March 26, 2015

ABC News(WASHINGTON) -- The Homeland Security Inspector General told Congress Thursday that the federal agency's second in command violated his own ethics policy at least three times by giving special access -- or the appearance of favorable treatment -- to powerful political insiders seeking help with immigration matters.

Asked directly by lawmakers if Deputy Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas had violated the ethics policy he had put in place, Inspector General John Roth said yes.

"We believe that policy was not followed," Roth said.

The questions before the House Committee on Homeland Security came two days after the agency's internal watchdog issued a lengthy report about Mayorkas' management at the head of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services of an obscure immigration program that grants visas to foreigners who agree to invest $500,000 in a qualified, U.S. job-creating venture.

The IG report came on the heels of an ABC News investigation that revealed that a number of visa recipients were approved despite objections from career officials, who found instances where foreign applicants accused of fraud, money laundering, even involvement in child pornography, had received permission to move to the U.S. The ABC News investigation also found evidence that spies and even possible terrorists had attempted to exploit the visa program to enter the country.

The IG report focused on alleged political favoritism by Mayorkas and specifically highlighted three cases where Mayorkas intervened after being contacted by powerful Democrats, including a past and current governor and the brother of Hillary Clinton.

"We believe there was an appearance of favoritism," Roth told the committee.

House Committee on Homeland Security Chairman Rep. Michael McCaul, R-Texas, said he was "extremely troubled" by the findings.

"The alleged exertion of undue influence ... that resulted in benefits for politically connected and powerful individuals is extremely concerning,” he said.

Mayorkas had denied favoring anyone based on political considerations, saying he was seeking to reform a program rife with problems.

Democratic Rep. Bennie Thompson said he believed the Inspector General had misunderstood the actions Mayorkas took in cases where powerful Democrats had reached out to him.

Thompson called him "an activist manager" who was shaking up a department with low morale.

"I'm a little concerned you went along way to say he didn't do anything wrong," Thompson said.

Roth said, "He violated an ethical cannon, Congressman."

The three cases studied were developments that sought funding from foreign investors who would receive visas in exchange.

One was an electric car venture headed by Terry McAuliffe, now the Virginia governor, and supported by a business run by Anthony Rodham, Clinton's brother. Both McAuliffe and Rodham made contact with Mayorkas while the car venture was being reviewed, the investigation found. The probe found Mayorkas intervened and reversed staff decisions to assist the project.

Similar findings related to a Las Vegas hotel backed by Sen. Harry Reid and film projects pushed by former Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell.

“The juxtaposition of Mr. Mayorkas’ communication with external stakeholders on specific matters outside the normal procedures, coupled with favorable action that deviated from the regulatory scheme designed to ensure fairness and evenhandedness in adjudicating benefits, created an appearance of favoritism and special access,” the IG report said.

Earlier this week Mayorkas wrote a robust response to the IG report, saying his efforts were focused on improving a troubled program, and were always vetted by agency attorneys.

On Tuesday, he issued a statement saying, "While I disagree with the Inspector General’s report, I will certainly learn from it and from this process."

"The EB-5 program was badly broken when I arrived at USCIS," he said. "I could not and did not turn my back on my responsibility to address those grave problems. I made improving the program a priority and I did so in a hands-on manner, through cases, policies, and sweeping personnel and organizational changes."


Copyright © 2015, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.


Deadly Tornadoes, Storms Sweep Through Oklahoma

Thursday March 26, 2015

David Schliepp/iStock/Thinkstock(TULSA, Okla.) --  At least one person was killed as tornadoes and severe storms swept through northeast Oklahoma Wednesday evening.

One person was killed and several others injured at a mobile home park in Sand Springs, about seven miles west of Tulsa, after a possible tornado formed nearby, said the Tulsa County Sheriff's Office. Some 36,500 power outages had been reported in northeast Oklahoma as of 3:30 a.m. Thursday morning local time.

The tornado went by Tulsa and was headed for Inola at about 7 p.m. local time, ABC affiliate KOCO reported.

The National Weather Service had issued tornado warnings as a severe storm headed towards Tulsa, Oklahoma, Wednesday.

People in the Tulsa area captured photos and videos of what was believed to be a tornado. One had formed near Westport, Oklahoma, fewer than 30 miles west of Tulsa, and was moving east at 45 mph, the National Weather Service reported.

 

Outside my office right now... #tornado

A photo posted by Joe Steinhafel (@joe_steinhafel) on Mar 25, 2015 at 3:03pm PDT

The National Weather Service reported the sighting of a possible tornado moving at about 45 mph near Peggs, which is about 60 miles east of Tulsa. Some 67,800 power outages had been reported in northeast Oklahoma as of 7:50 p.m. local time.

Another tornado briefly touched down in Moore, about 11 miles south of Oklahoma City, reports KOCO. A radio tower was toppled and a few roofs were taken off homes, but no injuries were immediately reported, said a spokesperson for the city.

The Storm Prediction Center had warned that a clash of warm and cooler air masses could lead to severe storms.

The Tulsa County Sheriff's Office confirmed that one person was killed at the Sand Springs Mobile Home Park. There were also an unconfirmed number of injuries.


World News Videos | US News Videos

Copyright © 2015, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.


Lyft Aims to Out-Uber the Competition with New Feature

Thursday March 26, 2015

Lyft(NEW YORK) -- No longer will your Lyft driver assume you don't like to listen to Taylor Swift in the car just because you're wearing a business suit.

The ride-sharing company is inviting drivers and passengers to share personal details with each other, including hometown, favorite music and a short bio. The new app feature will launch early next week for iOS users, "with Android soon to follow," Lyft says.

"We chose hometown because we know roots grow deep," Lyft wrote in a blog post. "We added favorite music because music is both a universal and personal connector."

Lyft emphasizes that sharing any information is completely optional. Drivers can choose to include their star rating and ride count also.

"Profiles is a new feature that gives passengers and drivers the option to share fun facts about themselves and discover mutual friends and interests," the company wrote in a blog post Thursday.

The basic premise of Lyft will stay the same: users who have already provided their credit card information request a ride in an app. Then they get automatically matched with a Lyft driver in the vicinity. After the ride, passengers can choose to add a tip.

Last year, Lyft introduced Lyft Line, giving passengers the ability to share a Lyft ride with other customers going in the same direction for a fixed lower price, up to 60 percent less.

Uber has already tried its hand at a more personalized experience. Starting last November, Uber allowed passengers to control the music in their cars through a partnership with music streaming service Spotify.

Lyft, based in San Francisco, serves 65 U.S. cities, most recently launching in Philadelphia in late January. Its mega-competitor Uber, also based in San Francisco, has faced a number of publicity hurdles, including driver safety concerns and transportation regulation, as it has expanded to 55 countries, or over 270 markets around the globe.

On Wednesday, Uber released an informational safety video that emphasizes that Uber drivers pass federal, multi-state and county background checks and that each ride is covered by a $1 million commercial insurance policy. Like Lyft, Uber champions the safety benefits of having a digital record of a trip history.

A spokesman for Uber told ABC News that regulatory frameworks have been approved in 24 jurisdictions for ridesharing.


Copyright © 2015, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.


Vatican Opens Doors to Homeless for Special Tour, Dinner

Thursday March 26, 2015

iStock/Thinkstock(VATICAN CITY) -- The Vatican will open its doors on Thursday to the homeless of St. Peters’ Square, allowing the people who usually only see its steps outside to observe its beauty inside.

A group of 150 homeless men and women were invited to take a guided tour of the museum and gardens, participate in private prayer in the Sistine Chapel and receive a free dinner in the Vatican Museum’s cafeteria.

The tour will pass the Casa Santa Marta, where Pope Francis has chosen to live instead of the stately Papal apartment, and include a stop at a recently opened room in the museum that houses the pope’s historical carriages.

When the group reaches the Sistine Chapel for prayer, they will be the only ones there. ANSA reports the chapel, which contains Michelangelo’s fresco masterpieces, will close early to allow for the exclusive tour.

The invitation is just one of a string of actions taken by the pontiff to reach out to the poor. To mark his birthday in December, Pope Francis had sleeping bags distributed to the homeless in and around St. Peter’s Square. In February, the Vatican built showers and hired barbers for the homeless around the square.

And in mid-June, Francis will lunch with some of Turin’s homeless on a visit there, the Vatican announced Wednesday.

Pope Francis’ outreach to the poor echo one of the central messages of his papacy.

"Do not be afraid to go and to bring Christ into every area of life, to the fringes of society, even to those who seem farthest away, most indifferent," Francis said in 2013.

The Vatican has called on the homeless to help distribute gospels or prayer booklets to the faithful in the square on Sundays during the pope’s noontime prayer.

The tour and dinner was organized by the Office of Papal Charities, which regularly distributes meals to the homeless who live in Rome.


Copyright © 2015, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.


Pope Francis to Visit White House in September

Thursday March 26, 2015

iStock Editorial/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- Pope Francis will visit the White House on Sept. 23, White House press secretary Josh Earnest announced on Thursday.

A day later, as previously reported, Francis will address a joint meeting of Congress, becoming the first pope in history to do so.

During his visit to the White House, President Obama and the pope will pick up the conversation they started last March when the president visited the Vatican.

Their discussion will cover "a wide range of issues, including caring for the marginalized and the poor; advancing economic opportunity for all; serving as good stewards of the environment; protecting religious minorities and promoting religious freedom around the world; and welcoming and integrating immigrants and refugees into our communities," Earnest said in a statement.

Francis' trip to Washington, D.C. in September will mark his first visit to the U.S. as pope.


Copyright © 2015, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.


Indiana Governor Declares Public Health Emergency to Battle Worst HIV Outbreak in State History

Thursday March 26, 2015

iStock/Thinkstock(INDIANAPOLIS) — Indiana Gov. Mike Pence Thursday declared a public health emergency for an Indiana county battling what is believed to be the worst HIV outbreak in the state's history.

Pence said 79 cases have been confirmed, and, with more testing underway, "We expect that number to go up."

The cases have either been found in or are connected to Scott County, near the Kentucky border.

The state health department has attributed the outbreak to an opioid painkiller called Opana. It's believed to be the worst HIV outbreak in the state history, a spokeswoman at the Scott County Health Department said.

"For years we've been fighting Opana in our county," said Brittany Combs, public health nurse at Scott County Health Department. "[Doctors] won't give [prescriptions] for Opana unless absolutely necessary. Our doctors aren't writing for it. It's coming from out of county."

Combs said Opana is a painkiller normally given in pill form to patients, and it is used as "last resort" for pain relief. People recreationally using the drug often crush the pill and inject it for a longer-lasting high, according to Combs.

Everyone who has tested positive for HIV has admitted to intravenous drug use, although some have also had sex with other users, meaning it is not always clear how the virus was spread, according to Combs.

A public awareness campaign to alert residents about the increase in HIV cases has started in the region.

In addition to local and state health officials, the CDC has sent a team to the area to assist with the response.


World News Videos | US News Videos


Copyright © 2015, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.


 






Affinity Web Solutions
 
KONP.com Home