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Al Sharpton on ‘High Alert’ About Ferguson Decision

Al Sharpton on ‘High Alert’ About Ferguson Decision

Win McNamee/Getty Images(FERGUSON, Mo.) -- Al Sharpton said on Wednesday that he is "on high alert" for the grand jury decision in the case of Michael Brown, the unarmed black teenager who was shot and killed by a police officer in Ferguson, Missouri.Sharpton said that his civil rights group, the National Action Network, have been planning for "vigils and non-violent demonstrations" when the Ferguson grand jury hands down its ruling, which is expected to come any day."I have pledged to the mother and father of Michael Brown that I will be there with them when the decision is announced," Sharpton said at a press conference Wednesday.Sharpton said he is also waiting for a grand jury ruling on the death of Eric Garner, a black man who died while being held in a choke hold by a New York City police officer. That incident was caught on videotape.He said both grand juries appear to be going beyond the usual protocol of hearing enough evidence to determine whether there should be a trial."It is very suspect to us that the grand juries in both cases appear to be improperly expanded to where it is about to prove or disprove the accused rather than seeing if there is probable cause to go to trial," Sharpton said."That is not the proper use" of a grand jury, he said. Such tribunals are generally used to deem whether or not there is enough probable cause for a criminal case, while guilt or innocence should not be their focus.

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Basketball Team Spent Day Stranded on Bus in Snowstorm

Basketball Team Spent Day Stranded on Bus in Snowstorm

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- A women's basketball team stranded on a bus for more than a day during a massive snowstorm in upstate New York turned to social media to keep morale up, and to keep fans posted.

The Niagara University team was returning from a game in Pittsburgh late Monday when they got stuck on the New York State Thruway near Buffalo, as several feet of snow pounded the area. Things started to get bad Tuesday around 2 a.m., and the bus had to stop, Niagara players and coaches said.Five hours later, players tweeted that they were still stuck:

Omg we got on this bus around 11 o'clock we were suppose to get home in 3 hrs.. It is 7:03 am and still on the bus.. 😩😩😢😭 I just wanna sleep

— Focused. (@sylvoslice24) November 18, 2014

But players tried to make the most of the situation:

Sleepover with the team on a bus in a blizzard!!! #StrandedInTheSnow

— Emily Granruth (@emilygranruth) November 18, 2014

There was even a hashtag: #NUWBBstrandedonabus.After nearly an entire day of being stranded, snacks showed up:

Thanks to these Niagara Falls citizens/first responders that brought us drinks & snacks! pic.twitter.com/3x2xiLTguh

— Corinne Jones (@NUCoachJones) November 19, 2014

A plow later arrived. Players tweeted that they were relieved and excited to see their ordeal moving towards an end:

Thank you god !!! pic.twitter.com/CdBx93ooLx

— #Grind2Shine (@_TC3__) November 19, 2014

And finally, help came:

Thank you for rescuing us NY state police! #onestepclosertohome #NUWBBstrandedonbus pic.twitter.com/7Bn14dvJ43

— Corinne Jones (@NUCoachJones) November 19, 2014

Wednesday around 6 a.m., players announced they were safe and headed home:

On our way back to campus now! pic.twitter.com/urg4bYAhiD

— NiagaraWBB (@NiagaraWBB) November 19, 2014

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NJ Attorney General Launches Separate Probe into Murder of CEO, Wife

NJ Attorney General Launches Separate Probe into Murder of CEO, Wife

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- New Jersey’s attorney general is conducting his own shadow investigation into the shocking September deaths of a politically connected hospital CEO and his wife, ABC News has learned.Word of the separate probe came late Tuesday in the wake of revelations that John and Joyce Sheridan had both been stabbed multiple times before their home was torched on Sept. 28.Acting Attorney General John Hoffman said one person briefed on the case has deployed a team from the State Police and state Division of Criminal Justice that is “providing a fresh set of eyes, additional manpower and expertise. This is a very complex investigation.”The AG’s spokesman, Paul Loriquet, declined to comment because of the ongoing investigation.John Sheridan, a former state transportation commissioner, was a pillar of the New Jersey Republican establishment, having served as an adviser to every GOP governor in recent memory, including the current holder of the post, Chris Christie.When he died, Sheridan, 72, was the president and CEO of Cooper Health System, the leading hospital operator in South Jersey.Deemed an arson in the first days of the probe, the blaze was confined to the master bedroom in the couple’s upscale home in Montgomery Township, about 40 miles southwest of Newark.Originally, local authorities acted as though it were not complex at all. Officials suggested repeatedly the deaths were the result of an open-and-shut murder-homicide and that the public should have no concern at all.On Oct. 2, Somerset County Prosecutor’s Office spokesman Jack Bennett told ABC News: “At this point, based upon facts and circumstances learned through this investigation, we are quite confident that there exists no threat to either the immediate neighborhood or to the local community.”The prosecutor also said investigators had quickly ruled out the couple’s four sons, though he refused to explain that determination.Then, officials went silent. Dozens of interviews yielded no information that might confirm the possibility of a murder-suicide and no other evidence was found to point detectives in that direction. The couple’s sons hired renowned pathologist Michael Baden to conduct his own investigation, though Baden has not released those results.Late Tuesday, ABC News confirmed that John and Joyce Sheridan, 69, were stabbed multiple times with at least three different weapons prior to the fire being set and that only two of those weapons have been retrieved. The clear indication from the missing weapon is that a third party could have committed the crime and then left with key evidence.The nature of the wounds to both Sheridans also appears ragged and unplanned and, when John Sheridan was found, he was lying beneath a large armoire that had been doused with gasoline. Those facts, again, suggest to investigators that someone besides either victim was involved.The prosecutor’s office -- which has been criticized for its refusal to discuss the case -- again did not reply to questions from ABC News.The Sheridans’ four sons issued a statement, saying "no one wants answers about our parents’ deaths more than us. Real answers will only come after a full and thorough investigation. ...We are committed to getting to the truth and that means we will not comment while the investigation is ongoing."

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What It’s Like to Be Trapped by a Wall of Snow in Buffalo Storm

What It’s Like to Be Trapped by a Wall of Snow in Buffalo Storm

iStock/Thinkstock(BUFFALO, N.Y.) -- People in the Buffalo, New York, area have been snowed in for the second straight day, and some are even trapped at stores or jobs because of a sudden huge snowstorm.And it isn't over. More snow is expected to pound upstate New York on Wednesday, as officials frantically try to clear massive truckloads of snow from the area.Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown said Wednesday that more than 5,000 tons of snow have already been removed from south Buffalo.Meanwhile, residents are posting photos of the snow piling up outside their car or home windows.Patti Mahaney said she's stranded at home for the second day in a row and there's more than four feet of snow in the parking lot of her apartment building, near the stadium where the Buffalo Bills play.

 

#BuffaloSnow #buffalostorm We have almost 4 feet of snow in parking lot of Regency Court Apts in O.Park & NOT 1 PLOW! pic.twitter.com/PFP729SQQC

— Patti Mahaney (@spikezezel2) November 19, 2014

 

And there are plenty of snow doors:

 

Many #snovember pics with snow halfway up open door. First one all the way to top: More pics: http://t.co/mr7ZK7lp3a pic.twitter.com/IJNe3UCFHU

— 7 Eyewitness News (@WKBW) November 19, 2014

 

Others not so lucky to be stranded at home got stuck at stores, restaurants or at work on Tuesday.

 

So this is how I'm spending my night. On the floor of a Tim Horton's. You can see the snow piled up outside... pic.twitter.com/2b91u4uLL6

— Wolfvember Advocate (@Faustwolf) November 19, 2014

 

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US Faces Epidemic of Phony Debt Collectors: Prosecutor

US Faces Epidemic of Phony Debt Collectors: Prosecutor

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- The United States is facing an epidemic of unscrupulous debt collectors who pose as law enforcement, threatening their victims with jail time unless they pay bills for things they never bought, Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara said Tuesday as he announced the arrests of seven people who worked for a Georgia-based company.A criminal complaint was filed Tuesday against employees at Williams Scott & Associates LLC, based in Norcross, Georgia. The alleged thieves posed as debt collectors and local law enforcement, conning 6,000 people of out more than $4 million in recent years, authorities said.Victims were tricked into believing they’d committed a crime such as fraud then bullied into paying up bogus debts or going to jail, authorities said.“I don’t care if you’re nine months pregnant, I have a job to do here,” a phony collector said on one of the calls, which was recorded.In another recorded call, a person was threatened with legal backlash. “I will have no choice but to forward it to Los Angeles County. However, Los Angeles County will issue you a warrant for your arrest,” a recorded caller said.Experts warned that more fraudsters are on the loose and that federal authorities are cracking down.“There are lots of companies that do this and victimized not just 6,000 people, but I think tens of thousands, if not hundreds of thousands of people all over the country,” Bharara said.

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Utah Man Accused of Kidnapping 5-Year-Old Girl from Bedroom Faces Parents

Utah Man Accused of Kidnapping 5-Year-Old Girl from Bedroom Faces Parents

iStock/Thinkstock(SALT LAKE CITY) — The man accused of kidnapping a 5-year-old Utah girl from her bedroom made his first appearance in court Tuesday, facing off with the parents who say they stopped the alleged abduction attempt.Troy Morley, 48, found himself face-to-face with Aaron and Stephanie Edson, his hands and feet in shackles. Morley is accused of taking their daughter from her bedroom Nov. 7.Stephanie Holladay Edson credits intuition with waking up the couple.“I knew something was wrong,” she told ABC News in an exclusive interview days after the incident. “And I yelled to Aaron, I said, ‘She’s outside.’”Aaron Edson said he ran outside to find his stepdaughter being carried away.“I said, ‘Really, I want to help you, but she’s got to stay,’” Edson told ABC News. “And I just walked up to him and held out my arms and he just handed her over.”Police arrested Morley after a neighbor said she found him hiding in her house, allegedly telling her, “I’m in trouble. I’m bad.”Newly released charging papers also state that he admitted to going inside the home and asking the girl to “come with him.”The family is still shaken by the incident. “We currently feel that moving from our home may be the only way we can begin to heal,” the family said.Morley, who was officially notified in court Tuesday of the charges including felony child kidnapping, has yet to enter a plea.Roger Kraft, Morley’s attorney, said the one-time aerospace worker, who has no apparent serious criminal history, might not be fit to stand trial on kidnapping charges.“It is likely there might be a petition filed to determine the competency of Troy and whether he can participate in this trial,” Kraft said, “but it is early on in the case. I don’t know.”

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Police Officers Not Required to Disclose When Recording with New Body Cams

Police Officers Not Required to Disclose When Recording with New Body Cams

ABC News(NEW YORK) — In Celina, Texas, dash-cam footage taken from the hood of a police cruiser seems to show an arrest gone horribly wrong. The officer orders the suspect to “put your hands behind your back,” then suddenly seems to tackle him and wrestle him to the ground face down.The officer’s reaction escalates for no obvious reason, at least from the dash cam perspective.The footage taken from the tiny body camera the officer was wearing that day tells an entirely different story.From the body camera view, the footage shows the suspect compliant at first. Then he appears to sucker punch the officer, provoking the tackle. The dash-cam footage doesn't show the punch, just the sudden overpowering response.Two cameras. Same scene. Two very different versions of events.Camera footage, especially from citizen cell phones, has shined a harsh spotlight on police tactics, making for some uncomfortable questions for police in recent years.This past July, a Staten Island man named Eric Garner was killed when an officer held him in a choke hold for selling illegal cigarettes. A bystander’s cell phone captured Garner repeatedly screaming, “I can’t breathe,” before he died.Sometimes there is no footage to prove what happened either way. That’s part of the issue in Ferguson, Missouri, where police have been hard pressed to refute allegations that Officer Darren Wilson used excessive force when he shot and killed 18-year-old Michael Brown.Was Brown trying to surrender with his hands in the air, as some eyewitnesses say, or did Brown attack Wilson, justifying the use of deadly force? It’s impossible to know because there’s no firsthand video of the scene.A grand jury is wrestling with those questions now and the Missouri governor has declared a state of emergency in anticipation that the outcome of the jury’s decision could spark violence.The desire to have clear evidence of what takes place in an encounter between law enforcement and the general public is why police departments across the country are now investing in body cameras.The Los Angeles Police Department has started a pilot program with body camera devices, which are about the size of a pack of cigarettes and worn, like a police radio, on the officer’s shirtfront.The LAPD is still haunted by one of the most notorious police beatings ever caught on camera, the assault on Rodney King, which resulted in ferocious riots more than 20 years ago. It’s a big reason why LAPD Chief Charlie Beck, who wears his body camera on his chest, is eager for his department to embrace this technology.He believes in a few more years, body cameras will be standard issue for police officers.“In a couple of decades...every public safety employee, police officers, firefighters, paramedics, everybody will have them,” he said. “I think it improves behavior on both sides of the camera, which is our goal.”While having an incident caught on camera has its obvious benefits, Peter Bibring, the director of police practices for the ACLU, said having police officers wear body cameras also raises concerns about privacy.“People behave better. Officers are less likely to initiate uses of force and apparently to initiate conduct that might draw up complaints if they’re wearing body cameras,” Bibring said. “But we do think that they’re privacy concerns that need to be addressed through strong policies...if you don’t have strict policies in place to prevent videos from getting out, they will get out.”For instance, could a police officer pull over a celebrity and then sell the footage from their body camera to the media? Beck said such actions would be a “violation of our policy because that’s not the intent” But Bibring said it was a concern.Another issue is police don’t have to say they are filming before they start recording.Case in point when ABC’s Nightline went on a ride-along with the LAPD while they were testing their new body cameras and police responded to a traffic accident at an intersection. An officer spoke to witnesses and the two people involved in the accident with his camera rolling, but didn't mention he was filming. At the time, one of the people involved in the accident denied he had run a red light.After that person gave his report of the accident to police, Nightline told him the officer had been recording him the whole time. When asked if that bothered him, the man said, “It bothers me in the sense that I didn’t realize I ran a red light. But I’m also a human being, and I know that kind of stuff jumps out and people say it. I don’t remember running a red light.”“It’s hard to change your story when it’s all captured on video,” said Deputy Joel Anzuras, who is part of the LAPD’s body camera pilot program. “So I feel it’s a valuable tool.”

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Biting Cold All over US and Record Snowfalls Too

Biting Cold All over US and Record Snowfalls Too

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) — The official start of winter is still more than a month away but every state in the nation registered below freezing temperatures Tuesday.That includes Hawaii's highest volcanoes, which is not related to the arctic air mass that has enveloped the lower 48.The same arctic air in the Gulf Coast and the Northeast produced temperatures as low as 20 degrees below average.Meanwhile, half the United States is already covered in snow with parts of Western New York reporting more than six feet of accumulation Tuesday due to the lake effect that struck areas of south Buffalo, Lancaster and West Seneca.The 76 inches of snow in some Buffalo suburbs was the most ever recorded in a 24-hour period anywhere in the U.S. The National Guard was also activated while a 100-mile stretch of the New York State Thruway was closed.

Local authorities also reported six storm-related deaths in Western New York Tuesday. Three people suffered heart attacks from shoveling, as a county highway employee died while snow blowing in the area. Another person was killed trying to push a car out of the snow, and a sixth death occurred when a person became pinned between cars.

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Panel Will Study Conditions in Ferguson That Spurred Angry Protests

Panel Will Study Conditions in Ferguson That Spurred Angry Protests

Scott Olson/Getty Images(ST. LOUIS) — Missouri Governor Jay Nixon appointed a commission Tuesday to study the outrage that resulted from the shooting of an 18-year-old black man by a white police officer in Ferguson, Missouri, last August 9.The 16-person panel with both white and black members will be chaired by businessman Rich McClure and the Rev. Starsky Wilson, who was involved in some of the demonstrations that followed the shooting.Nixon's move comes as a grand jury is preparing a decision on whether to indict police officer Darren Wilson for the shooting of Michael Brown following a brief altercation. A coroner's report says Brown, who was unarmed, was shot six times, including once in the head.Earlier this week, Nixon declared a state of emergency to prepare law enforcement officials for the possibility of civil unrest, regardless if Wilson is indicted or not.When he announced plans in October to form a commission, the governor stated that he wanted a thorough and wide-reaching review of the conditions in the Ferguson community that spurred anger leading to confrontations between police and protesters.

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NY National Guard Deployed to Buffalo After Snowstorm

NY National Guard Deployed to Buffalo After Snowstorm

ABC News(BUFFALO, N.Y.) -- New York's National Guard was deployed to Buffalo after a massive snowstorm on Tuesday.

In the past 15 hours, communities in the area have been covered with three to four feet of snow, according to ABC News' Buffalo affiliate WKBW.

In some places, snow has been falling at a rate of 4 to 5 inches every hour, a phenomenon known as lake effect snow -- when moisture-rich air blowing off the Great Lakes dumps precipitation when it reaches land.

Buffalo residents said this is the worst storm in recent memory.

And the storm shows little signs of easing. A snow advisory has been issued for the rest of the week. The area is forecast to get 70 inches of snow.

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Book Reignites Mystery Over Model’s Suicide, Sect

Book Reignites Mystery Over Model’s Suicide, Sect

Jamie Tregidgo/WireImage(NEW YORK) -- A Russian model who committed suicide in 2008 after joining a sect ended her days angry, confused and struggling to cope, journalist Peter Pomerantsev says in a new book.

Ruslana Korshunova, who leaped off a Manhattan building to her death one summer day, had joined a group called Rose of the World while living in Russia, wrote Pomerantsev, who spent years researching what happened to the model for a 2011 documentary. Now his findings are detailed in his book, Nothing Is True and Everything Is Possible: The Surreal Heart of the New Russia, out this month.

Korshunova's friends and family struggled to understand what made the successful beauty, only 20 when she died, take her own life.

"Nothing quite adds up," Pomerantsev told ABC News. "Everyone keeps on saying she was such a normal girl. But to be honest, that's not unusual for suicides. It's a horribly tragic story, very depressing."

At the time she turned to the group, Korshunova's modeling career appeared to be in decline. Pomerantsev said she joined the group in part to confront her problems with relationships and was sucked in to a world of "life trainers." The apparent goal is to for sect members to "perfect" themselves and be more "effective" people, according to the book.

But it appeared to take over Korshunova's life, friends told Pomerantsev, to the point where they noticed alarming changes in her behavior.

Korshunova became angry, depressed and frustrated with her love life before she died, he said, despite having lived the high life in Manhattan, even becoming the face of a Nina Ricci perfume campaign.

According to Pomerantsev, Rose of the World claims breakdowns are part of a healing process.

"That's normal," a senior member of Rose of the World named Volodya told Pomerantsev, according to his book. "We call it a rollback. Ruslana had one. She would cry at night. Would wander about town, not knowing where she was going. You have to go through that to grow."Pomerantsev said Rose of the World, which is active in Russia, has since changed its name.A Russian group called Novgorodtsev Education confirmed to ABC News it used to be called Rose of the World, but director Denis Vasijiev said he has never heard of Pomerantsev's book or documentary, and declined to comment to ABC News on Korshunova.However, Korshunova's reported "life coach" spoke to the New York Daily News after her death in 2008 and suggested the sect was helping her address romantic and money troubles."I saw her and heard her stories, stories that no one else has heard," Vladislav Novgorodtsev told the Daily News. "The most important thing about her and her internal world was that she was lonely. There was no one who was really dear to her, except for her mother."

Police ruled Korshunova's death a suicide, but some friends and family members still buy into conspiracy theories or blame the group, Pomerantsev said."Suicide is a very, very complex thing," he said. "To say it was just because of this or this or this is probably naive. It doesn't work that way."

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What May Happen to Officer Darren Wilson After Ferguson Grand Jury Decision

What May Happen to Officer Darren Wilson After Ferguson Grand Jury Decision

Scott Olson/Getty Images(FERGUSON, Mo.) -- The Ferguson police officer under investigation for the fatal shooting of Michael Brown will soon learn if he will be indicted in the unarmed teen's death.

As the world awaits the decision from a grand jury, there are many scenarios that could play out for the officer, Darren Wilson, who has been on paid administrative leave from the police department since the shooting in August.

If Wilson is cleared of criminal charges in Brown's death, legally he would be able to continue working as a cop in Ferguson, but many people can't imagine Wilson would ever return to that police force. Wilson may also face an internal investigation that could result in disciplinary action by the police department.

Experts agreed there are two possibly competing interests at play -- the letter of the law and the court of public opinion.

"If there's no prosecution and he's not convicted of any crime, I don't see any bar to him returning to his employment as a police officer, or any other employment," said Robert Herman, an attorney in St. Louis. "Whether he would want to is another story."

Steven Gottlieb, a former police officer who now runs crime and intelligence training, agreed that the scenario could play out in many ways."It could be uncomfortable for him to return to the police department; it might be uncomfortable for the department to take him back," Gottlieb said. "But if he is indeed acquitted, the law gives him the privilege of returning. If he feels his effectiveness there is diminished, he may choose to go to another police department. Or, he may choose to quit the profession."It's also a possibility Wilson could be relegated to desk work as opposed to being on the street, he added.If Wilson is indicted, Wilson will likely turn himself in within a day or two at the Buzz Westfall Justice Center in Clayton, Missouri. State law requires that a grand jury indictment remain under seal until the accused is in custody. Unless news of an indictment leaks to the press or public, Wilson would likely have surrendered, been booked and possibly released on bond before a public announcement is even made.The charges Wilson could face range from involuntary manslaughter to murder in the first degree, according to the prosecutor's office.If indicted, his first court appearance would be an arraignment, though many defendants waive their arraignment, opting instead to have their lawyers appear and enter a plea on their behalf. A judge will then be assigned the case and a bond hearing could be held, but only if Wilson is jailed or wishes to contest the conditions of his pre-trial release.

Neither Wilson nor his attorneys have commented publicly about whether he intends to remain in law enforcement if cleared of criminal charges.

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Daughter Graduates from FDNY Academy 13 Years After Dad Died on 9/11

Daughter Graduates from FDNY Academy 13 Years After Dad Died on 9/11

Kami Dimitrova/ABC News(NEW YORK) -- The daughter of a New York City firefighter who was killed on 9/11 graduated Tuesday from the Fire Academy, carrying on a family tradition.

Kevin Smith, 47, of Long Island, N.Y., was stationed at Hazmat Co. 1 in Manhattan and rushed with his unit to the World Trade Center, where he and many of his comrades were killed.

"He'd be so proud," said Josephine Smith, 34. "He'd be absolutely proud. He'd be worried. Being a firefighter himself, he knows what goes with the job, but he knows I'd be able to handle it -- how strong I am, mentally and physically."

Smith said she has always wanted to be a firefighter. After first trying to take the entry test in 2007, she took the test again in 2012.

"Training was tough -- really tough," she said. "I thought about him when I was tired and wanted to stop. I thought about what he'd say: 'Keep going, keep going, keep pushing.'"

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio honored Smith's father and his sacrifice at the beginning of Tuesday's ceremony.

The new firefighter said she had dreamed about graduating but was "nervous" about "walking across the stage, shaking the mayor's hand and getting my plaque."

The thought of her father and "working with my dad everyday" has comforted her, she said.

"I believe my dad was sitting in the front, front of everybody," she said. "It feels amazing. I accomplished something so big that I wanted to accomplish."

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First Pilot to Fire Missile from Predator Drone Breaks Silence

First Pilot to Fire Missile from Predator Drone Breaks Silence

File photo. Staff Sgt. John Bainter/U.S. Air Force(NEW YORK) -- A year before he was the first airman to ever unleash a Hellfire missile from a Predator drone in combat, airman Scott Swanson said he was at the controls of another Predator back in 2000 when Osama bin Laden was directly in his crosshairs.“As I orbited out Predator over Tarnak Farms, a dusty jumble of buildings in a mud-walled compound just outside Kandahar, Afghanistan, we spotted a strikingly tall man in white robes being treated deferentially by a group of men,” Swanson writes in Breaking Defense Tuesday, his first public comments on the September 2000 incident, a year before the 9/11 attacks. “[Sensor operator Master Sgt.] Jeff [Guay] and I immediately knew we had bin Laden in our sights. The U.S. had been searching for OBL for years and now here he was, exquisitely framed on our screen.”One major problem: At the time, Predator drones were for reconnaissance only and didn’t carry missiles. Bin Laden escaped from Tarnak and evaded American forces until he was killed by U.S. Navy SEALs a decade later in May 2011.It wasn’t until a little more than a year after spotting bin Laden, and a month after the 9/11 attacks killed nearly 3,000 Americans, that a Predator fired its first missile in combat at a different militant target on Oct. 7, 2001. Swanson said he pulled the trigger.“We had spent many hours preparing for this moment, but a palpable sense of apprehension hung in the air,” Swanson writes. “The Predator system was by no means mature; it was little more than a prototype…I pulled the trigger, called ‘weapons away’ and flew straight and level."“The time until impact seemed an eternity; then, in an instant, the screen was filled by a bright white bloom of light. As the bloom dissipated, we saw an object move quickly across the screen, flailing like a ragdoll tossed in the air. It was a body, twisting and contorting and glowing from the heat of the blast. Nearly a decade-and-a-half after that first-ever intercontinental air strike by UAV [unmanned aerial vehicle], that fleeting image remains burned in to my memory,” he writes.Swanson, who was previously identified in a history of the Predator written by veteran former Pentagon reporter Richard Whittle, said that he was breaking his silence publicly to combat the idea that flying drones is akin to playing videogames -- that he “cringes” when he hears the mocking term for UAV program officials, “Chair Force.”“[T]o all of us who fly or have flown armed UAVs, one thing is as clear as the sharpest video image: war is not now, nor will it ever be, a game,” he writes.The Air Force’s struggle with the “stigma” surrounding the drone program was the subject of an ABC News investigation in April, in which the service admitted that when compared to manned aircraft like fighter jets, the drone program is made up of “less skilled” pilots and “less competent” officers.“Let’s be honest, when people dream of flying…People in this generation didn’t grow up and say, ‘I want to fly an RPA [remotely piloted aircraft],’” Air Force spokesperson Jennifer Cassidy said at the time. “They were the ones that watched re-runs of ‘Top Gun’ and said, ‘I want to be a fighter pilot.’ …So in fact the people that were lower ranking [in flight school], I guess you could say, are the folks that went to RPAs."“It doesn’t mean they’re bad pilots, or bad officers, it just meant you got to have some at the top and some at the bottom. That’s how that worked,” she said.

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Charles Manson’s Future Mother-in-Law Speaks Out

Charles Manson’s Future Mother-in-Law Speaks Out

California Dept of Corrections(NEW YORK) -- The woman who might become Charles Manson's mother-in-law is concerned about her daughter's engagement, but said she believes the mass murderer is truly in love with her daughter."He does; I think he does," Melissa Burton, 48, of Bunker Hill, Illinois, told ABC News Tuesday morning. "She has been good to him."Manson has also been good to her daughter, Burton added.Burton's daughter, Afton Elaine Burton, 26, received a California marriage license on Nov. 7 to wed Manson, 80.The couple has yet to announce a wedding date, but have until February until the license expires.Melissa Burton will not attend the California wedding, she said."It's going to happen," Burton said. "She [Afton] doesn't know when. It's up to the prison to give the date."Burton said her daughter, who also goes by the name Star, announced her intention to marry Manson last year.She remembers being concerned when her daughter announced the engagement. "She doesn't live close to us," she explained. "We can't be there for her."Afton Burton left her parents' home in Illinois at age 19 to move to California, where she could be closer to Manson, Burton said.It was Manson's work as an environmentalist that drew her daughter into him, according to Burton."He's an environmentalist, and she's involved in his environmentalist program," Burton said.It's work that involves supporting the air, trees, water and animals, she added.

Burton understands that her daughter's engagement is unusual. "It's a different situation," she said. "But my daughter is smart. She plans out what she wants to do."

"She's come to love him," she added.Burton has never met Manson and does not expect to meet him in the future.Manson is an inmate at California State Prison, Corcoran. Afton Burton lives nearby and manages websites advocating Manson's innocence.Manson was convicted in the murders of seven people, including pregnant actress Sharon Tate. He is serving a life sentence and is not eligible for parole again until 2027. He was denied for the 12th time in 2012.

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‘The Skyscraper’ to Take Crown as World’s Tallest Roller Coast in 2017

‘The Skyscraper’ to Take Crown as World’s Tallest Roller Coast in 2017

Wallack Holdings LLC(ORLANDO, Fla.) -- Kingda Ka will lose the 'king' part when it comes to being the world's tallest roller coaster.Developer Wallack Holdings, in collaboration with U.S. Thrill Rides, is poised to snatch that crown for "The Skyscraper" come 2017, when the 570-foot-high ride opens in Orlando, Florida.The $90 million ride will tower over New Jersey’s Kingda Ka, which is only 456 feet high but still faster, reaching speeds up to 128 mph. Skyscraper will only go to 65 mph at certain points throughout the ride.The video simulation shows that riders can expect multiple twists and turns around the observation deck and lot of plunges down steep slopes located all over the site.The ride is part of a project to build Skyplex, a $250 million indoor arcade and theme park that will also feature restaurants and nightclubs. The site will also include an observation deck where tourists can look out and watch fireworks every night. Construction will take two years.

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Connecticut Woman Accused in Murder-for-Hire Plot Faces Trial

Connecticut Woman Accused in Murder-for-Hire Plot Faces Trial

ABC News(NEW HAVEN, Conn.) -- Jury selection is underway in the case of a wealthy Connecticut mother accused of trying to hire a hit man to kill her former husband.Tiffany Stevens approached a maintenance man she knew in 2012, police said, allegedly asking him to kill ex-husband Eric Stevens. She later gave the man an envelope containing $5,000, allegedly as payment, police said.“I gave her a beautiful life, a beautiful home, a beautiful daughter, and she put herself in this position,” Eric Stevens told ABC News Monday night.The couple was going through a custody battle over their daughter.Police said the would-be hit man secretly taped Tiffany Stevens discussing her alleged deadly demands, and the man told her former husband about the plot.

Tiffany Stevens is out on $1 million bond and has sole custody of the couple’s daughter. She has pleaded not guilty.

Since word of the alleged plot emerged, Eric Stevens says he’s been unable to see his daughter.Eric Stevens remains stunned by the alleged plot, but says he’s focused on being able to see his daughter again.“I’m just wondering from what I’ve seen in divorce court if they’re going to let her keep custody if she’s incarcerated,” he told ABC News affiliate WTNH-TV in New Haven, Connecticut.ABC News' chief legal affairs anchor Dan Abrams said the trial’s outcome will likely hinge on the audio recordings.“The audio is going to become absolutely crucial because the jurors are going to be able to hear for themselves,” Abrams said.

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Half the Country Is Covered in Snow

Half the Country Is Covered in Snow

ABC News(NEW YORK) -- The official start of winter is still more than a month away, but about half the United States is already covered in snow.Heavy snow is expected around the Great Lakes, approaching 2 feet in some areas; while light snow showers will linger across the Upper Midwest and Ohio Valley through Thursday, according to the National Weather Service.Arctic air in the Gulf Coast and the Northeast will produce temperatures as much as 20 degrees below average.But at least Thursday’s temperatures “won't be quite as bitter," the National Weather Service said Tuesday morning.

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NFL Suspends Adrian Peterson over Child Abuse Charges

NFL Suspends Adrian Peterson over Child Abuse Charges

Bob Levey/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- The NFL ruled Tuesday morning that Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson will be suspended for the rest of the 2014 season without pay.

Peterson will not be considered for reinstatement before April 15, 2015 due to violating the NFL's personal conduct policy.

Back in September, Peterson was indicted on a felony charge of injury to a child after he used a wooden switch to discipline his 4-year-old son earlier this year. He pleaded no contest to a lesser charge of misdemeanor reckless assault earlier this month.

"You have shown no meaningful remorse for your conduct," NFL commissioner Roger Goodell said in a letter. "When indicted, you acknowledged what you did but said that you would not 'eliminate whooping my kids' and defended your conduct in numerous published text messages to the child's mother. You also said that you felt 'very confident with my actions because I know my intent.'"

"These comments raise the serious concern that you do not fully appreciate the seriousness of your conduct, or even worse, that you may feel free to engage in similar conduct in the future," Goodell continued.

Peterson had missed the last nine games due to being placed on the Commissioner's exempt list.

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Small Plane Crashes into Chicago Home

Small Plane Crashes into Chicago Home

iStock/Thinkstock(CHICAGO) — A small plane crashed into a Chicago home early Tuesday morning, with the pilot’s condition unknown and no one from the home believed to be injured, authorities said.The crash, which happened near Chicago Midway International Airport, involved an Aero Commander 500 cargo jet, FAA spokeswoman Elizabeth Corey told ABC News.Corey said the pilot was trying to return to the airport after reporting engine problems. The plane ended up crashing about a mile away, into the home on the 6500 block of South Knox Avenue.The home’s occupants made it out safely, Chicago police said.The pilot was headed to Chicago Executive Airport in the Chicago suburb of Wheeling, located about 40 miles north of Chicago Midway International Airport.The FAA’s investigation into the crash -- which will be led by the National Transportation Safety Board -- could take up to a year or more, Corey said.

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