Evacuations ordered as new storms hit flood-drenched Houston

Apr 21, 2016 141
Families rescued from the One Westfield Lake Apartments in Houston.

Families rescued from the One Westfield Lake Apartments in Houston. (Steve Gonzales/Houston Chronicle via AP)

Thunderstorms raced through the Houston area Thursday, aggravating flooding in already drenched parts of the city as mandatory evacuations were ordered for low-lying neighborhoods in a community about 50 miles away.

Houston and surrounding counties have received more than a foot of rain since Sunday night, and the flooding has forced thousands of people from their homes as creeks and bayous became overwhelmed. At least eight deaths have been blamed on the weather.

A heavy rainstorm Thursday morning dumped more than an inch of rain in less than an hour in some areas of Harris County, which includes most of Houston.

“We’re seeing some minor rises in some creeks,” Jeff Lindner, with the Harris County Flood Control District, said. “It doesn’t look like we’ll see enough rain to see more widespread flooding.”

Water likely would collect in some streets but subside once the rain stopped, he said.

Two aging reservoirs in west Houston considered “extremely high risk” by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers were holding record amounts of water — at 50 percent capacity — but remained in good shape, he said.

Meanwhile, officials in Wharton, a community of about 8,700 residents about 50 miles southwest of Houston, ordered residents to leave their homes in some low-lying neighborhoods along the rain-swollen Colorado River. The river’s flood stage is 39 feet but the river level there exceeded 47 feet Thursday and some streets were underwater.

Flood warnings remained in effect for several southeastern Texas counties. Forecasts expected conditions to improve starting Friday.

Teacher’s aide caught on video slamming student to the floor arrested

Apr 21, 2016 82
Bay View High School.

Bay View High School. (Google Street View)

A teacher’s aide at a Milwaukee high school has been arrested after he was captured on cellphone video pushing a student to the floor and grabbing him by the throat.

Warning: Video contains graphic language.

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The 17-second video taken at Bay View High School doesn’t show what led up to the confrontation Wednesday, but it shows the 39-year-old aide shoving the 14-year-old boy into some classroom furniture and then holding him to the floor by the neck.

Milwaukee Public Schools spokeswoman Denise Callaway says police were called to the school as soon as administrators learned about the incident. The student was taken to a hospital for treatment of minor injuries.

Vermont businessman accused of fraud says he’ll be cleared

Apr 21, 2016 88

One of two businessmen accused in what the Securities and Exchange Commission calls a “massive eight-year fraud scheme” involving developments in Vermont says he’s confident he’ll be cleared of any wrongdoing.

Bill Stenger tells the Caledonian-Record (http://bit.ly/1NDGos8) that he “trusted that all funds raised were being used correctly and legally.” Stenger is president of Jay Peak ski resort.

He is accused along with Miami businessman Ariel Quiros of misusing more than $200 million raised from foreign investors through a special visa program. Quiros owns Jay Peak and Q Burke resorts.

Quiros has asked a court to unfreeze his assets. In the filing, his lawyer said the SEC case is premised on an incorrect argument that Quiros and his affiliates were only entitled to receive a limited amount of investor funds.

Trash workers help woman recover diamond jewelry she threw away

Apr 21, 2016 113

A Massachusetts woman says she was ecstatic when waste workers helped her find diamond jewelry that she accidentally threw away.

Cecelia Callahan tells The Patriot Ledger on Wednesday that she was cleaning her 3.1-carat engagement ring, a 1.75-carat diamond pendant and her grandmother’s diamond ring in preparation for a wedding anniversary dinner last week. She says she wrapped them in paper towels and left them on a countertop.

She tossed the towels when she heard the trash truck coming. The 51-year-old Norwell woman says she was “heartbroken” when she discovered her mistake.

A transportation supervisor at a transfer station made arrangements for the truck to drop the trash off at the Braintree station. Callahan, her husband and a loader operator searched the garbage until they found the jewelry.

EMT seen mowing lawn after California man passes out

Apr 21, 2016 116
A California EMT worker who responded to an emergency call finished mowing an 86-year-old's yard.

A California EMT worker who responded to an emergency call finished mowing an 86-year-old’s yard.

The photograph of a California EMT mowing the front lawn of an 86-year-old man who had fainted while doing yard work went viral Saturday and was shared by over 2,000 people on social media.

The man who fainted was not identified in reports, but his son shared the picture of the EMT mowing the Sacramento lawn on Facebook after noticing that one of the emergency workers “put the gurney away and the other finished mowing the lawn” for his father.

The worker, who was not identified, reportedly finished the entire lawn and even put the mower away. The man’s son told Fox Atlanta that his father is doing well and normally refuses to let anyone mow his lawn.

“He’s OK and refused to go to the hospital,” the son said. 

New Mexico to sue feds over plan to release more gray wolves into the wild

Apr 21, 2016 79

(AP Photo/Susan Montoya Bryan, File)

New Mexico is threatening legal action against the federal government after the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service quietly revealed its intention to release more Mexican gray wolves into the wild.

The state Department of Game and Fish confirmed Wednesday that its lawyers have filed a notice of intent to sue over the proposed releases.

The department said in a statement that it cannot stand idle and allow the federal agency to ignore laws and regulations, noting that the Endangered Species Act requires cooperation with states when working to recover threatened and endangered species.

“The department has a long-standing and proud tradition of responsible recovery of wildlife species in New Mexico. Recovery efforts cannot be successful without the support of all impacted stakeholders,” the department said.

The Game Commission last year denied the agency permission to release wolves, but federal wildlife managers countered that they had a responsibility to help the endangered species recover and that releases were part of that effort.

The agency’s plan was posted Monday on a website dedicated to wolf recovery efforts. It calls for releasing a pack with pups in New Mexico and placing pups with foster packs already in the wild.

Federal officials have argued that releases and the practice of cross-fostering are preferred methods for improving the genetic diversity among the wild population in New Mexico and Arizona.

A subspecies of the gray wolf, the Mexican wolf was added to the federal endangered species list in 1976. It wasn’t until 1998 that the first captive-bred wolves were released into the wild.

Ranchers concerned about their livelihoods and safety in rural communities have opposed the reintroduction program, but environmental groups have pushed for more captive wolves to be released.

There are currently fewer than 100 wolves in the wild in New Mexico and Arizona, according to a recent annual survey. Before this year, the population had been on the upswing, with 2014 marking a banner year when the count topped 110.

The latest plan — which federal officials describe as aggressive — mentions the potential controversy, but Fish and Wildlife Service spokesman John Bradley declined Wednesday to comment on the state’s threat of litigation.

According to the plan, initial releases would be limited to areas that are not currently occupied by any of the predators but have had some presence since 2000. The releases would also include pups in an effort to reduce movement among the packs.

To minimize any conflict with people, the initial target area is the Gila Wilderness or the Aldo Leopold Wilderness in southwestern New Mexico.

The Fish and Wildlife Service and the state Game Commission had wrangled for months over bureaucratic issues before the commission decided to deny a permit that would have cleared the way for federal biologists to begin releases this year.

Unless the federal government agrees to mediation, the state plans to go to court to stop the releases.

Colorado teens won’t face charges for sexting ring

Apr 21, 2016 125
Pine Creek High School.

Pine Creek High School. (Google Street View)

Colorado officials say they won’t file criminal charges against a group of teenagers who exchanged a partially nude photo of a juvenile.

The Gazette reports that 4th Judicial District Attorney’s office spokeswoman Lee Richards said Tuesday that a review of the case found nothing malicious in the teens’ behavior.

The five Pine Creek High School and Challenger Middle School students could have faced felony charges.

Richards says the cellphones were reviewed and the images will be deleted before they are returned to their owners. She says the students will also be required to attend sexting classes run by the DA’s Office.

School district spokeswoman Nanette Anderson would not say if any of the students had been suspended or expelled.

Lawsuits accuse Kansas State University of ignoring off-campus fraternity rapes

Apr 21, 2016 116
kansas state 421

(Google Street View)

Two female students allege that Kansas State University has refused to investigate their rapes and other sex assaults at off-campus fraternity houses, according to federal lawsuits filed Wednesday.

The civil rights lawsuits, filed in U.S. District Court in Kansas, contend that the university’s practice endangers students and violates federal law by creating a hostile learning environment for victims.

Already, Kansas State is the subject of four open federal Title IX investigations for allegedly mishandling sex assault complaints, according to the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights. The university, located in Manhattan, Kansas, would not comment beyond an emailed statement: “Kansas State University does not discuss litigation matters in the media, nor do we publicly discuss individual reports of discrimination, including sexual violence.”

The U.S. Department of Education has said schools have an obligation to respond to such complaints, even if they occur off campus, according to the students’ attorney, Cari Simon.

“Schools understand that attending school on a campus alongside an assailant can cause a hostile environment for a student, that it really impacts a victim. It can really prevent them from fully accessing their education and can affect their well-being, so schools across the country are investigating these in fact,” Simon said. “Kansas State’s position is an outlier.”

Campus sex assaults — and universities’ responses have been pushed to the forefront in the past couple of years, most recently involving or allegedly involving student-athletes at Baylor University and the University of Tennessee. The Office of Civil Rights is investigating 224 sexual violence cases at 178 colleges and universities across the nation — including the four at Kansas State. The Obama administration also has taken steps to push colleges to better tackle the issue, including releasing the names colleges and universities that were facing investigations for their handling of such cases under Title IX, a federal anti-discrimination law involving women.

Kansas State’s campus crime statistics show 16 rapes in 2014, six of which occurred off campus. The lawsuits cite police reports that indicate at least 11 rapes were alleged to have happened at Kansas State fraternities since 2012.

The Associated Press typically does not identify alleged victims of sexual assault, but Simon said her clients have publicly used their names because they felt they didn’t do anything wrong. The women, both 21, are still students at Kansas State.

Tessa Farmer alleges in her lawsuit that she was raped March 6, 2015, after a party at a fraternity house where she had become “very intoxicated.” She went home, but later returned with a student to the fraternity house, where they had sex. She blacked out and woke up to find another student sexually assaulting her, according to the lawsuit.

Sara Weckhorst was a freshman when she accepted an invitation to a fraternity event at Pillsbury Crossing, a wildlife area that is a frequent party location not far from campus. Her lawsuit contends she became “extremely incapacitated” from consuming a large amount of alcohol and blacked out. One of the students raped her in his truck while 15 other students looked on, some taking video and photographs, according to the court filing. Her lawsuit also alleges multiple rapes while going to and at a fraternity house.

Both women said they reported the sexual assaults to police and went to hospitals where rape kits were taken; prosecutors declined to file charges related to Weckhorst’s allegations and a decision is pending on whether to file charges in Farmer’s case, Simon said. But their lawsuits allege that Kansas State told them they wouldn’t do anything about the rapes because they occurred off campus, so they filed complaints with the federal government.

The Latest: Woman faces tribal charges in 1-year-old’s death

Apr 21, 2016 98

The Latest on the death of a 1-year-old on a Montana Indian reservation (all times local):

10:30 a.m.

A woman is behind bars in a Montana tribal jail in connection with the death of a 1-year-old girl who authorities believe was kidnapped.

FBI spokeswoman Sandra Yi Barker on Thursday wouldn’t release the 42-year-old woman’s name, citing an ongoing investigation into the death of Kenzley Olson.

Barker says the woman is jailed on unspecified charges on Montana’s Fort Peck Indian Reservation. She is expected in tribal court Thursday.

Authorities have said the girl was abducted Tuesday morning from her house in the small town of Poplar. Her body was discovered Wednesday.

The cause of death and other details haven’t been released. A Roosevelt County spokesman has said investigators were searching for additional people for questioning.

Barker says federal charges also are anticipated in the case.

AP Exclusive: US Navy accuses Gulf commander of misconduct

Apr 21, 2016 207
  • In this photo released on March 20, 2014 by the U.S. Navy, patrol coastal ship USS Typhoon launches a surface-to-surface missile during Griffin missile exercise to guard against small boat threats in the U.S. 5th Fleet Area of responsibility. A U.S. Navy investigative report obtained by The Associated Press shows a Navy officer relieved of commanding a Persian Gulf patrol ship failed to maintain equipment to the point of exposing “his crew to unnecessary risk,” interfered with an inquiry into his actions and once slept drunk on a bench at a Dubai port. The report outlines the allegations against the officer's actions, whom the Navy removed from the USS Typhoon in March. (Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Doug Harvey, U.S. Navy via AP)

    In this photo released on March 20, 2014 by the U.S. Navy, patrol coastal ship USS Typhoon launches a surface-to-surface missile during Griffin missile exercise to guard against small boat threats in the U.S. 5th Fleet Area of responsibility. A U.S. Navy investigative report obtained by The Associated Press shows a Navy officer relieved of commanding a Persian Gulf patrol ship failed to maintain equipment to the point of exposing “his crew to unnecessary risk,” interfered with an inquiry into his actions and once slept drunk on a bench at a Dubai port. The report outlines the allegations against the officer’s actions, whom the Navy removed from the USS Typhoon in March. (Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Doug Harvey, U.S. Navy via AP) (The Associated Press)

  • In this photo released by the U.S. Navy on Feb. 21, 2014, a rigid hull inflatable boat transits alongside the coastal patrol ship USS Typhoon during a vertical onboard deliver exercise in the Arabian Gulf. A U.S. Navy investigative report obtained by The Associated Press shows a Navy officer relieved of commanding a Persian Gulf patrol ship failed to maintain equipment to the point of exposing “his crew to unnecessary risk,” interfered with an inquiry into his actions and once slept drunk on a bench at a Dubai port. The report outlines the allegations against the officer's actions, whom the Navy removed from the USS Typhoon in March, 2016.(Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Martin Cuaron, U.S. Navy via AP)

    In this photo released by the U.S. Navy on Feb. 21, 2014, a rigid hull inflatable boat transits alongside the coastal patrol ship USS Typhoon during a vertical onboard deliver exercise in the Arabian Gulf. A U.S. Navy investigative report obtained by The Associated Press shows a Navy officer relieved of commanding a Persian Gulf patrol ship failed to maintain equipment to the point of exposing “his crew to unnecessary risk,” interfered with an inquiry into his actions and once slept drunk on a bench at a Dubai port. The report outlines the allegations against the officer’s actions, whom the Navy removed from the USS Typhoon in March, 2016.(Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Martin Cuaron, U.S. Navy via AP) (The Associated Press)

  • In this photo released by the U.S. Navy on Feb. 21, 2014, Aviation Warfare Specialist 1st Class Jim Dudgeon, assigned to Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron (HSC) 26, prepares to lower supplies to coastal patrol ship USS Typhoon during an excercise in the Arabian Gulf. A U.S. Navy investigative report obtained by The Associated Press shows a Navy officer relieved of commanding a Persian Gulf patrol ship failed to maintain equipment to the point of exposing “his crew to unnecessary risk,” interfered with an inquiry into his actions and once slept drunk on a bench at a Dubai port. The report outlines the allegations against the officer's actions, whom the Navy removed from the USS Typhoon in March, 2016. (Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Martin Cuaron, U.S. Navy via AP)

    In this photo released by the U.S. Navy on Feb. 21, 2014, Aviation Warfare Specialist 1st Class Jim Dudgeon, assigned to Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron (HSC) 26, prepares to lower supplies to coastal patrol ship USS Typhoon during an excercise in the Arabian Gulf. A U.S. Navy investigative report obtained by The Associated Press shows a Navy officer relieved of commanding a Persian Gulf patrol ship failed to maintain equipment to the point of exposing “his crew to unnecessary risk,” interfered with an inquiry into his actions and once slept drunk on a bench at a Dubai port. The report outlines the allegations against the officer’s actions, whom the Navy removed from the USS Typhoon in March, 2016. (Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Martin Cuaron, U.S. Navy via AP) (The Associated Press)

A U.S. Navy officer relieved of commanding a Persian Gulf patrol ship allegedly failed to maintain equipment to the point of exposing “his crew to unnecessary risk,” interfered with an inquiry into his actions and once slept drunk on a bench at a Dubai port, according to a naval investigation.

The accusations against Lt. Cmdr. Jeremiah Daley saw the Navy on March 12 remove him from the USS Typhoon, a Manama, Bahrain-based vessel patrolling a region crucial to global oil supplies where American forces routinely have tense encounters with Iranian forces.

Daley, now assigned to Task Force 55, was on leave Thursday and unavailable for comment, according to the U.S. Navy’s 5th Fleet, which is based in Bahrain and oversees the task force. Later reached by The Associated Press, Daley said he was challenging the report and appealing his punishment as a “good number of things are 100 percent not true.” He declined to elaborate, saying he wanted the appeal process “to take its course.”

The 300-page investigative report into Daley’s actions, obtained by the AP through a Freedom of Information Act request, shows his crew also complained about his poor management style, with one sailor saying morale aboard the ship was the “worst” the sailor had seen in a 28-year career.

Daley assumed command of the Typhoon, a coastal patrol ship that typically carries 24 enlisted personnel and four officers, in May 2015. The Typhoon is one of 10 Cyclone-class ships the Navy bases out of Manama to patrol shallow waters in the Persian Gulf, providing security amid the U.S. campaign against the Islamic State group and other extremists while offering a counterbalance to Iranian vessels in the region.

The investigation into Daley began in February after a survey found a majority of those on board the Typhoon didn’t trust the vessel’s leadership. The Navy conducted focus groups with those onboard and though officials redacted much of their responses, witness statements included in the report show there were concerns about Daley not following the chain of command.

The report goes on to include allegations of favoritism by Daley, as well as several instances of the lieutenant commander drinking in front of his crew, including once at Dubai’s Jebel Ali port. While hotels freely serve alcohol to tourists in the city-state, public intoxication is a criminal offense.

Citing one sailor, whose name like those of others in the report was redacted, it said “Daley was intoxicated in Jebel Ali and acted in a disorderly manner while walking back to the ship.” It added that he “allegedly slept outside on a bench.”

“Daley’s behavior while on liberty in Jebel Ali demonstrated questionable judgment, including imprudent use of alcohol and surprisingly close association with enlisted crew members,” the report read.

Daley also hosted a Fourth of July party at his villa in Bahrain to which he invited all his crew and he drank in front of those there, according to the report.

Meanwhile, needed repairs for the Typhoon’s engines and fire-suppression system, as well as its rigid-hull inflatable boat onboard, were not properly reported or handled, the report said. That “subjected his crew to unnecessary risk of harm,” according to the report.

In late February, Daley also made “suspected false statements” to superiors about equipment left on a pier and later was suspected of trying to question crew members about what they told investigators, the report said.

Citing his “poor performance as a commanding officer and his multiple lapses of personal integrity,” the report said the commanders removed Daley from the Typhoon.

Iran views the Persian Gulf and the Strait of Hormuz, through which nearly a third of all oil traded by sea pass through, as being under its sphere of influence. U.S. and Iranian forces even fought a one-day sea battle in the strait in 1988. A few months later, a U.S. ship mistook an Iran Air flight heading to Dubai for an attacking fighter jet, shooting down the plane and killing all 290 onboard.

While a small vessel compared to other U.S. warships in the Gulf, the Typhoon has found itself embroiled in the cat-and-mouse naval encounters between America and Iran. In April 2008, amid a period of high tension, the Typhoon fired a flare at a small Iranian boat in the Gulf after it came within about 180 meters (200 yards) of the American vessel.

Despite the recent nuclear deal, encounters between the two navies continue.

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Follow Jon Gambrell on Twitter at www.twitter.com/jongambrellap. His work can be found at http://bigstory.ap.org/content/jon-gambrell .