Actress Octavia Spencer to speak at Kent State commencement

Apr 22, 2017 17

Kent State University’s first universitywide commencement will get a touch of Hollywood as Oscar-winning actress Octavia Spencer speaks to graduates of the northeastern Ohio school.

Spencer recently starred as mathematician Dorothy Vaughan in the drama “Hidden Figures.” The film tells the true story of several female African-American mathematicians at NASA key to the 1960’s era space race between the United States and Russia.

Spencer says it’s an honor to share her personal story at Kent State.

She says she hopes her message “inspires others to dream big, never give up and pursue their passion despite the obstacles that might get in the way.”

The May 13 ceremony will be the first where all graduates from the eight-campus system are honored in one place.

Charleston church shooter on federal death row in Indiana

Apr 22, 2017 11

Convicted South Carolina church shooter Dylann Roof is now on federal death row in Indiana.

Prison records from Charleston County jail show Roof left its custody Friday.

Federal records on Saturday show Roof is now being held at the United States Penitentiary in Terre Haute, Indiana. The facility houses federal inmates awaiting death sentences.

A jury convicted Roof on federal hate crime charges in December and then sentenced him to death.

Roof went to a Wednesday night Bible study at Emanuel AME church on June 17, 2015, and killed nine black worshippers during the closing prayer. He told FBI agents he was hoping to start a race war.

Roof also pleaded guilty to nine counts of murder in state court and received life sentences without parole.

Harvard researchers find copy of Declaration of Independence

Apr 22, 2017 13
Undated handout photo of a parchment manuscript of the US Declaration of Independence, believed to date from the 1780s and found in a records office in Chichester, southern England. Harvard University researchers say they've discovered a second parchment copy of the Declaration of Independence, The Boston Globe reported Friday, April 21, 2017. (West Sussex Record Office Add Mss 8981 via AP).

Undated handout photo of a parchment manuscript of the US Declaration of Independence, believed to date from the 1780s and found in a records office in Chichester, southern England. Harvard University researchers say they’ve discovered a second parchment copy of the Declaration of Independence, The Boston Globe reported Friday, April 21, 2017. (West Sussex Record Office Add Mss 8981 via AP).  (The Associated Press)

Harvard University researchers say they’ve discovered a second parchment copy of the Declaration of Independence.

The Boston Globe reported Friday researchers Emily Sneff and Danielle Allen found the copy in a records office in southern England.

The only other parchment copy is maintained by the National Archives in Washington.

The two dated the document to the 1780s. They say it was found in the archives in Chichester, and is believed to have originally belonged to a Duke of Richmond known as the “Radical Duke” for his support of Americans during the Revolutionary War.

The researchers said the signers on the Sussex version are not broken down by state, something that distinguishes it from the copy in the National Archives.

The parchment was likely made in New York or Philadelphia.

Senators seek data on Americans caught up in surveillance

Apr 22, 2017 19

A Democratic privacy advocate and libertarian-minded Republican are asking the nation’s top intelligence official to release more information about the communications of American citizens swept up in surveillance operations.

The request by Democratic Sen. Ron Wyden of Oregon and GOP Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky adds to a chorus of calls for more transparency about how intelligence agencies use and share communications to, from and about Americans.

The two want to know more about how agencies handle these communications as well as data about the number of Americans affected. They also want to make public the procedures on how intelligence about members of Congress is disseminated.

There are still “holes in the public’s understanding of how U.S. person information — collected pursuant to different authorities and by different agencies — is handled,” they wrote.

The senators’ Friday letter to Dan Coats, director of national intelligence, comes as lawmakers gear up for debate over the reauthorization of one of the government’s key surveillance programs, which expires at the end of the year. Programs authorized by Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act target foreigners, but domestic communications are sometimes vacuumed up as well. They were first revealed to the public by Edward Snowden, who leaked files from the National Security Agency.

Critics who want the law reformed worry that agencies use the foreign intelligence collection tool too loosely and sometimes in connection with domestic law enforcement investigations.

Intelligence officials have tried to allay concerns saying that any domestic communications collected are incidental to the targeting of foreigners.

They say Section 702 allows the government to target non-U.S. citizens reasonably believed to be located outside the United States and bars the government from targeting a foreigner to acquire the communications of an American or someone in the U.S. But they say intelligence agencies are authorized under Section 702 to query communications made with Americans in certain, approved cases.

Lawmakers seeking reforms could gain momentum from the investigation into Russian meddling in the presidential election. President Donald Trump recently made an unsubstantiated claim that his conversations were wiretapped. There also is controversy surrounding intercepts that revealed former national security adviser Mike Flynn’s communications with the Russian ambassador.

The House intelligence committee probing Russian activities made a request for similar information earlier this year.

The House committee has scheduled a closed-door hearing for Tuesday with FBI Director James Comey and Adm. Mike Rogers, the head of the National Security Agency. That same day, former CIA Director John Brennan, former National Intelligence Director James Clapper and former Deputy Attorney General Sally Yates are to testify at an open hearing.

American Airlines investigates reported confrontation between flight attendant and mother

Apr 22, 2017 28

American Airlines on Friday responded quickly to a video that reportedly shows a sobbing mother with baby in arm sobbing after a confrontation with a flight attendant.

The initial reported confrontation was not in the video, but a passenger on the flight out of San Francisco said the attendant “violently took a stroller from a lady with a baby” and hit her, “just missing the child.”

The woman in the video appears shaken and can barely catch her breath.

A male passenger is seen getting up from his seat. He can be heard telling another airline employee that he wanted to know the flight attendant’s name.

When another apparent employee gets on the plane, the same male passenger gets out of his seat again and says, “Hey bud, hey bud. You do that to me, and I’ll knock you flat.” The other man says, “You stay out of it.” And goes on to taunt the passenger to “hit me.”

The flight landed at about 7:45 p.m. at Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport. American Airlines issued the statement minutes after the plane landed.

The airline, apparently learned from the recent United Airlines fiasco, and acted quickly. The woman’s seat was upgraded to first class and she was put on another flight. The airline said the employee was “removed from duty.’’

“We have seen the video and have already started an investigation to obtain the facts. What we see on this video does not reflect our values or how we care for our customers. We are deeply sorry for the pain we have caused this passenger and her family and to any other customers affected by the incident. We are making sure all of her family’s needs are being met while she is in our care,” the statement read. 

Prosthetic arm designed by undergrads lets girl play violin

Apr 22, 2017 25

A 10-year-old girl born with no left hand is playing the violin, thanks to a specially designed prosthetic built by undergraduates at George Mason University.

Isabella Nicola tested out the final version of her prosthetic Thursday. A team of bioengineering students teamed up with a music instructor to make sure the attachment was comfortable and provided the range of motion for Isabella to move her bow appropriately on the strings.

The attachment was the capstone project for the team of senior bioengineering majors at Mason.

Isabella’s music teacher at her elementary school had built a device for her but approached the school to see if they could come up with something better.

At Thursday’s session, the team surprised Isabella with an additional attachment that let her ride a bicycle.

Lawyer: Abducted Tennessee girl's recovery 'just beginning'

Apr 22, 2017 38

A 15-year-old Tennessee student who was allegedly kidnapped by her teacher and taken to California is back home, a lawyer for the girl’s family says.

The girl is being evaluated and treated by mental health experts specializing in trauma, lawyer Jason Whatley said in a statement Friday.

“There is no doubt that she has suffered severe emotional trauma and that her process of recovery is only just beginning,” Whatley said.

He said the girl is in a safe location with friends and family and is now resting.

Authorities credit the caretaker of a remote northern California property for helping police find her and arrest her alleged abductor, fired teacher Tad Cummins. After Griffin Barry became suspicious of two people he initially thought were in distress, his tip led police to the teacher accused of kidnapping his student and taking her on a 2,500-mile cross-country journey.

Barry said the pair told him their names were John and Joanna and they needed money for food, gas and a place to stay, ABC News Good Morning America reported Friday (http://abcn.ws/2pKHq16). But Barry, 29, said he became suspicious when the older man tried to keep the teen away.

“The girl wasn’t really looking at me or anything and he was always dominating the conversation. That kind of clues people in,” Barry said.

After seeing a photo of Cummins in an Amber Alert, Barry said he made the connection and called authorities.

The Siskiyou County Sheriff’s Office sent a tactical unit to the cabin Thursday morning. Cummins was arrested after he came out the cabin with the girl walking behind him, the sheriff’s office said.

Cummins was cooperative with law enforcement, Siskiyou Sheriff Jon E. Lopey told the Associated Press. He said the girl was at times “laughing, crying and acting stoic” after police found her at the remote cabin.

“These two had a relationship to the extent where she didn’t exhibit any anger toward him. I didn’t observe any emotional distress,” he said. “She didn’t act like a rescued person would act,” showing no signs of elation, he said. She appeared fine physically, Lopey said, and there were no signs of trauma.

In the cabin, he said, was a single sleeping pad and clothing along with the two loaded guns — a 9mm and a .380 compact pistol.

Lopey said the two had previously been at a commune called Black Bear Ranch, but “didn’t get along” with commune residents and ended up leaving. The sheriff said the two had stopped in Berkeley first and that’s how they found out about the commune.

The AP is not naming the girl or her family members because she is an alleged victim of a sex crime.

Cummins faces federal and state charges.

Before leaving with the girl, Cummins had been suspended from teaching and police were zeroing in on him, questioning his relationship with the girl.

Cummins was fired about a month after being suspended — a day after the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation issued an Amber Alert about the teen.

After taking out a loan for $4,500, the records say, the teacher took the money and two handguns and wrote a note to his wife saying he needed to go to Virginia Beach or the Washington, D.C., area to clear his head.

But instead of going to the beach, police say he picked up the student in Columbia, Tennessee, in his wife’s car on the morning of March 13. The girl’s disappearance triggered a six-week law enforcement manhunt.

“It is believed based on the investigation to date, as set forth herein, that Cummins, age 50, and victim, age 15, are involved in a sexual relationship and traveled in interstate commerce to continue their relationship and to engage in unlawful sexual activity,” the criminal complaint against Cummins says.

Cummins, the federal complaint says, is charged with taking a minor across states lines to have sex.

The girl’s father has told news media he believes his daughter was brainwashed.

Cummins also faces state charges of aggravated kidnapping and sexual contact with a minor. If convicted of the federal charge, he faces at least 10 years in prison, acting U.S. Attorney Jack Smith said.

Before disappearing, Cummins was investigated by the school system when another student reported seeing the then-married teacher kiss the girl at the Culleoka Unit School. Culleoka is about 60 miles (100 kilometers) south of Nashville near the Alabama state line.

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Associated Press writer Kristin J. Bender in San Francisco contributed to this report.

Florida boy, 8, crushed to death by large TV in freak accident

Apr 21, 2017 21

Authorities say an 8-year-old Jacksonville boy has died after being crushed by a large television.

According to the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office, authorities found Christian Dozier early Friday morning in a bedroom near a four-level shelf with an old-style tube television on the floor. Authorities confirmed the television fell off the top shelf but it’s unclear whether it fell on its own or because someone was attempting to climb it. Authorities said another sibling was also in the room with the boy. Christian is one of six who lived in the home.

The Florida Times-Union reports the shelf was tall, narrow and made of PVC.

A Department of Children and Families spokeswoman said they’d opened an investigation into the case and would assist in the sheriff’s investigation if appropriate.

Grief counselors were at the boy’s elementary school three blocks away.

Iowa man gets life for hacking 3 to death with machete

Apr 21, 2017 18

A 25-year-old man has been sentenced to life in prison for hacking to death his girlfriend, her teenage daughter and their landlord with a machete in central Iowa.

The Des Moines Register reports (http://dmreg.co/2q0fGVA ) that Carlos Hernandez-Ventura was sentenced Friday, a month after being found guilty on three counts of first-degree murder.

Prosecutors say Hernandez-Ventura used a machete on Oct. 29 to kill 34-year-old Lourdes Flor De Leake, 14-year-old Melany Barraza and 78-year-old Juan Jimenez Tejada at a home in Perry, about 30 miles northwest of Des Moines.

Hernandez-Ventura testified at trial that Leake’s estranged husband ordered the deaths, but investigators say they found no evidence he was involved.

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Information from: The Des Moines Register, http://www.desmoinesregister.com

South Dakota man charged with streaming terrorist threats

Apr 21, 2017 13

Authorities say a South Dakota man who was asked to leave an anti-Islam event is facing a felony charge after he livestreamed himself brandishing weapons and making threats to the public.

Attorney General Marty Jackley and Lincoln County State’s Attorney Tom Wollman said Friday that 45-year-old Ehab Abdulmutta Jaber of Sioux Falls has been charged with one count of terrorist threats.

Authorities say Jaber was escorted out of the event April 9 after he was observed filming on his cellphone and carrying a pistol. Officials say he was later found to be streaming threats to the public and brandishing guns and ammunition.

Authorities say law enforcement seized guns and methamphetamine during a search of his home.

It wasn’t immediately clear if Jaber has an attorney who could comment on his behalf.