There is really no question as to how important a role the media plays in society. Reading, watching and/or listening to the news is how we know what is going on. The news shapes our lives, it shapes how we think, what we know. The news helps us make decisions about everything from what movie we should go see to how much insurance premiums for health care might be. The news is a reflection of our world…it’s whats happening and it’s important.
One of the things I deal with on this blog is how much attention to give any particular story. How do I frame a story. How much bandwidth do I dedicate to any particular subject. I cannot possibly cover every single story…every event that happens so I often fret over what stories make the blog and what stories don’t. In the mornings and afternoons, I publish a blog post that is the top stories that have warranted my attention and the headlines from around the world and the U.S. from CBS News. The task is daunting. Everyday, I peruse global news sources looking for stories or ideas that spark an interest with the hope that they matter to you. Thousands of you apparently like this product. My global numbers show steady growth each month and the stories you are hitting on are, for the most part, created by and for this blog.
My news philosophy has matured over the years. I try to find stories that matter or should matter to all of us. I have devoted considerable time to missing persons cases, particularly college students in the Midwest. Why? Although the stories about Andrew Compton and Lauren Spierer are local to Kentucky and Indiana, they could happen anywhere. While the details involve specific people in specific places, the danger college students, or anyone for that matter, face could be anywhere.
Decades ago, I fought hard to expand coverage of events that mattered. The shootings at Columbine High School while local in nature shook this nation to its core. Everyone wanted answers. Everyone wanted to know if something like that could happen in their backyard. Some accused me of sensationalism but I never saw addressing fear and concern as being sensational. I have been accused of hyping weather disasters in one place or another but the reality is that while one person may read a story and not relate to it at all, someone else may have family and friends in an effected area. Just because something does not matter to one person does not mean it matters nothing to another.
If there is something that is on your mind and you want to know more about it…let me know. Send an email to email@example.com and I will look at what you have. Thank you all for being here. I do not take for granted that you like what I am doing and have more options for news and information at your fingertips then at anytime in history.
COLORADO SPRINGS, Colorado — (DMN/CNN) – Nicole Frye watered the wooden roof of the house where she’d lived for 18 years. Then she got in her car and captured her own evacuation with a video camera. All around her, the sky glowed orange from the towering flames that had roared down the mountain and into western subdivisions of Colorado Springs. “Oh my God,” she sobbed. “We gotta get out of here.” She knew her neighborhood would never be the same. “So I wanted to make sure I had at least a memory of something that was remaining,” she said.
She wanted a memory, too, of Colorado’s most destructive fire, which, a week after igniting, has consumed nearly 350 homes, damaged two dozen more and killed two people. Firefighters battled the blaze again Saturday, hoping to prevent the toll from mounting further. But authorities feared the numbers will probably increase as they get their first look at some of the harder hit areas. Firefighters, aided by helicopters, air tankers and military planes dropping water and retardant, fought to contain the inferno, still threatening 20,000 homes and 160 businesses.
Colorado National Guard troops will deploy Saturday night to assist local law enforcement officers. Already the Waldo Canyon Fire has scorched more than 17,000 acres — close to 27 square miles — and brought fear, anxiety and grief to Colorado Springs, the state’s second-largest city that was, until a few days ago, happily situated in the valley below picturesque Pikes Peak. It was 30% contained by early Saturday morning, said incident commander Rich Harvey.
Steve Cox, assistant to the Colorado Springs mayor, said the city remains hopeful. “But it is a long process,” he told CNN affiliate KKTV. “It’s going to take us a long time to recover from this.” Hundreds of residents were allowed to begin returning home late Friday after authorities lifted mandatory evacuation orders in some areas. Thousands more waited for word when they would be able to go home. And others, like Frye, will have to stay with friends, family or in hotel rooms. She learned her house was gone. She has not returned yet but seen the devastation in aerial photographs.
The city has organized bus tours for about 4,000 people whose neighborhoods were charred. “You’ll be able to look at your property,” Cox said. “You’re not going to be able to get out and walk around the property because we’re still in an active fire situation.” Barry Boulier was among the more than 36,000 forced to evacuate when 65 mph winds on Tuesday whipped the blaze into a firestorm that spewed ash and smoke “like a scene out of the movie ‘Dante’s Peak.’ ” It was so thick, that he couldn’t see or breathe, he said on CNN iReport. “It happened so fast — our only thought was leave NOW.”
Boulier and his wife have been staying with family since they fled, though they have since learned their home was spared after firefighters stopped its advance in their backyard. His neighbors, though, are not so lucky. Most of their houses, he said, have been burned. “I’m kind of dreading returning,” he said. President Barack Obama declared Colorado a disaster area to allow federal dollars to help fight the Waldo Canyon Fire as well the High Park Fire, which has burned more than 87,000 acres and destroyed more than 200 homes in northern Colorado since it began on June 9. “We have been putting everything we have into trying to deal with what is one of the worst fires we’ve seen here in Colorado,” said Obama, who toured Colorado Springs on Friday to get a first-hand look at the devastation. “We’ve still got a lot more work to do.”
The U.S. Forest Service has warned it could be mid-July before the fire is fully under control. A second death was announced Friday by Colorado Springs Police Chief Pete Carey, whose voice broke as he told reporters the body was found in the same gutted home where the first was discovered late Thursday. Police spokeswoman Barbara Miller told CNN the remains were believed to be those of a couple reported missing by family members. Police did not identify the couple. The cause of the fire, which has cost more than $6.9 million to fight, according to estimates posted on InciWeb, is still under investigation. Authorities are investigating reports that an arsonist may be responsible.
The wildfire is one of many fires burning in the West right now — including in Idaho, Wyoming and Utah — that are straining firefighting resources. But the effort to tame the flames in Colorado got a boost Friday from the military, which is deploying eight of the U.S. Forest Service’s Modular Airborne Firefighting Systems aboard C-130 aircraft. The systems will drop retardant on the Waldo Canyon Fire as well as other wildfires still burning in Colorado. A battalion of U.S. Army troops from Fort Carson, Colorado, also began training Friday to fight wildfires. More than 500 troops are undergoing three days of training, according to Lt. Col. Steven Wollman, a spokesman for the 4th Infantry Division headquartered at the base just south of Colorado Springs. A decision has not been made whether to send the troops into the Waldo Canyon Fire.
CNN’s Greg Morrison and Dana Ford contributed to this report.
Widespread damaging thunderstorm winds occurred yesterday from Indiana to Ohio with a long-track intense bow echo. These systems that produce damaging straight-line winds over hundreds of miles are also called “Derechoes”.
COLORADO SPRINGS, Colorado — (DMN) – Searchers sifting through damage left by the most destructive wildfire in Colorado history have found the remains of a second person at a home where another person was found dead earlier. Police Chief Pete Carey said Friday that searchers found the remains at a house where two people had been reported missing after shifting winds forced thousands to flee their homes Tuesday night. Carey announced on Thursday finding the other person. The Waldo Canyon Fire has destroyed nearly 350 homes and burned 26 square miles. Its cause hasn’t been determined.
While firefighters in Colorado are still fighting massive wildfires, across the Midwest, searing heat gave way to violent thunderstorms. Violent evening storms following a day of triple-digit temperatures wiped out power to more than 2 million people across the eastern United States and caused two fatalities in Virginia — including a 90-year-old woman asleep in bed when a tree slammed into her home, a police spokeswoman said Saturday. Widespread power outages were reported from Indiana to New Jersey, with the bulk of the service interruptions concentrated on Washington, D.C., and the surrounding areas. Earlier Friday, the nation’s capital reached 104 degrees — topping a record of 101 set in 1934.
More than 20 elderly residents at an apartment home in Indianapolis were displaced when the facility lost power due to a downed tree. Most were bused to a Red Cross facility to spend the night, and others who depend on oxygen assistance were given other accommodations, the fire department said. The storms, sometimes packing 70 mph winds, toppled three tractor trailers on Interstate 75 near Findlay, Ohio. Fallen trees were blamed on both deaths in Springfield, Va. Besides the 90-year-old woman, who authorities didn’t identify pending notification of kin, a man driving his car was pronounced dead at the scene. Authorities identified him as Khiet Nguyen, 27, of Burke, Va.
In addition, a park police officer was injured by an uprooted tree in the northern Virginia county, and an 18-year-old man was struck by a power line, Jennings said. He was in stable condition after receiving CPR, she said. “Our officers and firefighters are out there with power saws, trying to clear the streets,” Jennings said. West Virginia Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin declared a state of emergency after more than 500,000 customers in 27 counties were left without electricity. At least four utility poles fell on a road in Columbus, Ohio, making it too dangerous for people in four cars to get out, police said. One person was taken to a hospital.
As of 1 a.m. Saturday, Pepco was reporting 406,000 outages in the District of Columbia and Montgomery and Prince George’s counties, Md. “We have more than half our system down,” said Pepco spokeswoman Myra Oppel. “This is definitely going to be a multi-day outage.” Amtrak suspended its service from Washington, D.C., to Philadelphia due to the storms, at least until mid-morning. In the Washington, D.C., area, the Metrorail subway trains were returned to their endpoints due to the storms and related damage, officials said. “It has had a widespread effect on the region,” Metro spokesman Dan Stessel said early Saturday. He said about 17 train stations were operating on backup power due to local power outages, but that he didn’t anticipate service being disrupted on Saturday.
In Colorado more than 1,000 personnel and six helicopters were fighting the fire, which had cost at least $3.2 million to fight and was 15 percent contained as of Friday morning. Police Chief Pete Carey said the remains of one person were found in a home where two people had been reported missing. He didn’t elaborate or take questions after making the announcement late Thursday. The Colorado Bureau of Investigation said two people have been arrested in connection with a burglary at an evacuated home. President Barack Obama absorbed the devastation of Colorado’s wildfires Friday, visiting a neighborhood struck by the flames and taking in the acrid smells of charred homes while plumes of smoke rose from the surrounding mountains.
After declaring a “major disaster” in the state early Friday and promising federal aid, Obama got a firsthand view of the fires and their toll on residential communities. More than 30,000 people have been evacuated in what is now the most destructive wildfire in state history. “Whether it’s fires in Colorado or flooding in the northern parts of Florida, when natural disasters like this hit, America comes together,” Obama said after touring a neighborhood where the fire cut a path that left some homes standing while leveling surrounding properties. “We all recognize that there but for the grace of God go I. We’ve got to make sure that we have each others’ backs.”
Obama’s appearance in Colorado took on added significance coming less than five months before the Nov. 6 presidential election. The state is a crucial swing state in the contest between Obama and Republican challenger Mitt Romney, and the president’s visit illustrated the enormous power of incumbency he enjoys to deliver not only assistance but to show compassion and command. Stopping to greet firefighters and other first responders, Obama said: “The country is grateful for your work. The country’s got your back.” The president’s first view of the fires and the smoky mountains came as he flew into Colorado Springs aboard Air Force One.
His motorcade then weaved slowly through the neighborhood of Mountain Shadows, passing the wreckage of dozens of burned down homes. He had special words for a group of firefighters who had just recently managed to save some houses in a subdivision attacked by the flames. “They’re genuine heroes,” he said. He was accompanied by Colorado Springs Mayor Steve Bach, Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper and members of the state’s congressional delegation. A fire in northern Colorado, which is still burning, destroyed 257 homes earlier this month, and until Thursday was the state’s most destructive.
From above Colorado Springs, the destruction was painfully clear: Rows and rows of houses were reduced to smoldering ashes even as some homes just feet away survived largely intact. Community officials began the process of notifying residents Thursday that their homes were destroyed. The lists of more than 30 street names were posted at a local high school, listing those areas with heavy damage. Anxious residents scanned the sheets, but for many, the official notification was a formality. They recognized their street on aerial pictures and carefully scrutinize the images to determine the damage. Photos and video from The Associated Press and the Denver Post showed widespread damage.
John Sawyer came home from vacation in Atlanta, only to move into a hotel – his family was one of thousands evacuated as the fire spread. “It’s a lot of stress, and it’s hard to sleep well, and you’re not in your own house and your family’s not all together,” Sawyer told CBS News’ Anna Werner. “We’re trying to do normal lives, but you can’t … “How are thousands, or hundreds of families going to find places to live, continue their work?” he wonders. “How will the schools function? There’s a lot of questions ahead.” Sawyer’s house is a half-mile from the fire line.
Colorado Springs, the state’s second-largest city, is home to the U.S. Olympic Training Center, NORAD and the Air Force Space Command, which operates military satellites. They were not threatened. Hundreds of people sought refuge at area shelters operated by the Red Cross, including tourists who’d come to enjoy the Colorado summer. Preston Harrington, 40, of Lake Charles, La., had been hoping to climb nearby Pikes Peak. He had been at a Manitou Springs motel when he was evacuated early Sunday, and then moved to a shelter at a high school and was living out of a suitcase “No drawer, nothing to put this stuff in, it wears on you,” Harrington said.
Schneider, the local neighborhood leader, said the enormity of the losses would take a while to sink in. “There’s a lot of tears being shed out there, it’s tough,” he said. Conditions were still too dicey to allow authorities to begin trying to figure out what sparked the blaze that has raged for much of the week and already burned more than 29 square miles. When he first saw the aerial photos of the homes burned in his neighborhood, Ryan Schneider recognized immediately that his house had been spared. But relief quickly turned to sadness for his many friends and neighbors who hadn’t been so lucky. “I mean, there’s a lifetime of things that people collect in these homes, and they’ve lost it all,” said Schneider, vice president of the 1,700-home community association for the Mountain Shadows neighborhood.
Amid the devastation in the foothills of Colorado Springs, there were hopeful signs. Weather conditions improved Thursday and some evacuation orders were lifted by the evening, though there was no immediate word on how many people would be allowed back. People were told to still be ready to flee at a moment’s notice. The Air Force Academy was letting residents return Friday morning and officials said normal operations would resume throughout most of the academy. “We’re gaining more confidence,” said Bret Waters, director of the Colorado Springs emergency management office. “It doesn’t mean we’re out of the woods.”
In northern Colorado, about 1,900 people were allowed back into their homes on Thursday, more than two weeks after the devastating High Park Fire erupted. The blaze was 75 percent contained. The fire killed one woman and destroyed 257 homes, then a state record that was be eclipsed by the Colorado Springs fire. Another wildfire gaining steam in western Colorado prompted officials to evacuate homes of about 50 residents in the southern part of De Beque as the 15-square-mile blaze threatened to cross Interstate 70 Thursday night. A 13-mile stretch of the highway was closed.
While the Midwest saw triple digit temperatures yesterday and drought conditions, Houston and Southeast Texas say some 80′s in rain cooled conditions. Relief from the heat is expected to continue Saturday in the Houston area with showers and thunderstorms likely in the late morning and afternoon, according to the National Weather Service. The forecast calls for highs Saturday in the upper 80s and a 60 percent chance of rain. Winds will be southeast at 5 mph to 10 mph. There is a slight chance for bands of training, heavy rainfall to set up Saturday in southeast Texas, especially south and west of a line between Caldwell (about 25 miles west of College Station) and Liberty (about 25 miles east of Kingwood), the weather service said.
Mostly cloudy conditions will continue Saturday night in the Houston area with a 60 percent chance of showers and thunderstorms and lows in the mid 70s. Winds will remain out of the southeast at 5 mph to 10 mph. The chance of rain decreases Sunday to 30 percent with highs in the lower 90s. Winds will shift to the south at 5 mph to 10 mph, according to the weather service. Sunday evening look for a 30 percent chance of showers and thunderstorms and overnight lows in the mid-70s. Winds will continue southerly at 5 mph to 10 mph. Things will dry out a bit on Monday with a 20 percent chance of showers and thunderstorms in the afternoon and highs in the lower 90s. Southeast winds will pick up to 10 mph to 15 mph.
More severe weather is possible today over the nations mid-section:
DAY 1 CONVECTIVE OUTLOOK
NWS STORM PREDICTION CENTER NORMAN OK
0751 AM CDT SAT JUN 30 2012
VALID 301300Z - 011200Z
...THERE IS A SLGT RISK OF SVR TSTMS ACROSS MUCH OF THE OH VALLEY TO
MID ATLANTIC COAST...
...THERE IS A SLGT RISK OF SVR TSTMS OVER PARTS OF THE NRN/CNTRL
PLAINS INTO LOWER MO VALLEY...
A HIGH-LATITUDE OMEGA BLOCK WILL BECOME BETTER-DEFINED WITH
TIME...FEATURING AN AMPLIFYING RIDGE OVER THE CANADIAN PRAIRIE
PROVINCES INTO NRN HIGH PLAINS AND EVOLVING TROUGHS OVER WRN
CANADA/PACIFIC NW AND ERN CANADA/NERN U.S. WITHIN THIS
BROADER-SCALE FLOW REGIME...A VORTICITY MAXIMUM OF CONVECTIVE ORIGIN
OVER WRN OH WILL TRANSLATE EWD...REACHING THE MID ATLANTIC COAST BY
01/00Z...WHILE UPSTREAM A MULTI-BRANCH SERIES OF IMPULSES MOVE INTO
THE NRN/CNTRL PLAINS.
AT THE SURFACE...THE PRIMARY BAROCLINIC ZONE WILL EXTEND FROM A
HEAT/LEE LOW OVER NERN CO/NWRN KS EWD THROUGH THE LOWER MO VALLEY TO
A COMPOSITE SYNOPTIC-OUTFLOW BOUNDARY TRAILING DECAYING OH MCS. E
OF THE APPALACHIANS...OUTFLOW BOUNDARY ASSOCIATED WITH THE FRIDAY
EVENING/NIGHT DERECHO-PRODUCING MCS HAS SETTLED INTO THE CAROLINAS.
EXPECT THIS BOUNDARY RE-DEVELOP NWD INTO THE DELMARVA TODAY WITHIN
STRENGTHENING LOW-LEVEL WAA REGIME ASSOCIATED WITH APPROACHING OH
VALLEY VORTICITY MAXIMUM. OVER THE NRN PLAINS...AN INVERTED TROUGH
WILL SHIFT EWD ACROSS THE DAKOTAS WITH THE SRN EXTENSION OF BOUNDARY
LINKING WITH LEE LOW OVER THE CNTRL HIGH PLAINS.
...OH VALLEY TO MID ATLANTIC COAST THIS AFTERNOON INTO TONIGHT...
LATEST CONVECTION-ALLOWING AND MESOSCALE MODEL GUIDANCE SUGGEST THAT
THE PRIMARY SEVERE WEATHER THREAT WILL BE FOCUSED ALONG OUTFLOW
BOUNDARY ASSOCIATED WITH DECAYING OH MCS AS IT EMERGES FROM THE
CREST OF THE APPALACHIANS LATER TODAY. HERE...UPLIFT ALONG THE
RESIDUAL OUTFLOW BOUNDARY/GUST FRONT WILL COINCIDE WITH DEEPER-LAYER
FORCING ASSOCIATED WITH MCV TO PROMOTE AN INCREASE IN TSTMS WITHIN A
MOIST/MODERATELY UNSTABLE AIR MASS WITH MLCAPE APPROACHING 1500-3000
J/KG. KINEMATIC ENVIRONMENT WILL FEATURE A UNIDIRECTIONAL WNWLY
WIND FIELD WITH 50-60 KT FLOW POSSIBLE IN THE 600-500-MB LAYER PER
12Z UPSTREAM SOUNDING AT WILMINGTON OH. AS SUCH...POTENTIAL WILL
EXIST FOR THE EVOLUTION OF ANOTHER BOW ECHO SYSTEM CAPABLE OF
POTENTIALLY WIDESPREAD DAMAGING WINDS ACROSS PARTS OF THE DELMARVA
INTO CNTRL/ERN NC.
MEANWHILE...A SMALL CLUSTER OF TSTMS HAS RECENTLY INTENSIFIED OVER
SERN IA...APPARENTLY FORCED BY A WEAK SHORTWAVE TROUGH PROGRESSING
SEWD THROUGH SRN MN/NRN IA. THOUGH NOT WELL RESOLVED BY THE
MODELS...IT IS POSSIBLE THAT THESE STORMS COULD INTENSIFY BY LATE
MORNING/EARLY AFTERNOON OVER PARTS OF E-CNTRL IL/W-CNTRL INDIANA.
WHILE ENVIRONMENT IS NOT NEARLY AS UNSTABLE AS FRIDAY...12Z
SOUNDINGS INDICATE THE POTENTIAL FOR MODERATE-STRONG INSTABILITY
/I.E. MLCAPE VALUES OF 1500-3000 J PER KG/ IN THE PRESENCE OF MODEST
VERTICAL SHEAR. AS SUCH...EVOLUTION OF AN ADDITIONAL
FORWARD-PROPAGATING MCS/BOW ECHO IS POSSIBLE WITH A HEIGHTENED RISK
FOR DAMAGING WINDS SPREADING EWD TOWARD THE UPPER OH VALLEY. DUE TO
LOWER CONFIDENCE IN THIS SCENARIO...ONLY BASELINE SLIGHT RISK
PROBABILITIES WILL BE INCLUDED IN THIS FORECAST.
...NRN/CNTRL PLAINS INTO LOWER MO VALLEY THIS AFTERNOON AND
STEEP MIDLEVEL LAPSE RATES AND BOUNDARY LAYER DEWPOINTS IN THE UPPER
50S-UPPER 60S ARE EXPECTED TO CONTRIBUTE TO A MODERATE-STRONGLY
UNSTABLE ENVIRONMENT BY AFTERNOON WITH MLCAPE VALUES RANGING FROM
2000-4000+ J/KG ALONG INVERTED TROUGH AND ALONG COOL SIDE OF W-E
ORIENTED QUASI-STATIONARY BOUNDARY. LOW-LEVEL CONVERGENCE/ASCENT
ALONG SURFACE BOUNDARIES WILL BE AUGMENTED BY FORCING ASSOCIATED
WITH MULTIPLE WEAK MIDLEVEL IMPULSES...AND STRONG BOUNDARY LAYER
HEATING S OF FRONT IN KS TO FOSTER MULTIPLE CLUSTERS OF TSTMS THIS
AFTERNOON INTO TONIGHT.
THE STRONGEST WLY/WNWLY MIDLEVEL FLOW AND RESULTING VERTICAL SHEAR
WILL RESIDE ALONG DAKOTAS SEGMENT OF INVERTED TROUGH WHERE
SUPERCELLS CAPABLE OF LARGE HAIL AND DAMAGING WINDS ARE POSSIBLE.
FARTHER S...THE WEAKER VERTICAL SHEAR WILL BE COMPENSATED BY THE
STRONG INSTABILITY WITH ENVIRONMENT SUPPORTIVE OF MULTICELL CLUSTERS
CAPABLE OF DAMAGING WINDS AND HAIL.
...INTERIOR PACIFIC NW INTO NRN INTERMOUNTAIN REGION THIS AFTERNOON
LARGE-SCALE FORCING FOR ASCENT AND VERTICAL SHEAR WILL INCREASE
TODAY AHEAD OF SHORTWAVE TROUGH MOVING ONSHORE. THIS WILL COINCIDE
WITH STEEPENING LAPSE RATES AND CONCOMITANT INCREASE IN MOISTURE
WITH ENVIRONMENT BECOMING FAVORABLE FOR ISOLATED SEVERE STORMS
--INCLUDING SOME POSSIBLE SUPERCELL STRUCTURES-- WITH AN ASSOCIATED
RISK FOR DAMAGING WINDS AND HAIL. ANTICIPATED LIMITED AREAL
COVERAGE PRECLUDES THE ISSUANCE OF A CATEGORICAL SLIGHT RISK ATTM.
...MAINE THIS AFTERNOON...
ISOLATED SEVERE STORMS WILL ONCE AGAIN BE POSSIBLE THIS AFTERNOON AS
LARGE-SCALE FORCING FOR ASCENT IS ENHANCED BY SHORTWAVE TROUGH
MOVING ACROSS THE REGION. THE COMBINATION OF A RELATIVELY
MOIST/MODERATELY UNSTABLE AIR MASS AND 30-40 KT OF DEEP WLY SHEAR
MAY PROMOTE LINE SEGMENTS OR MULTICELL CLUSTERS WITH A RISK FOR
DAMAGING WINDS AND/OR HAIL.
...S TX TODAY...
12Z CRP/BRO SOUNDINGS SHOWED THE POTENTIAL FOR STRONG INSTABILITY TO
DEVELOP AHEAD OF TSTMS DEVELOPING ALONG THE COAST. LOCALLY DAMAGING
WINDS WILL BE POSSIBLE WITH ANY ORGANIZED CLUSTERS OWING TO COLD
POOL GENERATION VIA WATER LOADING EFFECTS.
NEW YORK, New York — (DMN) – A flight attendant on a weather-delayed plane at LaGuardia Airport in New York City yelled at passengers and challenged them to leave the plane if they dared. The incident involving American Eagle flight attendant Jose Serrano was caught on video. Flight 4607 to Raleigh-Durham, N.C., was delayed for five hours on Monday. The New York Post is reporting that American Eagle attendant Jose Serrano got so agitated at one point that the six-year veteran dared terrified passengers get off the plane if they “had the balls” to do it, witnesses said. “I’ve been in five tours in Iraq and Afghanistan,” said 47-year-old Army veteran Scott Custer. “I’ve been in combat and I’ve never felt anxiety like I did sitting on that plane.”
The plane pandemonium on Monday — which comes on the heels of several high-profile air-rage incidents — was set in motion when passengers on a scheduled 1:25 p.m. flight to Raleigh-Durham Airport in North Carolina were prevented from boarding until nearly 4 p.m. because of rain. Port Authority police were called to the plane on reports that Serrano was making inappropriate comments over the PA system. American Airlines apologized for the incident. It said in a statement: “We do not believe that the passengers’ frustrations were always met with the level of service that we expect from our people, and for that we are truly sorry.” Serrano was removed from the plane. There were no arrests. Some passengers refused to fly on the plane if Serrano was on board.
Several passengers refused to take off with Serrano on board — and at least three families left the plane with their kids, sources said. A law-enforcement source said that the flight was canceled because the plane did not have the required number of flight attendants, after Serrano was removed for questioning. But American Eagle claimed the cancellation was due to strong rain. The airline, as a matter of policy, refuses to reimburse passengers for hotel expenses if their flight is rescheduled or canceled due to weather. Airline spokesman Ed Martelle said American Eagle — the regional arm of American Airlines — is investigating the incident. Martelle also said officials have determined that Serrano was not drinking. However, he conceded that the flight attendant was not given a breathalyzer test.
1:25 p.m. — American Eagle flight 4607 is scheduled to leave LaGuardia and travel for about two hours to Raleigh-Durham Airport in North Carolina.
4 p.m. — After being delayed due to rain, passengers finally board the plane and head to runway — where they get stuck behind about 20 planes waiting to take off.
4:40 p.m. — Pilot turns plane around to refuel. All passengers leave the aircraft.
6 p.m. — Everyone is allowed to re-board. A few minutes later, flight attendant Jose Serrano loses his cool and tells passengers over the intercom, “If anyone has the balls to want to get off, I’ll let you get off! Get off!” Some passengers say he looked intoxicated. Police are called to the plane and interview Serrano and a few passengers — later determining he was not intoxicated, despite not giving him a breathalyzer test.
8 p.m. — Flight is canceled. Passengers are sent to hotels without refunds.
CBS News contributed to this report.
Police in the United Kingdom are camped out at the Ecuadorian embassy waiting for Wikileaks founder-in-chief Julian Assange to come out but Assange has declined a Metropolitan Police order to surrender himself at a police station, his representative has said. Susan Benn said he was advised to “decline to comply” and will remain inside the Ecuadorian embassy while his application for asylum is processed. Officers from the Met’s extradition unit delivered a note to Mr Assange at the London embassy on Thursday. He wants to avoid being sent to Sweden to face rape and assault accusations.
The police letter required that the 40-year-old surrender himself to Belgravia police station at 11:30 BST on Friday. Under international diplomatic arrangements, the police cannot go into the embassy to arrest Mr Assange. In a statement read out on his behalf by Ms Benn, Mr Assange said: “This should not be considered any sign of disrespect. Under both international and domestic UK law asylum assessments take priority over extradition claims. “The issues faced by Mr Assange are serious. His life and liberty and the life and liberty of his organisation and those associated with it are at stake,” said Ms Benn, a committee member of Mr Assange’s defence fund.
The Wikileaks website published a mass of leaked diplomatic cables that embarrassed several governments and international businesses. Mr Assange fears that if he is sent to Sweden he could be sent on to the United States to face charges over Wikileaks and that there, he could face the death penalty. Ms Benn said: “Mr Assange did not feel safe from US extradition in the UK. We are all too aware of the abuses of the US-UK extradition treaty. Although Mr Assange has been trapped in the UK under dangerous circumstances, he has at least had the freedom to apply for political asylum. “It is in this context that Julian has made the difficult decision to seek refuge inside the Equadorean embassy to ask for asylum. Julian will remain in the embassy under the protection of the Equadoran government while evidence for his application is being assembled and processed.”
LACKLAND AFB, Texas — (DMN) – An Air Force Military Training Instructor bragged to a colleague that he’d had sex with a trainee in a supply room before she left for technical training school, according to testimony at Thursday’s evidentiary hearing against Staff Sergeant Craig LeBlanc, one of 12 instructors under investigation at Lackland for illicit sexual relationships with trainees. “I believe he said he’s just gotten laid,” said Staff Sgt. Christopher Beck, who ultimately reported the conversation to authorities at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland. “I was speechless,” Beck said. “I didn’t understand.”
Beck testified as part of the Article 32 hearing against LeBlanc, who is charged with aggravated sexual assault, obstruction of justice, adultery, violating a no-contact order, absence without leave and making a false official statement. An Article 32 hearing, which is similar to a grand jury, can be the first step to a court-martial. If LeBlanc is ultimately found guilty, he could be sentenced to up to 45 years in prison. Beck was the first to testify Thursday, after the defense and prosecution wrangled over whether LeBlanc’s current live-in girlfriend, who is also a former trainee, could be compelled to testify.
LeBlanc is under investigation at Lackland for illicit sexual relationships with trainees. The latest two trainers were charged Tuesday; six so far could face court-martial. Meanwhile, Gen. Edward Rice, commander of the Air Education and Training Command, said in Washington on Thursday that 31 female victims have been identified in the widening sex scandal. All remain in the Air Force, he said.The prosecution spent a good deal of time establishing the control trainers have over recruits during 8½ weeks of boot camp and whether they still have that control between the Friday when they graduate and early Monday morning when they leave Lackland.
The Air Force prohibits any kind of romantic relationship between training instructors and students. LeBlanc is accused of the sexual misconduct with a trainee after she’d graduated but before she’d left the base. “You’re not safe until you get to tech school,” said Tech. Sgt. Benjamin Sklenar, who, like Beck, went to military officials after hearing rumors about LeBlanc and other military training instructors (MTIs) with the 331st. “Did you always follow an MTI’s orders?” prosecuting attorney Capt. Kaylynn Shoopasked the airman, 19. “We didn’t have a choice,” she said. “Nothing an MTI says is with a question mark.”
It always was made abundantly clear, she said, that not following an order would have an adverse effect on a recruit’s career in the Air Force.She testified that LeBlanc and another military trainer, Staff Sgt. Kwinton Estacio, urged her and another recruit to meet them in the supply room. The pair “pinky swore” that they wouldn’t have sex with the men. Estacio’s Article 32 hearing was June 2; no decision has been announced by the Air Force on whether a trial will be ordered in his case.
LeBlanc’s civilian defense attorney, Joseph Jordan, tried to begin his questioning by asking her what kind of men she was attracted to, but the prosecution successfully objected. Later, he asked her what kind of panties she was wearing and whether she was aroused. “Did it make you feel good?” he asked. “It was uncomfortable,” she replied. After leaving the supply room, she went straight to the bus stop, she testified, where, she said she felt “blank.” Jordan also asked about the term “rape.” “I never put that word to it,” she said, until after she was questioned by investigators.
Koehler, who was not in LeBlanc’s training unit, first denied to investigators that she had a sexual relationship with him, but admitted Thursday that she had lied. But she continued to insist she did not begin having sex with him until after she had graduated. Koehler said she was at LeBlanc’s house when he, Estacio and another instructor, who has admitted to involvement with 10 women, schemed to hide their actions from investigators. Prosecutors worked to show that Koehler has reason to minimize the gravity of LeBlanc’s actions. She told prosecutors she knew he was married but was in love with him and wanted to marry and have children with him; so she was upset to find “flirty” texts from the airman he’s accused of sexually assaulting. The hearing resumes today.
The San Antonio Express-News and CBS News contributed to this report.