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FBI: 'We Are Losing the Battle' to Stop ISIS Radicalization Online

iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- The FBI’s top counterterrorism official offered a blunt assessment Thursday of U.S. efforts to stop ISIS from spreading its merciless message online: “We are losing the battle.”

The terrorist group wreaking havoc in Syria and Iraq as it blasts videos of beheadings to the world “has proven dangerously competent like no other group before it at employing [online] tools for its nefarious strategy,” the head of the FBI’s counterterrorism division, Assistant Director Michael Steinbach, told lawmakers Thursday.

He said the FBI and other U.S. agencies have implemented “an effective counter-narrative” online, but “the sheer volume” of ISIS messaging online, particularly through social media, “eclipses our effort.”

In fact, while U.S. authorities have been warning that thousands of Westerners recruited to fight with ISIS overseas could pose a threat to the U.S. homeland, that threat “is a small problem” compared with the group’s ability to reach into the United States and radicalize someone without anyone else knowing.

Through its online campaign, ISIS is able to target radicalized Americans who are “frustrated” by an inability to leave the United States or just can’t afford it, according to Steinbach.

“So what they’re doing is…saying, 'Hey, if you can’t come to Syria, do something in the U.S. or Western countries,’" Steinbach added.

Steinbach cited Wednesday's arrest of three New Yorkers as “a good example” of the threat the FBI is seeing “more and more” of. Two of those arrested allegedly discussed ways they could wage jihad inside the U.S. homeland, from assassinating President Obama to bombing Coney Island.

Nineteen-year-old Akhror Saidakhmetov, a Kazakhstan citizen living in Brooklyn, N.Y., was arrested at John F. Kennedy International Airport as he was allegedly trying to leave for Syria. Twenty-four-year-old Abdurasul Hasanovich Juraboev, an Uzbekistan citizen also living in Brooklyn, was arrested at his apartment.

In August, Juraboev allegedly posed a question on an Uzbek-language site tied to ISIS: “I am in USA now....But is it possible to commit ourselves as dedicated martyrs anyway while here?”

In the same post, Juraboev suggested he could “shoot Obama and then get shot ourselves…That will strike fear in the hearts of infidels,” according to the FBI.

Over the following months, the FBI tracked their communications and sent a confidential informant to engage with them, recording many of their alleged conversations about traveling to Syria and launching attacks in the U.S. homeland.

In one November 2014 discussion, Saidakhmetov allegedly suggested he join the U.S. military so he could pass military information to ISIS – and if his plan ever fell apart, he could open fire on American soldiers, according to charging documents.

A third Brooklyn man, 30-year-old Abror Habivov, was arrested in Florida, accused of funding some of the pair’s travel and operating “a domestic support network” for travel to Syria.

All three have been charged with conspiring to provide material support to a terrorist group and each faces 15 years in prison if convicted.

Thursday, Steinbach said the type of danger they posed “is a blending of homegrown violent extremism with the foreign fighter ideology,” calling it “today's latest adaption of the threat."

“The West is facing the most complex and severe terrorist threat we have seen certainly since 9/11,” said John Cohen, the former counterterrorism adviser at the Department of Homeland Security who’s now an ABC News consultant. “It may even be more [severe] than the ones we faced on 9/11.”

Part of the concern, Cohen said, is that traditional counterterrorism efforts -- which rely heavily on the likes of the CIA, National Security Agency and Defense Department -- “were never intended to deal with an individual becoming radicalized while sitting in the basement of his home in Minneapolis.”

In fact, over the past year, the FBI has arrested several young Somali men from Minneapolis for allegedly trying to join ISIS in Syria. Many others from the Twin Cities actually made it there, though not all of them are still alive.

Countering that type of radicalization, Cohen said, requires local police working hand-in-hand with local faith organizations, mental health professionals, and others in the community there on the frontline.

At the hearing Thursday, a top law enforcement official from Minneapolis agreed, saying it all comes down to trust and an enduring, “respectful partnership” between everyone involved in a community.

But, Hennepin County Sheriff Richard Stanek said, it’s important not to mix anti-radicalization efforts with community engagement.

“You cannot, shall not mix the two,” Stanek insisted. “If members of the diaspora community think that your community engagements techniques are nothing more than a front for intelligence gathering to counter violent extremism, that is a problem.”

Stanek said his department’s efforts with communities in the Twin Cities have paid dividends in recent years. He noted Somali leaders in Minneapolis “renounced” a video posted over the weekend by the Somalia-based terrorist group al-Shabaab, calling for attacks at malls in the West.

“That would not have happened several years ago” because the Somali community did not “know how to respond” and did not feel empowered to do so, according to Stanek.

At the hearing and after Wednesday’s arrests, law enforcement officials tried to emphasize that radicalized individuals do not represent Islam or any other religion.

“[They] violated the true tenants of their faith in pursuit of their radical, violent agenda,” said the head of the FBI’s field office in New York, Diego Rodriguez, about the three men arrested Wednesday for allegedly trying to aid ISIS.

In a statement, he urged community members to flag “those who could be [similarly] radicalized” because “we cannot do this alone."


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Llama Drama on the Streets of Arizona as Animals Break Free

KNXV(SUN CITY, Ariz.) -- A pair of confused llamas wreaked havoc in Sun City, Arizona, Thursday afternoon as they ran through the streets while being chased by police.

The llamas were being shown to residents at an assisted-living community before they broke loose, according to Tina Ortega, an employee who called 911.

"We were showing llamas to our residents who have gotten loose and we've been out here for an hour trying to capture them," Ortega told the 911 dispatcher. "We're wondering if we could get some help."

Live streams of the chase and cable news breakouts captivated viewers and the best responses to the stressful chase appeared on Twitter.

 

LIVE: Llamas get loose, run through neighborhood in Arizona: http://t.co/cAAyNO9jXi - @abc15 pic.twitter.com/32ema3kXA4

— ABC News Live (@ABCNewsLive) February 26, 2015

 

REUNITED!!! http://t.co/wsQoRGGcfI pic.twitter.com/sacKxmXio0

— ABC15 Arizona (@abc15) February 26, 2015

 

LLAMA WATCH: The llamas appear to be taking a short break under a tree. Today’s high in Phoenix: 72 degrees. #abc15 pic.twitter.com/kmt6olCMSE

— ABC15 Arizona (@abc15) February 26, 2015

 

 

It was obviously a perfect time for puns.

 

I am recusing myself from coverage of this story. There will be no further comment. #TeamLlamas #LlamaChase #LlamaWatch

— Tom Llamas (@TomLlamasABC) February 26, 2015

 

 

And business deals.

 

The #AZCardinals have agreed to one-year deals with the #llamasontheloose. Each llama will earn 2,340 lbs of hay. Steve Keim does it again.

— Arizona Cardinals (@AZCardinals) February 26, 2015

 

 

If nothing else, the chase shows how ill-prepared so many U.S. cities are for such a disaster.

 

Seriously the city of Phoenix appears to have no plan whatsoever for catching these llamas

— Max Fisher (@Max_Fisher) February 26, 2015

 

 

LLAMA WATCH: It appears the llama is a big fan of #ABC15! Good choice my friend! GOOD CHOICE! http://t.co/wsQoRGGcfI pic.twitter.com/NfN5s1ejUW

— ABC15 Arizona (@abc15) February 26, 2015

 

 

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Cops Hunt Gunman After 1 Dead in Texas Shooting Attacks

iStock/Thinkstock(MISSOURI CITY, Texas) -- Police in Texas are searching for a gunman believed to have randomly attacked five people in the last week, including one who later died.

The attacks happened in Houston and nearby Missouri City, Texas, and involved pedestrians walking alone, police said.

"It has no rhyme or reason, no particular time of day, no gender, no race, any of that," said detective Derek Spencer of the Missouri City Police Department. "It just seems that random. ... That is very concerning and scary."

Police said the attacks started at 7 p.m. on Tuesday, Feb. 17, when a gunman in a dark sport utility vehicle tried shooting at a 21-year-old college student. The gun jammed and the victim ran away.

About a half an hour later, 34-year-old Pak Ho was shot and killed nearby. He told police about a dark SUV before he died.

The third attack happened three hours later, police said.

Savalas Holmes said he saw a black Jeep Cherokee before he was shot near the thigh.

"He pulled right up on side of me. Window down already, already had it on his mind what he wanted to do," Holmes said. "That's when I turned to run. That's when he shot me."

Holmes said 1,000 thoughts ran through his head: "Am I losing too much blood? Am I going to collapse here?”

Hours after Holmes was attacked, a 50-year-old man was shot at a bus stop 15 miles away.

Another attack happened at 7:30 a.m. Sunday, when police said a person was shot in the arm and stomach.

The suspect is believed to be in his early 30s, with a stocky build, light mustache and a beard.

"We want to try to bring this person to justice for those family members and the rest of the community where they don't have to live in fear," said detective Andy Robb of the Missouri City Police Department.


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Record-Breaking Winter: Even the South Can't Escape

iStock/Thinkstock(ATLANTA) -- Record snow, stranded drivers, thousands without power. That's what the southern states had to deal with this week as a potent winter storm swept across the region.

This is the third storm to hit the Deep South in less than a week. Since the storms began, airlines have been severely affected, canceling nearly 7,000 flights. The roads weren't much better. Interstate 65 in northern Alabama was at a standstill Wednesday night, for the second time this week.

 

Winter Storm Warnings from eastern Texas to southern Virginia. GOES East image, 11:45 am EST. http://t.co/A1ypwZbQ7S pic.twitter.com/QbjtmSze4t

— NOAA Satellites (@NOAASatellites) February 25, 2015



Huntsville, Alabama, received 8.1 inches Wednesday, breaking a daily record. It was also the snowiest February day and the second snowiest day of any month on record there.

Tupelo, Mississippi, had 7.3 inches of snow, which is the biggest daily snowfall on record for the city. Even Little Rock picked up 1.6 inches of snow. In the past five years 47.7 inches have fallen there, more than in the previous two decades combined. Parts of northern Alabama saw over a foot of snow.

In the northeast, Boston is so cold the waves have turned into a frozen slush on the island of Nantucket.

Slurpee Surf

A photo posted by Jonathan Nimerfroh (@jdnphotography) on Feb 25, 2015 at 7:06pm PST



Boston has 102 inches of snow so far this season, more than three times the 33 inches that is normal up to this point in the season. The city needs only 5.7 inches to break the all-time record.

Another blast of arctic air is forecast to spread south and east by Friday morning. Subzero temperatures will stretch from the North Dakota to Maine, and single digits get as far south as Kansas City.

Record lows are possible in the Midwest and eastern Great Lakes Friday morning. Even colder air moves east by Saturday morning and record lows are possible in the Northeast, as well.

If Pittsburgh drops below zero, it will be the eighth time this season, which hasn’t happened since the early 1980s. Syracuse, New York, Pittsburgh, Cleveland, Bangor, Boston, Detroit, Chicago and New York City are forecasted to have a top-three coldest February on record.

The record cold is affecting the Great Lakes. Ice coverage is up to 85.5 percent, which is the fourth highest since records began in 1973. All the lakes are completely frozen except for Michigan and Ontario.

A big pattern change will dip the jetstream out West, bringing pulses of snow through the Rockies through Friday. Precipitation out West is a good thing, with even some snow expected for the Sierras, which is in dire need of it.

Then a series of storms will keep unsettled weather from the Rockies to the Midwest to the Northeast, the first one starting Saturday. By Sunday morning, Kansas to Pennsylvania will see a wintry mess of moderate to locally heavy snow, and it will then move into the Northeast Sunday into Monday.

 

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How One Teacher Gave Her Class a Lesson in Social Media Etiquette

Courtesy Michele Van Bibber(STEWARTVILLE, Minn) -- Michele Van Bibber has been an educator since 2010.

One of the changes she's noticed about her students over the past five years is their habit of over-sharing on social media.

"I think that there is quite a bit of new social media out there and it's changed in the way students, or even the way adults, expose themselves to it," said Van Bibber, a health and physical education teacher at Stewartville High School in Stewartville, Minnesota. "I think there has been a big boom like the explosion of Twitter, posting on Facebook, and looking at each other's pictures on Instagram."

After chatting with her 10th graders about the different ways they present themselves on social accounts, Van Bibber decided to conduct a social media experiment.

"I know kids are exposing such private details on the Web," she told ABC News. "The students might also want to be friends with people and sometimes they don't even know who they are."

To show her students how quickly a photo could be picked up by strangers, Van Bibber had one of the kids snap a shot of her holding a sign asking people to share it.

"I asked them [the students], 'if I post this picture on my personal Facebook page, do you think anyone can see it?'" she said. "One of the students said ‘I didn’t think it would work because she doesn’t have many friends’" she laughed.

Van Bibber posted the photo on her Facebook where she and her students monitored its sharing progress for three days straight.

The photo was eventually picked up by ABC News affiliate KAAL-TV, where it received 47,385 likes, 217,649 comments, and over 351,000 shares.

"The kids were taken aback," Van Bibber said. "I don’t think they realized how fast the picture could get out there."

After the post went viral, Van Bibber went over the results with her classes, stressing the one lesson she wanted to get across -- social media safety.

"I just wanted them to be a little more cautious of who has access to what they post -- what if it got into the wrong hands?" she said. "Also, some decisions that we might not think through now could potentially harm us in future endeavors -- like the chances of getting into a specific college, or getting a job.

"I think this made them look back at who was actually following them, and I do think it had an impact."

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Real-Life “Notebook” Couple Dies Hand-in-Hand

Cynthia Letson(EASTON, Calif.) -- "They weren’t fancy. They were just decent people that were always committed to each other, no matter the situation."

That's how Donna Scharton remembers her beloved parents, Floyd and Violet Hartwig, before they died on Feb. 11.

The couple, who had been married for 67 years, died in their home in a very Notebook-like situation.

As the two laid close to one another, Scharton and other immediate family members pushed their beds close together as they all knew the end was near.

"My mom had dementia for the last several years and around the holidays we noticed she was going down," Scharton of Fresno, California said. "Then, I got a call from the doctor saying 'your dad has kidney failure and he has two weeks to live.' So, we decided to put them in hospice together."

Prior to their declining health, the Hartwigs owned a ranch in Easton, California. The two met while in grammar school and had developed a relationship upon Mr. Hartwig returning home from the Navy.

They married on Aug. 16, 1947 and had two other children, Carol and Kenneth, in addition to Scharton.

"My dad was in the Navy for six years," she told ABC News. "He worked for the J.B. Hill Company delivering eggs and then for a feed company. Mom stayed home, helped take care of the ranch, and cooked all the meals. She made breakfast for dad at 4:30 in the morning every day."

Scharton said that although his health was deteriorating, her father's main priority was the love of his life.

"He would tell the doctor, 'I'm okay I just want her fixed',” she added. "That was his concern; not how bad his pain was, but that he wanted my mom fixed."

"We could tell my dad was in a lot more pain," Scharton cried. "We said 'it's getting close,' so we pushed the hospital beds together as far as we could. We put their hands together, and my dad died holding my mom's hand. Mom was not coherent, but we told her that dad had passed away and that he was waiting for her. She died five hours later."

Scharton's daughter, Cynthia Letson, remembers her grandparents as simple people who just loved having their family beside them.

"They never, ever asked for anything," she said. "All they ever wanted was their family and it was amazing that they got that in the end."

In honor of their legacy, Scharton is holding onto warm memories of her mother and father.

"Mom did a lot of sewing – made our clothes and stuff," Scharton said. "She joined the PTA at school and she loved doing her crossword puzzles. They were very devoted and when dad came home we'd always have supper together.

"I remember them kissing each other goodbye every morning. I remember mom called him Blondie because he had such pretty blonde hair and blue eyes."

"What I want people to get out of this story is my dad's commitment to serving his country and loving his family,” she said. “What we felt was keeping them alive was the will to live, and that they didn’t want to let go of each other."

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A Look Inside the Mistakes in JonBenet Ramsey Investigation Noted by Former Police Chief

Barry Williams/Getty Images(DENVER) -- The former Boulder police chief said mistakes were made in the initial handling of the JonBenet Ramsey murder case that transfixed a nation two decades ago.

Mark Beckner gave a lengthy interview on Reddit this week revisiting the case and plainly detailing mistakes he felt the police made in the early days of the case.

The unusual murder case drew nationwide attention, as no one was ever arrested or charged in the case. JonBenet Ramsey, 6, was found murdered in the basement of her family home on Christmas Day. The 6-year-old beauty queen was reported missing hours earlier by her parents after a ransom note was found in their home.

For years, investigators tried to unravel what happened to the young girl and whether the murderer could have been a family member or an intruder. Amid intense media speculation, the girl's family strongly maintained their innocence, and in 2008 the Boulder County District Attorney cleared them of any wrongdoing via DNA testing.

Nearly 20 years after the murder, Beckner spoke about the case and what he wishes he could change about the early investigation and what he thinks might have happened the night the girl was killed.

Early Mistakes

Beckner said first off, the police officers should have shut down the crime scene immediately and taken statements from JonBenet's parents. Since the crime happened on Christmas Day, Beckner said there were fewer people available to get to the scene.

Beckner also said one key mistake was not getting full statements from parents John and Patricia Ramsey the day of the crime.

The former police chief said that the girl's parents seemed to show unusual behavior but clarified that could have been due to a number of reasons.

A spokeswoman for the Boulder Police said Thursday that the mistakes cited by Beckner have been addressed in subsequent years.

"Those problems were acknowledged early in the investigation and over the years by Mark Beckner when he was chief....That information is not new," Public Information Officer Kim Kobel told ABC News, clarifying that the Ramsey case remains open but not active. "It's still an open investigation....We still get tips and leads."

Wrong Suspect

There appeared to be a major break in the case when a teacher, John Mark Karr, confessed to killing JonBenet. A subsequent investigation found that Karr could not have committed the crime.

Beckner said he was wary of Karr's confession from the beginning.

Loose Ends

Beckner noted in the Reddit talk that there were multiple parts of the crime that appeared odd to investigators, including a lengthy two-and-a-half-page ransom note.

Beckner also said that law enforcement believed the note was written after the murder and there was never an intent to kidnap the girl. Instead, he said he believes that the case was always a murder staged to look like a botched kidnapping.

In an interview with the Daily Camera newspaper, Beckner later said he didn't realize his comments would be open to anyone and he regretted doing the question-and-answer session.

"I talked to the organizer and my impression was that this was a members-only-type group that talked about unsolved mysteries all around the world," Beckner told the Daily Camera.

He later deleted his comments from Reddit. Beckner did not respond to a request for comment from ABC News.

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Aaron Hernandez Trial: Prosecutors Play Video of Him Before the Murder

Photo by John Tlumacki/The Boston Globe via Getty Images(BOSTON) -- Prosecutors in Massachusetts Thursday showed surveillance video of Aaron Hernandez with Odin Lloyd in the car the former NFL star was driving before he allegedly murdered the man.

The former New England Patriots tight end could be seen on a camera -- mounted at a Canton gas station -- pumping gas and entering a convenience store before the June 13, 2013 murder of Lloyd.

Prosecutors have said that Hernandez, 25, rented a Nissan Altima -- the same one seen in the surveillance footage played in court Thursday -- prior to Lloyd's murder. Prosecutors said the man in the car was Lloyd.

Hernandez is on trial in the murder of Lloyd, who was dating the sister of Hernandez's then-fiancee.

There have been questions about where the slaying occurred, although the victim's body was later found at an industrial plant.

Although Lloyd was shot, no gun was ever recovered.

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Florida Robber Douses Clerk in Lighter Fluid, Threatens to Set Him Ablaze

Brian Jackson/iStock/Thinkstock(PALM BAY, Fla.) -- An armed robber doused a convenience store clerk with lighter fluid and threatened to set him ablaze if he did not surrender money from the cash register in surveillance video released by police in Palm Bay, Florida.

The incident happened early Wednesday morning at a Kangaroo Express convenience store, authorities said.

The robber walked into the store with his face covered and began dousing the clerk with lighter fluid, according to police. He held a lighter and threatened to set the clerk on fire.

The clerk handed over an undisclosed amount of cash to the robber, who then ran off, police said.

The clerk was not injured during the robbery.


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NTSB Official Clarifies Statement on California Train Derailment

KABC-TV(OXNARD, Calif.) -- The National Transportation Safety Board says that the truck that caused Tuesday's train derailment in Oxnard may have been stuck on the tracks when it was struck, though it was not stuck at the railroad crossing.

NTSB Board Member Robert Sumwalt was forced to clarify his comments on Wednesday evening, saying that "this was not a traditional grade crossing accident." Earlier, he had said that the truck was "not actually stuck on the track," when he says he intended to tell reporters that the truck wasn't stuck at a crossing, and that the determination as to whether or not the truck was stuck has not yet been made.

The driver of the truck, identified as Jose Alejandro Sanchez Ramirez, fled the scene, but was found uninjured 1.6 miles away. He was not in the truck at the time of the collision, according to Oxnard Police Department Assistant Police Chief Jason Benites.

Benites said that Ramirez was driving a produce truck when he turned right onto the tracks.

Police and the truck driver’s attorney have said he was stuck.

At least 28 people were injured in the crash, including at least four critically.


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United Airlines Officials Highlight 'Near-Misses' in Safety Message to Pilots

Boarding1Now/iStock Editorial/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- United Airlines officials recently sent a "brutally honest" safety bulletin to pilots following four incidents involving flight crew errors that were classified as "major safety events and near-misses."

The Jan. 9 message -- which was obtained by ABC News -- was sent by Howard Attarian, Sr. Vice President Flight Operations, and Mike Quiello, Vice President Corporate Safety. The Wall Street Journal first reported about the message.

Two of the events occurred near the ground, according to the bulletin, with a pull-up maneuver issued in one of the incidents. One of the incidents involved an “Undesired Aircraft State on departure,” with the flight crew contributing to a safety lapse. A fourth incident involved a low fuel state.

“The common thread with all of these is that they are preventable,” the message states.

A 2013 UPS cargo plane crash in Birmingham, Alabama, which was later blamed on pilot error, was referenced in the message. The plane crashed short of the runway at Birmingham-Shuttlesworth International Airport, killing two crew members.

Pilot retirements, seat movements and new hires were identified in the message as factors that bring added risk to flight operation.

“While no one ever shows up to work with the goal of intentionally making a mistake, we are human and mistakes happen. What we can control is how we conduct ourselves on each and every flight,” the message states.

United issued a statement to ABC News Wednesday after details of the message were initially reported by the Wall Street Journal. ABC News reached out to the airline early Thursday with calls for further comment, but those efforts were unsuccessful.

“As part of our commitment to safety, we constantly monitor flight operations data and regularly communicate the findings with our pilots,” the statement reads. “Our proactive approach to safety aligns with the FAA’s Safety Management System and enables us to recognize potential issues and adjust our actions to further ensure the safety of our customers and coworkers.”

Read the full memo below:

Date: January 9, 2015
SAFETY ALERT: Significant safety concerns


Recent events in our operation have dictated that we communicate with all of you immediately. Over the past few weeks, our airline has experienced what we would categorize as major safety events and near-misses.

In Flight Operations we have seen two events in close proximity to terrain (one resulting in a GPWS pull-up maneuver), an Undesired Aircraft State on departure and a low fuel state on arrival after a deviation from a Sabre Flight Plan routing.

The common thread with all of these is that they are preventable. We must ask ourselves, “Do we have our priorities in line every time we put on our uniforms and strap into the airplane?” While the airline industry always seems to be in a state of flux, the one constant for all of us is that we are professional aviators with the common goal of flying our passengers and crew from point A to point B SAFELY.

Another common thread to some of these events is a lack of attention to disciplined Crew Resource Management. Every time we enter the cockpit with the intention of performing our pilot duties, we evaluate risk. Every pilot must be willing to speak up if safety is in question. In the same vein, every pilot must also accept the input of their fellow crewmembers on the flight deck. In most cases, one of the pilots recognizes an unsafe situation. In some cases, a pilot’s input is ignored. This is unacceptable.

The recent CFIT accident in Birmingham involving another carrier underscores how quickly things can unravel. The approach and landing appeared normal to the pilots until right before impact. Let’s not for a moment think something like that could not happen at United.

We are currently seeing a lot of movement in the pilot group, such as retirements, seat movements and new hires, that – while welcome – introduces significant risk to the operation. While no one ever shows up to work with the goal of intentionally making a mistake, we are human and mistakes happen. What we can control is how we conduct ourselves on each and every flight. If you have ever used the term “Standard Brief” before departure, you have not complied with an SOP. If you have ever exceeded Stabilized Approach Criteria intentionally and not executed a go-around, you are not in compliance.

We know this is a brutally honest message and the tendency may be to rationalize why compliance is not occurring in some areas. Bottom line: United is at a critical juncture in its history and we as aviators must adhere to the policies and procedures outlined in the Flight Manuals, FOM, WOM and ALPA Code of Ethics. Reviewing, understanding, and complying with the guidance in company manuals is imperative to returning ourselves, our fellow crewmembers and passengers to their families safely. This is our top priority and greatest responsibility, and we appreciate in advance your continued commitment and cooperation.

Fly safe.

Howard Attarian, Sr. Vice President Flight Operations

Michael Quiello, Vice President Corporate Safety


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Three New York Men Arrested in Plot to Join ISIS

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Three New York City men were arrested Wednesday on charges they allegedly conspired to join ISIS in Syria, while also trying to carry out attacks on the terror group's behalf in the United States, the FBI said.

Federal officials said the men had planned to travel to the Middle East and had also spoken about attacking President Obama or planting a bomb in Coney Island, Brooklyn, authorities said.

Federal officials said Akhror Saidakhmetov, 19, was arrested on Wednesday at John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York, where he was attempting to board a flight to Istanbul.

Abdurasul Hasanovich Juraboev, 24, had a plane ticket to travel to Turkey sometime next month. He was arrested in Brooklyn, according to the feds.

Abror Habibov, 30, a third man, is accused of helping fund Saidakhmetov's efforts, authorities said. He was arrested in Florida.

The arrests came as FBI Director James Comey spoke Wednesday about how ISIS, also known as ISIL, is recruiting members.

"ISIL in particular, is putting out a siren song through their slick propaganda through social media that goes like this: 'Troubled soul, come to the caliphate, you will live a life of glory, these are the apocalyptic end times, you will find a life of meaning here fighting for our so-called caliphate and if you can't come, kill somebody where you are.' That is a message that goes out to troubled souls everywhere," he said.

 

Three Brooklyn Residents Charged with Attempt and Conspiracy to Provide Material Support to ISIL http://t.co/TNZPdmUpiB

— FBI (@FBI) February 25, 2015



In August 2014, Juraboev allegedly posted this message on an Uzbek-language site of ISIS: “I am in USA now. ... But is it possible to commit ourselves as dedicated martyrs anyway while here? What I’m saying is, to shoot Obama and then get shot ourselves, will it do? That will strike fear in the hearts of infidels."

A week later, the FBI met with Juraboev twice. He allegedly told them that he believes in ISIS’ terrorist agenda and that he would like to go to Syria to fight with ISIS “if Allah wills,” authorities said.

He also told them he would harm Obama if he could, based on president’s role in killing Muslims, his support for Israel and recent bombings of ISIS. Juraboev allegedly said he didn’t have an imminent plan to harm Obama, but that if anyone within ISIS told him to, he would, authorities said.

The FBI twice met with Juraboev, where he again professed his loyalty to ISIS and repeated his claims that he would kill the president should the terror group ask him to.

“ISIL calls on its followers to come fight for the terrorist organization in Syria, and in messages to followers outside Syria, ISIL has called on them to attack police, intelligence officers or the military in their home countries including the United States,” said NYPD Police Commissioner Bill Bratton. "By pledging allegiance to ISIL, these defendants conspired to fight for a designated foreign terrorist organization either in Syria, or even New York."

In one November 2014 discussion, Saidakhmetov allegedly suggested he join the U.S. military so he could pass military information to ISIS -– and if his plan ever fell apart, he could open fire on American soldiers, according to the charging documents.

And then just last month, Saidakhmetov said he could buy a machine gun and “shoot all police” before “go[ing] to the FBI headquarters” to “kill the FBI people,” authorities said.

“It was made quite plain based on those statements that if they were not able to go [to Syria or Iraq], that they would seek to acquire weapons here .. and seek to attack,” Bratton said. “Those aspirations were made quite clear."

Nevertheless, by that time, Saidakhmetov and Juraboev had purchased tickets to fly to Turkey, a known destination point for those looking to sneak into Syria, the charging documents say.

"The defendants looked to join the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, by flying to Turkey in a vain attempt to evade detection. And several of the defendants planned to commit acts of terror here -- in America -- if they could not travel, to include killing FBI agents,” added FBI Assistant Director-in-Charge Diego Rodriguez. "The defendants violated the true tenants of their faith in pursuit of their radical, violent agenda. We rely on help from the community, the public and religious leaders to be mindful of those who could be radicalized. We cannot do this alone."

Saidakhmetov is a Brooklyn, N.Y., resident and citizen of Kazakhstan. Juraboev and Habibov also live Brooklyn and are citizens of Uzbekistan.

The men have been charged with attempt and conspiracy to provide material support to a terrorist organization.

Habibov was arraigned this afternoon in Florida. His alleged accomplices have yet to face a judge.

If convicted, the men each face a maximum sentence of 15 years behind bars.


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“American Sniper” Trial: Eddie Routh Attorney Says Jurors Who Saw Movie Didn't Hurt Case

ABC News(STEPHENVILLE, Texas) -- A defense attorney for Eddie Ray Routh, who was convicted of capital murder in the American Sniper trial, said the fact that some jurors had seen the movie did not hurt their case.

The movie American Sniper, which was up for six Oscars, including Best Picture, is based on the memoir of famed Navy SEAL Chris Kyle, the most lethal sniper in U.S. military history.

A Texas jury of 10 women and two men found Routh guilty Tuesday of killing Kyle and Kyle’s friend Chad Littlefield during a trip to a gun range Feb. 2, 2013. After the verdict, it was revealed that several members of the jury saw the movie before being selected to serve on the trial, but they maintained it did not interfere with their ability to fairly judge Routh.

Attorney Shay Isham, who was part of the team that defended Routh, said in an interview with ABC News’ Nightline that there were concerns about selecting jurors for the highly publicized case, but they didn't see the movie as a reason to dismiss them.

“I’ve been picking juries here for 19 years and in a whole lot of other counties, too. Just because someone has seen the movie doesn't automatically disqualify them,” Isham said. “Most of the people that can do that job and can take an oath to not be leaning one way or the other, and wait until the evidence is finished to make up their mind and deliberate the case; most of them that tell me that, they can set that aside.”

“There wasn't very many jurors dismissed because of too much pretrial publicity because they've seen so much or read so much that they already had their mind made up,” he added. "You get 10 strikes in a criminal case in the state of Texas and so there’s a whole bunch of things that go into whether you want to exercise one of those precious few strikes that you have."

Routh had pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity and his attorneys had argued the former Marine had mental disorders and was in the grips of psychosis when he fatally shot Kyle and Littlefield.

Because Routh’s lawyers never disputed he killed the two men, the biggest question the jurors had to answer was whether they thought he was legally insane or whether he was faking his claims of insanity.

Seven members of the 12-person jury spoke to ABC News Wednesday about how they came to the unanimous decision after two and a half hours Tuesday night.

"That was something that we really had to figure out," juror Kristina Yager told ABC News. "In the beginning, I know a lot of us came into the jury questioning that, but evidence shows that there was a real definite pattern there."

"When I say there’s a pattern that we saw, he would get intoxicated, get in trouble, and then the police would show up and he would say, ‘I'm a veteran, I have PTSD, I'm insane,’ you know, and every time something bad happened he pulled that card," Yager said.

Routh’s mental state was at the crux of the case, with both sides presenting experts who disputed different diagnoses up until the final hours of the trial.

While calling rebuttal witnesses to the stand Tuesday, the defense also re-called Dr. Mitchell Dunn, the psychiatrist who concluded Routh was insane in earlier testimony.

Isham, Routh’s attorney, said he doesn't second-guess using the insanity defense for Routh.

“I don’t think it was a gamble that the insanity defense was what we provided,” he said. “[It was] the most viable defensive theory because of his trips to the [Veterans Affairs] mental hospital and Green Oaks mental hospital, and the diagnosis of schizophrenia. There were other experts also that thought he was legally insane.”

And Isham added that PTSD was “never a part of the defense strategy.”

“Mental illness was what he was diagnosed with, mental illness was what he went to the hospital for,” he said.

Routh was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole, but Isham said he expects an appeal to be filed in this case.

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Wesleyan Student Lawyers: Don't Rush to Judgment on Drug Charges

Left to right: Rama Agha Al Kakib, 20, Andrew Olson, 20, Eric Lonergan, 21, and Zachary Kramer, 21. (Middletown Police)(MIDDLETOWN, Conn.) -- Lawyers for two of the Wesleyan University students arrested on drug charges after a rash of overdoses say they intend to plead not guilty and have asked the public not judge their clients before all the facts are out.

Wesleyan students Eric Lonergan, 21, Andrew Olson, 20, Zachary Kramer, 21, and Rama Agha Al Nakib, 20, were arrested Tuesday on various drug charges.

Lonergan's attorney, Jason Donovan, said his client intends to plead not guilty.

“[There was] no allegation that he sold any of these substances that created the serious situation with these students," Donovan said.

Jennifer Zito, the attorney for Kramer, said her client also intends to plead not guilty.

“There was no MDMA found in his possession. He was unfortunately caught up in a dragnet sweep,” said Zito. “I’m asking the public not to prejudge until the facts are in.”

Lonergan, Kramer and Al Nakib appeared in Middletown Superior Court in Connecticut Wednesday for their arraignment hearings, according to the Middletown Police.

They did not enter pleas, a court official said, but they were released on bond. The students are due back in court March 3.

The Middletown Superior Court clerk did not know who was legally representing Olson or Al Nakib, and Olson did not respond to an email to his student account.

All four students have been suspended by Wesleyan pending a formal hearing.

Over the weekend, 11 people were hospitalized because of suspected overdoses related to the drug MDMA, also known as "Molly."

Middletown Police Chief William McKenna told reporters Tuesday that the doses that caused the hospitalizations likely "had a mixture of designer drug chemicals."

Wesleyan University President Michael Roth said in a statement the university takes drug use seriously and is cooperating with authorities.

"We will do everything we can to make our community as safe as possible," Roth said.

He added that the hospitalized students had improved.

“I am pleased to report that the two students who remain at Hartford Hospital have made progress,” Roth said in a statement. “We continue to be hopeful about their recovery, and we ask you to keep them in your thoughts and prayers.”

Lonergan faces charges of possession of a controlled substance and 16 counts of illegal obtaining or supplying of drugs, police said. Olson faces a charge of sale of a hallucinogen, two counts of possession of hallucinogen and marijuana possession charges. Kramer faces charges of possession of drug paraphernalia, possession of a regulated substance and possession of marijuana less than 1/2 ounce. Al Nakib faces three counts of possession of a controlled substance, as well as possession of a controlled substance with intent to sell and possession of drug paraphernalia.

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Hedge Fund Owner Could Face $1 Million Monthly Child Support Payments

ABC News(NEW YORK) -- A multibillionaire hedge fund owner could be on the hook for nearly $1 million a month in child support -– including staggering sums for a private jet, vacations and stationery – according to newly filed court documents in an Illinois case that threatens to be one of the biggest divorce settlements in the country.

Ken Griffin filed for divorce last year from his wife Anne after 11 years of marriage, citing irreconcilable differences. The couple is the parents of three children, ages 2, 4 and 7.

In those court filings, Ken Griffin says his estranged wife reported how much it costs to raise their children each month, including $14,000 for food, $300,000 for a private jet, $160,000 for vacations and $2,000 for stationery.

According to Illinois law, children of divorce are entitled to continue the lifestyle they enjoyed during the marriage.

A spokesperson for Dias Griffin told ABC News that her husband is trying to avoid his financial responsibilities to his family. But Griffin said in court papers that he already pays for virtually “every expense related to the children,” and that his estranged wife simply wants him to "continue funding her lifestyle."

The marriage included five homes, access to two private airplanes, a household staff and 24/7 security services for the children.

Dias Griffin is also asking a judge to throw out her prenuptial agreement, which she says entitles her to only 1 percent of her husband’s estimated $5 billion estate -– or around $50 million. She says she signed the document under duress the day before the couple's 2003 wedding in Chicago.

Griffin is the founder of the Chicago-based Citadel LLC.

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