FDA proposes new measures to crackdown on youth e-cigarette use

licsiren/iStock(WASHINGTON) — The U.S. Food and Drug Administration put out a new proposal Wednesday for how it will crack down on the “epidemic-level rise in youth e-cigarette use.” But some critics say the efforts do not go far enough in preventing young people from vaping.

In a statement from FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb released Wednesday, the FDA outlined a comprehensive plan to crack down on youth access to flavored e-cigarettes.

“Evidence shows that youth are especially attracted to flavored e-cigarette products, and that minors are able to access these products from both brick-and-mortar retailers, as well as online, despite federal restrictions on sales to anyone under 18,” Gottlieb said in a statement.

“We also continue to be concerned about cigar use among youth — flavored cigars in particular — which our enforcement work shows are also being illegally sold to minors,” he added. “With these concerns in mind, today, we’re advancing our policies aimed at preventing youth access to, and appeal of, flavored e-cigarettes and cigars.”

Part of the proposal aimed at limiting teen access to e-cigarettes includes measures to keep them in a separate area in brick-and-mortar stores and require third-party, age- and identity-verification services when purchasing them online.

“The most recent data show more than 3.6 million middle and high school students across the country were current (past 30 day) e-cigarette users in 2018,” Gottlieb said. “This is a dramatic increase of 1.5 million children since the previous year.”

The FDA will also unveil its first television advertisement this summer aimed at educating children about the risks of e-cigarette use, according to Gottlieb.

But Harold Wimmer, president and CEO of the American Lung Association, said the FDA is not doing nearly enough to address the epidemic, pointing to the fact that the FDA is cracking down on flavored tobacco products and not mint and menthol, too.

“FDA’s latest proposal to address the e-cigarette epidemic falls far short of what is needed to end the e-cigarette epidemic,” Wimmer said in a statement.

Wimmer called the FDA’s efforts “half measures that will not protect our nation’s children from the predatory marketing practices of the tobacco industry.”

“Until FDA is willing to take meaningful action by removing all flavored tobacco products, including mint and menthol, from the marketplace, America’s youth remain at high risk for a lifetime of addiction to tobacco products,” he added.

Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Federal agents uncovered the college admissions scandal by accident while working on unrelated case

U.S. NEWS Federal agents uncovered the college admissions scandal by accident while working on unrelated case https://linewsradio.com/federal-agents-uncovered-the-college-admissions-scandal-by-accident-while-working-on-unrelated-case/ http://abcnewsradioonline.com/national-news/

Paul Archuleta/Getty Images(LOS ANGELES) — The FBI uncovered the $25 million nationwide college admissions cheating scandal by accident while agents were working an unrelated securities fraud case, two law enforcement sources told ABC News.

The Boston-based agents received a tip from someone connected to the securities fraud investigation about the alleged $400,000 bribe paid to the then-head women’s soccer coach at Yale to fabricate athletic credentials, the sources said.

The coach then cooperated with the investigation, according to the sources, which spiraled into what prosecutors called the largest college admissions cheating scam ever prosecuted in the United States, as 50 people were indicted, including actresses Felicity Huffman and Lori Loughlin.

FBI-Boston declined to comment about the origin of the case, which was first reported by the Wall Street Journal.

Universities could remove students

Two elite universities embroiled in the college admissions scam took steps Wednesday that could prompt the removal of any of the students connected to the scandal from the schools.

The University of Southern California and UCLA are both reviewing the admissions applications of students whose parents allegedly paid tens of thousands of dollars in bribes to guarantee their children got into the colleges and scored high on college entrance exams.

Loughlin’s two daughters are currently enrolled at USC and the eldest daughter of Huffman and her husband, actor William H. Macy, attends an undisclosed elite college ensnared in the scandal.

“We are going to conduct a case-by-case review for current students and graduates that may be connected to the scheme alleged by the government,” USC said in a statement. “We will make informed, appropriate decisions once those reviews have been completed. Some of these individuals may have been minors at the time of their application process.”

The school’s statement added, “Applicants in the current admissions cycle who are connected to the scheme alleged by the government will be denied admission to USC.”

UCLA officials are conducting a similar review.

“If UCLA discovers that any prospective, admitted or enrolled student has misrepresented any aspect of his/her application, or that information about the applicant has been withheld, UCLA may take a number of disciplinary actions, up to and including cancellation of admission,” a statement from the school reads.

At a news conference Tuesday, Andrew Lelling, U.S. attorney for the District of Massachusetts, said “the vast majority” of students who benefited from the scams are still enrolled in colleges and in many instances were unaware of the bribery. But prosecutors say some students eventually may be charged.

Several elite Los Angeles-area prep schools have been subpoenaed in connection with the college admissions cheating scam, a source familiar with the investigation told ABC News.

The Los Angeles Times first reported subpoenas were issued to unnamed schools said to be among the most prominent private schools in the area.

The prep schools are not accused of wrongdoing. Rather, the source confirmed, the subpoenas seek records related to some of the families allegedly involved in the scheme.

‘Full House’ actress arrested

Loughlin was taken into custody by the FBI Wednesday in Los Angeles after she, Huffman and 48 others were charged in the alleged wrongdoing that has prompted repercussions from Hollywood to the boardrooms of major companies.

Loughlin, 54, flew to Los Angeles overnight from Canada, where she was filming a Hallmark movie, sources told ABC News.

She appeared in federal court in Los Angeles Wednesday afternoon where a judge read the fraud charges against her and she acknowledged she understood them. She was released on a $1 million bond.

A judge granted Loughlin permission to travel within the United States and to Vancouver to complete shooting her movie, which isn’t scheduled to wrap up until November. Once she completes filming, she must surrender her passport in December unless she submits proof of another project in British Colombia or elsewhere, the judge told her.

Loughlin was ordered to appear in Boston Federal Court on March 29 with the other defendants.

A former cast member on the ABC sitcom “Full House,” Loughlin and Oscar-nominated actress Huffman, 56, are among 33 parents charged with conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud in the coast-to-cost scam to get their children into elite colleges, including Yale, Stanford, Georgetown, Wake Forest and the University of Texas.

The feds dubbed the investigation “Operation Varsity Blues” and said it was triggered by an unrelated investigation by FBI agents in Boston.

Loughlin’s husband, fashion designer Mossimo Giannulli, 55, was arrested Tuesday on charges of conspiracy to commit mail fraud and appeared in Los Angeles federal court.

Widespread bribery

Loughlin and Giannulli “agreed to pay bribes totaling $500,000 in exchange for having their two daughters designated as recruits to the USC crew team — despite the fact that they did not participate in crew — thereby facilitating their admission to USC,” according to the indictment.

U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos made her first comments about the scandal Wednesday in a interview with Fox News.

“Every student deserves to be considered on their individual merits when applying to college, and it’s disgraceful to see anyone breaking the law to give their children an advantage over others,” DeVos said. “The department is looking closely at this issue and working to determine if any of our regulations have been violated.”

Lelling announced the stunning indictment Tuesday and said the parents charged in the scam represent “a catalog of wealth and privilege.”

Coaches fired, CEO steps down

As shockwaves from the arrests spread across the country, the fallout for some of the defendants was swift.

Hercules Capital, Inc., one of the largest venture capital companies in the country, announced Wednesday that its chairman and chief executive officer, Manuel Henriquez, had stepped down.

Henriquez, 55, of Atherton, California, and his wife, Elizabeth, 56, were among those charged in the case.

Gordon Caplan, 52, a partner in the international law firm Willkie Farr & Gallagher, based in New York, was placed on a leave of absence and stripped of all management responsibilities, the firm said in a statement.

Caplan allegedly paid a purported charitable contribution of $75,000 to a sham charity established by William “Rick” Singer, who prosecutors said masterminded the scam, according to the indictment. The money was used to pay a proctor of an ACT test to correct answers Caplan’s daughter gave on the exam, the document alleges.

USC officials fired its famed water polo coach, Jovan Vanvic, who allegedly accepted bribes in exchange for scholarships for children of the rich. USC also terminated Donna Heinel, the school’s senior associate athletic director, who was also charged.

Vanvic, 57, who led the USC Trojans to 16 NCAA national championships, was arrested Tuesday in Hawaii at a Waikiki hotel. He made his first appearance in federal court Tuesday afternoon wearing a gold and cardinal red USC athletic jacket.

Stanford University fired its longtime sailing coach, John Vandemoer, 41, who has already pleaded guilty to federal charges of racketeering conspiracy.

Vandemoer’s attorney, Rob Fisher, told ABC News his client “made a mistake that happened to be part of a giant conspiracy” and is “very remorseful.”

“He’s taking full responsibility for his actions. He admits that what he did was wrong and if he had a do over he certainly would not do it again. He was a well-respected coach, he’s never been in trouble with the law before, and he made a mistake that happened to be part of a giant conspiracy. John is very remorseful for the damage caused to Stanford, the students, staff, and the alumni which will be evidenced at his sentencing hearing,” the statement read. “One important distinction to make is that John did not pocket any of the money. The US attorney stated that one coach did not profit and John did not profit personally. They acknowledged that the money went to Stanford sailing and was used to buy new equipment and pay for the salary of an assistant coach.”

Wake Forest officials placed its head volleyball coach, William Ferguson, 48, on administrative leave after he was indicted. Ferguson, according to the indictment, allegedly accepted a $100,000 bribe from Singer to designate the daughter of one of Singer’s clients as a recruit for the women’s volleyball team, facilitating her admission to the university.

In an email to students and faculty Wednesday, Wake Forest President Nathan Hatch said the student that Ferguson allegedly help get admitted to the school is currently enrolled.

“We have no reason to believe the student was aware of the alleged financial transaction,” Nathan wrote.

The University of Texas also fired Michael Center, 54, the head coach of the school’s men’s tennis team, who is also charged in the cheating scheme.

“After working with campus leaders to review the recent situation with Michael Center, we have decided to relieve him of his duties as our Men’s Tennis coach,” Chis Del Conte, the university’s vice president and athletic director, said in a statement. “It’s a very difficult decision, and we are grateful for the years of service that he has provided, but winning with integrity will always be paramount at The University of Texas, and it was a decision that had to be made.”

NCAA launches probe

The NCAA announced it will launch an investigation into the widespread cheating scandal that implicated nine coaches at elite schools.

“The charges brought forth … are troubling and should be a concern for all of higher education,” the NCAA wrote in a statement on Twitter. “We are looking into these allegations to determine the extent to which NCAA rules may have been violated.”

Singer, owner of a college counseling service called Key Worldwide Foundation and a company called Edge College & Career Network, pleaded guilty in Boston federal court on Tuesday to charges of racketeering conspiracy, money laundering conspiracy, conspiracy to defraud the United States and obstruction of justice.

Singer allegedly accepted bribes totaling $25 million from parents between 2011 and 2018 “to guarantee their children’s admission to elite schools,” Lelling said.

Federal officials said Singer was a corroborating witness in the investigation and wore a wire to capture some of the conversations with parents and cohorts implicated in the scam.

Singer’s inner circle included Steven Masera, 69, the accountant and financial officer for the Edge College & Career Network and the Key Worldwide Foundation and Mark Riddell, a private school counselor in Bradenton, Florida, who were both indicted in the scam, according to the indictment.

Mikaela Sanford, 32, of Folsom, California, another employee of the Edge College & Career Network and the Key Worldwide Foundation, was also charged.

How the scam worked

Singer would instruct parents to seek extended time for the children to take SAT and ACT entrance exams by obtaining medical documentation that their child had a learning disability, according to the indictment. The parents were then told to get the location of the test changed to one of two testing centers, one in Houston and another in West Hollywood, California, where test administrators Niki Williams, 44, of Houston and Igor Dvorskiy, 52, of Sherman Oaks, California, and an exam proctor helped carry out the scam, the indictment alleges.

Riddell would allegedly either take the tests for students or would correct their answers after they took the tests, according to the indictment.

To bolster students’ college entrance applications, Singer worked with parents to allegedly concoct glowing profiles of their children, including staged or Photoshopped pictures of them participating in sports, the indictment alleges.

In one case highlighted by federal prosecutors, the former head women’s soccer coach at Yale University, Rudolph “Rudy” Meredith, 51, was paid $400,000 to accept a student even though the applicant did not play soccer. The parents of that student had paid Singer $1.2 million.

According to the charging papers, Huffman “made a purported charitable contribution of $15,000” to a sham charity set up by Singer to participate in the college entrance exam cheating scheme on behalf of her eldest daughter.

The actress allegedly made arrangements to pursue the scheme a second time for her younger daughter, before deciding not to do so, the documents allege.

Huffman’s husband, actor William H. Macy, was not charged, but according to the court document he and Huffman were caught on a recorded conversation with a corroborating witness in the case allegedly discussing a $15,000 payment to ensure their younger daughter scored high on a college entrance exam.

Roster of CEOs

Federal officials mentioned the roster of CEOs charged in the scam. One of them is David Sidoo, 59, a prominent businessman and philanthropist from Vancouver, Canada, who was indicted on charges of conspiracy to commit mail fraud and wire fraud. He was arrested on Friday in San Jose, California, federal officials said.

“David Sidoo has been repeatedly recognized for his philanthropic endeavors, which is the true testament to his character. The charge that has been lodged against David is an allegation that carries with it the presumption that he is innocent,” Sidoo’s attorney, Richard Schonfeld, said in a statement Wednesday.

“We look forward to presenting our case in court and ask that people don’t rush to judgment in the meantime,” he said.

Other prominent business leaders indicted included Robert Zangrillo, 52, of Miami, founder and CEO of the private investment firm Dragon Global; Bill McGlashan, 55, of Mill Valley, California, a businessman and international private equity investor; and Gregory Abbott, 68, founder and chairman of International Dispensing Corp., a New York food and beverage packaging company.

“For every student admitted through fraud an honest, genuinely talented student was rejected,” Lelling said.

Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Posted On 13 Mar 2019

Wisconsin father who allegedly abducted 2-year-old daughter now arrested, but daughter’s whereabouts remain a mystery: Police

U.S. NEWS Wisconsin father who allegedly abducted 2-year-old daughter now arrested, but daughter's whereabouts remain a mystery: Police https://linewsradio.com/wisconsin-father-who-allegedly-abducted-2-year-old-daughter-now-arrested-but-daughters-whereabouts-remain-a-mystery-police/ http://abcnewsradioonline.com/national-news/

Milwaukee Police(MILWAUKEE) — A Wisconsin father who allegedly abducted her 2-year-old daughter after fatally shooting her mother has been arrested, but the child has not been found, police say.

An Amber Alert was issued for 2-year-old Noelani Robinson, who was last seen on Monday.

At the time of the alert, she was believed to be with her father, Dariaz Higgins, 34, who police said should be considered armed and dangerous.

The search began after Milwaukee police responded Monday afternoon to a shooting they say was carried out by Higgins.

“We are asking Mr. Higgins to take her and drop her off some place safe — a family member’s house, a fire station, a hospital,” Thomas Casper, acting captain for the Milwaukee Police Department’s homicide division, said at a news conference Tuesday.

Milwaukee Police

Noelani’s mother, 24-year-old Sierra Robinson, was found lying on a driveway outside an apartment building, police said. She had been shot multiple times and was pronounced dead at the scene, police said.

The other woman, a 28-year-old, was also shot multiple times and was hospitalized in unknown condition, Casper said.

Higgins was arrested by the Milwaukee Police Department Wednesday afternoon, the department said in a statement.

A second individual was also arrested with Higgins for “harboring and aiding a fugitive,” police said. That person’s name has not been released.

Authorities said they continue to use all available resources to find Noelani and urged the public to be on the lookout for her.

Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Posted On 13 Mar 2019

Husband named person of interest in death of North Carolina missing nurse Diana Keel

U.S. NEWS Husband named person of interest in death of North Carolina missing nurse Diana Keel https://linewsradio.com/husband-named-person-of-interest-in-death-of-north-carolina-missing-nurse-diana-keel/ http://abcnewsradioonline.com/national-news/

Nash County Sheriff(EDGECOMBE COUNTY, N.C.) — The body of a missing North Carolina nurse who vanished over the weekend has been found and investigators believe foul play was “definitely” involved in her death.

Authorities had been searching for emergency room nurse and mother of two, Diana Alejandra Keel, 38, who was reported missing by her 18-year-old daughter on Saturday, according to the Nash County Sheriff’s Office.

Her car was left parked at her home in Nashville, the sheriff’s office said.

Keel’s husband, Lynn Keel, said he last saw his wife on Friday and is now a person of interest in the case, officials said.

Lynn Keel was brought into the sheriff’s office for questioning and to help identify Keel’s body, which was discovered Tuesday in Edgecombe County. Sheriff’s officials said foul play was “definitely” involved.

“This is a homicide investigation at this time. I don’t want to get into elaborating too much on the specifics of the case because we’re doing investigations as of right now …. the cause of death was the act of someone,” Nash County Sheriff Keith Stone said during a press conference on Wednesday. “There’s a killer on the loose.”

He said there were other “persons of interest” in the case, but he declined to release their names. Her husband was released after questioning and has not been charged.

Investigators executed search warrants on both of the Keels’ cars, officials said.

The Keels have a 10-year-old son, who was staying with his grandmother as Lynn Keel met with investigators Tuesday, officials said.

Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Posted On 13 Mar 2019

Trump administration compares Chinese prisons for Muslim minorities to 1930s detention camps

WORLD NEWS Trump administration compares Chinese prisons for Muslim minorities to 1930s detention camps  https://linewsradio.com/trump-administration-compares-chinese-prisons-for-muslim-minorities-to-1930s-detention-camps/  http://abcnewsradioonline.com/world-news/

Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) — The Trump administration is increasingly calling out China for its detention of Muslim ethnic minorities in the country’s western region, even comparing those prisons to detention camps in 1930s Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union.

China is “in a league of its own when it comes to human rights violations,” Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said on Wednesday as he introduced the department’s annual human rights report.

The report, the first authored under Pompeo’s tenure, details the human rights record of every country around the world, bringing together information from the United Nations, nonprofit advocacy groups, the media, and embassies and consulates.

While this year’s report again calls out partners like Saudi Arabia, the administration has also received some criticism for appearing to pull some punches or diverging from President Donald Trump’s praise for dictators and the grim reality on the ground in their countries.

In particular, Pompeo laid out in his preface the Trump administration’s approach to human rights and foreign relations — one that’s been criticized for being more transactional or praised for being more pragmatic: “The policy of this Administration is to engage with other governments, regardless of their record, if doing so will further U.S. interests,” he wrote, but added those interests “will only be served if governments respect human rights and fundamental freedom.”


“You haven’t seen things like this since the 1930s — of rounding up, I mean, some estimations are in the millions of people, and putting them into camps, and trying to — torturing them, abusing them, and trying to basically erase their culture and their religion,” said Amb. Michael Kozak, the senior bureau official for Democracy, Human Rights and Labor. “It’s just remarkably awful.”

The detention camps target Uighurs, a majority-Muslim, Turkic-speaking ethnic group in western China, as well as ethnic Kazaks and other Muslim groups. In what the U.S., U.N., and others have described as a worsening crackdown, the Chinese government is increasingly using a new surveillance state, with tools like facial recognition technology, to detain people “at record levels” and “erase their religious and ethnic identities,” according to Pompeo.

The Trump administration has yet to sanction any Chinese officials or entities over the camps, although Ambassador-at-Large for Religious Freedom Sam Brownback said Tuesday it was under active consideration.

Saudi Arabia

The report’s chapter on Saudi Arabia highlights the killing of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi by “government agents” and criticizes the kingdom for changing “its story as facts came to light,” not providing an “explanation of the direction and progress of the investigation,” and creating an “environment of impunity.”

But it makes no mention of any potential role by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, who the CIA has reportedly assessed was involved in the murder plot — a charge the Saudis deny and Trump has cast doubt on.

Kozak said the report didn’t try “to draw our own conclusions over who was and who wasn’t responsible. … Trying to speculate about who might or might not have been involved is not productive.” But he added that the Saudis do not have “a complete, by any means, investigation at this point, so we’re sort of in the middle of that movie.”

Like in year’s past, the report also highlighted accusations against the kingdom of torture, executions, forced renditions and disappearances, arbitrary arrest, and restrictions on freedoms of movement, religion, and more.

North Korea

Trump continues to praise his “friend” Kim Jong Un and recently came under criticism for washing Kim’s hands of American college student Otto Warmbier’s death after his detention in North Korea. But the human rights report again calls out Kim oppressive regime for its insidious control of daily life in North Korea, through killings, forced disappearances, prison camps with 80,000-120,000 souls inside, torture, rape, forced abortions and infanticide, censorship, and severe restrictions of citizens’ movements and other freedoms.

The report omits the word “egregious” when describing North Korea’s human rights abuses, but Kozak said that was because of streamlining and use of a new template that made country comparisons easier.

Despite Trump’s talks with Kim, Kozak said the U.S. hasn’t “noticed any progress on human rights … It’s still one of the worst human rights situations in the world. It has not improved, and that’s going to be part of our effort for some time to come.”

Pompeo, who has been the administration point person on North Korea negotiations and says the U.S. raises it with North Korea, made no mention of the regime in his remarks.


While this year’s report reiterates the details of a fact-finding investigation into Myanmar’s military’s attacks against the Rohingya in 2017, it again labels the violence “ethnic cleansing” instead of “genocide,” as the U.N., the Holocaust Museum, Congress, and others have called it.

But it seems now the administration has ruled out following suit: “The usual reason you say something like that is you’re trying to call attention to it. Our feeling is we’ve called plenty of attention,” Kozak told ABC News.

A “genocide” designation does not have legal implications, but critics say it bolsters the pressure on Myanmar to stop this behavior, hold people accountable for it, and create the conditions for Rohingya refugees to return to their homes.

Kozak defended the steps the administration has taken, including sanctions and visa revocations, and said they’re focused now on reigning in the military and supporting the civilian government in its efforts to take greater control.

Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Posted On 13 Mar 2019

California’s suspension of death penalty doesn’t indicate a trend: Expert

U.S. NEWS California's suspension of death penalty doesn't indicate a trend: Expert https://linewsradio.com/californias-suspension-of-death-penalty-doesnt-indicate-a-trend-expert/ http://abcnewsradioonline.com/national-news/

ChrisBoswell/iStock(NEW YORK) — There are 737 prisoners in California whose executions are now paused after the governor issued a moratorium on the state’s death penalty policy, but that doesn’t mean anything will change for good — in the state or the country.

Gov. Gavin Newsom’s decision to issue an executive order to halt all executions in the state fits within his purview as the state’s leader, but it doesn’t change the law.

Newsom, a Democrat who was sworn into office earlier this year, acknowledged that while the order is just one step in the right direction, he is optimistic about the law changing to permanently ban the death penalty in the state some day.

“I am hopeful that, that will one day occur,” Newsom said Wednesday.

The moratorium comes after Californians voted against a repeal of the death penalty in 2016, which, at the time, Newsom told a local newspaper’s editorial board that if he were elected governor that he would “be accountable to the will of the voters,” according to The Sacramento Bee.

Critics, including The Association of Deputy District Attorneys for Los Angeles County (LA ADDA), found that discrepancy to be a sticking point with his new proposal.

Michele Hanisee, president of the LA ADDA, issued a statement Tuesday after Newsom’s plan was announced, saying that he “is usurping the express will of California voters and substituting his personal preferences via this hasty and ill-considered moratorium on the death penalty.”

But, in the news conference immediately after signing the executive order Wednesday morning, Newsom said that the voters chose to put him in office knowing that he has long been opposed to the death penalty.

“The people of the state of California have entrusted me by their will and by constitutional right to do exactly what I’m doing,” Newsom said Wednesday.

Since the law does not change as a result of Newsom’s order, California remains as one of the 30 states that has the death penalty. That said, California now joins three other states — Oregon, Colorado and Pennsylvania — where governors have issued moratoriums on executions.

There are currently 20 states and the District of Columbia that do not have the death penalty in their penal codes.

Evan Mandery, a professor at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice, said that the governor’s change shouldn’t be seen as a bellwether for the country at large.

“California is a really odd outlier on the death penalty. California has historically been a massive producer of death sentences, but very rarely executes anyone,” said Mandery, who has written several books on the death penalty. “The death penalty will end in the United States. It’s just a matter of when.”

California has executed 13 people since the death penalty was reenacted in 1976, though they have more than double the amount of prisoners on death row than any other state.

“Executions have dropped dramatically over the past decade, the trend in state legislatures has been to reject capital punishment and public opinion has slowly, but surely been turning against the death penalty,” said Mandery.

According to the non-profit Death Penalty Information Center, the state’s 13 executions ranks as the 17th deadliest state. Texas is the highest on the list, with 560 executions since the law was re-instated. That’s more than four times the amount of the second-deadliest state, Virginia, where there were 113 executions, or the third-deadliest, which is Oklahoma with 112 executions.

Mandery added that rather than discussing the issue of the death penalty in America, he said that the numbers essentially suggest that “it’s just the death penalty in the south.”

“The question is how it ends, and Texas will need to be dragged kicking and screaming into modern times and it may take the Supreme Court to do that. And if the Supreme Court doesn’t do it, it may take 50 years for it to end,” he said.

As for what the California moratorium means, Mandery didn’t put much weight behind the move.

“I don’t think it’s a harbinger of anything that matters because California is such an outlier and the places that need to change are all in the deep south,” Mandery said.

“The governor of Texas isn’t issuing a moratorium anytime soon,” he said.

Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Posted On 13 Mar 2019

Sen. Doug Jones, former prosecutor, doubts special counsel Robert Mueller’s report will be the ‘blockbuster’ many are hoping for

Political News Sen. Doug Jones, former prosecutor, doubts special counsel Robert Mueller's report will be the 'blockbuster' many are hoping for https://linewsradio.com/sen-doug-jones-former-prosecutor-doubts-special-counsel-robert-muellers-report-will-be-the-blockbuster-many-are-hoping-for/ http://abcnewsradioonline.com/politics-news/

Mark Wallheiser/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) — Democratic Sen. Doug Jones, a former prosecutor, said he doubts that the long-awaited report from special counsel Robert Mueller’s office will be the “blockbuster” that many of President Donald Trump’s critics are hoping for.

On the other hand, Jones said, he also doubts that the report will contain “information that’s going to exonerate a lot of people, as the president’s supporters would suggest and would hope.”

On the “Powerhouse Politics” podcast Tuesday, the senator from Alabama talked to hosts ABC News Chief White House Correspondent Jonathan Karl and Political Director Rick Klein about the possible outcomes of the special counsel’s report.

In his experience, when attorneys decide not to prosecute, “in the overwhelming number of cases the file is simply closed,” Jones said.

However, he added, “your questions were framed to me in a normal circumstance. This is not a normal circumstance.”

When the report is released, if lawmakers believe an unreasonable amount of the information has been withheld from the public, Jones said, “I think you’ll start seeing some congressional action on both sides of the aisle and in both houses to try to get a more complete and full report.”

Jones said he thinks there could be a risk that Democrats will overreach in their investigations of the president, but added, “I don’t think that that risk … has manifested itself yet. But there’s always the risk.”

“We really don’t want to get into areas where it appears that this is solely directed at the president, as opposed to legitimate, efficient oversight,” Jones said.

Jones’ place in Congress will likely be hotly contested in 2020. The senator won his current seat in a tight special election to replace Jeff Sessions, with tallies showing he triumphed by a 49.966-48.34 margin. His victory marked the first time a Democrat has won a U.S. Senate seat in Alabama in a quarter century and potential Republican challengers are already emerging from the woodwork.

U.S. Rep. Bradley Byrne, R-Ala., announced last month that he plans to challenge Jones in 2020, according to the Associated Press, and Roy Moore, the Republican who lost to Jones in the special election, has indicated that he is considering running again. Moore’s campaign was rocked by accusations of sexual misconduct, including that he initiated a sexual encounter with a 14-year-old girl when he was 32. Moore has denied the allegations.

On Wednesday, Jones called Moore’s announcement “almost comical to watch.”

“I’ve always believed that Moore is doing this more to raise money. That’s been his M.O. for years. I don’t know if he’ll run or not but I think this is a fundraising tool for him,” Jones said.

Another uncertainty in the 2020 election is whether Jones’ longtime friend, former Vice President Joe Biden, will throw his hat into the ring for the presidential race.

Biden told audience members who chanted, “Run, Joe, Run” at an event Tuesday, “I appreciate the energy when I got up here. Save it a little longer — I may need it in a few weeks.”

ABC News has previously reported that people who have spoken to Biden in recent weeks said he is “90 percent there.”

“I think that he is very close,” Jones said Wednesday. “But you never know.”

Jones noted that he hadn’t spoken with Biden in a couple of weeks.

“It’s such a personal decision and it’s such a big decision,” Jones said. “I think he can offer a benefit to the country, should he both run and be elected.”

But, Jones pointed out, there are no guarantees in the crowded competition of Democrats vying to face off against Trump in 2020.

“I thought, quite frankly, my friend Sherrod Brown was going to be in. And he surprised me the other day with deciding not to,” Jones said.

Following visits to several early-voting states, the Democratic senator from Ohio, announced on March 7 that he would not seek a presidential bid.

Even if uncertainties remain about the Democratic presidential race, Jones said he knew one thing for certain about his own 2020 race, “Whoever ultimately I end up running against will run a campaign on division. I am absolutely convinced of that,” Jones said, adding, “That’s not my style.”

“Doesn’t matter to me who the opponent is,” Jones said. “I’ll be back here for another term.”

Powerhouse Politics podcast is a weekly program that posts every Wednesday, and includes headliner interviews and in-depth looks at the people and events shaping U.S. politics. Powerhouse Politics podcast is hosted by ABC News Chief White House Correspondent Jonathan Karl and ABC News Political Director Rick Klein.

Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Posted On 13 Mar 2019

‘Empire’ exec explains current state of the show, and the “difficult decision” to sideline Jussie Smollett

Entertainment News  'Empire' exec explains current state of the show, and the "difficult decision" to sideline Jussie Smollett https://linewsradio.com/empire-exec-explains-current-state-of-the-show-and-the-difficult-decision-to-sideline-jussie-smollett/ http://abcnewsradioonline.com/entertainment-news/


Chicago Police Department(CHICAGO) — Ahead of the midseason return of Empire tonight, the show’s executive producer Brett Mahoney is opening up for the the first time on what the shocking allegations against Jussie Smollett means for his character and the show.

Smollett was charged with 16 felony counts related to his claim that he was the victim of a brutal hate crime at the hands of “racist” supporters of President Trump in Chicago early in the morning of January 29.

After a thorough investigation, police declared it a hoax, and that Smollett hired two brothers of Nigerian descent, Abimbola and Olabinjo Osundairo, to carry out the fake attack. 

Smollett denied the claims.

Mahoney tells Entertainment Weekly that the last two months have been “an emotional rollercoaster.

“You have someone in your family who’s going through this, while at the same time, we’re shooting the final episodes of the season…” he said. “So it was a lot to deal with and a lot to go through, but we’re really just focused on finishing strong.”

In regards to Smollett being written out of the final two episodes of the series, Mahoney says it was a “difficult decision,” but one they were able to make work because of the “strong ensemble” and available stories to tell.

“Allowing Jussie the time to really deal with what he’s been confronted with and allow him the time to focus and prepare his case, this seems like the logical decision to make,” he added.

Mahoney says it’s still “too early” for anyone to think about the show without Smollett, so for now, he’s “trusting the process and allowing the legal process to play out.”

However, in response to the rumors that Empire will be cancelled because of the controversy, the Emprie exec says he’s “confident” there will be another season.

Empire returns Wednesday at 8 p.m. ET on Fox.

Posted On 13 Mar 2019

Mommy money moves: Gabrielle Union and Dwayne Wade trademark daughter’s name for future success

Entertainment News  Mommy money moves: Gabrielle Union and Dwayne Wade trademark daughter's name for future success https://linewsradio.com/mommy-money-moves-gabrielle-union-and-dwayne-wade-trademark-daughters-name-for-future-success/ http://abcnewsradioonline.com/entertainment-news/


Photo by Gabriel Olsen/FilmMagic(LOS ANGELES) — Gabrielle Union and Dwayne Wade’s “shady baby” is reportedly getting trademarked.

According to docs obtained by The Blast, the couple is in the process of trademarking their four-month-old daughter’s name, Kaavia James, in preparation for the launch of new merchandise such as clothing, hair care products and jewelry. 

The Blast reports that the focus will primarily be on baby products with Kaavia’s name to be stamped on diaper bags and baby bibs. Trademark applications have already been filed under “Kaavia James” and “Shady Baby” with a loan-out company also started in their baby’s name. Union is labeled as CEO of Kaavia James Inc., while her hubby Dwayne is CFO. 

For those who haven’t been able to keep up with little Kaavia, the baby currently has an Instagram account with over a half a million followers. She’s known as the “Shady Baby” thanks to her candid photos where she appears to be constantly throwing shade at her parents and family, who constantly love on her.

Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Posted On 13 Mar 2019

Mark Riddell, the 36-year-old who allegedly took exams for ‘cheating’ students apologizes

U.S. NEWS Mark Riddell, the 36-year-old who allegedly took exams for 'cheating' students apologizes https://linewsradio.com/mark-riddell-the-36-year-old-who-allegedly-took-exams-for-cheating-students-apologizes/ http://abcnewsradioonline.com/national-news/

Memedozaslan/iStock(BOSTON) — The man accused of taking college entrance exams for high school students as part of a cheating ring has issued an apology, but hopes that his non-criminal work will help show “the person I truly am.”

Mark Riddell released a statement through his attorneys on Wednesday, the day after it was announced that he is facing two criminal charges of conspiracy to commit mail fraud, honest services mail fraud, and conspiracy to commit money laundering in connection to his alleged involvement in the scheme.

“I want to communicate to everyone that I am profoundly sorry for the damage I have done and grief I have caused those as a result of my needless actions. I understand how my actions contributed to a loss of trust in the college admissions process,” he said in the statement released by Stechschulte Nell, Attorneys at Law.

“I assume full responsibility for what I have done. I do, however, want to clarify an assertion that has arisen in the media coverage. I absolutely, unequivocally never bribed anyone, nor has the Information filed by the U.S. Attorney’s Office charged me with any form of bribery,” the statement reads.

The 36-year-old is expected to face a judge in Massachusetts on April 12.

“I will always regret the choices I made, but I also believe that the more than one thousand students I legitimately counseled, inspired, and helped reach their goals in my career will paint a more complete picture of the person I truly am,” the statement concluded.

U.S. Attorney for Massachusetts Andrew Lelling detailed the process of the alleged scheme at a news conference Tuesday morning and described Riddell as “just a really smart guy.”

“He didn’t have inside information about the answers, he was just smart enough to get a near perfect score on demand or to calibrate the score,” the leading federal prosecutor said of Riddell.

Instead, William “Rick” Singer — who pleaded guilty to racketeering conspiracy and other charges for orchestrating the cheating ring — would arrange for Riddell to get a copy of the test from a bribed test administrator and then take it on behalf of the student.

“Singer would discuss with their clients what kind of score they were looking for. If your daughter took the S.A.T. on her own the first time and got a particular score, retaking the exam, if her score goes up too much, that would invite scrutiny. So Singer would discuss with parents what kind of score was impressive, but not too impressive, and then would instruct Riddell to attempt to get that score. And he was just good enough to do it,” Lelling said.

The multi-paged criminal complaint reads that Riddell conspired with Singer from 2011 to 2019.

Although the court documents do not state the amount of times that Riddell was involved in either completing or correcting individuals’ tests, it detailed a June 2018 incident, where the original plan was to have Riddell “secretly correct” one student’s answers, after the student took the test himself.

In a turn of events, the complaint read, the teenager was sick when it came time to travel to the Houston test site so Riddell took the test for him.

However, in at least this one instances when Riddell took the exam in place of high school students, the criminal complaint charges that he did not sit for the exam with other high schoolers — which may have sparked suspicions because based on his college graduation year, he is likely in his mid to late thirties.

To fulfill the plan, according to the criminal complaint, the parent “provided Singer with an exemplar of Parent 1’s son’s handwriting so that Riddell could imitate it when taking the exam in his place.”

Riddell — who is based in Palmetto, Florida, which is south of Tampa — would receive a copy of the ACT from a bribed test administrator and take the exam in his hotel room after flying to one of the two alleged test centers involved in the scandal.

The criminal complaint further charges that Riddell reported back to Singer that he “predicted that he would score a 35 out of 36 on the ACT exam.”

Riddell was paid $10,000 for his part in that scheme and, he was right: he got a 35 on the exam.

The Miami Herald reports that Riddell was the director of college entrance exam preparation at IMG Academy, a Florida-based facility that states it is focused on improving students’ academic and athletic performance. IMG Academy did not immediately return ABC News’ request for comment, and Tuesday evening they put out a statement on Twitter announcing that Riddell was suspended indefinitely.

“Today we were made aware of the charges against Mark Riddell. Riddell has been suspended indefinitely as we investigate this matter,” IMG Academy posted in a tweet.

A biography of Riddell was removed from IMG Academy’s website, but a cached version of the site viewed Tuesday afternoon showed that he had worked at the academy since 2006. The cached site read that he is an alumni of Harvard University and “assists thousands of students in gaining admission to top American universities such as Stanford, Duke, Columbia, Dartmouth, University of Chicago, and many other notable institutions.”

He is also listed a ranked professional tennis player and an alum of IMG Academy himself.

Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Posted On 13 Mar 2019