Robert Mueller’s congressional testimony delayed by a week

Political News Robert Mueller's congressional testimony delayed by a week

Alex Wong/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) — Former Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s highly-anticipated congressional testimony about his investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election has been delayed by one week, according to a press release Friday evening.

Mueller will now appear before the House Judiciary Committee and House Intelligence Committee on Wednesday, July 24 for two separate hearings.

The testimony before the committee’s was originally scheduled for July 17, but when the Judiciary Committee asked for more time to question Mueller, Mueller asked for more time to prepare. The two sides agreed to allow the additional time and move the hearing back.

Mueller is scheduled to spend three hours testifying before the Judiciary Committee.

“We are pleased to announce that Special Counsel Mueller will provide additional public testimony when he appears before our committees,” congressmen Jerold Nadler, D-N.Y and Adam Schiff, D-CA. said in a statement Friday. Nadler heads the House Judiciary Committee and Schiff heads the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence.

“At his request, we have agreed to postpone the hearing for one week, until July 24, at which time Mr. Mueller will appear in public before the House Judiciary Committee followed by the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence,” the statement read.

“The House Judiciary Committee will convene on July 24 at 8:30 a.m. with Special Counsel Mueller testifying in public for three hours,” the statement continues. “After a brief break, the House Intelligence Committee will convene for additional public testimony beginning at 12:00 p.m.”

“All members — Democrats and Republicans — of both committees will have a meaningful opportunity to question the Special Counsel in public, and the American people will finally have an opportunity to hear directly from Mr. Mueller about what his investigation uncovered.”

The Judiciary Committee made its request for more time after some members expressed frustration that only roughly half of its members would be allowed time to ask questions in a two-hour period, sources told ABC News.

Committee Democrats also wanted the extra time after learning the Justice Department would attempt to block their additional request for closed door questioning with two of Mueller’s top deputies — James Quarles and Aaron Zebley. The deputies will not be testifying behind closed doors when Mueller appears.

Judiciary Committee member Steve Cohen, D-TN, conceded to ABC News on Friday that the panel would not get to question Zebley and Quarles.

The ranking Republican on the House Judiciary Committee released a statement after Democrats announced the format for the Mueller hearing.

“I appreciate news the chairman has taken seriously the concerns Judiciary Republicans raised this week. The new format will allow all Judiciary Republicans to question the special counsel on July 24,” Congressman Doug Collins R-Ga. said in his statement.

Mueller broke a nearly two-year silence when he made a brief public statement at the Department of Justice in late May.

During his comments, Mueller said he had no further plans to speak publicly on matters that were addressed in his more than 400-page report.

“The report is my testimony,” Mueller said.

Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Posted On 12 Jul 2019

Pence brings in cameras to show conditions at border detention centers

Political News Pence brings in cameras to show conditions at border detention centers

Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images(MCALLEN, Texas) — Vice President Mike Pence declared the nation in crisis and blamed Democrats on Friday as he toured facilities at the U.S.-Mexico border packed with parents cradling their children and, in one room, dozens of adult men crammed in to a fenced-in pen that resembled a cage.

The images, captured on video, offered a rare look inside border facilities at the center of a national debate on how the U.S. has handled a massive influx of refugees at its southern border.

“Forty days,” one man told reporters using hand signals from behind the chain-linked fence, seeming to suggest that was how long he had been detained at the facility in McAllen, Texas.

“We are not a terrorist,” said another.

Flanked by Republican lawmakers, Pence’s visit to the border facilities in the Texas towns of Donna and McAllen was intended as a victory lap.

After months of record-breaking numbers of undocumented migrants arriving at the border and crippling the government’s capacity to care for and house them, undocumented crossings dropped by 28% in June. The administration credits its agreement with Mexico, which stipulates among other conditions that Mexico will deploy its National Guard to crack down on the travelers moving north through the country from Central America.

At the Donna facility — a giant tent complex 20 miles from McAllen, Texas – there were some children sleeping on mats on the floor, covering themselves with emergency foil blankets, while others sat on benches watching cartoons, some pulling up the younger children’s hooded sweatshirts due to the cold.

“I’m Vice President Pence,” he said to one group of children. “This is Mrs. Pence. And these are various senators from around America.”

When he asked through a translator whether the kids were comfortable and had enough food, the children nodded.

“Where are you from?” Pence asked.

“Ecuador,” one child replied. “Honduras,” another said.

“How long did it take you to get here?” Pence asked.

“Dos meses,” a girl replied, saying “two months” in Spanish.

“Did you walk the whole way?” Pence asked.

“Si,” a girl replied, meaning “yes.”

“That’s a long journey,” Pence replied.

Sen. Mike Lee, a Spanish-speaking Utah Republican, told reporters that one migrant girl said she was worried she might not be able to pass through to the U.S.

“But they’re taking good care of you here?” Pence asked. “Ok,” he said. “Gracias,” which means “thank you.” “God Bless you.”

The brief exchange stood in sharp contrast with new first-hand accounts from migrant children in court records released this year by a California federal court.

In those accounts, children told court-appointed lawyers of spending weeks in freezing temperatures and described border guards whom they claimed threatened them with prison if they tried to sneak any food from the facilities.

“I have not been told how long I have to stay here,” a 5-year-old from Honduras told the lawyers. “I am frightened, scared and sad.”

Others spoke about the freezing temperatures.

“It is always cold in the cage,” a 17-year-old boy from Guatemala told the lawyers. “They took my (8-year-old) nephew’s clothes when we arrived at Ursula because they were wet, and gave him a T-shirt, which is not enough to keep him warm.”

At one point, some 2,500 children deemed “unaccompanied” –- oftentimes kids traveling with an aunt, uncle or grandparent, which the government doesn’t recognize as a legal guardian — piled up at these border facilities as the government scrambled to find beds for them in longer-term shelters at the Department of Health and Human Services (HSS).

But that number has since dropped to roughly 200, as HHS opened new shelters and expedited releases to sponsors.

“This is very tough stuff,” Pence said at one point after encounters with the detainees.

New York Democratic Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez accused the administration -– namely White House aide Stephen Miller of purposefully trying to be cruel to people without US passports.

“It is a policy of dehumanization implemented by this executive administration, laid at the feet of Stephen Miller, that creates a tinderbox of violence and dehumanization where hurt people hurt people,” she said.

Pence told reporters that he and President Donald Trump were ready to “roll up our sleeves” and get to work on legislative changes.

The administration has asked Congress to allow it to detain families traveling with children past the 20-day limit ordered by the courts. Pence and others said this would serve as a deterrent to families seeking asylum in the U.S.

Democrats counter that long-term detention of children is damaging and isn’t the solution.

“If there’s one basic value that ought to unite us as Democrats and Republicans –- as Americans -– is how we treat children,” said Democratic Rep. Gerry Connolly of Virginia. “Their children, our children, it doesn’t matter.”

Pence on Friday gave no indication that the administration was ready to negotiate, placing the blame for the border crisis squarely on Democrats.

“We can fix this,” Pence later added. “The American people expect nothing less.”

Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Posted On 12 Jul 2019

Prosecutors, arguing against bail for Jeffrey Epstein, claim he tried to buy off witnesses

U.S. NEWS Prosecutors, arguing against bail for Jeffrey Epstein, claim he tried to buy off witnesses

Rick Friedman/Corbis/Getty Images(NEW YORK) — The allegations came Friday as prosecutors argued against a federal judge setting bail for the multi-millionaire.

Epstein, who in 2008 served 13 months in jail after pleading to state prostitution charges in Florida, was arrested last weekend on charges that he “sexually exploited and abused dozens of minor girls at his homes in Manhattan, New York, and Palm Beach, Florida, among other locations,” according to the indictment.

His attorneys had argued that the multi-millionaire should remain free on bond while awaiting trial, using his Manhattan mansion and his private jet as collateral. But prosecutors responded Friday that Epstein should be held without bail due to his serious threat as a flight risk.

“The defendant’s transient lifestyle, his lack of family or community ties, his extensive international travel and ties outside the country, and his vast wealth, including his access to and ownership of private planes, all provide the defendant with the motive and means to become a successful fugitive,” prosecutors said in a memo to the court.

In arguing for Epstein’s continued detention, prosecutors said that he had demonstrated a “willingness to use intimidation and aggressive tactics in connection with a criminal investigation.”

The memo alleges that late last year Epstein wired $100,000 from a trust account to a person who had been named in the 2008 case as a possible co-conspirator of Epstein’s, and then three days later wired $250,000 to another suspected co-conspirator.

“Neither of these payments appears to be recurring or repeating during the approximately five years of bank records presently available to the Government,” the memo said. “This course of action, and in particular its timing, suggests the defendant was attempting to further influence co-conspirators who might provide information against him in light of the recently re-emerging allegations.”

Epstein is charged with paying minor girls hundreds of dollars to provide “massages” that ultimately escalated into sexual encounters, and then later “encouraged or enticed” them to recruit other girls to do the same, thus maintaining “a steady supply of new victims,” according to the indictment.

He also “worked and conspired with others, including employees and associates who facilitated his conduct by, among other things, contacting victims and scheduling their sexual encounters with Epstein,” the indictment says.

Epstein defense attorney Reid Weingarten did not immediately respond late Friday to a request for comment on prosecutors’ claims of potential witness tampering.

If convicted, Epstein, 66, could face up to 45 years imprisonment, which prosecutors say would likely amount to a life sentence.

Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Posted On 12 Jul 2019

Migrant children in detention facilities could face long-term health struggles: Pediatrician

Saul Schwarz/Getty Images(NEW YORK) — Migrant children living in U.S. Customs and Border Protection facilities will likely face long-term physical and mental health challenges, a top pediatrician told ABC News.

Sally Goza, the president-elect of the American Academy of Pediatrics, said detained children face unique stress levels.

“That kind of stress makes children be on high alert, red alert, where their brain can’t do the things that are really the work of childhood, which is learning and playing,” Goza said on ABC News’ “The Debrief.”

These children could face prolonged “toxic stress,” which can cause life-long depression, anxiety, suicidal ideation, developmental issues and behavioral problems, Goza said.

Goza, like delegations of Congressional lawmakers and groups of lawyers and doctors, recently visited children at the U.S. Customs and Border Protection’s (CBP) Central Processing Center in McAllen, Texas and the Donna Temporary Holding Facility in Donna, Texas.

The CBP facilities smelled like “a mixture of sweat, urine and feces” and were mostly silent, besides the sound of rustling mylar blankets.

“The children’s eyes were just bloodshot,” Goza said. “They obviously were not getting much rest. And they were bug-eyed. That fear of what’s going to happen next, what’s happening to me?”

Goza does not advocate for children being held in border detention centers, but said they “need to be able to be taken care of by a pediatrician or a pediatric-trained provider.”

Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

DC attorney general subpoenas NRA amid financial scandal

Political News DC attorney general subpoenas NRA amid financial scandal

Scott Olson/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) — The DC attorney general on Friday subpoenaed financial records from the National Rifle Association and the National Rifle Association Foundation, the latest headache for the embattled gun rights organization.

“The Office of the Attorney General for the District of Columbia has issued subpoenas to the National Rifle Association of America (NRA) and the NRA Foundation, Inc., as part of an investigation into whether these entities violated the District’s Nonprofit Act. We are seeking documents from these two nonprofits detailing, among other things, their financial records, payments to vendors, and payments to officers and directors” Attorney General Karl Racine said.

The Attorney General for the District of Columbia is responsible for “responsible for protecting charitable organizations and their assets,” the office’s website says.

The NRA faces a burgeoning scandal surrounding questionable spending practices first reported by The New Yorker and further detailed in an anonymous leak of internal documents.

The leaked documents, the authenticity of which ABC News has not been able to verify, included letters that appear to show former NRA President Lt. Col. Oliver North raised serious concerns with the organization’s audit committee about $24 million in legal fees paid to the firm of outside counsel William Brewer over the last year. North was recently ousted as president amid a dispute with NRA CEO Wayne LaPierre.

Those fees — estimated in one letter to cost the organization nearly $100,000 per day — “are draining NRA cash at mindboggling speed,” wrote North and NRA Vice President Richard Childress on April 18 as they urged the committee to authorize an independent review.

“Invoices of this size for 12 months of work appear to be excessive and pose an existential threat to the financial stability of the NRA,” the letter reads. “This is a fiscal emergency.”

In a pair of statements provided to ABC News by a spokesperson for Brewer, two NRA officials did not dispute the authenticity of the documents but dismissed the allegations contained within them.

“This is stale news – being recycled by those with personal agendas,” said Carolyn Meadows, the group’s new president. “In any event, the entire board is fully aware of these issues. We have full confidence in Wayne LaPierre and the work he’s doing in support of the NRA and its members. It is troubling and a bit pathetic that some people would resort to leaking information to advance their agendas. This has no bearing on the board’s support of Wayne – and the work the NRA does to protect America’s constitutional freedoms.”

“The memo on the Brewer firm’s legal fees is inaccurate – it reflects a misinformed view of the firm, its billings, and its advocacy for the NRA,” said Charles Cotton, chairman of the NRA’s audit committee. “The board supports the work the firm is doing, the results achieved, and the value of its services. Importantly, this relationship has been reviewed, vetted and approved.”

Multiple attempts to reach North have been unsuccessful.

These latest revelations have arrived during a period of rising internal tensions at the organization, as media scrutiny of the NRA and its finances has prompted action by law enforcement and lawmakers.

In April, the NRA sued its longtime ad agency Ackerman McQueen, the contractor behind NRATV, raising questions about the ad firm’s relationship with North. Days later, The New Yorker published an investigation by Mike Spies of the nonprofit journalism outlet The Trace that claimed “memos created by a senior N.R.A. employee describe a workplace distinguished by secrecy, self-dealing, and greed, whose leaders have encouraged disastrous business ventures and questionable partnerships, and have marginalized those who object.”

Later that same month, The New York Times reported that in a letter sent to NRA board members, LaPierre accused North of extorting him, threatening to release damaging information about the NRA unless LaPierre resigned. Ultimately, however, it was North who would step down as president, losing the apparent power struggle.

Chris Cox, the NRA’s chief lobbyist and principal political strategist for the Institute for Legislative Action – the lobbying arm for the NRA, stepped down, according to Andrew Arulanandum, the NRA’s managing director for public affairs.

Neither the NRA nor Cox have released a statement about his resignation or confirmed any details as to what prompted the move.

Some board members have also called for LaPierre to step down such as former Republican congressman, Ret. Lt. Col. Allen West.

West announced in a blog post that he was withdrawing his support from LaPierre, citing concerns about alleged financial mismanagement within the organization and what he called “outright lies” told by Carolyn Meadows, the group’s new president, and Charles Cotton, chairman of the NRA’s audit committee, in LaPierre’s defense.

Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Posted On 12 Jul 2019

Impassioned AOC, fellow Democrats zero in on Trump’s practice of separating families at border

Political News Impassioned AOC, fellow Democrats zero in on Trump's practice of separating families at border

Win McNamee/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) — A House Oversight Committee hearing on Friday on separated migrant children heard emotional accounts from Democratic Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Rep. Rashida Tlaib about their visits to border detention centers and later erupted into yelling matches, as Democrats went after the former acting director of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

Illinois Rep. Chuy Garcia, an Illinois Democrat, directly addressed Thomas Homan, who served as the acting ICE director last year, asking how he could have allowed family separations to take place under his watch.

“Mr. Homan, I’m a father, do you have children?” Garcia asked. “How can you possibly allow this to happen under your watch? Do you not care? Is it because these children don’t look like children that are around you? I don’t get it.”

Homan pushed back and defended his integrity, saying he had served his country for 34 years.

“What I’ve been doing in my 34 years serving my nation is to save lives. So, for you to sit there and insult my integrity and my love of my country and for children, that’s why this whole thing needs to be fixed,” Homan said.

Earlier at Friday’s hearing, Ocasio-Cortez. a New York Democrat, gave defiant, emotional testimony about her time spent at the border, in which she insisted a woman being held at a border facility told her a guard had told the woman to drink from a toilet after the connected sink broke.

“I believed them. I believed these women,” Ocasio-Cortez said, despite President Donald Trump telling reporters at the White House at about the same time Friday that she had lied. Ocasio-Cortez asked to be sworn in, which wasn’t required, testifying under threat of perjury if she didn’t speak the truth.

A U.S. Customs and Border Protection official who spoke under the condition of anonymity previously confirmed that the sink attached to the top of the toilet at the Homestead, Florida, facility had been broken, but that large jugs of water were nearby.

Ocasio-Cortez went on to call the crisis at the border “manufactured,” saying that “the cruelty is manufactured” and that “there’s no need for us to do this.”

“There is no need for us to overcrowd and to detain and under resource,” she said.

She said that in many she respects she agrees the conditions at the border aren’t the fault of CBP.

“It is a policy of dehumanization implemented by this executive administration laid at the feet of Stephen Miller that creates a tinderbox of violence and dehumanization where hurt people hurt people,” she said, referring to the president’s hard-line adviser on immigration policy.

Ocasio-Cortez also got emotional when noting that there were American flags all over the facilities.

“That women were being called these names under an American flag,” she said. “We cannot allow for this.”

Tlaib, a Democratic congresswoman from Michigan, who visited the same Homstead border detention facility, broke into tears after saying that the Trump administration is sending a “hate-filled message that those seeking refuge are not welcome in America.”

Elora Mukherjee, a Columbia Law School clinical professor, testified about her experience talking to migrants in the Clint, Texas, facility:

“Last month, when I was in Clint, children reported to me that officers had pushed children who needed to use the bathroom and prevented them from using the toilet when they needed to. Three children reported to me that a child had been grabbed by the back of his neck and had been pulled out of his cage. Other children consistently reported that guard yelled at them and that the children were terrified and that they were so terrified of the guards that they couldn’t even bring themselves to ask for more food. Now, that said, I also heard about one guard who was kind with the children and who gave the little ones an extra chocolate pudding when he was able to.”

“In Clint, we talked to a girl who was in a cell with about 20 other girls, 10 to 20 other girls. They were very young and the nurse would bring in two lice combs so that all the girls could share the lice combs – which is exactly the opposite of what you’re supposed to do when you have lice. And sometime later a guard came back to get those two lice combs back. One of the lice combs was missing. In retaliation as punishment for losing a lice comb, every mat and blanket was taken out of that room and the girls had sleep on the cement floor,” she testified.

The impassioned testimony comes as Democrats are sounding the alarm on the Trump administration’s former policy of separating families at the border, citing new documents that show last year, hundreds of children, including toddlers and infants, were kept from their parents for months at a time.

Although the practice of separating children from their parents at the border is no longer in place, Democrats also are calling out the administration’s ongoing policy of separating kids traveling with aunts, uncles and grandparents – a practice that contributed to a backlog of some 2,500 children stuck at Border Patrol stations in recent weeks while the government scrambled to find longer term shelter.

However, Republicans have pushed back — during his testimony on Friday, Rep. Chip Roy, R-Texas called out both parties have having failed on immigration.

“The fact is, both parties have failed. The GOP all too often wants to stand at the Rio Grande with a No Trespassing sign … with a ‘help wanted sign’ in the other. Meanwhile, my Democratic colleagues prefer to stand in front of chain link fences next to an empty parking lot while making up hyperbole for clicks, Twitter followers and cynical politics,” he said.

Responding to Ocasio-Cortez’s claims that were posted in a tweet, acting director of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services Kevin Cuccinelli wrote in his own tweet that: “The border crisis is real and the Trump admin has been saying so for months. Children are being used & exploited as de facto passports to enter our country. Congress could stop this crisis immediately by fixing the loopholes that are perpetuating child trafficking.”

In a new report released on Friday by the House Oversight Committee, House Democrats revisit the impact of the administration’s “zero tolerance” policy last year, which resulted in at least 18 infants and toddlers under two years old being separated from their parents and kept apart from 20 days to half of a year.

The report also showed that at least 679 separated children were held in government custody for somewhere between 46 to 75 days. It stated that there were more than 50 children held between 6 months to a year, and 25 children held for more than a year in government custody.

“Today, we examine the Trump administration’s inhumane policy of separating children from their parents at the Southern border,” said House Oversight Committee Chairman Elijah Cummings, D-Md., at a hearing aimed at examining the Trump administration’s family separation practice. “I use the word inhumane for a reason. Separating children from their mothers and fathers causes damage that may endure for a lifetime,” Cummings said.

Additionally, Democrats and human rights groups say the practice of removing children from their extended relatives, like aunts and uncles, who many traveled to the border with, is just as devastating as separating the children from their parents.

The Trump administration does not classify the practice of separating children from relatives who are not their parents, like an aunt or uncle or grandparent, as a family separation – citing legal requirements put in place to ensure the child’s security.

Ocasio-Cortez addressed this at a subcommittee hearing about the administration’s immigration practices on Wednesday.

She said an “important cultural context” was missing from the conversation about unaccompanied children, adding that in Latino communities “what gets defined as family is different than what usually or what traditionally get defined as family in the United States.”

“When I was a child, my parents would often send me to Puerto Rico during the summers and I would live with my aunts, and my uncles and my cousins. My cousins were raised with me as my siblings, you know, they were – I would call them ‘brother,’ ‘sister’ – my aunts and my uncles were raised as secondary parents,” Ocasio-Cortez recalled.

“This is the cultural context with which children are coming to the border with their loved ones,” she said. “They are being taken, they arrive and then they are being called unaccompanied children, when in fact, they are accompanied.”

She reiterated this point at Friday’s hearing, saying, “It is unnecessary to have a policy that calls children unaccompanied when they arrive with older brothers, sisters and grandparents and treat them no different than human traffickers.”

Although the Trump administration ceased its practice of separating migrant children from their parents at the border last year, currently if a child comes to the United States with someone other than their biological parent they are classified as unaccompanied.

“When encountering minors, there are legal requirements that CBP must follow that are in place to ensure the safety of the child,” CBP said in a statement.

CBP cites immigration law that says a child must travel with a parent or legal guardian. Otherwise, they are separated during immigration proceedings. The adult is taken into custody by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement; the child referred to the Department of Health and Human Services.

Instead, the child is put into the custody of Health and Human Services.

“We have for years monitored and served children who have been separated by these other primary care takers and have seen not just the emotional devastation it causes for them to be separated but how it really hinders our immigration system and processing the cases going forward,” said Jennifer Podkul in a phone interview with ABC News. Podkul is the senior director of policy and advocacy at Kids In Need of Defense, or KIND, a group that provides legal counsel to unaccompanied children.

Podkul said that often times the adult traveling with a child is more aware of the reasons why the family might have left their home country in the first place. She also said that adults generally are the ones in possession of the necessary documents for the child’s asylum case.

“So, when these separations happen and they … separate the grandparent and the child and they don’t track it, they don’t ensure continued communication with these parties, it not only causes incredible emotional trauma for the kids, but also affects the ability to have their case fairly adjudicated,” Podkul said.

Ocasio-Cortez’s concern at Wednesday’s committee hearing was also echoed by Clara Long – the deputy Washington director at Human Rights Watch.

Long noted that US Customs and Border Protection does not keep records of the families that they separate.

“So, when someone is separated from, say their tia whose raised them, maybe for their whole lives, there’s no way for the agency to then trace those relationships and put those families back together,” Long said at Wednesday’s hearing.

This concern is just one of many that has been raised about the immigration process under the Trump administration.

Earlier this month, conditions at certain Border Patrol facilities where children are held were the subject of intense scrutiny, after allegations surfaced claiming children didn’t have adequate access to food and water, among other things.

Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Posted On 12 Jul 2019

Tourists flock to sacred Uluru site before climb ban, leave mounds of trash behind

WORLD NEWS Tourists flock to sacred Uluru site before climb ban, leave mounds of trash behind

Chris Jackson/Getty Images(SYDNEY) — Australia’s landmark sandstone, considered a site of “great spiritual significance,” has been turned into something of a trash heap as tourists flock in droves trying to beat the upcoming climbing ban.

Tourists who have made their way to Uluru, also known as Ayers Rock, before it officially shuts climbing down on Oct. 26 came under fire for their treatment of the land, specifically what some described as their dismissal of Indigenous wishes and the trails of trash left behind.

The ban at Uluru, located at the Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park in Petermann, comes after repeated requests from the Indigenous Anangu people asking visitors not to climb it — requests that have been largely ignored.

Previously, the climb was not strictly prohibited but visitors were asked to respect the local law and culture by not climbing Uluru.

The landscape is considered a “deeply sacred place” with “great spiritual significance” to the Anangu people, according to the country’s official Northern Territory website.

Jacob Gaut, 28, of Melbourne, recently visited the national park and was shocked to see a “large number of tourists” ignoring signs asking people not to climb

“Instead of climbing, we chose to take the Base of Uluru walk which is about a 10 km circuit walk, which was a great was to take in the beauty and immensity of the rock,” Gaut wrote ABC News via email, describing a roughly 6.2 mile walk.

“We chose to respect the wishes of the traditional owners,” he added.

Gaut said that along the way, he spotted mounds of trash.

“We saw a lot of rubbish left around,” he said. “General food rubbish on the sides of the roads leading up to and away from the actual rock.”

Other uncouth behavior Gaut detailed in his email included bikers riding up the sides of the rock, tourists taking photos in areas where photography is not permitted, and visitors touching rock paintings.

“Judging by the disrespect witnessed at the Rock, this [climbing] ban can’t come quick enough,” he added.

The National Parks Conservation Association warned of the dangers of leaving behind trash, specifically noting the lasting impact it can have on the environment and its inhabitants.

“Litter isn’t just ugly to encounter on the trail — it can become a serious issue for wildlife, especially food waste,” association officials wrote in a blog post in April 2019.

“Many species will become desensitized to humans if they become accustomed to finding half-eaten sandwiches and candy bars in populated areas,” the officials continued in the post. “When bears, coyotes and other animals see people as food sources, it can cause wildlife to become less afraid and more likely to approach humans, creating potentially dangerous situations.”

Uluru is home to 21 mammal species, 178 bird species, 73 reptile species and thousands of spiders, ants and other bugs.

Visitors are advised to follow the “pack it in, pack it out” mantra when visiting all national parks, association spokeswoman Kati Schmidt told ABC News

The rock stands at 2,831 feet tall. Geologists estimate its formation began around 550 million years ago.

Tourists are urged against climbing it not just out of respect for the Anangu people but also for safety reasons.

“Some people have died while attempting to climb Uluru, while many others have been injured,” according to Northern Territory’s website.

The site encourages visitors to take in the “mighty rock” by embarking on the base walk.

“This is the best way to fully appreciate the natural and cultural beauty of Uluru,” according to the site.

Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Posted On 12 Jul 2019

Half a million people pledge to storm Area 51 to ‘see them aliens’

U.S. NEWS Half a million people pledge to storm Area 51 to 'see them aliens’

DigitalGlobe/Getty Images(NEW YORK) — Nearly half a million believers have declared they’re rushing Area 51 to “see them aliens.”
By late Friday, 496,000 Facebook users RSVPd “yes” in hopes of catching up with their other-worldly friends at the event “Storm Area 51, They Can’t Stop All of Us” on Sept. 20 in the Nevada desert. An additional 494,000 users responded that they were interested.

“We will all meet up at the Area 51 Alien Center tourist attraction and coordinate our entry,” according to the event organizer, whose Facebook handle is Sh**posting cause im in shambles.

“If we naruto run, we can move faster than their bullets. Lets see them aliens,” the organizer wrote, referring to the Japanese anime “Naruto” title character’s distinct running style, in which he runs with his arms outstretched straight behind him. The term is also a popular meme.

“Lets see them aliens,” he concluded.

Area 51 is the part of the Nevada desert located in the highly-classified remote detachment of Edwards Air Force Base, where conspiracy theorists believe UFO spacecraft are stored.

Would-be alien buddies should brace themselves for possible disappointment, though.

Some social media users expressed concern over the timing of the event.

“Folks, bad news,” Facebook user Jen Petrilli, posted on the event’s discussion page. “This event is planned for September 20th. While I love this planning time, this gives them a lot of time to move the aliens out of Area 51. If we want to get our extraterrestrial pals into safe and loving arms, this needs to ASAP. Love, A friend to the aliens.”

Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Posted On 12 Jul 2019

Billionaire Tom Steyer banks on South Carolina in first presidential bid stop

Political News Billionaire Tom Steyer banks on South Carolina in first presidential bid stop

Drew Angerer(WASHINGTON) — Just days after launching his bid for the 2020 race, Tom Steyer now hits the trail running.

The billionaire liberal activist jumped into the race with a video announcement Tuesday, followed quickly by two television ads set to run for the next two weeks in key primary states – Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina, and Nevada.

He kicked off his campaign in South Carolina, meeting with education leaders Friday morning at Burke High School in Charleston, followed by a lunch roundtable with black leadership at a restaurant known for its Southern seafood specialties like crab rice and shark steak.

Steyer, who has poured millions of his own money into electing Democrats throughout the years, said in January that he would not seek the Democratic presidential nomination in 2020, instead saying he would redouble his efforts to impeach President Donald Trump. Now he’s reversed course, and will take his pitch as a Washington outsider who can ‘push power down to the people’ – restoring democracy and fixing the system from an independent vantage point.

The former hedge fund investor joins the crowded field with less than a week before the qualifying deadline for the second Democratic debates in Detroit at the end of this month. To land on a debate stage, he will need to cross the 65,000 donor mark or garner 1 percent in at least three polls, but both appear unlikely in such a short time frame. In his first national television network interview, he conceded that making it to the July debate is unlikely because “I’m just too late” but is “going to take very seriously” getting on stage in September.

Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Posted On 12 Jul 2019

Man beaten to death by Philly mob after he allegedly tried to steal car with children inside

U.S. NEWS Man beaten to death by Philly mob after he allegedly tried to steal car with children inside

WPVI(PHILADELPHIA) — A 54-year-old man was beaten to death by crowd of onlookers in Philadelphia after he attempted to steal a car with three children inside but was stopped by the parents, police said.

The man, who police identified as Eric Hood, hopped into the car and drove off while the parents of the kids were inside a store on Thursday around 9:50 p.m., according to a press release from the Philadelphia Police Department.

However, he didn’t make it far.

The mother and father, who also were not identified, managed to chase down the vehicle and remove Hood from inside at a red light, police said.

The alleged carjacker assaulted the dad and fled, according to police, but was stopped by a larger crowd who kicked and punched him repeatedly. The assault continued until police arrived.

The children in the car were not injured in the incident, police said.

Hood was rushed to Temple University Hospital where he was pronounced dead.

A nephew of Hood, who did not want to be named, told ABC News Friday that he had only just learned of his uncle’s death a few hours before.

“I’m saddened that all this had to happen,” he said. “I’m sad that my uncle lost his life doing something that’s so out of character for him and for the kids, just going through it.”

“There’s no one that’s winning in this incident,” the nephew continued. “It’s tragic all around.”

The nephew said that while his uncle struggled with alcohol and drug abuse, the alleged carjacking incident was a shock to the family.

“He wasn’t in his his right mind,” he said. “That’s not the uncle I remember. This is just a shock.”

“Just jumping in somebody’s car with kids in the back?” the nephew added. “Who does that?”

Police have not yet filed charges against the parents and are awaiting results from the Philadelphia’s medical examiner’s office to determine a cause of death.

Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Posted On 12 Jul 2019