May 10, 2018

Volcano observatory warns of further ‘explosive eruptions’ in Hawaii

U.S. Geological Survey(HONOLULU) -- The threat of dangerous volcanic activity in Hawaii could continue for weeks and violent explosions could occur with "very little warning," the Hawaiian Volcano Observatory cautioned on Wednesday. The observatory, which is part of the U.S. Geological Survey's Volcano Hazards Program, released a warning stating that the current conditions near and in the Kilauea volcano may provoke further explosions. The lowering of the lava lake at the volcano "has raised the potential for explosive eruptions in the coming weeks," the agency said in its statement. "At this time, we cannot say with certainty that explosive activity will occur, how large the explosions could be, or how long such explosive activity could continue," the observatory added. Part of the concern about a steam-driven explosion is that there will be "very little warning" before it occurs. The observatory warned that "a sequence of violent steam-driven explosions may be the first sign that activity of concern has commenced." The threat of future explosions was not the only bad news to come out in the past 24 hours. The Hawaii County Civil Defense Agency said a new fissure had opened near the Kilauea volcano, bringing the total number of vents in the area to 15. Lava continued to spread throughout Wednesday as well, increasing the coverage area from 104 acres to 116.57 acres Thursday morning, the agency wrote in a Facebook post. In their latest update Thursday morning, the agency noted that there has been no change in damage to property, however, with the number of destroyed structures remaining at 36 overnight. The eruptions at the Kilauea volcano began a week ago on May 3. Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.
May 10, 2018

ATF can’t save bump stock owners from Maryland ban

iStock/Thinkstock(ANNAPOLIS, Md.) -- The state of Maryland has stumbled across a novel way to satisfy gun-control opponents: create a licensing process that cannot be put into practice. Maryland lawmakers had sought to ban bump stocks, the controversial rifle accessory used in last year’s Las Vegas massacre. But in writing the law, a clause allowing some gun owners to keep them may have backfired. The new law allows bump stocks and other "rapid-fire trigger activators" to be owned by people who get special dispensation from the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF). But the federal agency has no process or authority to offer that dispensation and, indeed, was never even told of the Maryland law, the ATF told ABC News. The law allows Maryland residents who apply for authorization by Oct. 1, 2019, when the law takes effect, to keep their bump stocks. After that date, bump stock owners who have not received ATF authorization would be in violation of the law. But the ATF asked Maryland residents in a public advisory to refrain from filing “applications or other requests for ‘authorization’” from the agency. The new Maryland law, signed by Republican Gov. Larry Hogan, prohibits “possessing, selling, offering to sell, transferring, purchasing or receiving” rapid-fire trigger activators in the state of Maryland. Residents who own the devices after the law takes effect Oct. 1, 2019, could face a maximum penalty of three years in prison, a $5,000 fine or both. A bump stock attaches to a gun to simulate an automatic weapon, capable of significantly increasing the number of rounds it can fire. A gunman using bump stocks opened fire last October on a concert crowd in Las Vegas, killing 58 people and injuring hundreds more in the span of 10 minutes, resulting in the worst mass shooting in modern U.S. history. The law’s original draft banned bump stocks outright and offered no ATF loophole, Maryland Delegate Lewis Moon, who proposed the measure, said. Instead, he told ABC News, the ATF application was added to appease Republican opposition to the bill. “The original draft never had a grandfather clause -- that was added down the line by the Republicans,” Moon said. “We decided to compromise, to allow residents who currently own these devices to authorize them with the ATF.” Moon was not in contact with the ATF while drafting the measure and was unaware of the ATF’s statement until contacted by ABC News, he said. He did not know the ATF is unable to accommodate the Maryland law, Moon said. Still, Moon added, he sees no reason to change the legislation. “Our timeline stands,” he said. “The ATF has until Oct. 1, 2019, to create an application process for current owners of rapid-fire trigger activators.” Moon reiterated that if the ATF does not create an authorization process, bump stocks and other rapid-fire trigger activators will be banned in the state of Maryland after the law has taken effect, regardless of current ownership. In a statement, the agency said it “regrets any confusion and inconvenience caused by the provisions of the Maryland statute that mistakenly indicate ATF has the authority to approve possession of devices covered by the statute.” The agency has no plan to create an authorization process to fit the law’s description, ATF spokesman Frank Kelsey told ABC News. The ATF is in the process of deciding whether to classify bump stocks as “machine guns,” he said. After the February massacre at Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, President Donald Trump called for a nationwide ban on bump stocks. U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced in March that both the Department of Justice and the ATF were in process of reviewing the classification of bump stocks. If bump stocks are classified as “machine guns,” it would be illegal under federal Law for people to buy or own such devices, even if they are not attached to a firearm. Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.
May 10, 2018

Tom Brokaw accuser says not all sexual harassers ‘look and act like Harvey Weinstein’

ABC News(NEW YORK) -- Allegations of sexual misconduct against television news icon Tom Brokaw, a figure whom so many families welcomed into their living rooms on a nightly basis for decades, shocked the nation last week. "Some people might be tempted to believe all harassers look and act like Harvey Weinstein," Linda Vester, who accused Brokaw of sexual misconduct said in an interview with ABC News' Chief Anchor George Stephanopoulos. "It's not true." "Some of them look like cultural icons, like Tom Brokaw," she added. "And they can be decent during the day to a lot of people, and actually be really kind a lot of the time, and yet still have hidden behavior." Vester, a former NBC News reporter, accused Brokaw of groping her in an NBC News conference room at the start of her career, and alleges that he attempted to force her to kiss him on two other occasions. Brokaw has adamantly denied the allegations. "He leans over with his index finger, and puts it on my mouth to silence me, and says, 'This is our compact,'" Vester said in an interview with Variety magazine. "He took the same hand, reached behind my head and tried to force me to kiss him." She added that she didn't say anything at the time because she worried it could impact her career. Brokaw, 78, said he never made any "romantic overtures" toward Vester at any time, in a statement through an NBC spokesperson. "I met with Linda Vester on two occasions, both at her request, 23 years ago because she wanted advice with respect to her career at NBC," the statement said. "The meetings were brief, cordial and appropriate, and despite Linda's allegations, I made no romantic overtures towards her at that time or any other." Moreover, in an email late last month to his NBC colleagues, Brokaw wrote that Vester was the one who invited him to her hotel room. "I should not have gone, but I emphatically did not verbally and physically attack her," he wrote, referring to Vester as "a character assassin." "I am angry, hurt and unmoored from what I thought would be the final passage of my life and career, a mix of written and broadcast journalism," he wrote. "Instead, I am facing a long list of grievances from a former colleague who left NBC News angry that she had failed in her pursuit of stardom." "What was her goal?" he added. "Hard to believe it wasn't much more 'Look At Me' than 'Me Too.'" Vester told ABC News that she "expected a denial," saying that is "what harassers generally do." "What I didn't expect was such a personal attack," she added. "And what I am concerned about is the message that that sends to women inside NBC News -- about whether or not they are safe to report somebody who is powerful -- if they get that kind of backlash." In his letter to colleagues, Brokaw brought into question Vester's credibility. Vester said, however, that her "memory of those incidents is crystal clear." When asked why she never reported her alleged encounters to NBC News management at the time, Vester said "it felt unsafe." "I was a young reporter just getting started. Tom Brokaw was the most powerful man at the network," she said. "So the idea that I could go forward to management and say that I had been assaulted by the most powerful man at the network -- and a major money maker -- well, that just wasn't going to get heard." She said there was the human resources department, but it "was not considered in any way a place where you could go with a complaint about sexual harassment. It was a place where you went if your paycheck went to the wrong address." "So, for many reasons, I felt it unsafe to go to NBC, and I never felt safe at NBC News again," Vester said. In the aftermath of the allegations against Brokaw coming to light, more than 60 women, including journalists Rachel Maddow and Maria Shriver, signed a letter in defense of Brokaw, saying that they know him to be a "man of tremendous decency and integrity." Vester told ABC News that she supports "everyone's right to support a friend," but added that she is concerned about "the message that that petition may have actually sent." "The fact that that petition was sent around internally to employees could be viewed by many as intimidation," she said, "as pressure not to report any misconduct." Moving forward, Vester said "an apology would be nice" from Brokaw, but "what's so much more important" is that NBC News investigates workplace culture. "I'm not the only one who has now accused Tom Brokaw of misconduct," she said. "And NBC News has yet, in over a week, to say that it will conduct an investigation into Tom Brokaw." NBC Universal on Wednesday revealed the findings of its own internal investigation -- conducted by NBC Universal and reviewed by two outside law firms -- that was spurred by sexual harassment allegations that led to the termination of the network's star anchor, Matt Lauer. The investigation concluded that a culture of sexual harassment does not exist in the NBC News division. The company also said it will do more with new policies in place to ensure all employees feel comfortable reporting concerns and do not fear retaliation if they do report claims of sexual harassment. An NBC Universal spokesperson responded to Vester's calls for outside counsel, saying, “NBCUniversal’s investigation was thorough, objective and conducted at the corporate level, outside the news division. Kim Harris, the company’s general counsel, led this process with a team of legal and HR professionals who are independent of news." The statement continued, "In addition, we consulted with two prominent outside law firms -- Proskauer Rose and Davis Polk -- both of whom validated the investigation’s methodology, findings, conclusions and recommended next steps.” Vester also acknowledged that Brokaw has been in the public eye for decades, and appears to have a loving family and friends, leaving many wrestling with how to put the allegations brought against him in context of the figure they see on TV. "This is an important point in the Me Too movement for that very reason," Vester said. "We need to really fully understand all of the ways that sexual harassment manifests in the workplace if we are really going to get to the root of it -- and root it out," Vester said. When asked about potential legal action, Vester said she is "not interested in a lawsuit." "Nor will I be silenced," she continued. "I will speak this truth about what happened to me, no matter how uncomfortable it may be for people to hear, because I want to try to help others." "A lot of brave people -- brave people -- started this movement," Vester said. Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.
May 10, 2018

Risk of severe weather stretches across upper US

ABC News(NEW YORK) -- A risk of severe storms on Thursday stretches from Wyoming all the way to New Jersey. In Wisconsin on Wednesday, two tornadoes were reported. More than 40 damaging storms were reported in Michigan and Illinois, where wind gusts exceeded 70 mph. An active storm pattern should continue Thursday in the Midwest, and it's moving farther into the Northeast. Damaging winds and large hail would be the biggest threat for Binghamton, New York, to Washington, D.C. The tornado threat will be small in the Northeast; there, a funnel cloud or two shouldn't be ruled out. Another storm system in the Plains may bring severe storms to much of Nebraska. On Friday, more storms are expected in the Plains -- not only in Nebraska, but also Kansas, Iowa and northern Missouri. Rainfall is expected from the Rocky Mountains to the Northeast over the next few days, with some areas potentially getting more than 3 inches. Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.