ABC - Top Stories
Subscribe To This Feed

iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) --  Two advocacy groups are suing the U.S. military for records pertaining to sexual assault and the military justice system.

Protect Our Defenders and the Connecticut Veterans Legal Center filed a lawsuit with a Connecticut federal court on Wednesday against the Department of Defense and the Department of Homeland Security "to release records related to gender disparities within the military justice system and the military record correction boards' handling of cases involving sexual assault and harassment."

The groups have filed multiple Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) Requests with the various military services and the U.S. Coast Guard for information pertaining to sexual assault and the military justice system, but they argue the services' responses to those requests are often "insufficient" or incomplete.

"The military has resisted efforts to end the epidemic of sexual assault and retaliation within its ranks, despite years of Congressional attention and reform," Col. Don Christensen (USAF-Ret.), president of Protect Our Defenders, said in a press release. "Service members, Members of Congress, and the public deserve to know if the military unlawfully discriminates against female service members and survivors of sexual assault."

The records requested by Protect Our Defenders and the Connecticut Veterans Legal Center are separate from the sexual assault data released publicly by the Department of Defense, Christensen told ABC News.

Last month, the Department of Defense published the number of sexual assault reports made at U.S. military installations around the world for fiscal years 2013 through 2016.

In May, the department released their annual sexual assault report which estimated that the number of sexual assaults decreased 26.6 percent between 2014 and 2016, from 20,300 in 2014 to 14,900 last year.

Christensen said the information these organizations hope to obtain through the lawsuit include data about sexual assaults, but also look at the broader military justice system.

Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Connecticut),a member of the Senate Veterans Affairs and Armed Services Committees, applauded Wednesday's filling, saying in the press release that he hoped "this suit, combined with legislative action will begin to break down the unacceptable barriers to justice too many victims face."

"Survivors of military sexual assault are owed justice and openness in discharge proceedings. Instead, far too many are re-victimized by dishonorable discharges that bar them from receiving the services and recognition they need and deserve," Blumenthal said.

The Department of Justice, which defends federal agencies in lawsuits, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Copyright © 2017, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.


Subscribe To This Feed

Chris Kleponis-Pool/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) --  In what administration officials billed as a "closing argument" on tax reform, President Donald Trump used a speech in the grand foyer of the White House Wednesday to amplify voices of Americans he claims will directly benefit from the Senate and House Republican tax reform agreement announced earlier in the day.

Touting his party's tax reform goals, Trump pledged he would "never let bad things happen with respect to the economy of our country," and called upon multiple guests in attendance to personally plea for Congress to push through the tax reform plan — a tactic reminiscent of the events President Barack Obama employed in his public relations campaign to pass the 2010 Affordable Care Act.

Trump also used the announcement to broadcast what he termed "breaking news," saying he had confirmed exactly when Americans would start to feel the effects of the tax bill.

“I'm excited to announce that if Congress sends me a bill before Christmas, the IRS, this is just out. This is breaking news. The IRS has just confirmed that America will see lower taxes and bigger paychecks beginning in February. Just two short months from now,” he said.

The White House says it comes down to lower withholding rates by the IRS, which are set to take effect in February if the GOP passes its tax bill on schedule.

"The IRS will have to readjust their withholding tables in light of the tax cuts so that less is withheld from each paycheck. The new withholding will take effect in February," a White House official said.

The IRS has said it will issue a statement on the issue but has yet to do so. It has not responded to multiple requests from ABC News for comment.

While the president is touting the benefits of the plan, some details of the emerging plan — including the number of tax brackets — have yet to be finalized.

Congressional sources confirm to ABC News that the tax bill will include a repeal of the Obamacare individual mandate. The repeal was originally included in the Senate bill but not the House version.

Republican negotiators from the House and Senate working to merge the two chambers' tax bills into one have reached an agreement "in principle," according to two senior congressional sources who spoke on condition of anonymity.

The sources could not offer specifics about the agreement. One source cautioned that while the outlook is positive the ink is not yet dry on the deal.

Details of the compromise tax bill are starting to come into focus. Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, and a second GOP source familiar with the negotiations confirmed to ABC News that the following has been agreed upon:

— 21 percent corporate rate (up from 20 percent, but lower than the current 35 percent) — 37 percent top individual tax rate down from 39.6 percent — $750,000 cap for mortgage interest (up from the House bill's proposal of $500,000)

Top congressional Republicans working on the tax bill met with Trump for lunch at the White House earlier on Wednesday.

The tax overhaul process has moved at a breakneck pace as Republicans try to pass a massive tax cut for businesses and many American families before Christmas and the end of the year. Many lawmakers and their staffs have been scrambling to digest drafts of the bill and what it means for everyday Americans.

An agreement between the House and Senate would set the stage for votes on the tax bill early next week.

Sources said the preliminary plan is for the Senate to vote first — likely Monday — followed by the House with a goal of having the president sign the measure into law by Wednesday.

There is still much work to be done. The negotiators still need to complete the drafting process, including finalizing the legislative text and working with the Joint Committee on Taxation (JCT) to secure a final score on the bill's cost.

They expect to release a final conference report with full details by the end of the week, one source said.

The president expressed his hope the plan would pass quickly.

"I mean, we are so close right now, so close, in fact, almost I don't want to talk about it," Trump said. "Maybe we shouldn't talk about it. The cynical voices that opposed tax cuts grow smaller and weaker. And the American people grow stronger."

He further used the speech at the White House to insert some political jabs against Democrats, claiming they actually "like" the tax plan "a lot" but refuse to support it for partisan reasons. Trump offered no evidence to support the claim, however.

"We'll have very little Democrat support, probably none," he said. "And that's purely for political reasons. They like it a lot. And they can't say it. They don't like what's happening. But they can't say it. Someday we have to come together and do bipartisan. And hopefully, it can happen soon."

Copyright © 2017, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.


Subscribe To This Feed

ABC/Randy Holmes(LOS ANGELES) -- Kevin Hart is looking forward to 2018. After a roller coaster of a year that included a cheating scandal and the birth of his son, Kenzo, Hart explains that he's focused on being a better man next year.

In an interview with Extra, Mario Lopez's daughter Gia asked the comedian what he would like Santa to bring him for the holiday and if he’s been naughty or nice.

“That's definitely a tough question for Kevin Hart right now," Hart said, leaning down towards the young girl as she holds the mic. "It was a tough year for me. I had some bumps in the road but the good thing is you take steps backwards to take steps great forwards."

Kevin added, "I recovered from some not-nice times, now, what I basically want is for Santa to know now, I'm doing good and I'm doing better -- I’m a good guy.”

As previously reported, Hart became the target of an alleged sex extortion scandal in September.

The actor went on Instagram to apologize to his wife and kids for an unspecified indiscretion. His management released a statement to ABC News the next day, saying Hart was a victim of extortion, but declined to provide details, citing an ongoing investigation.

Copyright © 2017, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.


Subscribe To This Feed

(LONDON) --  iStock/Thinkstock"The new embassy signifies a new era of friendship between our two countries," U.S. Ambassador Woody Johnson announced to reporters Wednesday at the press preview of the new U.S. Embassy in London.

"When you look out through the window, it reflects the global outlook of the U.S. in the 21st century," he said, flanked by the American flag and the Union Jack, in front of floor-to-ceiling windows overlooking the River Thames.

On this grim, drizzly London day he spoke about a "very bright future," as reporters were left to imagine the main cafeteria awash in sunlight sometime, perhaps, in August.

Johnson, 70, is the billionaire owner of the New York Jets and heir to pharmaceutical company Johnson & Johnson who has rallied big money for Republican candidates including President Donald Trump. Just six weeks officially into the ambassadorial gig, Trump's long-time friend stuck to the administration script at a time when that special relationship between the U.S. and U.K. appears to be in some trouble.

"This relationship is strong and enduring," he repeated multiple times on Wednesday.

When asked about the damage done when President Trump re-tweeted three videos shared by Jayda Fransen, the deputy leader of Britain First, last month, he brushed it off.

"I don't think these kind of things will deter [Trump and UK Prime Minister Theresa May] from the objectives they both have," he said. He wouldn't say it was wrong for the president to retweet the videos and added that it's not really his job to smooth this out. For her part, May made it clear last month that "retweeting from Britain First was the wrong thing to do." 

The imposing cube-shaped building is now the centerpiece of the largest regeneration project in Europe, Nine Elms in the Wandsworth borough of London. It spans 518,050 square feet, climbs more the 200 feet tall and cost a billion dollars, making it the most expensive U.S. Embassy building ever.

"It's a neighborhood with a great view. And a great future," Johnson said, joined today by key partners in this decade-long project.

For more than 200 years, the home of the U.S. diplomatic post has been in Grosvenor Square, in London's swanky Mayfair borough. The most recent embassy building, which opened in 1960, has now been sold to a Qatari developer, and “Little America," as it's called here, "is moving south of the river," said Johnson.

The new ambassador described the current embassy as a "window to the special relationship that the U.S. and U.K. have built together." It's famously topped with a bronze sculpture of the American Bald Eagle which will remain behind, and a flag that “the president would like ... because it’s a very big flag," the ambassador quipped.

The new building will open for business on January 16, 2018, but the dedication will come at a later, undisclosed date.

Asked if President Trump would dedicate the building, Johnson said "it depends on his schedule... He's a busy president at the moment, traveling the world and traveling the U.S. Yeah, we'd love to have him over here and we look forward to welcoming the president when he gets here."

Under fire to rescind her invitation last month over those Britain First retweets, Prime Minister May has reiterated that the invitation to the American president still stands. Speaking in Amman, Jordan last month, May told reporters that "an invite for a state visit has been extended and has been accepted. No date has been set."

In recent weeks, calls from both the British public and politicians to protest the American president's state visit have grown louder - but Johnson isn't worried.

"The great thing about being in London and the great thing about being in the U.S. is the ability to express your point of view," he said. "That's something we live with every day and it's an important part of who we are."

"The new embassy is a signal to the world that this special relationship we have will get stronger and will get better," he concluded. "And I’m going to do that if I can."

"Drop the 'if I can,'" he quickly added. "We’re going to make it stronger.”

Copyright © 2017, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.


Subscribe To This Feed

Copyright: The Walt Disney Company(ORLANDO) -- Meet Jeda and Anala, the two tiger cubs recently born at Disney's Animal Kingdom at Walt Disney World Resort in Florida, who made their television debut on Good Morning America on Wednesday.

The endangered Sumatran tiger cubs, born this August, are the first tigers ever born at Animal Kingdom.

"The cubs wrestle with each other constantly and love jumping on plants and logs,” Erin Heavey, an animal care specialist at Animal Kingdom, said in a statement.

She added that the pair have already begun exhibiting their distinct personalities. The name of the male cub, Jeda, means "pause" in Malay, while the female cub's name, Anala, means "fiery" or "sizzling" in Hindi.

"Jeda, in particular, loves ripping the bark off the logs and playing with all the pieces that come off," Heavey said. "Anala is becoming more adept at sneaking and pouncing and loves hiding behind things."

Heavey said Anela loves trying to "surprise attack" her brother or her mother, Sohni.

Sohni has been bonding well with the cubs, and feeds and grooms them throughout the day, according to a statement posted on Disney World's website.

The cubs were bred through the Association of Zoos and Aquariums Species Survival Plan conservation program, which aims to promote responsible breeding for endangered or threatened species.

Disney is the parent company of ABC News.

Copyright © 2017, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.


Subscribe To This Feed

iStock/Thinkstock(PARIS) -- Banning cellphones in French schools was one of the promises made by Emmanuel Macron during his campaign to become president of France last spring. Six months after he won the election, the French president and his government are trying to enact the new measure for the start of the next school year in September 2018.

Last Sunday, French Education Minister Jean-Michel Blanquer discussed the issue on French radio station RTL radio.

"We are working on this issue, and it can take different forms," Blanquer said. "You may need a mobile phone, for example, for educational purposes, for emergency situations, so perhaps the phones can be confined somewhere inside the school."

The measure will apply to all French students from the time they start school at age of 6, up to roughly 15 years of age, when they go into high school.

"Public health issue"

According to French law, pupils are already barred from using their phones in the classroom, but the new restrictions will forbid them from using phones at any point during the school day -- breaks, lunch and between lessons.

The French education minister said it is a matter of "public health," and believes that "children should not be too often, or even at all, in front of a screen before the age of 7." A 2015 study published by the Centre for Economic Performance at the London School of Economics found that students had almost 7 percent higher test scores following a phone ban.

However, the number of children who own a cellphone has drastically increased in the past few years, according to a 2015 study from the French Research Institute for the Monitoring of Living Standards. More than eight in 10 teenagers in France had smartphones in 2015, compared to two out of 10 in 2011.

Logistical problems

French teaching unions said the amount of student cellphone use in schools is a problem. But they are skeptical about the implementation of the proposed law, citing logistical problems.

"Can you imagine school supervisors having to check the pockets of about 400 students every morning?" said Valérie Sipahimalani, spokesperson for the French teacher union Snes, in an interview with French radio France Info. She said she believes the measure won't be possible to enforce.

Speaking to French magazine l’Express earlier this year, the education minister suggested that schools could install lockers for phones.

But Sipahimalani said, “Many schools located in city center have no space to install lockers."

Other logistical questions about the implementation of a cellphone ban in French schools remain unanswered, as well.

The education minister said he believes this is an important societal debate that needs to be addressed.

"Together with schools principals, teachers and parents, we need to find ways to protect our children from spending hours on their cellphones," he said.

Copyright © 2017, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.


Subscribe To This Feed

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Here are the scores from Tuesday's sports events:

Denver 103, Detroit 84
Cleveland 123, Atlanta 114
OT N.Y. Knicks 113, L.A. Lakers 109
Brooklyn 103, Washington 98
Dallas 95, San Antonio 89
OT Philadelphia 118, Minnesota 112
Sacramento 99, Phoenix 92

Edmonton 7, Columbus 2
Buffalo 3, Ottawa 2
Philadelphia 4, Toronto 2
Washington 5, Colorado 2
New Jersey 5, L.A. Kings 1
SO Minnesota 2, Calgary 1
Tampa Bay 3, St. Louis 0
OT Chicago 3, Florida 2
SO Carolina 3, Vegas 2

(15) Seton Hall 84, St. Peter's 61
(25) Cincinnati 65, Mississippi St. 50

Copyright © 2017, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.


Find Us On Facebook