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Megachurch pastor with ties to Presidents Bush, Obama to surrender Monday: Attorney

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KTRK-TV(HOUSTON) — The notable Houston reverend and former spiritual adviser to both Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama, who stands accused by federal prosecutors of bilking millions from investors in a Chinese bond scheme, plans to turn himself in, ABC News has learned.

“The surrender date will be arranged on Monday,” said attorney Dan Cogdell, who represents Pastor Kirbyjon Caldwell.

Caldwell is expected to go before a magistrate judge at the U.S. Attorney’s Office in the Western District of Louisana to be arraigned, Cogdell said.

“Rev. Caldwell and I will travel to Shreveport and seek a bond from the judge, which I believe the government will agree to,” he said.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office did not immediately respond to requests for comment to confirm that Caldwell would surrender.

Caldwell, 64, and Gregory Smith, a 55-year-old business partner, were hit with a 13-count indictment accusing them of committing wire fraud and conspiracy to commit money laundering when they raised around $3.5 million in Historical Chinese bonds from 29 investors between 2013 to 2014.

Prosecutors allege the men duped investors into thinking they were buying bonds through a Shreveport-based company called Smith Financial Group LLC.

“These bonds were issued by the former Republic of China prior to losing power to the Communist government in 1949,” prosecutors said in a news release. “They are not recognized by China’s current government and have no investment value.”

And instead of investing it, they allegedly “used them to pay personal loans, credit card balances, mortgages, vehicle purchases and other personal expenses,” the release states.

If convicted, Caldwell and Smith face up to 30 years in prison.

According to the complaint, the investors’ faith in Smith and Caldwell was a major factor in procuring the funds for the bogus bonds.

“Although many investors did not understand the investment, they ultimately trusted Smith and took comfort in the fact that a high-profile pastor was offering the investment,” the complaint states.

Caldwell spoke at the 2000 Republican National convention, gave the benediction at President George W. Bush’s 2001 inauguration and also officiated over his daughter’s wedding.

And back in 2008, President Obama called on Caldwell as a member of his prayer team, according to a Newsweek article. He was also a part of a group of religious leaders invited to the White House after President Obama’s faith was scrutinized, according to a Houston Chronicle report.

On Friday, Caldwell told ABC station KTRK-TV in an interview that he has proof the accusations are frivolous.

“Everyone who’s asked for their money back to date has received their money back,” he told the ABC station. “I’ve got evidence that the bonds are legitimate.”

And his attorney, who last week declared that Caldwell would “beat these charges like a rented mule,” said his client is preparing for trial.

“As you know, a case of this magnitude will take some time before it is resolved by a trial,” he told ABC News.

Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

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Source:: National News


Spring snowstorm headed toward Northeast; 5th major storm since March

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ABCNews.com(NEW YORK) — After pounding the Midwest, a spring storm is getting ready to hit the Northeast early Monday — the fifth major storm since March to barrel through the region.

By around 3 a.m., Scranton, Pennsylvania and Hartford, Connecticut, will be blanketed by about 1 to 4 inches of a slushy mix of rain and snow.

Some parts of the Northeast could see as much as 4 to 6 inches as well, making many highways and roadways perilously icy and slick.

Conditions are expected to worsen by sunrise on Monday as the night’s dose of slush turns into heavy, wet snow in cities like Philadelphia and New York City.

Some airports, including New York’s John F. Kennedy International, LaGuardia and Newark, are already bracing for the weather situation. Delta Airlines and JetBlue has issued a travel waiver for some passengers set to fly out of or into those hubs.

By mid-afternoon, the sun is expected to peek through the clouds, the snow should recede and the temperature will surge back to less shivering mid-40s.

The storm is the fifth major one to hit the Northeast in as many weeks, following four nor’easters since the beginning of March.

A separate storm is already churning in the northern Rockies where Montana and Great Lakes are going to get a half-foot of snow.

While much of the country will be reaching for the snow shovels, those who live in Texas and Tennessee will attempt to stay dry as a series of severe thunderstorms swing through.

The spring snow has already caused whiteout conditions in parts of Nebraska due to the arctic blast.

Heavy winds and half-foot of snowfall in Kearney, Nebraska mired traffic on the road.

All day Sunday, winter weather advisories remained in effect in Kansas City, Missouri as well as in Indianapolis, Indiana.

As much of the country soaks and shivers, much of the Southwest is seeing sunshine.

Phoenix, Arizona, for example, will be sizzling as temperatures there rise to 90-degrees Fahrenheit.

Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

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Source:: National News


Legendary television producer Steven Bochco dies at 74

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By Music News Group

Vera Anderson/WireImage(Los Angeles) — After a lengthy battle with leukemia, legendary television writer-producer Steven Bochco passed away Sunday at the age of 74.

A spokesperson issued the following statement to ABC News: “On behalf of the Bochco family, we write to let you know that Steven passed away on Sunday morning, April 1st 2018 at 10:20 am. Steven fought cancer with strength, courage, grace and his unsurpassed sense of humor. He died peacefully in his sleep with is family close by. Details regarding memorial service will be forthcoming. In the meantime, the family asks for privacy during this time.”

Bochco created such iconic series as Hill Street Blues, L.A. Law and NYPD Blue. Those three shows alone helped him earn 10 Emmy awards from 1981 through 1995.

He also found success in comedy when he and David E. Kelly created Doogie Howser M.D., starring Neil Patrick Harris as a teen doctor.

Along with his aforementioned hit shows, Bochco did have a handful of failed series, including Bay City Blues, Public Morals and Cop Rock.

Bochco also created Murder One, which ran on ABC for two seasons from 1995 to 1997. While not among his greatest successes, the show was noteworthy in that it followed a singular crime case throughout an entire season.

During his battle with leukemia, Bochco received a stem cell transplant from 23-year-old donor Jon Kayne in 2014. He would later meet the young man, crediting him with extending his life.

The writer-producer is survived by his three children — sons Jesse and Sean and daughter Melissa — and his third wife, Dayna Kalins, whom he married in 2000.

Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

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Source:: Entertainment News


Tens of thousands of teachers planning massive rallies and classroom walkouts

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iStock/Thinkstock(FRANKFORT, Ky.) — Tens of thousands of public school teachers in Kentucky and Oklahoma plan to attend rallies on Monday at their state capitols in what they hope will be the latest display of muscle by the nation’s educators demanding higher wages and better classroom resources.

The double demonstrations come less than a month after West Virginia teachers went on a nine-day strike that ended with the governor there signing legislation giving them a 5 percent pay hike — their first raise in four years.

“What happened in West Virginia is inspiring for sure,” Charles Main, spokesman for the Kentucky Education Association, told ABC News Sunday.

The planned rallies also come on the heels of one on Wednesday in which 2,500 teachers in Arizona — who are demanding a 20 percent raise — demonstrated at the state’s capitol in Phoenix. Gov. Doug Ducey didn’t directly address the teachers’ demands, but noted that the state already gave teachers a 4.3 percent raise from 2016 to 2017.

On Monday, thousands of teachers and supporters in Kentucky are expected to descend on the state capitol in Frankfort to demand Gov. Matt Bevin veto a bill that overhauls their pension plan, which they say was forged by lawmakers in secret backroom deals.

Meanwhile, thousands of Oklahoma teachers and advocates for better education are poised to stage a classroom walkout and converge on the state capitol in Oklahoma City to call on lawmakers, including Gov. Mary Fallin, to restore funding for education programs and supplies they say have been drastically slashed over the last decade.

The Oklahoma protest comes after Fallin signed legislation Thursday granting teachers annual pay raises averaging $6,100, the largest in state history. Oklahoma teachers had been making an average of $45,276 a year, among the lowest wages for educators in the country, according to a 2017 report by the National Education Association.

While teachers in Oklahoma say they appreciate the pay raise, they are upset that state lawmakers shortchanged their students by slating only $50 million for education programs and supplies.

Alicia Priest, president of the Oklahoma Education Association, said the union had asked that teachers’ pay be raised by $10,000 annually and that funding for education be boosted by $200 million over the next three years.

“It’s not about teacher pay raises. It’s not about being greedy and needing what I need. It’s me seeing what my kids need and recognizing that I can only do so much in the classroom,” David Walls, a seventh-grade teacher in Moore, Oklahoma, told ABC station KOCO-TV in Oklahoma City.

Despite the pay hike, Oklahoma educators still earn below the national average for public school teachers of $58,950 a year, according to the National Education Association report. Only teachers in Mississippi and South Dakota earn less, according to the report.

Teacher union officials in Oklahoma say many educators have left their schools for higher pay in neighboring states. In Arkansas, public school teachers earn an average of $48,218 annually, while teachers in Texas make an average of $51,890 a year.

In anticipation of the teacher walkout, many Oklahoma public school districts, including those in the largest districts of Oklahoma City and Tulsa, canceled classes for Monday.

Doug Folks, a spokesman for the Oklahoma Education Association, told ABC News that about 200 schools in the state will close Monday due to the teacher walkout.

“There will be teachers from schools that are open who will join us at the Capitol. Those schools will combine classes or get subs where they can,” Folk said in an email, adding that teachers who can’t attend the Oklahoma City demonstration plan to protest in their home districts.

As of Sunday, union officials said they were planning for just a one-day teacher walkout.

In Kentucky, so many teachers staged a sickout on Friday that 29 school districts were forced to cancel classes because they couldn’t find enough substitute teachers.

Main, the teachers’ union spokesman, told ABC News that up to 10,000 teachers, parents and students plan to attend the demonstration, scheduled to begin at 9 a.m. Monday in front of the Kentucky Education Association headquarters in Frankfort, and march around the state capitol building.

Stephanie Winkler, president of Kentucky Education Association and a fourth-grade teacher from Madison County, Kentucky, called for the demonstration on Friday, a day after the state Senate and House passed a bill that was initially meant to address sewage service, but was amended at the last minute to include the measure to overhaul the teachers’ pension plan.

During a news conference Friday, Winkler said the move by lawmakers was “nothing short of a bomb that has exploded on public service.”

The union is asking Gov. Bevin to reject the bill, which creates a “hybrid” plan for new teacher and will no longer allow experienced teachers to tack on accrued sick leave pay to their years of service when calculating retirement benefits.

The Republican-dominated legislature says the pension reform bill was crafted to help the state cover a $41 billion shortfall in pension costs over the next 30 years. But teachers’ union officials said the pension overhaul would only generate $300 million in savings over the next three decades.

“These political shenanigans are unacceptable,” Winkler said. “Anyone who voted yes for this bill will need to start packing up their legislative office.”

Winkler said the union did not have anything to do with organizing the teacher sickout on Friday, saying, “I can’t control what teachers do.”

Bevin, a Republican, has voiced support for the bill and after the legislature passed it Thursday night he tweeted that public workers owe “a deep debt of gratitude” to the state lawmakers.

The governor has not announced when or if he will sign the legislation.

Main said some grassroots groups supporting teachers are planning to form a ring around the …read more

Source:: National News


Taylor Swift surprises fans, shoots whiskey at Nashville's Bluebird Cafe

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By Andrea Dresdale

John Shearer/Getty Images for 13 ManagementTaylor Swift may be gearing up for a stadium tour, but on Saturday night, she made an unannounced appearance at a tiny venue in the city where she got her start: Nashville

As The Tennessean reports, a crowd of about 40 people were shocked when songwriter Craig Wiseman, the top-billed performer at Nashville’s legendary Bluebird Cafe on Saturday night, brought Taylor out to join him. Wiseman, who’s written hits for Kenny Chesney, Tim McGraw, Faith Hill and Blake Shelton, has known Taylor since she was a teenager.

According to the Tennessean, Taylor told the crowd, “I wanted to say a big thank you to the Bluebird Cafe. I think any songwriter in town would echo my sentiments and say that this is kind of the only place where this exists — this particular place where you get to come and hear the writer’s take on the songs they’ve put out into the world.”

Taylor also noted that when she performed at the Bluebird in the past, she’d never had the experience of playing a song that she’s written for another artist that became a hit. In the past year or so, she’s now had that experience, when Little Big Town took her composition “Better Man” to #1. Taylor played that song, “Shake It Off” and “Love Story”

She and Wiseman also reminisced about doing shots of Fireball whiskey at an after-party years ago. Wiseman then broke out a mini bottle of Fireball, and both of them did shots.

Taylor’s performance was filmed for a documentary marking the 35th anniversary of the Bluebird Cafe. The venue means a great deal to Taylor: Scott Borchetta, the head of her record label, first saw her play the room when she was an 8th grader and offered her a publishing deal.

Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

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Source:: Country Music News


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