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3 SEAL Team 7 leaders fired for team's alleged misconduct

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Senior Airman Erin Piazza/U.S. Navy(WASHINGTON) —  In a rare move, the three senior leaders of the U.S. Navy’s elite SEAL Team 7 have been removed from their positions due to a “loss of confidence” after allegations of misconduct among one of the platoons under their command that was sent home from Iraq.

The misconduct includes allegations that a member of the platoon committed a sexual assault and that platoon members drank alcohol during the deployment.

“Commander, Naval Special Warfare Command Rear Adm. Collin Green relieved the three senior leaders of SEAL Team Seven from their positions Sept. 6,” said a statement released by NSW Command.

“Green relieved the unit’s commanding officer, Cdr. Edward Mason; executive officer, Lt. Cdr. Luke Im; and the team’s top enlisted leader, Command Master Chief Hugh Spangler due to a loss of confidence that resulted from leadership failures that caused a breakdown of good order and discipline within two subordinate units while deployed to combat zones.”

In late July, a platoon of about 20 sailors belonging to SEAL Team 7 was ordered back to the United States after an ongoing investigation found some of them had been drinking alcohol while deployed and that others who knew about it didn’t report it.

Defense officials later confirmed that the Naval Criminal Investigative Service also was investigating an allegation one platoon member had committed a sexual assault against a female service member. That allegation remains under investigation.

The three SEAL Team 7 leaders removed from duty are not accused of engaging in the alleged misconduct, but the Navy said they bear responsibility for those under their command.

Mason, Im, and Spangler are currently in San Diego at Naval Special Warfare Group 1 awaiting their next assignment. The sailors accused of drinking during a deployment are awaiting possible punishments.

“No decisions have been made yet with regards to disciplinary action,” said Capt. Tamara Lawrence, the spokesperson for Naval Special Warfare Command. According to a defense official, the sailors in the platoon could likely face administrative action including non-judicial punishment.

The incidents involving the platoon were the latest in a series of high-profile incidents of misconduct involving the Navy’s elite special operations units including reports SEAL Team 10 members were abusing cocaine while stationed in Virginia and worked to evade military drug tests.

In May, Chief Petty Officer Adam Matthews, a member of SEAL Team 6, was sentenced to a year in military prison after pleading guilty to his role in the June 2017 strangulation death of Army Green Beret Staff Sgt. Logan Melgar during a hazing incident in the west African country of Mali.

No trial dates have been set for another SEAL and a Marine involved in Melgar’s death.

In July, Chief Warfare Operator Edward Gallagher was acquitted on charges of killing an unarmed ISIS militant during the battle for Mosul in late 2017. The investigation into the alleged drinking in the SEAL platoon was triggered by allegations of similar behavior during Gallagher’s deployment with another platoon in SEAL Team 7.

“I want all hands to understand that ‘we have a problem’ and that this is our main effort and my top priority,” Green acknowledged in a late July letter to Navy SEALS.

“Some of our subordinate formations have failed to maintain good order and discipline and as a result and for good reason, our NSW culture is being questioned,” Green said. “I don’t know yet if we have a culture problem, I do know that we have a good order and discipline problem that must be addressed immediately.”

Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

California wildfire evacuation orders reduced to warnings

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Erin Donalson/iStock(LOS ANGELES) — Authorities in Murrieta, California, have downgraded mandatory evacuation orders to evacuation warnings, after the fast-moving Tenaja wildfires scorched nearly 2,000 acres in Riverside County.

“Murrieta police officers will be in the area to oversee the re-population process and ensure everyone’s safety,” Murrieta city officials said in a statement Friday. “Please be advised that there will still be fire apparatus and equipment in the area and drive safely. Be respectful of residents and their need to get home and try to avoid the area if you don’t live there or have a reason to be there.”

On Friday morning, the massive fire came within feet of homes in Southern California, about 80 miles east of Los Angeles.

A thick blanket of smoke and ash could be seen falling on nearby homes. More than 500 homes and 1,200 residents were evacuated as the brush fire ripped through the hills overnight Wednesday.

The Tenaja fire broke out in La Cresta, California, on Wednesday around 4 p.m.

The fire was first reported after it grew to 25 acres, forcing road closures. By around 9 p.m. that same day, the fire had grown to nearly 1,000 acres. Authorities said they believed lightning caused the fires.

Residents were urged to avoid breathing the smoky, polluted air as the fight against the wildfires entered its third day, forcing school closures. On Friday, fire containment was at 20%, according to the Riverside County Fire Department.

“It was really surreal. It felt like a 1,000-degree oven. It was crazy,” said Jacob Samarin, who stayed with his father, John, in their home as it was nearly surrounded by a giant wall of flames that engulfed the backyard.

Firefighters from Riverside, Murrieta as well as Cal Fire sprinted house to house with large water hoses, desperately trying to keep the fires at bay, as homeowners frantically did their best watering down their homes as well.

On Thursday, more than 500 firefighters battled the raging inferno on the ground and in the air. Fighting the blaze was a challenge due to the difficult terrain and changing winds, authorities said.

“The winds will come out of one direction in the morning, and then by the afternoon we’ll get a 180-degree switch,” said Riverside County Fire Department Division Chief Todd Hopkins during a news conference Thursday.

Even as the evacuation orders charged Friday, authorities said they were worried about the return of the high winds, refueling the wildfires and cautioned residents to stay aware.

“These evacuation warnings can be changed back to an evacuation order at any time depending on fire containment throughout the day,” Murrieta Fire and Rescue said on its Facebook page Friday. “Please monitor updates and be ready to evacuate again if needed.”

Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Dierks Bentley helps count down to "Country Music" Sunday on PBS

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PBSThis weekend, PBS starts counting down to Ken Burns’ epic sixteen-hour Country Music documentary, which premieres later this month.

The festivities kick off this Sunday with the two-hour concert special, Country Music: Live at the Ryman, which was recorded in Nashville in March.

Look for performances by Dierks BentleyVince GillDwight YoakamRicky SkaggsRosanne CashKathy MatteaMarty StuartRodney Crowell and more, all from the historic venue known as the Mother Church of Country Music.

“Had a blast being a part of this!” Dierks tweeted on Friday. “Make sure to tune in this Sunday!”

Country Music: Live at the Ryman premieres Sunday, September 8 at 8 p.m. ET on PBS.

Then the following Sunday, September 15, Ken Burns’ eight-part look at Country Music begins its run at 8 p.m. ET.

Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

BET's 'Black Girls Rock' airs Sunday night; Angela Bassett, Regina King to be honored

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Ari Lennox – Photo Credit: Eva Zar

(NEW YORK) — A who’s who of talent from across the entertainment spectrum will be seen on Sunday night, when BET’s Black Girls Rock airs.

Hosted by Claws star Niecy Nash, the show celebrates a notable list of honorees: Angela Bassett will receive the Icon Award, Regina King is getting the Star Power Award, and Ciara will receive the Rock Star Award.

Ari Lennox will be among the star-studded list of performers which
includes India.Arie, Common, Erykah Badu, Elle Varner, Monica and more, tells ABC Radio that attending the show, which was recorded for broadcast in August, was a monumental moment for her.

“Thank you, Black Girls Rock, for changing my whole freakin’ life and bringing all those beautiful black women together,” she says. “I feel like it is just something that is needed because there is so much divide, like the industry is cutthroat.”

Ari continues, “I feel the media is always trying to divide black women and…shows like that…are so special.”

While being around some of her personal favorite artists was undoubtedly one of the many highlights of the evening, Lennox admits that the most touching moment for her was when a young fan recognized her.

“This beautiful, chocolate girl with curly hair came up to me and she hugged me,” Lennox recalls. “And that was like my most favorite part. Out of meeting all these beautiful legends — just to see like a little baby girl…just be so proud and happy.”

In addition, H.E.R. receives the Young Gifted and Black Award, and The Mothers of the Movement activists — Sybrina Fulton, Geneva Reed-Veal, Gwen Carr, Congresswoman Lucy McBath, Maria Hamilton, and Cleopatra Cowley-Pendleton — will be honored with the Community Change Award.

Black Girls Rock airs Sunday night at 8 p.m. ET. on BET.

Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Watch now: "Hell Right," you can't get more country than Blake Shelton's new video

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Warner Music NashvilleBlake Shelton keeps it simple in his new music video for “Hell Right,” going for a pretty literal interpretation of the party song about having a good time.

The video begins with Trace Adkins starting a campfire, as a crowd gathers around; he and Blake then lean against opposite sides of a red pickup truck to sing the song.

During the course of the video, there’s somebody participating in practically every country pastime you can imagine: horseback riding, roping, bull-riding, bow-shooting, and even catching and releasing a monster catfish.

If you look closely, you’ll even spot HARDY engaging in a literal roll in the hay.  HARDY wrote this song, as well as Blake’s CMA-nominated smash, “God’s Country.”

You can check out the “Hell Right” video on YouTube now.  

Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

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