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Governor Abbott, Department of Justice Announce $1 Million Grant For Law Enforcement Overtime Expenses Following Santa Fe Shooting

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By macdonald.walker@gov.texas.gov Governor Greg Abbott and the Department of Justice’s Bureau of Justice Assistance (BJA) today announced a $1 million grant for overtime expenses of law enforcement officers involved in the response efforts after the shooting at Santa Fe High School.Governor Greg Abbott and the Department of Justice’s Bureau of Justice Assistance (BJA) today announced a $1 million grant for overtime expenses of law enforcement officers involved in the response efforts after the shooting at Santa Fe High School. The grant will be awarded to the Office of the Governor’s Criminal Justice Division (CJD) and will assist the City of Santa Fe and surrounding jurisdictions with law enforcement costs incurred responding to the tragic incident.

“As our hearts continue to ache for the lives lost at Santa Fe High School, this grant will provide welcome assistance to a community still struggling with this tragedy,” said Governor Abbott. “We are truly grateful for the brave men and women of Texas law enforcement who were involved in the response efforts in Santa Fe. I thank the Department of Justice for this grant, and the State of Texas will continue to assist the entire Santa Fe community in the aftermath of this tragedy.”

“When there is a tragedy, the Department of Justice is there for police and first responders,” said Attorney General Jeff Sessions. “Today, we continue to help state and local police in Texas to rebuild after the tragic murder of ten people at Santa Fe High School. We have provided a total of $1 million to defray their expenses since that terrible day. We honor and respect the law officers who serve at the state, local, and tribal levels, and we continue to support them and their life-saving work every single day.”

The BJA is part of the Justice Department’s Office of Justice Programs, and administers available funds from the Department’s Emergency Federal Law Enforcement Assistance (EFLEA) grant program. The EFLEA grant program helps states respond to unanticipated emergencies that require law enforcement intervention, that cannot be addressed with state and local resources alone.

For more information about the Bureau of Justice Assistance, please visit www.bja.gov.

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Source:: Office of the Governor

      

Governor Abbott Joins The South Belt-Ellington Chamber Of Commerce In Honoring Heroes Of Hurricane Harvey

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By macdonald.walker@gov.texas.gov Governor Greg Abbott today joined the South Belt-Ellington Chamber of Commerce at a gala honoring Hurricane Harvey heroes and first responders in Houston, Texas.Governor Greg Abbott today joined the South Belt-Ellington Chamber of Commerce at a gala honoring Hurricane Harvey heroes and first responders in Houston, Texas. During the event, the Governor thanked all those involved in Harvey response and recovery efforts for their bravery during the storm, as well as the entire Houston community for their resilience as the recovery process continues.

“A storm the magnitude of Hurricane Harvey could’ve ripped us apart — but instead it pulled us together and proved that no force is more powerful than the Texas spirit,” said Governor Abbott. “Tonight, we salute the heroes of Hurricane Harvey who stepped up in incredible ways during one of the darkest times for this community. I thank these brave men and women for answering a higher calling, and putting their lives on the line when they were needed most.

The heroes honored at the event included emergency personnel, law enforcement, first responders, healthcare professionals, volunteers, educators and faith leaders. The Governor presented honorees with signed Gubernatorial Commendations in recognition of their service.

The South Belt-Ellington Chamber of Commerce was founded in 1984 serves to advance the economic welfare, growth and success of the communities in and around the South Belt-Ellington area.

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Source:: Office of the Governor

      

Steam pipe blast spews asbestos and creates bus-size crater in the middle of New York City

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By TJH

ABC News(NEW YORK) — An 86-year-old underground steam pipe exploded in New York City Thursday morning, spewing dangerous asbestos-tainted debris throughout the area and leaving a crater in a street the size of a city bus, officials said.

The blast occurred about 6:39 a.m. in Manhattan’s Flatiron District, just blocks from the iconic Flatiron Building, according to the New York City Fire Department.

While only five people suffered minor injuries, asbestos contamination was the bigger concern, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio said.

“There was asbestos in the steam line casing. That’s obviously a real concern to us,” de Blasio said at a Thursday afternoon news conference near the site of the blast at Fifth Avenue and 21st Street.

The steam pipe was installed in 1932, officials said.

The mayor spoke shortly after getting the results of tests conducted by Con Edison and the city Department of Environmental Protection.

A total of 49 buildings were evacuated, many of them containing residential units, and will require decontamination that could take a couple of days, the mayor said.

“There is real concern whether the debris entered buildings and air conditioners,” de Blasio said.

He added: “We have also tested the air since the time of the incident. The air cleared fairly quickly after the incident. So the air in this area now is safe. There is no meaningful presence of asbestos in the air at this point.”

De Blasio called it fortunate that the explosion occurred in the early-morning hours before the area was teeming with people and commuters headed to work.

“Thank God no one was seriously injured at that time,” he said.

Aerial footage showed a vehicle covered in mud stopped just inches from the crater at the intersection of Fifth Avenue and 21st Street. The crater measured roughly 32 feet in diameter, or about three traffic lanes wide.

“It was a loud boom and the building just shook,” Byron Chavers, who works in the area, told ABC New York City station WABC-TV.

Five people suffered minor injuries but did not have to go to a hospital, FDNY Commissioner Daniel Nigro said.

“That’s the good news for today,” Nigro said at a news conference near the scene of the blast.

Twenty-eight of the 49 evacuated buildings were in what officials called “the hot zone” and will likely remain evacuated the longest, de Blasio said, adding that the buildings need to be scrubbed and closely examined for contamination.

The mayor also advised anyone who was in the area and got debris on their clothing to take the garments to a Con Ed center. The utility will compensate people for their clothing, he said.

At least 100 firefighters were being decontaminated and several civilians in the area at the time of the blast may also need to be decontaminated, Nigro said.

The explosion left a crater in the middle of the busy intersection of Fifth Avenue and 21st Street during the morning commute and prompted police to close off streets in the neighborhood.

The blast sent steam swirling into the air and rattled windows and nerves.

The cause of the explosion is under investigation but the age of the 20-inch steam pipe could be the reason for the rupture.

The explosion also disrupted a gas line, a water main and caused some electrical outages, Nigro said.

A similar steam pipe explosion occurred in midtown Manhattan almost 11 years to the date of Thursday’s blast. The steam pipe rupture July 18, 2007, on Lexington Avenue at 41st Street, near Grand Central Terminal, killing a woman, injuring 20 people and creating a 25-foot crater that swallowed a tow truck.

Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

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Source:: National News

      

Prosecutors allege Russian agent maintained 'duplicitous relationship' with political operative

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By KT

iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) — Federal prosecutors believe that Maria Butina, the Russian gun-rights activist who was recently arrested and charged with acting as a foreign agent, maintained a “duplicitous relationship” with an American political operative for the purposes of gaining access to U.S. political organizations.

Identified in court filings only as “U.S. Person 1,” a 56-year-old political operative, private messages exchanged between them and surveillance conducted by federal law enforcement paint a picture of this person as someone Butina, 29, could rely on. Butina lived, at times, with U.S. Person 1. She asked U.S. Person 1 for help with her homework. As she prepared to move out of her apartment, U.S. Person 1 helped her arrange to rent a U-Haul and purchase moving boxes.

But U.S. Person 1 appears to have done much more than help a expatriate graduate student adjust to life in the United States. He also, prosecutors say, “worked with Butina to arrange introduction to U.S. persons having influence in American politics,” including high-ranking members of the NRA and organizers of the National Prayer Breakfast, “for the purposes of advancing the interests of the Russian Federation.”

Based on the prosecutors’ description, “U.S. Person 1” is believed to be Paul Erickson, a longtime GOP operative who is known to have had close ties to Butina. It is unclear whether he is cooperating with authorities in the case against Butina or whether he is under investigation himself, but he could be in serious trouble.

“He’s got real exposure here,” one federal prosecutor told ABC News. “If he knew that he was helping [Butina], he may himself have a foreign agent problem.”

ABC News’ attempts to reach Erickson have been unsuccessful. Butina, meanwhile, pleaded not guilty in court on Wednesday, and her attorney, Robert Driscoll, called the charges against her “overblown.”

But the descriptions of the person believed to be Erikson’s alleged activities in the court filings have made him a fascinating character in an already twisted tale.

Erickson, 56, has a long and tangled record in Republican politics. In the 1980s, after graduating from Yale, Erickson served as Treasurer of the College Republican National Committee. Erickson then wrote a comedy sketch called “Fritzbusters” in 1984, which parodied Democratic presidential candidate Walter “Fritz” Mondale, the New York Times reported at the time.

After earning his law degree from the University of Virginia in 1988, Erickson embarked on a series of unconventional professional endeavors, including co-executive producing an anti-communism film starring Dolph Lundgren with Jack Abramoff called “Red Scorpion.” The Rapid City Journal, a South Dakota newspaper, has reported that Erickson then travelled to Nicaragua in 1990 to “observe U.S.-backed Contra rebels putting down their arms after Soviet-supported President Daniel Ortega agreed to abide by the results of a popular election.”

Erickson found his way back to Republican politics in the U.S. in 1992, joining conservative icon Pat Buchannan’s presidential campaign as a national political director. In the mid-1990s, Erickson and Abramoff joined forces again, opening up a lobbying firm whose clientele included Zairean strongman dictator Mobutu, the Washington Post reported at the time.

“I’ve enjoyed 33 years of wildly diverse business ventures all around the world in industries ranging from hotels to housing to entertainment to energy,” Erickson told the Rapid City Journal.

In 2007, Erickson was sued for $190,000 by conservative activist Brent Bozell, who claimed in the lawsuit that Erickson had failed to repay an investment, court documents showed. Bozell won a breach of contract judgment in 2008, though it’s unclear whether Erickson ever completed the payment.

According to the affidavit attached to the indictment, Butina first made contact with U.S. Person 1 around 2013. Within two years, Butina and U.S. Person 1 appear to have hatched a plan to improve U.S.-Russia relations through an unnamed gun-rights organization that had what Butina described as a “central place and influence” in an unnamed political party as “the largest sponsor of the elections to the US congress, as well as a sponsor of The CPAC conference and other events.”

Shortly after, U.S. Person 1 emailed Butina a list of potential media, business and political contacts, writing that “you could NOT do better than the list I just emailed you … YOU HAVE ALREADY MET ALL OF THE AMERICANS necessary to introduce you to EVERYONE on that list … I and your friends in America can’t make it any easier for you than that.”

By 2016, Butina had set her sights on a bigger target. She emailed U.S. Person 1 in September, saying “we only have 2 month [sic] left before the US elections and it’s the time for building an advisors team on Russia for a new president.”

A month later, U.S. Person 1 emailed an an unnamed acquaintance touting his involvement in “securing a VERY private line of communication between the Kremlin” and leaders of an unnamed political party through an unnamed gun rights organization.

Following Donald Trump’s election, Butina appears to have used U.S. Person 1 to get as close to the president as she had ever been. U.S. Person 1 arranged for Butina and a Russian delegation to attend the 2017 National Prayer Breakfast the following February, where President Trump was the keynote speaker.

U.S. Person 1 even helped Butina book a hotel, advising her to place $3,500 on “one of your Russian charge cards” to pay the deposit “to be safe.”

By then, Butina appears to have become a fixture in Erickson’s life. Butina attended events in South Dakota, where Erickson lived. Erickson established a mysterious South Dakota-based company with Butina called Bridges LLC. Neighbors at the South Dakota apartment complex where Erickson lived remember Butina. One of them, Elaine Ahlemeier, says the couple seemed nice and she suspected nothing.

What few people appeared to know, and what prosecutors now allege, was that despite appearances, Butina “appear[ed] to treat that relationship as simply a …read more

Source:: National News

      

Tornadoes touch down in Iowa, causing several injuries and destruction

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By KT

Gloria McAllister(DES MOINES, Iowa) — Tornadoes have touched down in central Iowa, displacing families and causing destruction across multiple counties.

A number of people have been injured and sent to the hospital, Lt. Shane Cox of the Pella Police Department told ABC News. The extent of the injuries is unknown at this time.

The city of Marshalltown has declared a state of emergency, the city told ABC News.

The National Weather Service issued a tornado warning this afternoon for eastern Marshall County and southwestern Tama County.

At 4:37 p.m. local time, a “large and destructive” tornado was observed over Marshalltown, about 50 miles from Des Moines, moving at an estimated 25 mph, according to the National Weather Service.

A large tornado was also reported on the ground in Bondurant in Polk County. Emergency services are on scene.

Several homes suffered damage, including roofs blown off and numerous gas leaks, Lt. Rick Blaylock of the Polk County Sheriff’s Department told ABC News.

About 14,000 customers are without power in Iowa as a result of the weather, according to outage maps for Alliant Energy and MidAmerican Energy.

Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

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Source:: National News

      

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