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Innocent Pennsylvania man freed after spending 24 years in prison

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By Jeanette Torres

WPVI-TV(FRACKVILLE, Pa.) — A convicted murderer was declared innocent and set free this week after spending more than two decades in a Pennsylvania prison.

Shaurn Thomas, 43, was released from the State Correctional Institution in Frackville, Pennsylvania, on Tuesday afternoon after being jailed for 24 years for a murder he did not commit, his attorneys said.

Thomas was sentenced to life in prison for the slaying of Domingo Martinez, a Philadelphia businessman who was shot in 1990 while trying to cash a $25,000 check, according to news reports covering the killing. Thomas had maintained that he was at a correctional center for youth offenders in connection with an unrelated case on the day of the murder, but that did not sway the jury.

The law firm Dechert LLP, which represented Thomas on a pro bono basis, said in a statement that sign-in logs at the center had “vanished by the time of the trial.”

In an interview after his release, Thomas told ABC’s Philadelphia affiliate WPVI-TV that his imprisonment taught him how to keep fighting.

“I feel wonderful, a free man. I can’t feel no better,” Thomas said. “Hey man, just got to believe in God, and had the right legal team, and keep fighting.”

The Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office said it agreed to vacate the conviction.

“We will continue to review this case and make a decision regarding retrial in the very near future,” the Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office said in a statement Tuesday.

Dechert attorney James Figorski, a former police officer with the Philadelphia Police Department, said he decided to take on Thomas’ case in 2011 after reviewing several cases as a volunteer with the Pennsylvania Innocence Project, a nonprofit organization.

The organization has helped to free or win new trials for nine people since its founding in 2009, according to Dechert.

“Shaurn engaged in a decades’ long struggle to prove his innocence,” Figorski said in a statement. “I joined him in that struggle, and many times it seemed that we would never succeed and he would remain in prison for the rest of his life.”

Figorski said it was “gratifying” to know that he was able to help Thomas obtain freedom.

As for Thomas, he said he is simply trying to remain positive and move on with his life.

“I don’t got no animosity towards nobody. What for? Life’s too short for that,” Thomas told WPVI. “I just move on forward. It’s a tragedy that happened to me, but I’m pretty sure I’m not the only one.”

Copyright © 2017, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

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Source:: National News

      

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Newark Airport temporarily closes after plane engine fire

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By Kelly Terez

WABC-TV(NEWARK, N.J.) — Newark Liberty International Airport was temporarily closed on Tuesday night after a plane engine caught fire.

Emergency chutes were deployed from United 1579 and passengers evacuated after “flames were reported coming from the right side of the engine,” according to the Federal Aviation Administration.

The Boeing 757 was headed to San Francisco from Newark, New Jersey, when the control tower notified the United Airlines crew of the apparent flames while the plane was taxiing, United spokesman Jonathan Guerin said in a statement.

“Customers are being transported back to the terminal,” the statement said. “We are working to get our customers to San Francisco as soon as possible.”

There were five minor injuries, according to Newark Airport.

The airport said it was closed for the safety of passengers and to expect delays. It was reopened a few hours later.

Copyright © 2017, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

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Newark Airport temporary closes after plane engine fire

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By Kelly Terez

WABC-TV(NEWARK, N.J.) — Newark Liberty International Airport was temporarily closed on Tuesday night after a plane engine caught fire.

Emergency chutes were deployed from United 1579 and passengers evacuated after “flames were reported coming from the right side of the engine,” according to the Federal Aviation Administration.

The Boeing 757 was headed to San Francisco from Newark, New Jersey, when the control tower notified the United Airlines crew of the apparent flames while the plane was taxiing, United spokesman Jonathan Guerin said in a statement.

There was one minor injury, according to the spokesman.

“Customers are being transported back to the terminal,” the statement said. “We are working to get our customers to San Francisco as soon as possible.”

Newark Airport said in a tweet the airport was closed for the safety of passengers and to expect delays.

Copyright © 2017, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

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Food stamps a casualty of President Trump's proposed budget

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By Kelly Terez

Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) — The budget released by the White House Tuesday contains proposed changes for the program that provides access to food for Americans who otherwise might not be able to afford it.

And anti-hunger advocates aren’t pleased. Lucy Melcher, associate director for advocacy with the anti-hunger group No Kid Hungry, argues that the proposed cuts are “devastating” to a program that research shows lifts people out of poverty.

The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, more commonly known as food stamps or SNAP, is the “hunger safety net” for Americans in poverty or out of work. Americans who make up to 130 percent of the poverty level, which is a monthly income of $2,600 for a family of four, are eligible for food stamps.

More than 44 million Americans participated in the food stamp program in 2016, according to the USDA. The number of people using the program increased during the economic recession and have fluctuated since 2010.

The decreased proposal in Trump’s budget is based on their estimate that fewer people will be on food stamps next year, but it also includes reforms that estimate it would reduce funding for SNAP by $190 million over the next ten years.

That much bigger cut is proposed under legislation that the administration plans to bring to Congress. The changes would tighten requirements for waivers that allow people who are considered capable of working but can’t find a job to stay on the program.

More than 75 percent of households who participate in SNAP have worked a job in the year before or after the receive benefits, according to the USDA. They are limited to three months of benefits unless they get a waiver from the state, such as if they live in an area where there are not enough jobs available. The administration was not clear on how it’s proposal would restrict these waivers but it could mean that people who are capable of working but can’t find a job have a harder time qualifying for benefits.

Office of Management and Budget director Mick Mulvaney said the cuts were an effort to get more people back to work, saying that people that needed food stamps during the recession are still on the program.

“If you’re paying for it isn’t it reasonable for you to at least ask that question aren’t there people on that program who shouldn’t be on there?” Mulvaney asked during a briefing with reporters on Tuesday.

But No Kid Hungry’s Melcher said the budget doesn’t invest in programs to help people find work or help people

“You are instead pulling the rug out from people and leaving them with no safety net to provide for their most basic needs,” Melcher said.

The White House also proposed cuts to the Meals on Wheels program operated through the Department of Health and Human Services in its earlier budget proposal, which led to backlash and a surge in donations to the program.

That legislative proposal also proposes that states cover up to 25 percent of the cost of SNAP programs over the next 10 years, which would ultimately cut about $190 million from the program.

Acting Deputy Secretary Michael Young said he did not know if USDA had reached out to states for input on whether they could take on more of the cost of providing food stamps.

Some states that supported Trump in the election had the highest percentages of their populations receiving SNAP benefits in the 2016 fiscal year, according to data from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, including Louisiana, West Virginia and Mississippi.

Of the 26 states, plus Washington, D.C., whose populations receive SNAP benefits at a rate higher than the national average, 18 chose Trump over Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton.

USDA Sec. Sonny Perdue said just last week that he did not think the administration planned any changes to the SNAP program.

“As far as I’m concerned we have no proposed changes, you don’t try to fix things that aren’t broken and when the motto is ‘do right and feed everyone,’ I view that as very, very inclusive,” Perdue said in a hearing with the House Agriculture Committee last week.

Michael Young said much of the budget was put together before Perdue was confirmed on on April 24.

Members of Congress have emphasized that the president’s budget is just a starting off point and rarely passes as is. Melcher said No Kid hungry will be working with members of Congress to restore funding for food stamps.

“We plan to work closely with congress to make sure cuts of this level never see the light of day,” she said.

Copyright © 2017, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

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Fiat Chrysler defeat devices allowed less pollution during tests, EPA says

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By Kelly Terez

Bill Pugliano/Getty Images(NEW YORK) — The U.S. government filed suit Tuesday against Fiat Chrysler, alleging the automaker equipped more than 100,000 vehicles with so-called defeat devices that circumvent federal emission standards.

The software — installed on diesel-fueled Jeep Grand Cherokee and Ram 1500 in model years 2013 to 2016 — allegedly caused the vehicles’ emission system to “perform differently and less effectively during certain normal driving conditions than on federal emissions tests,” resulting in nitrogen oxide emissions above allowable levels during day-to-day driving, the Environmental Protection Agency said.

Fiat Chrysler maintains that its software was designed to detect not testing conditions specifically but temperature and factors that could damage the engines if emission controls were activated.

The automaker “intends to defend itself vigorously, particularly against any claims that the company engaged in any deliberate scheme to install defeat devices to cheat U.S. emissions tests,” it said in a statement, adding that its officials have been working with the EPA to “clarify issues related to the company’s emissions control technology.”

The allegations against Fiat Chrysler come on the heels of a huge settlement with Volkswagen, which in March plead guilty to intentionally thwarting EPA standards with different defeat devices installed in more than half a million cars in the United States. Volkswagen agreed to pay $4.3 billion in criminal and civil penalties.

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