Latest Austin explosion has experts tweaking bomber profile

Published: Monday, March 19, 2018 @ 9:30 PM

Austin Mayor Steve Adler talks to reporters in the Travis Country neighborhood on Monday after a bomb exploded seriously injured two men. 
Jay Janner / Austin American-Statesman
Austin Mayor Steve Adler talks to reporters in the Travis Country neighborhood on Monday after a bomb exploded seriously injured two men. (Jay Janner / Austin American-Statesman)

Law enforcement and others seeking clues into the mind of what now appears to be a serial bomber say the latest explosive incident on Sunday night, the city’s fourth over 17 days, provided more trail crumbs than definitive signposts pointing toward a potential suspect.

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Austin interim Police Chief Brian Manley has said preliminary indications are that the newest bomb is similar enough in construction to be connected to the previous three. That doesn’t necessarily mean all were manufactured and planted by the same person.

But if that does turn out to be the case, experts said, the latest attack would slightly alter their profile of the serial bomber’s methods and motive.

Police on Monday said it appears as though a trip wire was used to trigger the latest blast in Southwest Austin, revealing two new important pieces of information about the bomber.

>> Related: Austin bombings: What we know about the bomber’s habits

The first is that the new form of detonation indicates the person making the explosive has a higher level of skill or sophistication, said Fred Milanowski, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives’ special agent in charge of the Houston field division.

The earlier bombs, which were hidden in packages, appear to have been detonated by movement devices, which would complete a circuit when the package was lifted or tilted, experts said. The latest incident means that investigators now must contemplate a bomber capable of using multiple methods to start an explosion, perhaps even by timer or remote control.

>> Related: Unabomber: TV shows, movies and books about Ted Kaczynski 

A trip wire, which typically works by stringing a taut string across a pathway, detonates a bomb when a person pushes into it. Stringing a wire across or near a route used by multiple people could introduce a new element of randomness to the attacks, said James R. Fitzgerald, a former FBI profiler who worked on the Unabomber case.

Employing a detonating device that doesn’t target any particular person would indicate a dangerous capriciousness and callousness, he said — the bomber “wants to strike out at some perceived wrong, and anyone 

>> Related: ‘Serial bomber' suspected in Austin explosions, police say: live updates 

By mixing his targets — from specific people who receive a package on their porch to anyone who stumbles by — the bomber could be trying to spread general fear and unease throughout the city, Fitzgerald said.

Or he might be purposefully trying to distract from his real intention.

What You Need to Know: Austin Package Explosions

>> Related: BACKGROUND: Bombs in Austin attacks constructed from readily available materials

That was the case when, in December 1989, an Atlanta attorney named Robert Robertson was killed when he opened a brown package he received at home. Investigators at first thought his death was connected to a virtually identical fatal bomb detonated at the house of federal Judge Robert Vance two days earlier. But they later learned Walter Moody had killed Robertson as misdirection.

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Cam Newton surprises Special Olympics athletes with shopping spree

Published: Monday, April 23, 2018 @ 11:21 PM

CHARLOTTE, NC - AUGUST 31:  Cam Newton (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)
Streeter Lecka/Getty Images
CHARLOTTE, NC - AUGUST 31: Cam Newton (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)(Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)

Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton surprised 20 children from Special Olympics North Carolina at a surprise shopping event at a Dick’s Sporting Goods in Barclay Downs, North Carolina, on Monday afternoon.

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Each child got a $200 gift card and spent time shopping with Newton, who served as a personal shopping consultant to the children and helped them buy fun sporting goods. Dick's Sporting Goods and the Cam Newton Foundation sponsored the event as part of their efforts to inspire and enable youth sports.

The Special Olympics athletes are participating in the Mecklenburg County Spring Games this week. More than 1,300 Special Olympics athletes are competing in this year’s Spring Games, which include track and field, motor sports, softball and swimming events.

“You see a lot of smiles on these children’s faces and that's contagious,” Newton said.

https://twitter.com/CoreyWSOC9/status/988550497652092928?tfw_site=wsoctv&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw&ref_url=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.wsoctv.com%2Fnews%2Flocal%2Fcam-newton-surprises-special-olympic-athletes-with-shopping-spree%2F737222180

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Disney offering hiring bonuses while unions prepare to return to the bargaining table

Published: Monday, April 23, 2018 @ 11:45 PM

LAKE BUENA VISTA, FL - OCTOBER 01: Walt Disney World Resort (Photo by Jacqueline Nell/Disneyland Resort via Getty Images)
Handout/Getty Images
LAKE BUENA VISTA, FL - OCTOBER 01: Walt Disney World Resort (Photo by Jacqueline Nell/Disneyland Resort via Getty Images)(Handout/Getty Images)

Walt Disney World is looking to hire more than 3,500 new workers, even offering “hiring bonuses” of up to $3,000 for some positions. 

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It all comes as the unions that represent 38,000 Disney workers get set to go back to the bargaining table next week. 

Unionized workers have been locked in contract talks since last summer -- and since then, they’ve staged demonstrations and gone back to the bargaining table several times, but still have no deal. 

"How can Disney justify giving $3,000 bonuses, when you have 19,000 plus workers making under $11 an hour?” asked Angie McKinnon, a representative of UNITE HERE LOCAL 737.

Union leaders were meeting Monday afternoon as they prepare to head back to the bargaining table one week from Tuesday. 

Union workers voted down Disney’s most recent offer of a 3 percent raise for most workers, with a minimum 50-cents-an-hour raise. 

And union bosses are upset that Disney won’t pay a $1,000 tax-cut bonus to union members -- unless they accept that deal. 

"A lot of them are still waiting on the tax, the money that Disney promised to give them from the tax cut,” said McKinnon. 

“As is the case with all aspects of an employee's compensation package, federal law requires that we negotiate the payment of that bonus with the unions, which we are in the process of doing,” a Disney spokeswoman said. 

As Disney now tries to hire thousands more full- and part-time cast members, the company is able to pay the hiring bonuses because the new cast members won’t be covered by the union contract until after they’re hired. 

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Company recalls certain ice pops sold in 15 states

Published: Monday, April 23, 2018 @ 10:49 PM

(File photo)
(File photo)

A frozen novelty manufacturer is voluntarily recalling certain ice pops that are sold in 15 states for possible listeria contamination.

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According to US Recall News, Ziegenfelder Co., of Wheeling, West Virginia, is recalling about 3,000 cases of Budget $aver Cherry Pineapple Monster Pops and Sugar Free Twin Pops because of the possible health risk. 

The ice pops were distributed to retail grocers in 15 states:

  • Alabama
  • Arkansas
  • Florida
  • Maine
  • Missouri
  • Nebraska
  • Nevada
  • New Mexico
  • New York
  • Ohio
  • Oklahoma
  • Texas
  • Utah
  • Washington
  • Wyoming

The ice pop products were delivered between April 5 and April 19, US Recall News reported.

The Cherry Pineapple Monster Pops carry the UPC code 0-74534-84200-9, and have lot codes D09418A through D10018B.

The Sugar Free Pops carry the UPC code 0-74534-75642-9, and have lot codes D09318A through D10018B. 

So far, there are no reported illnesses or incidents involving the products.

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Pompeo nomination clears hurdle after another late GOP switch

Published: Monday, April 23, 2018 @ 10:13 PM

For the second time in a week, late decisions by a pair of GOP Senators provided the margin of victory for a nominee of President Donald Trump, as after fears of a rare confirmation rebuke, Republicans on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Monday got in line behind the nomination of Mike Pompeo to be Secretary of State, setting up a vote later this week for his confirmation in the full Senate.

The key votes were delivered by Sen. Jeff Flake (R-AZ) – who last week made a late switch to help salvage the nomination of Mr. Trump’s choice to run NASA – and by Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY), who had talked for weeks that he would never vote to shift the CIA Director over to the post of Secretary of State.

But after a late lobbying effort by President Trump, Paul stuck with the White House on Pompeo.

“I have changed my mind,” Paul said at a meeting of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

Back in March when the President fired Rex Tillerson from the Secretary of State’s job, Paul had made clear he was not going to vote for Pompeo, worried the CIA chief was too set on excessively using U.S. military force around the world.

Labeling Pompeo a “neocon,” Paul had said at the time that he would not vote for the CIA chief, worried that Pompeo was too much like the Republican Party that strongly backed with war in Iraq on Saddam Hussein.

“I simply cannot support Pompeo’s nomination to be our chief diplomat,” the Kentucky Republican made clear.

But after talks with Pompeo and the President, Paul gave in.

The late changes saved the GOP from an embarrassing foreign policy setback for the President – at a time when he is hosting the French President, and will later in the week receive the German Chancellor.

“He is extremely qualified for the position,” the President’s Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders argued for Pompeo, as she joined GOP Senators in reminding Democrats of the bipartisan votes for past Secretaries of State.

“John Kerry was confirmed 94-3. Hillary Clinton was confirmed 94-2. Condoleezza Rice was confirmed 85-13. Colin Powell was confirmed unanimously by voice vote,” Sanders told reporters.

The turn of events came hours after the President had blasted Democrats for delaying many of his nominees, by stretching out debate time on the Senate floor, leaving little time for work on legislation.

While the President accurately nicked the Democrats for slow-walking many nominations on the Senate floor, certain high-profile choices like Pompeo, Jim Bridenstine for NASA, and Ambassador to Germany Richard Grenell have been held up in the Senate not because of Democrats – but because of a lack of unity among Republicans.

For example, Grenell’s nomination was sent to the Senate floor back on January 18. While Democrats did object to action in March, there has been no effort by Senate Republicans to hold a vote – which likely means there aren’t fifty votes for his nomination.

When Monday began, that was in question for Pompeo as well, but the support of Paul, Flake, and a handful of Democrats, means the President will get his Secretary of State.

“The President deserves to have a Secretary of State that agrees with him or her, in general, on a foreign policy direction,” said Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL), as he argued for Pompeo’s approval.

There was a bit of irony, as Rubio last week had been one of the holdouts on the President choice to run NASA – a reminder, that with a 51-49 advantage in the Senate, and the absence of Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), Republicans can’t afford to lose more than one vote on anything in the U.S. Senate.

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