David Shepherd: News Blog

Journalist's Notebook

CNN Reporting: Chicago Gay-Friendly Synagogue Target of Thwarted Terror Attack

By: David Shepherd [dshepherd@wtwo.com] – Saturday, October 30, 2010

CNN is reporting a small synagogue dedicated to serving lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered people in Chicago was one of the two intended targets of Friday’s thwarted terror attacks against Chicago.

The report comes from the synagogue’s co-president.  He claims the Or Chadash was notified through a rabbi who claimed the word came from authorities.

No one in the Intellegence field or the government has confirmed these claims.  There has been no public release of the exact locations targeted.

CNN reports Chicago FBI spokesman Royden Rice would not confirm or deny that Or Chadash was a target.

“We notified both targets yesterday,” Rice told CNN Saturday. “We always notify potential victims of crime. If they wish to reveal who they are, it’s up to them.”

October 30, 2010 Posted by | News & Current Events | Leave a comment

Explosives Found In Packages In Route to United States

By: David Shepherd [dshepherd@wtwo.com] – Friday, October 29, 2010

NBC News Photo

A terror attack on targets in the United States has been thwarted but law enforcement officials aren’t letting their guard down.

President Barack Obama briefed the country from the White House Press Briefing Room Friday afternoon calling the plot “a credible threat against our country.”

Mr. Obama confirmed earlier reports that packages carrying explosives were found aboard U.S. bound cargo planes in Dubai and the United Kingdom, Friday.

That discovery prompted heightened inspections of cargo plans and trucks in cities across the country.

 Terror officials believe al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula was behind the failed attack.  The devices were found in

The President said, “Although we are still pursuing all the facts, we do know that the packages originated in Yemen.  We also know that al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, a terrorist group based in Yemen, continues to plan attacks against our homeland, our citizens, and our friends and allies.”

 Mr. Obama said the packages were being sent to two Jewish places of worship in Chicago. 

 Synagogues in Chicago are now being warned to be on alert.

The President addressing the nation about the thwarted terror attacks on the United States

The President reminded Americans about the threat we live under.  “The events of the past 24 hours underscores the necessity of remaining vigilant against terrorism.”

Following the President’s remarks, White House counterterrorism chief John Brennan took the podium to discuss the situation in more detail. He said the devices were “in a form that was designed to try to carry out some kind of attack”.  Clearly, from the initial observation, the initial analysis that was done, the material that was found … was intended to do harm.”

U.S. officials told NBC News the amount of explosives in one of the packages was about five times greater than quantity carried by the would-be Christmas Day bomber. That would make it slightly less than a pound, but that’s a significant amount.

It was unclear how the devices were to be set off.

 FedEx and UPS have suspended receiving shipments from Yemen for “the foreseeable future.”

October 30, 2010 Posted by | News & Current Events | , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Long Road to Recovery: A Special Report Part 1

A SPECIAL REPORT By: David Shepherd [dshepherd@wtwo.com] – Wednesday, October 27, 2010

TERRE HAUTE — Reports show Vigo County is in the top 3 counties in Indiana with meth problems.  It’s 6 in the state for alcohol abuse.

But some people no longer want to be part of that statistic. 

We see time and time again the effects drugs and alcohol can have on individuals, their families and their communities.

Some people are getting a new lease on life.  It’s all thanks to the Freebirds residential treatment center in Terre Haute.

Some residents are sentenced to recovery here, others go by choice.  But the outcome and the goal is the same.

“I’ve totally changed,” says resident Scott Williams,  “and as far as I’m concerned, this place has saved my life.”

Freebirds houses, educates and treats people addicted to drugs or alcohol.

“I got out of jail and I just realized I was done with this and I went through rehab,” Williams said.

While in rehab, Williams found out about Freebirds.  His battle with alcohol abuse put a strain on his health and his relationship with his family.

He says, “They want me to come home for visits now.  I just went home last weekend and me and my dad went up to the cabin.  We never did father / son stuff.  I’ve totally changed.”

Stacy Basham discovered she needed a change after years of drug use and jail time.  She got help and now works at the facility, helping others with their battles.

“Because of someone believing in what I had to say this time, instead of going back to the Rockville Correctional Facility, I was sentenced to Freebird.”

Now, Stacy credits God, and help from the Freebirds, for her remarkable recovery.

“[God] knew when I was ready and he put this place right here when I needed it.”

Wiping tears of joy from her face, she added, “Is every day great?  Yeah, it is!”

Now that you’ve read how successful the program is, how do they do it?

Find out Thursday night on NBC 2 News at 11 and right here on the David Shepherd Newsblog.

October 28, 2010 Posted by | News & Current Events, Uncategorized | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Tornadoes & Hurricane Force Winds Rip Through The Midwest

By: David Shepherd [dshepherd@wtwo.com] – Tuesday, October 26, 2010

NBC NEWS PHOTO: Storms cause damage to a home near Chicago Tuesday morning.

A powerful storm system is moving through the nation’s mid-section.  A low pressure system is sweeping an intense cold front through the Midwest, with blizzard conditions in the extreme north, destructive winds in the Great Lakes region, and tornadoes from Texas to Kentucky.

In Chicago, forecasters predict the storm could be the most powerful to hit Illinois in over 70 years.

As of Tuesday morning, tornado reports have come in from several states.  In Indiana, tornadoes were reported in Kokomo and Wanatah. 

A roof was ripped off of a home in Peotone, Illinois.  The people were injured there.  Forecasters have not confirmed tornadoes yet, however they will be out soon to survey the area and determine what caused the damage.

More than 62,000 customers were without power in Chicago.  More than 40,000 reportedly lost power in Indiana.

Hurricane-force winds are being reported this afternoon in northern Illinois and Indiana and through the Dakotas.  The eastern Great Lakes are expecting waves to reach 25 feet with fears of beach erosion. 

NBC News is reporting 300 flights were canceled at Chicago’s O’Hare Airport.

The National Weather Service said the storm is one of the strongest to hit the region in decades.

“We’re expecting sustained winds on the order of 35 to 40 mph with gusts up to 60 mph throughout the afternoon,” Edward Fenelon, a weather service meteorologist in Romeoville, Ill, told NBC News.  He said the storm’s central pressure is equivalent to a Category 3 hurricane.

“This is a very different type of event,” Fenelon said. “But that does give an indication of the magnitude of the winds. This isn’t something you see even every year.”

Weather Service Meteorologist Jim Allsopp tells NBC that the storm could be among the worst to hit Illinois in more than 70 years.

October 26, 2010 Posted by | News & Current Events | , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

OPINION: New Hampshire Newspaper Refuses to Print Legal Gay Wedding Announcement

By:  David Shepherd – October 25, 2010

This is one of the rare times I will ever express my personal views on this blog.  I’m not writing this story as a gay man.  I’m writing this story as a journalist; a journalist that understands the real responsibility of the news media.

A New Hampshire newspaper is in hot water for not printing a wedding announcement for a gay couple who plan to legally wed this weekend.

CNN reports Greg Gould and Aurelio Tine asked the New Hampshire Union Leader to print their wedding announcement in their publication.  The paper refused.

In a written statement, the paper said, “This newspaper has never published wedding or engagement announcements from homosexual couples.  It would be hypocritical of us to do so, given our belief that marriage is and needs to remain a social and civil structure between men and women and our opposition to the recent state law legalizing gay marriage.”

Gay marriage is legal in New Hampshire.

Gould told WMUR-TV, “I was really disappointed because the Union Leader is a big voice in the state of New Hampshire, and they seem to be so out of touch.”

Democratic Senate candidate Paul Hodes attacked the paper for its view.

“Mr. Gould and Mr. Tine will become legally married this weekend and they should have the same opportunities as everyone in New Hampshire to have their marriage publicized and recognized. The Union Leader’s disgraceful policy of exclusion harkens to a different time in this country when people were denied opportunity because of their race, religion and ethnic origin,” said Hodes in a written statement. 

On CNN’s comment page, many posted that the paper has the legal right to print whatever it wants.

Here’s the problem.  Yes, the paper has the freedom to print what it wants.  But the news media is supposed to be impartial.  In states where gay marriage is not legal, it’s understandable that media outlets wouldn’t print a gay marriage announcement.

However, in a state (like New Hampshire) where gay marriage is legal, the paper does not have the right to discriminate against citizens taking part in a legal process.  If they want to claim to be a newspaper that brings readers the unbiased news, then they do not have the right to say what should be legal and what shouldn’t be legal.  It’s the responsibility of the news media to report the truth and the facts.  The truth and the fact, in New Hampshire, is that gay marriage is legal; period.

It’s this journalist’s opinion that the newspaper is deciding for themselves what is ethical and what is not.  When journalists start making themselves out to be judge and jury, we have a real problem.

This isn’t an issue of whether gay marriage should be legal or not.  It’s an issue of a newspaper deciding for themselves what the law of the state should be. 

Yes, the newspaper has the legal right to print, or not print, whatever they want.  However, if the newspaper decides not to print the announcement of a gay marriage (which is legal in that state) they no longer have the right to call themselves impartial.  They are no longer a member of the media.  They become part of a group that prints what they think is morally correct.  In this journalist’s mind, that is a dangerous precedent.  The media should report the truth; the facts.  It is not the job of the media to report that THEY think is right.

October 25, 2010 Posted by | News & Current Events | , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Half of the Chilean Miners Have Been Rescued; Effort Continues

By: David Shepherd [dshepherd@wtwo.com] – Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Photo: AP

COPIAPO, CHILE – – It’s been a long, tough road for 33 trapped miners and their families.  Wednesday, after being buried 2,300 feet below the surface in a refuge chamber for 70 days, more than half of the miners have been reunited with their families.

The reunion is emotional, celebratory, and brief.  In moments, they are put on a stretcher and rushed to an on-site medical facility where they are examined by a team of doctors.

As of 1:00 ET, 17 miners had been lifted through the narrow opening and brought to safety.

CNN is reporting President Barack Obama watched television news coverage of the operation to rescue the miners.  Robert Gibbs, the White House Press Secretary said Mr. Obama saw it as a “tremendously inspirational story.”

The rescue operation started Tuesday night.

Underground camera shows rescue workers placing a trapped miner in the capsule that will lift him 2,300 feet to the surface.

10:57 ET – – – The first miner entered the rescue capsule and began the process of being lifted to safety.  The family of 31-year-old miner Florencio Avalos anxiously waited at the top of the rescue shaft for him to be lifted the 2,300 feet from the refuge chamber to the surface.

11:11 ET – – – The first of the rescued miners made it to the surface.  Chile’s President and the family of Florencio Avalos briefly greeted him before he was rushed to the on-site medical facility to be seen by a doctor.

The rescue workers, family and friends cheered and exchanged hugs moments after Avalos was freed.  Moments later, another rescue worker headed down to continue with the long rescue process.

11:30 ET – – – Chile’s President made an official announcement to that the first trapped miner has been rescued.  He thanked the rescue workers and says he hopes the rescue efforts will continue to show what the engineers and the people of Chile are capable of.  He wished the miners a full and happy life.  He calls the operation emotional and clean.

“In this operation, the Chileans have shown the best of themselves.”

Chile’s President acknowledges the mine has a long history of problems and vows to build a memorial at “Camp Hope” as a tribute to the miners and the families for all of the turmoil they’ve been through these past months.

This crisis began on August 5 when 700,000 tons of rock collapsed and trapped the 33 miners more than 2,000 feet underground.

October 13, 2010 Posted by | News & Current Events, Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

First Trapped Miner Has Been Lifted to Safety in Chile; Rescue Continues Through the Night

COPIAPO, CHILEThe long-awaited rescue of 33 trapped miners in Chile continues.  Shortly after 11:00 PM ET, the first miner was lifted to safety.  The men have been trapped 2,300 feet below the surface in a refuge chamber since August 5th (69 days as of Tuesday).

Chile’s President, rescue workers, and the miners’ families are on hand as the operation continues.

Because of their conditions, the miners will be taken to an on-site medical facility for treatment as soon as they exit the rescue pod.

UPDATE:11:30 ET – – – Chile’s President makes an official announcement to the press telling viewers the first trapped miner has been rescued.  He thanked the rescue workers and says he hopes the rescue efforts will continue to show what the engineers and the people of Chile are capable of.  He wished the miners a full and happy life.  He calls the operation emotional and clean.

“In this operation, the Chileans have shown the best of themselves.”

Chile’s President acknowledges the mine has a long history of problems and vows to build a memorial at “Camp Hope” as a tribute to the miners and the families for all of the turmoil they’ve been through these past months.

11:15 ET – – – After a brief greeting from his family and Chile’s President, the first rescued miner, 31-year-old Florencio Avalos has been taken to an on-site medical facility as a precaution.

The rescue workers, family and friends cheered and exchanged hugs moments after Avalos was freed.  Now, another rescue worker is heading down to continue with the long rescue process.

11:11 ET – – – The first of the rescued miners has been lifted to safety.  Chile’s President and the family of Florencio Avalos are waiting to greet him as he makes his way to the surface.

11:09 ET – – – Live video feed shows the rescue capsule approaching the earth’s surface.  It is carrying 31-year-old Florencio Avalos. 

10:57 ET – – – The first miner has entered the rescue capsule and is being lifted to safety.  The family of 31-year-old miner Florencio Avalos is anxiously waiting at the top of the rescue shaft for him to be lifted the 2,300 feet from the refuge chamber to the surface.

The long awaited rescue mission to free 33 Chilean miners trapped since August 5th is now under way.

Underground camera shows the miners waiting to be rescued as the operation continues through the night.

A rescue capsule has reached the trapped miners and the country’s Mining Minister hopes the first worker will be lifted to safety by 11 o’clock eastern time.

CNN is reporting the capsule carrying rescue worker Manuel Gonzalez reached the trapped miner’s refuge around 10:30 ET Tuesday night.

Chilean President Sebastian Pinera and his wife are at the site of the rescue.  He joined others who’ve gathered there in clapping and wishing Gonzalez luck as he began his journey 2,300 feet below the surface.

One by one, the miners will be lifted from the underground mine to safety.

CNN is reporting thousands of Chileans have gathered in the town square of Copiapo, Chile.  The government has provided a live video feed and monitors so the growing crowd can watch the rescue live has it happens.

(CNN.COM) — TVN, Chilean state TV, has released the preliminary order in which the miners will be lifted to the surface. The order will be finalized when rescuers are lowered into the refuge. The preliminary order, according to TVN, is as follows:

1) Florencio Avalos, 31, who recorded the videos – sent up to the surface – that showed the world what conditions inside the mine have been like; 2) Mario Sepulveda, 40, who has served as a narrator in the videos; 3) Juan Illanes, 52, an electrical mechanic; 4) Carlos Mamani, 23, a Bolivian and the only non-Chilean in the mine; 5) Jimmy Sanchez, 19, the youngest in the mine; 6) Osman Araya, 30; 7) Jose Ojeda; No. 8, Claudio Yanez, 34; 9) Mario Gómez, 63, the oldest in the mine; 10) Alex Vega, 31; 11) Jorge Galleguillos, 56; 12) Edison Pena, 34; 13) Carlos Barrios, 27; 14) Victor Zamora, 33; 15) Victor Segovia, 48; 16) Daniel Herrera, 27; 17) Omar Reygadas, 56; 18) Esteban Rojas, 44; 19) Pablo Rojas, 45; 20) Dario Segovia, 48; 21) Yonni Barrios, 50; 22) Samuel Avalos, 43; 23) Carlos Bugueno, 27; 24) Jose Henriquez, 54; 25) Renan Ávalos, 29; 26) Claudio Acuna; 27) Franklin Lobos, 53; 28) Richard Villarroel, 27; 29) Juan Carlos Aguilar, 49; 30) Raúl Bustos, 40; 31) Pedro Cortez, 25; 32) Ariel Ticona, 29; 33) Luis Urzua, 54, a shift foreman whose voice rescuers first heard when voice contact was made.

— David Shepherd with CNN Sources

October 12, 2010 Posted by | News & Current Events | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Days After Terre Haute Stop, Westboro Goes Before Highest Court in the Land

By: David Shepherd [dshepherd@wtwo.com] – Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Photo: Carroll County Times

Members of the radical Westboro Baptist Church from Topeka, Kansas appeared before the United State’s Supreme Court today arguing they have the legal right to protest outside of the funerals of fallen soldiers.

The group has protested outside of several military funerals including the funeral of fallen Marine.  That soldier’s father, Albert Snyder sued the fundamentalist church for the intrusion.  The church held signs that prayed for more dead soldiers and thanked God for IEDs.

Lawyers for Snyder are asking the Justices to reinstate a $5 million verdict against members of the Westboro church.

The church argues the First Amendment allows them to demonstrate.  They say they protest military funerals because the soldiers are killed by God as punishment for American’s tolerance of homosexuality and abortion.

For Snyder, the case is not about free speech but harassment.

“I had one chance to bury my son and it was taken from me,” Snyder told NBC News.

NBC is reporting forty-eight states, 42 U.S. senators and veterans groups have sided with Snyder, asking the court to shield funerals from the Phelpses’ “psychological terrorism.”

While distancing themselves from the church’s message, media organizations, including The Associated Press, have called on the court to side with the Phelpses because of concerns that a victory for Snyder could erode speech rights.

Protesters for and against the group from Westboro demonstrated outside of the Supreme Court today.

These are the same protesters that demonstrated two Terre Haute churches over the weekend.  See the full story below.

Westboro Protesters Met With Loud Opposition in Terre Haute

By: David Shepherd [dshepherd@wtwo.com]

CLICK HERE for Video

TERRE HAUTE — Protesters converged on Terre Haute Sunday as members of the controversial Westboro Baptist Church picketed two churches in our area.

Members of the Westboro group are known for protesting funerals of homosexuals and fallen soldiers.

Sunday, they protested St. Patrick’s Catholic Church and Bible Baptist Church, both in Terre Haute, for an unknown reason.

Bible Baptist’s pastor, Bob Parker, said, “It’s just a fiasco in all honesty. It’s just a disregard to all the Lord Jesus Christ is all about.  They have a right to what they’re doing. I disagree with their platform.”

The group from Westboro admits they hate America.  One of their signs prays for more dead soldiers.

Brian Frye is a veteran of the Armed Forces.  He said, “We went over there, our boys died in those wars so we can be where we are now. It’s just ridiculous.”

Their signs bare their messages; messages that were not well received from the group of counter protesters who gathered to show their disapproval of the Westboro group’s demonstration. 

“They’re all about hate,” said counter protester Jonathan Conrow.  “They claim to be Christians but I’ve been a Christian my whole life

Counter protestors send a message of love

Counter protesters drown out Westboro’s hateful message with one of the love of God.

 and I never saw words like these in the Bible.”

The members of Westboro say they hate America because Americans harbor homosexuality.  Sunday, they took that hate out on an American flag.  One of the members of the group put the flag on the ground and crushed it under his feet. 

“The only thing that bothers me, really big, is they need to get the flag out of the gutter. That’s my problem right this instant,” explained neighbor David Kelty, who saw the protests.

The counter protesters came from different backgrounds, different walks of life and different points of view but they united to send the Westboro group their own message.

Counter protester Walter Beck said, “We’re out here showing them that Terre Haute is not a city of hate but we’re a city of love.”

Counter protester Kristian Holmes held a sign that read “Smile if you’re gay.”  He said, “It invokes anger for me. I personally feel that it’s wrong that they’re spreading messages of hate.”

The group may have ruffled some feathers but they packed up and moved on to the next stop on their tour without incident. 

Terre Haute city police were out in full force for Sunday’s protests in an effort to keep the peace.

October 6, 2010 Posted by | News & Current Events | Leave a comment

Westboro Protesters Met With Loud Opposition in Terre Haute

By: David Shepherd [dshepherd@wtwo.com] – Sunday, October 3, 2010

CLICK HERE for video

TERRE HAUTE — Protesters converged on Terre Haute Sunday as members of the controversial Westboro Baptist Church picketed two churches in our area.

Members of the Westboro group are known for protesting funerals of homosexuals and fallen soldiers.

Sunday, they protested St. Patrick’s Catholic Church and Bible Baptist Church, both in Terre Haute, for an unknown reason.

Bible Baptist’s pastor, Bob Parker, said, “It’s just a fiasco in all honesty. It’s just a disregard to all the Lord Jesus Christ is all about.  They have a right to what they’re doing. I disagree with their platform.”

The group from Westboro admits they hate America.  One of their signs prays for more dead soldiers.

Brian Frye is a veteran of the Armed Forces.  He said, “We went over there, our boys died in those wars so we can be where we are now. It’s just ridiculous.”

Their signs bare their messages; messages that were not well received from the group of counter protesters who gathered to show their disapproval of the Westboro group’s demonstration. 

“They’re all about hate,” said counter protester Jonathan Conrow.  “They claim to be Christians but I’ve been a Christian my whole life

Counter protesters drown out Westboro's hateful message with one of the love of God.

 and I never saw words like these in the Bible.”

The members of Westboro say they hate America because Americans harbor homosexuality.  Sunday, they took that hate out on an American flag.  One of the members of the group put the flag on the ground and crushed it under his feet. 

“The only thing that bothers me, really big, is they need to get the flag out of the gutter. That’s my problem right this instant,” explained neighbor David Kelty, who saw the protests.

The counter protesters came from different backgrounds, different walks of life and different points of view but they united to send the Westboro group their own message.

Counter protester Walter Beck said, “We’re out here showing them that Terre Haute is not a city of hate but we’re a city of love.”

Counter protester Kristian Holmes held a sign that read “Smile if you’re gay.”  He said, “It invokes anger for me. I personally feel that it’s wrong that they’re spreading messages of hate.”

The group may have ruffled some feathers but they packed up and moved on to the next stop on their tour without incident. 

Terre Haute city police were out in full force for Sunday’s protests in an effort to keep the peace.

October 3, 2010 Posted by | News & Current Events | , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment