ABC News(NEW YORK) -- Apparently even President Obama knows that New York City is a great place to shop.
During a trip to the Big Apple on Tuesday, the president made a surprise stop at the Gap.
“I’m here at the Gap because it never hurts to bring something back home — I get points,” Obama joked.
Obama checked out some khakis and sweatshirts. A cheery saleswoman talked him through a few options, including a V-neck pink sweater.
Obama said he was worried the V-neck “would slip” off his daughter’s shoulders.
He ultimately settled on a light pink crewneck for Sasha and a bright pink one for Malia.
A White House official explained the president’s impromptu stop: “In his State of the Union address, the President called for businesses to raise workers’ wages, and today the President will visit a Gap store to show his support for Gap Inc.’s decision to increase wages for their US based employees.”
During his visit to the store, Obama also picked out something for the first lady.
“Maybe I should get her some socks,” the president joked.
He ultimately picked out a navy blue zip-up workout shirt.
The president then greeted the woman behind the counter, who told him he was better-looking in person.
“You hear that?” the president said to reporters.
“I think the ladies would be impressed with my style sense,” the president said as his items were rung up.
Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- The head of the CIA said Tuesday that his agency has “not at all” ruled out the idea that terrorism may have played a role in the “very disturbing” disappearance of Malaysian Airlines Flight 370.
“I think there’s a lot of speculation right now,” Dir. John Brennan told the Council on Foreign Relations. “[There have been] some claims of responsibility that have not been confirmed or corroborated at all. We are looking at it very carefully. We, the CIA, are working with FBI and TSA and others. Our Malaysian counterparts are doing everything they can to try to put together the pieces here. But clearly this is still a mystery, which is very disturbing.”
When asked whether he had ruled out terrorism as a factor, Brennan responded, “No, I wouldn’t rule it out. Not at all.”
However, the CIA chief said that analysts at the National Counterterrorism Center had not heard any “chatter” -- a common indication of terrorist participation -- related to the Malaysian Airlines flight prior to the incident. A senior counter-terrorism source told ABC News Monday that in addition to the lack of chatter beforehand, there has been a dearth afterwards as well.
“The bad guys aren’t even discussing it,” the counter-terrorism source said. “It could be great operational security, but I doubt it.”
Speculation about the flight having become a target for terrorists has abounded since the flight with 239 passengers on board disappeared in good weather without explanation Saturday. Over the weekend it was revealed two of the men on the flight had boarded with stolen passports, but today the two were identified as young Iranian men and Malaysian and Interpol officials downplayed any possible links to militant groups.
As to the fate of the plane, Malaysian Police Chief Khalid Abu Bakar told reporters that investigators have not ruled out any possibility, including hijacking, sabotage or a personal motive by someone on board to bring the plane down. Like American intelligence agencies, Bakar said Malaysian authorities “had no prior information or intelligence about any involvement of terrorists.”
“It’s an awkward situation,” the senior counter-terrorism source said. “There is nothing from which to draw any firm conclusion yet. We are in a period where we are concerned about an aviation threat, but there are justifiable explanations for the non-terrorism theories.”
Regardless of what happened to Malaysian Airlines Flight 370, Brennan said Tuesday the U.S. cannot let its guard down.
“It’s close to now 13 years since 9/11 and I think the memories and tragedy of 9/11 have receded in the minds of many people,” Brennan said. “This is not the time to relax because we know there are terrorist groups that are still determined to carry out attacks, including against -- especially against -- aircraft.”
Hemera/Thinkstock(ROCKVILLE, Md.) -- Maryland police shut down I-270 in Rockville, Md., Tuesday morning after a nearby bank robbery.
The robbery and ensuing police chase closed down I-270 in both directions for nearly 30 minutes, Maryland State Police confirmed to ABC News.
A motorist whose regular morning commute took an extra hour today said about 30 police vehicles passed him on the shoulders of I-270. “Then, when I saw a wall of police officers with automatic weapons approaching our cars, it was apparent that something serious was taking place,” he told ABC News, asking for anonymity.
“After a while some police dogs appeared in the same area behind me, and then helicopters starting flying close by. One even landed to my left on I-270,” he added.
The robbery involved the Wells Fargo bank branch at 404 Kings Farm Blvd., police said.
The north-bound and south-bound lanes were shut down by state police to accommodate an extensive search for the three suspects, who were apprehended and are now in the custody of Montgomery County police, officials said.
File photo. iStock/Thinkstock(PORTLAND, Ore.) -- A Portland family was forced to hide in a bedroom and call 911 after they say they were terrorized by their 22-pound pet cat.
“I have a kind of particular emergency here,” Portland resident Lee Palmer can be heard telling a 911 dispatcher during the call.
“I kicked the cat in the rear and it has went off over the edge and we aren’t safe around the cat,” Palmer said. “We’re trapped in our bedroom and he won’t let us out of our door.”
The cat, a black-and-white Himalayan named Lux, reportedly attacked a 7-month-old baby in the home.
Palmer and his girlfriend, Teresa Barker, say the cat turned violent after their son, Jesse, pulled its tail on Sunday.
“He was on top of the fridge, and then when something like that turns around and follows you, you’re kinda getting backed up,” said Barker, according to local ABC affiliate KATU. “It’s kind of a small space in here, so yeah, it was very frightening.”
Palmer told the 911 dispatcher that the cat, who could be heard hissing in the background, was charging the bedroom door.
Police were able to capture the cat, who first jumped on top of the refrigerator to try to escape them, with a snare and then put him in a crate.
“The cat did not want to get back in the cage, that was for sure,” Officer Timothy Bocciolatt told KATU. “He wanted to be free at that point.”
Thomas Northcut/Thinkstock(BOSTON) -- Boston University Women’s Basketball coach Kelly Greenberg is facing accusations that she bullied her players, with one former player saying the coach’s style drove her to therapy.
The accusations emerged after four of the team’s 13 members quit during the past year -- with two of those athletes giving up $60,000-a-year scholarships. One of the players left the university.
Senior guard Melissa Gallo quit the team at the end of the regular season, fed up with what she calls emotional abuse.
“[Greenberg’s] treatment was very inconsistent,” Gallo told ABC News. “Some days she wouldn’t even acknowledge your existence. She would make you feel so unbelievably invisible, like you weren’t even in the room, like you weren’t a part of the team.”
Gallo says Greenberg’s bullying led her to constantly cry, with the coach calling her “high-maintenance” and “selfish.”
“I had a terrible experience and it made me hate the game that I came into BU loving, and I don’t wish that upon anyone,” Gallo said.
This isn’t the first time Greenberg’s players have cried foul. The university conducted an internal review in 2008 after two scholarship players quit the team after making similar accusations.
USA Today columnist and ABC News consultant Christine Brennan says it’s uncommon to see this many players quitting -- and that the university should take the accusations seriously.
“There is a definitive line, and when you cross that line and find that four players can’t take it, four tough, strong athletes can no longer take it…That to me screams out that you have crossed the line,” Brennan said.
Greenberg’s supporters are sticking by her. About 30 demonstrators gathered on campus to support Greenberg Saturday, including current and former players, a team huddling around their coach.
Greenberg has coached at Boston University since 2004, and was named the America East conference’s Coach of the Year in 2009.
Anadmist/Thinkstock(BANNER ELK, N.C.) -- Officials used a Black Hawk helicopter Monday afternoon to save a man who fell nearly 40 feet off a North Carolina mountain.
The unidentified climber, 23, was rappelling off Shortoff Mountain in Pisgah National Forest in Banner Elk, N.C., when he fell and bounced off one mountain ledge before landing on another.
The man’s friend and another climber called 911.
“I’m on the side of the mountains and I just watched a climber take about a 45 foot fall, had a pretty bad impact,” the climber told the 911 dispatcher in calls released by Burke County officials.
The injured climber’s precarious position forced emergency crews to call in a Black Hawk helicopter, from which rescuers rapelled down to reach him.
“The ledge was small,” Gaston County EMS Capt. Chris Hendricks said of the spot where he and two other members of the North Carolina Helo-Aquatic Rescue Team found the climber. “There was barely enough room for all three of us.”
The Black Hawk helicopter is best known for having served in combat areas that include Somalia, Afghanistan and Iraq.
Hendricks’ colleague, David Bowman of the Charlotte Fire Department, spoke with the climber, who was still conscious after the fall.
“I had a short conversation with the patient and let him know we were here and going to take care of him,” Bowman said.
Hendricks, Bowman and a third rescuer pulled the climber back into the Black Hawk, from which he was transferred to a medical helicopter and flown to an Asheville hospital.
The climber is reported to have suffered critical injuries, including broken bones.
The third man who rescued the climber says, for him and his colleagues, the dramatic rescue was all in a day’s work.
“This is what we train for,” Capt. Maurice Taylor of the Charlotte Fire Department said. “We developed a plan in the back of the helicopter and then we executed that plan.”
katifcam/Thinkstock(BOULDER, Colo.) -- A Colorado man, despite acknowledging that he's lucky to be alive after being trapped in a submerged car, has filed an intent to sue his rescuers for half a million dollars.
Roy Ortiz filed his intent to sue the county of Boulder and his rescuers for a tentative $500,000 as a "preservative" measure, his attorney, Ed Ferszt, told ABC News.
Ferszt said the county should have closed the road during floods in September. He said the first responders were also included because they did not realize Ortiz was trapped in the car until they prepared to lift it out of the water.
"He was not seen or it was assumed no one could have survived it," Ferszt said. "No one discerned he was there."
The incident began Sept. 12 when Ortiz was driving to work. His vehicle hit part of a washed-out road and then plunged into a creek.
"He tried to feel even above his head and all he felt was water everywhere. It was not much of an air pocket," Ferszt said.
Ortiz was able to find a small air bubble in the back of his car where Ferszt said his client spent two hours waiting to be rescued.
Since the accident, Ortiz has racked up $40,000 in medical bills and still has shoulder issues and trouble sleeping, including a recurring dream of shivering to death, Ferszt said.
Whether a future lawsuit is filed will depend "on Roy's medical treatment and how that pans out," Ferszt said.
David Hughes, Boulder Deputy County attorney, told ABC News the county is following procedure with Ortiz's claim.
"When we receive a notice of claim, we follow the same process," he said. "Right now the claim is under investigation."
ABC News(WASHINGTON) -- The nation's rate of uninsured adults has fallen from 17.1 percent during the last quarter of 2013 to 15.9 percent due to millions of Americans signing up for the Affordable Care Act.
If the sign-ups continue at the same pace, the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index says the number of uninsured in the U.S. could drop under 15.4 percent, the level before President Obama took office.
The end of the open enrollment season is March 31. Those who fail to sign up for mandatory health insurance will be responsible for a "shared responsibility payment” when filing their tax returns in 2015. This penalty is about $95 per adult.
The Department of Health and Human Service reports progress in enrolling each major demographic group with the exception of Hispanics.
Ironically, this is the group that could stand to reap the most benefits from the ACA as many Hispanics don't work at jobs that offer medical insurance.
As with the healthcare.gov website, the Spanish-language enrollment website, CuidadodeSalud.gov, also got off to a rocky start due to technical and language problems.
FBI(AUSTIN, Texas) -- National Security Agency leaker Edward Snowden said Monday that rather than helping combat terrorism, the U.S. government’s massive surveillance programs have led to “tremendous intelligence failures” and may have contributed to allowing the deadly Boston Marathon bombing to have taken place.
“We’re monitoring everybody’s communications, instead of suspects’ communications,” Snowden said during a live video conference at Austin’s popular South by Southwest festival. “That lack of focus has caused us to miss leads that we should’ve had. Tamerlan Tsarnaev, one of the Boston bombers, the Russians had warned us about him....And if we hadn’t spent so much on mass surveillance, if we had followed the traditional models, we might’ve caught him.”
In 2011 Russian intelligence requested the FBI and CIA to separately help them investigate Tamerlan’s possible ties to Islamic extremism. Months later, the FBI closed their investigation after concluding that Tamerlan did not pose a threat.
In April 2013, authorities allege Tamerlan and his little brother Dzhokhar set off a pair of bombs near the finish line of the Boston Marathon, killing three and injuring more than 260 others. Tamerlan was killed in a shootout with police days later, and Dzhokhar was arrested and has pleaded not guilty to terrorism-related charges. He could face the death penalty. The New York Times reported weeks after the bombing that the FBI concluded there was little the Bureau could have done to prevent the attacks.
Snowden also referred to Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, the young man who tried to blow up an airplane over Detroit on Christmas Day 2009 with explosives hidden in his underwear. Abdulmutallab’s father attempted to warn U.S. officials that he had concerns about his son prior to the attack, but despite his father’s worry, Abdulmutallab was not placed on a no-fly list. The other passengers of that plane Christmas Day were only saved when they noticed Abdulmutallab attempting to light his explosives and subdued him themselves.
A spokesperson for the CIA, the agency which was approached by Abdulmutallab’s father, called into question Snowden’s general theory, telling ABC News the agency doesn’t “put a lot of stock in Snowden’s tips for improving our intelligence capabilities.”
“The Agency is a versatile global organization that is more than capable of addressing a range of national security threats simultaneously and it does so every day,” the spokesperson said. “Anyone suggesting otherwise is seriously misinformed.”
In testimony before lawmakers, the heads of American law enforcement and intelligence agencies have defended various NSA surveillance programs, and the head of the NSA, Gen. Keith Alexander, claimed the surveillance programs had played a role in the thwarting of more than 50 terrorist “terror-related activities” worldwide. In the case of Abdulmutallab, a Senate Intelligence Committee report in 2010 criticized the NSA for not doing enough – for not pursuing “potential collection opportunities that could have provided information” on the would-be terrorist.
However, last December an outside expert panel convened by the White House to review the surveillance programs found that the NSA’s most controversial collection program – so-called Section 215 for the relevant portion of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act – was “not essential to preventing attacks” and presented a “lurking danger of abuse.” The panel made 46 recommendations to how the government should change the way it watches the world, some of which the White House has said it will follow, while others remain under consideration.
Snowden said he was speaking at SXSW, in his first live video conference since fleeing to Moscow, because he wanted to talk directly to the tech developers that could make communications more secure through their programs, rather than waiting on a lumbering government to change policy. With enhanced and encrypted communication tools, Snowden said it would be too difficult for the NSA to sweep up information on everyone’s communications and therefore would be forced to put their resources into spying on people they believe actually pose a threat.
The 30-year-old also said that he doesn’t mind major telecom companies, rather than the NSA, temporarily holding information on customers’ communications information, as proposed by the White House panel, because it’s only the government that has authority over the rights of its citizens.
Snowden, a former contractor with Booz Allen who worked at a secure NSA facility in Hawaii, revealed himself as the source of the massive NSA leak last June while in hiding in Hong Kong. From there, he slipped to Moscow, where he was granted temporary asylum. A slew of media reports on the NSA’s foreign and domestic programs has followed, with no end in sight.
Snowden has been charged in the U.S. with espionage-related crimes and has said he believes he will not be afforded a fair trial should he return. And though privacy advocates call him a hero while critics deride him as a traitor, Snowden said he would do it all over again if he had to.
“When it comes to, would I do this again, the answer is ‘Absolutely, yes,’” Snowden said Monday. “Regardless of what is done to me....This is something we have the right to know.”
Representatives for the FBI did not immediately respond to request for comment for this report. The NSA declined to comment.
mark.adamsson/Facebook(WASHINGTON) -- A student from Georgetown University died while he was on spring break in the Dominican Republic, but the school and authorities have released little information about the death.
Mark Adamsson was a junior enrolled in the School of Foreign Service at Georgetown University, according to a campus-wide statement issued by Todd Olson, vice president for student affairs for Georgetown University.
The statement said that Adamsson was in the Dominican Republic with fellow classmates.
The cause of death was not disclosed, and calls to the school and Dominican authorities were not returned.
“I am deeply saddened by this news and know that it is difficult for the many members of the Georgetown community who know Mark,” Olson said in the school’s statement.
Georgetown officials have been in touch with Adamsson’s family and will provide support and assistance to them, Olson said.
Travis P Ball/Getty Images for SXSW(AUSTIN, Texas) -- NSA leaker Edward Snowden spoke Monday to South by Southwest festival-goers and told the audience that government intrusion and spying might ultimately destroy the U.S. economy.
Appearing by a Skype video call, Snowden sat in front of an image of the U.S. constitution, which he claimed he defended with his leaks.
“We rely on the ability to trust our communications and without that we don't have anything, our economy cannot succeed,” Snowden said.
Snowden said he has no regrets about stealing top secret files and would absolutely do it again.
Snowden is wanted on felony charges in the United States.
ABC News(HUNTINGTON, N.Y.) -- Shooting victim and owner of Oheka Castle in Huntington, N.Y., Gary Melius released a video statement on Monday morning, his first statement since being shot by a mysterious gunman in February.
"I got a break. Whatever that means. I guess God looked out for me," Melius said in the video, according to WABC, ABC's New York affiliate.
The 69-year-old was shot in the head by a masked gunman while getting into his car in the castle parking lot.
Authorities have not determined who shot Melius. The castle owner is known to have a number of political and financial connections, though it is unclear whether those connections played a part in the attack.
"I want you to know I'm healing, getting better and just looking forward to starting all over again," said Melius.
ABC News(BOSTON) -- The Boston FBI said that there has been “no specific threat” made against this year’s Boston Marathon, but they’re taking few chances as public safety officials announced that there will be an extraordinary police presence along the 26.2-mile route.
“We are taking every precaution necessary if a threat should pop up,” Boston field office Assistant Special Agent in Charge Kiernan Ramsey said. But so far, the FBI has “no specific intelligence that there is a threat to the Boston Marathon.”
But both Ramsey and Massachusetts State Police Colonel Tim Alben acknowledged there hadn’t been a specific threat or intelligence that warned them of the tragedy of last year’s event, when three people were killed and more than 260 were injured in a dual bombing near the finish line.
“There was no chatter last year, and we are all very aware what happened then," Alben told ABC News.
The remarks came the same day as a press conference held inside the Massachusetts Emergency Management bunker to reiterate the new rules for the 118th annual race. Some 36,000 runners have qualified for the race, officials said.
Backpacks are prohibited through the eight cities and towns that participate in the marathon and police are urging spectators along the route to carry belongings in clear plastic bags. No one will be allowed to carry coolers or any containers of liquid more than one liter, said Kurt Schwartz, Massachusetts Undersecretary of Homeland Security. In last year’s bombing, two brothers allegedly used two pressure cookers to house their explosives, brought to the race in dark bags.
“No one is building walls between spectators and runners,” Schwartz said, calling the security “reasonable.”
That security will also include State Police helicopters overhead, bomb sniffing dogs, uniformed National Guard soldiers who are trained and certified as military police officers, and hundreds of uniformed police officers who will be alongside an untold number of plainclothes law enforcement officials, Schwartz said.
“We are all mindful of what happened a year ago," Schwartz said.
Scores of people are running in honor of the victims -- Martin Richard, 8, Boston University student Lingzi Lu, and restaurant manager Krystal Campbell -- who died at the scene and others who were maimed for life.
“We never forget the tragedy and suffering that occurred last year," Boston Athletic Association Director Thomas Grilk said.
Officials insist that the character of the 118-year event will be preserved if runners and Patriots Day revelers cooperate by not bringing bags and bottles to the event, helping authorities “strike the right balance,” for the race.
"It will be a fun, festive, family focused day," Schwartz insisted.
Connecticut State Police via Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- The father of Sandy Hook Elementary School gunman Adam Lanza says he carries guilt about his son’s violent rampage and wishes his son had never been born.
“You can’t get any more evil,” Peter Lanza told the New Yorker in an article in its March 17 issue. “How much do I beat up on myself about the fact that he’s my son? A lot.”
Peter Lanza hadn’t seen his son in the two years prior to the Dec. 14, 2012 shootings in Newtown, Conn., in which the 20-year-old killed his mother and murdered 26 others before taking his own life. Peter and Adam’s mother, Nancy Lanza, had divorced when Adam was in elementary school. Peter said he had tried to reconnect, but Adam continued to withdraw, ignoring his father’s requests.
In interviews with the New Yorker, Peter Lanza said he never goes an hour without thinking about the shooting. He wanted to speak out because, “I want people to be afraid of the fact that this could happen to them. It doesn’t have to be understood to be real."
Peter Lanza said he believes his son would have killed him if he had the chance.
Adam Lanza was cheerful but quiet during childhood, “just a normal little weird kid,” his father says. He even used his savings to buy Christmas toys for needy children. But as years passed, Adam Lanza became more troubled. He struggled in middle school after being diagnosed with Asperger’s syndrome, a diagnosis Adam refused to accept.
Peter Lanza believes the diagnosis masked deeper, darker issues -- possibly schizophrenia.
Nancy Lanza’s actions didn’t reflect her son’s growing danger, he said.
“She never confided to her sister or best friend about being afraid of him,” Peter Lanza said. “She slept with her bedroom door unlocked, and she kept guns in the house, which she would not have done if she were frightened.”
Following the shooting, Peter Lanza received letters of support from across the country. Some of them were written by people whose relatives have carried out public shootings. Other letters included religious items and candy. He was wary of eating the candy, just in case it contained poison.
He also met with relatives of two Sandy Hook victims, an experience he called “gut-wrenching.”
“A victim’s family member told me that they forgave Adam after we spent three hours talking. I didn’t even know how to respond,” he said.
Peter Lanza declined to disclose any details on his son’s funeral. Adam took his own life after shooting up the school, gunning down 20 students aged 6 and 7.
“No one knows that,” he told The New Yorker. “And no one ever will.”