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  • Phototreat/iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- The number of U.S. Border Patrol agents has declined over the past year, despite President Donald Trump’s emphasis on increasing the ranks of the agency to carry out his border security agenda.There are currently 19,407 agents, which is 335 fewer agents than 10 months ago, according to Customs and Border Protection (CBP) data.However, CBP, which oversees Border Patrol hiring, said it expects that it will hire more agents before the end of the fiscal year is over. And the agency expects it will hire more total agents this year compared to last year.The numbers "don’t tell the whole story," said CBP Office of Human Resources Management Assistant Commissioner Linda Jacksta."We’re starting to see some momentum. We’re starting to see some traction. We’ve implemented a number of improvements over the past two years. Those are starting to mature and take root," she told ABC News.She acknowledged those implementations "take time," but said that for the first time in the last two years, the agency was starting to see "real gains."In January, Trump signed an executive order directing CBP to immediately begin the process of hiring 5,000 additional Border Patrol agents. The order also called on Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to hire 10,000 federal agents and officers.A recent Department of Homeland Security inspector general report found that both agencies are facing "significant challenges" in identifying, recruiting and hiring the number of law enforcement officers mandated in the executive orders.The report also found that neither CBP nor ICE could provide "complete data to support the operational need or deployment strategies" for the additional 15,000 agents and officers they were directed to hire.“We know that the president wants us to hire 5,000 agents, so we look forward to seeing how Congress enacts the budget for ’18 and that will tell us what we’re funded to hire, recognizing that we want to meet or exceed those goals to the greatest extent that we can," said Jacksta.Another inspector general report, released in August, found that CBP administered polygraph tests to applicants after they had already given information "disqualifying" them from being hired.The testing cost CBP about $5.1 million on more than 2,300 polygraphs, between 2013 and 2016, for applicants with “significant pre-test admissions of wrongdoing," including illegal drug use, drug smuggling, human trafficking, and in once case an applicant who, during the pre-test interview, admitted to participating in the gang rape of an intoxicated and unconscious woman.This "slows the process for qualified applicants; wastes polygraph resources on unsuitable applicants; and will make it more difficult for CBP to achieve its hiring goals,” read the report.CBP agreed with the report's findings and said it was taking steps to "aggressively" fix the testing issues.Even before the executive order was issued, the agency was authorized by Congress to employ 21,370 agents, a number it hasn’t reached since 2013, according to the agency's watchdog.Trump’s budget request for next year includes the hiring of 500 agents."We’re hopeful that Congress will approve the president’s budget,” Jacksta said.She said the agency is looking ahead to fiscal year 2018, saying that 2017 was a “ramp-up year” in order to implement the capability to hire the agents that Trump has requested. “We’re well positioned,” to hire the 500 agents next year, she said.Jacksta said that she’s "optimistic" for future hiring because of certain human resource metrics.For example, CBP said that the attrition rate has dropped by about a percentage point since 2015, as well as a reduction in the time it takes to hire an agent.“This applicant pool, we’re competing with a lot of other state, local, federal law enforcement organizations
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  • Popartic/iStock/Thinkstock(HOPE, Alaska) -- Daniel Hartung's very first kayaking trip on powerful whitewater rapids almost became his last, if it weren't for the heroics of a stranger.On Saturday, Hartung, 64, of Indian, Alaska, attended a bluegrass and whitewater festival near Hope, Alaska, with his wife.Hartung, who'd been kayaking on flat water for more than 10 years, said that as he and his wife surveyed the waters, she told him that she had a bad feeling about him getting into the churning waters.But Hartung went anyway."There were other more experienced kayakers than me," he told ABC News today. "So I thought I would go there and felt a little bit safe on trying my first whitewater with experienced kayakers around."He went over a set of falls and then hit a rock. Water flooded the kayak and Hartung was tossed into Six-Mile Creek. As he traveled down the river, he hit another rock and then became stuck on a tree.Other kayakers tried to rescue him as he fought against the raging current."The water was so forceful that I could not get myself out of it. I could lift my head slightly above the water to breathe," he said. "The more I tried to extract myself, the lower my head went until I was not able to breathe anymore."As minutes continued went by, Hartung eventually dipped underwater and found himself giving up."I kept trying and trying and after a while it just became apparent to me that it was not going, that I was not going to get myself out of this," he said. "It was very calming. Everything whited out and I blacked out. ... No fear, no other thoughts."What Hartung didn't know was that a man named Obadiah Jenkins had appeared.He pulled Hartung free from under the tree and got him to shore. A group of people, including Hartung's wife, helped get him up a hill in blankets, where they were met by emergency personnel."I just knew at that point there was no way I could let this man die," Jenkins said. "If I had 1 percent chance of saving his life, I was gonna try it."Rescuers performed CPR to revive Hartung. Jenkins, who had turned 33 that day, said there was no better present than seeing Hartung live."I remember, first time he opened his eyes, that I could tell he was breathing on his own, I said to him, 'Nobody dies on my birthday,'" Jenkins said. "I could tell I got a little rise out of him because his eyes went to the side a little bit like, 'Yeah, OK.'"Hartung, who is now home recovering from a broken rib, said he plans to stick to calmer waters and would like to buy Jenkins a big steak dinner."This guy is a true hero," he said.Copyright © 2017, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.
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  • MattGush/iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- New and disturbing information has been released about James Alex Fields Jr., the man who allegedly drove into a group protesting a white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, Saturday, killing a woman and injuring several others.ABC News has obtained transcripts of three 911 calls from 2010 and 2011, in which Fields was accused of terrorizing his mother, Samantha Bloom, who requires the use of a wheelchair.In one call, according to dispatcher reports, Bloom told police that Fields "smacked [her] in the head" and "put his hands over her mouth."Bloom had made the call after locking herself in the bathroom.In another call, according to dispatcher reports, Fields allegedly stood behind Bloom with a 12-inch knife and "scared mom to death not knowing if he was going to do something."Fields is charged with second-degree murder, three counts of malicious wounding and one count related to leaving the scene in connection with this weekend's violence.Fields was denied bail Monday and his next scheduled court hearing is Aug. 25.His appointed attorney did not immediately respond to ABC News' request for comment.Copyright © 2017, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.
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  • SeanPavonePhoto/iStock/Thinkstock(BOSTON) -- Officials broke ground in Boston Wednesday for a new park dedicated to Martin Richard, the youngest victim of the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing.Martin was 8 years old when he killed on April 15, 2013, as he watched the marathon from near the finish line with his family. His mother was gravely injured, and his sister, who was 7 at the time, lost a leg.Photos from Wednesday's ceremonial groundbreaking show children in hard hats using shovels to dig dirt. Martin's Park, located next to the Boston Children's Museum at the Smith Family Waterfront, is expected to open in the fall of 2018, according to a press release from the office of Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker."This park will bring light & hope to that darkness, honoring his memory & allowing kids to be kids," Baker wrote on Twitter. #MartinRichard lost his life to terror. This park will bring light & hope to that darkness, honoring his memory & allowing kids to be kids. pic.twitter.com/lYUTMyZNxV
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  • mokee81/iStock/Thinkstock(ST. LOUIS) -- Someone call the fashion police.Missouri police poked fun at a "jorts-wearing bandit" who has burglarized multiple Walgreens stores in the St. Louis County area.On Aug. 9, the St. Louis County Police Department tweeted a photo of the suspect, instructing the public to contact either them or the fashion police if they are able to identify the man.This guy wears jorts and robs Walgreens stores. Contact us or the fashion police if you can identify. pic.twitter.com/mZgxVp4knh
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