• CDC(ATLANTA) -- The mysterious death of a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention epidemiologist -- whose body was found along the banks of a river weeks after he disappeared -- has been ruled a suicide by drowning, officials said.Cunningham, 35, a Harvard graduate and commander in the U.S. Public Health Service who responded to public health emergencies including the Ebola and Zika viruses, disappeared Feb. 12 after saying he was sick before leaving his Atlanta office.All of Cunningham's belongings, including his dog, were left at his home.Cunningham's concerned family reported him missing, and after weeks of searching, authorities found his body April 2 along the banks of the Chattahoochee River.Cunningham’s parents told investigators that he had mood swings but had not been diagnosed with depression, documents released by the medical examiner’s office said, according to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.
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  • iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- The Senate has released its version of a landmark measure that would hold lawmakers personally accountable for sexual harassment, including making them pay for claims out of their own pockets and making those payments public.The Senate bill seeks to expand options for employees seeking to make a complaint and has broad bipartisan support.“With this agreement, both parties are coming together to update the laws governing how the Congress addresses workplace claims and protecting staff and others from harassment,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer said in a joint statement, predicting the measure would pass the Senate quickly.The Senate bill gives accusers 90 days after filing a claim to request a hearing or filing a civil action in federal district court. It scraps a mandatory 30-day “cooling off period” before such claims can proceed, and it would establish a dedicated advocate who would be available for consultation throughout the process.It requires members of both chambers to reimburse the U.S. Treasury for awards and settlements arising from harassment they themselves commit – including members who leave office – and requires annual public reporting of those payments.The House of Representatives passed its own sexual harassment bill in February. It includes a 45-day period for claimants to take action, in federal court, half the time in the Senate bill.“This legislation will help bring accountability and transparency to a broken process, ensure victims can immediately seek justice, and hold Members of Congress accountable,” Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., the top Democrat on the Senate Rules Committee said in a statement released with committee chairman Sen. Roy Blunt, R-Mo.Senate Democrats, led by Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., had expressed frustration that it took so much time for the Senate to pass its bill after the House’s efforts three months ago. After news broke that Rep. Blake Farenthold, R-Texas, who resigned amid a sexual harassment scandal, was refusing to repay Treasury an $84,000 settlement, she reiterated her calls for the Senate to take up the bill.Both versions of the bill will have to be reconciled and passed before a final version can be signed into law.Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.
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  • Alex Wong/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- President Donald Trump fired off another allegation that a “Criminal Deep State" within the FBI and Department of Justice is pursuing him, after media reports that an FBI informant was embedded in his 2016 presidential campaign.The president tweeted Wednesday morning, "Look how things have turned around on the Criminal Deep State. They go after Phony Collusion with Russia, a made up Scam, and end up getting caught in a major SPY scandal the likes of which this country may never have seen before! What goes around, comes around!"His tweet appears to reference New York Times and Washington Post reporting that the FBI planted an informant to make contact with members of his campaign, only after the agency obtained information that members of the Trump team had suspicious contacts with Russians during the 2016 election.The tweet continued his attack on the so-called deep state, the unfounded theory that career public servants are attempting to undermine his administration, which he claims lies within the very law enforcement agencies that he leads. But such efforts to target him and his presidency have backfired, he asserts.Continuing his early-morning rant, Trump added, "SPYGATE could be one of the biggest political scandals in history!"Despite his comments, there is no evidence to support any notion that Trump's campaign was improperly infiltrated, as he has alleged, although the Department of Justice inspector general is looking into the matter at the president's request.Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.
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  • iStock/Thinkstock(LANGLEY, Virginia) -- The Defense Department has decided it will continue allowing the use of cellphones at the Pentagon, but it will strictly enforce existing rules to prevent cell phones from being brought into secure areas at the nation's military headquarters.The new policy issued Tuesday is far short of early speculation that Defense Secretary James Mattis might ban all cellphones from the Pentagon.“Today the Department of Defense announces a policy regarding the use of mobile devices within the Pentagon and supported buildings,” said a Pentagon statement. “The policy, which applies to DoD personnel, contractors, and Pentagon visitors, clarifies restrictions for mobile devices anywhere within the Pentagon designated or accredited for the processing, handling or discussion of classified information." Late last year Defense Secretary Mattis initiated a review of cellphone use at the Pentagon because of what a U.S. official characterized as ways of improving information security concern in the building.A memo signed by Patrick Shanahan, the Deputy Secretary of Defense, outlined the new policy that enforces existing requirements that cell phones be placed in small storage boxes or lockers outside of sensitive parts of the building. Mobile devices are defined in the memo as cell phones, laptops, tablets, smartwatches, and other devices that are portable, can wirelessly transmit or receive information and have a self-contained power source."Mobile devices must be stored in daily-use storage containers that are located outside the secure space," said the memo.The new rules mean there will likely be many more cellphone lockboxes throughout the building in order to comply with the new policy.The 23,000 military and civilian employees at the Pentagon will still be allowed to bring their personal or work cellphones into the building - although as a practical matter there is no cellphone reception throughout most of the building.“Mobile devices may be used in common areas and spaces that are not designated or accredited for the processing, handling, or discussion of classified information,” said the memo.The Defense Department is still updating a separate comprehensive policy for fitness trackers and other wearable electronics that have GPS capability.That review was triggered in January after it was discovered that a heat map generated by the Strava exercise fitness tracking app identified exercise routes used by U.S. military personnel worldwide, even at some U.S. facilities that were not public.Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.
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  • Mark Wilson/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Environmental Protection Agency chief Scott Pruitt says the agency will move to regulate as "hazardous" a type of harmful chemical found in the drinking water of millions of Americans, calling it a "national priority."The type of chemical is commonly known as PFAS or PFOS and is used in nonstick pans, making furniture and carpets stain resistant, absorbing grease in products like pizza boxes as is contained as well in firefighting foam commonly used at airports.EPA first published rules about the chemical in 2002 when the 3M company agreed to phase them out. The EPA studied the health effects of exposure for several years and published a health advisory in 2016.Some state and local advocacy groups in areas contaminated by PFAS chemicals say the EPA has taken too long to act on the risk and has not done enough to provide help or research to clean up the chemicals.The EPA says the chemical can cause health problems and even cancer if it people are exposed to it in soil or water.This type of chemical has attracted more attention after a Politico report that officials from EPA, the Pentagon, and the White House sought to delay a report from an agency within the Centers for Disease Control that evaluates whether chemicals are toxic. Emails referenced in that story, and obtained by the Union of Concerned Scientists through public records requests, indicated that the study found PFAS chemicals are hazardous at lower levels than currently recommended.Pruitt said Tuesday that the agency has a four-step plan for labeling the chemicals as hazardous and setting a maximum level for when it needs to be cleaned up. But the announcement was partly overshadowed after the Associated Press and other news outlets said their reporters were not allowed into the event.Some facilities that used these chemicals in manufacturing have released them into the soil or water in the area, which causes them to accumulate because they are difficult to clean up and remain in the environment for a long time. Research shows that people exposed to the chemicals through drinking water or who eat food grown in contaminated soil can be more likely to get cancer or face health problems like hormone disruption."As we've used those chemicals over the course of many decades there are concerns across the country about these chemicals because of the persistence, their durability getting into the environment and impacting communities in an adverse way. That's the reason we're here today," Pruitt said in remarks at a summit on PFAS chemicals at the EPA on Tuesday.An analysis from the non-partisan advocacy group Environmental Working Group found that some level of the chemicals are present in drinking water for up to 110 million Americans. Drinking water systems for at least 16 million people tested with PFAS levels higher than the limit recommended by the EPA.Multiple states have found PFAS chemicals in drinking water, including Michigan where the state is still recovering from the lead crisis in Flint. Pruitt said Tuesday that he will travel to Michigan and other states to discuss the issue with local communities. The EPA has published advisories that PFAS chemicals are dangerous at a level of 70 parts per trillion, but some researchers and advocacy groups have said the level should be much lower. The EPA's recommended level is not an official limit but is often used as the level for when states or companies need to take action to clean up the chemicalWhen asked about the delayed study on the danger of the chemicals Pruitt recently said in a hearing that he didn't know the study was delayed and that he thinks it should be released, but told at least one member of Congress in a letter that EPA does not have the authority to release the study.The office within CDC that evaluates toxic chemicals, the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, said in a statement that they are working with other agencies to finalize the report but
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  • ABCNews.com(WASHINGTON) -- President Donald Trump continued to fuel GOP accusations that an informant was embedded in his presidential campaign for political purposes, saying Tuesday that “a lot of people are saying” there were spies.“A lot of people are saying they had spies in my campaign,” President Trump said during his wide-ranging comments in the Oval Office during a press spray of a meeting with South Korea’s President Moon Jae-in.“If they had spies in my campaign, that would be a disgrace to this country,” Trump continued. “It would be very illegal aside from everything else. It would make probably every political event ever look like small potatoes so we want to make sure there weren't. I hope there weren't frankly.”“If they had spies in my campaign, during my campaign for political purposes, that would be unprecedented in the history of our country,” he later added.The president has seized on reports from the New York Times and Washington Post that the FBI sent an informant to meet with members of his campaign. The Times cited unnamed sources that these contacts were made only after the FBI had gathered information that the source’s targets had made suspicious contacts with Russians during the campaign.The FBI has not confirmed that it used an informant and so far there is no evidence that was one embedded in the Trump campaign.The president rebuffed ABC News' question about whether he continues to have confidence in Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, who on Sunday said the DOJ would look into whether there was any improper activities related to the Trump campaign after the president ordered DOJ probe the issue.“What is your next question, please,” Trump said, passing over the question. “I have the president of South Korea here. He doesn't want to hear these questions, if you don't mind.”On Sunday, Trump took to Twitter to issue a "demand" that the DOJ "look into" whether there was any improper surveillance of his campaign "for political purposes."Later Sunday, Rosenstein issued a statement saying, “If anyone did infiltrate or surveil participants in a presidential campaign for inappropriate purposes, we need to know about it and take appropriate action."Following the weekend tweet, President Trump met on Monday with Rosenstein and FBI Director Christopher Wray. Despite the timing of the meeting the day after his tweet demand, the president said Tuesday that the meeting was “very routine."Senate Democratic Leader Charles Schumer is among critics who have called it highly inappropriate.Speaking of the alleged informant, the president said he’s read in news reports that “some person got paid a lot of money” and “that is not a normal situation, the kind of money you are talking about.”“I think the Department of Justice wants to get down to it and Congress does so hopefully they will all be able to get together,” Trump said. “General Kelly will be setting up a meeting between Congress and the various representatives and they will be able to open up documents, take a look and find out what happened.”Democrats have raised objections to that meeting as well – demanding to be included and questioning whether Trump and Kelly would be allowed to review classified information about the Mueller investigation that include the identify of any informant.
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