March 25, 2020

The family of Robert Levinson, a former FBI agent who disappeared in 2007, said on Wednesday the U.S. government has concluded that Levinson died while in Iranian custody.

In a statement on Twitter, the family said it is "impossible to describe our pain." They did not share any information on when Levinson is believed to have died or how, but did say U.S. officials received information that points to Levinson's death.

Levinson vanished on March 9, 2007, while on his way to meet a source on Kish Island, Iran. The Levinson family received proof-of-life photographs and videos in 2010 and 2011, and for several years, U.S. officials said Levinson was in Iran working on a private investigation. A 2013 Associated Press investigation uncovered that Levinson was actually sent on a mission by CIA analysts who did not have authorization to conduct such an operation.

In their statement, the Levinson family vowed that "those who are responsible for what happened to Bob Levinson, including those in the U.S. government who for many years repeatedly left him behind, will ultimately receive justice for what they have done." Catherine Nichols

November 8, 2019

We're no closer to knowing the identity of the anonymous Trump administration official behind the upcoming book A Warning, but they have given some insight into why they are keeping their name under wraps — and whether they will ever publicly reveal who they are.

The official first made waves last year, when they penned an op-ed for The New York Times, talking about a resistance against President Trump taking place inside the White House. In A Warning, the author writes that shrouding their identity deprives Trump of "an opportunity to create a distraction. What will he do when there is no person to attack, only an idea?" It's not an act of "cowardice" to remain anonymous, the author writes, and they shared that in the future, they could attach their name to criticism of Trump.

The author says that all administration officials "have draft resignation letters in our desks or on our laptops. That's the half-teasing, half-true advice you get on day one in the Trump administration or immediately following Senate confirmation." There was talk of a mass exodus, the author writes, but Trump is such a "mess" that the officials "thought we could keep it together. That answer feels more hollow than it used to."

It's clear that the author doesn't lean liberal — they complain about former President Barack Obama, saying he was "out of touch with mainstream America," and cheer for Trump's tax cuts and the appointments of conservative judges. It was Trump's lack of decorum that first got under the author's skin, and the final straw for Anonymous came when Trump tried to raise the White House flag when it was half-staff following the death of Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.). When asked for a response to A Warning, White House Press Secretary Stephanie Grisham said the book is "nothing but lies." Catherine Garcia

November 1, 2018

It's been one week since police recovered the bodies of two sisters from the Hudson River in New York City, and they are still trying to determine how the women got into the water.

Authorities say that Rotana Farea, 22, and Tala Farea, 16, were both dressed in similar black leggings and fur-trimmed jackets, and bound together at their waists and ankles by duct tape. In a press conference Wednesday, New York police said the medical examiner determined the sisters were both alive when they entered the water, but the exact cause of death is not known and there are no obvious signs of trauma. NYPD Chief of Detectives Dermot Shea said this "has not been determined a homicide," but the deaths are considered suspicious. The sisters did not have registered phones or social media profiles.

The sisters were citizens of Saudi Arabia. A law enforcement source told CBS News that their mother, who lives in Virginia, told police that earlier this month, the Saudi government called her and said the family had to return to the kingdom because the sisters had applied for asylum in the United States. The Saudi consulate in New York on Tuesday said the sisters were students who accompanied their brother to Washington; CBS News reports they lived in Fairfax, Virginia, and were last seen there in September. Catherine Garcia

April 27, 2018

He's been fielding phone calls from people who want to know why he's leaving, but House chaplain Rev. Patrick J. Conroy says he has no idea why House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) asked him to resign earlier this month.

In an interview with The New York Times, Conroy said the message came from Ryan's chief of staff, and he was blindsided by the request. He notified Ryan in an April 15 letter that he was stepping down, at Ryan's request, on May 24. "I certainly wasn't given anything in writing," Conroy said. "Catholic members on both sides are furious." The nonpartisan House chaplain gives a prayer each day the House is in session, and Conroy has held the position since 2011.

Republicans and Democrats are preparing a letter asking Ryan for an explanation. Conroy told the Times that Ryan may have been motivated by his Nov. 6 opening prayer, as the GOP tax bill was being discussed: "May all members be mindful that the institutions and structures of our great nation guarantee the opportunities that have allowed some to achieve great success, while others continue to struggle. May their efforts these days guarantee that there are not winners and losers under new tax laws, but benefits balanced and shared by all Americans."

Conroy said a week later, a Ryan aide told him they were "upset" by the prayer and he was getting "too political," and Ryan later told him, "Padre, you've got to stay out of politics." Conroy doesn't see the problem. "If you are hospital chaplain, you are going to pray about health," he said. "If you are a chaplain of Congress, you are going to pray about what Congress is doing." Rep. Walter Jones (R-N.C.) told the Times he's "very upset" by Conroy's resignation, and "if this is true about the prayer, and we have freedom of religion in America, how about freedom of religion on the floor of the House? The members of the House vote for the chaplain. This is not a one-man decision." Catherine Garcia

April 1, 2016

State security agents are trying to track down the mysterious author of a short letter published online, calling for the resignation of Chinese President Xi Jinping.

Since the letter first appeared on Canyu, a U.S.-based Chinese language website edited by a human rights activist named Cai Chu, more than two dozen people believed to have some connection to the letter have been detained, The Guardian reports. The letter, addressed to "Comrade Xi Jinping" and signed "loyal Communist party members," says the authors feel Xi does not "possess the capabilities to lead the party and the nation into the future, and we believe that you are no longer suitable for the post of general secretary."

After the letter appeared on Canyu, it showed up on the Chinese news site Wujie; censors took it down that day, the site was shut down, and authorities detained several staff members, The Guardian reports. Several exiled journalists also say their relatives have been detained in China and questioned about any ties they may have to the letter. As Chinese officials continue their search for the writer, and experts discuss whether or not this is all a prank or actual Communist Party dissent, William Nee of Amnesty International in Hong Kong says Xi's plan is "backfiring. Conducting an aggressive manhunt against anyone allegedly involved in commenting on the letter only serves to put more attention on the letter, giving it a longer shelf life." Catherine Garcia

August 21, 2015

Scientists in Alaska are trying to get to the bottom of why so many whales are being found dead along the state's coast.

Since May, 30 dead whales — 11 fin whales, 14 humpbacks, one gray whale, and four unidentified cetaceans — have been discovered, and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration declared an "unusual mortality event" on Thursday, The Huffington Post reports. Last year, just five dead whales were spotted on the coast. "While we do not yet know the cause of these strandings, our investigations will give us important information on the health of whales and the ecosystems where they live," NOAA's Dr. Teri Rowles said in a statement.

Because the coastline of Alaska is so vast, scientists have only been able to get to one of the whale carcasses. It's possible the deaths are being caused by toxic algae bloom, NOAA said, but it's "highly unlikely" the strandings are due to radiation from Fukushima. The scientists say it could take years to figure out what's going on, and are asking the public to call them if they see a dead whale or a living whale in distress. Catherine Garcia

July 21, 2015

On Monday, the Waller County, Texas, Sheriff's Office released three hours of video footage from a camera aimed at the hallway outside the jail cell of Sandra Bland, a 28-year-old black woman found dead in her cell on July 13. Bland, 28, had been stopped by a sheriff's deputy on July 10 for changing lanes without a signal, and then arrested after, the deputy said, Bland assaulted him. The sheriff's office said it will release dash-cam video of the arrest on Tuesday.

Monday's video shows a sheriff's deputy discovering Bland's body and running to get help, but it shows no movement for about 90 minutes before that — sheriff's department officials said that on the morning of her death, Bland refused a food tray about 6:30 a.m. and was found dead with a garbage bag around her neck just after 9 a.m. The county coroner ruled the death a suicide, but Bland's family finds that unlikely, arguing that Bland just moved to Houston to take a new job she was excited about. The Waller County district attorney, Elton Mathis, promised a full, thorough investigation.

"It is very much too early to make any kind of determination that this was a suicide or a murder because the investigations are not complete," Mathis said, adding: "This investigation is still being treated just as it would be in a murder investigation. There are many questions being raised in Waller County, across the country and the world about this case. It needs a thorough review." The FBI and Texas Rangers are helping with the case, and Mathis said he will impanel a grand jury in August. Capt. Brian Cantrell at the sheriff's department said that Bland's death "was a tragic incident, not one of criminal intent or a criminal act" but that he welcomed the investigation. You can watch part of the video below. Peter Weber

July 14, 2015

Rhode Island officials are determined to figure out what was behind an explosion at a beach Saturday that left a woman with broken ribs and a concussion.

Kathleen Danise, 60, was at Salty Brine State Beach in Narragansett when suddenly, she was launched into nearby rocks, ABC News reports. "She was like a human cannon," her sister, Laura Demartino, told WTNH. Officials say they are taking the matter seriously, and are concerned that they don't know what caused the explosion.

Janet Colt, director of the Rhode Island department of environmental management, said they're looking at cables below the sand that were "de-energized" in 2007, and officials aren't ruling out the possibility of an energized cable. Several beach goers said they smelled gas after the explosion, but a spokesman for National Grid said there are no gas lines along the beach. Rhode Island fire marshal Jack Chartier said there was no evidence of any explosives, but investigators are "leaving no stone unturned." Catherine Garcia

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