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Jun 012013
 

Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) — Rep. John Dingell, who is serving his 30th term in the House of Representatives, is poised to break the record next week as the longest-serving member in the history of the U.S. Congress.

Next Friday, June 7, Dingell will eclipse the late Sen. Robert Byrd, having served 57 years, 177 days.

That’s 20,996 days, to be exact.

Throughout his career, Dingell has served with 22 percent of all members who have ever served in the lower chamber — 2,419 of 10,989 lawmakers — casting more than 25,000 votes through 11 presidential administrations while attending 50 State of the Union addresses.

Dingell, 86, first took office on Dec. 13, 1955 at the age of 29 after winning a special election to replace his late father, John Dingell Sr., as the representative for Michigan’s 15th Congressional District.

Dwight Eisenhower was serving his first term as president and had not yet signed the Federal-Aid Highway Act of 1956. John F. Kennedy was still a U.S. senator and had not yet published his Pulitzer Prize-winning book, “Profiles in Courage.” Barack Obama would not be born in Hawaii for almost six more years.

Dingell, who can be seen leisurely walking throughout the Capitol with the help of a wooden cane, often drives a motorized scooter with a vanity license plate that reads, “The Dean” to commute between the Capitol and his congressional office across the street.

Dingell has owned the title of Dean of the House of Representatives since 1995, given for the longest continuous service of a current member.

The Michigan Democrat, born July 8, 1926, is not the oldest member of Congress. That honor goes to Rep. Ralph Hall, who is about three years older than Dingell.

Rep. John Conyers, a fellow Michigan Democrat who has served alongside Dingell since his own election to the House in 1965, previously worked for Dingell as a legislative aide, crediting him as his mentor.

“It has been a privilege to serve alongside Congressman Dingell in representing Michigan, and I congratulate him on this momentous milestone,” said Conyers, the second-longest current serving member of Congress. “Congressman Dingell’s dedication to public service is unmatched, and he has had a distinguished career leading the fight to advance health care reforms and increase environmental protections. Both my father and Congressman Dingell’s father were friends many years ago, and it has been an honor to call Congressman Dingell my friend over our time in Congress together.”

Since the House is not in session next Friday, lawmakers will regroup June 13 for a bicameral, bipartisan celebration of Dingell in Statuary Hall in the U.S. Capitol.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio

Mar 072013
 

Roll Call/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) — Democratic Sen. Carl Levin of Michigan, the Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman, announced Thursday evening that he will not run for reelection in 2014.

Levin, 78, said the decision for him was “extremely difficult,” but he decided with his wife that he could do a better job as a senator without campaigning.

“We decided that I can best serve my state and nation by concentrating in the next two years on the challenging issues before us that I am in a position to help address,” Levin said. “In other words, by doing my job without the distraction of campaigning for reelection.”

Levin, the senior Senator from Michigan, was first elected into the Senate in 1978.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio

Dec 222012
 

WXYZ/ABC News(DETROIT) — Cops in Michigan have made a gruesome discovery: precisely-cut cubes of human flesh hidden in a drainage pipe. They bear a shocking similarity to other remains found last August in another nearby stretch of drain pipe.

Work crews discovered the remains, described by police to ABC News.com as “chunks of skin and fat and little bit of muscle tissue” cut into 4-by-4-inch cubes. They were found stuck to a grating near Warren, Mich., outside Detroit, after water had been removed from the drain pipe during repairs.

The remains appear to be “almost exact matches” in physical appearance to 10 pieces found earlier this year in Sterling Heights, Mich., according to Detective Mel Nearing.

Police have sent the new remains to a lab in Texas for DNA testing. Authorities said they want to determine if they match the body parts discovered last summer, which belonged to an unidentified obese white female.

Nearing said the remains found this week appeared to have been dumped recently, and would have further decomposed had they been discarded in August with the other parts.

Police said they believe that if the remains are from the same person, the killer likely froze the body and has been disposing of pieces slowly over time.

The precision of the cuts would also indicate the body had been frozen before dismemberment, Nearing said.

If the remains are found to belong to a second victim, police said they might have a serial killer on their hands.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Dec 182012
 

Hemera/Thinkstock(HIGHLAND TOWNSHIP, Mich.) — A Michigan jury Tuesday found Jeffrey Pyne guilty of second-degree murder in the death of his mentally ill mother.

Pyne, 22, a former high school valedictorian, star athlete and University of Michigan biology student, had been accused of killing his 51-year-old mother, Ruth Pyne, in the family’s Highland Township, Mich., garage on May 27, 2011.

Ruth Pyne had been bludgeoned and stabbed 16 times.

The trial began on Nov. 16. Pyne never took the stand, and his defense did not call any witnesses to testify.

When the verdict was announced in court Tuesday, Pyne appeared to be taken aback. Reacting to the verdict, he tilted his head slightly and blinked rapidly.

He had been charged with first-degree murder but the unanimous jury found him guilty of the lesser second-degree murder charge.

Pyne was well-liked in the Highland Park community, and many people did not believe he was responsible for his mother’s death.

Prosecutors said he had been fueled by pent-up rage after years of abuse at the hands of his mother, who spent time in jail for assaulting him in 2010. Charges were dropped when she was treated at a hospital and promised to stay on her medication.

But Pyne’s defense had said he was not involved in any way with his mother’s death, claiming a stranger or strangers likely attacked Ruth Pyne.

The prosecution’s case had been largely circumstantial. There was no physical evidence linking Pyne to the killing, but prosecutors did present photos taken shortly after the killing that showed Pyne’s blistered hands.

Pyne has said the blisters came from throwing a wooden storage pallet at his job on a local farm.

Speaking to reporters outside the court Tuesday, Pyne’s father, Bernie, said he was surprised by the verdict.

“I believe in my son’s innocence and I wasn’t able to get him home for his sister for Christmas, so it’s not been a good year,” he said, according to ABC News Detroit affiliate WXYZ-TV. “I have to go tell Jeffrey’s 12-year-old sister that it’s just her and me now.”

Jeffrey Pyne’s ex-girlfriend, Holly Freeman, had testified during the trial that Pyne’s mother was dangerous, delusional and off her medication. Freeman said Ruth Pyne would often assault her son, adding that Jeffrey Pyne was fearful of his little sister, Julia, being left alone in the house with their mother.

Ruth Pyne’s sister said the guilty verdict provided “some justice.”

“She was not the monster the media portrayed her to be,” Linda Jarvie told reporters. “I am deeply saddened by my sister Ruth’s senseless death. This was a heinous crime. Ruth Pyne was a victim.”

James Champion, Pyne’s attorney, also spoke after the verdict was read, saying: “I told him last Christmas that that was the last Christmas he’d spend in jail, and I had every intention of making that promise come true but we didn’t get it done, so tomorrow we’ll pick ourselves back up and figure out how to move along.”

Pyne will be sentenced on Jan. 29. He faces a possible sentence of 7 ½ years to 12 ½ years in prison.

 

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Dec 182012
 

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(LANSING, Mich.) — Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder Tuesday vetoed a bill that would have invalidated “gun free” zones like those at schools and churches.

The law was passed by the state legislature in Michigan the day before the Newtown, Conn., elementary school shooting. It would have allowed individual schools to ban guns on their property, but Snyder vetoed it because of concerns that public schools did not retain enough power to keep guns off their campuses.

“While we must vigilantly protect the rights of law-abiding firearm owners, we also must ensure the right of designated public entities to exercise their best discretion in matters of safety and security,” he said. “These public venues need clear legal authority to ban firearms on their premises if they see fit to do so.”

But some state laws already permit individual school districts to allow concealed weapons on campus. The thinking is that law-abiding citizens with concealed weapons can deter and react to the person bent on destruction.

Four days after the deadly school shooting in Connecticut that left 20 children and six staff members dead, two Republican governors have spoken favorably of considering proposals to put guns in the hands of teachers and administrators.

Texas Gov. Rick Perry expressed support for allowing school districts to determine whether teachers can carry concealed handguns in class, which at least one Texas district already permits.

“In the state of Texas, if you go through the process, have been trained, and you are a handgun-licensed individual, you should be able to carry a gun anywhere in the state,” Perry told the NE Tarrant County Tea Party Monday evening, according to ABC News affiliate WFAA-TV in Dallas-Fort Worth.

This is not the majority opinion in the United States, however. An ABC News-Washington Post poll conducted in the aftermath of the Friday shooting found that 54 percent of Americans favor stricter gun control laws in general and 59 percent support a ban specifically on high-capacity ammunition clips such as the ones used in Newtown.

But Perry and McDonnell are far from alone.

One Texas school district, the Harrold Independent School District, adopted a policy in 2007 allowing teachers to carry concealed handguns in schools. Almost 200 miles northwest of Dallas, Harrold is a small school district near the Texas-Oklahoma border that teaches 100 children K-12.

“We’re a rural community,” Harrold superintendent David Thweatt told ABC News in a phone interview. “We’re in a county about a little smaller than the state of Rhode of island, so we’re 30 minutes from law enforcement. Thirty minutes is an extremely long length of time.”

Harrold implemented the “Guardian Plan,” the district’s policy that allows teachers to carry concealed handguns, after the 2006 shooting at an Amish school in Nickel Mines, Pa., which killed five young girls, and the 2007 massacre at Virginia Tech that led to the death of 32 students and teachers.

“We were just concerned with trying to protect our kids, and there were enough shootings, as far as I was concerned, to develop this plan,” Thweatt said.

In Perry’s state of Texas, lawmakers in 2011 narrowly failed to pass legislation allowing permitted handgun owners to carry concealed guns on college campuses. But they are allowed in the statehouse.

Five states have provisions allowing concealed weapons on college campuses and 23 others allow individual schools to allow guns on college campuses.

Some proponents wouldn’t stop at college campuses.

Rep. Louie Gohmert, R-Texas, a gun rights advocate who represents an east Texas district, said he wished that the principal at Sandy Hook Elementary School had been armed when Adam Lanza opened fire on the young school children and teachers Friday morning.

“I wish to God she had had an M-4 in her office, locked up so when she heard gunfire, she pulls it out and she didn’t have to lunge heroically with nothing in her hands. But she takes him out, takes his head off before he can kill those precious kids,” Gohmert said on Fox News Sunday.

In Texas’ Harrold Independent School District, The Guardian Plan consists of four components. An employee must obtain a concealed handgun license from the state of Texas, and the school board would approve them individually to carry in schools. The teachers must then go through extended training, and the ammunition used in the guns must be frangible, meaning it is made of small particles and breaks apart when it hits a hard object like wood or a plastic wall.

Harrold employs about 25 teachers and personnel, but superintendent Thweatt would not specify how many employees or which ones carry concealed weapons in the schools. Thweatt said many parents in his district support the concealed-handgun policy for teachers.

“Parents often cite that the reason they’re bringing their kids to our schools is because we have better security for them,” he said. “When you send your kids to school, you want them to come home to you.”

In the wake of the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary, Thweatt says more school districts in Texas have reached out to him for information about Harrold’s concealed-handgun policy.

The Texas penal code prohibits weapons from being used in schools or educational institutions “unless, pursuant to written regulations or written authorization of the institution,” language allows for school boards to determine whether teachers can carry handguns in schools.

Debbie Ratcliffe, a spokeswoman for the Texas Education Agency, said the agency has not heard of other school districts’ wishing to implement the same policy as Harrold but noted that the districts would not be required to report it to the agency.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio