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Boy Scout board approves end to blanket ban on gay adults

DAVID CRARY, AP National Writer

NEW YORK (AP) — The Boy Scouts of America have ended a blanket ban on gay adult leaders while allowing church-sponsored Scout units to maintain the exclusion because of their faith.

The new policy, aimed at easing a controversy that embroiled the Boy Scouts for years and threatened the organization with lawsuits, takes effect immediately. It was approved Monday by the BSA's 80-member National Executive Board in a teleconference.

The stage had been set for Monday's action on May 21, when the BSA's president, former Defense Secretary Robert Gates, told the Scouts' national meeting that the long-standing ban on participation by openly gay adults was no longer sustainable. He said the ban was likely to be the target of lawsuits that the Scouts were likely to lose.

Man possibly linked to missing women had contact with police

JONATHAN MATTISE, Associated Press
DAN SEWELL, Associated Press

CHARLESTON, West Virginia (AP) — A man toting axes, a shovel and bleach when he was killed by an escort he met online had been stopped, interviewed or investigated by police in up to 20 states and is being looked into for possible links to unsolved disappearances or slayings, authorities said Monday.

West Virginia authorities are trying to circulate information to see if Neal Falls, of Springfield, Oregon, can be linked to any other crimes against women nationwide. Police say Falls was fatally shot July 18 as he attacked and choked the escort in Charleston, West Virginia, and she grabbed his handgun off the ground and fired it.

Police found axes, knives, handcuffs, a shovel, bleach and other items in Falls' car, raising suspicions this wasn't the first time he had attacked a woman.

"The fact that he was 45 years old and carrying tools like he was and committing a crime that was so organized and so violent, it's unlikely that this was his first violent crime," said Lt. Steve Cooper, Charleston police chief of detectives.

Cooper said Falls had a list of 10 other women in his pocket. Nine were in West Virginia; one was in San Diego. Similar to the Charleston woman, whom police are calling Heather, all were escorts active online, he said. They are all alive, he said.

Heather had a separated shoulder, broken vertebrae, strangulation marks around her throat and other injuries, Cooper said.

No history of major crimes in Falls' record has surfaced. However, police said records show that authorities in as many as 20 states — from Arizona to Kentucky to Virginia — had interactions with Falls such as stopping him, running his license plate or checking his Social Security number.

"We are sharing this information with law enforcement across the country in hopes that we may be able to help solve cold cases or bring closure to some families if Mr. Falls has been involved in anything like this before," Cooper said.

Charleston police and Nevada authorities have been in communication. Police have said Falls rented a room in the Las Vegas suburb of Henderson when four prostitutes went missing.

Henderson police spokeswoman Michelle French said Monday that they are checking into any possible Falls connection to the May 2005 disappearance of 21-year-old Lindsay Harris. She was the subject of a massive search, and her family from central New York helped comb the desert area where her rental car was last seen 30 minutes from the Las Vegas Strip. The case appeared on an episode of "America's Most Wanted." Leg parts identified as hers through DNA testing were found three years later off Interstate 55 near Springfield, Illinois, more than 1,600 miles away.

"Any leads that will come to us, we're going to follow up on," French said, declining to discuss details.

Cooper said Charleston police have also been communicating with authorities in the small southern Ohio city of Chillicothe, where four women died in suspicious circumstances and two others are missing. He said there has been no evidence placing Falls there, but it's been considered because of the proximity to Charleston, less than a two-hour drive away.

Cooper said police are gathering information on Falls. It appears he was staying in his car, where he kept a pillow and sleeping bag, Cooper said.

"He had no cash, no credit cards," Cooper said. "It's a mystery how he had traveled across the country to us right now. There's something that we haven't discovered yet."

___

Sewell reported from Cincinnati. Associated Press writer Sally Ho in Las Vegas contributed to this report.

Bush denounces 'crazy message of hate' in campaign

SERGIO BUSTOS, Associated Press

ORLANDO, Florida (AP) — Jeb Bush implored his Republican presidential rivals Monday to reject the "crazy message of hate" that he sees at play in the campaign and cast himself as a "committed conservative," but not an "angry" one, in remarks rooted in Donald Trump's inflammatory rhetoric and the backlash that followed.

As conservatives, he said in a speech to pastors, "if we act with our heart, people will rise." Afterward, Bush gave his call for political civility a harder edge in a raucous rally where he urged other GOP contenders to quit scolding each other.

"We have to campaign with joy in our hearts - not anger," Bush said. "We shouldn't say outrageous things that turn people off to the conservative message. Our message is the one of hope and opportunity for everyone."

"We must reject this crazy message of hate."

Trump wasn't mentioned in his remarks but it was a conspicuous dressing down of the billionaire who roiled the race with his comments about Mexico and Mexican immigrants, setting off a round of name-calling between Trump and some others in the field. Bush, as he often does in campaign speeches, switched to Spanish at both events though the crowd at his rally was mostly English-speaking.

Bush told the crowd of clergy earlier at Centro Internacional de la Familia, a nondenominational church with a congregation made up Puerto Ricans and other Hispanics, that as president he would build a robust economy to lift people out of poverty, give children a good education and encourage families to stay together. Some pastors traveled from as far away as New Jersey and Puerto Rico to hear the remarks by the Republican presidential contender and former Florida governor.

In a casual and open exchange with nearly 150 pastors, Bush fielded questions about protecting religious freedom at home and abroad, supporting statehood for Puerto Rico and overhauling the "broken" immigration system as a moral issue. He said his goal of growing the economy 4 percent annually would do more to help struggling Americans than any government program. Many economists doubt 4 percent is attainable.

"I'm a committed conservative," he said. "But I'm not angry. I want to help people rise up." That line was borrowed from the name of his super PAC, Right to Rise.

"My message is one of optimism, inspiration," Bush said in Spanish and again in English. "We have to restore hope."

His message of political civility resonated with church leaders in attendance, including David L. Outing, an African-American from the Kingdom Church in Orlando. He said he was especially heartened by Bush's plan to campaign in black churches across the country.

"I believe him when he says he's going to be involved in my community and not just during political season," he said.

Wanda Rolon, one of six pastors who traveled from Puerto Rico to meet Bush in Orlando, said she felt reassured to hear Bush would assist her island homeland out of its debt crisis.

Bush said Puerto Rico should be given "more flexibility" to deal with its $70 billion debt burden. "It could become like Greece, but without relief," he said.

Gregory Brewer, the Episcopal bishop of Central Florida, asked Bush about the persecution of Christians in foreign countries, saying he personally knows victims in Egypt, Iran and Iraq.

"I don't think foreign policy should leave human rights behind," Brewer said.

Bush faulted the Obama administration for "lack of commitment to persecuted Christians."

"If not us, who?" Bush asked rhetorically about the U.S. obligation to protect religious freedom everywhere.

Bush also reiterated his plan to fix U.S. immigration laws and extend legal status to people in the country illegally, an issue that places him at odds with several of his Republican rivals. "Yes, for crying out loud," he said when asked about overhauling immigration. "It's a broken system used as a wedge issue for political purposes." Bush places the first priority on securing the borders, a standard position in the GOP field.

Mother pleads for return of missing California 8-year-old

MARTHA MENDOZA, AP National Writer

SANTA CRUZ, Calif. (AP) — The mother of a missing 8-year-old girl pleaded for her safe return Monday as search efforts grew to include federal authorities.

Madyson Middleton vanished Sunday afternoon from an artist community and housing center in a Northern California beach town where she lives with her mother.

She was last seen riding her new, white scooter in the Tannery Arts Center courtyard, a place where children — both residents and those taking art and dance classes — frequently play. But at about 5 p.m. her mother realized she was gone.

Madyson's parents met with investigators Sunday night and again Monday at police headquarters before speaking with reporters outside; her mother Laura Jordan they said they were very worried and wanted Madyson home.

"I can't explain how difficult this is," said Jordan, who had searched through the night for her little girl.

Jordan said she's looked at surveillance video from their housing complex that watched Madyson's last minutes before she disappeared. Police have said she was last seen on video surveillance at 4:12 p.m.

Jordan has walked the edges of the courtyard, and police have twice conducted a door-to-door search of the entire complex, as well as a homeless resource center and shelter across the street.

Beyond the 8-acre property, searchers from throughout the state are now in boats, helicopters, on foot and bike, with dogs and cameras, searching for the girl. The FBI, as well as sheriffs from San Mateo and Santa Clara counties, are assisting.

A call to the FBI was not immediately returned.

Authorities weren't sending volunteers onto adjacent hiking and biking trails for fear of disturbing potential evidence, but hundreds of volunteers showed up and were looking for her in neighborhoods and streets.

"This is our town, and this just shouldn't happen here. We all should do everything we can to find this girl," David Giannini said.

Authorities are using dogs to search nearby woods and parks and the San Lorenzo River levee. Helicopters are searching the forest and the coastline, and the U.S. Coast Guard has been scouring the ocean 2 miles from where she was last seen.

The 4-foot-tall, 50-pound child has long brown hair, which was pulled to the side in a braid, and dark eyes. She was wearing a purple dress, black leggings, black flip-flops and a black helmet.

She lived with her mother at the Tannery Arts Center, a public-private nonprofit project that includes 100 affordable loft apartments for artists and their families, a café, and dance and art studios on eight acres.

The property, a former leather tannery, is managed by The John Stewart Company. John Stewart, the company's chairman, said they are fully cooperating with authorities and turned the surveillance footage over to authorities Sunday night.

Site manager Warren Reed said the property is located in a very busy area, with a number of businesses and a major construction project nearby.

It's open to the public, and Reed said many people pass through to access a pathway that runs along the San Lorenzo River to the coast.

Scientist: Whale deaths off Alaska island remains mystery

RACHEL D'ORO, Associated Press

ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) — Researchers may never solve the recent deaths of 18 endangered whales whose carcasses were found floating near Alaska's Kodiak Island, a scientist working on the case said Monday.

Samples taken from one of the 10 fin whales were at least a week old, which could throw off test results, said Kate Wynne, a marine mammal specialist for the University of Alaska Sea Grant Program. The carcasses of eight humpback whales also were found.

The carcasses of the marine mammals were discovered between Memorial Day weekend and early July. Most of the animals were too decomposed for sampling.

Both species of whales feed close together, and scientists speculate the animals might have eaten something toxic in waters that were significantly warmer than average at the time. One test came back negative for one toxin that would be present in harmful algal blooms, and another test is still pending, Wynne said.

"That's my leading hypothesis," Wynne said of an environmental toxin as a cause. "The carcasses unfortunately are getting older and less sample-able. So we never will find out what killed those whales, in my mind."

Other test results also are pending, however. A muscle tissue sample is being tested for the possibility of radionuclides from the 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster. Scientists also have looked at other possibilities, including sonar and seismic exploration.

The deaths are unusual occurrence, Wynne said. She said she's never heard of anything similar occurring among large baleen whales in the U.S.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration also is looking into the deaths of a slightly larger number of whales over a larger area. NOAA is requesting the deaths to be designated nationally as an unusual mortality event, which would free of federal funding for further studying the deaths, NOAA spokeswoman Julie Speegle said.

Along with the dead whales, dead birds including murres and shearwaters were reported earlier in the investigation. Tests showed the shearwaters had a high parasite count and were starving, Wynne said. The murres were not sampled, but Wynne said those deaths could be part of a die-off that occurs periodically.

Okla. woman attacked, killed by pack of dogs
BY BURT MUMMOLO, KTUL

RED BIRD, Okla. (KTUL) — Authorities say a woman was attacked and killed by a pack of dogs outside Tulsa on Friday, as she was picking up cans.

It happened on a country road, the discolored grass stained with blood marking the spot.

"This is where she was laying at," said a witness who asked to remain anonymous.

He says she was already dead when she was first found.

"Oh yeah, she was dead, she wasn't breathing. You could look at her and tell that she wasn't breathing," he said.

"About 7 o'clock this morning I got up and shot at like four or five dogs," said Annette Panter.

She lives just down the street, and has frequently encountered aggressive stray dogs, so much so she always carries a gun.

"Always do when I mow, because if it's not that it's coyote and different things, so I just shot at them again yesterday," Panter said.

Being as isolated as it is, she says, people routinely abandon dogs there.

"This is where everybody drops dogs off," Panter said.

"What can we do? You start shooting dogs down here then you're going to get in trouble for animal cruelty. You know, so, you can't get rid of them, you can't shoot them, you can't do nothing about it," the man said.

Concern now turns to the safety of area children.

"My heart first thought of those kids," said Panter.

"Yeah, I mean, I got six kids," said the man.

Worry in Red Bird, praying a roadside tragedy doesn't happen again.

"I just, God bless her soul that this happened, 'cause I wouldn't want this to happen to anyone," the man said.

Mom allegedly brings son along for Nashville burglaries

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WZTV) — A mother is suspected of bringing her 7-year-old son along as she helped rob several businesses.

According to police, Fabiola Sanchez was found parked behind the El Chico restaurant following an earlier burglary at another Mexican restaurant.

Police found bags of drugs, beer cans, a whiskey bottle and bank bags still filled with money.

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