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US Says Russian Military Has Fired Artillery into Ukraine

US Says Russian Military Has Fired Artillery into Ukraine

iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) — Russian military forces have fired artillery rounds into eastern Ukraine to target Ukrainian military positions, and plans to send even more heavy multiple rocket launchers to Russian separatists, U.S. officials said for the first time Thursday.A Pentagon official labeled the Russian activity as “a clear escalation” of the conflict in that region that has drawn worldwide attention since Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 was shot out of the skies over Ukraine, apparently by a Russian-built missile system.“We have new evidence that the Russians intend to deliver heavier and more powerful multiple rocket launchers to the separatist forces in Ukraine, and have evidence that Russia is firing artillery from within Russia to attack Ukrainian military positions,” said Marie Harf, a State Department spokeswoman.Harf did not provide additional information as to how the U.S. concluded that the Russian military had been shelling Ukrainian military positions. However, she said that the information that the heavier rocket launchers were headed into Ukraine had been gleaned from what she referred to as “human intelligence.”Pentagon spokesman Col. Steve Warren later said, “We do know now that the Russians have been firing artillery from Russia into Ukraine to attack Ukrainian military positions.”“This has been happening, we believe, for several days,” said Warren. “This is a military escalation, there’s no question about it.”As evidence that the Russians intend to deliver heavier multiple rocket launchers to separatist forces in Ukraine, Warren referred to activity at a site in southwestern Russia where the Russian military has provided training for Russian separatists and gathered heavy military equipment for their use.Senior intelligence officials referred to the site outside of Rostov on Tuesday when they made their case for why Russia had “created the conditions” for the shoot-down of the Malaysian airliner with a Russian-built SA-11 surface-to-air missile.Since the shoot-down, “there’s been ongoing multiple rocket launcher activity at the Rostov site and multiple rocket launchers continue to depart and return to Rostov at irregular intervals,” Warren said.For the last month, the Russian military has gathered between 10,000 and 12,000 troops along the border with Ukraine, officials said. The forces are deployed along the border at varying distances, with some elements coming as close as five miles to the border with Ukraine, one official said.It has been difficult to determine what the Russian intent is for these forces, the official said, but the information released Thursday indicates at least some of them have been engaged in artillery fire targeting Ukrainian military positions.Ukrainian officials have alleged direct Russian military support for separatists for weeks. Over the past 24 hours, pictures have appeared in Ukrainian media outlets that were purportedly taken by a Russian soldier displaying the artillery equipment his unit has used during its deployment to the border. The images have since been taken down from the Russian social media site on which they were originally posted.While officials did not provide a precise time as to when the Russian military began to fire artillery across the border, a U.S. official said it began as early as July 15.Videos posted on social media on July 16 appeared to show Grad rockets being fired from inside Russia into Ukraine. The Grad system is a multiple rocket launcher system used by the Russian military that has been provided to Russian separatists.NATO Supreme Commander Gen. Philip Breedlove tweeted his concerns about the videos the following day. “I am deeply concerned by this latest video that appears to show Russia engaging in military action against Ukraine,” he wrote.Senior intelligence officials said Tuesday that the flow of Russian heavy military equipment has continued into eastern Ukraine since the crash of the Malaysian airliner.  The flow of weapons included tanks, armored personnel carriers and Grad multiple rocket launcher systems.
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Ariana Grande’s Heart ‘Beyond Broken’ over Grandfather’s Death

Ariana Grande’s Heart ‘Beyond Broken’ over Grandfather’s Death

ABC/Richard Harbaugh(NEW YORK) — Ariana Grande tweeted photos of her grandfather, Frank Grande, who died earlier this week, and said she started crying when she watched her brother, Frankie Grande, receive the grim news live while he was on the reality show Big Brother.”[T]hank you for your continuous love & light over the past few weeks… we did lose my favorite person to ever exist yesterday, my grandpa :’(” Grande wrote. “if only y’all knew how amazing he was.. my [heart] hurts so much. It’s beyond broken :’( but I got to hold his hand and watch him find his peace.”The singer, 21, added some throwback photos of her late grandfather on Twitter. Grande had to watch her brother read the news on Wednesday night in a letter from the family. Frankie Grande, who was filming Big Brother, couldn’t visit his grandfather before his death.”[W]atching @frankiejgrande talk abt grandps after reading our letter on the live feed. sobbing / laughing hysterically. love u frankie so much,” Ariana Grande wrote.Earlier, Grande thanked all her friends who came to her side, posting, “thaaaanks to my best friends who stayed up with me all night talking and helped me pull myself together temporarily this am,” she posted Wednesday.
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Peace Corps Suspends Kenya Program

Peace Corps Suspends Kenya Program

iStock/Thinkstock(NAIROBI, Kenya) — The Peace Corps is suspending its entire volunteer program in Kenya as a result of security concerns in the region, a U.S. State Department official announced Thursday. The organization has been monitoring the environment in the country, along with the U.S. Embassy in Nairobi. “The Peace Corps plans to continue to monitor the security environment and reassess the security situation at an appropriate future date to determine if and when volunteers can return,” the official said in a statement. “The Peace Corps has enjoyed a long partnership with the government and people of Kenya and is committed to continuing volunteers’ work there.”Violent attacks in the country, along with the incident at Westgate Mall in 2013 that killed at least 67 people, have raised concerns over safety. The United States has kept up a partnership with Kenya for more than 50 years, set on improving Kenya’s economy and developing its health, education, and security sectors. The U.S. provides between $700 million and $1 billion in annual assistance, and the embassy in Nairobi will remain open and staffed for its regular operations. “The commitment of the United States to Kenya is unwavering. We remain a strong and steadfast partner of the government and people of Kenya,” the State Department official added.
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Marine’s Wife Miscarried Months Before She Went Missing, Friend Says

Marine’s Wife Miscarried Months Before She Went Missing, Friend Says

Courtesy Corwin Family(TWENTYNINE PALMS, Calif.) — The wife of a Marine who vanished nearly one month ago had suffered a miscarriage a few months before her disappearance, a close friend said. She was pregnant again at the time she was reported missing, according to police.Police said Erin Corwin was last seen on June 28 before telling her husband she was going on a hike in Joshua Tree National Park. She did not return home that evening and her husband, Jonathan, called police the next day.Authorities are investigating the possibility that Corwin was having an affair with her married neighbor and was pregnant with his child, according to a police search warrant.The San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Office is continuing its investigation, but conversations with a longtime friend of Erin’s and a ranch owner that she spent time with in recent months provides a look into her day-to-day life.Erin, who turned 20 last week while she was still missing, loved riding horses both in California, where she and her husband moved to last year, and in her home state of Tennessee.”She loved her horses and loved her family,” her longtime friend Brooke Phillips told ABC News.”She just always was laughing and having fun and trying to cheer people up,” Phillips added.The pair kept in touch when Corwin and her husband moved to Twentynine Palms, a military base in California’s Yucca Valley.In January, Corwin announced on Facebook that she was pregnant, tagging her husband and accepting friends’ congratulations in the comments. Her sister confirmed to ABC News that it was the couple’s first child.Phillips said that she spoke to Corwin about the subsequent miscarriage, though she was not exactly sure when Corwin found out.”She was really sad about it. She wanted kids. She loves kids and she thought she was really positive about it, like ‘Sure, the time will come when I have kids,’” Phillips said.According to police, that time came soon. The San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department confirmed in news release on Tuesday that she was pregnant when she disappeared.A search warrant released by the office earlier in the investigation details how they came to suspect that the father of her unborn child may be her neighbor, another Marine named Christopher Lee.The lengthy probable cause statement was initially released by the sheriff’s office but they are now refusing to comment on the findings they included in the report.The probable cause statement, which was filed in conjunction with a search warrant for a U-Haul truck that was being used by Lee and his wife during the investigation, details how police spoke to a good friend of Corwin’s who said that Corwin was having an affair with Lee, and that Corwin “may be pregnant with Lee’s child.” Lee, who is now a reservist in the Marines, could not be immediately reached for comment by ABC News.”Erin told [her friend] that Lee was worried if his wife discovered Erin was pregnant, Lee’s wife would divorce him and keep him from his child,” the probable cause statement reads.Corwin’s sister told ABC News that she had not spoken to her about this second pregnancy before her disappearance.According to the probable cause statement, a different friend of Corwin’s said that Corwin had told her that Lee had planned a “special day together” as a “celebration for Erin’s pregnancy” that included a hunting trip.Investigators went on to say in the official report: “It is highly likely Erin could have been harmed by an unknown firearm.”That same report says that Lee initially told investigators he knew Corwin only as an acquaintance, but later said that they “had previously kissed each other but never had sexual intercourse.”The police lay out a timeline where Corwin had told her husband that she was going to be at Joshua Tree National Park, 10 miles away from their home, for the same amount of time that Lee was scheduled to be hunting in the same park, but he told investigators that he did not see Corwin on the day she disappeared, June 28.Her car was found abandoned a few minutes’ drive from Twentynine Palms, the neighborhood where both Lee and Corwin live, and police said that they saw a single set of footprints going from her abandoned vehicle to a set of tire marks that were consistent with the tires of Lee’s Jeep Cherokee.Police do not have any official suspects or persons of interest in the case. Lee was arrested during the investigation because police discovered that he owned a potato launcher, which is classified as an illegal destructive device, and he is out on bond for that charge.”Although suspicious circumstances have existed from the inception of this investigation there is still not enough evidence to rule out that Erin Corwin could be voluntarily missing,” the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department said in its Tuesday statement.The case is ongoing and remains a missing persons investigation.”We are looking for a crime scene,” Sheriff Department’s Specialized Investigation Division Capt. Leland Boldt said.
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Stocks Mixed Following Jobless Claims, Home Sale Figures

Stocks Mixed Following Jobless Claims, Home Sale Figures

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) — Stock prices ended the day mixed on Wall Street Thursday, following good news on jobless claims and mixed quarterly earnings results from several companies. The Dow Jones Industrial Average lost three points, finishing at 17083.80, the Nasdaq Composite fell two points at 4472.11, and the S&P 500 gained one to end at 1987.98. Investors received positive news regarding jobs, with the Labor Department reporting that weekly applications for unemployment benefits dropped to their lowest level in eight years. Details on home sales, however, weren’t as promising, with home builder stocks dropping after news that sales of newly built homes fell eight percent last month. Facebook shares jumped six percent to $75.41 after the company reported a profit that beat analysts expectations, while Caterpillar slid after reporting revenue figures that fell short of predictions. One day after news of yet another recall, automaker General Motors posted an 80 percent drop in second-quarter earnings compared to the same period last year, and reported net earnings of $278 million.
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New Jersey Woman to Share $20 Million Lottery Jackpot with 19 Relatives

New Jersey Woman to Share $20 Million Lottery Jackpot with 19 Relatives

iStock/Thinkstock(OCEAN COUNTY, N.J.) — A New Jersey woman who hit the $20-million Pick-6 jackpot said she plans to share the winnings with 19 relatives.Sigrid Endreson said she has played the lottery for years, continuing a routine that her mother kept. She willl split the jackpot with 16 of her siblings, aged between 53 and 76 years old, and three children of a brother who died a few years ago.The split is not equal but is based on her mother’s wishes, Endreson said.Endreson said her mother, Flossie Endreson, always dreamed of winning the lottery and sharing the winnings among the family. After she died in 2004 at the age of 85, the siblings gathered and collected funds to cover her funeral expenses.When Sigrid Endreson discovered there were remaining finances from the collection, she said she decided to start up the lottery pool for her mother. Ten years later, the mother’s dream came true — Endreson hit the jackpot.“There were three or four family members that have lost their homes in Sandy,” family spokeswoman Marie McHenry said in a news conference Thursday. The brother “who lost his life [was] a dedicated state worker and father.”“It couldn’t come at a better time. It really couldn’t,” McHenry said.Sigrid Endreson chose the lump sum option, so the actual prize is $14,158,641. She will get about $10 million after taxes.The ticket, with one game board purchased for $1, was bought at a local 7-Eleven in Ocean County, New Jersey.
 

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Walmart US Names Greg Foran Next President, CEO

Walmart US Names Greg Foran Next President, CEO

Walmart(NEW YORK) — Retail giant Walmart announced a new president and chief executive officer for U.S. operations Thursday, naming Greg Foran as the successor to Bill Simon. Simon, who has held the role since June 2010, is expected to “transition” out of the company and assume consulting responsibilities for the next six months, according to a statement from Walmart. Foran, 53, takes over on Aug. 9 and will report to Walmart President and CEO, Doug McMillon. “Greg is one of the most talented retailers I’ve ever met. His depth of knowledge and global experience will bring a fresh perspective to our business,” McMillon said. “His passion for fresh food, experience in general merchandise and commitment to e-commerce will help us serve our customers even more effectively for years to come.”
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NYC Deputy Mayor on ‘Chokehold’ Case: This Time Is Different

NYC Deputy Mayor on ‘Chokehold’ Case: This Time Is Different

ABC News(NEW YORK) — It’s New York City’s ugliest roll call: Abner Louima, Amadou Diallo, Sean Bell, Anthony Baez — the litany of men of color injured and killed at the hands of New York City cops.A week ago, yet another name — Eric Garner — was added to that list.But with Bill de Blasio, a police critic and unabashed liberal, now sitting in the mayor’s office, it was supposed to be different. New York was supposed to be different.In an exclusive interview with ABC News, the man in charge of managing the current NYPD crisis insisted that this time around it is different.“Things are very different,” said Anthony Shorris, the first deputy mayor. “Over the last six months, this administration has entirely changed the entire nature of police-community relations.”Sitting in the ornate Blue Room at City Hall, Shorris acknowledged that there is still a lot to do in eliminating the gulf that separates New York City’s minority communities from the NYPD.
But in the first seven months of de Blasio’s term, Shorris said, the administration has started putting the city back together. More than anything, he said, that’s why there has been no unrest or violence in the wake of Garner’s death in NYPD custody last Thursday.“It’s about building bridges between police and communities across New York,” Shorris said.Unlike his predecessors, de Blasio and his top aides wasted no time in condemning the videotaped incident in which Garner was apparently choked by a cop as two plainclothes officers tried to arrest him for selling loose cigarettes.“This was a tragedy and there’s no question that what happened to Eric Garner here was troubling to everybody,” Shorris said, echoing earlier comments by de Blasio and Police Commissioner Bill Bratton. “What we need to do is to honor Eric Garner’s memory. … We have to make sure this doesn’t happen again and that’s the most significant action we can take.”In the wake of Garner’s death, Bratton announced a sweeping program of retraining every one of New York’s 35,000 cops so they understand the proper way to use force and make arrests when suspects resist.But there also are differences between de Blasio and his predecessors, Mike Bloomberg and Rudy Giuliani, that are less obvious.What hasn’t been advertised is the way de Blasio and Shorris have made the quiet plays behind the scenes at City Hall. Chief among those moves was bringing community leader the Rev. Al Sharpton into the mix.Instead of waiting for Sharpton to go after City Hall, officials used their close ties to Sharpton to keep him calm and informed from the start, according to one official briefed on the administration’s efforts.While the new administration’s approach has pleased some, cops and their supporters are not pleased with the note being struck at City Hall.“Look, I agree it’s a tragedy, but you never want to jump to conclusions,” said retired NYPD Sgt. Joseph Giacalone, an adjunct professor at John Jay College of Criminal Justice in Manhattan. “No matter who’s in charge, the police department never wants someone to say something in public that could sway the investigation.”And, as for Sharpton, Giacalone said police reaction is simple: “He should not be consulted on anything. Cops look at him as a self-appointed ambassador. He’s not an activist; he’s an opportunist.”Nevertheless, worried that the Garner death could cripple the fledgling administration if handled badly, City Hall went into full crisis mode. A war room was established. Emergency updates began pouring in. Staffers went sent to see Garner’s family. The mayor got on the phone as did his top aides.“The administration is marshaling its resources at every level to ensure that we are strengthening the relationship between community and police in New York City in all of our neighborhoods.” That was the talking point handed to de Blasio and senior staff, who kept repeating it.Bottom line, Shorris said, what happened in the last week is new for New York City because City Hall recognized the passion on the street and in minority communities and channeled it.“We need to understand what happened and make sure what happened never happens again,” Shorris said.

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First Trailer for “Fifty Shades of Grey” Debuts

First Trailer for “Fifty Shades of Grey” Debuts

Focus Features/Universal Pictures(NEW YORK) — The first official trailer for the highly-anticipated film Fifty Shades of Grey was released on Thursday.The trailer follows Dakota Johnson, portraying college student Anastasia Steele, as she interviews billionaire Christian Grey, played by Jamie Dornan. If you’ve read E.L. James’ erotic novel, on which the film is based, you’ll recognize many scenes from the book.The trailer then fast-forwards, showing Anastasia and Christian’s whirlwind romance as they fly in helicopters, attend fancy dinners and make out in elevators — not to mention blindfolding one another while they’re doing you know what.”I’m incapable of leaving you alone,” Christian tells Anastasia in the trailer. “Then don’t,” she replies.Grey then unlocks a door to show Anastasia his so-called Red Room of Pain. The trailer also features a slowed-down version of Beyonce’s 2003 hit, “Crazy in Love.”Fifty Shades of Grey steams up theaters Feb. 13, 2015.

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Official: Terrorists in Syria Now as Dangerous to US as Those in Yemen

Official: Terrorists in Syria Now as Dangerous to US as Those in Yemen

iStock/Thinkstock(ASPEN, Colo.) — Syria has risen as a top threat to the U.S. homeland that rivals Yemen’s al Qaeda affiliate known for its innovative bombs successfully smuggled aboard airplanes, a top Pentagon official said on Thursday.”Syria is probably the number one threat — or, with… threats out of Yemen — to the American homeland right now and elsewhere in the west,” said Michael Vickers, the Pentagon’s under secretary for defense intelligence.In answer to a question by moderator Brian Ross of ABC News at a panel at the Aspen Security Forum, an annual gathering of national security veterans, Vickers, himself a former Special Forces operator, said that the foreigners flocking to Syria are hard to track and are a “serious problem.””Foreign fighters who are western passport holders, including Americans, a subset of that, numbers in the four digits,” Vickers said.Since 2010, al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula in Yemen has held the top spot in the minds of counter-terrorism officials after the terror group tried unsuccessfully to use four different improvised explosive devices, hidden in underwear on a bomber or inside printer cartridges, in an effort to blow up U.S.-bound commercial passenger and cargo jets.But a portion of the thousands of foreign fighters joining extremists for training and jihad against Syria’s embattled dictator Bashar al Assad over the last few years are viewed as likely to eventually try to attack western targets, many officials have said.Top U.S. officials have spoken more openly about the threat emanating from Syria this year.John Carlin, the assistant attorney general for national security at the Justice Department, has established a prosecutors unit to focus on Americans fighting in Syria or aspiring to, because of the enormity of the threat.”The number of foreign fighters that are already in place in Syria, and a number of other westerners in that group, is one that is unprecedented, and is a larger number than we ever saw in ungoverned spaces in Pakistan and Afghanistan,” Carlin said during the panel discussion.Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson said it’s all his European colleagues want to discuss, their fears are so pronounced.
“It’s number one on the list of discussion topics,” he told the security conference.The tactical threat still remains rooted in the disturbing expertise provided by AQAP’s master bomb maker Ibrahim al-Asiri, officials said.Transportation Security Administrator John Pistole, on a separate panel, said that the type of device he worries about most, “from everything I’m aware of, [is] still a non-metallic IED.”
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New Home Sales Plummet 8.1% in June

New Home Sales Plummet 8.1% in June

iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) — The number of Americans purchasing new homes took a big plunge last month.The Commerce Department reported on Thursday that sales of newly built homes dropped by more than 8 percent in June to 406,000.”The numbers are definitely a little disappointing. I think it’s important to keep it in perspective. Part of the drop is from an abnormally high May figure,” said Robert Denk, a senior economist with the National Association of Home Builders.In another bit of bad news, May’s figure was also revised downward by about 12 percent.”The decline in June is not necessarily unexpected. It’s not a disaster. The June number sort of puts us back on trend and we expect these numbers to definitely firm up in the second half of the year,” Denk said.
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Lawsuit Against Obama One Step Closer to Courthouse Door

Lawsuit Against Obama One Step Closer to Courthouse Door

Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) — The House cleared a procedural hurdle on Thursday to set up a showdown between House Speaker John Boehner and President Obama next week.The House Rules Committee voted 7-4 to approve a markup of H. Res. 676, which provides authority to initiate litigation for actions by the president or other executive branch officials inconsistent with their duties under the Constitution of the United States.Next week, the measure will require a rule before floor consideration by the full House. A vote on the bill is likely to be among the final acts the House takes before lawmakers enjoy a five-week break for the August recess.Even after the House approves the resolution, the Bipartisan Legal Advisory Group, known as BLAG, would have to meet to vote on the matter. Republicans enjoy a three to two edge on the panel.BLAG is comprised of the speaker, minority and majority leader, and minority and majority whip. If it happens after July 31, Majority Leader Eric Cantor will not be among the Republicans voting. Instead, Rep. Steve Scalise, R-La., would slide into the mix after Rep. Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., ascends to majority leader.
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Former Olympic Skater Michelle Kwan Stars in Political Ad for Hubby

Former Olympic Skater Michelle Kwan Stars in Political Ad for Hubby

Frazer Harrison/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) — Former Olympic figure skater Michelle Kwan is pirouetting into the Rhode Island gubernatorial race. Kwan is featured in a new ad supporting her husband, Clay Pell, in the state’s Democratic primary.The 30-second ad titled “Equality” is Kwan’s attempt to appeal to the state’s female voters.“One of the reasons I’m so excited about my husband, Clay Pell’s candidacy is because Clay is committed to a women’s-equality agenda that strengthens protection for women in areas like pay equity, sexual harassment and domestic violence,” Kwan says in the ad. “Clay knows Rhode Island can be ready for tomorrow by making it one of the best places for women to live and work. Clay believes what I believe: We need equality for all women.”

In a May WPRI 12/Providence Journal poll, Pell placed third among the four Democrats vying for the nomination. Pell trailed behind Providence Mayor Angel Taveras and Treasurer Gina Raimond with only 12 percent of respondents supporting his candidacy — though 22 percent had yet to make up their minds.“Throughout her career as an Olympic figure skater, and her time as a public policy envoy with the U.S. Department of State (where she’s served since 2006), Michelle has been a strong advocate for the empowerment of girls through sports, and for women’s rights,” the Pell campaign wrote in a press release Thursday.The primary election will be held on Sept. 9.
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Obama Talks Basketball During Surprise Lunch Stop in LA

Obama Talks Basketball During Surprise Lunch Stop in LA

Official White House photo by Pete Souza(LOS ANGELES) — President Obama’s basketball game isn’t what it used to be, he revealed during a surprise stop for lunch at Canter’s Deli in Los Angeles Thursday. After shaking hands with the people behind the counter at this family-owned landmark, the president talked a little basketball with two older gentleman sitting in a booth.Asked about his game, Obama told them, “My shot’s broken… My elbow keeps going out.” Rubbing his shoulder, he told them he probably makes about 80 percent of his shots (free throws, not in a game).”I get that chicken wing,” Obama said, motioning with his elbow. “I’m just getting old.”The president then made his way to a booth in the back where he sat with four Americans who wrote him letters, part of his ongoing effort to “meet with folks from across the country to listen to their stories, struggles, and successes, as well as the issues in their lives that matter most,” according to the White House.
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Fear of Flying Amplified by Flurry of Air Disasters

Fear of Flying Amplified by Flurry of Air Disasters

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) — The recent flurry of air disasters does little to comfort nervous fliers, who suffer from what some experts call a “perfect storm” of fears.“You start with fear, and then you have evidence that the fear is correct,” said George Everly, a psychologist at Johns Hopkins Medical Center in Baltimore. “What makes it over the top is when you don’t know why the airplane crashed.”Just on Thursday, an Air Algerie airliner carrying 116 people disappeared from radar over Mali. The incident comes one week after a Malaysia Airlines jet carrying 298 people was shot down over Ukraine, and four months after Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 went missing en route from Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia to Beijing with 237 people on board.Experts say the string of disasters and mysteries is understandably rattling nerves.“They understand that it is a risk, but what they are doing is blowing it out of proportion,” Everly said, who stressed the risk of a crash was less than “one in a million.”But despite its impressive safety record, air travel presents a “perfect storm of different fears,” according to Martin Seif, a psychologist at White Plain’s Hospital’s Anxiety and Phobia Treatment Center.“Fear of heights, social anxiety, claustrophobia,” Seif said. “You can go on and on and on.”And when there’s a disaster, those fears are amplified, Seif said. “You’ll get temporary increase whenever there’s a catastrophe,” he said.For those who fear flying, experts say a few simple steps can help curb anxiety. To start, avoid dwelling on the media coverage, Seif said.“There’s a general rule of thumb: read it once and don’t replay it,” he said, adding that avoiding the news altogether is no better than bingeing. “If you imagine what happened, you’re going to be worse than if you read it.”But missing flights and unexplained crashes can add another layer of anxiety for wary air travelers, according to Everly.“If they have to fly, they want as much knowledge of possible so they can build a safety net or defense,” he said, explaining that some nervous fliers might choose to avoid routes involved in the disasters.
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UN Shelter in Gaza Comes Under Fire

UN Shelter in Gaza Comes Under Fire

iStock/Thinkstock(JERUSALEM) — The United Nations body responsible for Palestinian refugees  — UNRWA — reported Thursday that one of its designated shelters in Northern Gaza was hit.Initial reports suggest at least 15 Palestinian civilians were killed and scores more were injured.  UNRWA spokesman Chris Gunness said the explosion tore through the courtyard of a school in Beit Hanoun filled with Palestinian civilians waiting to obey evacuation orders.Eyewitnesses blamed the bloodshed on an Israeli tank shell.Gunness said Israel knew the coordinates of the school and had not granted his requests for safe passage.  But the Israeli Army denied this. It said a Hamas rocket may have been responsible and it has opened an investigation.

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Five Ways Paul Ryan Thinks He Can End Poverty

Five Ways Paul Ryan Thinks He Can End Poverty

Justin Sullivan/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) — Rep. Paul Ryan thinks the federal government should stop its habit of treating poverty as a series of isolated problems and start listening to the “boots on the ground,” local community leaders fighting for different results.On Thursday, Ryan, R-Wis., released an anti-poverty proposal he coined an “Opportunity Grant” that concentrates 11 safety-net programs — food stamps, housing assistance, child care and cash welfare, among them — into a single stream of funding offered to states that agree to the program.The proposal is budget neutral, meaning states would receive the exact same amount of money for safety-net expenditures as they currently do under law, he told those gathered at the American Enterprise Institute. He believes the grant addresses poverty in a more holistic, “collaborative” way.“This isn’t your garden variety block grant,” he said.The speech and a short panel that followed were pitched as a call for economic solidarity.Arthur Brooks, AEI’s president, told the crowd, “Patriots fight for America, no matter how they vote.”Here are five ways Ryan believes he can help end poverty:1. Establish a new spirit of togetherness.Ryan framed the problem in a language normally unfamiliar to Republicans, incorporating individual enterprise into a group-oriented, populist vocabulary: “The secret of our country’s success is collaboration: people working together, learning together, building together. …The fact is, each person’s needs fit into a coherent whole: a career. And each person fits into a coherent whole: a community.” He told the audience after his speech, “We have a lot of silos that are isolating the poor from our communities,” adding that most people expect their tax money and the federal government to take care of the problem. Ryan’s support for local service providers is supposed to encourage the poor to develop short-, medium-, and long-term plans with help from the providers, using contracts, timelines and rewards for meeting different “benchmarks of success.”2. Turn anti-poverty measures into a grassroots, bottom-up operation.Ryan believes his proposal is “reconceiving the federal government’s role” in anti-poverty programs: “No longer will it try to supplant our communities but to support them…the people on the ground. They’re the vanguard. They fight poverty on the front lines. They have to lead this effort and Washington should follow their lead.” He called for an end to the red tape he thinks is holding back low-income families, suggesting that if federal agencies propose any kind of regulation that would negatively affect the poor, they have to see it approved by Congress. A more localized anti-poverty strategy can present a more “personalized, customized form of aid.”3. Don’t just counsel low-income people and families. Counsel convicts, too.Instead of punishing non-violent, low-risk criminals with harsh sentences, offer them counseling, job training, and the opportunity to trade prison time for pre-release custody, “as long as they complete a program with a proven track record.” Ryan pointed to the recent Public Safety Enhancement Act, which looks to get ex-cons at risk of re-incarceration out of a life of crime. Those who aren’t crowding the criminal justice system are more likely to contribute to the work force in ways that help combat poverty, he argued.4. Start accrediting more colleges.Ryan cited legislation supported by Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, and Rep. Ron DeSantis, R-Fla., which seeks fewer constraints on accrediting universities, vocational schools, and even curricula and individual courses, as a major influence on the Opportunity Grant plan. Ryan’s plan looks to let more schools in on federal oversight normally reserved for four-year institutions. On a panel after his speech, he praised the vocational schools near him in Wisconsin, indicating their stature as in keeping with many four-year institutions that don’t offer formal job-training programs.5. Use the Earned Income Tax Credit to the advantage of childless workers.The Earned Income Tax Credit has become a hot issue for reform-minded conservatives looking to appeal to a wider swath of working-class Americans. Ryan suggested doubling the maximum credit for childless workers to $1,005 and lowering the minimum eligibility age from 25 to 21. “This is one of the few programs that have shown results,” he noted. Ryan believes President Obama has wrongly proposed raising taxes to pay for the credit, and Ryan wants to pay for it by “eliminating ineffective programs and corporate welfare, like subsidies to energy companies.” For Ryan, the tax credit is a way to ensure that “it always pays to work.”On a panel after the speech, Ryan was praised by Ron Haskins of the Brookings Institution, who co-directs the Brookings Center on Children and Families, and who was a longtime congressional adviser on welfare reform. Haskins believes that almost everything in Ryan’s proposal could garner bipartisan agreement.
“This is a sweeping proposal. It’s worthy of a think tank,” he said. “It’s a spectacular document. I have not seen anything like this from an individual member in Congress for many years.”
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The One Issue Bob Dole Is Still Fighting For

The One Issue Bob Dole Is Still Fighting For

ABC News(WASHINGTON) — Former Senate Majority Leader Bob Dole is making the rounds — everywhere from the plains of Kansas to the marbled halls of Capitol Hill.Dole, who celebrated his 91st birthday this week, returned to Capitol Hill for what could be his final legislative push — ratifying an international treaty for people with disabilities.“This is not a Republican or Democrat treaty. It’s not liberal or conservative,” Dole said at a news conference Wednesday. “As a Republican, I don’t want to see a headline saying ‘Republicans vote against disabled Americans and disabled veterans.’”In 2012, Dole sat on the Senate floor as he watched a vote to ratify the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities fail by just five votes. Dole recounted that moment in an interview with ABC News’ Jeff Zeleny.“We knew we had an uphill battle, and when my Kansas senators voted against it I knew we were in trouble because one had been a co-sponsor and the other had been for it,” Dole explained. “But again the home-schoolers flooded their phones for days and I can understand why it might have altered their judgment. I don’t agree but that’s their right.”The home-schooling movement, which helped derail the treaty two years ago, is pushing back against the measure again this year, saying it would impede their ability to home school their children.In recent months, Dole has embarked on a thank you tour of his home state of Kansas, trying to stop in all 105 counties one last time.“We’ve been in 63 counties. We have 42 left and I’ve had a lot of cookies and brownies and a lot of lemon bars and a lot of fun,” Dole told Zeleny.“What are you campaigning for?” Zeleny asked.“Nothing. That’s what I tell them, I’m just here to thank you,” Dole said.Dole reflected on the state of the Republican Party, saying there’s a need for greater compromise between Republicans and Democrats.“You need to compromise sometimes. You need to work across the aisle. We don’t have all the wisdom in our party and they don’t have it all in the Democratic party,” Dole said. “We just need a nominee in 2016 that has an agenda that attracts and resonates with people and that will be a big help.”“I don’t think we’ve seen the Republican candidate yet. A lot of people want to be president. So did I, think of it!” he added.

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Six Ways Parents Can Save Their Kids from Deadly Hot Cars

Six Ways Parents Can Save Their Kids from Deadly Hot Cars

iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) — Alert passersby in a Philadelphia parking lot may have saved a life this week when they noticed an infant trapped in the heat of a locked car. The Good Samaritans, seen on cellphone video, called first responders who rescued the child, and took its parent into custody.But with the United States entering the deep summer months, too many families have been less fortunate: a sobering 17 children have died of heatstroke in vehicles so far this year and likely more will come.
An average of 39 U.S. children have died per year since 2003, according to a San Francisco State University study. Over half were simply forgotten by their caretakers.
On Thursday, the Department of Transportation is urging new parents to remember these ways they can avoid a tragedy:

Never leave a child alone in a parked car, even with the windows rolled down or air conditioning turned on. Air conditioning can fail, and cracked windows may not be adequate to protect a child whose body temperature rises three to five times faster than adults.

Always look in both the front and back of the vehicle before locking the door and walking away.

Outdoor temperatures as low as 57 degrees can still be fatal over time. On an 80-degree day, a car can reach fatal levels in just 10 minutes.

Think of some ways to remind yourself about your child in the back seat. Put something you always keep on you, like your cellphone or purse, next to them, to remind you to turn around before getting out. Have a cellphone with an alarm clock? Set an alert.

Make sure their day care or school knows to call you if they do not show up. Or call your partner or spouse after you drop your child off with them to make sure you didn’t forget.

Never let children play in an unattended vehicle. Teach them it is not a play area.

At a Washington day care center Thursday morning, a DOT demonstration emphasized the point. Under dark, overcast skies threatening rain, and a comfortable 75 degrees, a parked sedan reached 94 degrees within an hour.
Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx told families, day care workers and media that he wanted to erase the perception that such deaths are an accident that “happens to other people in other places.”“A lot of times [as a parent] you’re tired. You’re overwhelmed. You’re stressed out. You’ve got lots of things to think about,” he said, “and in some cases your mind just isn’t functioning as sharply as you’d otherwise want it to.”“Parents just forget to look into the backseat, especially when their routines change, and bad things happen,” he added.Foxx was joined by a Reggie McKinnon, a father whose infant daughter died in such a tragedy when he forgot her for four hours after picking her up from a doctor’s appointment and returning to work. He now says he honors her by educating others on heatstroke.“Before [my] accident, every time I would read of a child dying in a parked car of heatstroke, I would ask, ‘How could they forget their child? I would never do that. That only happens to people who are uneducated, drunk, drug addicts, not me,’” he said, holding back tears. “And I couldn’t be farther from the truth.”
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Family of Victims Shows No Sympathy at Killer’s Execution

Family of Victims Shows No Sympathy at Killer’s Execution

0iStock/Thinkstock(FLORENCE, Ariz.) — The family of two people murdered by a man sentenced to the death penalty by lethal injection showed no remorse when his execution dragged on for nearly two hours.Jeanne Brown watched from the gallery at the Arizona State Prison Complex as Joseph Rudolph Wood, who shot her sister and father dead in 1989, died on Wednesday. She angrily brushed off his attorneys’ complaints that Wood suffered during the execution.”You don’t know what excruciating is,” Brown told the media after Wood was pronounced dead. “Excruciating is seeing your dad lying there in a pool of blood, seeing your sister lying there in a pool of blood. That’s excruciating. This man deserved it.”Her husband added that the convicted killer smiled at the family before succumbing to the drugs.”It’s not just about him,” Richard Brown said. “It’s about other people that suffered, that are still suffering. He smiled and laughed at us and then went to sleep.”State doctors said Wood didn’t suffer, but his attorneys claimed he did.”It took Joseph Wood two hours to die, and he gasped and struggled to breathe for about an hour and 40 minutes,” attorney Dale Baich, who witnessed the execution, said in a statement, adding that Arizona now joins the list of states responsible for a “bungled execution.”Witnesses described watching Wood gasp like a fish and hearing sounds similar to snoring. A doctor checked Wood a few times during the procedure and confirmed that he was sedated, witnesses said.Wood’s case is the latest in a growing debate about the efficiency of the death penalty by lethal injections. One federal judge recently suggested a firing squad would be a more “foolproof” method.But Jeanne and Andrew Brown don’t care about the drug discussion. They’re just glad Wood is dead.”Everybody is worried about the drug,” Andrew Brown said. “These people that do this, they deserve to suffer a little bit.””I saw the life go out of my sister-in-law’s eye as he shot her to death,” he added. “I’m so sick of you guys blowing this drug stuff out of proportion.”Jeanne Brown said Wednesday marked the end of a long, painful journey for her family.”Nobody sees the real picture of what took place in the last 25 years,” she said. “Everyone is more worried about: Did he suffer? Who really suffered is my dad and my sister, when they [were] killed.”However, death penalty foes have argued, capital offenders should not suffer because the U.S. Bill of Rights bars “cruel and unusual punishments.”“Today the state of Arizona broke the Eighth Amendment, the First Amendment, and the bounds of basic decency,” said Cassandra Stubbs, director of the ACLU’s Capital Punishment Project, in a written statement after the execution. “Joseph Wood suffered cruel and unusual punishment when he was apparently left conscious long after the drugs were administered.”Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer said justice was served with Wood’s execution, but has ordered a review of what happened.”I am concerned by the length of time it took for the administered drug protocol to complete the lawful execution of the convicted double murderer Joseph Wood,” Brewer said in a statement. “While justice was carried out today, I directed the Department of Corrections to conduct a full review of the process.””One thing is certain, however, inmate Wood died in a lawful manner and by eyewitness and medical accounts he did not suffer,” she said. “This is in stark comparison to the gruesome, vicious suffering that he inflicted on his two victims — and the lifetime of suffering he has caused their family.”

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