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Iraqi Forces Repel ISIS Counterattacks

Iraqi Forces Repel ISIS Counterattacks

Marcio Silva/iStock/Thinkstock(BAGHDAD) -- Iraqi forces were able to repel a number of ISIS attacks this week, despite the fact that much of the attention has been on the Iraqi attempt to retake the city of Tikrit from ISIS militants.The U.S.-led coalition said Thursday that Iraqi Security Forces defeated four separate ISIS attacks on March 24. The attacks took place near Kisik, Kirkuk, Bayji and Habbaniyah. In the attack on Habbaniyah, the coalition says ISIS "unsuccessfully employed two vehicle-borne improvised explosive devices and 12 suicide bombers." They were believe to have been attempting to retake a bridge.The coalition says that ISIS gained no ground in their attacks. "The tables are turning," Col. Wayne Marotto, coalition spokesman, said. "ISF is gaining ground and their capabilities continue to improve."On Wednesday, the U.S. agreed to begin offering support to Iraqi Security Forces in an effort to reclaim Tikrit from ISIS.

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Secret Service Officials Reported Agents in White House Incident Did Not Appear Intoxicated, Documents Show

Secret Service Officials Reported Agents in White House Incident Did Not Appear Intoxicated, Documents Show

BackyardProduction/iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- New documents obtained by ABC News reveal conflicting accounts by top Secret Service officials about whether two senior agents were drunk when they drove into the White House complex.It all started with an allegation -- via anonymous email -- that Secret Service agents were “extremely intoxicated” as they drove through an active crime scene set up just outside the White House complex on the evening of March 4. But documents obtained by ABC News show that two senior Secret Service officials believed the two agents involved in the now infamous incident were not intoxicated, based on their interactions with the agents that evening. The agents, Marc Connolly and George Ogilvie, had been accused of driving through the crime scene near a White House gate while possibly under the influence of alcohol after attending a retirement party for a colleague.The accusation of drunkenness was slow to move up the chain of command and word of the anonymous email only reached Secret Service Director Joseph Clancy five days later on March 9. Secret Service officials then gathered information on the allegations of agent misconduct to be passed on to the Department of Homeland Security Inspector General, in accordance with agency policy. The information was based in part on recollections of some of the supervisors involved in the incident five days earlier.The documents were part of the material presented to the DHS Inspector General by the Secret Service. One of those documents details some of the recollections of Secret Service Deputy Chief Alfonso Dyson and Captain Michael Braun, both of the Uniformed Division.“Deputy Chief Dyson advised that based on his conversation with DSAIC Connolly, it did not appear as though DSAIC Connolly [was] impaired,” according to Dyson’s account of his phone conversation with Connolly described in the document. Dyson called Connolly on the evening of March 4, after he was alerted to the incident. Connolly told Dyson that he had made a mistake, which Dyson believed to be referring to driving into the crime scene at that entrance caused by a suspicious package tossed at that location by a woman earlier that evening.The document goes on to say, “Captain Braun advised that the driver of the [government vehicle] (ATSAIC Ogilvie) did not appear to be intoxicated.” And though Braun advised that Connolly’s eyes appeared glassy, he commented “that he did not believe that DSAIC Connolly or ATSAIC Ogilvie was intoxicated.”According to documents, Deputy Chief Dyson had been briefed on the incident on the evening of March 4 by Uniformed Division Inspector Keith Williams. Citing an “unknown source,” Williams said he was told Connolly, a passenger in the car, “smelled of alcohol,” the document states.According to congressional sources, no other evidence other than the anonymous email and the unknown source has been presented to suggest that either agent was drunk. Multiple sources who have reviewed video of the incident tell ABC News that it does not provide any conclusive evidence of impairment.The documents also show that Connolly told Dyson that he and Ogilvie did not realize that the White House complex was under alert condition yellow due to the suspicious package investigation at that entrance. Only when they noticed that the security post was unoccupied did they check their BlackBerry devices and learn of the alert.A detailed timeline of events obtained by ABC News shows that Director Clancy was called at 10:48 p.m. on the evening of March 4 to inform him of the suspicious package. The two agents arrived at the White House only 10 minutes later, at 10:58. Yet, records show, no one from the Secret Service bothered to call Clancy back that evening to inform him of alleged misconduct.Video of the incident released Tuesday shows no drama, no collision and, at most, a low-speed vehicle maneuver which bumped a temporary traffic barrel out of the path of the entrance of the White House complex. The video has a limited view, but does not show indications of a particularly active crime scene.The video also does not show that the agents flipped on their lights to go around the barrier, as they are accused of doing in the anonymous email. It does show a vehicle moving just behind the agents’ car followed closely by a police car that did have its rooftop light bar flashing.Rep. Elijah Cummings was troubled by the email, telling Director Clancy at a Tuesday hearing, “It appears that we have an agency at war against itself. The idea that in an organization like this that somebody would create this kind of document to bring this kind of disruption when they are supposed to be guarding the president of the United States of America. We are better than that.”It is now up to the inspector general to determine whether the allegations of misconduct have merit, why they were not communicated more quickly up the chain of command and what can be done to get the Secret Service can get back on track. That process, sources say, could take several weeks.

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Courthouse Evacuated During Aaron Hernandez Murder Trial Due to Bomb Threat

Courthouse Evacuated During Aaron Hernandez Murder Trial Due to Bomb Threat

Photo by John Tlumacki/The Boston Globe via Getty Images(FALL RIVER, Mass.) -- The courthouse where the Aaron Hernandez murder trial is being held was evacuated on Thursday morning due to a bomb threat. ABC's Boston affiliate, WCVB-TV, reported that no explosives were found and employees were allowed back into the courthouse about an hour after the threat was called in. Superior Court Judge Susan Garsh reportedly told jurors that there was no reason to believe the interruption was related to the Hernandez case.

Hernandez's fiancee, Shayannah Jenkins, could testify as early as Friday.

Hernandez is on trial for the June 2013 murder of his friend Odin Lloyd, who was dating the sister of Hernandez's fiancee.

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Seattle Police Wrangle Wild Goats

Seattle Police Wrangle Wild Goats

Seattle Police Department(SEATTLE) -- Police in Seattle were able to stop a wild situation before it got worse on Thursday, after 10 goats escaped from their yard.

According to the Seattle Police Department, a group of kids reported being chased by another group of kids at about 1:15 p.m. Thursday. The only catch was that the second group of kids was actually a pack of baahd young goats.After a brief "hoof chase," the SPD said it was able to corral the wayward goats. Animal Control officers were said to be contacting the goats' owner, who thanked police for bringing the goats home.

 

BREAKING: 10 goats in custody after brief hoof chase at 5000 blk S. Wallace Street. More info to come.

— Seattle Police Dept. (@SeattlePD) March 26, 2015

You herd right! Officers corralled 10 goats after they reportedly chased a group of children near 50/S. Wallace. pic.twitter.com/RvBDQ8MzTY

— Seattle Police Dept. (@SeattlePD) March 26, 2015

Thank you to @SeattlePD for bringing the trouble makers home! For the record, they love kids, exhibit A pic.twitter.com/CX7grubhr3

— Tamara Power-Drutis (@TamaramaPD) March 26, 2015

The SPD did have fun with the incident though, mocking up a movie poster parodying that of the Steve McQueen classic The Great Escape.

 

 

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Kerry Travels to Switzerland for Start of Latest Iran Nuclear Negotiations

Kerry Travels to Switzerland for Start of Latest Iran Nuclear Negotiations

FABRICE COFFRINI/AFP/Getty Images(LAUSANNE, Switzerland) -- Secretary of State John Kerry met with Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif on Thursday at the start of the next round of European Union-coordinated nuclear negotiations.

 

En route to #Switzerland again for meetings with FM @JZarif as part of ongoing P5+1 #IranTalks.

— John Kerry (@JohnKerry) March 25, 2015

A senior State Department official told reporters en route to Switzerland that the schedule for Kerry's trip was "extremely fluid" and that meetings were to begin Thursday morning. "We are focused on getting a political framework that addresses all of the major elements of a comprehensive deal done by the end of March," the official said, according to a transcript released by the department."I think we would say we made more progress in the last round than we have made in the previous rounds," the official added, saying that "we can see a path forward here to get to an agreement."

 

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Indiana Gov. Mike Pence Signs Controversial Bill on ‘Religious Freedom’

Indiana Gov. Mike Pence Signs Controversial Bill on ‘Religious Freedom’

Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call(INDIANAPOLIS) -- Indiana Gov. Mike Pence signed a controversial bill on Thursday that could allow business owners to refuse service to people based on their sexual orientation.

"Today I signed the Religious Freedom Restoration Act," Pence said in a statement Thursday, "because I support the freedom of religion for every Hoosier of every faith."

 

I signed SEA 101 today to ensure religious liberty is fully protected under IN law http://t.co/vCOASZBZnH pic.twitter.com/CMFJh6aLDx

— Governor Mike Pence (@GovPenceIN) March 26, 2015

 

While critics say the bill could allow for discrimination, Pence says it is not about that. "If I thought it legalized discrimination in any way in Indiana, I would have vetoed it," he said.Pence clarified that the bill "does not even apply to disputes between private parties unless government action is involved."Pence pointed to lawsuits filed by the University of Notre Dame and a private business against provisions within the Affordable Care Act. "The Constitution of the United States and the Indiana Constitution both provide strong recognition of the freedom of religion," Pence said. "But today, many people of faith feel their religious liberty is under attack by government action."Indiana state Sen. Tim Lanane took to Twitter to voice his disagreement with Pence. "Athough not unexpected, it is still extremely disappointing that Governor Pence endorses this out-of-touch, discriminatory legislation," Lanane wrote.

 

Although not unexpected, it is still extremely disappointing that Governor Pence endorses this out-of-touch, discriminatory legislation.

— Senator Tim Lanane (@TimLanane) March 26, 2015

Not only is this law unnecessary, it already has portrayed IN as intolerant, unfriendly & backwards; things which I believe Hoosiers reject

— Senator Tim Lanane (@TimLanane) March 26, 2015

#RFRA can only hurt our state’s economy and our desire to be welcoming to every person.

— Senator Tim Lanane (@TimLanane) March 26, 2015

I’m disgusted that they made this a priority over everything else & then were too ashamed to sign this bill anywhere but behind closed doors

— Senator Tim Lanane (@TimLanane) March 26, 2015

"No matter how privately Gov. Pence tries to put his stamp of approval on #RFRA, fact remains he owns this unwanted law and its consequences," Lanane continued.

 

 

No matter how privately Gov Pence tries to put his stamp of approval on #RFRA, fact remains he owns this unwanted law and its consequences.

— Senator Tim Lanane (@TimLanane) March 26, 2015

With the college basketball's Men's Final Four in Indianapolis next week, NCAA President Mark Emmert released a statement Thursday expressing concern over "how this legislation could affect our student-athletes and employees." Emmert says the NCAA "will work diligently to assure student-athletes competing in, and visitors attending, next week's Men's Final Four in Indianapolis are not impacted negatively by this bill."Emmert also said that the NCAA would "closely examine the implications of this bill and how it might affect future events as well as our workforce."

 

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Former Congressman Jesse Jackson Jr. Released from Federal Prison

Former Congressman Jesse Jackson Jr. Released from Federal Prison

Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Former Congressman Jesse Jackson, Jr. was released from federal prison on Thursday, about six months before his original release date.Jackson, the former Illinois congressman and son of Reverend Jesse Jackson, pleaded guilty to misusing $750,000 in campaign funds in 2013.

He began his sentence on Nov. 1, 2013. He was scheduled for release on Sept. 20, 2015. The Chicago Sun-Times reports that Jackson will serve the remainder of his sentence at a Washington, D.C. halfway house.

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Why Customer Service Representatives Might Be Deliberately Making Your Experience Worse

Why Customer Service Representatives Might Be Deliberately Making Your Experience Worse

JumpStock/iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- More and more disgruntled customers are posting personal horror stories online about their interactions with customer service representatives at call centers.But former service representatives Mark Pavlic and Jacob Curtis recently told ABC News’ 20/20 that the stress of the job and even the customers themselves are sometimes responsible for those negative experiences.“You almost never have anything good happen to you at work,” Pavlic, a former cable company agent, told 20/20. “And I think that that makes the job stressful.”“You're just entry-level position,” Curtis, who worked for a home security company, said. “You just do what you're told.”“The reality is that our negative customer service experiences are far more memorable than our positive ones and we typically embellish those negative events to anyone that will listen, thereby affecting the original source business well beyond that single frustrated customer,” Bill Crutcher, president, National Customer Service Association, said in a statement to ABC News.He added: “Our Chapter organizations, journal contributors, class attendees and general membership assure us that there are many organizations whose true culture is one of excellent customer service--internally and externally. Small and large employers alike are role-modeling and empowering a staff focus on service excellence through routine and training and consistent messaging; encouraging employees to do what it takes to provide a positive customer experience every time.”Pavlic and Curtis revealed what they say really went on at the other end of the phone line and why representatives may actually be deliberately antagonizing their customers.Watch the full story on ABC News’ “20/20” Friday at 10 p.m. ET.1. There’s a lot of pressure on customer service representatives.Pavlic and Curtis say the reason customer service representatives have such bad experiences is that it’s one of the worst jobs in the world. They say it’s no surprise that some overworked and lowly paid representatives lash out at their own customers.“It's not an easy job, because you're trying to appease the company that you work for and then you're trying to appease the angry customer who disagrees with the policies,” Pavlic said.They say a manager is also often hovering over your shoulder, timing and monitoring calls.“And then having to do this a hundred times a day; it's very emotionally draining,” Curtis told 20/20. “And it's call after call after call. You get maybe 30 seconds, if you're lucky, in between calls.”2. They have little to no power to fix issues.Representatives’ hands are often tied when it comes to fixing the problem in the first place, according to Pavlic and Curtis.“I mean, the policies are very set in stone, and you can't really override them,” Curtis said. “What's also difficult is that it's not really your fault, and the customer takes it out on you.”3. Representatives might transfer difficult customers on purpose.According to these former customer service representatives, unruly customers are dealt with by being transferred from department to department.“You just transfer them to another department, not your problem anymore,” Curtis said. “Because there's no repercussions for you as the customer service rep. It's all of a sudden with one click of a button, ‘Hey, I'm going to transfer you.’ All your problems are resolved. It's so nice to do.”“I can say that it has happened, even by people sitting next to me,” Pavlic said. “They've transferred people back into the queue.”4. Good luck getting an actual supervisor on the phone.“The company does not want you to get to the supervisor, because it takes up the supervisor's resources and time,” Curtis said.Pavlic says customers who want to talk to a supervisor might actually be talking to someone pretending to be a supervisor.“It's essentially -- they have a different job title than us, but they have no real power over a normal customer service representative,” Pavlic said.“I had the same thing at my company. You were told, ‘You are a supervisor,’” Curtis said. “So you can tell the customer you're a supervisor. Even though they don’t, they're not supervising anyone.”5. Agents are mostly playing the “sell game” instead of helping you with problems.In their experiences, Pavlic and Curtis say there was a focus on sales over customer service.“You definitely spend the majority of your time trying to push something on them that they don't want pushed on them,” Curtis said, “trying to sell them something.”

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Ebola Patient at NIH Upgraded from Critical to Serious Condition

Ebola Patient at NIH Upgraded from Critical to Serious Condition

Photo by Andrew Councill/MCT/MCT via Getty Images(BETHESDA, Md.) -- A patient being treated for the Ebola virus at the National Institutes of Health Clinical Center in Bethesda was upgraded from critical to serious condition, the NIH said Thursday.The NIH still did not share any additional details about the patient, who was admitted on March 12. The patient was volunteering at an Ebola treatment unit in Sierra Leone when they tested positive for the disease.The patient is the second to receive treatment at the NIH Clinical Center. The first, Dallas nurse Nina Pham, contracted the disease while treating Thomas Eric Duncan. Pham was the first person to catch Ebola on U.S. soil in connection with the outbreak in West Africa. She was admitted to the NIH facility in October and later released Ebola-free.

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CDC Unveils New Anti-Smoking Ads Featuring Real Smokers

CDC Unveils New Anti-Smoking Ads Featuring Real Smokers

Credit: James Gathany/Centers for Disease Control and Prevention(NEW YORK) -- The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have launched a new set of anti-smoking ads featuring real smokers who are living with the long-term health effects of smoking and secondhand smoke exposure.The "Tips From Former Smokers" campaign was first launched in 2012. "Since its launch," the CDC says, "the Tips campaign has featured compelling stories of former smokers living with smoking-related diseases and disabilities and the toll that smoking-related illnesses have taken on them." In September 2013, the Lancet medical journal published an article saying that the Tips campaign has motivated about 1.6 million smokers to attempt to quit smoking, with at least 100,000 U.S. smokers expected to quit permanently as a result of the campaign.  The CDC posted videos featuring 27 real people on their website. "I smoked and got macular degeneration," a woman named Marlene says in one of the videos. "So I don't see very well."After describing the first time she received one of the medical procedures she goes through as a result of her disease, Marlene says she "went home and I felt miserable, and I said to myself, 'Why the hell did I ever smoke?'""I would never have smoked if I knew that I was gonna be going through this," she says.

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49ers Waive OL Jonathan Martin

49ers Waive OL Jonathan Martin

Joel Auerbach/Getty Images(SAN FRANCISCO) -- The San Francisco 49ers released offensive lineman Jonathan Martin on Thursday, the team announced.

Martin spent one season in San Francisco, appearing in 15 games (nine starts) at right tackle.

Martin played at Stanford and was a 2012 second-round draft pick of the Miami Dolphins, where he started all 16 games as a rookie.

In Martin's second season with Miami, he left the team after a bullying controversy involving former teammate Richie Incognito. Martin played the first seven games but sat out the rest of the 2013 season, and then in the offseason the Dolphins traded him to the 49ers for a conditional seventh-round draft pick.

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49ers Waive OL Jonathan Martin

49ers Waive OL Jonathan Martin

Joel Auerbach/Getty Images(SAN FRANCISCO) -- The San Francisco 49ers released offensive lineman Jonathan Martin on Thursday, the team announced.

Martin spent one season in San Francisco, appearing in 15 games (nine starts) at right tackle.

Martin played at Stanford and was a 2012 second-round draft pick of the Miami Dolphins, where he started all 16 games as a rookie.

In Martin's second season with Miami, he left the team after a bullying controversy involving former teammate Richie Incognito. Martin played the first seven games but sat out the rest of the 2013 season, and then in the offseason the Dolphins traded him to the 49ers for a conditional seventh-round draft pick.

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GOP Congressman Sees Paying NCAA Athletes an ‘Inevitability’

GOP Congressman Sees Paying NCAA Athletes an ‘Inevitability’

Photo By Douglas Graham/CQ Roll Call(WASHINGTON) -- With March Madness highlighting the billion-dollar enterprise that is NCAA athletics, pressure is building from prominent former athletes, state lawmakers, and even members of Congress to allow -- or even require -- colleges to pay the student-athletes who bring them so much revenue.Speaking on the ESPN/ABC podcast Capital Games, Rep. Charlie Dent -- a leading congressional critic of the NCAA -- said the idea of providing student-athletes at least a stipend for their services is “very reasonable.”“Big-time college football and college basketball are the minor leagues for the NFL and the NBA respectively – that’s what it is,” said Dent, R-Pa. “It’s professional athletics.”You can listen to the full Capital Games podcast HERE on desktop and HERE on mobile devices, or download it for free via smartphone podcast apps.Payments to student-athletes would be permissible under a broad reform bill Dent is pushing that’s aimed at requiring more concussion tests and preventing schools from cutting off scholarships for reasons that aren’t connected to academics.“Our legislation does not prohibit stipends, and I think there’s an inevitability to it. A lot of people are getting very rich on the back of these student-athletes,” Dent said. “I suspect that the only people who aren’t getting paid are the players.”Ralph Sampson, a college basketball hall of famer, said on the podcast that it’s only fair to find a way to compensate athletes, particularly because being a high-level college athlete is now a year-round commitment that doesn’t provide much extra time for part-time jobs.“I think there’s got to be a creative way to get that done,” said Sampson, a three-time national college player of the year who was later an All-Star in the NBA. “They gotta eat, they gotta sleep. The meal plans at school are OK, but you’re talking about athletes -- they have to perform, and you want them to perform at a very high level.”“It’s like taking a race car and putting in unleaded gas in it, and it needs octane gas, it needs high-level gas in it or it doesn’t work. So you got to find creative ways to get these kids to perform at a high level but also compensate as well.”Sampson, who's had two sons play college basketball, is now working with a project called FanAngel, a crowdfunding system that allows fans to pay to keep players in school, with the money due to be disbursed to them after their college eligibility expires.“It will be a creative way to stop all the under the table, unnecessary stuff that go on in college sports,” Sampson said.If neither federal intervention nor the private sector wind up providing money to student-athletes, states may wind up taking the lead. South Carolina state Sen. Marlon Kimpson has filed a bill that would require the two biggest public universities in his state to pay some athletes weekly stipends, as well as larger payments that would come after graduation.“People are starting to get on board,” said Kimpson, a Democrat from Charleston. “We need to make sure that our universities, who are making huge sums of money – again, this is no longer amateur business, we’re talking about major commercial enterprises....We need to make sure that there’s some economic justice on the field, and some of that revenue goes to the people that are largely responsible for generating those returns.”Capital Games with Andy Katz and Rick Klein is a podcast program that explores the intersection of sports and politics, as part of the ESPN Perspectives audio series.

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Kerry Washington Reveals She Live Tweeted ‘Scandal’ While in Labor

Kerry Washington Reveals She Live Tweeted ‘Scandal’ While in Labor

ABC/Adam Taylor(NEW YORK) -- Kerry Washington is super dedicated to her role as the star of Scandal and live tweets every episode of the hit ABC series.In fact, the Emmy Award-nominated actress live tweeted while she was in labor last year."Every Thursday within three weeks of my [daughter’s] due date, I loaded up pre-tweets based on the episodes and what I would want to say. I tweeted in the very early stages of my labor," she told Net-A-Porter's The Edit magazine. "I figured that if I went completely silent on social media, then people would know I was in the hospital!"Washington and her husband, former NFL player Nnamdi Asomugha, welcomed their first child, Isabelle Amarachi, in April 2014.It almost sounds like something her character Olivia Pope might do as a political fixer. Still, Washington said the two have one big difference."A lot of therapy!" she quipped."In some ways, she's so aspirational -- you want to walk like her, dress like her, command attention like her and control a situation like her. In other ways, she's a warning of what not to be," Washington continued. "Not to say that I have it all together, but I think I have a little bit more awareness about my behavior patterns and I do the work it takes to get out of them."Scandal airs Thursdays at 9 p.m. ET/PT on ABC.ABC and ABCNews.com are owned by The Walt Disney Co.

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“Furious 7″ Features Touching Tribute to Paul Walker

“Furious 7″ Features Touching Tribute to Paul Walker

Photo by William Volcov/BrazilPhotoPress/LatinContent/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- Fast & Furious fans should prepare to break out the Kleenex when the latest installment in the franchise, Furious 7, opens next Friday.Tyrese Gibson, one of the film's stars, said the film will end with a touching tribute to the late Paul Walker, who died off the set in a single-car accident in 2013 in the middle of filming."The tribute at the end is the most beautiful thing you’ll ever see," the actor told HuffPost Live Wednesday. "All the things you love about Fast & Furious are in there, but this tribute is so touching, and necessary. The fans are really going to appreciate it."Star Vin Diesel, speaking to Variety earlier this week, said fans will be surprised by just how "emotionally powerful" the film is."We were successful in one-upping the action sequences, and adding an interesting dynamic to the world," Diesel said. "But what the world won’t anticipate is how emotionally powerful the movie is."Diesel even went so far as to make a prediction: "Universal is going to have the biggest movie in history with this movie. It will probably win best picture at the Oscars, unless the Oscars don’t want to be relevant ever."Repeating his prediction, he added, "There is nothing that will ever come close to the power of this thing."After Walker's tragic death, production halted for four months and resumed with Walker's look-alike brothers Cody and Caleb helping to complete some of his scenes."Our first instinct was to quit and let it go," Gibson told HuffPost Live, "but when his family said they were in support of us finishing the movie, we made everything about [Paul]. We finished it for our brother, and now it's about celebrating his life."Furious 7 hits theaters April 3.

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Pope Francis Surprises Homeless Visitors During Private Vatican Tour

Pope Francis Surprises Homeless Visitors During Private Vatican Tour

neneos/iStock Editorial/Thinkstock(VATICAN CITY) -- The Vatican opened its doors Thursday to the homeless of St. Peter's Square, allowing the people who usually only see its steps outside to observe its beauty inside, and be greeted by Pope Francis himself.A group of 150 homeless men and women took a guided tour of the museum and gardens and received dinner in the Vatican Museum’s cafeteria. They also were invited to pray in the Sistine Chapel, where the pope made an unannounced visit.“This is everyone’s house: it’s your house. The door is always open for all,” Francis reportedly said as he shook their hands.The Vatican says the pontiff spent 20 minutes with the visitors, meeting each one individually. He asked them to pray for him, saying, “I need prayers from people like you."“It was a great surprise meeting him,” said Graziella, one of the homeless visitors, to the Italian news agency ANSA. "The pope was smiling a lot but above all I was struck by his humility. Who else would have done this? Nobody. I always go to church but I have never experienced such humanity and humility."The tour passed the Casa Santa Marta, where Pope Francis chose to live instead of the stately Papal apartment, and included a stop at a recently opened room in the museum that houses the pope’s historical carriages.The invitation is just one of a string of actions taken by the pontiff to reach out to the poor. To mark his birthday in December, Pope Francis had sleeping bags distributed to the homeless in and around St. Peter’s Square. In February, the Vatican built showers and hired barbers for the homeless around the square.And in mid-June, Francis will lunch with some of Turin’s homeless on a visit there, the Vatican announced Wednesday.Pope Francis’ outreach to the poor echoes one of the central messages of his papacy. "Do not be afraid to go and to bring Christ into every area of life, to the fringes of society, even to those who seem farthest away, most indifferent," Francis said in 2013.The Vatican has called on the homeless to help distribute gospels or prayer booklets to the faithful in the square on Sundays during the Pope’s noontime prayer.The tour and dinner was organized by the Office of Papal Charities, which regularly distributes meals to the homeless who live in Rome.The Vatican said Francis did not want any official photos or videos taken of the event.

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Boyfriend of Denise Huskins Says He Was Not Involved in a ‘Hoax’

Boyfriend of Denise Huskins Says He Was Not Involved in a ‘Hoax’

ABC News(VALLEJO, Calif.) -- The boyfriend of a California woman who was reported abducted but found safe two days later said Thursday that he was not involved in a "hoax.""Our client has no responsibility for this kidnapping," said the attorney for Anthony Quinn, the man from whose home the woman was allegedly abducted. "He is in terrible shape -- mental and physical."Police in Vallejo, California, said on Wednesday they found "no evidence to support the claims" that Denise Huskins was abducted from a home there before she was found alive two days later and more than 400 miles away. The home from which Huskins, 29, was reportedly taken belongs to Quinn, 30.Quinn's attorney, Dan Russo, said Thursday that Quinn has "cooperated fully with the authorities," including in a 17-hour interrogation and seven visits to the police station. Russo said there was more than one kidnapper, and that Quinn was drugged and bound."He was forced to drink something that even the kidnappers said was a drug," Russo said.Quinn's attorney said they do not know why authorities are implying the incident is a "hoax.""Besides the fact that our client was used as a football, we still don't want to jeopardize authorities' attempt to put the [suspect] behind bars," Russo said.Quinn's attorney said they don't know where Huskins is and they instructed Quinn not to try to reach out to her, so he hasn't, though he wanted to contact her when he learned she was discovered.Huskins' family said Quinn is the man who called 911 hours after her "abduction." Vallejo Police Lt. Kenny Park said the two were dating.Quinn has a "very good relationship with the woman who was kidnapped and his concern was that the woman was not killed or harmed," Russo said, adding that neither person has "any drug or alcohol issues.""There seems to be a stream of blatant lies about our client, about the victim, and everything else that's going on," Russo said.Police said that Quinn claimed whoever abducted Huskins made an $8,500 ransom demand."There is something very, very off about this investigation," said Quinn's attorney Amy Morton, adding that authorities have given "lies" to Morton and Russo."It's important to note all the ransom notes were not directed to her parents or family, they were directed toward [Quinn]," Russo said.Huskins, a physical therapist, was found in Huntington Beach, California, on Wednesday morning, police said. Her father, Mike Huskins, told ABC News that his daughter called him from Huntington Beach to say she was safe.Huskins had promised through family members to speak with investigators, but as of late Wednesday they were unable to contact her or her family, police said, adding that she has since retained an attorney. Huskins could not be reached for comment by ABC News Thursday."All indications initially were that she would be cooperative with the investigation," Park said during a news conference Wednesday night. But "as of right now, we have not heard from Ms. Huskins."The FBI, which assisted Vallejo police in its investigation, had arranged for an aircraft to bring her from Huntington Beach to Northern California for the interview, police said. But, detectives said Wednesday they don't know where she is."There is no evidence to support the claims that this was a stranger abduction or an abduction at all," read a statement from the Vallejo Police Department. "Given the facts that have been presented thus far, this event appears to be an orchestrated event and not a kidnapping."Huskins was reported missing at 1:55 p.m. Monday by what police described as a 30-year-old man who called to report the alleged kidnapping and claimed he witnessed it. Police previously said that Huskins was abducted from the home where she was staying in Vallejo hours earlier, at about 3:30 a.m.The San Francisco Chronicle on Wednesday reported it received an email the day before from an "anonymous person claiming to be holding Denise Huskins."The newspaper reported the email said that Huskins "will be returned safely [Wednesday]" and that "any advance on us or our associates will create a dangerous situation for Denise."The email was also reported to include an audio file of a woman identifying herself as Huskins who referred to Tuesday's plane crash in southern France -- ostensibly as a time marker for proof of life -- and identified the first concert she had attended in her life, the name of a childhood friend she attended the concert with, and the name of the friend's mother as proof of her identity."That was her. The tape recording was her. That I know. They said they were going to drop her off and they did," Mike Huskins told the Chronicle after being played the audio recording. "I'm relieved. You have to expect the worst -- but in my heart, I knew she was still alive."Police in Vallejo said they received the same email and audio file but did not confirm its contents.Vallejo police said in its statement that it would request either state or federal charges "if evidence indicates that either Ms. Huskins or Mr. Quinn have committed a criminal act.""The Vallejo Police Department would like to ensure the public that there is no indication that this was a random act of violence," police said in its statement.More than 40 detectives from the local, state and police levels assisted in the investigation and search for Huskins, Park said."That is a tremendous amount of resources that in my opinion was wasted," he said, adding that the search could be classified as a "wild goose chase."The investigation is ongoing and police are still trying to determine whether anyone else was involved, Park said. The FBI declined to comment and directed ABC News to Vallejo police.

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Unemployment Claims Drop, Wall Street Follows Suit

Unemployment Claims Drop, Wall Street Follows Suit

tarabird/iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Thursday was another poor day on Wall Street, with all three major indices posting losses, the fourth consecutive negative day on Wall Street.The Dow Jones Industrial Average dropped 40.31 to 17,678.23.The Nasdaq posted 13.16 in losses, closing the day at 4,863.36, while the S&P 500 dipped to 2,056.15, down 4.90 from its open.The U.S. Labor Department reported on Thursday that unemployment claims dropped 9,000 from the previous week. The four-week moving average also dropped 7,750, to 297,000.

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Nineteen Injured in Building Collapse, Seven-Alarm Fire in New York City

Nineteen Injured in Building Collapse, Seven-Alarm Fire in New York City

WABC-TV News(NEW YORK) -- New York City's Fire Department has responded to a partial building collapse and seven-alarm fire Thursday at a building on the Lower East Side of Manhattan.

#BREAKING: Aerial view of building collapse @NYPD9Pct. Numerous rescue units on scene #SOD #ESU #K9 #Aviation #FD pic.twitter.com/d9iX4GOBUd

— NYPD Special Ops (@NYPDSpecialops) March 26, 2015

 

The New York Police Department also responded to the scene.

At least 19 people were injured, the FDNY said, including 14 civilians. Four people were in critical condition. The FDNY also confirmed that four firefighters were taken to area hospitals and a fifth was evaluated at the scene.

MAN 7-ALARM 125 2 AVE, MIXED OCCUPANCY MAJOR BUILDING COLLAPSE,

— FDNY (@FDNY) March 26, 2015

Now #FDNY operating on-scene at 123 2nd Avenue in Manhattan. pic.twitter.com/bg8vx1TwLX

— FDNY (@FDNY) March 26, 2015

 

Multiple #FDNY units operating at 121&123 2nd Avenue in the East Village. pic.twitter.com/LIfmvhZBrS

— FDNY (@FDNY) March 26, 2015

 

The NYPD currently has emergency vehicles along w/ @FDNY & @NYCOEM on scene at 125 2nd Ave for a building collapse.

— NYPD NEWS (@NYPDnews) March 26, 2015

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio said in a press conference on Thursday that a preliminary investigation suggested the incident was caused by a gas-related explosion. He noted that 250 firefighters were working at the scene.

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Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl Describes Brutal Conditions of His 5-Year Captivity

Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl Describes Brutal Conditions of His 5-Year Captivity

ABC News(NEW YORK) -- For the first time, Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl has described in his own words the brutal conditions he endured as a Taliban prisoner for five years, a time during which he said he was kept in constant isolation. Bergdahl also claims he attempted to escape about a dozen times, including once when he was able to evade his captors for nine days before being recaptured.Bergdahl walked away from his unit's outpost in eastern Afghanistan in June 2009 and was held captive by the Taliban until last May, when his freedom was secured in a controversial prisoner swap for five former Taliban leaders being detained at Guantanamo.On Wednesday the Army charged Bergdahl with desertion and misbehavior before the enemy; he could face life in prison for the latter charge.Bergdahl’s account of his captivity was included in a statement provided to reporters by his attorney Eugene Fidell, who told ABC News it details “the really atrocious conditions in which he was held” and the worsening treatment after his escape attempts. “I think those are important facts that decision makers will take into account when they figure out how this case should be disposed of,” said Fidell.“I was kept in constant isolation during the entire five years, with little to no understanding of time, through periods of constant darkness, periods of constant light, and periods of completely random flickering of light, and absolutely no understanding of anything that was happening behind the door I was held behind," wrote Bergdahl in the single-spaced, two-page statement.He said that in the first three months of his captivity after his two escape attempts, “I was chained to a bed spread-eagle and blindfolded.” He remained constantly blindfolded except for the few times a day when he was allowed to eat and use the latrine.As his muscles atrophied and it became difficult for him to walk, his captors allowed him to sit chained on the bed. He eventually developed open wounds on his ankles “that looked like the staph infection I had had earlier that year.”He also began to develop what he called a “growing internal sickness" that made it difficult for him to eat for the rest of his captivity and led to a dramatic weight loss.After a year of captivity he was placed in a cage with his hands in chains except for the few times when he would wash or change clothes. For a year his feet were chained to the cage every night, though that ended “because of the acute pain my feet and legs where [sic] in.” He claims that pain had developed into a “freezing numbness that continues to the present, as both feet have neuropathy.”He would spend the rest of his captivity in the cage, but unshackled only because it was placed over plumbing that allowed him to relieve himself.His captors would routinely play mind games with him, telling him he would be executed one day, “told I would leave the next day, and the next day told I would be there for 30 years.”Bergdahl claims he attempted to escape from his captors about a dozen times, the first one taking place just hours after he was captured in 2009 in eastern Afghanistan.Taken to a village, he claims a Taliban fighter began punching him each time he evaded his questions. Blindfolded with a blanket over his head, “I believed I had a chance to run for it and did.” But he was soon brought down by a large group of men who repeatedly punched him, including one who used the butt stock of a broken AK-47.He twice was able to escape beyond the buildings where he was being held -- the first time during his first week in captivity, when he escaped for 10 to 15 minutes “and after recapturing me and putting chains back on they took turns beating me with a length of thick robber [sic] hose.” Bergdahl said the escape attempt led to his being taken to a more secured compound.His most daring escape occurred at the end of his first year of captivity, when he was able to evade his captors for nine days. “Without food and only putrid water to drink, my body failed on top of a short mountain close to evening.”He was recaptured a short time later by a large Taliban search group that proceeded to beat him severely. “One tried to rip my beard and hair out, but from what I could sense they where [sic] more worried about getting me out of that area as quickly as possible.”

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