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Dad Posts Meddling Note Sent Home by Teacher over Packed Lunch

Dad Posts Meddling Note Sent Home by Teacher over Packed Lunch

PhotoObjects.net/Thinkstock(KIRKSVILLE, Mo.) -- A fed-up Missouri father posted a photo of the letter he received from his daughter's substitute teacher who criticized the girl's lunch. One problem: the teacher didn't see her whole lunch. Dr. Justin Puckett was asked to sign a note sent home with his daughter Alia after the teacher saw her eating marshmallows and chocolate at lunch earlier this week. He refused to do so, and posted it online instead, saying that it was just the latest in what he sees as a growing trend of overreaching by authorities. "I think that this was just the straw that broke the camel's back for me," Puckett told ABC News. The substitute teacher wrote in the note sent home on Tuesday that a cafeteria employee said that her lunch consisted of four chocolate bars, a bag of marshmallows, Ritz crackers and a pickle. "Please see that she packs a proper lunch tomorrow," the teacher wrote. An attempt to reach the teacher for comment wasn't immediately successful. Puckett told ABC News that, since the note was addressed to "Dr. and Mrs. Puckett," it was clear that the teacher knew he was a physician which he said "just adds to the irony of it all." What the cafeteria worker and the substitute missed, however, was that the 8-year-old also had four pieces of ham and a low fat string cheese rather than a sandwich, since "we don't eat a lot of bread," said Puckett, who is double board certified in osteopathic family medicine and obesity medicine. "We leave it up to her and she looks at the school menu and she packs her own lunch and she's a very independent second grader," he told ABC News. "Sure, I'd liked her to pack a few more veggies and maybe a piece of fruit, but we compromise on pickles occasionally," he wrote in his original Facebook post. Kirksville, Missouri, school superintendent Damon Kizzire has apologized for the incident and said that the way it's "being blown out of proportion is way out of line with how it was intended. It was all meant with the best of intentions."

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Four Questions for Roberta Jacobson, the Lead US Negotiator in Cuba

Four Questions for Roberta Jacobson, the Lead US Negotiator in Cuba

ABC News(HAVANA) -- History was made this week when for the first time in nearly 40 years American and Cuban diplomats sat face to face in Havana to talk about restoring their relationship – one that has been virtually non-existent since the U.S. trade embargo was established 1960. In an interview with ABC’s Serena Marshall, Assistant Secretary of State Roberta Jacobson, who led the talks for the U.S., said this first round of talks were all about getting to know what each side wanted. WHAT ARE THE BIGGEST HURDLES? The most glaring point of contention between Communist Cuba and Washington concerns human rights. Jacobson suggested it’s an issue on which the two sides may never totally agree. “When we talk about profound differences on human rights I don’t know that I see that as an issue that gets fixed, certainly not in the near term,” Jacobson said. “We have no illusions about this government. We would certainly like to see a major improvement in human rights, but we don’t necessarily expect that will happen right away.” Cuba like many foreign adversaries, has suggested the U.S. ought to examine its own human rights record before making demands on others. Most recently Cuban officials have cited the police shooting death of Michael Brown of Ferguson, Missouri, as an example. “Yes they have posed criticisms of our system, but obviously we believe that our system allows for freedom of expression and freedom of assembly and all sorts of things that are not allowed here in Cuba,” Jacobson said. WHAT DO THE CUBANS WANT? High on the list of Cuban demands is to be removed from the U.S. list of state sponsors of terrorism.

They also have said that before reopening a US embassy in Havana, the US needs to provide a way for the Cuban interest section in Washington, D.C., to make routine financial transactions. Right now they are unable to use credit or deal with US banks as a result of the embargo. Cuba has also called for an end to the so-called “wet-foot, dry-foot” policy – a product of the Clinton administration.

Cuba says the policy encourages its citizens to flee to the United States. It’s called “wet-foot, dry-foot,” because Cubans caught at sea while attempting to immigrate illegally are sent home, while Cubans caught on U.S. soil are given a chance to stay in the U.S. DOES NORMALIZING RELATIONS REWARD CUBA? The negotiations have faced criticism from within the U.S. Opponents to the Obama administration see the talks as a way of rewarding Cuba, despite bad behavior. “This is not a gift, this is not some type of a concession,” Jacobson said. “This is how we advance our interests. This is how we hope to advance the interests of the Cuban people.” DID THEY AGREE ON ANYTHING? So far the only agreement is that the two parties will meet again. “Yesterday’s talks were as we expected, which was to get many issues out on the table, but really not to resolve any of them,” Jacobson said. Jacobson said the U.S. extended an invitation for the Cubans to visit Washington, D.C., for the next round of talks, which she hopes will occur in the coming weeks. Secretary of State John Kerry said this week his goal is to visit Cuba soon and to open a U.S. embassy there if the talks go well.

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11 Rescued After Ship Sinks Off Hawaiian Island

11 Rescued After Ship Sinks Off Hawaiian Island

iStock/Thinkstock(HONOLULU) -– Eleven people were rescued on Thursday after a 95-foot towing vessel sank two and half miles off the coast of the Hawaiian island of Oahu, according to the U.S. Coast Guard.Officials received a call around 3:13 pm HST from the pilot about the towing vessel Nalani, stating their vessel was taking on water, and they were in danger of sinking.A nearby patrol boat from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and towing vessel Tiger 7 heard the urgent broadcast put out to nearby mariners of the situation and responded to the sinking ship.The crews on the two boats were able to safely rescue the 11 crew members shortly before two Coast Guard boats arrived on the scene.All 11 survivors were wearing lifejackets, according to officials.The cause of the sinking is unknown and remains under investigation.

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Dow, S&P 500 Reverse Course Following Days of Gains

Dow, S&P 500 Reverse Course Following Days of Gains

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- After four days of gains, poor earnings reports sent stocks sliding to close the week. The Dow Jones Industrial Average finished the session on Friday at 17,672.60, down 141.38 from its open. The Nasdaq however rose 7.48 to 4757.88. The S&P 500 was down 11.33 to close at 2051.82.Fast-food giant McDonalds reported earnings and sales fell in the fourth quarter, but the company says it will take action to bring customers back.Mastercard said on Friday it will lift the ban on U.S. credit card transactions in Cuba starting on March, due to new guidance from the U.S. Treasury Department. Sales of existing homes jumped 2.4 percent in December, but total sales for 2014 slipped more than three percent. Many first-time buyers were also priced out, as home values increased six percent last year to a median price of just under $210,000.

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Kobe Bryant Expected to Miss Rest of the Season

Kobe Bryant Expected to Miss Rest of the Season

Chris Graythen/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- Los Angeles Lakers All-Star Kobe Bryant's season is over after he suffered a torn rotator cuff during Wednesday night's loss to New Orleans, ESPN's Ramona Shelburne reports.

Bryant met with doctors in Los Angeles on Friday and team doctor Steven Lombardo found a significant tear in Bryant's right shoulder.

It's a tough blow for Bryant and the Lakers, who have struggled to see him on the court over the last two seasons.

Bryant was sidelined due to a torn Achilles injury and a knee injury that allowed him to play six games last year.

Bryant will take the weekend to decide whether he'll undergo surgery and has an appointment with team doctor Neal ElAttrache on Monday. 

Bryant was voted to his 17th consecutive All-Star game after averaging 22.3 points in 35 games this year.

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Outrage After Female Tennis Star Asked to ‘Twirl’ on Court at Australian Open

Outrage After Female Tennis Star Asked to ‘Twirl’ on Court at Australian Open

MAL FAIRCLOUGH/AFP/Getty Images(MELBOURNE, Australia) -- It's a twirl that now has some heads spinning.Just moments after seventh-ranked Canadian tennis star Eugenie Bouchard crushed her opponent in 54 minutes to advance to the third round of the Australian Open on Wednesday, Australian commentator, Ian Cohen, asked her to “twirl” to show off her hot-pink outfit.The interviewer’s request has now sparked a flood of criticism and cries of sexism.In a video of the incident, Bouchard can be seen on the tennis court following her easy defeat of Kiki Bertens in the second round of the competition.Cohen then tells the 20-year-old: “Now yesterday, or last night, you tweeted that you loved Serena [Williams]’ outfit. ... She was kind enough to give us a twirl. Can you give us a twirl and tell us about your outfit?”Bouchard, who had been beaming at the beginning of the presenter’s remarks, appeared slightly taken aback by the request but she gamely complied.“A twirl, a pirouette, here we go,” the presenter replied. The crowd cheered.Bouchard performed a spin, covered her face, then said: “I mean I have to say, I honestly think Serena’s outfit is the best, even better than mine. I’m going to give her that.”In a post-match interview, Bouchard called Cohen’s request “very unexpected.”"I don't know, an old guy asking you to twirl. It was funny," Bouchard said, according to the CBC.There was strong criticism of Cohen on Twitter, even sparking the hashtag #twirlgate, with some people asking whether male tennis stars could be asked to do twirls on the court.

 

Without condition, when a man patronizes a professional woman by asking her to "twirl" it's sexist as hell. Case closed. #EugenieBouchard

— Ashley Ratcliffe (@ashratcliffe) January 22, 2015

 

 

Okay we know @geniebouchard is pretty but why do male reporters ask her such inappropriate questions its just wrong

— candie crush (@booscott10) January 22, 2015

 

 

Last year @geniebouchard was asked whom she'd like to date. This year she is asked to twirl. @AustralianOpen commentators need to grow up.

— Mike Kim (@mikejkim) January 22, 2015

Tennis legend Billie Jean King, a 12-time grand slam champion, tweeted, "The Australian Open interviewer asking the women to 'twirl' on court is out of line. This is truly sexist. If you ask the women you have to ask the guys to twirl as well. Let's focus on competition and accomplishments of both genders and not our looks.'"

 

But some felt too much was being made of the incident.

 

If the interviewer who asked Genie Bouchard to twirl was a woman, would we be talking about this right now? @bradyfan590 @FAN590Walker

— Tyler Louden (@tjslouden) January 23, 2015

 

On YouTube, one commenter wrote: “She could've easily said no if she felt uncomfortable.“Bouchard seems to be taking "twirl gate" in stride however, saying, "I'm not offended. I'm fine with being asked to twirl if they ask the guys to flex."

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The Story Behind the Eight New Messages On Your Candy Hearts This Year

The Story Behind the Eight New Messages On Your Candy Hearts This Year

Necco(NEW YORK) -- With Valentine’s Day only a few weeks away, Sweethearts is entering its busy season again. The popular heart-shaped sugar candy regularly adds and removes sayings each year to prep for the new season, but 2015 marks a historic moment for the 149-year-old brand: fan-sourced phrases. Last year, Sweethearts launched “Color Your Own” black-and-white boxes that had an empty space for young fans to color their phrase suggestions and submit their entries for consideration. “We saw it as another way to expand the Sweethearts brand and really interact with our younger fan base,” Necco social media specialist Mary Lane told ABC News “It’s a great and fun unique product, so it’s an exciting new innovation for us.” A panel of five judges chose from over 150 entries that came from 32 states. “We were excited to see that high of a participation rate, especially our first year,” Lane said. “It took us a while to go through every one to give them all an equal chance, but the winners that we did end up picking really stood out. They put so much effort and creativity into each of those designs.” The winners were Makendra Mowad from Bristol, Conn., in the 5 to 7 age group, Grace Forgea from Santa Barbara, Calif., in the 8 to 10 age group, and Teagan Clark from Ransomville, New York, in the 11 to 12 age group. Each winner also got $1,000. Mowad chose “Girl Power,” Forgea went with “Pugs & Kittens” and Clark decided on “Luv 2 Dance.” “After we contacted them letting them know they had won, their excitement matched our own,” Lane said. “They were so happy to participate to begin with, and the fact that they were winners you could tell for each contestant it really mattered to them and they were proud. One of our contestants told us she included it as a speech in her school.” In addition to the fan phrases, Sweethearts also added “BFF,” two emojis (a smiley face and a moustache) and “I Love You” in Spanish and French.

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The Dangers of a College Student Becoming a Campus Police Drug Informant

The Dangers of a College Student Becoming a Campus Police Drug Informant

Eric Bosco. ABC News(AMHERST, Mass.) -- When Francesca sent her son Logan off to college at University of Massachusetts Amherst, she said they were in constant communication, exchanging phone calls at least once a week and texts every day. She was proud of his accomplishments at school and says he seemed to be thriving.

“He was having so much fun, he really was," Francesca told ABC News' 20/20. "He made a lot of friends." But what she didn't know was that Logan had been recruited to be a confidential drug informant for the university’s campus police. And for the first time, Francesca, who asked that her last name not be used, is speaking out about what happened to her son. Logan Thrives at SchoolIn October 2013, Logan, whose name has been changed, was a junior kinesiology major and a recipient of a prestigious Chancellor’s scholarship at U-Mass Amherst. Growing up, he had been a Boy Scout and an AP student in high school. “Very happy, always -- jokester, major jokester,” Francesca said of her son’s personality. “He was the life of the party, he really was. ... He was all about helping people.” Francesca, a real estate agent and a single mom, said she and her son were “very close.” Logan was her only child, and she said she would visit him every Family Weekend in the fall. She never imagined that when she spoke to Logan the night before she was coming for Family Weekend in October 2013, it was going to be the last time.A Parent’s Worst NightmareOn Oct. 4, 2013, Logan’s father, Francesca’s ex-husband, arrived at the school first for Family Weekend and soon discovered something was wrong. “I was about a half-hour into the drive and his dad was supposed to meet him after his last class and take him to lunch,” Francesca said, noting that her ex-husband called her and said Logan wasn't here he was supposed to meet him. Francesca’s ex then told her he had gone over to where Logan worked at the campus gym, but couldn't find him. “He said, "Nobody's seen him,’” she said. “And I told him I just had an awful feeling, and I told him to ‘knock the door down, something has got to be wrong.'" Logan's father got a maintenance worker to open Logan’s off-campus apartment door. Then he delivered the horrifying news. “He said, ‘He's not breathing,’” Francesca said through tears. “That's all he was telling me is ‘he's not breathing.’ I said, ‘Call an ambulance,’ and he went from saying, ‘He's not breathing,’ to, ‘He's blue. He's dead.’” At the time, Logan’s parents had no idea what had happened to their son, who loved hockey and was very athletic. Francesca said she wasn't naive. She knew her son occasionally drank and smoked marijuana with friends. “I didn't see anything out of the ordinary,” she said. But a more serious offense was when he was arrested when he was 18 years old after police found cocaine residue in a pen in the trunk of his car during a traffic stop. But Francesca said Logan was enjoying college, and was working towards becoming a physical therapist. She didn't know yet that her son had been tapped to work as a drug informant for campus police.A Student Reporter Makes a Shocking DiscoveryWhen Logan was found dead, a fellow U-Mass Amherst student named Eric Bosco, along with his classmate Kayla Marchetti, decided to look into the case as a class project for an investigative journalism class. He asked for public records on Logan’s death, which he said they copied and gave him. Bosco said what he found was shocking. The police records showed details of a night ten months before Logan’s death. He was a sophomore at the time and on Dec. 4, 2012, according to the records, Logan unwittingly sold two tabs of LSD to an undercover campus police officer for $20 and was caught. The records said campus police then raided his bedroom at his apartment. “They find $700 in cash, an assortment of drugs, and a hypodermic needle,” Bosco said, recounting the records. The hypodermic needle, which is banned on campus, the drugs and money would have typically led to an arrest, suspension and, as part of school policy, the parents should have been notified that a student was found responsible for a drug or alcohol violation. But that night, the records showed that campus police decided to do something different for Logan. “He was offered a chance to help himself by giving information in regards to another drug dealer,” Bosco said. “The offer was they'll drop all charges and they won't charge him with distributing LSD and for the possession of drugs in his room if he wears a wire and goes, makes a controlled buy from a higher-level dealer on campus.”Becoming 'Confidential Informant No. 8.'According to campus police records, after Logan agreed to the deal, he is dubbed “Confidential Informant No. 8.” That same night, Dec. 4, 2012, the records say Logan contacted his former roommate, a friend called “Sleepy Dan,” and arranged to buy $70 of LSD while wearing a wire. Bosco said that, “When [Logan] gets up into the room, he's wearing a wire, he makes the buy, he leaves the room, and detectives swoop in and make the arrest ... in a matter of minutes.” Logan kept his role as a confidential informant a secret from his mother. Even six months after his death, campus police had not talked openly about the night of Dec. 4, 2012. In fact, Bosco said he was the one who told Francesca that Logan was an informant. “That was probably the hardest thing I've ever done,” Bosco said. “It was just a powerful, tragic moment.” Francesca became determined to help Bosco investigate Logan's death, and sent him her son's iPhone. When Bosco began looking through Logan’s text messages, he made another shocking discovery. “We found a lot,” he said. “This kid hadn't deleted any text messages for a year and a half or two years that he had the phone. ... He was able to essentially speak from the grave.”Logan’s Phone Reveals His Struggles With Going UndercoverLogan’s texts made it clear that making the deal with campus police had taken a toll. In one text, Logan wrote, “kinda hard to live with myself. ... that was honestly the worst day of my life.” In another he wrote, “I feel like I lost a brother and it [is] all my fault. Kinda wish I was just behind bars right now.” His phone also revealed a voicemail message left by U-Mass Amherst campus police one month after becoming an informant, which said they were returning the cash they took from his dorm room. In the months before he died, Logan confided in his childhood friend John Neuwirth. “He wasn't happy about what he did,” Neuwirth said. “He was ashamed. He felt bad. Anybody would. ... He gets labeled as a snitch, labeled as a rat. It’s basically ostracizing him from the community.” As the months went on, Logan’s texts showed his drug use had escalated. “I’m a heroin addict,” he confessed to a friend in one text. Then, in a text to a dealer he wrote 10 months after becoming CI-8, on the night before his parents were coming to visit for Parents Weekend, Logan wrote, “my veins are crying. ... is traffic going too bad?” The dealer wrote back, “you will very soon be in the loving comforting arms of Miss H.” By the next morning, Logan was dead.A Mother on a MissionFrancesca is certain her son’s death could have been avoided if she had been given the chance to help him when he was busted for selling LSD on Dec. 4, 2012. “We should have been called, under the policies and procedures of the university,” Francesca said. “I would have been up there in the middle of the night, bringing him home and finding him help. ... Just knowing there was a syringe, I would have gotten him help. I would have just automatically made an assumption it was heroin.” According to Bosco, campus police claim that they asked Logan repeatedly if he had a drug problem, and they said he assured them he did not. But his mother is skeptical. “Nobody wants to believe they have a problem, and no one's going to admit it, especially when you have so much at stake,” she said. “For the police to say, ‘We asked him,’ really? I don't even know what to say to that.” Francesca launched a mission to hold the university accountable for Logan’s death.A University Changes Its PolicyBosco's story about his investigation into Logan’s death landed on the front page of the Boston Globe on Sept. 28, 2014, and led prosecutors to re-open the case. Even the university’s own Vice Chancellor of University Relations John Kennedy, shown here, said he didn’t know the details of Logan’s informant work until Bosco’s report came out. “We learned through the reporting process,” Kennedy said. John Kennedy told 20/20 the district attorney has instructed him not to talk about the specifics of this case because it is an ongoing and pending investigation.

He said Logan’s parents weren't notified that Logan had become a drug informant for U-Mass Amherst campus police because the policy on confidential informants protected his identity. "I would say that this was a revealing moment for us because it caused us to go look at the policy," Kennedy said. "Parental notification was not required as part of the policy. Notification of the administration was not required as a part of the policy. ... that was a shortcoming." U-Mass Amherst is not the only university with a student drug informant program. University of Wisconsin-Whitewater Campus Police Chief Matthew Kierderlen said they have used 20 CIs since 2012, and it’s made the campus unattractive to drug dealers. But he said students are never coerced into being CIs, they offer do it as a chance to erase drug offenses from their records. “Our intent is to make this as safe as is possible,” Kierderlen said. “There's certainly always unknowns but we try to account for as much known as we can.” After what happened to Logan, the university launched an immediate review, Kennedy said, and last week U-Mass Amherst “decided to do away with the use of student confidential informants on this campus.” In the wake of Logan’s case, amendments to Rachel's Law, which puts restrictions on the use of confidential informants, are currently being debated in both the Florida state House of Representatives and the state Senate that would prohibit university campus police from recruiting or using enrolled students for drug buy-bust operations, but would allow them to provide confidential information. It would also require law enforcement to refer treatment programs to known drug abusers who become confidential informants, and prohibit police from using known drug abusers in buy-bust operations. For Francesca, the policy change at U-Mass Amherst was a small comfort. She said she is working to bring the heroin dealer who sold the lethal dose to her son to justice. 20/20 learned recently that the phone number of the dealer Logan had been texting the night he died belonged to a paid teacher’s assistant at U-Mass Amherst, according to the university directory. He is no longer at the school, and the open investigation is now in the hands of the district attorney. The Northwestern District Attorney declined to comment on the investigation into the dealer’s role in Logan’s death. “Maybe they made [the dealer] a confidential informant,” Francesca said.

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Miley Cyrus Talks Being Face of MAC Viva Glam, Grammy Nomination

Miley Cyrus Talks Being Face of MAC Viva Glam, Grammy Nomination

Michael Buckner/Getty Images for MAC Cosmetics(NEW YORK) -- Miley Cyrus is fresh off her worldwide tour, but she’s not slowing down. She’s joining the ranks of Rihanna, Lady Gaga and Nicki Minaj as the new face of MAC cosmetic’s Viva Glam campaign.

The singer said on Friday's Good Morning America that she signed on to the campaign because she wants to empower "those even affected by HIV and to kind of give them this hope, and know that there's people out there who are fighting for them and especially not just for the cure, but to end this kind of stereotype."

All of the proceeds from sales of Miley's custom lipstick will go to the MAC AIDS Fund, which supports people affected by HIV and AIDS.

"I think it's fun for young people to get to buy a lipstick and know that it's going to actually go to changing the way that their future is going to be," Miley added.

Regardless of her reputation for twerking, humping foam fingers and posing topless, Miley considers herself a role model for young people.

"I am [a role model] for what I know of what is important to teach people -- and what is important to teach people is that...you can't judge other people," she said.

Along with joining the campaign, Miley is also gearing up to attend the Grammy Awards Feb. 8. The singer is nominated in the best pop vocal album category for Bangerz, but she doesn't think she'll take home a trophy.

"[It's] probably not gonna happen, but I'm stoked to go," she said.

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Kanye West Reveals Why He Doesn’t Smile

Kanye West Reveals Why He Doesn’t Smile

Larry Busacca/Getty Images for MTV(LOS ANGELES) -- Kanye West is not often photographed smiling. However, it's not because he's unhappy. "Back when I was working on Yeezus, I saw this book from the 1800s and it was velvet-covered with brass and everything," West said in a speech at a fashion event on Thursday, according to E! News. "I looked at all these people's photos and they look so real and their outfits were incredible and they weren't smiling and people, you know the paparazzi, always come up to me, 'Why you not smiling?' and I think, not smiling makes me smile. ...When you see paintings in an old castle, people are not smiling cause it just wouldn't look as cool." West, 37, also discussed his love of clothes, explaining that "any time we create, we're an extension of doing [God's] work on earth." He added that everyone is considered a "fashion insider." "Everyone has some form of fashion every single day," he said. "We have the power to change the world. I believe that through design, because design is the closest to truth, problem-solving truth is the closest to love, and love is the closest thing to God, and God is love." However, E! noted, he did smile at one point during his address. Toward the end, he noted, "I don't know if I made one f***ing good point," and grinned.

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Potential 2016 GOP Hopefuls Flock to Iowa Freedom Summit

Potential 2016 GOP Hopefuls Flock to Iowa Freedom Summit

Hemera/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- The date for the first-in-the-nation Iowa caucus isn’t even set yet, but Republicans are already descending on the key presidential state’s capital for the Iowa Freedom Summit -- one of the first showcases for prospective 2016 GOP candidates, but definitely not the last. The summit is hosted by Rep. Steve King, R-Iowa, whose events have become must-attends for politicians looking to build up credibility with conservative voters in Iowa. Who’s going? Many of the most buzzed-about potential Republican White House hopefuls will be at Saturday’s summit at the Hoyt Sherman Place event space in Des Moines, including conservative darling Ben Carson, former Sen. Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania, Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas, former Texas Gov. Rick Perry, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker and former Arkansas governor and Fox News star Mike Huckabee. Who’s not going? Almost as important as the attendees will be those potential candidates who aren’t hobnobbing with Iowa conservatives this weekend: Mitt Romney, Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida, Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky and former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush. Why is Steve King so important? King may have views on issues like immigration that some Republicans find unhelpful -- he infamously tweeted that Michele Obama brought a “deportable” to the State of the Union address -- but he’s fashioned himself a conservative kingmaker who brings with him a slew of caucus voters. King held a similar forum in 2011 and has also hosted many lawmakers at his annual pheasant hunt, including Christie and Cruz. King is branding this event as “a launch point for conservative ideas as we head towards 2016.” So what exactly is going to happen? The event starts at 9 a.m., and each guest will appear individually and speak for several minutes. The conversation will, according to the event’s Web page, “focus on how we can get America back on track by focusing on our core conservative principles of pro-growth economics, social conservatism and a strong national defense.” But apparently, there won’t be too much opportunity to meet potential caucus-goers: Citing scheduling constraints, the website said “there will not be an opportunity to interact (shake hands, autographs, etc.) with the featured speakers.” Is King the only host? No. The political group Citizens United, which spurred the Supreme Court case that allowed unlimited political spending by corporations and unions, is co-hosting the event with King. So, is this the start of the 2016 election? It sure looks like it -- even if none of the attendees have actually declared they’re running for president yet. But attending this event, and kissing the ring of King and his fellow Iowa conservatives, is a clear way for future candidates to start telegraphing their intent and to start trying to secure caucus votes.

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White House Pokes Fun at Tom Brady

White House Pokes Fun at Tom Brady

File photo. Pete Souza / The White House(WASHINGTON) -- White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest weighed in on "deflate-gate" on Friday, having a little fun at Tom Brady’s expense. “For years, it's been clear that there is no risk that I was going to take Tom Brady's job as quarterback of the New England Patriots. But I can tell you that as of today, it's pretty clear that there's no risk of him taking my job either,” he joked of Brady’s widely-panned news conference Thursday and failure to explain the team's alleged use of deflated footballs. “That was kind of fun, right?” Earnest proudly boasted of his zinger. “Actually, I came up with that on my own.” Earnest went on to tout their similarities. “The thing that is clear, though, about Mr. Brady's job is that it does cause him to make snap decisions in very high-pressure situations, and he does it very well. He also is in a position where those decisions are regularly second-guessed. So I think certainly on that level, he and I can relate to one another,” he said. “But at the same time, he also is preparing for his sixth Super Bowl, so...” Jokes aside, Earnest would not weigh in on whether he thought Brady or the Patriots should be penalized by the NFL. And he also did not have any reaction from the president to pass along.

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How a Sonogram Is Helping Gym Goers Lose Weight

How a Sonogram Is Helping Gym Goers Lose Weight

ABC News(NEW YORK) -- Sonograms are the latest piece of technology gyms are using to help inspire their members to tone up and lose weight. But rather than scoping a growing baby in utero, the hand-held ultrasound scanners evaluate body fat percentage.Bari Studio in New York City uses this technique to give their members insight into their progress.“It takes measurements from four different parts of their body -- the triceps, waist, hip and thigh -- so we can see what’s going on in these specific areas and get information about their total body composition,” explained Courtney Romano, a certified personal trainer who is Bari’s head trainer in New York. The machine works by bouncing sound off the body’s various tissues to estimate fat thickness without using any radiation. Since sound rebounds off fat at a particular wavelength, the operator can use this information to calculate an overall body fat percentage. Each measurement costs $50, Romano said, and the typical gym member repeats the measurement about once a month to help fine tune her training program. Clients like Diem Tran said the checkup provides a different perspective on her training. “When I first started working out my weight stayed the same and I couldn’t figure out what was actually going on,” Tran told ABC News' Good Morning America. The 26-year-old credits the regular feedback she gets from the measurement for helping her lose 12 pounds and 7 percent body fat since August. But proceed with caution, urged Dr. Jennifer Ashton, ABC News' senior medical contributor. “Anytime we have technology to improve our health, that can potentially be an exciting thing,” Ashton said. “But my concern is that this not be misused or abused.” The accuracy of sonogram body fat measurements is well established, Ashton said, but results can vary depending on the skill of the technician, the quality of the machine and how often the scan is repeated. Despite the caveats, Ashton said she feels the measurement may help some exercisers reach their goals. “Haters shouldn’t hate on this technology. At the end of the day, it’s whatever motivates the individual,” she said.

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India’s Female-Friendly Pink Cabs Come Equipped with Panic Button

India’s Female-Friendly Pink Cabs Come Equipped with Panic Button

Meru Cab/Facebook(DELHI, India) -- In response to an alleged rape by an Uber driver last month, one of India's largest taxi companies is rolling out a new service focused around female safety. MeruEve, which was officially launched by Meru Cabs in Delhi, is the name given to a new fleet of pink and white hatchbacks outfitted with pepper spray, panic buttons and pink-vested female drivers trained in self defense. The cars are only available to female passengers. "Today safety has assumed the utmost importance amongst commuters when using local transport," said Siddhartha Pahwa, CEO of Meru Cabs. "At Meru, passenger safety has always been pivotal resulting in various technological innovations to overcome security issues impacting the cab industry. MeruEve is an extension of our efforts and we are proud to launch our new service in support with Delhi Police.” Liveries designed to appeal to women's safety concerns have existed in India for years, such as ForShe Taxis and Sakha Consulting Wings, both offering female chauffers. But MeruEve has taken the commitment a step further, working in tandem with Delhi police departments to equip its cars with 3G enabled mobile phones with video recording capability, a panic buzzer, pepper spray, women helpline numbers, and a speed dial for the local distress call number. In addition, its female drivers are trained by local police how to respond in emergency situations, according to the company announcement. MeruEve cabs will be available to passengers at a standard radio taxi fare of 23 rupees per kilometer, the announcement stated. The service will be available through a call center, the company's existing mobile app, and via curbside pickup.

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First Round of US-Cuba Talks End

First Round of US-Cuba Talks End

iStock/Thinkstock(HAVANA) -- The first round of high-level talks between the U.S. and Cuba ended on Friday in Havana."These talks were cordial and respectful. I believe that each delegation understood the importance of the task they are facing in trying to mend more than 50 years of diplomatic estrangement," said Assistant Secretary for Western Hemisphere Affairs Roberta Jacobson, who led the delegation.While the talks appear to have gotten off to a good start, Jacobson said there are still major obstacles standing in the way of a "normal" diplomatic relationship with Cuba."It was just a first step. We know there will need to be many more, but this is the work of diplomacy. In order to build a better and more productive relationship between our two countries," she said.Some of the big sticking points include freedom of expression and human rights.Meanwhile, earlier on Friday, Jacobson met with seven dissidents in Cuba. After speaking with them, the assistant secretary joined them for breakfast.

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PayPal, Google Join Crimea Tech Exodus

PayPal, Google Join Crimea Tech Exodus

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- It's a tough time to be a tech savvy person in Crimea.PayPal and Google are among the companies that are blocking certain services to the beleaguered peninsula, according to reports.The move comes one month after the United States levied sanctions in retaliation for Russia's annexation of Crimea, as part of an ongoing conflict with Ukraine.A PayPal spokesperson told ABC News the company strives to offer "uninterrupted service" in all of its 203 markets, however "we regret we cannot provide this high level of support to our customers in Crimea at this time.""We regret any inconvenience this may cause and look forward to returning to the region once there are conditions for us to offer customers in Crimea uninterrupted service," the spokesperson said.Several of Google's paid platforms, including AdSense and AdWords, have been cut off in parts of the region, according to reports from Russian media.If reports are true that Google will shut down its Google Play store in Crimea effective Feb. 1, it would be a blow for a region where Android is the most prevalent mobile operating system.Google did not immediately respond to ABC News' request for comment, however a spokesperson told TechCrunch that "Sanctions have recently been imposed on Crimea by the U.S. and the E.U. We are complying with them."It was also reported earlier this week that developers in Crimea received a message from Apple letting them know their developer agreement was terminated "effectively immediately." Apple did not immediately respond to ABC News' request for comment.

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NFL Says New England Patriots Used Under-Inflated Balls in First Half

NFL Says New England Patriots Used Under-Inflated Balls in First Half

Patriots' Tom Brady on Sunday, January 18, 2015. Elsa/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- The National Football League acknowledged for the first time on Friday that the New England Patriots used under-inflated balls in the first half of Sunday's game against the Indianapolis Colts and that it is continuing to look into the matter ahead of next week's Super Bowl."While the evidence thus far supports the conclusion that footballs that were under-inflated were used by the Patriots in the first half, the footballs were properly inflated for the second half and confirmed at the conclusion of the game to have remained properly inflated," the NFL said in a statement. "The goals of the investigation will be to determine the explanation for why footballs used in the game were not in compliance with the playing rules and specifically whether any noncompliance was the result of deliberate action. We have not made any judgments on these points and will not do so until we have concluded our investigation and considered all of the relevant evidence."

The statement stops short of saying the Patriots deflated the balls.

In a statement Friday afternoon, Patriots owner Bob Kraft said, "Immediately after receiving the letter [from the NFL on Monday], I instructed our staff to be completely cooperative and transparent with the league’s investigators. During the three days they were here, we provided access to every full- and part-time employee the league’s representatives requested to speak with and produced every communication device that they requested to search. It is an ongoing process that the league and our team are taking very seriously. ... Competitive balance and the integrity of the game are the foundation of what makes our league so special and I have the utmost respect for those principles. Our organization will continue to cooperate throughout the league’s investigation. Meanwhile, our players, coaches and staff will continue to focus on our preparations for Super Bowl XLIX and the many challenges we face as we prepare for the Seattle Seahawks.” Earlier this week, Patriots coach Bill Belichick and quarterback Tom Brady have denied knowing that the footballs used at Gillette Stadium in Foxborough, Massachusetts, were deflated. The NFL’s guidelines dictate that a ball must be inflated to about 12.5 and 13.5 pounds per square inch and weigh between 14 and 15 ounces. The league also said, "The playing rules are intended to protect the fairness and integrity of our games. We take seriously claims that those rules have been violated and will fully investigate this matter without compromise or delay. The investigation is ongoing, will be thorough and objective, and is being pursued expeditiously. In the coming days, we expect to conduct numerous additional interviews, examine video and other forensic evidence, as well as relevant physical evidence." On Tuesday, ESPN reported 11 of the Patriots' 12 allotted game footballs were underinflated by two pounds per square inch of air, citing anonymous league sources. "Upon being advised of the investigation, the Patriots promptly pledged their full cooperation and have made their personnel and other information available to us upon request," the NFL statement today read. "Our investigation will seek information from any and all relevant sources and we expect full cooperation from other clubs as well. As we develop more information and are in a position to reach conclusions, we will share them publicly." The minimum disciplinary action for anyone, including the head coach or other club personnel, who is responsible for a non-approved football is a fine of $25,000, according to the NFL's game operations manual. The Pats said they are cooperating with the investigation, which comes ahead of the Super Bowl where New England will play the Seattle Seahawks.

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Sarah Palin on 2016: ‘Of Course’ She’s Interested

Sarah Palin on 2016: ‘Of Course’ She’s Interested

Pete Marovich/Getty Images(LAS VEGAS) -- Just before she heads to Iowa for the first major conservative showcase of the 2016 election cycle, Sarah Palin said “of course” she’s interested in the 2016 presidential election.“Yeah, I mean, of course, when you have a servant’s heart, when you know that there is opportunity to do all you can to put yourself forward in the name of offering service, anybody would be interested,” Palin told ABC News' Neal Karlinsky while serving wild boar chili to the homeless in Las Vegas Thursday.When asked again if she could be “possibly” interested in a presidential campaign, she answered, “We definitely had enough of seeing that -- America has had enough of seeing that -- sign on the Oval Office door saying, 'No Girls Allowed.' I know that.”While serving up bowls to those gathered in line, the former Alaska governor clarified, “It doesn’t necessarily have to be me, though, but no, America is definitely ready for real change.”“It doesn't have to be myself, but yes...happy to drive that competition, because competition will make everyone better and produce more and be more candid regarding their solutions they will offer this country. I am very interested in that competitive process and, again, not necessarily me,” she said.Palin was in Las Vegas for the annual Shooting, Hunting and Outdoor Trade Show and made a side trip to serve chili at the Salvation Army in downtown Las Vegas. She was joined by her daughter, Bristol Palin, and they both wore hats and aprons advertising The Sportsman Channel, where Palin hosts Amazing America with Sarah Palin.Palin will be one of many big Republican names and possible presidential candidates in the Hawkeye State Saturday for the Iowa Freedom Summit, a conservative confab hosted by Rep. Steve King, R-Iowa. Others taking the stage include New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas, former Texas Gov. Rick Perry, former Sen. Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania, and former neurosurgeon and conservative star Ben Carson.When asked about the familiar names already popping up in the potential GOP primary, including Mitt Romney and Jeb Bush, neither of whom will attend the Iowa Freedom Summit, the 2008 GOP vice presidential nominee quipped, “I can’t wait for new energy.” She added there had “better be a competition and not a coronation,” making it clear that she thinks that’s the only way Republicans can beat Hillary Clinton, if the former first lady and secretary of state emerges as the Democratic nominee.“Big competition, and that competition in the GOP...will surface that candidate who can take on Hillary, be ready for Hillary and show the nation what it is going to take to get the country back on the right track -- because we can't afford status quo, because status quo lately has been Latin for, 'We are getting screwed,' and status quo has got to go,” she said.As for who she wants to see as that “right candidate,” she described the person as someone who will “turn things around, someone who will, in some respects, I don’t know, maybe be considered a bit avant garde, to the establishment anyway, because this next person has got to realize this is war, this is war for our hunters’ future.”“I want to help find that candidate that realizes that [their standing in the next election is] not what matters, that’s not what is at stake,” Palin said. “What's at stake is our children and our grandchildren’s future.”Palin even weighed in on the “ready for” campaigns, while not specifically referring to “Ready for Hillary” or “Ready for Warren.”"[I] wonder what are our friends in the White House think when their peeps are out there trucking around chirping we are ready for change, for someone else," Palin said. "You wonder what they think they are going to accomplish in the next two years if even their own people are going, ‘Man, this isn't working. We need change.’”Palin added she doesn’t believe 2016 is “going to be about the establishment on either side of the aisle.”

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DNC Announces Date for 2016 Convention

DNC Announces Date for 2016 Convention

Hemera/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- The Democratic National Committee announced on Friday that next year's Democratic National Convention will be held the week of July 25, 2016.Three cities -- Columbus, Ohio; New York and Philadelphia -- remain in contention to host the convention. The DNC is expected to announce its pick for host city in the coming weeks.“This is the next step to finalize where and when we will nominate the 45th President of the United States, highlight the Democratic Party’s agenda of fighting  for expanded opportunity and contrast it with the Republican Party’s commitment to the fortunate few,” DNC Chair Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz said in a statement Friday. “We are still in discussions with three excellent cities and are looking forward to a diverse and inclusive convention that displays our party’s values,” she added.

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Maryland Mansion Fire: What Family Did Hours Before Deadly Blaze

Maryland Mansion Fire: What Family Did Hours Before Deadly Blaze

Obtained by ABC News(ANNAPOLIS, Md.) -- Two grandparents were enjoying a night out with four of their grandchildren just hours before a deadly blaze tore through the 16,000-square-foot mansion in Annapolis, Maryland, where they all were believed to be staying.As a special treat, tech executive Don Pyle and his wife, Sandra, took their grandchildren -- Alexis (Lexi) Boone, 8, Kaitlyn (Katie) Boone, 7, Charlotte Boone, 8, and Wesley (Wes) Boone, 6 -- to dinner at the Medieval Times restaurant on Sunday night, according to a family spokeswoman.The family even stopped by Target before dinner, where they picked up special costumes for the visit to the themed restaurant, the spokeswoman said.Remains of unidentified bodies have been removed in recent days from the mansion's ashes, where relatives believe all six died in the blaze that started in Monday's early morning hours.Investigators continue to comb the ashes for remains, as well as clues to the fire's cause, officials have said.On Friday, members of the Pyle and Boone families offered details about each family member presumed dead in the fire.Charlotte, 8, was described as “fun-loving and intelligent,” a girl who loved making videos with her pet guinea pig and dreamed of running an animal rescue.Charlotte's younger brother, Wesley, 6, was described as a “sweet and loving” brother who looked up to his sister and wanted to grow up and build robots, according to the family statement.Lexi, 8, “wanted to be a vet or on television when she grew up,” read the family statement. She was also very excited about her upcoming communion, the family spokeswoman said.Alexis’ younger sister, Katie, 7, was said to love Taylor Swift songs and be “loving and thoughtful beyond her years.”The family described Don and Sandra Pyle as loving grandparents called “Pop-Pop” and “Dee-Dee,” respectively, who loved the local sports teams the Ravens and Orioles, as well as traveling.In a statement released Thursday, members of the Boone and Pyle families thanked those who have offered them comfort but added, "Our loss demands time and quiet reflection to process these feelings. We ask that you respect our need for privacy.""Life is fragile," their statement read. "Make time today to embrace your loved ones."

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