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Inside Texas’ New Family-Friendly Detention Center for the Undocumented

Inside Texas’ New Family-Friendly Detention Center for the Undocumented

Serena Marshall/ABC News(KARNES, Texas) — A model detention facility for moms with children crossing the border illegally is scheduled to open Friday.The brand new facility in Karnes, Texas, is designed by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement to be family friendly with drawings on the walls, toy rooms and classrooms for children, and full medical facilities.The 532-bed building, at a cost of $140 per day per person, is the third ICE facility to house mothers with children, but the first specifically modified with their needs as a consideration.While residents will not be free to leave, they are free to roam the grounds, visit the library, call family with pre-paid phone cards, play outdoors, use computers — excluding accessing Facebook and Twitter — and participate in soccer matches, religious concerts and church services.The average stay is 23 days, according to ICE, and while it is still a detention center, those inside will not be called detainees, but residents. The guards are relabeled “resident assistants,” and the cells are “family suites” that can accommodate up to eight people.In an ICE statement on the pending opening, officials said it “was done in order to expand the agency’s capacity to house adults with children who have been apprehended at the border and placed into expedited removal proceedings.”Lawyers will be provided to the “residents” pro bono and the facility even has an immigration courtroom where judges will decide asylum cases via videoconference. There will also be medical professionals, including dentists and mental health specialists, on scene 24 hours a day.The residents will be given six sets of civilian clothes, three meals a day, and access to snacks 24 hours a day, officials said.“ICE’s family detention facilities are an effective and humane alternative to maintain family unity as families await the outcome of immigration hearings or return to their home countries,” the statement read.”I have had personal interest in making sure that this facility meets all the legal requirements that are under any settlement, any other family detention center, and I’m completely confident that we are meeting the standards and even exceeding those standards,” said Enrique Lucero, field office director for ICE.Several years ago a lawsuit accused a similar faculty to be too similar to a prison, making this facility the first outfitted in accordance to civil detention standards and reforms.The outstanding question as the facility is set to open Friday is how long the facility can remain operational as Congress prepares to go on recess without addressing the border supplemental request for funds.
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Home Prices Skyrocketing in San Francisco

Home Prices Skyrocketing in San Francisco

iStock/Thinkstock(SAN FRANCISCO) — Affording a home in the San Francisco area is becoming more difficult.
As the tech economy booms in the Bay Area, numbers released on Thursday show that home prices there are skyrocketing.
The median home price in San Francisco is now over $1 million, according to the firm DataQuick.
The firm DataQuick says more than 5,700 homes sold for at least $1 million in the Bay Area during the second quarter, the most since the firm started tracking the market in 1988. More than 1,100 of the homes went for at least $2 million — also a record.
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More than 100 Protesters Arrested Outside White House over Deportations

More than 100 Protesters Arrested Outside White House over Deportations

Official White House Photo by Pete Souza(WASHINGTON) — More than a hundred demonstrators intentionally had themselves arrested outside the White House on Thursday in protest against the Obama administration’s response to the sudden surge of illegal immigrants across the border with Mexico.The act of civil disobedience was organized mostly by religious groups, including the Catholic Sisters of Mercy and the United Methodist Church.
Several hundred additional supporters looked on as the activists staged a sit-in on the sidewalk outside the White House grounds, prompting National Park Service police to remove and arrest them for obstructing foot traffic in a highly choreographed, but peaceful, demonstration.”We are gathered here to make our voices heard,” the Rev. John McCollough said in a prayer service before the arrests. “We are here to pray for this president, our President Obama, to ask him to lose the bonds of injustice and let the oppressed go free. Si se puede!”The demonstrators demanded the Obama administration cease the deportation of an estimated 1,100 of those illegal immigrants per day — a number expected to rise as the federal government grapples with the hundreds of thousands believed to have slipped through in the last nine months, and a 106% increase over the same period last year.Roughly 57,000 are children, many unaccompanied by their parents and fleeing violence and poverty in Central America. The deluge has created a humanitarian crisis in southwestern states as federal and local authorities struggle under the load.”You know religion, in all its diversity, is really not about what we believe. Religion — real religion — is about what our beliefs compel us to do,” Sister Eileen Campbell of the Sisters of Mercy said from the podium. “How they make us live our lives. Our faith compels us to do all that we can for those that are suffering the injustices of our current immigration policies and to do all we can to move those policies toward justice.”The White House announced last week it was considering a pilot program, based in Honduras, which would allow children of that country to apply for refugee status rather than risk dangerous northward smuggling across thousands of miles. But while there is bipartisan agreement in Washington that the situation is spiraling out of control, a concrete path forward has been less than clear.The Senate voted Wednesday to move a bill forward that would allocate $2.7 billion in funding for the crisis. Eleven Republicans joined with the Democratic majority to pass the bill, though at least $840 million has been earmarked for wholly unrelated projects, including Israel’s Iron Dome missile defense system.It is $1 billion less than President Obama had asked for and a package being considered in the GOP-controlled House is much smaller: $659 million. With Congress’ August recess approaching and political jockeying in full steam, ahead of the November midterm elections, a short-term solution may be out of reach.Acts of civil disobedience outside the White House are not unusual and several groups present Thursday have histories of such, but the size of Thursday’s arrest is more rare. Protesters taken into custody are typically transferred to the city’s metropolitan police for processing and released after.
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Alleged Porch Thief Arrested After Staring at Security Camera

Alleged Porch Thief Arrested After Staring at Security Camera

iStock/Thinkstock(INDIANAPOLIS) — An accused thief’s curious look at a surveillance camera led to his arrest for allegedly stealing a FedEx package for an Indianapolis porch.
Daniel Nelms, 21, was taken into custody and charged with one count of level 6 felony on Wednesday night.
Daniel Dillon said he had been expecting a package of a pair of $300 diamond earrings from Zale.com for his wife. He never received the package, but when he checked the delivery status on FedEx, it said the package had been delivered already. The Dillons then checked their surveillance video footage.
The crystal clear video gave Dillon quite a shock. Only two minutes after the delivery man dropped off the package, a man ran over to the porch and grabbed the box in between the inner and outer doors, Dillon told ABC News. The man also looked directly into the high-quality camera lens before grabbing the package.
The thief could be seen shaking the package, seemingly trying to figure out what was inside. He then ripped open the package and took a closer look at the earring box before heading back to his car.
“My wife and my mother-in-law were in the backyard with our four dogs when this happened,” Dillon said. “I felt very violated.”
“How stupid and brave do you have to be to do something like this in broad daylight?” Dillon asked. “If he just snatched the box and left, we probably wouldn’t have found him.”
Dillon posted the surveillance video on his Facebook page, hoping that his friends could help him identify the suspect. Within a day, the video was shared more than 3,000 times, and he received numerous messages from strangers, telling him they had also been victims of this man.
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When Police Officer Larry Craciunoiu watched the surveillance video, he said he recognized the suspect.
“He’s been known in the past to be involved in burglaries, thefts and other criminal activities,” Craciunoiu told ABC News. “I have a pretty good working knowledge of him.”
“It was an extremely high-quality video,” Craciunoiu said. “The cameras were positioned perfectly.”
“I approached him and I told him: ‘Before we waste a lot of time, do you want to talk about this FedEx package?’” Craciunoiu said.
“He first said: ‘I didn’t know anything about it,’” the officer said. “Then I showed him the picture of him staring at the camera.”
“He laughed, and said: ‘I’m not stupid,’” Craciunoiu said. “I asked him: ‘’Why did you still steal this stuff then?’”
Nelms refused to talk about the case, Craciunoiu said.
“We are working on another case of a suspect who broke into a lady’s Cadillac in the same area on that day,” Craciunoiu said. “We have pretty good evidence that he [Nelms] was the one who did it.”
Craciunoiu said Nelms also has two warrants for theft.
“It was pretty clear that he was following the FedEx truck. It was very intentional,” the cop said.
Dillon said he has not received the earrings back. He has checked local pawn shops, but had no luck.
Dillon said he has contacted Zale.com, and the website said it needs 10-14 days to investigate this case.
“The website automatically offers signature-required shipping for anything over $100,” Dillon said. “But when the package was shipped, the delivery man just shoved it between the two doors in the security video. He didn’t buzz at all.”
“I hope either Zale.com or FedEx will take care of this,” Dillon said.
Brandon Nelms has not entered a plea yet.
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Chris Pratt: Premature Son ‘Restored My Faith in God’

Chris Pratt: Premature Son ‘Restored My Faith in God’

ABC/Lorenzo Bevilaqua(NEW YORK) — Chris Pratt and Anna Faris were excited to start a family.”It started [for us] around the same time, and I don’t think one of us wanted it any more than the other,” Pratt, who stars in the upcoming Guardians of the Galaxy, told People recently.”She would say, ‘How do you feel about that?’ and I would say, ‘…I’ve been kind of thinking about that too! I think that’d be cool. Let’s make that happen.’”Then their son, Jack, was born nine weeks premature in August 2012, and the couple felt helpless.”We were scared for a long time. We prayed a lot,” Pratt, 35, said about the month Jack spent in intensive care.”It restored my faith in God, not that it needed to be restored, but it really redefined it,” the actor continued. “The baby was so beautiful to us, and I look back at the photos of him and it must have been jarring for other people to come in and see him, but to us he was so beautiful and perfect.”Now, Jack is now approaching his second birthday and Pratt calls him “a fighter.””He’s amazing,” Pratt says, laughing. “He’s so open and there’s no fear in him no matter what.”The proud father added, “He is so charming that my plan is to just let him take care of us as soon as he’s old enough.”Pratt’s Guardians of the Galaxy, backed by ABC News’ parent company, Walt Disney, opens Friday.
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CDC Issues Travel Warning to Countries Impacted by Ebola Virus

CDC Issues Travel Warning to Countries Impacted by Ebola Virus

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) — The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has issued a travel advisory warning against non-essential travel to Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone due to the worsening Ebola virus.
The CDC also says it is sending 50 specialists to the West Africa countries impacted.
Two Americans, including a doctor, have been infected with the disease, and Liberia’s lead Ebola doctor died from the virus. As of Thursday, 1,323 are infected, according to the World Health Organization. Of those infected, 729 have died, meaning this outbreak has a fatality rate of approximately 60%.
But according to CDC Director Dr. Tom Frieden, there should be little concern over next week’s African summit in Washington.
“I don’t think people should be concerned about the visitors from Africa,” Dr. Frieden said. “Remember it’s a big place. We’re talking about three countries, relatively small countries, in west Africa.”
According to Dr. Frieden, getting Ebola under control will take time.”It’s not gonna be quick and it’s not gonna be easy. It will take at least three to six months to get this outbreak under control even in the best of circumstances,” he said.
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Michelle Obama: Veteran Homelessness ‘Should Horrify Us’

Michelle Obama: Veteran Homelessness ‘Should Horrify Us’

Ethan Miller/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) — As Congress works on a long-term plan to reform the Veterans Administration, first lady Michelle Obama used her platform to speak out on ending veterans’ homelessness.Speaking to an estimated 1,600 federal and local officials as well as  homeless advocates, the first lady said one possible way to end homelessness nationwide is to start with our homeless veterans. Mrs. Obama called the more than 58,000 homeless American veterans a “stain on the soul of this nation.” “As Americans, the idea that anyone who has worn our country’s uniform is sleeping on the ground should horrify us,” she said. “That moral and patriotic duty is only part of the reason why ending veteran homelessness is so critical. As we all know, ending homelessness for our veterans can also be a crucial first step, a proof point to show that we can end homelessness for everyone in this country,” she continued.The first lady called the work of homeless advocates “critically important.”“Day after day, as you fight for more resources, you encounter too many folks who don’t take you seriously, because they don’t believe that we will ever truly be able to solve this problem…Yet when so many others accept homelessness as a fact of life, you refuse to give up,” she said. “I just want to say thank you.”Mrs. Obama has made ending veterans’ homelessness a priority during her tenure as first lady, calling it a “moral outrage” at a White House event last month launching the Mayors’ Challenge to End Veteran Homelessness.   Since June, 182 local leaders have taken the challenge to end veteran homelessness in their communities by the end of 2015. “We are seeing that with enough resources and the right strategies — strategies like housing first, rapid rehousing — we can make huge amounts of progress in a very short period of time,” the first lady said. In an op-ed published Wednesday, Mrs. Obama pointed to success in Phoenix and Salt Lake City.“Any number of veterans left out in the cold is too many, but those numbers show us that even in some of our largest metropolitan areas, ending veteran homelessness is eminently achievable,” she wrote.
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Undeterred by Lawsuit, Obama Signs Another Executive Order

Undeterred by Lawsuit, Obama Signs Another Executive Order

The White House(WASHINGTON) — One day after House Republicans voted to sue him for allegedly exceeding his executive authority, President Obama signed yet another executive order, saying the suit is “not going to stop me from doing what I think needs to be done in order to help families across the country.”
“Any time Congress wants to do work with me to help working families, I’m right there. The door is always open. More than that, I’ll go to them; I’ll wash their car, walk their dog,” the president joked at a White House ceremony. “I’m ready to work with them any time that they want to pursue policies that help working families. But where they’re doing so little or nothing at all to help working families, then we’ve got to find ways, as an administration, to take action that’s going to help.”“I said to [House] Speaker [John] Boehner, tell your caucus the best way to avoid me acting on my own is work with me to actually do something. Then you don’t have to worry about it. We’re not going to stop, and if they’re not going to lift a finger to help working Americans then I’m going to work twice as hard to help working Americans,” Obama said.The president on Thursday signed an order, titled “Fair Pay and Safe Workplace,” requiring prospective federal contractors to disclose labor law violations.With lawmakers leaving behind a lengthy legislative to-do list as they head out of town, the president quipped that “the big event last night — it wasn’t the vote on the minimum wage. It wasn’t a vote on immigration reform, strengthening the borders. It wasn’t a vote on family leave. What did they have a vote on? They got together in the House of Representatives, the Republicans, and voted to sue me for taking the actions that we are doing to help families.”“One of the main objections that’s the basis of this suit is us making a temporary modification to the health care law that they said needed to be modified,” Obama explained. “So they criticized a provision; we modify it to make it easier for business to transition; and that’s the basis for their suit. Now, you could say that, all right, this is a harmless political stunt — except it wastes America’s time. You guys are all paying for it as taxpayers. It’s not very productive.”
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White House: UN School Shelling ‘Unacceptable’ and ‘Indefensible’

White House: UN School Shelling ‘Unacceptable’ and ‘Indefensible’

MAHMUD HAMS/AFP/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) — In its strongest statement yet, the White House on Thursday said there’s little doubt that Israeli artillery hit a United Nations school in Gaza Wednesday and called the deadly strike “totally unacceptable and totally indefensible.”“While we underscore the importance of a full and prompt investigation of this tragic incident, as well as a shelling of other U.N. facilities and schools that have been hit, it does not appear there’s a lot of doubt about whose artillery was involved in this incident,” White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest told reporters at the daily briefing.While stopping just short of blaming Israel, Earnest said the “Israeli military can and should do more to protect the lives of those innocent civilians.”“There is a difference in approach between what Hamas is perpetrating on the Israeli people and what Israel is doing to defend their country,” he said. “But the shelling of a U.N. facility that is housing innocent civilians who are fleeing violence is totally unacceptable and totally indefensible. And it is clear that we need our allies in Israel to do more to live up to the high standards that they have set for themselves.”While State Department spokesperson Marie Harf went further in assigning responsibility than she did Wednesday, she, like Earnest, refrained from actually blaming Israel for the attack.“We’ve condemned the shelling of the school and we’ve said there’s not a lot of doubt about whose artillery was involved,” she said.
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White House: UN School Shelling ‘Unacceptable’ and ‘Indefensible’

White House: UN School Shelling ‘Unacceptable’ and ‘Indefensible’

MAHMUD HAMS/AFP/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) — In its strongest statement yet, the White House on Thursday said there’s little doubt that Israeli artillery hit a United Nations school in Gaza Wednesday and called the deadly strike “totally unacceptable and totally indefensible.”“While we underscore the importance of a full and prompt investigation of this tragic incident, as well as a shelling of other U.N. facilities and schools that have been hit, it does not appear there’s a lot of doubt about whose artillery was involved in this incident,” White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest told reporters at the daily briefing.While stopping just short of blaming Israel, Earnest said the “Israeli military can and should do more to protect the lives of those innocent civilians.”“There is a difference in approach between what Hamas is perpetrating on the Israeli people and what Israel is doing to defend their country,” he said. “But the shelling of a U.N. facility that is housing innocent civilians who are fleeing violence is totally unacceptable and totally indefensible. And it is clear that we need our allies in Israel to do more to live up to the high standards that they have set for themselves.”While State Department spokesperson Marie Harf went further in assigning responsibility than she did Wednesday, she, like Earnest, refrained from actually blaming Israel for the attack.“We’ve condemned the shelling of the school and we’ve said there’s not a lot of doubt about whose artillery was involved,” she said.
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Tribe Emerges from Brazilian Jungle Possibly for First Time

Tribe Emerges from Brazilian Jungle Possibly for First Time

iStock/Thinkstock(RIO DE JANEIRO) — A remarkable video shows a group of indigenous people coming into contact with the outside world, possibly for the very first time.The group of men are believed to be natives of Peru but they were filmed in northern Brazil on the banks of the Envira River, which runs near the Peruvian border. It’s not clear when the encounter took place, but the video was released on Thursday by the Brazilian indigenous authority FUNAI.The tribal men are naked except for belts and loincloths and carrying different weapons at points in the eight-minute video.A few of the tribal men are seen with markings on their faces and they all have styled their dark black hair in a similar bowl-cut fashion.Some are holding bows-and-arrows or spears, and at one point one of the men blatantly steals a machete-type knife while another takes an ax from a settlement, despite shouts of protest by the villagers. Another member of their group grabs a blue material that looks like either a towel or a piece of clothing.Brazilian authorities have not identified the group, but were able to determine that the dialect of the language that they’re speaking is a form of the Panoan linguistic group.The people they are interacting with are believed to be part of the Ashaninka ethnic group who reside in the area where the video was shot.One Ashaninkan man, seen shirtless with a pair of baggy athletic shorts, wades into the river to hand the tribe members some bananas.

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Quadruplets a Sign of Hope Amid Gaza Bloodshed

Quadruplets a Sign of Hope Amid Gaza Bloodshed

Pixland/Thinkstock(GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip) — A Palestinian woman gave birth to quadruplets in Gaza Wednesday, a sign of optimism amid ongoing bloodshed in the region that has claimed more than 1,400 lives.Dr. Bassel Abuwarda posted a photo online showing the babies to Twitter, with a doctor giving a thumbs up to the camera as he stands next to the babies’ incubator.ABC News confirmed that the mother, who is from Rafah near the southern tip of Gaza, gave birth to three boys and one girl, all of whom are doing well on Thursday.“Despite the pain, Palestinian mother gave birth to quadruplets last night,” Abuwarda tweeted.

Dr. Qadoura: Despite the pain, Palestinian mother gave birth to quadruplets last night in #Gaza. pic.twitter.com/QVfDRWOCG2
— Dr.Bassel Abuwarda (@DrBasselAbuward) July 31, 2014

Gaza’s hospitals have taken direct hits in fighting between Hamas and Israel over the last week, and have been damaged as medical staff care for the thousands of people who have been injured in the conflict.The quadruplets were delivered in the same hospital where many of the conflict’s victims have been treated.
At least 1,390 people have died in Gaza and more than 8,000 have been injured in the three-week conflict, according to the Palestinian health ministry. In Israel, 59 people, including 56 soldiers, have died.
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Ray Rice Breaks His Silence

Ray Rice Breaks His Silence

Rob Carr/Getty Images(OWINGS MILLS, Md.) — Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice addressed the media Thursday for the first time since his two-game suspension was announced by the NFL.
Rice spoke about the suspension and publicly apologized to his wife, Janay, for the first time since his alleged altercation with his then-fiancee in February.
“I made the biggest mistake of my life,” Rice said.
Rice, 27, would not get into what happened in the Atlantic City, New Jersey, elevator, but he also apologized to all women affected by domestic violence and expressed his intentions to become an “ambassador” against it.
“That night I replay over and over in my head. That’s not me. My actions were inexcusable. That’s something I have to live with the rest of my life,” he explained. “The pain I’m talking about living with is waking up every day, and my daughter is two years old now, and I have a little girl, who’s very smart, very intelligent, and one day she’s going to know the power of Google, and me having to explain that to her, what happened that night.”
Rice was joined at the press conference by nearly 30 of his Baltimore Ravens teammates. 
He will miss the team’s Sept. 7 regular-season opener against the Cincinnati Bengals and their Sept. 11 game against the Pittsburgh Steelers. 
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Eric Cantor Gives Farewell Speech as House Majority Leader

Eric Cantor Gives Farewell Speech as House Majority Leader

Alex Wong/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) — Rep. Eric Cantor took to the House floor for the last time as majority leader Thursday, calling his service on Capitol Hill “a privilege of a lifetime.”
“Walking into this building and walking onto this floor is something that excited me every day since I was first elected to Congress,” he said. “As it should. Not one of us should ever take for granted the awesome honor and responsibility we have to serve our fellow Americans.”
Cantor has represented Virginia’s 7th District for 14 years, and his defeat in June by tea party-backed professor Dave Brat stunned Washington.
As he steps down as majority leader, there will be a few changes, notably his Twitter handle, @GOPLeader, and first-class office at the Capitol.
On Tuesday, the House Republicans uploaded a two-minute Cantor tribute video to honor his time as majority leader. But Thursday’s address marked a very public goodbye.
During the 10-minute speech, Cantor continually expressed pride and gratitude that he was able to take part in leading the country, thanking his colleagues, staff, family and Capitol Police.
Cantor recalled a story about his grandparents who had fled religious persecution in Europe, saying his own rise to majority leader served as an example of the American Dream but that the country has seen that “dream erode” in recent years.
He also expressed concern for the country’s education system and employment opportunities, as well as the state of American strength abroad. 
“Instability and terror seem to be coming from every corner of the globe. The Middle East is in chaos, Iran is marching towards a nuclear weapon, Russia has reverted to a Cold War footing and invaded Ukraine,” Cantor said. “America does lead in so many areas, including innovation, scientific discovery, and medicine. But we must also make leadership abroad a priority. I shudder to think what the world looks like in five years for us and our allies if we don’t steel our resolve and stand tall with those who stand with us.”
It wasn’t all dismal news. Cantor said one of his proudest moments in office was when President Obama signed the Gabriella Miller Kids First Research Act, which aimed to find cures and treatments for pediatric diseases.
Cantor ended by thanking three Republicans specifically. He thanked House Speaker John Boehner for his “firm leadership” while “not being afraid to show us all your kind heart and your soft spot from time to time,” to which the chamber erupted in bipartisan laughter.
He also named Budget Chairman Paul Ryan for his commitment to “conservative solutions” and incoming Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy. Both men were referred to as “dear friends.”
Before waving and blowing kisses to a bipartisan standing ovation, Cantor closed his speech in the most appropriate way he knew how, saying, “And with that, I yield back.”

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State Department Using Facebook for Visa Delay Damage Control

State Department Using Facebook for Visa Delay Damage Control

iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) — International students and others looking to travel to the United States this fall are concerned about whether glitches in the State Department’s visa processing system will prevent them from getting their travel documents on time — and have taken to social media to vent.The system in charge of processing and printing visas has been at least partially down since July 20, and a steady backlog of visa cases means frustrated travelers are looking for answers. For many, the first place they turn is Facebook and, perhaps to their surprise, the State Department is responding.“I did my F-1 visa interview in Luxembourg on 21st July. However it’s been 10 days.  We get continued contacts with the embassy and they said they cannot process anything right now, but isn’t the system partially working?” asked Allen Liu, who studies at UCLA, on the State Department’s Consular Affairs Bureau page Thursday morning.Consular Affairs responded to Liu six hours later: “Hi Allen, it sounds like our colleagues in Luxembourg are aware of your case and doing what they can to assist you and others like you who are anxiously awaiting visas. Thank you for your continued patience.”Another complainant, newlywed Laura Johnson, also fretted about her travel arrangements.“As I will miss my honeymoon to Florida now due to this, what’s the best way to get my passport back so at least I can go somewhere else? At the rate the London embassy replies to emails most of the honeymoon time off will be over before I get a proper answer,” Johnson wrote.“Hi Laura, we are truly sorry that you will not be able to enjoy the honeymoon you’ve planned. We are still issuing many visas, however, at a reduced rate,” Consular Affairs replied.It’s unusual to see the federal government react so personally — and relatively quickly — to individual complaints. But in the interest of damage control, the State Department has to cast a wide net in this case to reduce confusion among people all over the world who might not have much experience dealing with government red tape.“In addition to communicating through our websites, e-mail and letters, we are also reaching out to applicants via Facebook and other social media sites, such as Weibo [a Chinese microblogging site], to relay the latest information,” according to a Consular Affairs FAQ page on its website.Plus, the State Department isn’t sure when this problem will be fully resolved. There have been “performance issues” since Consular Affairs performed upgrades on its Consolidated Consular Database, the hub for all visa and passport applications, on July 20, spokeswoman Marie Harf said Wednesday.“We anticipate it may take some time before we process all of the pending cases created by the performance issue,” she said.The Consular Affairs bureau is working with Microsoft and Oracle, the makers of the database’s technology, to fix the problem, which it believes is related to outdated hardware and software, as opposed to something malicious like a virus.Meanwhile, passports are still being processed in a timely fashion. But the glitches prevent embassies from physically printing visas for individuals looking to come to the United States.For students seeking admission to the U.S. for the fall 2014 semester, which for many colleges starts in August, Consular Affairs is already recommending a Plan B: making arrangements with their school’s administrators for starting their studies after their program begins.But that was little consolation for Liu, the UCLA student, who wrote back to Consular Affairs on its Facebook page.“I have my summer course next Monday,” he wrote. “I desperately need the visa as soon as possible.”
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CMS Official: ‘Bumps’ Possible in HealthCare.gov Fall Enrollment

CMS Official: ‘Bumps’ Possible in HealthCare.gov Fall Enrollment

ABC News(WASHINGTON) — Things have gotten better for HealthCare.gov, but there could be “bumps” in this fall’s open-enrollment period for 2015 coverage, a top CMS official told a House Committee Thursday.“I expect that it won’t be perfect,” CMS Principal Deputy Administrator Andy Slavitt told the House Energy and Commerce Committee’s Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations, at a hearing about Affordable Care Act implementation.“Everybody will remain on their toes,” Slavitt said, noting that CMS is “expecting to have a good open enrollment” period.ACA open enrollment for 2015 begins this November.After HealthCare.gov’s troubled rollout, the Government Accountability Office predicted in a study released Wednesday that more problems could loom this fall.“Unless CMS improves contract management and adheres to a structured governance process, significant risks remain that upcoming open enrollment periods could encounter challenges,” the GAO wrote.Slavitt cautiously insinuated that enrollment will probably be a lot smoother this time around. He pointed to a “big testing window” for HealthCare.gov and “daily intensive management of the project” this summer.“I think this year we can expect we’re in a vastly different situation. For one, we have a website that’s already up and live and running,” Slavitt said.
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Drone Carrying Drugs, Phones Crashes Outside SC Prison

Drone Carrying Drugs, Phones Crashes Outside SC Prison

iStock/Thinkstock(BISHOPVILLE, S.C.) — A crashed drone carrying contraband, including marijuana, tobacco and cellphones, was found outside the razor wire fence at a maximum security prison in South Carolina.One person has been arrested, however the search for a second suspect has been ongoing since prison officials found the downed aerial vehicle and contraband in the bushes outside Lee Correctional Institute in Bishopville on April 21.Brenton Lee Doyle, 28, has been charged with drug possession and attempting to furnish contraband to inmates. Court records did not list an attorney for Doyle.Authorities are seeking a second man, who was seen on surveillance video at a convenience store prior to the incident buying some products that were found with the crashed drone.Stephanie Givens, a spokeswoman for Lee Correctional Institution, said investigators believe the drone was either crashed by the person piloting it or that it malfunctioned as it approached the prison.Givens would not discuss the type of drone, but said it was a model that was “capable of flying long distances.””As technology gets more advanced, we have to find more advanced ways to fight that,” she said.It is believed to be the first time the high-tech approach has been taken to smuggle contraband into a South Carolina prison.Four people were accused last year of trying to fly a drone carrying tobacco and cellphones into a Georgia state prison.
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Tesla ‘Gigafactory’ May Expand Electric Car Market

Tesla ‘Gigafactory’ May Expand Electric Car Market

iStock Editorial/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) — Electric-car maker Tesla Motors and Panasonic, the Japanese-owned electronics firm, have signed an agreement to build a giant battery manufacturing facility in the U.S.The “Gigafactory,” as it is known, would help Tesla become a mass manufacturer of electric cars.Per the agreement, Tesla will prepare, provide and manage the facility while Panasonic manufactures and supplies cylindrical lithium-ion cells.”[T]he Gigafactory represents a fundamental change in the way large scale battery production can be realized,” JB Straubel, chief technical officer and co-founder of Tesla, said in a joint statement Thursday.Panasonic’s executive vice president, Yoshihiko Yamada, added: “Panasonic’s lithium-ion battery cells combine the required features for electric vehicles such as high capacity, durability and cost performance. And I believe that once we are able to manufacture lithium-ion battery cells at the Gigafactory, we will be able to accelerate the expansion of the electric vehicle market.”Tesla projects the plant will employ approximately 6,500 people by 2020.
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Seven Congressional Perks Eric Cantor Will Have to Give Up

Seven Congressional Perks Eric Cantor Will Have to Give Up

US House of Representatives(WASHINGTON) — Former House Majority Leader Eric Cantor is leaving behind one of Washington’s most powerful titles this week as Congress goes on recess, meaning he will have to cope with the loss of many of the advantages that come with being the No. 2 Republican in the U.S. House of Representatives.The Virginia Republican, who was defeated in his June primary by an economics professor and first-time candidate, will serve out his term in Congress, but he’ll have to do it without any of these perks:
1. The EntourageLeading the Republican House caucus isn’t easy and Cantor relied on a large staff of dozens in his district office, Washington, D.C. office and leadership office to keep things running smoothly. But now he’s going to have to downsize. The incoming leadership team of Reps. Kevin McCarthy of California and Steve Scalise of Louisiana have already absorbed many of his responsibilities — and snapped up some of his soon-to-be out of work staffers, according to Politico.
2. Fancy Invites
Even before his successor was named, Cantor lost much of the influence he commanded before losing the support of his constituents. He’ll be in office until January, but as a back-bencher, he shouldn’t expect to lead any more congressional delegations to places like Davos, Switzerland, where he attended the World Economic Forum last January. (He was, however, spotted in the Hamptons after his defeat.)
3. Proximity to Power
Since his defeat, Cantor has been a no-show at press conferences and leadership meetings. He’s also missed a higher percentage of votes since losing his primary than in his previous 14 years of service, according to Roll Call. And another thing: He can kiss goodbye all those coveted photo-ops with House Speaker John Boehner. As Boehner’s No. 2, Cantor had been an ubiquitous presence by the speaker’s side for years, but will now recede into the background.
4. The Attention
Most members of Congress love being in the spotlight (as long as there’s no scandal involved), and few lawmakers were in as much demand as Cantor. That’s all over. However, Cantor’s defeat may actually be a blessing in disguise. He no longer has to brave the scores of reporters around the Capitol seeking comment on his conference’s actions.
5. Mmmmm…Steak
We don’t know for sure if Cantor has seen his last political campaign, but his ouster certainly put a damper on his influence in the party. He has done little stumping for other Republicans since losing his own race — making the thousand-dollar campaign-expensed steak dinners a thing of the past for now.
6. Office Space
If you wanted to find House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, you could often find him around the House majority leader’s suite on the second floor of the Capitol. Now, the best place to find Cantor will be on the third floor of the Cannon House Office Building, where the Richmond congressman will be serving out the rest of his term in political exile.7. Bye Bye, @GOPLeaderCantor passed the social media baton shortly after addressing the House as majority leader for the last time. If you want to tweet at Cantor, you can find him at @RepEricCantor — @GOPLeader now belongs to McCarthy.
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Mom Raises Money to Fund Son’s ‘Smile’ Surgery

Mom Raises Money to Fund Son’s ‘Smile’ Surgery

Courtesy Danielle Templer(NEW YORK) — When 5-year-old Maddox Perales poses for a photo, he has to hold up his cheeks as he yells “cheese.” Maddox’s unusual smile is a result of a neurological disorder called Moebius syndrome.Maddox was diagnosed as an infant with the disorder, which primarily affects the 6th and 7th cranial nerves and can cause severe facial weakness or paralysis, according to the Moebius Syndrome Foundation.The condition left him with facial muscles so weak he could not feed himself or even smile. He also could not blink or move his eyes laterally, meaning he had no peripheral vision.In the five years since he was diagnosed, Maddox’s mother, Danielle Templer, has worked with speech and physical therapists to develop Maddox’s speech and eating ability. Even though he can now eat, read and talk, he is still is unable to smile.“He’s so astute and I don’t want people to perceive him as not being smart,” said Templer. “I don’t want people first…to judge a book by a cover before they [know him.]”Templer said preschool and pre-kindergarten classes have been hard for the 5-year-old because other kids don’t understand why he doesn’t smile. Even Templer had to figure out what Maddox’s laugh sounded like so she could understand when he was happy or sad.“It makes a big, big difference,” said Templer of the ability to smile. “It’s instrumental. It’s a bond. It’s a lot of things, a smile. It does so much for you.”While Maddox can still smile by manually holding up his cheeks, Templer is looking for a permanent solution. One possible answer is specialized surgery to treat facial paralysis.Templer is hoping to take Maddox to be treated at the Facial Paralysis Program at the Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto. The program helps to treat children like Maddox by grafting nerves and other muscles from other parts of the body into the facial region through multiple surgeries to try and animate the facial muscles.Templer said she’s raised more than $21,000 but estimates the surgery and following care will be approximately $100,000. She’s currently raising money in an online fundraiser.For Templer, the surgery isn’t just about having Maddox smile. She hopes it will help with a speech impediment that can make him unintelligible to people outside of his family and make it easier for him to interact with new people.“This is the card he was dealt. We’re going to play our ace high,” said Templer of her plan to fund Maddox’s surgery. “[For Moebius syndrome kids], we smile with our hearts. He’s a normal boy but, gosh, it’s so important to smile.”
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