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Ebola Patient at NIH Upgraded from Critical to Serious Condition

Ebola Patient at NIH Upgraded from Critical to Serious Condition

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

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CDC Unveils New Anti-Smoking Ads Featuring Real Smokers

CDC Unveils New Anti-Smoking Ads Featuring Real Smokers

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

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49ers Waive OL Jonathan Martin

49ers Waive OL Jonathan Martin

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

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

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

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

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49ers Waive OL Jonathan Martin

49ers Waive OL Jonathan Martin

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

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

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

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

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GOP Congressman Sees Paying NCAA Athletes an ‘Inevitability’

GOP Congressman Sees Paying NCAA Athletes an ‘Inevitability’

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

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

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

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

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“Furious 7″ Features Touching Tribute to Paul Walker

“Furious 7″ Features Touching Tribute to Paul Walker

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

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Pope Francis Surprises Homeless Visitors During Private Vatican Tour

Pope Francis Surprises Homeless Visitors During Private Vatican Tour

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

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

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

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

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Unemployment Claims Drop, Wall Street Follows Suit

Unemployment Claims Drop, Wall Street Follows Suit

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

The New York Police Department also responded to the scene.

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

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

— FDNY (@FDNY) March 26, 2015

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

— FDNY (@FDNY) March 26, 2015

 

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

— FDNY (@FDNY) March 26, 2015

 

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

— NYPD NEWS (@NYPDnews) March 26, 2015

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

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

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

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

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US Drops Anti-ISIS Leaflets over Syria

US Drops Anti-ISIS Leaflets over Syria

US Dept of Defense(DAMASCUS, Syria) -- The Pentagon has released a copy of a leaflet that was dropped over ISIS' defacto capital in Syria earlier this month.The leaflet drop is part of the U.S. military’s psychological operations to show potential ISIS recruits that they are part of a losing effort.Some 60,000 of the leaflets were dropped over Ar Raqqa, Syria early on the morning of March 16, officials said.The leaflets were dropped by a single U.S. Air Force F-15E fighter aircraft carrying a PDU-5B leaflet canister, according to the Pentagon.Col. Steve Warren, a Pentagon spokesman, told reporters Thursday that the drop was intended to dissuade potential ISIS recruits from joining the group."The message of this leaflet is if you allow yourself to be recruited by Daesh you will find yourself in a meat grinder,” said Warren, using the Islamic acronym for the group.The leaflet shows a room identified by a sign with the arrow as a "Daesh Recruiting Office," and the meat grinder is labelled "Daesh."

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Tikrit Offensive: Iranian General Steps Out, US Steps In

Tikrit Offensive: Iranian General Steps Out, US Steps In

iStock/Thinkstock(TIKRIT, Iraq) -- The U.S. agreement to conduct airstrikes to support the Iraqi offensive to retake Tikrit was contingent on Iranian-backed militias pulling out of the operation, the commander of U.S. Central Command said Thursday.Appearing before the Senate Armed Services Committee, Gen. Lloyd Austin said the Shia militias, led by Iranian Quds Commander Gen. Qassem Suleimani, had left the area around Tikrit before U.S. forces provided air support in the mostly-stalled offensive against Islamic State forces holding the city. U.S. officials had estimated that as many as 18,000 of the 23,000 Iraqi forces in the offensive were Shiite militia fighters.Austin said the clearing of ISIS fighters in Tikrit would be left to 4,000 Iraqi Security Forces, mostly special operations troops and federal police who would be supported by U.S. airstrikes.The Pentagon announced Thursday morning that U.S. forces had launched 17 airstrikes near Tikrit, destroying various ISIS positions at the request of the Iraqi government.Speaking from his personal experience in Iraq, Austin explained why he would never work with Shia militias.“I’d just like to highlight sir, after three tours in Iraq commanding troops in Iraq who were brutalized by some of these Shia militias I will not and I hope we never coordinate or cooperate with the Shia militias,” Austin said.Austin took a dig at the Shia militia themselves, noting that the offensive to retake Tikrit had stalled specifically because they were poorly led.“It’s the way the forces went about trying to do this,” Austin said. “The forces were not controlled by the government of Iraq, there was no coherent scheme of maneuvers, command and control, and didn’t have precision fires to support this effort.”Elsewhere on Capitol Hill, commander of the anti-ISIS coalition Gen. John Allen explained to lawmakers in the House Foreign Affairs committee that the U.S. only came to aid as a result of the Iraqi government’s request.“I don’t believe at all that we’re, in our efforts, at this moment, saving or attempting to salvage a failed Iranian strategy,” Allen said. “As the operation unfolded, [Iraqi] Prime Minister [Haider al] Abadi and members of the Iraqi security forces requested U.S. and coalition support for the final phase of the operation ultimately to liberate the city of Tikrit."Allen was then asked to answer why Iran’s Quds Force commander, who directed Shia militias during the Iraq War responsible for the deaths of hundreds of American troops, wasn’t himself targeted in the airstrikes.“My question is, is if we were conducting air operations, would somebody like Qassem Suleimani be a target?” asked Rep. Ron DeSantis, R-Florida.Allen told members of the House Foreign Affairs Committee the U.S. had no intention of targeting Suleimani.“We're in this to assist the Iraqi government in dealing with Daesh,” Allen said. “That's the reason that we're there, not to go to war with Iran.” Daesh is the Arabic acronym for ISIS.

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Ben Affleck Comes to Capitol Hill to Talk Congo

Ben Affleck Comes to Capitol Hill to Talk Congo

Jason Merritt/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Actor Ben Affleck came to the Senate Thursday to talk about a philanthropic topic -- his Eastern Congo Initiative -- but he couldn’t escape the fame of his other job: Being "Batman."Affleck himself kicked off the Batman talk when he gave a shout out to one of his senatorial co-stars in the upcoming film, Batman vs. Superman: Dawn of Justice.“To Senator Leahy, I would be remiss if I did not acknowledge my co-star in Batman. The role is marginally smaller than mine but I understand you're quite good,” Affleck said to Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., at a Senate Appropriations subcommittee hearing on diplomacy and development Thursday morning.Affleck’s comment essentially confirmed Leahy will make a cameo in the upcoming Batman film. The Vermont senator has appeared in four Batman movies, most famously standing up to Heath Ledger’s The Joker character in The Dark Knight.Affleck testified alongside Microsoft founder and philanthropist Bill Gates, who Affleck described as the “greatest and most important philanthropist in the history of the world.” Another panelist, Scott Ford, CEO of the Westrock Group LLC, lauded the efforts of "Batman" in Congo.“We had the United States ask us would you go to Congo and I said not without Batman,” Ford joked. “And when Batman showed up, we went to Eastern Congo.”At least one senator -- Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Conn. -- was star struck by being in the presence of Batman and snapped a photo of Affleck in the middle of the hearing.

Batman testifying before Appropriations hearing on importance of foreign aid (oh, and @BillGates is here too). pic.twitter.com/LYW1Im7nIJ

— Chris Murphy (@ChrisMurphyCT) March 26, 2015

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How Police Busted a Businessman Accused of Faking His Death

How Police Busted a Businessman Accused of Faking His Death

Photodisc/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- A Florida businessman's alleged attempt to fake his death came to a halt when authorities said they caught him in North Carolina applying for a driver's license and passport with a stolen identity.Authorities said they first sniffed out discrepancies in Jose Lantigua's application because he didn't have all the accurate information about the man whose identity he was using, a retired postal worker living in New York."It's been a long time since I signed my true name," Lantigua said when he waived his Miranda Rights in writing, according to his criminal complaint.In the complaint, authorities said Lantigua was using a date of birth, Social Security number, New York driver's license and birth certificate of Ernest Wills. But there were "multiple discrepancies" in Lantigua's application for a new license and passport, including his place of birth, hair color, signature, occupation and passport photographs.Lantigua's story goes back to 2013, when he had reportedly become ill and died on vacation in Venezuela in 2013. But insurance companies and his lenders were suspicious.Last weekend, Lantiqua, 62, was captured by authorities and placed under arrest in North Carolina.When Lantigua tried to get a new passport, listing "freelance writer" as his occupation, the Charleston Passport Center investigated the discrepancies and used facial recognition software to search a U.S. State Department database to match the photo he submitted, according to the criminal complaint in Lantigua's case. It matched with a photo of Jose Salvador Lantigua, and the center discovered "numerous Internet news articles indicating that [Lantigua] had allegedly faked his own death."Special agents with the U.S. Department of State then conducted surveillance on Lantigua and then addressed him as Jose Lantigua, according to the complaint."Yes, sir," Lantigua responded, according to the report, before he was arrested.Lantigua and his wife, Daphne Simpson, are being charged with seven counts of fraudulent insurance claims and one count of schemes to defraud. Each charge is a first-degree felony that can lead to as many as 30 years in prison.There also are lawsuits against Lantigua and his estate over nearly $10 million in life insurance payouts and Lantigua’s debts, according to the Florida State Attorney’s Office."During a search incident to arrest, agents discovered that [Lantigua] had a poorly-dyed beard and was wearing a brown toupee," the complaint in his case states.Lantigua, who is in federal custody in North Carolina, has a detention hearing scheduled for Friday in Asheville. The federal defender listed as Lantigua's attorney did not respond to a request for comment.Simpson was released by authorities in North Carolina but arrested in Florida, where she remains in the Duval County Jail.Simpson has a hearing scheduled next month and she will be assigned a public defender, according to the Florida State Attorney's Office. The public defender's office for Duval County said it had not yet assigned her an attorney.Efforts to reach Lantigua's son, Joseph Lantigua, were unsuccessful.The U.S. Attorney for the Western District of North Carolina, which is handling Lantigua's case, declined to comment.

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Blind Hawaii Woman Gets Bionic Eye to See Again

Blind Hawaii Woman Gets Bionic Eye to See Again

Fuse/Thinkstock(HONOLULU) -- A Honolulu woman who went blind two years ago will soon be able to see again thanks to her new bionic eye.Surgeons at the Eye Surgery Center of Hawaii implanted the device on Tuesday into a 72-year-old Japanese-American woman who had gone blind two years ago due to an incurable hereditary disease called retinitis pigmentosa, said Dr. Gregg Kokame, who performed the operation. He told ABC News the hospital was not identifying the woman by name, but that she was the first person to receive the implant in the Asia Pacific region."She'll actually start to see motion, actually start to see somebody walk into the room and be able to see different shades of grey," Kokame said, explaining that she was totally blind and could perceive only some light before the four-hour surgery.

Kokame and his team implanted a microelectrode array on the surface of the woman's retina that connects wirelessly to a pair of glasses with a camera, he said. The glasses process images and transmit them to the implant, which then sends that information to the woman's optic nerve and onto her brain.The device will not help the woman to see color or fine detail, but as the software advances, he said the implant will still be able to communicate with it.The woman will heal for two weeks before Kokame and his team can turn the device on for the first time. He said she'll be able to see her loved ones first because he's sure they'll want to be right there with her."She was in very good spirits," he said. "She's a very pleasant, very strong lady. She's looking forward to having the implant turned on."The device, which is approved by the Food and Drug Administration, costs $144,000, but it was covered by Medicare for this patient, Kokame said.

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Dallas Woman Behind Bars for Allegedly Giving Illegal Butt Injections

Dallas Woman Behind Bars for Allegedly Giving Illegal Butt Injections

Dallas County Sheriff's Department(DALLAS) -- A Dallas woman has been arrested for allegedly administering to patients illegal cosmetic procedures -- butt injections -- without a medical license, according to police.Denise Rochelle Ross, known as "Wee Wee," turned herself in to authorities Wednesday because she had been wanted for practicing medicine without a license, according to the Dallas Police Department. Ross' bond was set at $500,000, according to court records. Her alleged accomplice, Jimmy Joe Clark, is still at large.Ross was being held on $50,000 bond, and police did not know if she had yet entered a plea in the case.According to the arrest affidavit, Ross, 43, allegedly made an appointment with a "patient" over the phone who agreed to pay $520 for her first butt injection session. At the appointment, Ross allegedly injected a substance into one buttock and Clark allegedly injected it into the other, but they were vague about what they were doing when they explained the procedure, the affidavit alleges. Ross allegedly said it was water-based liquid saline and then said it was Hydro Gel.The patient "felt intense pain and was told to be quiet after screaming in agony," the affidavit says. Afterward, Ross and Clark allegedly closed the injection holes with super glue and cotton balls to keep any of the liquid from coming out. They gave the patient two tubes of the glue to take home.Dr. Scot Glasberg, president of the American Society of Plastic Surgeons, said illegal cosmetic procedures are on the rise among people hoping for a Kim Kardashian-looking rear end while looking to save money.They can be harmful because often they're not done with medical-grade silicon, but rather with the type of silicon used in construction. The most common side effects of these underground procedures are pain from scar tissue and infection, but sometimes the patient experiences excessive bleeding or the injectable material travels through the blood stream to the lungs, he said."If you walk into a garage or a basement or a dimly lit little room somewhere, your natural instinct should be to walk away, to run away," Glasberg said. "The downside of a little saving on cost is, potentially, your life."Attempts by ABC News to reach Ross' family members were unsuccessful.

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Rand Paul Reverses Stance on Defense Spending

Rand Paul Reverses Stance on Defense Spending

United States Congress(WASHINGTON) -- Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul reversed his stance on defense spending Thursday, when he introduced an amendment to the budget that would increase defense spending by $190 billion over the next two years. This increase in defense spending runs counter to the budget Paul introduced in 2011 just months after joining the Senate. That plan, which failed in the Senate, would have slashed defense spending from $553 billion in 2011 to $542 billion in 2016. Paul’s new amendment failed in the Senate Thursday, with only four senators supporting the measure.Since his flirtation with a presidential bid first began, Paul has walked a tricky line on military spending, and in recent months, the Kentucky Republican has adopted a more hawkish position. In late 2014, Paul began to say he’d be open to increasing defense spending -- but only if there are cuts to other parts of government. Paul’s amendment to increase defense spending would have been offset by reductions to other areas including foreign assistance, the Department of Education, and the Department of Housing and Urban Development.“National defense is the number one priority of the federal government. My amendment increases defense spending but pays for it with spending cuts. It is irresponsible and dangerous to continue to put America further into debt,” Paul said on the Senate floor. “We need a strong national defense but we should be honest with the Americana people and pay for it.”Paul’s cuts to foreign assistance infuriated one potential presidential contender: Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., who held a hearing on the topic just hours before the vote on Paul’s amendment.“There will be a vote on the floor of the United States Senate where a member of the Senate has chosen to reduce this account by 50 percent and give that money to the military,” Graham said. “Here's what I would say on behalf of the military: they don't want this money. They want this account to survive and thrive.”“To those who constantly demagogue foreign aid as being the root of our financial problems -- Please stop because you don't know what the hell you're talking about,” Graham said. Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., along with Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Ark., introduced his own amendment increasing defense spending to $697 billion next year -- a $78 billion increase. However, the Rubio-Cotton amendment does not provide for a way to pay for the increase.The Rubio-Cotton amendment failed in the Senate with a vote of 32 to 68.

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Rep. Aaron Schock Bids Congress Farewell

Rep. Aaron Schock Bids Congress Farewell

United States Congress(WASHINGTON) -- Rep. Aaron Schock returned to the Capitol on Thursday, casting a final vote in the House before delivering a farewell address to close a nearly two-month drama for the Illinois Republican.On the final day of legislative business before his March 31 resignation becomes official, Schock cast a vote in favor of a bipartisan deal to eliminate the so-called “Doc-Fix.”“I leave here with sadness and humility,” Schock said. “For those whom I've let down, I will work tirelessly to make it up to you.”“I know that God has a plan for my life,” he added. “I believe that through life's struggles, we learn from our mistakes, and we learn more about ourselves. And I know that this is not the end of a story, but rather the beginning of a new chapter.”Schock made headlines this winter when his congressional office was redecorated to mirror the PBS television show, Downton Abbey. Like Schock’s congressional career, the popular British drama is ending after about six years.After his speech, Schock chatted with colleagues at the back of the House chamber and in the Republican cloak room before rushing out of the Capitol.The four-term congressman ignored questions about a nascent criminal investigation into his financial dealings. Asked what’s next, Schock replied, “Easter.”Pressed about the criminal probe, Schock politely answered “Have a nice day” before ducking into an awaiting vehicle.During his farewell address, Schock pointed out that Abraham Lincoln held the same congressional seat in central Illinois for a single term before he became president. “Few faced as many defeats in his personal, business and public life as [Lincoln] did,” Schock said. “His continual perseverance in the face of these trials - never giving up - is something all Americans should be inspired by, especially when going through a valley in life. I believe that through life's struggles, we learn from our mistakes, and we learn more about ourselves.”He also recalled taking the oath of office in 2009, when he was sworn in as the youngest member of the 111th Congress.“I remember feeling so excited about the opportunity that lied ahead,” Schock said. “I remember vividly this chamber and all it meant to me and the country -- the men and women debating the big issues of the day, not always agreeing, but always fighting without apology for what they believed in.”

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