Headlines http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/headlines The latest Headlines, news and blog posts from ABC News contributors and bloggers. Sun, 20 Apr 2014 16:27:48 +0000 en hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.2.1 Car Dashcams Capture Possible Meteorite Above Russia http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/headlines/2014/04/car-dashcams-capture-possible-meteorite-above-russia/ http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/headlines/2014/04/car-dashcams-capture-possible-meteorite-above-russia/#comments Sun, 20 Apr 2014 16:27:48 +0000 Liz Fields http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/headlines/?p=517791

Whatever it is, it looked quite spectacular.

Several car dashcams captured video showing a bright blue and red flashing object streaming through the sky above the city of Murmansk shortly after 2 a.m. Russian time on Saturday. Officials have neither confirmed nor denied the object is a meteorite, according to Russia Today.

Last year, a meteorite exploded near Chelyabinsk, about 930 miles east of Moscow, Russia, injuring some 1,200 people.

The recent sighting comes days before former NASA astronauts and experts who are part of the the B612 Foundation are due to deliver a presentation based on research suggesting the Earth has experienced 3 to 10 times more large-scale asteroid impacts than previously thought over the past decade, according to Phys.org.

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Dashcam video of apparent meteor streaking through the sky over Russia.

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What the Heck is a Bilby? http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/headlines/2014/04/what-the-heck-is-a-bilby/ http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/headlines/2014/04/what-the-heck-is-a-bilby/#comments Sun, 20 Apr 2014 15:57:57 +0000 Liz Fields http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/headlines/?p=517778 AP royals bilby bc 140420 1 4x3 992 What the Heck is a Bilby?

Britain's Prince William and his wife Kate, the Duchess of Cambridge, watch their son Prince George looking at an Australian animal, called Bilby, which has been named after the young Prince, during a visit to Sydney's Taronga Zoo Sunday, April 20, 2014. The royal couple are on a 19-day official visit to New Zealand and Australia with their son George.

Photos of Prince George enjoying a curious meeting with a bilby named after him while on a trip to Sydney’s Taronga Zoo on Sunday not only elicited a collective “aww” from the Internet, but also posed the (very serious) question: what on earth is a bilby?

Not quite a rat or possum, the short and plump little critter is a marsupial found in the Australian bush and outback that acquired its name from an Aboriginal word belonging to the Yuwaalaraay people of northern New South Wales, according to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary. The long nose and face closely resemble another native Australian animal, the bandicoot, which some people may recognize from the wide-eyed cartoon character of the video game “Crash Bandicoot.”

While both are ground-dwelling animals, bilbies have longer, more sensitive ears, a typically white-tipped tail and silkier fur. They are omnivorous (watch those fingers Prince George!) and feed mainly on insects like spiders, very small animals, seeds and fruit, according to the Australian Environmental Department. They are about the size of a small cat and can grow between 11 to 21 inches in length.

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A greater bilby in Simpson Desert, Queensland, Australia, is shown in this undated file photo.

Like kangaroos and wallabies, bilbys also carry their young in a pouch, which faces backwards so dirt doesn’t get in it when they start digging – and they love to dig – deep, spiraling burrows using their strong forelimbs and sharp claws, according to a the World Wildlife Fund fact sheet.

Traditionally a very culturally-valuable animal to indigenous populations who used it as a food source, the bilby, like a host of other animals that have suffered as a result of habitat loss and the introduction of foreign animals, is now listed as “vulnerable” to extinction, according to the Wildlife Preservation Society of Australia.

In the lead up to Easter, hollow chocolate bilbies are widely available in lolly shops (candy stores) and Australian supermarkets in lieu of the bunny rabbit, which is seen generally as pests in Australia where they eat farmers’ crops and threaten native wildlife populations.

Prince George, flanked by his royal parents, met his first bilby over the weekend and squealed with delight upon seeing it. Check out the adorable pictures here.

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Jesus-Like Image Appears in California Cafe Pancake http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/headlines/2014/04/jesus-like-image-appears-in-california-cafe-pancake/ http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/headlines/2014/04/jesus-like-image-appears-in-california-cafe-pancake/#comments Sun, 20 Apr 2014 01:05:36 +0000 Jaime Lutz http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/headlines/?p=517761 KABC cowgirl cafe jesus pancake jt 140419 16x9 608 Jesus Like Image Appears in California Cafe Pancake

The Cowgirl Cafe flipped a pancake with a face resembling Jesus on Friday, April 18, 2014. Owner Karen Hendrickson said it wasn't served to a customer. (KABC)

They’re claiming it’s a delicious miracle.

A cafe in Norco, Calif., says that the Mickey Mouse pancake it was trying to make on Good Friday ended up looking like Jesus Christ, something they’re taking as a sign from above.

“The night before, she [his wife Karen] decides to pray about something and the next day on Good Friday we get this pancake,” said Gary Henderickson, the co-owner of Cowgirl Café with his wife Karen, said. “To us it looks like a picture of Jesus looking down, like he’s looking down over us.”

The couple is keeping the pancake in their freezer at home to preserve it; they’re looking into more permanent methods of preservation, too. In the meantime, they’re displaying a picture of the pancake on the Cowgirl Cafe wall.

Henderickson says he’s taking the message to heart, especially since his brother was diagnosed with lung cancer a month ago. But he said he isn’t sure why the Lord has decided to bless him with his son’s image on a Mickey Mouse-shaped pancake (full disclosure: ABC News is owned by The Walt Disney Company).

“I can’t explain why God acts the way he does,” he said.

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Woman Sues After ’8THEIST’ Plate Denied, ‘BAPTIST’ Approved http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/headlines/2014/04/woman-sues-after-8theist-plate-denied-baptist-approved/ http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/headlines/2014/04/woman-sues-after-8theist-plate-denied-baptist-approved/#comments Sat, 19 Apr 2014 22:38:33 +0000 Gillian Mohney http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/headlines/?p=517756 HT baptist license plate blur h jt 140419 16x9 608 Woman Sues After 8THEIST Plate Denied, BAPTIST Approved

(Credit: U.S. District Court for District of New Jersey)

A woman filed a federal lawsuit alleging that her First Amendment rights were violated when she was denied a license plate that would proclaim her atheist views in New Jersey, though a plate reading “BAPTIST” was approved.

According to the suit, Shannon Morgan of Leesberg, N.J., said she tried to register online with the New Jersey Motor Vehicle Commission for a vanity license plate reading “8THEIST,” but was told that the “requested plate text is considered objectionable.”

Morgan then tested the system to see if she could register a license plate that read “BAPTIST” and found that it was permitted and she could order the license plate if she wished.

When Morgan attempted to follow up in person with the Motor Vehicle Commission about why her request was denied, she said she was never given a clear answer.

The suit alleges that by denying Morgan’s request, the New Jersey Motor Vehicle Commission is infringing on her First Amendment rights.

The suit also alleges that another resident, David Silverman, president of American Atheists, was unable to get a vanity license plate reading “ATHE1ST” until local media started to report the story.

Morgan is being helped and represented by Americans United for Separation of Church and State, a Washington, D.C.-based religious liberty watchdog group.

“The New Jersey Motor Vehicle Commission’s actions are mean-spirited and derogatory,” as well as “unconstitutional,” Americans United said in a statement.

“The government should not be in the business of rejecting plates on the grounds of religion or non-religion,” Americans United Legal Director Ayesha Khan told ABC News. “That’s a classic speech violation.”

Khan said the Motor Vehicle Commission has “stonewalled” her client since the incident, refusing to engage with her in any way. They hope this lawsuit will help push the department to modify its regulations and Internet protocols that cause automatic rejections of plates it deems offensive.

Attempts to reach the MVC were not immediately successful.

According to the South Jersey Times, Sandy Grossman, a spokeswoman for the MVC, said that each license plate request was reviewed by commission officials.

“We review every request personally … and we review them for anything that’s offensive or objectionable,” Grossman told the South Jersey Times.

Grossman also told the Times atheist-themed license plates have been issued before.

“We have no objection and continue to issue plates with these types of configurations,” Grossman reportedly told the Times.

ABC News’ LIZ FIELDS contributed to this report.

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Lucky Woman Buying Lottery Ticket Narrowly Escapes Truck Crash http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/headlines/2014/04/lucky-woman-buying-lottery-ticket-narrowly-escapes-truck-crash/ http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/headlines/2014/04/lucky-woman-buying-lottery-ticket-narrowly-escapes-truck-crash/#comments Sat, 19 Apr 2014 18:26:52 +0000 Jaime Lutz http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/headlines/?p=517744

She may already be a winner: A woman buying a lottery ticket at a Chicago convenience store came within inches of being crushed by a pickup truck that crashed into the store.

The Ford pickup hit two other cars in the intersection Friday before crashing through the front of the Farmers Food Basket, pinning the woman — who was buying lottery tickets from a machine — up against the wall, ABC station WLS-TV in Chicago reported. She escaped with minor injuries, WLS-TV reported.

The woman had been standing where the pickup truck landed just a second before, witnesses said.

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A truck crashes into a grocery store in Chicago and barely misses a woman buying a lotto ticket. (ABC News)

The woman wasn’t the only one Lady Luck smiled on. The store manager also would have been right in the truck’s path, but but he stepped away from his normal position a few minutes earlier to help a customer.

The woman went to St. Bernard Hospital with minor injuries.

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Man Finds 6-Carat Diamond in Park, Doesn’t Plan to Keep It http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/headlines/2014/04/man-finds-6-carat-diamond-in-park-doesnt-plan-to-keep-it/ http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/headlines/2014/04/man-finds-6-carat-diamond-in-park-doesnt-plan-to-keep-it/#comments Fri, 18 Apr 2014 20:34:25 +0000 Eliza Murphy http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/headlines/?p=517700 HT Diamond Found David Anderson EM 16x9 608 Man Finds 6 Carat Diamond in Park, Doesnt Plan to Keep It

Arkansas State Parks

It would appear we’re all in the wrong profession.

David Anderson, of Murfreesboro, Ark., just found a 6.19-carat white diamond at the Crater of Diamonds State Park, and he doesn’t even plan to keep it.

The  treasure hunter is reportedly planning to sell the diamond and donate the proceeds to Speed of Light, a national youth ministry charitable organization.

Anderson can probably afford to do so because this isn’t the first diamond he’s found. Not even close. He’s found hundreds of diamonds at the diamond park, although this one does appear to be the largest.

“This diamond is definitely a beauty,” Park Interpreter Waymon Cox told local affiliate KARK. “It looks almost entirely clear and appears to be an unbroken crystal.”

Man Finds 2.89-Carat White Diamond in State Park

Originally from Grand Rapids, Mich., Anderson specifically moved to Arkansas after seeing the park featured in 2007 on The Travel Channel’s “Best Places to Find Cash and Treasures,” and the move has certainly proven to be a wise decision.

The diamond, found Wednesday in the East Drain area of the park, only took Anderson about four hours to discover, but that doesn’t surprise Cox.

“It’s no surprise that a large diamond was found this week,” he explained. “Over four inches of rain fell on the park last weekend, and David found his diamond on the first sunny day following the rain. Rainwater washes soil from the search area and often exposes heavy gravel and diamonds on the surface.”

Oklahoma Teenager Finds 3.85-Carat Canary Diamond

This particular “girl’s best friend,” is roughly the size of a jelly bean and is the 15th-largest diamond found at the park since 1972, according to Cox.

“David has worked hard to find more than 400 diamonds here over the years,” he added. “This is the largest, and probably the easiest, diamond he’s ever found!”

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After Secret Conviction, Marine Vet Sends Letter From Iranian Prison http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/headlines/2014/04/after-secret-conviction-marine-vet-sends-letter-from-iranian-prison/ http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/headlines/2014/04/after-secret-conviction-marine-vet-sends-letter-from-iranian-prison/#comments Fri, 18 Apr 2014 20:25:45 +0000 Lee Ferran http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/headlines/?p=517708 A former U.S. Marine accused by Iran of being a CIA spy pleaded his case to the Iranian leadership in a letter written from detention, a few days after he was sentenced in a secret court to 10 years in prison.

Arizona-born Amir Hekmati, who holds dual U.S.-Iranian citizenship, wrote directly to Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, asking that his “judicial file not to be entangled with the historic diplomatic problems between two countries,” according to a translation by IranWire, which posted portions of the letter. “What I ask of you as an Iranian citizen, a compatriot, as someone who has been separated from his family for 30 months, is freedom from prison.”

In the letter Hekmati rejected all the charges against him and swore he did not collaborate with the U.S. government against Iran. A representative for the Hekmati family authenticated the letter and confirmed IranWire’s translation.

Hekmati disappeared in Iran in August 2011 while he was on a trip to visit his grandmother, his family said. Weeks later, Hekmati, then 28 years old, appeared on Iranian state television in December where he seemed to calmly “confess” to being a spy sent by the CIA to infiltrate Iranian intelligence.

Days after the Iranian broadcast, Amir Hekmati’s father, Ali, told ABC News that the accusations against his son were a “bunch of lies.”

“My son is no spy. He is innocent. He’s a good fellow, a good citizen, a good man,” the elder Hekmati said.

Service records provided to ABC News in December 2011 show Hekmati enlisted in the Marines after graduating high school in Flint, Mich., in 2001 and joined the infantry, completing basic training at Camp Pendleton in California. He briefly attended the Defense Language Institute for the Marines in Monterey, Calif., and his father told ABC News he worked as a translator, but records show Hekmati was officially a rifleman only. A Marine spokesperson said it was possible he could have served as a translator for his Marine unit in a more informal capacity.

Hekmati said in his letter to Zarif that he worked as an Arabic translator with the U.S. military and it had nothing to do with Iran. He never had any military intelligence training, records show.

After his military service, Hekmati worked for a defense contractor, The Associated Press reported. In his letter, Hekmati said he had then planned to pursue a graduate degree in economics in the U.S. – plans interrupted by his arrest.

In early January 2012, the Iranian government sentenced Hekmati to death. At the time, a spokesperson for the U.S. State Department said it ‘strongly condemn[ed] this verdict” and said allegations the Hekmati worked for the CIA or was sent to Iran by the agency were “simply untrue.”

“The Iranian regime has a history of falsely accusing people of being spies, of eliciting forced confessions, and of holding innocent Americans for political reasons,” State Department spokesperson Victoria Nuland said then.

Iran later overturned the sentence. The case was then in limbo for months until last week when Hekmati’s lawyer said his client had been convicted again after deliberations in a secret court and given 10 years in prison.

The Hekmati family said they took the news with a “very heavy heart” and said the conviction is “unsettling specifically because Amir was born and raised in the United States and committed no crime, choosing only to visit Iran to spend time with his ailing grandmother.”

“The Hekmati family respectfully asks senior Iranian officials to review Amir’s conviction, and to resolve this grave misunderstanding by granting Amir his freedom and a safe return home,” a family statement posted online says. “Despite these afflictions, Amir’s family continues to show faith in God that after this hardship will come ease… Our family’s love and resolve is emboldened by a diverse and growing global community of support that believes in justice, freedom and humanity.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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Pool Light Likely to Blame for Boy’s Death, Police Say http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/headlines/2014/04/pool-light-likely-to-blame-for-boys-death-police-say/ http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/headlines/2014/04/pool-light-likely-to-blame-for-boys-death-police-say/#comments Fri, 18 Apr 2014 20:15:39 +0000 Jeffrey Cramer http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/headlines/?p=517661

A 7-year-old boy died after he was electrocuted in his own family pool, and investigators are focusing on the pool light as the cause, police said.

Calder Sloan was swimming in his pool in the backyard of his home with a friend on Sunday afternoon when he was knocked unconscious by a powerful shock of electricity, a nanny who was watching over the kids told authorities.

When Calder and his friend jumped into the pool to race one another to the other side, Calder’s friend said he felt a “tingle” and got out of the water, The Miami Herald reported, noting that Calder kept swimming directly toward the underwater pool light in the wall of the deep end.

“We know the manner of death. We have to figure out the circumstances surrounding the death,” North Miami Police Maj. Neal Cuevas told The Herald.

The nanny’s adult son pulled Calder out of the water and they called 911, and neighbor Fabian Pesantes performed CPR, according to ABC affiliate WPLG.

“As I was touching the water, to wipe off my mouth, I was getting zapped,” Pesantes told WPLG. “As I was performing CPR on the boy I was getting zapped.”

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A 7-year-old boy is dead after he was electrocuted by the light in his family pool on April 16, 2014, police said. (WPLG )

The medical examiner determined the cause of death was a faulty pool light, although the investigation is still ongoing, according to The Herald.

“This was always a place of happiness and joy, and lots of activity,” the boy’s father, Chris Sloan told WPLG. ”The world is a worse place because we’re not going to get to realize the potential of what Calder Jacob Sloan was capable of.”

An electrical contractor who inspected the light told The Herald that a wire was not attached correctly, sending high-voltage electricity to the pool light.

The family has opened a memorial fund at the Lehrman Community Day School where Calder attended school.


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World’s Tallest Building Set for Construction in Saudi Arabia http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/headlines/2014/04/worlds-tallest-building-set-for-construction-in-saudi-arabia/ http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/headlines/2014/04/worlds-tallest-building-set-for-construction-in-saudi-arabia/#comments Fri, 18 Apr 2014 20:12:35 +0000 Liz Fields http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/headlines/?p=517694 HT kingdom tower 2 jtm 140418 16x9 608 Worlds Tallest Building Set for Construction in Saudi Arabia

A rendering of the Kingdom Tower planned for construction in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. Adrian Smith and Gordon Gill

Construction for the world’s tallest skyscraper is set to start next week in Saudi Arabia, according to local media.

The Kingdom tower will measure 3,280 feet when completed, which stretches 568 feet taller than the current Guinness World Record holder for tallest man-made construction, the Burj Khalifa building in Dubai, The Saudi Gazette reported.

The finished structure will reportedly be 200 floors high and requires around 5.7 million square feet of concrete and 80,000 tonnes of steel to build, at a cost of roughly $1.23 billion.

HT kingdom tower jtm 140418 16x9 608 Worlds Tallest Building Set for Construction in Saudi Arabia

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High School Students Sacrifice Cellphones for Kid With Leukemia http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/headlines/2014/04/high-school-students-sacrifice-cellphones-for-kid-with-leukemia/ http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/headlines/2014/04/high-school-students-sacrifice-cellphones-for-kid-with-leukemia/#comments Fri, 18 Apr 2014 19:18:05 +0000 Katie Kindelan http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/headlines/?p=517657

When the varsity hockey team at Billerica Memorial High School in Billerica, Mass., was brainstorming ways to help a young pee-wee hockey player with leukemia, they came up with the typical fundraising ideas like a 5-K race.

Then, one of their teammate’s father, Glen Corbett, came up with an idea that would both affect the teens and be a surefire way to get adults to donate money: take away the teens’ cellphones.

More than 100 students at Billerica Memorial Thursday handed their cellphones over to police officers who will keep them in a safety box for 30 days to raise money for “Celling Out for Leukemia.”

“It’s unbelievable,” said Corbett, whose son, Brian, is a sophomore.  “Phones are still coming in.  The kids know they’re paying it forward.”

Corbett’s son and his teammates first got to know the 12-year-old for whom they are raising money, Ian Candee, through the town’s local hockey association.  When they learned of his battle with leukemia, they made Ian an honorary captain of the school’s varsity team and had him to throw out the puck at a game.

“He’s awesome,” Corbett said of Ian.  “I told the kids, ‘Let’s do this so he’s back here in two years.’”

Ian was at the high school Thursday for the “Celling Out” kickoff as students signed a permission slip and handed their phones over to the Billerica Police Department, who will keep them in a safety box at police headquarters until May 16.

With the extra time the kids will have on their hands with no phones to Facebook, tweet and SnapChat, they are asked to get family, friends and businesses to sponsor them for each day they are without a phone.

“People are just blown away that a kid would give up their phone for a day, much less  30 days,” Corbett said.  “Kids are turning in huge donations of $1,400, $2,500, as much as $3,000.”

The hockey team hopes to raise at least $120,000 in the next 30 days.  Corbett plans to meet with the Candee family, who have two other kids in addition to Ian, to determine how the money will be donated.

The Dana Farber Children’s Hospital Cancer Center in Boston, where Ian is being treated, could be a potential recipient, or the funds could all go to the Candee family to help defray expenses.

“I’m going to see where they are and how they want us to donate the money,” Corbett said.

While most of the students were expectedly apprehensive about losing their phone for 30 days, Corbett says he heard from some teens who quietly said they were excited for the chance to disconnect.

“I had one member of the girls’ hockey team text me and say, ‘Mr. C., I can’t wait to give my phone up.  No one can reach me for 30 days,’” Corbett said.

“We’re going to have the kids keep a journal of what it’s like without their phones,” he said.  “Maybe it’ll be a relief.”

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