Apr 23

Girl Scout troop is 'first single troop' for homeless girls in New York

Courtesy of NYC Council Member Jimmy Van Bramers office(NEW YORK) — It’s what the Girl Scouts of Greater New York is calling a first.

Girl Scout Troop 6000 — which serves homeless girls and women in New York — is the first “full single unit…that serves girls in shelters” in the nation, Meridith Maskara, the organization’s chief operating officer, told ABC News.

It was created back in February by Giselle Burgess, a homeless woman who serves as a community engagement specialist for Girl Scouts of Greater New York.

She began the troop out of a Sleep Inn, located in Long Island City, Queens, that has been turned into a 10-floor homeless shelter that serves 100 homeless families.

Burgess told the New York Times, who first reported on the troop, that her organization is not only paying for the girls’ monthly dues, but they also covered the costs of membership fees and starter kits.

Maskara noted that many times families will be “reassigned within the shelter system. Their family can get moved without notice within the city.”

“The troop says [to the girls] although other things in your life won’t be consistent, we will be. We’ll be your anchor,” she added.

Troop 6000 currently has a membership of 23 girls, ranging from kindergarten students to high school students. They meet weekly to organize and execute several community service projects that benefit their community — from planting seeds in local gardens to learning how to become mentors.

Council Member Van Bramer visited the Long Island City homeless shelter last November to serve Thanksgiving dinner, he told ABC News in a statement.

“Last November, I joined the Girl Scouts of Greater New York to serve Thanksgiving dinner at a homeless shelter for women in Queens. It was there that we dreamed of a Girl Scout troop created specifically for homeless girls,” he said in a statement. “With Troop 6000, that dream became a reality.

“I’ve met the members of Troop 6000, who all live in a shelter in my district, and I can tell you that they have big dreams. They are our future engineers, fashion designers, athletes, doctors, activists, and community leaders. With Troop 6000, these girls now have a place to realize these dreams, find stability, make lifelong friends, and discover the strength they have inside to be whoever they want to be. Troop 6000 is just about the most right thing I’ve ever been a part of, and I’m committed to its expansion all across New York City,” Van Bramer concluded.

Girl Scouts of Greater New York already wants to expand the troop, offering their services to more homeless girls in New York.

Maskara said, “There’s such a need.”

“We’re doing what we do best: give girls courage, confidence and character to make the world a better place,” she continued. “They’ve really bonded together as a unit, immensely. It’s beautiful to see the transformation.”

Copyright © 2017, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Apr 23

Wildfires rage across Florida, destroying homes and displacing thousands

iStock/Thinkstock(NAPLES, Fla.) — Three separate wildfires raged across parts of Florida on Saturday, burning up homes and forcing the evacuation of thousands of residents.

One blaze has burned 5,500 acres and destroyed nine homes in Collier County near Naples as of Saturday morning. Approximately 7,000 homes have been evacuated since Friday night, according to the Collier County Sheriff’s Office.

More than 500 public safety professionals are working to contain the fire, assist with evacuations and manage traffic in the area. Just 10 percent of the fire was contained as of 9 a.m. ET Saturday, the sheriff’s office said.

Authorities are strongly urging those in the mandatory evacuation zone to leave as soon as possible. As many as 10 aircraft will fly over the blaze Saturday attempting to drop water on the flames, according to the sheriff’s office.

The Caloosahatchee Forestry Center said Saturday there is a 5-mile temporary flight restriction in place around the fire in Collier County.

 

Intense pictures from Collier County brush fires. Plantation firefighters working as part of Broward County strike team. pic.twitter.com/alrvwH1ezF

— Plantation Fire (@PlantationFire) April 22, 2017

 

In central Florida’s Polk County, the entire Indian Lake Estates subdivision, which encompasses some 800 homes and 8,000 lots, is under a mandatory evacuation due to a large wildfire that authorities suspect may have been intentionally set.

“Several structures are on fire. Fire crews need residents to leave the area so firefighters can protect structures,” the Polk County Fire Rescue said in a statement on its Facebook page Friday.

The American Red Cross opened a shelter Friday night at the First Presbyterian Church of Lake Wales for those displaced by the fires in the Indian Lake Estates.

As of 4 p.m. Saturday, authorities had lifted the evacuation order.

“Residents can return home after 4 p.m.,” the Polk County Fire Rescue said in a statement on its Facebook page. “There is still smoke and could be flareups, so firefighters and forestry will remain all night. Please drive carefully coming home.”

Authorities believe the initial blaze started late afternoon on Friday and has since spread to multiple fires that are burning in the area of Ponce de Leon Road, Magnolia Drive, Red Range Road and Winter Haven Road. Fire officials said several structures have been destroyed but did not specify an exact number.

About 700 acres were ablaze and 60 percent of the fire was contained as of 2 p.m. ET Saturday, officials said.

The cause of the wildfire remains under investigation, but authorities suspect it could be arson. The Florida Forestry Arson Alert Association is offering up to a $5,000 reward for information leading to an arrest.

Just last week, firefighters were deployed to the Indian Lake Estates area to extinguish several fires that came dangerously close to nearby homes. Those blazes were deemed “suspicious” by the Florida Forest Service.

“There’s no evidence the fires are occurring naturally,” Ricky Britt of forest service, said in an April 12 statement. “The cause of the fires needs to be investigated, so investigators will be looking into it.”

Meanwhile, a 400-acre brush fire in Lee County has destroyed at least 13 structures in Lehigh Acres near Fort Myers. The fire was 95 percent contained as of 8 a.m. ET Saturday, according to the Caloosahatchee Forestry Center.

Multiple homes, structures and vehicles have been damaged or destroyed in the fire, officials said.

Investigators determined the cause was a discarded cigarette on 19th Street Southwest that grew into a fire that spread 2 miles.

“We were able to find the origin site and, in the middle, found a cigarette,” Dale Reisen, an investigator with the Lee County Arson Task Force, said at a press conference Saturday afternoon.

Copyright © 2017, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Apr 23

“Happy Days” star Erin Moran dead at 56

ABC Photo Archives/ABC via Getty Images(HARRISON COUNTY, Ind.) — Erin Moran, best known for playing Joanie Cunningham on the hit sitcom Happy Days and its spinoff, Joanie Loves Chachi, has died. She was 56.

The Harrison County Sheriffs Department in Harrison County, Indiana confirmed to ABC News that on Saturday, it received a 911 call about an unresponsive female.  When the responders arrived, they determined that the woman, identified as Erin Marie Moran Fleischmann, was deceased.  An autopsy is pending.

Moran, who had appeared in movies and on TV shows like The Courtship of Eddies’ Father and My Three Sons, was cast as Joanie Cunningham, the younger sister of Ron Howard’s Richie Cunningham, in 1974.  She played the role on Happy Days until 1982, when she and Scott Baio’s character, Chachi Arcola, left to star in the spinoff Joanie Loves Chachi.  That show was canceled in 1983, and Moran returned to Happy Days for its final season.

After Happy Days, Moran made guest appearances in shows like The Love Boat, Murder, She Wrote and Diagnosis: Murder.   In 2007, she appeared on the reality show Scott Baio Is 45 and Single as herself, and in 2008, she was a contestant on VH1’s Celebrity Fit Club.

In recent years, Moran had reportedly fallen on hard times, and was said to be living in a trailer park, and then in a series of motels.

Her Happy Days co-star Henry Winkler, who played The Fonz, tweeted, “OH Erin… now you will finally have the peace you wanted so badly here on earth …Rest In It serenely now.. too soon.” 

Ron Howard tweeted, “Such sad sad news. RIP Erin. I’ll always choose to remember you on our show making scenes better, getting laughs and lighting up tv screens.”

Don Most, who played Richie’s pal Ralph Malph on the show, tweeted, “So incredibly sad to hear about Erin. A wonderful, sweet, caring, talented woman.I can’t really comprehend this right now.Very painful loss.”

According to the Hollywood Reporter, Anson Williams, who played Richie’s pal Potsie on the show, said in a statement, “Erin was a person who made everyone around her feel better. She truly cared about others first, a true angel. I will miss her so much, but know that she is in God’s hands. RIP sweet angel.”

Copyright © 2017, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Apr 22

San Francisco Giants' Madison Bumgarner placed on DL after dirt bike accident

Scott Clarke / ESPN Images(SAN FRANCISCO) — San Francisco Giants starting pitcher Madison Bumgarner has been placed on the disabled list after he was seriously hurt in a dirt bike accident in Denver.

The team announced the news Friday and said Bumgarner, 27, suffered bruised ribs and a Grade 1 or 2 sprain of the AC joint in his left shoulder.

There is no clear timetable Bumgarner’s return. The Giants said in a statement that Bumgarner was resting at the team hotel and would be re-evaluated next week.

Bumgarner is a four-time All-Star, three-time World Series Champion, and in 2014 was named the World Series MVP.

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Apr 22

Air Force mom surprises son at RiverDogs baseball game after he throws out first pitch

Jeremy Schrank/Charleston RiverDogs(CHARLESTON, S.C.) — Air Force Staff Sgt. Georgina Walton, home from deployment, surprised her son Brody after he threw out the first pitch at the Charleston, South Carolina, RiverDogs baseball game Thursday.

Brody, who turns 6 Sunday, thought he was only throwing the first pitch at the minor league game for his birthday. But what he got was an even better present: a hug from his mom.

“He just stared at me and his eyes got big and teary,” Walton, 26, told ABC News of the heartwarming moment. “He couldn’t say anything. He was very stunned. He didn’t say anything until he was almost in the locker rooms and I asked him, ‘Are you ok?’ and he said, ‘I’m just so excited.’”

Walton was deployed to an undisclosed location in Southwest Asia for almost seven months. She said Brody was terribly upset that his mom wouldn’t be home for his upcoming birthday, so she knew the homecoming would have to be a special one.

“I looked online at the events happening around here to surprise him,” she said. “The RiverDogs game was one of the events. I grew up going to the RiverDogs and always loved it. He’s been raised to love sports so I contacted them and it was his first game there ever.”

Walton could barely contain her excitement before walking onto the field to join him.

“I was extremely overwhelmed,” she recalled. “I had to stand back for a minute to let him throw the first pitch. As soon I saw him walk on the field I wanted to run out. I was overcome with emotion. I missed him so much.”

She said she is thankful for everyone who helped make this magical moment possible.

“I’m extremely thankful for my family. I couldn’t do it without them,” Walton said. “I’m also so grateful for the RiverDogs for letting me do that. They were amazing. And I’m so grateful to serve our country too, and be a part of the Air Force. I’m so grateful for everything they’ve given me.”

Now the mother-son duo are looking forward to celebrating Brody’s birthday this weekend by going four-wheeling at Carolina Adventure World, an outdoor ATV and dirt bike park.

Copyright © 2017, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Apr 22

Pittsburgh Penguins advance to second round of NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs

Phill Ellsworth/ESPN Images(PITTSBURGH) — The Pittsburgh Penguins advanced to the second round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs after defeating the Columbus Blue Jackets 5-2 in Game 5 Thursday night.

The defending champs faced a Columbus team that surprised the hockey world by scoring a franchise-record 108 points this season, but the seven games series mostly fell in the Penguins’ favor.

It was capped on Thursday when Columbus nearly rallied back to tie the game at three after Pittsburgh took an early commanding lead. However, the game-tying goal was called off, and Penguins star Sidney Crosby secured the team’s fourth point to regain a comfortable lead for Pittsburgh.

Marc-Andre Fleury had 49 saves in his club-record 57th playoff win according to ESPN. He was supposed to be a backup in the series, but Matt Murray sustained a lower body injury before Game 1, and Fleury stepped up. Crosby called him “our best player.”

Penguins head coach Mike Sullivan said of the series, “It’s never perfect out there by any stretch. We love their compete level. We love their ability to respond to the adversity we face or the challenges we face throughout the course of a game, throughout the course of a series.”

Columbus head coach John Tortorella, who led the Blue Jackets to the playoffs for just the second time in the last eight seasons, told reporters after the loss, “I’m proud of our club. That’s not a 4-1 series. I’m not going to (complain) about it. They win.”

Pittsburgh will face the winner of the Toronto-Washington series in the conference semifinal.

Copyright © 2017, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Apr 22

Scoreboard roundup — 4/20/17

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) — Here are the latest scores and winners:

INTERLEAGUE
Baltimore 2  Cincinnati1, 10 Innings

AMERICAN LEAGUE
Boston4  Toronto 1, 10 Innings
Cleveland6  Minnesota  2
Tampa Bay8  Detroit 1
Houston  2  L.A. Angels1
Texas 1  Kansas City0, 13 Innings
Oakland  9  Seattle 6

NATIONAL LEAGUE
Philadelphia6  N-Y Mets 4
Washington  3  Atlanta  2
Milwaukee7  St. Louis5
San Diego4  Arizona  1

NATIONAL BASKETBALL ASSOCIATION PLAYOFFS

Cleveland  119  Indiana114
Milwaukee  104  Toronto 77
Memphis 105  San Antonio 94

NATIONAL HOCKEY LEAGUE PLAYOFFS
Pittsburgh 5  Columbus2
OT  N-Y Rangers 3  Montreal 2
Nashville  4  Chicago 1
 OT  Edmonton 4  San Jose 3

Copyright © 2017, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Apr 22

Paris attack puts security at the top of the agenda two days before French election

iStock/Thinkstock(PARIS) — Thursday’s shooting on the Champs-Elysees boulevard in Paris has pushed security to the top of the political agenda and added more unpredictability to a close presidential race two days before French voters head to the polls.

The attack, which killed one police officer, could influence voters who will cast their ballots Sunday, analysts say.

“It seems inevitable that this attack will have some impact on Sunday’s vote,” Jim Shields, professor of French politics at Aston University in Birmingham, England, told ABC News. “We have had terrorist attacks during other election campaigns but never this close to polling day.”

Four candidates lead the race, which is still too tight to call – so even a small effect on the first round of voting Sunday could make a big difference, he said.

“With four leading candidates running neck and neck and up to a third of voters still undecided, even a marginal effect in increasing support for a particular candidate could be decisive,” he said.

This could benefit two candidates, he added: far-right leader Marine Le Pen and the conservative François Fillon, who have made security and the fight against terrorism central issues in their campaigns. The candidates who could lose votes are centrist candidate Emmanuel Macron and far-left candidate Jean-Luc Mélenchon, who had seen a recent surge in polls, he said.

Le Pen, slightly behind frontrunner Macron in the polls, has already reacted to the attack by saying she will introduce tougher immigration and border control, and she will likely continue to capitalize on it, said Françoise Boucek, lecturer at the School of Politics and International Relations at Queen Mary University of London.

“I definitely think that it’s Le Pen who might try to capitalize on it the most because her agenda is really about internal security, anti-terrorism and anti-Islamism. She’s going to capitalize on this and say, ‘Look, that’s what I’ve been saying all along,’” Boucek told ABC News.

France has been under a state of emergency since November 2015. The country has seen a series of attacks that have killed nearly 240 people in the past two years. Thursday’s attack reminds voters of the security challenges the country is facing, Boucek said.

“It puts internal security on the top of the agenda and on the top of people’s consciousness so I would think that this is definitely going to affect people’s decisions on Sunday,” she said.

Le Pen is expected to make it to the second round, which she is then predicted to lose to Macron, according to the polls. Boucek said she’d still be surprised if Le Pen became president, even if she does get more votes than expected before Thursday’s attack.

President Trump tweeted Friday that the attack “will have a big effect” on the presidential election.

 

Another terrorist attack in Paris. The people of France will not take much more of this. Will have a big effect on presidential election!

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) April 21, 2017

 

The attack adds to an already unpredictable race, said Simon Lightfoot, senior lecturer in European Politics at the University of Leeds.

Thursday’s attack is likely to benefit Le Pen and Fillon, he said. Le Pen was already expected to move on to the second round so the question is whether Fillon could now get enough votes to be the second candidate.

“If it’s a runoff between two right-wing candidates; it will be quite interesting,” Lightfoot told ABC News.

But the latest polls suggest that the second-round runoff on May 7 will be between Macron and Le Pen, and even if more people vote for Le Pen because of Thursday’s attack, he doesn’t think the shift will be big enough for a far-right victory.

“I don’t think it will change the runoff dramatically,” he said.

Le Pen is an anti-European Union politician who has promised to dump the euro currency. If she wins, it could change France’s place in the world and deal a blow to the E.U., already dealing with the British exit from the bloc.

Copyright © 2017, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Apr 22

American describes ‘mass panic’ and ‘mayhem’ during attack on the Champs Elysees

ABC News(PARIS) — An American who was near the Champs Elysees when a gunman opened fire on police in Paris described the scene as “mayhem” and “mass panic.”

It was a beautiful night in Paris when Kentucky resident John Finney, his wife Angela and their three sons were walking on the Avenue des Champs Elysees after dinner and a day of sightseeing in one of the City of Light’s most iconic destinations.

“This is the most expensive, most beautiful street in the world,” Finney said he told his family. “We’ve got to see it at nighttime.”

Then, Finney stopped to buy his wife a red rose from a street merchant near the Dior store — a decision that could have saved the lives of him and his family.

“Thank goodness I did,” Finney told ABC News. “Had I not stopped to get that rose for her, we would have been right on top of the shooter.”

Finney then saw the gunman, dressed in all black, before he began to spray bullets at Parisian police.

“That’s when panic set in,” he said. “We were very terrified, obviously.”

Angela Finney then yelled for everyone to run, Finney said. The couple’s sons ran up the street, with their mother following behind them and Finney behind her, attempting to “block and shield them from any shots that were going.”

Along with the Finney family, hundreds of other people were trying to escape the deadly scene.

“I mean, it was mass panic … mayhem,” Finney said. “People were falling down. People were stepping on people.”

Finney said the family knew “right away” that they were in the middle of a “terrorist event” and described the shooter as having a “blank, dead look” on his face.

“He starts shooting. We’re running. He continues to shoot, and we don’t know where the bullets were at,” Finney said, adding that the shots lasted for less than 40 seconds.

The father said the family was “absolutely” afraid for their lives.

“We were in the kill zone,” he said. “We were definitely afraid.”

As the family ran to safety, the manager of the watch store Swatch waved them into the building. After about 10 additional people ran in, the manger closed the metal gate. The group then waited in the basement of the store for two and a half hours.

The store employees “took care” of them, Finney said, providing them with food and coffee.

The family will not be shortening their trip, Finney said, adding that they will remain in Paris until Sunday, when they head for London.

Finney expressed a “love” for France and advised that other Americans not be deterred from coming there.

“To any other Americans who want to visit here, this is the country to come to,” he said. “The French people are resilient. They’re heroes. This is a beautiful country. They’re beautiful people.”

One policeman was killed and two others were injured in Thursday night’s attack, which ISIS claimed responsibility for.

Copyright © 2017, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

American describes ‘mass panic’ and ‘mayhem’ during attack on the Champs Elysees

Apr 22

Russian aircraft fly close to Alaska for 4th time in 4 days

iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) — American and Canadian fighters jets intercepted two Russian military aircraft that flew north of Alaska and Canada on Thursday night, U.S. Air Force officials said Friday.

North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) also confirmed there was another incident on Wednesday night with another pair of Russian aircraft that did not require an intercept, bringing the total number of sightings to four in as many days.

“Alaskan-based NORAD F-22 Raptors and Royal Canadian CF-18 Hornets intercepted and visually identified two Russian TU-95 bomber aircraft” flying around the north coast of Alaska and Canada, said Mary Ann Clemons a NORAD spokesperson.

The Russian bombers did not enter American sovereign or Canadian airspace, Clemons said.

The U.S. military’s Air Defense Identification Zone stretches 200 nautical miles from the Alaska coastline into international airspace. Aircraft entering that zone are asked to identify themselves as they transit through. American territorial airspace begins 12 nautical miles from American shores.

On Wednesday, two Russian IL-38 maritime patrol aircraft flew halfway up the Aleutian Islands chain, according to a U.S. official. Clemons said the Russian aircraft were identified during a maritime patrol close to Alaska. These aircraft were identified by NORAD, but no aircraft were scrambled to do so by visual means.

On Monday, two F-22 Raptor fighters and an E-3 AWAC reconnaissance aircraft intercepted two TU-95 Russian bombers that had flown into the ADIZ 100 miles south of Kodiak Island.

On Tuesday, two TU-95 bombers flying up the Aleutian Island chain were tracked by an E-3 AWAC aircraft as they flew 35 miles from the Alaska coast before turning around. A third aircraft, an IL-38 flying a different route briefly entered the ADIZ before turning back.

Each encounter has received a different response from NORAD.

“The intercepts are professional ones in accordance with international norms,” said Captain Scott Miller, the chief spokesman for NORAD.

This week’s intercepts mark the first times since July 4, 2015 that NORAD aircraft have intercepted Russian military aircraft flying near the American ADIZ. Russian military aircraft have never strayed into American territorial airspace.

Miller said the activity this week is not unprecedented given that the peak of long range Russian bomber flights into the AZID occurred in 2014.

A year later that activity dropped off significantly, probably due to a 2015 safety stand down implemented by the Russian military following a slew of deadly crashes involving TU-95 Bear bombers.

Miller noted that Thursday night’s encounters highlighted “the strength of the bi-national relationship of NORAD”, a joint American and Canadian command based in Colorado Springs, Colorado.

As the Russian bombers transited through the American ADIZ into the Canadian ADIZ they were accompanied by American and Canadian aircraft belonging to different NORAD regions, a transition Miller characterized as “seamless.”

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