Review Category : National News

Merriam-Webster Adds More Gender-Inclusive Words to Dictionary YORK) — Merriam-Webster has added gender-inclusive words to its unabridged dictionary — including “cisgender,” “genderqueer” and the gender-neutral title “Mx” — as part of a big update of over 1,400 new words to its lexicon.

Though the update was announced last Wednesday, the gender-inclusive additions received widespread attention Monday evening when Merriam-Webster threw some shade on Twitter at critics of the additions:

People keep
1) saying they don’t know what ‘genderqueer’ means


2) asking why we added it to the dictionary

— Merriam-Webster (@MerriamWebster) April 25, 2016

“It’s certainly very interesting to see people criticizing us for including the words but then asking what they mean,” Merriam-Webster lexicographer Emily Brewster told ABC News Tuesday. “They end up proving exactly why we needed to add them.”

In addition to adding the words “genderqueer,” “cisgender,” genderfluid” and “transphobia,” Merriam-Webster has also updated the meanings for existing words “non-binary,” “gender expression” and “gender identity,” Brewster said.

Numerous LGBTQIA+ and gender-inclusive advocates have said they regard Merriam-Webster’s additions as important validation for people who use such terms to describe themselves and their experiences. The additions are also a reflection of society’s growing understanding of gender as a spectrum rather than a binary.

“Just because these terms are now in the dictionary doesn’t suddenly make them real, but their additions do provide important affirmation and validation at an institutional level,” said Joel Baum, senior director for professional development at Gender Spectrum, a national organization that “helps to create gender sensitive and inclusive environment for all children and teens.”

“The fact is, there is literally a difficult convincing process that many non-binary people have to go through to ‘prove’ their existence or experiences are real,” Baum told ABC News Tuesday. “This is just another arrow in the quiver to help the general public understand their experiences. Not everyone identifies as male, female or transgender.”

Lisa Kenney, Gender Spectrum’s executive director, added that the addition of words like “transphobia” also “helps validate and affirm the issues and discrimination that transgender people have to deal with because of their gender identity.”

“Obviously these words have been used and their meanings are real much before they show up in the dictionary,” Kenney told ABC News Tuesday. “But it’s nice to see words only discussed in periphery come into mainstream.”

Kenney added that there is an “infinite amount of ways people can use to describe themselves and their gender identity,” and that it’s important to respect people’s chosen words and pronouns even if they aren’t in a dictionary.

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Storms and Tornadoes Touch Down in Texas

iStock/Thinkstock(WHITESBORO, Texas) — A powerful storm rolled through the south overnight Tuesday, bringing at least one tornado, according to local officials.

The Texan cities of Whitesboro, Bells and Howe are worst affected, according to Grayson County Office of Emergency Management (OEM).

A post on the Facebook page says that “crews are working remove debris and assess damage.”

The bad weather is expected to continue into Wednesday morning as it moves further east.

The Nation Weather Service Storm Prediction Center said 60 million people from the Gulf Coast to the Midwest east to North Carolina and Virginia should be alert for strong storms on Wednesday. The nastiest weather was predicted for an area from Houston north into part of Iowa.

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Chicago-area Student Receives Admission Offers from Over Three Dozen Colleges

Courtesy Southland College Prep Charter High School(CHICAGO) — Chicago-area high school senior Christian Davis, 18, has a lot on his plate these days.

He’ll have to decide which post-secondary school to attend this fall after more than three dozen colleges and universities, including four of the nation’s ivy league institutions, sent him acceptance letters, with some offering full scholarships.

Davis has narrowed down his list to four schools: Harvard University, Johns Hopkins University, Stanford University and University of Pennsylvania. He wants to study engineering, and become a neurosurgeon.

Davis will tell you the abundance of academic options is a problem worth having.

“I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do and where I wanted to go,” Davis told ABC News. “I wanted to keep my options open.”

His achievements did not come easy, Southland College Prep Charter High School administrative assistant Robert Lane told ABC News. Before moving outside of Chicago and attending Southland in Richton Park, about 40 minutes south of Chicago, Davis grew up on Chicago’s west side with his mom and two brothers.

“He certainly has a lot of obstacles that he has had to overcome to get to this summit,” Lane said. “He has had to deal with a lot to get to where he is.”

Davis not only excels academically, but he also finds time to serve, and that’s something school CEO and superintendent Dr. Blondean Davis, who has no relation to him, can attest to. The astute student is a member of the school’s National Honor Society chapter, and volunteers at a local hospital.

“He is very modest,” Dr. Davis told ABC News. “When he first came to Southland he was a very quiet young man. He was so shy…he has just blossomed.”

Dr. Davis added, “The greatest thing is he has so much respect.”

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Tornadoes and Hail Head Toward Midwest as 54 Million Americans Are in the Path of Wild Weather

jeffclarke/Instagram(DALLAS) — Destructive tornadoes and giant hail are headed towards the Plains states, including Oklahoma, Texas and Kansas.

As one storm system moves towards the Northeast and a second, stronger one hits the Midwest Tuesday night, there are altogether 54 million people in the path of the wild weather.

In the Northeast, stormy weather is moving to the Mid-Atlantic, where a severe thunderstorm watch has been issued from Pennsylvania to Maryland to Northwest New Jersey. In Scranton, Pennsylvania, there was a 48 mph wind gust with pea-sized hail. The Northeast’s storms will continue through the evening before clearing out tonight.

Meanwhile, the second storm system is moving east out of the Rockies. Strong tornadoes, large hail and damaging winds are expected tonight in the Midwest, from cities as far north as Lincoln, Wichita, St. Louis and Kansas City, to as far south as Oklahoma City, Dallas, Waco and San Antonio.

A Tornado Watch was issued Tuesday afternoon stretching from San Angelo, Texas, up to Tulsa, Oklahoma, that will last until midnight CST. This is a rare “Particularly Dangerous Situation” where several intense and long-track tornadoes are possible. The area may also face huge hail — larger than 4 inches — and damaging wind gusts up to 80 miles per hour.

Another Tornado Watch covers eastern Kansas and southern Nebraska. Several tornadoes, some strong, are likely, along with large hail over 3 inches and damaging wind gusts up to 70 mph. That Tornado Watch expires at 9 p.m. CST.

As the storm loomed, photos captured the eerie skies in St. Louis:

In the space of just 3 minutes. #weather #Stlouis

— William Good (@william_good) April 26, 2016

Then, an hour later in St. Louis, the rain and wind arrived:

Stormin’ & shakin’ in the Grove! #thegrovestl #stlwx

— The Grove STL (@thegrovestl) April 26, 2016

The long line of damaging storms is expected to stretch from Kansas City and Wichita south toward Dallas by midnight, and then continue east overnight.

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White House Briefly on Lockdown After Suspected Fence Jumper

iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) — The White House went into lockdown on Tuesday afternoon after a man tried to jump the fence of the neighboring Eisenhower Executive Office Building, according to the U.S. Secret Service.

The Secret Service said that a preliminary investigation indicated the man was fleeing the scene of a robbery nearby.

DC Fire and EMS tweeted that a suspected fence jumper was being transported to the hospital for evaluation of a minor hand injury.

White House Fence jumper near 17th & G – Now in custody. May have minor injury to hand. DC Fire/ EMS – we even help catch the bad-guys.

— DC Fire and EMS (@dcfireems) April 26, 2016

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Scientology Leader David Miscavige’s Father on David’s Childhood

ABC News(NEW YORK) — Ron Miscavige, the father of the Church of Scientology leader David Miscavige, remembers when he first introduced his son to Church practices.

David Miscavige was a 9-year-old boy at the time, his father said, and after David finished his first “auditing,” a kind of Scientology counseling session, Ron Miscavige said he saw something change in him.

“After 45 minutes, David walks out, smiling, bright,” Ron Miscavige told ABC News 20/20. “[That moment] decided his life, and mine.”

For the first time ever, Ron Miscavige opened up about his experience as a former member of the Church of Scientology and his son David Miscavige in an exclusive interview with ABC News’ Dan Harris for a special edition of ABC News’ 20/20 to air this Friday at 10 p.m. ET. Ron Miscavige also talked about his new memoir, “Ruthless: Scientology, My Son David Miscavige, and Me,” out on May 3.

Although he used the word “Ruthless” to describe his son David in the title of his book, Ron Miscavige said, “He wasn’t always that way.”

“When he was a kid, I am telling you, he was a lovable kid,” he said.

In his interview with 20/20, Ron Miscavige recalled the day in 1960 when the nurses brought his son David, his second child, out of the delivery room.

“He was kind of smiling with a bit of a scrunched-up face,” Miscavige said. “And I looked at him, I says, ‘Ah,’ you know, ‘This is your old man,’ you know, Gave him a kiss.”

The family lived in Willingboro, New Jersey at the time, where Miscavige and his then-wife Loretta raised their four kids — the oldest Ron, Jr., David, Denise and the youngest, Lori. Ron Miscavige said David was a happy child but the “bane of his life” was dealing with asthma.

“He would get severe attacks,” he said.

David was an “excellent” student, Miscavige said, but he started getting into fistfights when he was a first grader.

“He enjoyed having a fight,” he said. “And I’m sure he instigated it… he’s a tough kid. I mean, for his size, he’s like a stick of dynamite.”

Miscavige also said that his son had a tendency to put others down.

“He would come home and start complaining about somebody and I would say, ‘Hey, come on, you’re like Little Bad News, what the hell is this?’ … and then he would knock it off,” Miscavige said.

Ron Miscavige said the family’s home life wasn’t the easiest and he admitted that he hit his then-wife and their kids.

“Marriage-wise, we didn’t have a great marriage at all,” he said. “We had strife, and there was some domestic abuse, which I don’t feel good about, and I don’t think you can make excuses for that, no matter what, or how much time goes by.”

The Church of Scientology told 20/20 that Ron Miscavige’s acts of domestic abuse are much more serious and frequent than he admits. The Church said Miscavige’s memoir is filled with lies and granted 20/20 a rare interview with Church lawyer Monique Yingling, who called the book “a literary forgery.”

“And the title of the book, ‘Ruthless,’ I mean, it couldn’t be a falser description of David Miscavige,” Yingling told 20/20. “He’s a very compassionate, kind person.”

David Miscavige declined repeated requests from ABC News to comment on this story, but Yingling told 20/20 that, “On a personal level, I think he [David] is probably very, very sad that his father would do this.”

“There seems to be no explanation except that his father is trying to make a buck off his name,” she continued. “So I think there’s that level of sadness and I’m sure a sense of betrayal.”

Miscavige’s daughters declined to sit down for an interview with “20/20,” but through an attorney told 20/20 in a statement that they have cut off all ties from their father. They claim he was more violent with their mother and them than he admits, accusing him of striking them with his fists and his belt and saying, “Our father beat our mother senseless in drunken tirades, averaging two violent attacks with his fists per week.”

Ron Miscavige denies those claims. “That is a flat-out lie,” he said.

Ron Miscavige, a musician and a salesman, said he first heard about the Church of Scientology, a religion founded by the late science fiction writer L. Ron Hubbard, in 1968 at a business meeting. After he started looking into it, he said he found someone teaching Scientology in New Jersey and started attending meetings regularly.

Miscavige said Scientology resonated with him at the time and he began paying for “auditing” sessions, a sort of counseling that uses a Scientology device called an E-Meter. The process promises to release negative emotions and Ron Miscavige thought it was life-changing.

“I didn’t know what I was looking for, but I knew I was looking for something,” Miscavige said. “When I got into Scientology, I felt that I had found what I was looking for, which did have a lot of answers … on a basic life.”

Miscavige said he took his son David to his first auditing session in 1969, and afterwards, he said his son seemed elated and his asthma attacks lessened “considerably.”

When asked if he thought his son’s asthma was linked to a psychological component, Miscavige said, “Of course, that’s what the auditing handled, the actual psychological phenomena of it.”

“I think it was at that moment that he [David] decided he’s going to do something with this,” he added.

According to Ron Miscavige, the whole family began studying Scientology, with David setting himself up as somewhat of a prodigy by the time he was a teenager. With his family’s consent, David left home at age 16 to join the clergy of the Church, known as the “Sea Organization” or “Sea Org.”

“He advanced very rapidly in the Church,” Miscavige said. “He really decided at a very young age to make it his career and his mission.”

Watch the full exclusive interview with Ron Miscavige on ABC News’ 20/20 THIS FRIDAY, April 29 at 10 p.m. ET

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El Faro Voyage Data Recorder Located, NTSB Says

National Transportation Safety Board(SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico) — The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) has located the voyage data recorder belonging to the El Faro, the cargo ship that sank during Hurricane Joaquin, the agency announced Tuesday.

The 790-foot ship and its 33-member crew perished off the coast of the Bahamas after the vessel lost propulsion in the path of what would become a category 4 storm last October. Following a harrowing six day search in difficult weather, rescue workers gave up hope of finding any survivors.

Three months later, investigators discovered the ship’s hull 15,000-feet below the water’s surface, buried in about 30-feet of sediment at the bottom of the Atlantic. They found the navigation bridge, shorn off from the hull, nearly half a mile away – but failed to locate the mast and black box, or VDR.

In a subsequent search, the NTSB says investigators using more sophisticated sonar and remotely-operated vehicles found the mast and identified the VDR, thought to contain vital clues about the ship’s final moments, including audio from 12 hours before the ship sank.

The “next step” will be to “determine how the VDR can be retrieved,” according to the NTSB.

“Finding an object about the size of a basketball almost three miles under the surface of the sea is a remarkable achievement,” NTSB Chairman Christopher Hart said in a statement.

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Trio Capsized off Coast of Cuba, Rescued by Cruise Ship Were Fugitives

Disney Cruise Line(NEW YORK) — In addition to providing family entertainment and vacation packages, the Walt Disney Company also occasionally aids U.S. authorities in capturing fugitives on the run in international waters.

Three individuals were found on Thursday clinging to a capsized boat about 40 miles north of Varadero, Cuba, by the Disney Fantasy cruise ship, federal authorities said.

The three were rescued by the Disney cruise liner and turned over to the U.S. Coast Guard, who discovered upon fingerprint analysis that two of the individuals had outstanding arrest warrants in New Orleans, according to U.S. Marshal Amos Rojas Jr. of the Southern District of Florida.

Luis Rivera-Garcia, 26, Juliet Estrada-Perez, 23, and Enrique Gonzalez-Torres, 23, were wanted for violating their supervised release on federal credit card fraud charges in Louisiana, according the U.S. Marshals Service. The three are Cuban nationals who had been living in the United States, authorities said.

“I think it was evident from the law enforcement standpoint that they were fleeing the U.S. to avoid federal and state charges,” Barry Golden, senior inspector with the U.S. Marshals Service, told ABC News Tuesday. “Cuba is somewhat a safe place for fugitives to hide.”

The three had multiple arrests between them for credit card fraud. Most recently, Estrada-Perez and Rivera-Garcia were arrested in Fort Myers, Florida, on April 18, and reportedly had been in possession of 28 fraudulent credit cards at the time, the U.S. Marshals Service said.

Disney Cruise Line officials declined to comment on the incident.

The Walt Disney Company is the parent company of ABC News.

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Georgia College Student Missing Since Uber Ride Last Friday

Family Handout(ATLANTA) — A 21-year-old college student in Georgia has been reported missing since last Friday and her family is desperate to find her.

Georgia State University student Monique Priester was last seen on April 22 at a family member’s home, Priester’s mother Jacquelin VanLoo-Al Kush told the Gwinnett County Police Department. She left after a verbal confrontation with a family member, the mother added.

VanLoo-Al Kush told police she last spoke to her daughter on the phone later that day — at about 6:30 p.m. — and that Priester told her she was taking an Uber with a few other people to a college campus.

According to police, Priester’s phone has since been turned off.

“I’m panicked,” VanLoo-Al Kush told ABC affiliate WSB-TV in Atlanta. “I’m hoping that she’s safe.”

VanLoo-Al Kush told WSB-TV there was an ATM withdrawal in Nashville, Tennessee on her daughter’s account. Police declined to comment.

Police told ABC News that a missing persons report was in the process of being filed.

An Uber spokesperson told ABC News Tuesday: “We are working directly with local law enforcement to provide any assistance or information that could help them locate Ms. Priester and get her safely home.”

VanLoo-Al Kush told ABC News her daughter is “extremely bright, articulate, and has lots of friends.”

VanLoo-Al Kush described Priester as 5′ 1″ and 165 pounds with black hair, brown eyes, a pierced nose and a tattoo on her left forearm. She also said her daughter suffers from depression and anxiety, WSB-TV reported.

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One Murdered Ohio Family Member Was Shot Nine Times

iStock/Thinkstock(PEEBLES, Ohio) — One of the eight relatives all killed “execution style” in rural Ohio suffered nine gunshot wounds, according to the local coroners’ offices.

Two victims suffered five gunshot wounds; one was shot four times; and the others were shot once, twice or three times, the Pike County Coroner and Hamilton County Coroner said on Tuesday. Officials did not identify which of the victims was shot nine times.

Seven of the eight victims in Friday’s shooting spree were found in three homes along the same road in Peebles, a small village about 70 miles east of Cincinnati. The eighth victim was found in nearby Piketon. Some of the victims appeared to have been killed in their sleep, officials said.

Three children — a 4-day-old baby, a 6-month-old baby and a 3-year-old — were found unharmed at the crime scenes, said Pike County Sheriff Charles Reader.

Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine told ABC News on Sunday that authorities still did not have a suspect description or motive in the killings.

More than 300 tips have been received since Friday, all of which are being investigated, the Ohio Attorney General’s office said on Tuesday.

The victims were all members of the Rhoden family, identified as: Hannah Gilley, 20; Christopher Rhoden, Sr., 40; Christopher Rhoden, Jr., 16; Clarence “Frankie” Rhoden, 20; Dana Rhoden, 37; Gary Rhoden, 38; Hanna Rhoden, 19; and Kenneth Rhoden, 44.

Evidence consistent with cockfighting was found at one of the crime scenes, according to the Ohio Attorney General’s office, adding another dimension of mystery to this unsolved murder case.

DeWine “observed roosters in small cages, one to a cage — a set-up he’s seen previously associated with cock fighting,” Eve Mueller, spokeswoman for DeWine’s office, told ABC News Tuesday. She did not specify which crime scene.

“Whether or not that was actually happening here, he doesn’t know — but what he saw was consistent with cock fighting,” Mueller said.

While Mueller said the attorney general’s office cannot “comment specifically if that is part of the investigation,” she added, “we are looking at every possible angle.”

DeWine has also said marijuana growing operations were found at three of the four crime scenes but authorities did not provide further details.

The Ohio Attorney General’s office has also confirmed that a Facebook threat was made against the youngest victim — 16-year-old Chris Rhoden. Authorities say they are pursuing the Facebook threat along with other leads.

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