Review Category : National News

Chicago Teen Sings for Pope Francis, Reveals She ‘Really Couldn’t Say No’

ABC News(NEW YORK) — The day turned out to be extra special for Chicago, Illinois, student Valerie Herrera, who had the opportunity to sing before Pope Francis Tuesday.

Herrera, 17, a senior at Cristo Bey Jesuit High School, joined Americans chosen from all over the U.S. in a virtual audience with the pope via satellite. The event was moderated from inside the Vatican by ABC News’ anchor David Muir.

Herrera said Tuesday on ABC’s Good Morning America that she did not know she would have the chance to even speak with the pope until just moments before.

“They told me …‘Oh, you’re going to be talking to the pope,’ and I was like, ‘What? Really?,'” Herrera recalled. “I thought they were joking and then I guess it was the real deal.”

When it was her time to speak, Herrera told the pontiff that she’d struggled with vitiligo, an autoimmune disease that causes white spots on the face and body, since she was 4 and that she’d endured bullying for years.

The eldest of four children born to parents from Mexico, Herrera said she was very active in her church and joined her church choir. Thanks to singing and the support of her family, she told Pope Francis, through tears, that she’d finally learned to be more comfortable with herself.

Then she got a surprise request from the pontiff.

“May I ask for you to sing a song for me?” he said. “Be courageous.”

After a pause and encouragement from the audience, Herrera performed, singing “Junto a Ti Maria (Next to You, Maria).”

“Well I didn’t expect it to happen and so it just happened and so I really couldn’t say no,” Herrera said of the moment, adding that she chose the song because it was one her mom had taught her as a child in the choir.

“It was just like the first song that kind of popped in my head,” she said. “At first I had like no clue how to start it off. I couldn’t remember the first words.”

“I looked back to my mom, because she was sitting in the crowd, and I was like, ‘Okay, she’s here and I can do it,'” Herrera added. “I guess just looking at her gave me the courage.”

Afterward, Pope Francis thanked her for singing.

Herrera, who will be the first member of her family to attend college and plans to become a pharmacist, said she also received words of encouragement from her classmates.

“They would send me messages or they’d just text me, saying, ‘Oh my gosh, you did beautifully. You did such a great job…We’re so proud of you…I knew you could do it,'” Herrera said. “It was just a really good experience.”

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Kentucky Court Clerk Won’t Issue Marriage Licenses One Day After Losing Supreme Court Decision

rhythmbehavior/iStock/Thinkstock(MOREHEAD, Ky.) — Following a Supreme Court decision that a Rowan County clerk in Kentucky could not deny marriage licenses to same-sex couples, Kim Davis said Tuesday that she would not issue marriage licenses at all.

The Rowan County Deputy Clerk told ABC News Tuesday that Davis decided no marriage licenses would be issued Tuesday. Davis had said that she had not given out marriage licenses to same-sex couples, even after the Supreme Court declared same-sex marriage a constitutional right in July, based on religious beliefs.

A federal district judge ruled that Davis could not deny same-sex couples licenses based on her religion. That ruling was backed up by an appeals court, and on Monday, the U.S. Supreme Court.

If Davis continues to refuse to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples, a number of same-sex couples who are suing Davis over her denial of marriage licenses can ask that she be held in contempt of court.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Kentucky filed a motion on Tuesday to have Davis fined for her unwillingness to comply with the court’s decision.

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Human-Sized Sea Scorpion: What Scientists Learned from the Fossil

Illustration by Patrick Lynch/Yale University(NEW YORK) — If you think scorpions are scary now, wait until you get a look at their human-sized prehistoric cousins.

The Pentecopterus, named after a Greek warship that resembles the outline of the species, was a fearsome predator that lurked in the sea 460 million years ago, according to a study published on Monday in the journal BMC Evolutionary Biology.

The scary predator had a long head with a narrow body and several pairs of limbs that were likely used to swim, dig and snare its prey, according to the study.

The surprisingly well-preserved fossil, which included 150 fragments, was excavated from a fossil bed in the Upper Iowa River.

“Perhaps most surprising is the fantastic way it is preserved — the exoskeleton is compressed on the rock but can be peeled off and studied under a microscope,” James Lamsdell, the lead author of the study at Yale University, said in a statement. “This shows an amazing amount of detail, such as the patterns of small hairs on the legs. At times it seems like you are studying the shed skin of a modern animal — an incredibly exciting opportunity for any paleontologist.”

The finding is significant for paleontologists since the sea scorpion is believed to be at least 10 million years older than previous members of its eurypterid group that have been discovered, along with the largest known to have existed.

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Six Men Detained After Southwest Airlines Flight Diverted to Texas

icholakov/iStock Editorial/Thinkstock(AMARILLO, Texas) — Six men were detained on Monday night after a verbal altercation prompted a plane to make an unscheduled stop on the way from San Diego to Chicago.

According to ABC affiliate KVII-TV, the plane was diverted to Rick Husband International Airport shortly before 11 p.m. CT Monday. Police said that several passengers reported feeling uncomfortable with the way the six men were treating crew members, and a verbal altercation followed.

The men are being held pending an investigation of the incident, and that there were no weapons involved and no injuries.

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Couple Faced Flames, Alligator Fears After Crashing Plane in Everglades

odyphoto/iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) — Ken McKenzie credits his flight experience with keeping himself and his wife alive.

The Florida resident — a former pilot for the Canadian military and former COO for Spirit Airlines who now works for Airbus — was flying with his wife, Sonia, on Sunday to see their daughter in Virginia when their single-engine plane experienced mechanical issues over the Everglades.

Ken didn’t panic, guiding the plane for a landing.

“I was shocked at being inside a fireball,” Ken McKenzie told ABC News.

“As soon as we landed, there were flames, and he reached back for me, and we clamored over the rocks,” Sonia McKenzie added.

They entered a canal, a location that posed its own challenges.

“We find ourselves in the canal, which was good, cause we were in a lot of pain,” Ken McKenzie said. “And then Sonia said, ‘Do you think there’s alligators in there?’”

Luckily for the couple, there were no alligators nearby.

Doctors said Ken McKenzie, who spoke to ABC News from his hospital bed, was badly burned but will make a full recovery

His wife has a solo flying lesson scheduled for next week, and despite the crash, she says she still plans to attend.

Ken McKenzie is thankful that his wife is OK.

“The only thing that I keep reflecting upon is, what would have happened had I not got Sonia out?” he said. “That’s the piece that I keep going over and over in my head.”

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Family of Kate Steinle Expected to File Lawsuit Tuesday

San Francisco shooting suspect Francisco Sanchez is pictured during an interview in jail and Kate Steinle is seen in an undated photo released by her family. KGO/Steinle Family(SAN FRANCISCO) — The family of Kate Steinle is expected to file a multi-faceted lawsuit Tuesday against those they blame for Steinle’s July death.

Police said the man who shot and killed Steinle was in the country illegally at the time. Francisco Lopez Sanchez had been convicted in the U.S. and deported multiple times, only to return to the U.S. Steinle’s family is expected to file the suit against the sheriff of San Francisco for releasing Lopez Sanchez from jail prior to the shooting.

The suit is also expected to name Immigration and Customs Enforcement and the Bureau of Land Management.

“We don’t need them here, not violent felons,” Liz Sullivan, Steinle’s mother, told ABC News.

“It’s almost too late for us,” she added. “That ship has sailed. We want it for future people. We want it for future possible victims. We’ve got to put an end to it.”

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Police Officer, Homeowner Shot After Police Respond to Wrong Home

aijohn784/iStock/Thinkstock(ATLANTA) — Officials in Atlanta say an area police officer and a homeowner were each shot overnight Monday into Tuesday.

According to ABC affiliate WSB-TV, police officers were responding to a report of a suspicious person in the neighborhood when they approached a home that they believed fit the description of where the individual had been seen. Officials later said that the home was not the right one.

Officials say they are still working to determine the sequence of events that led to the shooting, but that one officer and the homeowner were each shot in the leg. WSB-TV reports that the officer is in critical condition and that the homeowner is expected to be okay. A dog was also killed in the incident.

Three officers involved in the incident have all been placed on administrative leave pending the results of an investigation.

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NJ High School Football Players on Probation for Hazing Scandal

iStock/Thinkstock(SAYREVILLE, N.J.) — Six New Jersey football players involved in a hazing scandal are now on probation.

The Sayreville War Memorial High School made headlines when it was revealed the football team was partaking in dangerous hazing that involved sexual assualt.

On Monday, six of the seven teenagers who were charged for the hazing were placed on probation, but will not have to register as sex offenders.

According to ABC News affiliate WABC-TV, the Middlesex Prosecutor’s Office detailed many of the sexual assault attacks as well as abuse against 14-year-old and 15-year-old teammates.

The six football players will be required to do 50 hours of community service.

The seventh teen is still awaiting trial, with no date set.

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Supreme Court Rules Against Clerk Refusing to Issue Marriage Licenses to Same-Sex Couples

iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) — The Supreme Court has ruled against a clerk who refused to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples.

Kim Davis, a Rowan County clerk in Kentucky, hasn’t been giving out marriage licenses to same sex couples since the Supreme Court ruled gay marriage a constitutional right in July. Davis said she wasn’t able to do so because of her religious beliefs.

A federal district judge ruled she could not deny gay couples the licenses because of her religion, and an appeals court confirmed the decision. The Supreme Court ruled against Davis on Monday, denying her request for a stay as she looks into an appeal.

What does this mean for Davis if she doesn’t start issuing licenses Tuesday?

Davis is being sued by various same sex couples who were denied licenses. The couples can ask that she be held in contempt of court.

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Watch: Chicago Teen Sings for Pope Francis

ABC News(NEW YORK) — Monday turned out to be extra special for Chicago, Illinois, student Valerie Hererra, who had the opportunity to sing before Pope Francis.

Hererra, 17, a senior at Cristo Bey Jesuit High School, joined Americans chosen from all over the U.S. in a virtual audience with the pope via satellite. The event was moderated from inside the Vatican by ABC News’ anchor David Muir.

Pope Francis spoke on Monday with three groups, including students from Cristo Rey on the southwest side of Chicago.

When it was her time to speak, Hererra told the pontiff that she’d struggled with vitiligo, an autoimmune disease that causes white spots on the face and body, since she was 4 and that she’d endured bullying for years.

The eldest of four children born to parents from Mexico, Hererra said she was very active in her church and joined her church choir. Thanks to singing and the support of her family, she told Pope Francis, through tears, that she’d finally learned to be more comfortable with herself.

Then she got a surprise request from the pontiff.

“May I ask for you to sing a song for me?” he said. “Be courageous.”

After a pause and encouragement from the audience, Hererra performed, singing “Junto a Ti Maria (Next to You, Maria).”

Afterward, Pope Francis thanked her.

Hererra will be the first member of her family to attend college. She plans to become a pharmacist.

The virtual audience event will air in a one-hour special edition of ABC News’ 20/20 on Friday, Sept. 4 at 10 p.m. ET. In addition, the event will be posted in its entirety in both English and Spanish on ABCNews.com.

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