Review Category : National News

Navy’s Famous ‘Dixie Cup’ Hats to Be Worn by Women

U.S. Navy(WASHINGTON) — Female recruits for the U.S. Navy will soon make history by wearing the same hats, or “covers,” as their male counterparts.

The “Dixie cup” hat worn by male recruits are now part of a uniform overhaul set in motion by Navy Secretary Ray Mabus last October.

The changes are meant to promote equality among genders and help integrate women into the ranks.

The iconic Dixie cups must be worn by all female enlisted recruits by Oct. 31, 2016.

Junior female sailors are not the only women to get new uniforms.

Female officers and senior enlisted sailors will wear updated styles, such as new combination covers.

By the fall of 2016, both enlisted men and women will receive new service dress blues, what the Navy calls “crackerjacks.”

The “Dixie cup” style dates back to 1886 when it was first incorporated into Navy uniform regulations, according to the Navy’s historical site.

“It can be squared, rolled, crushed, fitted with ‘gull wings’ or simply worn as it comes from small stores. It can be used as a flotation device or a sun shield or even, some claim, as a dog food dish. With its many shapes and uses, it may be the most versatile article of clothing a Navy enlisted man wears,” the site states.

The hat has been used for decades in Hollywood movies and Broadway plays as the symbol for a U.S. Navy sailor.

According to the site, approximately 140,000 white hats are made every month in Puerto Rico for the Defense Personnel Support Center.

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Oregon Girls’ Softball Team Files Title IX Lawsuit Against School District

DigitalVision/Thinkstock(LAKE OSWEGO, Ore) — An Oregon high school softball team is suing the school district, saying it failed to provide equal facilities to the female athletes, compared to the equipment and practice facilities the boys’ baseball team receives.

All 10 students on the Lake Oswego High School softball team, ranging in age from 14 to 18, included their names in the Title IX lawsuit filed Monday in federal court in Portland.

“The LOSD [Lake Oswego School District] has intentionally violated Title IX by knowingly and deliberately discriminating against female athletes at Lake Oswego High School for several years,” a news release from the softball team reads.

A parent began complaining to the Lake Oswego School District about the alleged gender discrimination in 2014, the release says. A “substantial donation” was made to build a hitting facility for the softball team later that year, but was never built because the funds were reallocated to another sport this past February, according to the release.

In the meeting when that decision was made, school representatives allegedly said the softball team would get a hitting facility after it won a state championship, according to the complaint. The school principal did not immediately respond to ABC News’ request for comment.

“At that time LOHS had an opportunity to start the process of bringing the district into Title IX compliance with the construction of a hitting facility for the softball team,” the release says.

In addition to the indoor hitting facility, which was provided for the baseball team more than two years ago, the complaint compares the on-campus artificial turf field on which the boys play to the dirt field where the softball team practices at a nearby junior high school. While the baseball team is able to practice year-round on the turf field, the dirt field is plagued with “significant drainage problems,” which requires the softball team to cancel practice and games, according to the complaint.

During inclement weather, the softball team is required to practice with an old net inside the gymnasium behind a set of bleachers, which can cause injuries, high school senior Lauren Working told ABC Portland affiliate station KATU-TV.

“I cannot even begin to tell you how many times we’ve had to deal with some injuries behind there,” Working said.

The boys’ baseball field also has superior dugouts, drinking fountains, stadium seating, a press box, sound system and clean, sanitary bathrooms for players and fans, according to the complaint. On the girls’ field, the fans sit on metal bleachers, while the bathrooms are often “broken and unclean without working locks,” according to the complaint.

“The softball field does not even have a United States flag for the pre-game national anthem,” the complaint states.

Andrew Glascock, the attorney representing the team and their parents, told KATU that each of the girls wanted to include their names in the lawsuit.

“They believe in it,” Glascock said. “They’re proud of it.”

The softball team is seeking “injunctive relief,” asking the school district to “immediately cease” and “remedy the effects” of its alleged discriminatory conduct.

Nancy Duin, Lake Oswego School District Director of Communications, said in a statement to KATU that “some improvements” have already been made for the softball team.

“The district has a long history of supporting athletic opportunities for its female athletes and has been working on plans to improve practice and playing conditions for the Lake Oswego High School softball team,” Duin said. “Additional planning, coordination and equipment are required to further improve conditions and the district expects those will be in place within the next several weeks.”

The school district did not immediately respond to ABC News’ request for comment.

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Coal King Gets One Year in Prison After Deadly Mine Disaster

ABC News(CHARLESTON, W.Va.) — A West Virginia judge ruled Wednesday that coal King Don Blankenship will head behind bars for a year for his role in safety violations related to an explosion that killed 29 miners six years ago this week.

Blankenship, former CEO of Massey Energy, was convicted in December of one of three counts against him for conspiring to “willfully violate mandatory mine health and safety standards” at the Upper Big Branch mine that claimed the lives of 29 men in an explosion on April 5, 2010. A federal safety inspection later found that “if basic safety measures had been in place… there would have been no loss of life at UBB [Upper Big Branch].”

Blankenship was sentenced Wednesday to one year in prison, plus one year’s supervised release and a $250,000 fine -– the maximum penalty for the conspiracy charge, according to ABC News’ local affiliate WCHS. Prosecutors had bemoaned such a short maximum sentence for what they called “monstrous” wrongdoing.

“Although already fabulously wealthy by the time of the criminal conspiracy of which he stands convicted, Defendant’s greed was such that he would willfully imperil his workers’ survival to further fatten his bank accounts. What punishment can suffice for wrongdoing so monstrous?” prosecutors said in a court filing last month. “Which is worse: a poor, uneducated young man who sells drugs because he sees no other opportunity, or a multimillionaire executive at the pinnacle of his power, who decides to subject his workers to a daily game of Russian roulette? Which is worse: that young man carrying a gun during a single drug deal – a crime that will earn him a five-year mandatory minimum prison sentence – or a CEO jeopardizing the lives of hundreds, day after day?”

In April 2014, Sen. Joe Machin, D-West Virginia, told ABC News, “I believe that Don has blood on his hands and I believe that justice will be done. I’ve got to believe that.”

Just months before the indictment in 2014, Blankenship sat down with ABC News and said he was despised by some critics because he “does the right thing.” Blankenship denied he had ever cut corners on safety matters.

“You know, you can’t just take the side of the government. The government’s people too,” he said. “They have their own failings and their own shortcomings. We need to get to the bottom of these safety issues and truly protect coal miners, rather than seeing if we can blacken someone’s reputation and hurt somebody.”

“No one ever did more for improving or trying to improve safety,” Blankenship told ABC News then. When asked if he believed he would be indicted, Blankenship chuckled and said, “No.”

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Once Dangerous California City Takes New Approach to Combat Gun Violence

ABC News(RICHMOND, Calif.) — Dawaun Rice is just 19 years old, but he’s already lost seven friends to gun violence, he said. Two of them were brothers who were shot on the same day.

Grappling with an urge to avenge his friends’ violent murders, Rice pulled out his phone and considered whether to set a plan in motion for retaliation.

“I have to sit back, and I’ve gotta think, whether to go left or whether to go right,” he said.

After a few moments, he puts away his phone without making a move.

This potent mix of pain, anger and teenagers with guns once made Rice’s hometown of Richmond, California — across the Bay from San Francisco — one of the deadliest cities in the country. Here, the streets are hunting grounds where young men run for their lives as they try to escape the bullets.

In 2007, the city brought in DeVone Boggan, a youth development policy professional with an expertise in chronic violent offenders and the founder of the Office of Neighborhood Safety, who came up with a controversial solution: Pay young men like Rice not to pull the trigger. The better the behavior, the better the paycheck.

This month, Rice got the maximum — $1,300.

Rice is just one of two-dozen men in an 18-month-long fellowship that’s run out of Boggan’s Office of Neighborhood Safety or “ONS,” mostly funded by taxpayers.

Boggan said the program is not about paying people to not kill somebody, but instead about paying them so they can “get their lives together.”

Rice has been holding down a job, which is progress for a young man who was first arrested at age 12 for armed robbery. He said he was homeless and stole an iPhone to help his single mother pay her bills. Boggan said Rice was well-known on the streets.

To help these kids navigate life-or-death choices, Boggan enlisted men to work the frontlines every day.

“Most of our guys have come out of either state or federal prison,” Boggan said.

Their checkered backgrounds is one of the things that makes them particularly suited to the most crucial part of their job: interrupting violence.

Rice had been doing so well, he qualified for the next huge reward in the program, which was an all-expenses paid trip to Washington, D.C., and New York City, but there’s a catch.

“You have to be willing to travel with someone that’s trying to kill you or that you’re suspected of trying to kill,” Boggan said.

Rice was paired with Marrico Williams from a rival neighborhood. So far, 18-year-old Williams has not been shot, but his mother fears it could be a matter of time before she will have to bury her son.

Before the trip, both Rice and Williams were each joined by another fellow in the program from their own neighborhood for a pre-trip meeting. The ONS agents stayed close just in case, and tension was high over a recent Facebook post in which Rice said Williams’ crew made fun of one of Rice’s friends who was killed recently. Social media posts have been a flashpoint for violence in the community before.

After they confronted each other about it, Williams and his friend agreed that the post should be deleted, and then later it was. The fact that these young men were able to navigate the conflict with words instead of violence was a huge step for them.

“Without this program, would’ve never met. We would’ve never had an encounter like that. It would’ve been negativity,” Rice said. “It’s a rivalry but it’s always good to have respect everywhere.”

Between 2009 and 2014, the number of homicides have dropped 76 percent across Richmond, according to FBI Uniform Crime Reporting program. It’s a number that can’t be attributed to ONS alone. ONS said its proof their approach is working: The vast majority of fellows, 94 percent, are still alive, according to National Council on Crime and Delinquency.

“We want to expose them to a world where they go from, ‘I don’t give a …’ to a place where, ‘Maybe I do,’” Boggan said.

Back in Richmond, when a young man phoned James Houston, one of Boggan’s staff, and told him he thought he was being hunted and that there was a car full of suspected rivals parked in front of his house, Houston and another ONS agent, Sam Vaughn, went over there to talk to him, putting their own lives at risk, to stop a potential shooting. They stayed with him until the young man calmed down, Houston said.

“It is a cry for help. It just isn’t the typical one,” Houston said. “Because they don’t want to do something, but they feel like they have to. … The major things we intervene in, nobody knows about.”

The Change Agents say many of the fellows in the program still carry guns for protection.

“Right now, we’re just trying to teach them not to deal with their conflict with violence,” Vaughn said.

So many armed men on the streets is not something the Richmond police are comfortable with.

ONS is “kind of on their own track and we’re on ours,” said Richmond Police Officer Ben Therriault. “I don’t know what they’re doing on the street level.”

It’s still a place where a routine traffic stop turned into an armed standoff, but in the end no shots were fired. Police seized two guns from the four men inside the car they stopped.

“The thing that is unfortunate about it is … he may bail out before I even get off work. You know? And there’s two firearms recovered in the vehicle,” said Officer Terry Thomas.

ONS’s approach is garnering national attention, and other cities struggling with gun violence, including Baltimore, D.C., and Oakland, are now asking Boggan for his help.

“I see these young men as sons. And a part of their growth and development requires a little coddling, coaching … discipline, that’s what they get here,” Boggan said. “It’s not that hard. … These young men shoot because when they shoot they matter. It’s when we pay attention to them.”

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George Mason Changes Law School Name to Avoid ‘Controversial’ Acronym

U.S. Supreme Court(ARLINGTON, Va.) — George Mason University is adjusting the name of its law school after it was renamed in honor of the late U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia.

Last week, the Virginia-based institution announced the new name: “The Antonin Scalia School of Law at George Mason University.” But the switch spurred plenty of jokes on social media due to the awkward acronym, with many posting criticism on Facebook and Twitter using the hashtag #ASSLaw.

To get around the problem, the school’s dean wrote a letter to students, faculty and alumni on Tuesday to acknowledge the complaints and make yet another change.

“The name initially announced — The Antonin Scalia School of Law — has caused some acronym controversy on social media. The Antonin Scalia Law School is a logical substitute,” Dean Henry Butler wrote.

A combined $30 million gift financed by an anonymous donor and the Charles Koch Foundation prompted the change originally as the gift was contingent on naming the school after the late justice. Ruth Bader Ginsburg, a longtime friend and colleague of Scalia, has praised the school’s decision to pay tribute to Scalia.

The name change will officially take effect on July 1, following approval by the State Council of Higher Education for Virginia.

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NJ Man Complains He Was Kicked Off Flight for Being Overweight

David McNew/Getty Images(NEW YORK) — A New Jersey bookstore manager claims he was kicked off his United Airlines flight on Tuesday for being overweight.

Errol Narvaez, who weighs 385 pounds, says he had never been told he is too big to fly in a single airline seat because of his size. Indeed, Narvaez says, he flew United in the past week for business from Newark, New Jersey to Orlando, Florida, Orlando to Houston and Houston to Las Vegas without any issues.

But when he sat down to fly home from Las Vegas, a fellow passenger complained about sitting next to him, after which he says he was asked to get off the plane.

“It was like a ‘Wow’ moment,” Narvaez told ABC News. “Like, ‘Wow, really?’”

Narvaez, 31, says he booked an aisle seat but was told because of a change in aircraft model, he was reassigned by the airline to a middle seat on the five-hour flight.

He claims a United Airlines supervisor told him to collect his belongings and to follow her off the plane even though there were open seats available. He said he offered to pay for a second seat or pay to upgrade to first class but was told that was not possible on the flight. He says he was told he needed to exit the plane.

“She said she couldn’t accommodate me,” he says.

Once off the plane, Narvaez says, he was first told he could pay $117 to buy a second seat on a flight six hours later. But United then gave him a second seat, free of charge, on that later flight.

He recognizes that he is overweight but believes the airline could have handled the situation with more tact, like approaching him before he had to carry his belongings off in front of a plane full of passengers.

After the ordeal, Narvaez says, he requested that United refund his baggage fees and the extra charge he paid for Premier Access to board early. But he says the request was denied, and that he was told if he wanted to complain to do so on the company’s website.

“The supervisor actually said it was not her fault or the company’s fault,” Narvaez says. “It was my fault, basically, for being overweight.”

United confirms it did ask Narvaez to leave his seat. “We made the decision because of other customers in the row and considering their comfort,” a company representative said.

The airline says such requests are made of customers if they are encroaching on the space of other passengers.

United claims it gave Narvaez the option of buying a second seat on his original flight but that he opted not to make a scene and got off the plane with the supervisor. Narvaez, though, says there was never an option for him to stay on his original flight and his only option was to take a later flight.

He says he typically flies JetBlue and will go back to that airline after the experience with United Airlines.

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Dramatic Escape from Oklahoma Wildfires Captured on Video

iStock/Thinkstock(FREEDOM, Okla.) — An Oklahoma man who was trapped inside a construction machine was rescued just in time as wildfires began to surround him.

Jason Perks was driving a giant road grader when it suddenly became stuck in a ditch, and he was overcome by a blaze.

That’s when husband and wife storm-chasers Amy and Val Castor came to Perks’ aid.

“I was just hoping not to burn up,” Perks said during a phone call with Good Morning America. “I didn’t really have time to be too scared…was trying to save the house, which I think we did.”

The terrifying ordeal was captured on film in Oklahoma City.

Not only did Perks survive, so did his road grader. Just hours later, he was back in the firefight.

On Tuesday, authorities issued a burn ban across several counties in northern Oklahoma, forcing residents to evacuate. The fire, which began just outside of Freedom, Oklahoma, was about 2-3 miles at it’s widest point, according to The Wichita Eagle. By Tuesday evening, the length of the fire had expanded to 15 miles.

There were no immediate reports of injuries.

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Giant Alligator Found in Florida

Stockbyte/Thinkstock(OKEECHOBEE, Fla.) — A massive alligator that hunters estimate was just shy of 15 feet was found recently in Florida and officials are trying to determine just how large it was.

Lee Lightsey, owner of Outwest Farms in Okeechobee, and hunting guide, Blake Godwin, wrote on Facebook it’s the largest they’ve ever found.

They did not immediately return calls for comment.

The duo spotted the huge gator on April 2 in one of their cattle ponds, and believe the reptile is to blame for their disappearing cattle, according to local reports.

Tony Young, spokesman for the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, confirmed to ABC News that the jaw-dropping gator is real.

“All we know is a large alligator was killed,” Young said. “We haven’t determined if it was killed in the wild or if it was a farm-raised alligator that was in this guy’s pond.”

Where the alligator was found is important because Young said only alligators found in the wild are entered into state records.

The FWC notes that the largest alligator ever found in the wild in Florida measured at 14 feet, 3.5 inches long.

Young added that hunters are seldom accurate in their own measurements.

“The official way is to have an alligator on its stomach and have someone pulling on its nose a little bit and pulling on its tail to get it real straight,” Young said. Chalk is then used to mark both ends of the animal.

Young said official information will likely be available on Wednesday.

“I think it’s a big gator nonetheless,” Young said.

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911 Caller Describes ‘Crazy’ Ride with Accused Kalamazoo Uber Shooter

Kalamazoo County Sheriff’s Department(KALAMAZOO, Mich.) — The release of 911 calls reporting a “super crazy” Uber driver traveling dangerously, nearly an hour before the start of a spate of shootings that left six people dead and others severely injured in Kalamazoo, Michigan, raised some concerns Tuesday after it was revealed that the caller had been transferred not once but twice to different dispatchers that evening.

“Hi, I’d like to report a crazy driver,” the male caller told the first dispatcher around 4:30 p.m. Feb. 20. “I just got an Uber to my friend’s house and on the way there, he was driving erratic. … He drove through the woods and then finally I just jumped out. … I mean, he stopped ’cause I was like, ‘This is my destination. This is my destination.'”

Michigan police identified the caller on Tuesday as Matt Mellen. Mellen told ABC News previously that his terrifying Uber ride started around 4 p.m.

“I’m happy to be alive today,” he said. “I really thought I was going to die in that car.”

In the calls released by a Kalamazoo government agency, Mellen said that he was scared.

“I got out of the car and it was like a block from where my actual destination was. … He was driving 50, 60 miles an hour. He hit a car. He drove through the median,” he said in the calls.

Mellen was then transferred to another dispatcher. After he recounted his story, he was finally transferred to the city’s 911 dispatch center.

Mellen told the dispatcher that he’d ordered the Uber because he needed to pick up his car from where he’d left it the previous night. He said the Uber ride, at first, had been normal.

“On the way to my friend’s house, it started off normal and then all of a sudden he just started driving super crazy. … I just wanted to report it ’cause I don’t want someone to get hurt,” he said. “I don’t think he needs to be picking people up.”

Mellen told the dispatcher that he did not need to speak to a police officer but wanted to put authorities on alert. The 911 dispatcher then instructed him to call the car service to report the driver. Mellen told ABC News in an earlier interview that he’s since been contacted by Uber.

Kalamazoo Public Safety Chief Jeffrey Hadley told ABC News Tuesday that there were three different dispatch centers — county, township and city — located in one room.

He said that depending on where a person was standing when they called 911, they were sent to the appropriate 911 dispatcher. In this case, Hadley said the 911 call had initially been made on West Main, a boundary between Kalamazoo’s township and city, so the township transferred Mellen to the city, thinking that the Uber car would head in that direction.

Hadley said that after the 911 call, around 4:30 p.m. Feb. 20, a description of the Uber car was sent to police officers’ in-car computers as well as over the radio so that officers could keep an eye out for an erratic driver.

He said that while he understood people’s concerns about a person having to recount their story three times to 911 dispatchers, he did not think the calls should’ve been handled differently.

“We’re not going on a manhunt for an erratic driver. That’s just not the manner in which we respond to those situations,” he said. “I think our dispatchers handled [the call] within normal protocol.”

Police later identified the Uber driver as Jason Dalton, 45, of Kalamazoo.

Dalton was arrested around 12:40 a.m. on Feb. 21 after allegedly going on a shooting rampage in three separate incidents on Feb. 20. Authorities said that Dalton shot a woman in a Kalamazoo parking lot around 5:45 p.m. on Feb. 20 — a little more than an hour after the 911 call reporting a “crazy” driver.

Hadley said that after the first shooting, a dispatcher called Mellen back and asked for a description of the Uber driver as well as a picture.

Dalton is charged with six counts of murder, two counts of assault with intent to commit murder and eight charges of using a firearm during the commission of a felony, according to Kalamazoo County prosecuting attorney Jeff Getting.

Getting previously said that Dalton had continued to pick up Uber fares between 6 p.m. and 10 p.m. According to court documents, Dalton told police that he believed the Uber app was controlling him.

“It feels like it is coming from the phone itself, like an artificial presence,” Dalton told investigators, according to a police report obtained by ABC News.

A “not guilty” plea was entered on Dalton’s behalf by the judge at his arraignment, according to the prosecutor assigned to the case.

“Obviously hindsight being 20/20,” Hadley said, “you look for answers in these tragedies. … We couldn’t have possibly imagined that the Uber driver that was called in for erratic driving would go on and do the terrible things that he had done.”

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San Francisco Becomes First US City to Offer Fully Paid Parental Leave

iStock/Thinkstock(SAN FRANCISCO) — San Francisco is now the first city in the U.S. to approve six weeks of fully paid leave for new parents.

California workers already receive 55 percent of their pay during six weeks of parental leave, but the new law passed Tuesday mandates that employers in San Francisco give their employees full pay during that time.

“It’s already hard without children to live in San Francisco and so if you have that extra pay, you can have a family and go back to work,” Kim Turner, an attorney and mother, told ABC News affiliate KGO-TV.

The law will go into effect next year for companies with over 50 employees and in 2018 for companies with 20 or more workers.

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