Review Category : National News

Mother of Freed US Writer Peter Theo Curtis Prepares to See Son Again

Nancy Curtis Speaks with ABC’s Amy Robach. Photo Credit: ABC News(NEW YORK) — The mother of U.S. writer Peter Theo Curtis, who was freed Sunday after being held hostage for two years by Syrian militants loyal to al-Qaeda, is preparing to be reunited with her son.

“I’ll give him a big hug and probably cry,” Nancy Curtis told ABC’s Amy Robach. “And he’ll probably cry.”

Peter Theo Curtis, 45, of Massachusetts, was held captive for 22 months by Syrian terrorist group Jabhat Al-Nusrah, a different terror group than the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) extremists who beheaded U.S. photojournalist James Foley.

Curtis’ release comes as U.S. officials say they are closing in on the ISIS executioner who killed Foley last week. ISIS had held Foley hostage for two years prior to his death.

Curtis was handed over to United Nations peacekeepers in Al Rafid village, located in the Golan Heights region between Syria and Israel, Sunday evening, 6:40 p.m. local time, according to the United Nations. He received a medical checkup before he was given to U.S. officials, and is making his way back to U.S. soil.

Curtis’ family had been working with the U.S. State Department to bring him home since his 2012 capture.

“Theo’s mother, whom we’ve known from Massachusetts and with whom we’ve worked during this horrific period, simply refused to give up and has worked indefatigably to keep hope alive that this day could be a reality,” Secretary of State John Kerry said in a statement Sunday.

The United States reached out to “more than two dozen countries,” asking for “tools, influence, or leverage” to negotiate Curtis’ release, Kerry said.

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Sharpton Calls for Change in Honor of Michael Brown

Pool/ABC News(ST. LOUIS) — The Rev. Al Sharpton gave an impassioned plea Monday that slain Ferguson, Missouri teenager Michael Brown not be remembered as someone who sparked violent clashes but as someone who caused America to change the way police treat citizens.

“Michael Brown wants to be remembered for making America deal with how we are going to police in the United States,” Sharpton said to rousing applause at Brown’s funeral Monday. “We are required in his name to change the country.”

Brown, 18, was killed when a police officer in his hometown of Ferguson shot him six times after a scuffle in the street on Aug. 9, setting off two weeks of protests and clashes with police.

The funeral Monday at the Friendly Temple Baptist Church in St. Louis was attended by hundreds of supporters, including Rev. Jesse Jackson, a delegation from the White House, U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill,D-Mo., members of Congress and many civil rights activists and clergy.

The ceremony was filled with music, song, dance and clapping, along with tearful moments among Brown’s parents and family members. Brown’s stepmother told the congregation that the teen had been having visions of death in the weeks before his death.

Cal Brown, who is married to Michael’s father, referred to her stepson as “Mike Mike.” She said that they had been having conversations about God this summer and when she was in the hospital a month ago, he told Cal Brown that he was afraid she would “not make it.”

“Mike Mike told me, ‘I didn’t think you were going to make it.’ And I said why and he said, ‘Because I’ve been dreaming of death, seeing pictures of death, seeing pictures of bloody sheets hanging on clotheslines,’” Cal Brown told the church filled with mourners. “That touched me. That’s what it was like when he was laying there on the street (after being shot). He prophesized his own death.”

Cal Brown also said that on the day of his high school graduation earlier this summer, Michael Brown had told his father and stepmother that he wanted the world to know who he was.

“We took him out to lunch after graduation and he was talking about God,” she said. “And he said, ‘someday the world is going to know my name.’”

Many of the speakers at Michael Brown’s funeral called for justice for Brown’s death, including Sharpton, who criticized police for leaving Brown’s body lying in the street for hours after his death.

“Once you put on that state badge and gun, you cannot react like another citizen because you are supposed to be trained above that. You should expect that in our community like in any other community. No community in America would tolerate an 18-year-old boy lying in the street for four and a half hours and we won’t either,” Sharpton said.

“This is about justice,” he said. “This is about fairness. And America is going to have to come to terms with (the fact) there’s something wrong.”

A grand jury is hearing evidence to determine whether Officer Darren Wilson should be charged in the shooting.

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Michael Brown Prophesied His Death, Stepmother Tells Funeral

Pool/ABC News(ST. LOUIS) — Michael Brown, the Ferguson, Missouri teen shot dead by a police officer, had dreams and visions of death in the weeks before his controversial shooting, his stepmother said Monday at Brown’s funeral in St. Louis.

Cal Brown, who’s married to Michael’s father, referred to her stepson as “Mike Mike.” She said that they had been having conversations about God this summer and when she was in the hospital a month ago, he told Cal Brown that he was afraid she would “not make it.”

“Mike Mike told me, ‘I didn’t think you were going to make it.’ And I said why and he said, ‘Because I’ve been dreaming of death, seeing pictures of death, seeing pictures of bloody sheets hanging on clotheslines,’” Cal Brown told the church filled with mourners. “That touched me. That’s what it was like when he was laying there on the street [after being shot]. He prophesized his own death.”

Cal Brown was one of many speakers sharing reflections on Michael Brown’s life and death during the funeral, which attracted hundreds of mourners Monday, including a delegation from the White House and civil rights leaders.

Brown, 18, died after a police officer in his hometown of Ferguson shot him at least six times, including twice in the head. The cop had told Brown to get on the sidewalk instead of walking in the street, leading to the confrontation that ended with Brown’s body lying in the street for hours.

His death set off a wave of clashes between community members and police for more than 10 days after the shooting. A grand jury is currently hearing evidence to determine whether Officer Darren Wilson should be charged in the shooting.

Many speakers at the funeral spoke of freedom, justice and equal rights, and also called for peace. A full choir and band punctuated the prayers and speeches, frequently bringing hundreds of attendees to their feet clapping.

Many speakers cited Brown’s growing faith and interest in religion in the weeks before his death. Cal Brown said she and Michael had recently completed reading the Biblical books of Genesis and Revelation together.

“He was truly curious about what God had to offer,” she said. “He had opened his heart to God.”

A St. Louis Cardinals hat was placed atop Michael Brown’s black and gold coffin Monday morning. He was wearing a smilar hat when he was killed.

Among the funeral attendees were Rev. Al Sharpton and Rev. Jesse Jackson, along with White House Cabinet Secretary Broderick Johnson, chairman of the My Brother’s Keeper Task Force. Johnson traveled to the funeral with the deputy director of the White House Office of Public Engagement, Marlon Marshall, and Heather Foster, adviser for the White House Office of Public Engagement. Marshall, a native of St. Louis, attended high school with Michael Brown’s mother, according to the White House.

Supporters lined up beginning early Monday morning outside of the Friendly Temple Baptist Church in St. Louis for the funeral, which began at 11 a.m. EST.

Flowers and photos of Brown adorned the casket and the front of the altar ahead of the ceremony.

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Mass of Remembrance Held for James Foley

Dominick Reuter/AFP/Getty Images(ROCHESTER, N.H.) — Less than a week after grisly video circulated of James Foley’s murder at the hands of ISIS, the American journalist was fondly recalled Sunday at a remembrance mass in Rochester, New Hampshire.

Residents of Foley’s hometown attended the event, during which Bishop Peter A. Libasci asked everyone to pray for peace.

Foley’s parents, John and Diane Foley, were among the audience, along with New Hampshire Gov. Maggie Hassan and U.S. Senators Jeanne Shaheen and Kelly Ayotte.

The Foleys spoke to the congregation before the end of the service to thank them for their support.

Along with an online memorial, dubbed Remembering Jim, Foley’s family is collecting donations for a scholarship and fund in his honor.

Earlier, Gov. Hassan directed flags across New Hampshire to be lowered to half-staff to honor the journalist.

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Michael Brown Casket Adorned with St. Louis Cap

Pool/ABC News(ST. LOUIS) — A St. Louis Cardinals hat was placed atop the black and gold coffin of Michael Brown ahead of his funeral Monday morning, more than two weeks after he was shot and killed by a police officer while wearing a similar hat in the city of Ferguson, Missouri.

Brown, 18, was unarmed when he was shot six times by Ferguson Police Officer Darren Wilson on Aug. 9, sparking a wave of protests and clashes between community members and police in the St. Louis suburb.

A delegation from the White House and civil rights leaders including Rev. Al Sharpton and Rev. Jesse Jackson were among the hundreds expected to attend the funeral Monday morning. Celebrities including Spike Lee, P. Diddy and Snoop Dog are expected to attend as well.

White House Cabinet Secretary Broderick Johnson, chairman of the My Brother’s Keeper Task Force, traveled to the funeral along with the deputy director of the White House Office of Public Engagement, Marlon Marshall, and Heather Foster, adviser for the White House Office of Public Engagement. Marlon, a native of St. Louis, attended high school with the mother of Michael Brown, according to the White House.

Supporters lined up beginning early Monday morning outside of the Friendly Temple Baptist Church in St. Louis for the funeral.

Flowers and photos of Brown adorned the casket and the front of the altar ahead of the ceremony.

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California Quake Fires Quenched with Water from Swimming Pools

File photo. (iStock/Thinkstock)(NAPA, Calif.) — The quake that struck Napa, California, snapped gas lines and sparked at least a half-dozen major fires, but it also ruptured water mains, which crippled firefighters’ efforts until they found nearby swimming pools.

The eruption of flames threatened to trap people in their homes, particularly in mobile home parks that were hard hit by the fires.

“The fire just exploded,” said Bill Linder, a resident at the Napa Valley Mobile Home Park. “It was terrifying.”

Four of the homes burned to the ground, with other homes damaged. That damage was compounded by the fact that the earthquake also ruptured water lines — leaving firefighters struggling to find a way to put the fires out.

Resident Frank Jones said the firefighters got creative in battling the flames.

“We do have two swimming pools here in the community. They were able to siphon water of the pool and into their truck, and come back several times to fight the fire behind my house,” Jones said.

Homeowners remain shaken, losing everything but the clothes on their backs.

“We didn’t really know what happened. The house was already on fire and it was hard to get out…it was really scary,” said Theresa, one of the residents.

The earthquake is the strongest northern California has faced in 25 years, and damage from the earthquake could reach $1 billion.

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James Foley’s Family Posts Letter Sent During His Captivity

John Cantlie/Getty Images(NEW YORK) — The family of James Foley, the American journalist who was executed by ISIS, posted the text of a letter that Foley was able to sneak past his captors and send to them in a most unusual way.

In the letter, which his family shared to their Facebook page Sunday, Foley says he used memories of “great family times” to take him far from his prison.

“Dreams of family and friends take me away and happiness fills my heart,” he says.

According to the post, Foley had a fellow hostage who was about to be released memorize the letter. That person called Foley’s mother shortly after his released and dictated it to her.

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Northern California Couple Still Has Each Other After Losing ‘Everything’ in Fire

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(NAPA, Calif.) — In the aftermath of the South Napa Earthquake that hit northern California Sunday morning, one couple is trying to pick up the pieces after losing everything when their mobile home was destroyed.

Bill and Theresa, who declined to give ABC News’ San Francisco station KGO-TV their last names, were sleeping when they woke up to their home engulfed in flames.

“The earth moved, the house moved,” Bill said.

“It was bad,” Theresa added. “We lost everything.”

“Not everything,” Bill responded, as he turned to hug her.

The couple was still looking for their kitten, Coco, who they only just got two months ago.

Fires caused by the earthquake destroyed four mobile homes and damaged two others at the Napa Valley Mobile Home Park.

The South Napa Earthquake damaged much of the Bay Area and left thousands without power. It is the largest earthquake to hit the area in the last 25 years.

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Coast Guard Finds Four Bodies in Ocean Off the Coast of Florida

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(MIAMI) — The U.S. Coast Guard located four bodies in the water about 20 miles off the coast of Hollywood Beach in Florida on Sunday morning.

The Coast Guard confirmed the discovery, noting that a search was ongoing for other possible people in the water. The Coast Guard was alerted to two male bodies floating in the water east of Hollywood Beach. They later discovered a female body. No information has been provided about the fourth body found.

The Coast Guard did not immediately release any additional information about the bodies, or how they might have ended up in the ocean.

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Tropical Storm Cristobal Moves Northwest, Hits Parts of the Bahamas

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) — Tropical Storm Cristobal was moving slowly north northwestward near the southeastern Bahamas Sunday, and was expected to bring heavy rain and gusty winds to the Turks and Caicos as well as portions of the Bahamas.

According to an advisory from the National Hurricane Center late Sunday morning, the storm had sustained winds at 45 mph and was moving north-northwest at 7 mph. Tropical Storm Warnings remained in effect for the Turks and Caico and southeastern Bahamas for the rest of the day.

The forecast track has been slightly shifted farther east, compared to earlier advisories. Cristobal is forecast to slowly strengthen over the next 48 hours and should become a hurricane sometime Wednesday morning.

There is no direct impact expected for the United States, but there will likely be rough surf and dangerous rip currents along the East Coast for the next several days.

Hurricane Hunters, which fly into tropical systems to investigate their development and grab the latest atmospheric data on the storm, caught a unique glimpse of the third tropical system of the Atlantic Hurricane Season forming from above.

Shower near center of TD #Four from #NOAA43 (@NOAA P3) 8/23/14 pic.twitter.com/6Yf781I6w1

— NOAAHurricaneHunters (@NOAA_HurrHunter) August 24, 2014

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