Review Category : National News

Ambulance Bill Charged to Tamir Rice’s Estate Withdrawn

Courtesy Rice Family(CLEVELAND) — The estate of Tamir Rice will not be required to pay a $500 ambulance bill for which the city of Cleveland, Ohio, had filed a claim in court.

Cleveland officials said on Thursday that the bill had been automatically generated and that the claim has now been closed.

Rice was shot dead by a Cleveland police officer in November 2014 while he was holding a toy gun. Cleveland officials said Rice’s estate had requested, as legally required, a billing statement for all services rendered to Rice on the day he died. That led to the city’s being made aware that the estate could potentially pay for emergency medical services provided to Rice which Medicaid did not cover, triggering an automatic process that filed the $500 claim to the estate according to city officials.

Rice’s family never received a bill and the city has absorbed the remaining balance.

The $500 charge was listed as his “last dying expense,” ABC affiliate WEWS in Cleveland reported.

An Ohio grand jury declined to indict two police officers in his death.

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Royal Caribbean Passengers Describe Harrowing Trip at Sea

ABC News (NEW YORK) — Passengers who were on board the Royal Caribbean Anthem of the Seas cruise ship are back on solid ground.

Passenger Peter Aloupis said it felt “exactly” like being in a washing machine when the ship started listing, or tilting, because of the intense winds and turbulent weather.

“We were on the third floor with an ocean view and we literally saw Dory swimming by,” Aloupis said Thursday, referencing the Disney cartoon character.

The Bahamas-bound ship had to turn around and return to New Jersey two days after setting sail because of strong storms off the Carolinas. The ship docked in Bayonne, New Jersey, on Wednesday night.

Aloupis told Good Morning America that he has cruised “many times.” He said he “saw some of the staff hugging and crying” after the ship returned to New Jersey.

Another passenger, Lauren Whitney, said that she had a panic attack after being told by cruise staff that passengers were to stay in their cabins.

“We were probably in the room for 20 minutes if that and then we left,” she said. “I couldn’t do it and the crew members were even telling us, ‘Get back to the room,’ and I said, ‘No. I’m not going back.'”

At one point, the captain reportedly made an announcement on the ship’s loudspeaker, urging passengers to get back in their rooms.

“He didn’t sound very convincing that it was going to be okay, and everyone around us started crying, saying they couldn’t breathe,” Whitney said.

In spite of the harrowing ordeal, all but one of the seven passengers on Good Morning America said that they would be open to going on another cruise.

Royal Caribbean has apologized to the more than 6,000 passengers who were on board.

“The event, exceptional as it was, identified gaps in our planning system that we are addressing,” the company said in a statement. “Though that system has performed well through many instances of severe weather around the world, what happened this week showed that we need to do better.”

The National Transportation Safety Board is considering an investigation into what happened and why the ship hit such bad weather.

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Oregon Occupiers Will Turn Themselves in to FBI Thursday

ROB KERR/AFP/Getty Images(BURNS, Ore.) — Armed occupiers of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in Oregon have said they will turn themselves in Thursday morning, ending a more than month-long standoff.

On Wednesday night, the FBI released a statement saying they had surrounded the remaining occupiers.

According to the agency, one of the occupiers rode an ATV outside the barricades established by the militia. When the FBI tried to approach the driver, he sped back, they said.

The FBI said that it had secured barricades both in front of and behind where the occupiers are camping.

Occupier Sean Anderson said he spoke with the FBI and that he and three other holdouts agreed to turn themselves in at an FBI checkpoint at 8 a.m. Thursday. Anderson said they would leave their weapons in their vehicles and walk to a checkpoint established nearby, carrying an American flag.

Anderson relayed the information to Nevada lawmaker Michele Fiore over a phone line streaming online. He said he expects Fiore to meet him and his fellow occupiers at the checkpoint Thursday when they turn themselves in.

Meanwhile, Cliven Bundy, father of Ammon Bundy — the leader of the wildlife refuge occupation, was arrested by FBI officials. The Bundy Ranch posted on Facebook earlier Wednesday that Cliven Bundy was on his way to the Malheur Wildlife Refuge.

He was at the center of a standoff with federal officials in 2014 in Nevada, over the use of public lands.

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Florida Chill Draws Hundreds of Manatees to Warm Spring

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) — Hundreds of manatees have gathered together in a Florida spring to escape the winter chill, drawing scores of visitors.

While there are believed to be more than 1,000 manatees currently gathered in Kings Bay, the headwaters of the Crystal River in Florida, most of the animals are crowded together in a one acre-area of the 60-acre bay known as Three Sisters Springs, according to a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service official.

For decades, hundreds of manatees have swum to the bay every winter to escape the Gulf of Mexico’s cold waters, according Ivan Vicente, a visitor services specialist for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service at Crystal River National Wildlife Refuge.

But this year, the bay is believed to be seeing the largest number of manatees ever gathered together in recent history, Vicente told ABC News today. He added that an official state survey would confirm the 1,000 estimate this Saturday.

The Three Sisters Springs in particular are seeing an “overwhelming” number of manatees, Vicente said.

“The waters in this particular area appear to be the most ideal wintering habitat for manatees in Kings Bay,” he explained. “The water is just over 72 degrees, which is nice and warm for them. The water is shallow and the area is confined by beautiful trees that protect it from harsh winds.”

Visitors have been flocking to the Three Sisters Springs area to see and photograph the gentle giants snuggled together up close.

The manatees – which are on average 10 feet long and weigh 1,500 pounds – “can rest in these springs for weeks and weeks without food,” Vicente said. “Not having food isn’t a problem as long as the manatees can do so without too much disturbance from humans, so they can conserve their energy.”

However, manatees may sometimes “take a break from resting” and “get very, very close to people” since they’re “very curious creatures,” Vicente said.

But there’s no need worry if the animals do get close to visitors, as manatees are not known to be violent at all, he said.

“There has never been a recorded manatee-related emergency ever,” Vicente joked.

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FBI Surrounds Remaining Occupiers at Oregon Wildlife Refuge

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) — The FBI has surrounded the remaining occupiers at the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in Oregon, the bureau said in a statement Wednesday night.

According to the agency, one of the occupiers rode an ATV outside the barricades established by the militia. When the FBI tried to approach the driver, he sped back, they said.

The FBI said that it has secured barricades both in front of and behind where the occupiers are camping.

The bureau said negotiations continue.

“It has never been the FBI’s desire to engage these armed occupiers in any way other than through dialogue, and to that end, the FBI has negotiated with patience and restraint in an effort to resolve the situation peacefully,” said Greg Bretzing, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI in Oregon. “However, we reached a point where it became necessary to take action in a way that best ensured the safety of those on the refuge, the law enforcement officers who are on scene, and the people of Harney County who live and work in this area.”

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Royal Caribbean Cruise Ship Battered by Storm Arrives Back in New Jersey

iStock Editorial/Thinkstock(BAYONNE, New Jersey) — The Royal Caribbean cruise ship that was rocked by stormy weather arrived back in New Jersey Wednesday night, where it is expected to be inspected by the Coast Guard.

The Anthem of the Seas arrived in Bayonne, New Jersey around 9 p.m.

The ship, which left from the same port on Saturday and was due to head out on a week-long cruise to the Bahamas, was supposed to arrive sooner after the captain made the decision to turn around, but that arrival time was pushed back further because the “weather isn’t great,” a Royal Caribbean spokesperson said on Tuesday.

“The Captain has been very sensitive to the rough ride guests have already experienced. So he’s slowed down his speed to smooth it out,” the spokesperson said.

Coast Guard officials are expected to be on hand to inspect the ship.

“The Coast Guard will participate in an investigation that will help determine if there are any contributing causal factors or lessons learned from this event that could help prevent injuries or damage in the future, as occurs with any commercial vessel operating in U.S. waters under similar circumstances,” the Coast Guard said in a statement released Wednesday.

In a statement Wednesday night, the cruise line apologized “for exposing our guests and crew to the weather they faced, and for what they went through.”

They said the ship encountered “sustained 120-mph winds” which “far exceeded forecasts.”

“Even so, it is our responsibility to eliminate every surprise we possibly can,” said the company, which plans to bolster its planning system going forward.

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Vincent Van Gogh’s ‘Yellow House’ Bedroom Recreated, Available to Rent for $10

iStock Editorial/Thinkstock(CHICAGO) — Vincent Van Gogh once said, “I’m not an adventurer by choice but by fate.”

Now the Art Institute of Chicago is launching an interactive experience that will allow you to live out your own artistic adventure just like the painter.

With the help of Airbnb, you can stay in an exact replica of Van Gogh’s famous “The Bedroom” from his beloved “Yellow House” for just $10 a night. The masterpiece was created to celebrate the Art Institute’s exhibition of “Van Gogh’s Bedrooms” series, which runs through May 10.

“Response has been great so far,” Art Institute spokeswoman Amanda Hicks wrote to ABC News. “We’re releasing the rooms in cascading blocks, so that people can have multiple opportunities to check in and grab a night during the run of the Van Gogh exhibition (Feb 14 – May 10). We have two re-creations of the bedroom in play right now. The one we did as the AirBnB venue, and another one in the museum itself that is a to-scale replica built on a gallery floor that marks out the actual blueprint of the second story of Van Gogh’s yellow house in Arles, France.

“The re-created bedroom in the museum is an immersive digital/sound experience, surrounded by big screens that scroll images and text from Van Gogh’s letters and sketchbooks, with music tying it all together. It’s really exciting!”

Van Gogh’s actual “Yellow House” was located in Arles, France, and the recreated room is in the Chicago neighborhood of River North.

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Ferguson Sued by Justice Department Over Alleged ‘Racial Bias’ in Policing

Ramin Talaie/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) — The Justice Department has filed a federal lawsuit against Ferguson, Missouri, after the city rejected a deal that would have brought sweeping changes to its embattled police department, which allegedly engaged in “racially discriminatory policing.”

The lawsuit, announced Wednesday by Attorney General Loretta Lynch, alleges a pattern or practice of law enforcement conduct that violates the First, Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments, as well as federal civil rights laws and says the citizens there “have waited decades for justice.”

“The residents of Ferguson have waited nearly a year for their city to adopt an agreement that would protect their rights and keep them safe,” Lynch said. “They have waited nearly a year for their police department to accept rules that would ensure their constitutional rights … They have waited decades for justice. They should not be forced to wait any longer.”

Ferguson came under the national spotlight after a city police officer fatally shot unarmed teenager Michael Brown in August 2014. Officer Darren Wilson was never charged in the shooting, but a Justice Department investigation into the Ferguson police department found what Lynch called “systemic and systematic” racial bias within the force’s policing practices.

After the results of that investigation were announced last year, the Justice Department began “painstaking negotiations” lasting 26 weeks, seeking to reach a deal that would address the Justice Department’s findings, according to Lynch. An agreement was reached weeks ago, but last night the Ferguson City Council “rejected” the deal “approved by their own negotiators,” said Lynch, calling the move “extremely unfortunate” and “profoundly disappoint[ing].

“I think that the city of Ferguson had a real opportunity here to step forward, and instead they’ve chosen to turn backwards,” Lynch added. “They’ve chosen to live in the past, and they’ve chosen to adopt a means of really ignoring the voices of their citizens, they’re choosing to ignore the complaints of their citizens.”

Ferguson leaders expressed concern that the agreement reached would cost the city up to $3.7 million in the first year alone.

Nevertheless, the failure to reach final agreement left the department “no further choice” but to file suit, said Lynch, whose department is now urging a federal judge to compel a litany of changes within the Ferguson police department.

The lawsuit filed today lays out much of what the department detailed in its 104-page report last year.

According to the Justice Department, from October 2012 to October 2014, African Americans were more than twice as likely to be searched, to receive a citation or to be arrested, than other stopped individuals. In addition, of all incidents from 2010 to August 2014, African Americans accounted for 88 percent of all incidents in which a Ferguson police officer reported using force; and while African Americans make up 67 percent of Ferguson’s population, they made up more than 90 percent of all charges involving “manner of walking in roadway,” “failure to comply,” “resisting arrest,” and “disturbing the peace.”

“The city and residents of Ferguson deserve what every American is guaranteed under the Constitution: the right to be free from excessive force, from unconstitutional stops [and] from unconstitutional arrests,” Lynch said during her announcement today. “We intend to aggressively prosecute this case and we intend to prevail.”

The City of Ferguson said it is aware of news reports about the expected suit but had no immediate comment.

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Two Police Officers Killed in Maryland After Shootout

iStock/Thinkstock(BALTIMORE) — Two Maryland police officers died Wednesday from injuries sustained in a shootout with a suspect, according to the Harford County Sheriff’s Office.

“It is with great sadness that I tell you that both deputies that were shot earlier today have succumbed to their injuries,” Harford County Sheriff Jeff Gahler said on Wednesday.

The two sheriff’s deputies were responding to a call at a shopping center in Abingdon, Maryland, when they were fired upon, authorities said. The suspect injured one of the officers and fled the scene. The second deputy followed in pursuit and was also wounded.

Additional deputies onsite exchanged gunfire with the suspect and fatally wounded him, authorities said, noting he was pronounced dead at the scene. At least one of the deputies was airlifted to an area trauma center.

There are no additional suspects or threats to the community, according to the Harford County Sheriff’s Office. The officers’ identities have not been released.

The incident is still under investigation.

Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan released a statement on the shooting, saying he was “heartbroken.”

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Department of Justice Announces Suit Against Ferguson, Missouri

Ramin Talaie/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) — The Department of Justice has announced a federal lawsuit against the city of Ferguson regarding policing there.

Attorney General Loretta Lynch announced the details in a press conference Wednesday evening.

The City of Ferguson said it is aware of news reports about the expected suit and had no further comment at that time.

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