Review Category : National News

Texas State University Mistakenly Sends Acceptance Brochures to Applicants

John Hastings(SAN MARCO, Texas) — A public university in Texas says it is working to correct an error that resulted in 454 applicants receiving acceptance brochures though their applications are actually still pending.

The brochures, which featured information on orientation and on-campus housing, were mistakenly sent out March 27 to students whose applications were incomplete, according to a spokesman at Texas State University.

“The brochure itself was not an acceptance letter,” Jayme Blaschke, director of University News Service at the San Marco, Texas, school told ABC News. “It is normally sent to students after they’ve been accepted.”

One of the students who received the brochure, which the university says was sent by a third-party vendor, was 17-year-old high school senior Jake Hastings.

Hastings had not yet submitted his SAT scores to the school but received the acceptance brochure in the mail last Monday. He realized something was wrong yesterday when he went online to try to register for an orientation session.

“I talked to about eight people,” Hastings told ABC News Tuesday. “About three of them didn’t know what was wrong and the last lady was like, ‘Yeah, some program we have sent out the wrong letters. The letter was supposed to say the application was incomplete, not a letter of acceptance.”

“I was just so upset,” Hastings said. “It was killing me because that was one of the big schools I wanted to go to.”

Hastings and his parents, John and Michelle Hastings of Round Rock, Texas, say they have been in touch with the university’s admissions office but believe officials have not been forthcoming.

“They’ve known about this for a week and they kept telling me, ‘Well we don’t know how to contact people,’” John Hastings said. “They were just hoping nobody said anything because they hadn’t sent out a word.”

“What finally made the decision is what would we do if we hadn’t found out early and Jake was expecting to go to Texas State,” Hastings said of the family’s decision to go public with their story. “There have to be families out there who may not realize that they got the wrong thing.”

Blaschke said the university sent a letter Tuesday to each of the 454 applicants who mistakenly received the acceptance brochure to “acknowledge the error and clarify their status.”

“To put it into context, university admissions mails out more than 750,000 letters and publications on an annual basis,” Blaschke said. “But for any one of those 454 students, that error is one too many for them.”

Blaschke said that since the mistaken admissions brochure was mailed, some of the 454 applicants have been accepted to Texas State, some have been declined and others, like Jake Hastings, await a final decision.

“It’s still my top choice and now I just have to wait and see,” Hastings said. “They told me to wait a couple of weeks for my application to be reviewed.”

“He’s gone through K-12 with the same group of friends and some of his friends have already been accepted,” John Hastings said of his son. “He’s submitted his SAT scores and he is hoping, but the numbers are going to be tight.”

“This time of year, this hits the chord of everyone who has kids who are going or have gone to college,” John Hastings said.

Jake Hastings says he has already learned at least one that will serve him well no matter where he goes to college.

“One is not to wait until the last minute, obviously,” he said.

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California Drought Inspires Creative Ways of Conserving Water

iStock/Thinkstock(SACRAMENTO, Calif.) — With the state of California under mandatory water-use restrictions, state residents are turning to creative ways to conserve water.

Water conservation officials say the following are some options people can turn to, or are already turning to, in order to save water in a state that needs every last drop:

1. Spray painting lawns

Spray painting dry, brown lawns green is an efficient way to conserve water, according to California state officials. The State Water Resources Control Board says 50 percent of the state’s water is used outside. “Ways families can drastically cut water use is by limiting how much they water their lawn,” said Miryam Barajas, the control board’s public information officer.

2. Drought-tolerant landscaping

Many residents across the state are starting to convert their lawns and gardens into new landscapes, according to water conservation officials. That includes trading in grass for rocks, turf or even cactus. Certain agencies are even offering incentives for folks to replace thirsty lawns with drought tolerant plants.

3. Replacing pools

Some homeowners are caving in and getting rid of their pools. Christopher Burd is the owner of Dig and Demo, a construction company that helps people turn their pools into something new. “I’ve definitely seen an uprising this season,” Burd said. “The drought is pushing people to do the job.” One way Burd does this is by emptying the water out of the pool and filling it in with dirt.

4. Hybrid sink-toilets

Some companies, like Caroma, an Australian manufacturer, are marketing innovative products like hybrid toilet-sinks. State official say the idea of being able to wash your hands and have it also refill the toilet tank is a smart way to conserve.

5. Reusing water

The easiest thing to do is simply recycle your water, according to water conservation experts. They recommend keeping a pitcher or cup by your sink or shower when you’re waiting for the water to heat up, and use that cold water on your plants or garden outside. Another recommendation is taking care to only turn on the faucet in soft turns, slowly. This reduces how much water comes out of the faucet and can cut down in a small, but important way.

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Brief but Widespread Power Outage Hits Washington, DC Area

ABC News(WASHINGTON) — A power outage knocked out power across Washington, D.C., with reports of outages at the White House, State Department, several museums and the University of Maryland campus.

An official with the Department of Homeland Security told ABC News that initial information showed the cause of the outage was an explosion in a southern Maryland power plant.

A spokesperson for the Potomac Electric Power Company said the utility company was in the process of restoring generating capacity.

Here’s a look at how residents of the area experienced Tuesday’s outage:

Power just went off in the State Dept. briefing. Hearing it’s the entire building. @marieharf says briefing will continue though…

— Alex Mallin (@alex_mallin) April 7, 2015

.@marieharf having to shine phone light on reporters asking questions here.

— Alex Mallin (@alex_mallin) April 7, 2015

The White House experienced a power outage as well, but power came back within seconds, according to CBS’ Mark Knoller. It’s not clear whether the White House regained full power or a generator kicked in.

Just had a power outage in the WH. Everything went dark for a couple seconds, then power came back on.

— Mark Knoller (@markknoller) April 7, 2015

The power also went out at the Warner Theatre during Oprah Winfrey’s remarks at the Maya Angelou stamp event, according to ABC News’ John Parkinson.

Power went out at Warner Theatre during Oprah’s remarks at Maya Angelou stamp event; finished w/o mic; dark on stage.

— John R Parkinson (@jparkABC) April 7, 2015

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100-Year-Old Man Allegedly Kills 88-Year-Old Wife, Then Commits Suicide

iStock/Thinkstock(ELMWOOD PARK, N.J.) — A 100-year-old man is believed to have killed his 88-year-old wife overnight in New Jersey before killing himself, according to authorities.

Michael Juskin appeared to have killed his wife Rosalia with an ax while she slept, according to Bergen County Prosecutor John Molinelli, who tweeted about the case.

Authorities have yet to determine a motive for the apparent murder-suicide in Elmwood Park, which happened late Sunday, and was first reported by The Record.

Molinelli tweeted on Monday night that the Juskins had a “history of domestic issues.” The bodies were found early Monday after a relative who was not at the home at the time of the incident called police, The Record reported.

Elmwood Park Police Chief Michael Foligno told ABC News they have one record on incident for the couple from 2013. Foligno said it was a non-violent case of “domestic harassment,” but there were no arrests or restraining orders.

A family member reached by ABC News declined to comment saying she was “too distraught” to make a statement.

Neighbors said they saw the couple periodically outdoors, when Rosalia would be tending her garden and Michael would walk his dog. Neighbor Barbara Szczecina told The Record she last saw Rosalia sitting on her front porch at 10 a.m. Saturday.

“She used to be in her garden all the time,” Szczecina told the newspaper. “They were always together, putzing around outside.”

Michael Juskin may be one of the oldest people accused of homicide. In 2011, a 96-year-old woman became the oldest person charged with murder in Florida in the shooting of her nephew, 53. Two years later, authorities found her mentally incompetent to stand trial at 98 years old and dropped the second-degree murder charges against her.

A 98-year-old woman in Massachusetts was accused of strangling her nursing home roommate in 2009. Last year, it was ruled that the woman, who had long been diagnosed with dementia, was incompetent to stand trial at 102 years old.

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How Robert Durst Got Makeup Tips from Drag Performer in Texas

HBO(HOUSTON) — A man who performs in drag says Robert Durst asked him for makeup tips and fashion advice at a time when he was living in disguise as a mute woman, according to a new report.

The New York real estate heir has said he moved to Galveston, Texas, in 2001 to avoid publicity surrounding the reopening of the investigation into his first wife’s disappearance nearly two decades earlier. He has publicly described living in a $300-a-month boarding house in the coastal town, initially as a mute woman.

At the time, Durst gained attention for his less-than-subtle makeup and clothing choices, according to Claire Schuler, who performs in drag under the stage name CiCi Ryder.

“I mean, it was like blue eye shadow and red lipstick and that was it,” Schuler told ABC-owned station KTRK.

Durst is jailed in Louisiana after being arrested on murder charges in the 2000 slaying of his friend Susan Berman. He has not yet had to enter a plea in that case but his lawyer has said publicly that Durst is innocent. There is a status hearing scheduled for Tuesday to determine whether or not Durst should be extradited from Louisiana to California to face the murder charges. Durst also faces drug and weapons possession charges in Louisiana related to items found during his arrest in New Orleans in mid-March, and he has not entered a plea on those charges.

Back in 2000, Schuler said that he gave Durst “makeup tips and he used to give me $20 tips.”

“I felt bad for the guy. He wanted to know how to make his body look like this,” Schuler told KTRK, “and how to look like that in a dress and what dress to wear — how it conforms to your figure, to your shape. Do you wear hip pads? Butt pads? What do you use for bosoms, make everything look real. Because he really wanted to pass as a real woman.”

Durst’s attorney, Dick DeGuerin, told ABC News that while he did not know anything specifically about Schuler or any alleged relationship he had with Durst, he believes that Schuler is “just someone else wanting to cash in on the publicity” surrounding Durst’s case, adding that he has “bigger fish to fry.”

Durst has openly spoken about his time dressed in drag on a number of occasions. The first being when he was on trial for killing his Galveston neighbor, Morris Black, in 2001.

Black’s body was found dismembered and tossed in garbage bags in Galveston Bay. Durst was charged with murder, but acquitted based on his claims of self-defense.

Durst also detailed his use of wigs and adoption of a female identity during the DVD commentary to All Good Things, a 2011 movie that portrayed a fictionalized version of his life, and later in The Jinx, a 2015 documentary about Durst.

“I wore the wig for the first couple of weeks, but it’s a real inconvenience, pain in the tush,” Durst said on the DVD. “I don’t know how women do it with the hair in my mouth all of the time. I mean, jogging with it was absolutely impossible and, after a while, I just stopped doing it.”

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Thousands of Goldfish Threatening Colorado Lake’s Ecosystem

iStock/Thinkstock(BOULDER, Colo.) — Colorado wildlife officials say they believe someone dumped four to five pet goldfish in a Boulder lake about two years ago, and they have now multiplied to more than 3,000 to 4,000 fish.

Because the goldfish are a non-native species, they threaten Teller Lake #5’s entire aquatic ecosystem, Colorado Parks and Wildlife (CPW) spokeswoman Jennifer Churchill told ABC News on Tuesday.

“Dumping your pets into a lake could bring diseases to native animals and plants as well as out-compete them for resources,” Churchill said. “Everything can be affected. Non-native species can potentially wipe out the fishery as we’ve put it together.”

Fish that are native to the lake that are now being threatened by the invasive goldfish include channel catfish, blue gill fish and sun fish, Churchill said.

Wildlife officials are seeking information on anyone who may have released the goldfish into the lake, she said.

CPW is currently considering two solutions — electroshocking the fish or draining the lake.

“With electroshocking, you go in the boat and stun the fish to paralyze and collect them,” Churchill said, adding that the shock doesn’t kill the fish. “The fish could also be collected if the lake is drained.”

Either way, wildlife officials will likely take them to a raptor rehabilitation center, where the fish will be used for feeding, Churchill said.

Although a few residents have expressed interest in collecting the goldfish to keep them as pets, Churchill said she doesn’t want to encourage the practice.

“I’m going to talk to Boulder County, who owns the lake, to see what they think, but I don’t want to send the message that collecting fish for personal fun is okay,” Churchill said.

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Jury Deliberates Boston Marathon Bombing After ‘It Was Him’ Admission

FBI(BOSTON) — Ninety-six witnesses and nearly a month of dramatic court hearings later, the jury of seven women and five men on Tuesday enters its first day of deliberations in the case of accused Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev.

Judge George O’Toole greeted jurors on Tuesday and immediately sent them off to begin weighing 30 criminal counts. Before leaving, they had a chance to glimpse Tsarnaev one last time before weighing his guilt, as the defendant sat at the defense table in a dark shirt and jacket.

In closing arguments Monday, the prosecution attempted to paint Tsarnaev as a radical — a young man who would “lose himself” in pro-jihadi music, purposefully brought “battle” to Boston and then, just before he was captured, wrote an anti-American screed indicating the bombing was in response to the U.S. killing Muslims abroad.

“It was intentional, it was bloodthirsty, it was to make a point,” U.S. attorney Aloke Chakravarty told the court.

The defense stuck by what appeared at first to be an odd strategy: admitting Tsarnaev was responsible for the carnage that day in April 2013, but claiming that it was his older brother, the late Tamerlan Tsarnaev, who led Dzhokhar down the dark path and who shoulders more of the blame.

“There is no excuse. No one is trying to make one. Planting bombs at the Boston Marathon was a senseless act… We are not asking you to excuse the conduct, but let’s look at the varying roles,” defense attorney Judy Clarke said. “If not for Tamerlan, it [the bombing] wouldn’t have happened.”

Clarke stunned the court during opening statements in the trial last month when she flatly admitted, “it was him,” referring to her client’s responsibility for the death and destruction.

But at the time, legal analysts told ABC News that such a strategy, along with declining to aggressively cross-examine bombing victims or witnesses, was not designed to win this trial, but to avoid the death penalty for Tsarnaev should he be found guilty. Of the 30 counts Tsarnaev faces, 17 carry a potential death penalty punishment.

“Given the amount of evidence the government has, I would suggest it’s the only strategy,” Robert Bloom, a Boston College law professor, told ABC News last month. “I think their objective is to develop a rapport with the jury. They certainly don’t want to go and cross examine victims very hard. By developing a rapport with the jury, when their turn comes to talk about the death penalty phase of it, they will have a rapport with the same jurors that are hearing all this evidence.”

Charles Ogletree, professor of law at Harvard Law School, agreed.

“Their point is there’s no question that what he did was wrong, being involved in the marathon bombing, but they’re also saying that life imprisonment is enough punishment that would appropriate,” he said.

If Tsarnaev is found guilty of any of the death penalty-eligible counts, the trial will then move into a penalty phase, during which the same jurors will hear each side’s argument over whether Tsarnaev should face the ultimate punishment.

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NYPD Talks Suicidal Woman Out of Jumping Off Bridge

New York Police Department(NEW YORK) — The New York Police Department is lauding two detectives Tuesday who talked a 45-year-old Brooklyn woman out of jumping off a bridge and led rescue efforts to get her back to safety.

NYPD detectives Steven Stefanakos and Meghan Kinsella spent two hours at the Kosciuszko Bridge Monday afternoon talking to the woman, who was “on the outside of the bridge railing and standing on top of the side piping,” according to an NYPD news release.

Though the woman, who was “suicidal,” was not responsive at first, both officers “did not give up” and took turns talking to her and letting her know they were there to help, the NYPD said.

Kinsella said she was completely focused on the woman and tried to convince her they would be with her “every step of the way” no matter what.

“[Stefanakos] would talk, and I would talk,” she said. “I didn’t even realize I was there for two hours.”

Stefanakos said he was afraid she was going to jump because when he first started speaking, the woman let go of a wire she was holding and bent her knees.

“I told her, ‘I don’t know what is going on and what is happening with you, but give us a chance to talk to you,'” he said. Stefanakos then “mentioned the possibility of her having a family or children,” and she finally grabbed back onto the wire.

Kinsella then told the woman she was strong enough to get through the situation.

After two hours, the two detectives successfully persuaded the woman to come off the ledge and pulled her to safety, the NYPD said.

She was then transported to Elmhurst Hospital for treatment, the NYPD added.

“It’s a huge relief,” Stefanakos said. “It actually is euphoric because you made a difference in somebody’s life, right there and then.”

Kinella added that having empathy helped her resolve the crisis.

“I’m a mom,” she said, “so I just wanted to get her home safe with her family.”

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World’s Oldest Person for Six Days Dies

Photodisc/Thinkstock(CAMDEN, Ark.) — Gertrude Weaver didn’t get much of a chance to enjoy her distinction as the world’s oldest person.

Weaver, who was 116, died Monday due to complications from pneumonia at the facility where she was being cared for in Camden, Arkansas.

It was only last week that Weaver became the world’s oldest documented person, following the death of a 117-year woman in Japan.

Born on the 4th of July in 1898, Weaver said the secret to her long life was just being nice to people.

She got married in 1915 and had four kids.

With Weaver’s passing, 115-year-old Jeralean Talley of Inskter, Michigan, is now the world’s oldest known person.

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Southernmost New Jersey Beach Rated Best for Families

iStock Editorial/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) — Baseball season’s here! Can beach season be far behind?

As always, the beach is one of the top vacation destinations for U.S. families, and the website Family Vacation Critic is out with its annual report of the top beaches for parents and kids.

Coming in at number one is Cape May Beach, New Jersey’s southernmost shore community. The second-best beach for families is Carlsbad State Beach in Southern California.

Family Vacation Critic rated beach areas, not only for their aesthetic beauty but other features such as restaurants and entertainment.

Here are the rest of the best family beaches in the U.S.:

3. Crescent Beach — Block Island, RI
4. Fort De Soto Park — St. Petersburg, FL
5. Kings Beach — Lake Tahoe, CA
6. Lincoln City Beach — Lincoln City, OR
7. Manatee County Beach — Holmes Beach, FL
8. Ogunquit Beach — Ogunquit, ME
9. Rehoboth Beach — Rehoboth Beach, DE
10. Virginia Beach — Virginia Beach, VA

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