A Houston man has launched a unique court battle, claiming his twin sons resulted from his sperm being stolen and taken to a Houston fertility clinic without his knowledge, KPRC, NBC's Houston station, reported on Tuesday.
"Actually, I couldn't believe it could be done. I was very, very devastated," said Joe Pressil, a 36-year-old telecommunications manager.
"I couldn't believe that this fertility clinic could actually do this without my consent, or without my even being there," he told KPRC.
Pressil said he hadn't considered having a family, and his religious beliefs would never allow him to visit a fertility clinic or participate in any form of artificial insemination. Yet three months after he broke up with his girlfriend, she became pregnant with his sperm at the Advanced Fertility Center of Texas on the Katy Freeway near Beltway 8.
In his lawsuit, Pressil said he found out about the plot when a receipt arrived in the mail, listing him as the patient.
"Pressil was listed as the 'patient' on the receipt even though he had never been to (the clinic) nor ever sought treatment for male infertility," according to his lawsuit.
His ex-girlfriend gave birth to twin boys and then sued him for child support. She was granted that child support after blood tests confirmed Pressil was the father.
Pressil said his ex-girlfriend always claimed she was unable to have children due to a medical condition involving fibroids. He also said she claimed that her condition required a certain sort of condom be used during sex. Now, in hindsight, he said that seems suspicious.
"I did notice a little bit because she would take the condom and ask me to discard it. And usually, a male would discard their own property, but she would always take the condom and she would run off out of the room and I just didn't think anything of it. And I didn't think that anyone could use a condom and bring it to a clinic to get an in vitro," he said.
An attorney representing the Advanced Fertility Center and Omni-Med Laboratories, Danny Sheena, called the lawsuit "suspect" and "disingenuous."
U.S. service members stationed in Iraq and Afghanistan may be far from home on this holiday, but more than 270 dining facilities will serve them Thanksgiving dinner in the war zones.
There are approximately 97,000 U.S. troops in Afghanistan and about 18,000 in Iraq, although hundreds of U.S. troops are leaving Iraq every day. State Department civilians in both countries also will partake of the traditional holiday meal being prepared by the military.
To feed those thousands of troops and Department of Defense civilians, the military has shipped:
168,000 lbs. of turkey
37,800 lbs. of stuffing
93,876 lbs. of beef
43,560 lbs. of sweet potatoes
24,000 lbs. of shrimp
25,800 lbs. of cranberry sauce
"America’s military is a special group of heroic men and women who continually make sacrifices for our freedom," Navy Rear Adm. David Baucom, Defense Logistics Agency Troop Support commander, said in an article posted on its website. "It is our duty and covenant to show our gratitude by providing them the very best our country has to offer for the holidays."
Also offering thanks to troops through their words were:
Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and Sgt. Maj. Bryan Battaglia, senior enlisted adviser to the chairman: "This year, we give special thanks to you in uniform who serve our nation. We are truly blessed by your service. ... America faces grave economic challenges, and we want you to know that we are working with our nation's leaders to address those challenges. We will remain the best military in the world, and we will keep faith with you, your families, and our veterans."
Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta: "For the past 10 Thanksgivings, our nation has been at war. For 10 Thanksgivings, our troops have been deployed to the battle zones and around the world, defending our freedom and putting their lives on the line. We are thankful for your service and for your steadfast commitment to keeping all of us safe. Our thoughts and prayers will also be with your families, whose love, support and sacrifice are essential to your success. I know that this can be a difficult time for service members and their loved ones who must spend it apart from each other. To those deployed away from home, and to their families: You are making a real difference every day and keeping our country strong and safe."
A 74-year-old Pennsylvania woman is crediting her 14-year-old neighbor with saving her from a burning house -- by using a rickety ladder.
"I'm grateful to be alive," said Charlene McMasters from her hospital bed on Wednesday. "It was quite an ordeal."
New Castle Assistant Fire Chief David Joseph commended Justin Ritchie's quick thinking, calling the hero "humble and quiet."
"Even when he was telling me about it, he was shaken and rattled," Joseph said, adding, "The more I listened to the story unfold, the better it got."
Attempts by msnbc.com to contact Ritchie were unsuccessful Wednesday.
Joseph said the incident happened about 5:30 a.m. on Tuesday, when a fire broke out on the first floor of McMasters' two-story home in western Pennsylvania. Fire officials still do not know what caused the blaze that destroyed her home.
"I don't know what it was, but I remember something woke me up," McMasters said. "I noticed smoke and I rushed to get my handbag and I went to the window and screamed and screamed."
Ritchie told Joseph he woke up to his dog barking and then heard a woman shouting.
"He went out and saw this woman hanging out of the window... It was Charlene and her house was on fire," Joseph said.
Ritchie spotted an old wooden ladder that had been abandoned next to McMasters' house and made a dash to the house. The teen set it against the burning structure, warning McMasters that her escape route was unstable and rickety, Joseph said.
McMasters said she didn't care. She took two steps down and the ladder broke.
"I came crashing down and fell a long way," she said.
McMasters said she suffered broken ribs from the 10-foot fall, but that was OK. She was being released from the hospital Wednesday afternoon and planned to spend Thanksgiving Day with her children at their homes in Pennsylvania.
"I got a walker, a good therapy session and I will heal," McMasters said.
"I can't thank this young man enough. I don't know what would have happened had he not come to my rescue."
A man in upstate New York was hunting deer on his property on Monday when an errant shot flew through the front door of a school bus loaded with kids and stuck in the metal roof behind the driver, the Buffalo News reported.
The hunter, identified as William Squires, 58, turned himself into Conewango authorities on Tuesday, the newspaper reported on its website.
No one was injured, according to the report. Squires was charged with criminal mischief, reckless endangerment and illegal discharge of a firearm, all misdemeanors.
The Drug Enforcement Agency announced they've worked with other federal agencies to arrest a Ghana man who they say has been instrumental in that drug pipeline.
Edmund Darkwah, an airport security supervisor at the Kokota International Airport in Ghana, was taken into custody by law enforcement in Ghana for the investigation.
U.S. investigators say Darkwah took $2,000 bribes to let heroin-carrying couriers slip through security at his Ghanan airport. The DEA says the couriers received $15,000 to smuggle quantities of heroin into the United States, often hidden in carry-on luggage or in wigs.
Darkwah faces charges on heroin distribution and conspiracy to import heroin, which carry maximum sentences of life in prison. Four others arrested in the investigation have already been extradited from Ghana to the United States.
You wouldn't think a one-letter typo would make a huge difference, but in an election it apparently does.
In Derby, James J. Butler received 1,526 votes in the race for the Board of Apportionment and Taxation Nov. 8. In fact, he got more votes than anyone else running for election to the 10-member board.
The problem? James J. Butler wasn't running, but his father, James R. Butler, who campaigned for the position. But because of a typo on the ballot, it's the younger Butler who was officially elected to the office.
The Democratic Town Committee nominated James R. Butler, and its members are now trying to figure out what to do, with the Dec. 3 swearing-in ceremony quickly approaching.
"I was the one they nominated. My son wants nothing to do with this," James R. Butler told the Connecticut Post Tuesday. The older Butler noticed the error on the ballot when he voted, the paper reported.
To add to the confusion, both father and son live on Prindle Avenue, and both share the same birthday.
A spokesperson for the Secretary of State's Office, which oversees elections in Connecticut, said no one in the office has ever heard of an error like this ever happening. But Av Harris said the voters elected James J. Butler, and it will be up to the Democratic Town Committee to sort out the problem.
The town has a couple of options, including swearing in James J. Butler, then having him resign, and Democrats could appoint his father to replace him. The other would be to not swear in anyone, and allow the position to remain vacant.
The Democratic Town Committee executive committee will meet Friday to figure out what to do, according to the Connecticut Post.
A sign stands at one of several entrances to the Occupy Portland camp in Portland, Ore., Tuesday, Oct. 18, 2011.
By Miranda Leitsinger, Staff Writer, NBC News
Looking for an alternative to frenzied shopping malls and packed commercial districts on Black Friday?
A few outfits are calling for some anti-consumer actions on one of the busiest shopping days of the year.
One is from Adbusters, the Canadian magazine that launched the initial call for people to Occupy Wall Street.
This time, their mission is to shut down Black Friday shopping in what they’re calling a “Buy Nothing Day.”
It’s not the first one – this is the 20th Buy Nothing Day – but it is the first since “Occupy” camps sprang up across the globe, starting with the flagship one in New York City on Sept. 17.
“Historically, Buy Nothing Day has been about fasting from hyper consumerism -– a break from the cash register and reflecting on how dependent we really are on conspicuous consumption. On this 20th anniversary of Buy Nothing Day, we take it to the next level, marrying it with the message of #occupy…We #OCCUPYXMAS,” the not-for-profit publication wrote on its blog.
Adbusters proposes putting "the brakes on rabid consumerism" through “flash mobs, consumer fasts, mall sit-ins, community events" and other attention-getting or disruptive activities. "We don’t camp on the sidewalk for a reduced price tag on a flat screen TV or psycho-killer video game," it said. "Instead, we occupy the very paradigm that is fueling our eco, social and political decline.”
Responses to the call were mixed.
One tweeter, Penney K. Dollar, who identified herself as an entrepreneur living in Las Vegas, wrote: “Dear #occupyxmas please amend that to only shop locally owned/run businesses. We struggle enough as it is.”
“Hit the 1% where it hurts -- in their wallet. They will listen quite closely then,” a statement on the site reads, providing a list of “large chain stores” and “publicly traded retail” it recommends that consumers boycott. “If you must spend, spend locally.”
It also notes: “Occupy Black Friday will not stop the magic of the holiday season for you or your families. You will still be able to get the things that you need to get in plenty of time to give them to the people that you love.”
Occupy Wall Street was arranging its own anti-Black Friday event, with what it called a day of non-action, "Don't Occupy Walmart."
Describing the company as "one of the worst offenders on Main Street today," organizers said they supported Walmart employees but not practices it deemed as perpetuating "an unsustainable system that undercuts its own workers and crowds out business competition unfairly."
"We ask on this day that all Occupations, and all those who stand with the 99% in solidarity, refrain from purchasing anything from WalMart on Black Friday this year ... on this day we ask quite simply: Just. Don't. Go."
Do you plan to shop on Black Friday? Leave a comment below.
Lee Evans, seen on Nov. 15, in Newark, N.J., was charged with murdering five teenagers more than 30 years ago.
NEWARK, N.J. - A New Jersey man on Wednesday was acquitted of locking five teenagers in an abandoned home in 1978 and burning them to death in retaliation for stealing marijuana, ending a case that went cold until 2008 because no bodies were ever found.
A jury in Newark found Lee Evans not guilty of 10 murder-related counts in the deaths of the teens.
Evans represented himself and denied killing the boys.
Prosecutors sought to prove that Evans planned to kill the teenagers as payback for breaking into his apartment and stealing a pound of marijuana a week before they vanished. Evans, who ran a handyman business, often hired the teens for odd jobs and paid them in marijuana, prosecutors said.
The case largely hinged on the prosecution's star witness, Evans' cousin Philander Hampton, who agreed to testify after pleading guilty in exchange for a 10-year prison sentence and $15,000 in relocation money. It was Hampton's comments to authorities in 2008 that helped revive the long-dormant case.
Hampton testified that Evans was angry about the marijuana theft and was bent on retaliation. Hampton said he helped Evans lure the teens to a vacant Newark house after asking them to help move some boxes but then herded them into a closet and secured the door with a 6-inch nail. He said Evans poured gasoline around the perimeter, demanded that Hampton give him a match and set the house ablaze.
Boys reported missing; bodies never found The bodies of 17-year-olds Melvin Pittman and Ernest Taylor and 16-year-olds Alvin Turner, Randy Johnson and Michael McDowell were never found. The boys were reported missing after the fire, and authorities at the time never connected the two events or examined the fire site as a crime scene.
The case, originally classified as a missing-persons case, went cold for decades until a pair of Newark detectives on the cusp of retirement decided to rework it as an unsolved homicide.
Several family members of the missing teenagers, many of whom attended every day of Evans' trial, said they had long believed Evans had killed their loved ones.
Evans and the attorney assisting him, Bukie Adetula, said the scenario to which Hampton testified would have been impossible and pointed out Hampton's criminal record and inconsistencies in his testimony.
Evans said he had lived and worked openly in the same community near Newark in the bordering city of Irvington, where many of the victims' families lived, and emphasized that fact as proof that he had nothing to hide.
Houston-area residents have to wonder if they'll be next after a teen who was standing on a street corner was swallowed by a sinkhole that opened suddenly when an underground water main burst.
Giovanni Long, 16, told khou.com that he fell several feet and was under water for about 15 seconds as he tried to claw his way out of a hole 6 feet deep and 10 feet wide as he was walking in Kleinwood, a suburb northwest of downtown Houston.
"Everything beneath me crumbled," he told the website after the Monday afternoon incident. "I didn't know what to do."
"I was trying to dig my way out of the hole, but the ground kept breaking back into me," added Long, who finally got out with a few scratches on his back and a sprained ankle. "It's funny now that I think about it ... but when it happened, it was actually scary."
Why the 12-inch water line broke wasn't determined, but it's possible that recent rain after months of drought caused the ground to shift.
An ad agency faced backlash over a controversial billboard over the West Side Highway.
NEW YORK -- A controversial billboard over the West Side Highway advertising Wodka brand vodka was taken down after NBC New York's inquiries to the company about its questionable messaging.
The billboard showed a Chihuahua dog in a Santa hat and a Russian wolfhound dog in a yarmulke. "Christmas Quality, Hanukkah Pricing," the text read.
An NBC New York viewer emailed the newsroom about the ad, saying she was "appalled" and that she wanted what she considered the anti-Semitic ad removed.
The Anti-Defamation League weighed in on its website Tuesday after hearing about the billboard, labeling it "cruel and offensive," and said it reinforced anti-Semitic stereotypes.
Representatives of Wodka Vodka told NBC New York the billboards were made specifically for New York City. "We were celebrating Hanukkah as a great value," said James Dale, explaining the holiday has eight days while Christmas has just one.
Shu D-Jong, a second company representative who met with NBC New York in the Midtown offices of its distributor, said some of the company partners are Jewish and that the ad is "consistent with previous marketing."
Protesters have been in the park around the clock since early November but Mayor Joe Riley declared on Monday they would no longer be allowed to stay after 11 p.m.
More than two dozen protesters remained there on Monday night with sleeping bags, and police allowed them to remain, but those who tried to spend Tuesday night there were arrested.
According to the group’s Facebook page, 11 were arrested in total although this could not be confirmed with the Charleston police department, which was unavailable for comment.
WCBD said protesters came face to face with members of the city council and local residents opposed to the park occupation at a meeting at City Hall on Tuesday night.
It reported that Occupy Charleston promised to occupy City Hall, sidewalks, streets and other venues if removed from the park.
“The people's voice will be heard. there will be an occupation, many occupations,” they told city council.
Others at the meeting expressed frustration about the protest.
“I’m not going to sit around with my head in the sand and whine about entitlement, when I’m out there trying to do it, I'm that kind of person,” one man said. “If they were like that, they wouldn't be occupying.”
"I'm participating in a peaceful assembly, I am practicing my First Amendment right and if they choose to arrest me then that's something I'm going to have to fight later on, so no I'm not scared," Jessica Dugan told WCBD from Marion Square on Tuesday night. "This is the power of the people, this is a global revolution and it's happening now."
Among those in the park earlier on Tuesday was Krystal Wernicke of North Charleston, according to the Post and Courier which said she held a hand-lettered poster board sign with the message, “If they enforced bank regulation like they do park rules we wouldn’t be in this mess — 99 percent.”
By Alastair Jamieson, msnbc.com. The Associated Press and NBC affiliate WCBD Charleston, SC contributed to this report.
Sam Mullet, father of two of the three men arrested for allegedly going into the home of another Amish man and cutting his hair and beard, talks outside his home in Bergholz, Ohio on October.
By The Associated Press
BERGHOLZ, Ohio - Authorities raided the compound of a breakaway Amish group in eastern Ohio on Wednesday morning and arrested seven men on federal hate crime charges in hair-cutting attacks against Amish men and women.
Among those arrested were the group's leader, Sam Mullet, and three of his sons, said Mike Tobin, a spokesman for the U.S. attorney's office in Cleveland.
Authorities have said several members of the group carried out the attacks in September and October by forcefully cutting the beards and hair of Amish men and women. Cutting the hair is a highly offensive act to the Amish, who believe the Bible instructs women to let their hair grow long and men to grow beards and stop shaving once they marry.
The attacks struck at the core of the Amish identity and tested their principles. They strongly believe that they must be forgiving in order for God to forgive them, which often means handing out their own punishment and not reporting crimes to law enforcement.
Mullet told The Associated Press in October that he didn't order the hair-cutting but didn't stop his sons and others from carrying it out. He said the goal of the hair-cutting was to send a message to Amish in Holmes County that they should be ashamed of themselves for the way they were treating Mullet and his community.
"They changed the rulings of our church here, and they're trying to force their way down our throat, make us do like they want us to do, and we're not going to do that," Mullet said.
Those arrested were in custody and expected to be arraigned Wednesday. They include Mullet and sons Johnny, Lester and Daniel, Tobin said.
Authorities also were planning to hold a news conference Wednesday afternoon to explain why they charged the men with hate crimes, Tobin said.
CIUDAD JUAREZ, MEXICO and EL PASO, TEXAS – Twice a week in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico, Araceli Duran closes the small store she operates from her home and heads to what she considers “her other job.”
“The economy is really bad,” she said. “One job is not enough to feed a family.” For Duran a single mother of four, her other “job” is not in Ciudad Juarez, but over the U.S.-Mexican border in El Paso, Texas.
After a three-hour journey by foot and bus, she arrives at the Talecris Plasma Center in El Paso, Texas where she and thousands of others, including Americans, legally sell the plasma in their blood.
Plasma is the protein-packed liquid portion of the blood, it is mostly water, but also contains proteins that protect the body from infection and clot blood to control bleeding. Plasma is used in medical therapies to treat life-threatening conditions such as hemophilia, immune deficiencies and other blood disorders.
Due to its medicinal benefits, there is big business in both buying and selling plasma.
"It helps paying bills,” said Texas- born David Salas as he recently left a plasma center in El Paso. He said he has been earning $220 a month for the past year selling his blood. And there are big companies buying it.
Big blood business Grifols, a Spanish blood products firm, is the third-biggest supplier of plasma products in the world and has over 147 centers across the U.S. Earlier this year, Grifols expanded its reach with the purchase of Talecris, a network of 69 plasma collection centers across the U.S. Almost 40 of Grifol’s plasma centers are in states bordering Mexico; including four in El Paso that are run by Talecris, just blocks from Ciudad Juarez, Mexico.
At a diner near one of those centers, ads in a local flyer promise $130 to potential donors and extended hours of operation to help lure potential clients to sell their plasma.
Business is booming, according to a Talecris patient coordinator who did not want to be identified. Wearing a blue Talecris uniform, she said plasma bank handles around 1,500 donors per week and that “30 to 40 percent [of the donors] come from Mexico.” She added that their goal is to have up to 1,800 donors per week.
Grifols spokeswoman Dr. Marilyn Rosa-Bray said that safety for the donors and the plasma are one of the companies’ top concerns. “It is a priority for us to make sure that the donor is healthy, that the donor is safe when they go through the process because its part of the circle to make sure that the product is safe,” said Rosa-Bray. She added that the donated plasma undergoes rigorous testing to insure it’s safety.
Few options After hours of waiting in line at the border, Duran, who has a visitor’s visa to legally enter the U.S. for the next eight years, finally made it to the plasma bank. Like hundreds of others, she spent 90 minutes hooked to a plasma machine while she donated and then returned home to Mexico when she was done.
“I can’t get used to this ...If I had a job I would not do it,” said Duran. “But we have no other choice.” She has been making around $65 a week for the past two years.
She said she donates her plasma twice a week – the maximum permitted by U.S. law. “I feel fine, I even gained some weight since they tell you to eat more,” she said.
Duran’s take home pay of $65 a week for two donations is the average pay – although rates vary depending on the center. And some centers, like Talecris, offer “bonuses” for new donors, as well as old donors who recruit new donors.
Outside another plasma center in El Paso, Lluvia Soto counted her money.
“This means, I will be able to buy food for my children in Juarez,” she said, adding that she makes more money donating plasma here than working full-time as a teacher back home in Mexico.
Although the practice of buying and selling human plasma is legal and regulated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, the plasma for money business is stirring controversy on both sides of the border.
“What I am concerned about is the donors’ losing their own body defenses, they might be losing coagulation factor,” said Dora Meraz, Professor of Clinical Chemistry at the University of Texas in El Paso. She was referring to the fact that plasma helps form blood clots – which are critical to prevent excessive bleeding. She added that she was concerned about possible side effects on individuals if they do not eat or drink enough fluids after donating their plasma.
“It is a violation of human rights, it may be legal, but it is immoral,” said Elizabeth Flores, an attorney for the Diocese of Juarez in Mexico who runs La Pastoral Obrera, a church funded social assistance agency. She believes people should have the right to work to provide for one’s family, without being reduced to selling their blood to eat. But because of the violence of the drug war in Mexico and the damage it has done to the local economy, “people have no choice,” Flores said.
And the once-thriving industrial city of Ciudad Juarez has taken a major economic hit as a result of both the U.S. recession and violence of the war on drugs – city officials estimate that it has lost as many as 120,000 jobs as factories and businesses have moved away.
“People should not have to survive by donating their plasma” says Flores.
As Duran made the dangerous trip back home she told us that just the night before a shootout between rival drug gangs left six people dead just blocks from her house. “I am always afraid to step out,” she said.
Grateful recipient But what probably she doesn’t know is that 3,000 miles away in Miami, Florida someone appreciates her effort.
Bob Campbell is a spokesperson for the Alpha 1 Foundation , a plasma-patient advocacy group that receives charitable contributions from Grifols. He suffers from genetic emphysema and says that weekly plasma therapies have stopped the degeneration of his lungs.
“I tell [the donors] I appreciate it. I know it’s time-consuming, I know they need the money. And it is not just ‘like taking the bus,’” said Campbell referring to the dangerous journey these donors must undertake to reach donation centers in the U.S.
“I appreciate the fact that plasma supply is available and it would not be unless people would be willing to donate,” said Campbell.
President Obama pardons the national Thanksgiving turkey, a 19-week-old, 45-pound bird named Liberty.
By Domenico Montanaro, NBC News
President Harry Truman is often cited, incorrectly, as the first president to pardon a Thanksgiving turkey. (Just Google first president to pardon a turkey and see how many wiki Truman answers you get.)
Adding to the confusion, President Bill Clinton claimed on Nov. 26, 1997 at his pardoning ceremony: "President Truman was the first President to pardon a turkey."
But the Truman Library wrote in 2003: "The Library's staff has found no documents, speeches, newspaper clippings, photographs, or other contemporary records in our holdings which refer to Truman pardoning a turkey that he received as a gift in 1947, or at any other time during his Presidency."
In fact, "Truman sometimes indicated to reporters that the turkeys he received were destined for the family dinner table," the library wrote.
It appears that Abraham Lincoln, in a way, was the first to spare a turkey. But it wasn't a Thanksgiving turkey. It was a Christmas turkey his son had taken for a pet.
Clinton in that same speech: "[T]he tradition actually began 83 years earlier when President Lincoln received a turkey for Christmas holiday. His son, Tad, grew so attached to the turkey that he named him 'Jack,' and President Lincoln had no choice but to give Jack the full run of the White House." President George W. Bush made reference to the same story in his pardoning ceremony in 2001.
So which president was the first to actually pardon a Thanksgiving turkey?
It appears it was John F. Kennedy in 1963. An NBC News archive search found a Los Angeles Times article dated Nov. 20, 1963 with the headline, "Turkey gets presidential pardon."
And that turkey was a monster. The paper described it as a "55-pound broad white tom." Despite a sign hanging around the bird's neck that read "Good eating, Mr. President," Kennedy took a look down at the "frightened, panting bird" and said, "We'll just let this one grow."
By the way, if you were a pardoned what would you do next? This year’s free birds are two 45-pounders from Minnesota named Liberty and Peace and they’re headed to Mount Vernon, Va., to delight tourists at a special Christmas program running at the historic home of George Washington. Once the holidays are over, they’ll live at Mount Vernon in a custom enclosure.
This post is adapted and updated from a 2009 piece by Domenico Montanaro.
A truck loaded with driveway sealant sprung a leak Tuesday and coated part of the Pennsylvania turnpike with a thick tar over a 40-mile stretch. NBC's Savannah Guthrie reports.
By msnbc.com's Elizabeth Chuck and The Associated Press
More than 150 cars were disabled and countless others damaged after a tanker truck spilled sticky goo along nearly 40 miles on the Pennsylvania Turnpike Tuesday night, officials said.
A leaking valve on the tanker, which was transporting liquid driveway sealant, caused black tar-like fluid to flood the highway, stopping motorists in their tracks as their wheels and undercarriages became mired in sludge.
The tanker began leaking near New Castle, Pa., and continued to spill sealant as it drove eastbound for 39 miles until it exited the turnpike at a service plaza in Oakmont, Turnpike spokesman Bill Capone said. The driver was not aware until getting off the turnpike that the tanker was leaking, Capone told WTAE.com.
Laura Frick was driving from Cleveland to New Jersey for Thanksgiving when the tar decimated her tires.
“Now we have to turn around and go back home,” she told WTAE.com. “It’s horrible … Who’s going to pay for all of this?”
Turnpike officials didn’t have estimates of how much damage had been caused. They said 150 or more cars were disabled, including some state police and turnpike maintenance vehicles that had to be towed away after getting stuck, reported The Associated Press.
The tractor-trailer, owned by Marino Transportation Services, was hauling between 4,000 and 5,000 gallons of sealant when it got onto the rainy turnpike at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday night, Todd Leiss, an officer at the Turnpike Operations Center, told Pennsylvania’s Beaver County Times. State police said it appears the seal broke on the truck’s valve, but didn’t provide any more information into the cause of the spill.
A call to Stevensville, Md.-based Marino Transportation Services from msnbc.com on Wednesday morning was not returned.
Maintenance crews used sand to collect the goop and pushed it the shoulder with snow plows, but all lanes remained open to traffic Tuesday night, according to the Beaver County Times.
Bob King, a firefighter from Illinois traveling through Pennsylvania whose red Dodge Durango turned black from tar on Tuesday, told The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, “I drove down the shoulder of the road, scared to death to stop because I didn't want anyone running into me. Cars were sliding everywhere. I'm glad I have four-wheel drive.”
While state police fielded calls from hundreds of motorists, they did not receive any reports of wrecks, the Tribune-Review reported.
Turnpike officials didn’t have estimates of how much damage had been caused, but were directing travelers to file incident reports through its customer assistance center at (800) 331-3414,
Companies have sprouted up to create website and content management systems for religious organizations, like Digital Faith Community of Decatur, Ga. It has an app for that.
By M. Alex Johnson, NBC News
In April, some U.S. Catholics began receiving a warning in their bulletins when they showed up for Mass.
“The latest danger lies in a new communication device: social media (Myspace, Facebook, etc.),” said one version of the message. It convicted social media sites of a multitude of sins:
Encouraging dishonesty: “Users can construct their public profile, and are encouraged to fake things.”
Promoting “impurity”: “Initials known only to avid users are common, e.g., GYPO — get your pants off — which is, as you can imagine, one of the more 'innocent' ones out there.”
Destroying “parental authority”: “Parents lose total control over children and teens, ignore totally what they do and say, who they talk to, and where they are going!”
Fostering narcissism and isolation: “You make your own world and your own image to show off, for self-glorification, to feed vanity, and offer yourself an alternate reality.”
It concluded: “God entrusted our parents with the care of children for one particular purpose, and that is to teach them the way to know, love, and serve God in this life and save their souls hereafter. Everything leads us to think that Facebook fits poorly into this plan and was devised for a very different goal.”
It's not known how many parishes reprinted the message, which didn't come from the Catholic Church — it spread virally on the Internet after it was issued in March by the Society of St. Pius X, an ultra-traditional Catholic organization whose ministry isn't recognized as legitimate by the Vatican.
The message, in fact, runs counter to the church's approach to the Internet and social media, an arena in which it has been “one of the first innovators,” said Heidi Campbell, an associate professor of communication at Texas A&M University who specializes in the intersection of new media, religion and culture.
In fact, the Catholic Church has a long history of being an early adopter of new forms of media, going back to the 1920s, when Catholic priests pioneered radio evangelism, Campbell said.
At the same time, other religious institutions, especially traditional U.S. Protestant denominations, are still sorting through the challenges as well as the opportunities posed by the Internet, and particularly social media, according to church leaders and administrators.
“I think there's a lot of groups trying to figure it out,” said John Davidson, a fundraising and ministry consultant for churchextension.org, which supports the ministry of the Christian Church-Disciples of Christ.
By contrast, Campbell said, the Vatican — which fired up its first official website almost 20 years ago — has both a “very strong theological and technical infrastructure.” While it may be “counterintuitive from a hierarchical institution” like the Catholic Church, she said, “if new media will help them get the word out and do mission work, they'll do it.”
“I always look at the Catholics first, even though you wouldn't expect that,” said Campbell, who is completing work on "Digital Religion: Understanding Religious Practice in New Media Worlds" for publication next year.
The limiting power of tradition While most churches have websites and nearly every denomination has some form of social media outreach, few have been able to match the Catholics' progress online.
“You see common themes — there's a paradigm that still exists and lives in the 1950s,” Davidson said. “Status quo and tradition can be good things, but they really do limit the ability to adapt quickly.”
As members of Generation Y and the so-called Millennials — who grew up with technology — become more influential in various religions, they are increasingly talking to one another online, outside of the structures of traditional religious institutions, whose pastors “may not be present in the communication at all,” he said.
“Most of the mainline churches (are) unaware that it happens,” he said, because “they're uncomfortable with using that kind of technology.”
As a result, while a church may have a rudimentary web page, its leaders “may not have thought about search engine optimization or how all of the social media needs to point back to that page.”
Instead, they're always one web generation behind: “'Everyone's on Facebook, so we need to be on Facebook.' But they don't think about how they should use that.
“They push out (static) content, but then an issue comes up in the congregation and all of a sudden you see people fighting one another saying a lot of hurtful stuff online. As a leadership group, they don't have the ability to recognize that they need to be present in these conversations to dispel rumors, myths, to do some crisis management,” he said.
“Whether you're there or not, the conversation's happening,” he said.
'Many to many' vs. 'one to many' LifeChurch.tv of Edmond, Okla., is definitely there, live-streaming services to 14 church locations in five states and to millions of other followers around the world, who interact with one another and with church staff in robust live chats.
A LifeChurch.tv producer explains how the church's state-of-the-art video operation is run.
In user discussions on LifeChurch sites, “you'll find a lot of things that are said good and bad about our church,” said the Rev. Bobby Gruenewald, a former technology entrepreneur who is the “innovation leader” at the organization, which was founded in 1995 by the Rev. Craig Groeschel and is affiliated with the Evangelical Covenant Church.
Overall, “the benefits are numerous,” Gruenewald said. “People are able to have a dialogue instead of just hearing a lecture.”
That's what makes LifeChurch work, but it's also what makes traditional church leaders uncomfortable.
Online communities are “more relational” than the traditional church model of communication, which is “viewed by a lot of churches as non-relational,” he said. That is, it seeks only to “connect people with content” through sermons and church bulletins.
That's because older leaders and more traditional churches view technology as an either/or — “as an amazing opportunity or an amazing evil,” he said.
“I think that's a total mistake,” said Gruenewald, whom Fast Company identified as one of its “100 Most Creative People in Business” this year. LifeChurch views technology as “something amoral that can be used for good and can be used for evil.”
The idea at LifeChurch, he said, is to use it for good to “connect people with people.”
Campbell, the Texas A&M professor, said that embracing that philosophy is a hallmark of effective religious communication online.
“In old media, it was a one-to-many communication system,” while the new media and digital culture is “a many-to-many form of communication,” she said.
But with that freedom comes what some religious institutions see as a loss of control.
“For religious communities that might want to constrain or have gatekeepers to their message, the Internet allows many people to bypass that gatekeeper,” Campbell said. While you can get your message out to exponentially more people, “You can't always monitor the message.”
Gruenewald acknowledged the challenge of figuring out “how do people filter and give credibility” to a cascade of religious information online, but he said that with “like anything that's new, this is a challenge with the Internet and technology in general.”
“It's only problematic if a church expects to control the conversation that's taking place about the church” — something “we don’t spend a lot of energy on,” he said.
By engaging widely online, “you have some context in which you can influence the conversation,” he said, echoing Davidson's point that whether you're involved or not, that conversation is going to happen regardless on Twitter or on Facebook.
“It can be a drawback,” he said, “but I think it's more of a reflection of the opportunity. ...
“If you define the platform, you can lead people to come and meet you there.”
Alex Johnson is a news and technology reporter for msnbc.com. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook.
By The Associated Press WALL TOWNSHIP, N.J. - Authorities are looking for the father of a New Jersey toddler who was found dead in her car seat, partially submerged in a stream.
Two-year-old Tierra Morgan lived in Lakehurst with her mother and was having a court-approved visit with her father Monday, but he never brought her back.
The Monmouth County Prosecutor's Office says Arthur Morgan III is wanted for questioning in his daughter's death. She was found still strapped into her car seat in a park stream Tuesday afternoon in Wall Township, about 20 miles away.
The toddler was discovered by children playing in Shark River Park. They notified park rangers, who called police.
A warrant charging Morgan with child endangerment was issued before the girl's body was found. An autopsy is to be done Wednesday morning.
New claims for jobless benefits rose for the first time after two months of steady declines, but the increase was slight, was within expectations and claims remained below the key 400,000 mark, government data showed Wednesday.
Meanwhile, consumer spending rose a notch in October even though incomes increased by a faster pace. And orders for long-lasting products such as washing machines, automobiles and aircraft fell for the second straight month in October.
In all, it was a mixed bag of reports for the economy, which has been showing signs of speeding up of late. On Tuesday, the government reported that the economy grew at a 2.0 percent pace in the third quarter, down from an initial estimate of 2.5 percent. Despite the decline, there were signs in the GDP report that bode well for fourth-quarter growth. In particular, a decline in inventories in the July-September quarter could mean businesses will have to rebuild inventories in the fourth quarter, which, in turn, could propel growth.
That could help the country avoid a recession, which is expected in the euro zone. But economists still see a risk of a U.S. recession next year, especially if lawmakers allow extended unemployment benefits and a payroll tax cut to expire at the end of 2011.
Initial claims for state unemployment benefits climbed to a seasonally adjusted 393,000 from an upwardly revised 391,000 in the prior week, the Labor Department said. Economists polled by Reuters had forecast claims rising to 390,000 from the previously reported 388,000. The four-week moving average of claims, considered a better measure of labor market trends, fell 3,250 to 394,250, the lowest since April.
The Commerce Department said orders for durable goods fell 0.7 percent in January following a September decline of 1.5 percent. Orders for core capital goods, considered a good proxy for business investment spending, dropped 1.8 percent, the biggest decline since a 4.8 percent fall in January. Manufacturing has been one of the strongest sectors in the economy in this sub-par recovery, but this sector slowed this year as consumer demand faltered and auto factories had trouble getting parts following the March natural disasters in Japan.
The Commerce Department also reported that spending increased 0.1 percent last month, the poorest gain in four months. But incomes increased 0.4 percent, the best showing since March. Private wages and salaries drove the income gain.
Reuters and The Associated Press contributed to this report.
CNBC's Rick Santelli & Steve Liesman take a look at the personal income data from October ad the weekly jobless claims, up 2,000.
The rough economy and high fuel prices have forced airlines to cut back on the number of crews and planes in service at any given time, and that means packed flights for Thanksgiving travelers. NBC's Tom Costello reports.
By msnbc.com and Associated Press
Higher gas prices and costlier airfare are not stopping millions of people from traveling this Thanksgiving.
But even those who stay at home may be forced to scale back their celebrations because of higher food costs, with some saying they will skip on traditional turkey to save cash.
A 16-pound turkey and all the trimmings will cost an average of $49.20, a 13 percent jump from last year, or about $5.73 more, according to the American Farm Bureau Federation, which says grocers have raised prices to keep pace with higher-priced commodities.
Drivers will pay almost 20 percent more for gas, which has reached an average of $3.42 a gallon, and air travelers will get hit, too.
The average round-trip airfare for the top 40 U.S. routes is $212, up 20 percent from last year. Rail tickets on most one-way Amtrak trips have climbed 2 to 5 percent.
About 42.5 million people are expected to drive, fly or ride trains to their Thanksgiving destinations, according to AAA. That's the highest number since the start of the recession, showing that Americans are willing to travel to their families even while household budgets are tight.
Those that fly were also at the mercy of the weather on Wednesday, with the East Coast expecting rain and scattered thunderstorms. Parts of upstate New York and upper New England could see a mix of snow and freezing rain.
Airlines are cautioning passengers from New York to Philadelphia, Hartford and Boston, to expect significant delays on this busiest travel day of the year.
J Pat Carter / AP
Victoria Puerto waits for her flight at the Miami International Airport in Miami, Tuesday, Nov. 22. (AP Photo/J Pat Carter)
The National Weather Service predicted showers in the Pacific Northwest and northern California as well.
George Gorham and his fiance, Patricia Horner, weren't deterred. They flew across the country on Tuesday to visit Gorham's son at North Carolina's Fort Bragg. They used frequent-flier miles and planned to visit tourist attractions in the nation's capital along the way.
Horner said they still would have made the trip without the miles, but "it would have been more painful."
Plenty of people were staying home.
Stew Milne / AP
Jackie Galinis looks in her refrigerator and freezer to figure out what she can make for a Thanksgiving meal at her home in Pawtucket, R.I., Wednesday, Nov. 22. (AP Photo/Stew Milne)
Damian Buchwald of Buffalo, N.Y., picked up a second job earlier this year. His new work schedule has helped pay the bills but leaves him without time to travel to Connecticut to spend the holiday with his wife's family.
This year, the couple and their teenage son, Raven, will celebrate Thanksgiving with his mother, neighbors and friends in town.
"When you can't travel and people can't travel to you, you gather your closest friends. And that way nobody has to pay an arm and a leg, and everyone can eat well," Buchwald said.
But having relatives over for dinner is becoming more expensive, too.
In Pawtucket, R.I., Jackie Galinis was among those looking for help to put a proper meal on the table. She stopped at a community center this week seeking a donated food basket. But by the time she arrived, all 300 turkeys had been claimed.
So Galinis, an unemployed retail worker, will make do with what's in her apartment. "We'll have to eat whatever I've got, so I'm thinking chicken," she said.
Then her eyes lit up. "Actually, I think I've got red meat in the freezer, some corned beef. We could do a boiled dinner."
The AAA said 90 percent of Thanksgiving travelers would drive.
The Air Transport Association of America (ATA), the trade group for the U.S. airline industry, earlier this month predicted slightly fewer travelers would take to the air this Thanksgiving compared to last, but with airlines reducing capacity it also predicted more crowded planes.
“We’re projecting full flights this Thanksgiving despite a 2 percent decline year over year in the number of passengers traveling on U.S. airlines,” said John Heimlich, ATA’s chief economist.
The busiest days, says ATA, will be Sunday, Nov. 27 (2.3 million), Friday, Nov. 18 (2.2 million and Monday, Nov. 28 (2.2 million). Not surprisingly, the least-busy day will be Thanksgiving when 1.5 million people are expected to fly.
Miami International Airport is expecting more than 100,000 passengers to pass through each day during the travel week that started Monday, according to NBC Miami affiliate WTJV.
Authorities say 20 people were injured after an accident in southern Maryland involving a school bus full of students, a car and a pick-up truck whose driver has been charged with driving under the influence.
Maryland State Police say the accident happened Tuesday night when the bus carrying students from Great Mills High School, was returning from a girls' basketball game in Colonial Beach, Va.
Seventeen occupants of the bus — the driver, another adult and 15 students — were taken by ambulance to the hospital. All were released. Two occupants of the car, including a 13-year-old girl, were also hospitalized.
The pick-up truck driver, John Patrick Kravats, 45, of Mechanicsville, was treated for minor injuries and arrested on a DUI charge.
A report on local news site The Baynet said the school bus left the road and crashed into a heavily wooded area after the collision. It showed images, which could not immediately be verified, of the bus lodged between trees at the scene of the accident.
It reported that the bus collided with the car after the car had been hit by the pick-up truck.
McALLEN, Texas - A state judge on Wednesday temporarily ordered that Aransas County Court-at-Law Judge William Adams could have only supervised visits with his 10-year-old daughter.
Adams' ex-wife had asked the courts to change their joint custody agreement to either end visitation or require supervision.
by The Associated Press
McALLEN, Texas -- The Texas Supreme Court suspended a judge Tuesday whose beating of his then-teenage daughter in 2004 was viewed millions of times on the Internet.
Aransas County court-at-law Judge William Adams was suspended immediately with pay pending the outcome of the inquiry started earlier this month by the State Commission on Judicial Conduct, according to an order signed Tuesday by the clerk of the state's highest court.
The order makes clear that while Adams agreed to the commission's recommended temporary suspension and waived the hearing and notice requirements, he does not admit "guilt, fault or wrongdoing" regarding the allegations. His attorney did not immediately return a call from The Associated Press seeking comment.
Adams' now 23-year-old daughter Hillary Adams uploaded the secretly-recorded 2004 video of her father beating her repeatedly with a belt for making illegal downloads from the internet.
William Adams has not sat on the bench since the video went viral. It has been viewed more than 6 million times on YouTube.
The public outcry over the video was so great that in a rare move the, State Commission on Judicial Conduct announced publicly Nov. 2 that it had opened an investigation. A statement from the commission then said that it had been flooded with calls, emails and faxes regarding the video and Adams.
William Adams appeared in court Monday for a day-long hearing regarding the custody of his 10-year-old daughter. His wife had sought a change in their joint custody agreement, and another judge imposed a temporary restraining order effectively keeping William Adams from being alone with his younger daughter until he reached a decision. An order was expected in that dispute Wednesday.
As Aransas County's top judge, William Adams has dealt with at least 349 family law cases in the past year alone, nearly 50 of which involved state caseworkers seeking determine whether parents were fit to raise their children. A visiting judge has been handling his caseload.
After reviewing the investigation conducted by local police, the Aransas County district attorney said too much time had passed to bring charges against William Adams.
"Nobody ever wants to pass this sort of bad news to somebody," said Captain Winton Smith, Naval Station San Diego's commanding officer. "It's a very difficult thing for any commanding officer to sit down with a hard charger and to tell them to prepare for the next chapter of their life.”
Smith had to do that with two of his sailors last week. The Navy recently reviewed 16,000 sailors in 31 job categories where it had surpluses; all had served between 7 and 14 years. The Navy was looking for extra sailors to layoff.
"It can come down to a particular rating is simply over-manned, and we just have to reduce the number of people within that rating", said Smith.
These jobs range from aviation electricians to religious program specialists. In June, the Navy allowed sailors to apply to transfer to under-manned ratings, like medical professionals, to avoid being let go. But about 3,000 in the Navy will have to leave. To ease the transition, the Navy provides services including programs that help sailors translate their skills to public sector certifications.
"Our sailors have amazing leadership skills, and they've already started to make their own plans, and we're just here to help augment them and get them connected with all those resources that can help them with their goals", said Mary Kirby of Naval Station San Diego’s Fleet and Family Services.
The second round of lay-offs is expected to be announced near the end of this month, and those will affect the more senior sailors in the group up to the senior chief level.
The San Diego Fleet and Family Support Center is ready to help sailors who find their Navy careers ending early. Here is the contact information:
NEW YORK -- A just-married groom jumped to his death in the Harlem River on Sunday, hours after his wedding to a longtime girlfriend, The New York Post reported.
The groom, identified as Fernando Brazier, 28, left a suicide note for his bride, Trudian Hay, at the front desk of the hotel where they stayed on their wedding night, according to the Post. Witnesses said he then took a cab to the river.
He said in the note that "he couldn’t take it anymore, and to take care of the kids," Brazier’s sister, Shawna Weeks, told The Post. "He left his ring in the envelope."
The marine unit of the New York Fire Department found Brazier’s body near Roberto Clemente State Park in the Bronx, according to Post sources.
A grizzly bear and her cub are seen in the Hayden Valley in Yellowstone National Park, Wyo., on June 24.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service on Tuesday lost a court battle in its bid to lift federal protections for grizzly bears in the Yellowstone National Park area.
The service had been arguing that a strong rebound by the local grizzly population, now estimated at around 600, warranted lifting the protections. But a federal appeals court upheld a lower court decision, ruling that the service hadn't properly weighed the impact of a declining food source: the whitepark pine.
The 9th Circuit Court judges wrote that a study used by the service "to demonstrate long-term grizzly population growth included data only until 2002, before the 'epidemic of mountain pine beetles' began to kill the region's whitebark pines."
The policy amounts to a "full-speed ahead, damn-the-torpedoes approach" to taking the bears off the Endangered Species Act, the judges ruled.
The service had been challenged in court by the Greater Yellowstone Coalition and the Natural Resources Defense Council.
"Some will paint this as a sign that the Endangered Species Act doesn’t work," Louisa Willcox, a wildlife advocate with the council, said in a statement. "Nothing could be further from the truth. The grizzlies’ comeback is a clear success story; the bears simply would not exist in the Greater Yellowstone if not for the Act’s legal protections and the hard work of many to look after the species. But due to changing conditions, we will all need to redouble efforts to focus on conflict resolution efforts as the bears seek out new food sources in their range."
Those siding with the federal government in court included Idaho, Montana and Wyoming, the National Wildlife Federation and Safari Club International, which had hoped to start grizzly hunts. The wildlife federation supports removing the grizzlies, arguing that the population recovery goals had been met.
A Fish and Wildlife spokesman said the agency had not decided how to proceed. But the agency's grizzly bear coordinator, Chris Servheen, said an appeal was unlikely.
Servheen said the agency would start working on a new proposal to lift protections based on research not available to the court.
"We can provide more information on the whitebark issue as they requested," he said.