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Poll: Americans wary about talking politics on Thanksgiving

It’s OK to talk turkey during today’s Thanksgiving dinner, but a new poll reveals that more than a third of all Americans do not want to discuss politics.

>> Read more trending news

According to The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research poll, only two out of 10 people said they were eager to talk politics. Four out of 10 do not feel strongly either way. 

Democrats are slightly more likely than Republicans to say they’re uneasy about political discussions at the table, 39 percent to 33 percent. And women are more likely than men to say they dread the thought of talking politics, 41 percent to 31 percent.

With a cascade of sexual misconduct scandals now echoing similar allegations against Trump during the campaign, tempers on the subject of Trump may not have cooled.

Those who do think there’s at least some possibility of politics coming up are somewhat more likely to feel optimistic about it than Americans as a whole. Among this group, 30 percent say they’d be eager to talk politics and 34 percent would dread it.

In the past, the Emily Post Institute Inc. received Thanksgiving etiquette questions that were typically about how to handle difficult relatives, author Daniel Post Senning said.

“Now, I am hearing questions like, ‘I don’t want to go,’ or ’I can’t imagine sitting at a table with someone who has this perspective and staying through the meal,’” he says. “My impression is that it’s still out there. ... The shock of that election is a little further in the rearview mirror, but I think people still have strong feelings about it.”

The AP-NORC poll of 1,070 adults was conducted Nov. 15-19. The margin of sampling error for all respondents is plus or minus 4.2 percentage points.

Respondents were first selected randomly using address-based sampling methods and later interviewed online or by phone.

Mississippi alderman charged with procuring prostitution

An alderman from a north Mississippi county was arrested and charged Wednesday with procuring prostitution, police said.

>> Read more trending news

Ronald Wayne Hale was booked into the DeSoto County jail with a $1,000 bond, according to the sheriff's office. He was released Wednesday afternoon. Hale had no comment as he left the jail.

Hale is the alderman of Ward 2 in Southaven. He is serving his second term as an alderman; his first time ran from 2009 to 2013.

Hale is also a Memphis firefighter.

The DeSoto County Sheriff’s Department said it had no comment. Southaven Mayor Darren Musselwhite released a statement, calling the charges “very concerning,” but declined further comment.

Hale is scheduled to be in court on Nov. 27.

California woman thwarts abduction of her children

Los Angeles County sheriff’s deputies are searching for a man wanted in the attempted kidnapping of two children in California on Wednesday.

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Deputies said a mother was with her two children in a jogging stroller in Valencia around 11 a.m. Wednesday when the man suddenly approached her from behind, KCAL reported.

Investigators said the man grabbed the stroller’s handle and tried to pull it away, but the woman managed to regain control and ran away. She called 911 but the man was gone when officers arrived, KCAL reported.

“My energy goes out to this mother,” said Cindy Potts, also a mother of two young children.

Though she has no connection to the attempted kidnapping, it still leaves Potts rattled.

“The thought of someone taking away my most precious cargo, my life fulfillment, it’s an empty feeling and it’s a frightening feeling,” she told KCAL.

The man is described as a transient, police said.

Watch: North Korean guard makes dramatic defection

South Korea announced on Nov. 13 that an unnamed soldier defecting from the North was rescued and taken to a hospital after he was found shot in the shoulder and elbow in the border village of Panmunjom.

>> Read more trending news

A dramatic video of the 24-year-old, identified only by his last name, Oh, escaping North Korea, is fascinating to watch.

Officials in South Korea said that the escape took place after the North Korean guard abandoned his post and tried to escape. CNN reported that this was the third defection of a North Korean soldier this year and that there had only been four such defections in the past five years.

South Korean officials added that the soldier was in such a bad spot they needed to crawl to save him. Part of the video shows this.

“The defector was urgently transferred to a hospital in a helicopter of the United Nations Command, and there was no exchange of fire with our side,” a South Korean ministry official told Reuters. “Since it was an area exposed to the North, we had to crawl toward there to get him out.”

It’s not clear at this time how high-ranking the soldier was in Kim Jong-un’s army, but we do know he was in the military for eight years and was a vehicle driver.

The video shows multiple North Korean soldiers firing at Oh. He was shot at least five times.

The lead surgeon in South Korea said Oh is “not going to die” from these wounds, ABC News reported.

ABC News said it appeared North Korea violated the 1953 Armistice Agreement signed by the U.N., North Korea and China by firing guns across the military demarcation line and by physically crossing the line.

Floridians twerk for Trump during traffic jam he caused

It’s never the wrong time to get your twerk on, according to a few Floridians.

>> Read more trending news

President Donald Trump and his family traveled to his Mar-a-Lago property in Palm Beach for the Thanksgiving holiday. As with any official trip made by the First Family, the Trumps traveled from Palm Beach International Airport to the property via a motorcade.

While motorcades are usually uneventful, and attention is usually focused on the person being escorted, one person caught the moment some locals decided to make the best of the traffic jam caused by the president.

A video lasting just over half a minute showed two people exit a car and start to twerk on the highway.

While twerking is certainly nothing new, HuffPost noted car twerking took South Florida by storm earlier in the year as young people flocked to Miami for Spring Break.

A young bikini-clad woman was recorded hanging out of a vehicle, leg draped along the roof and twerking up a storm while her friend sped down MacArthur Causeway.

Health care provider fires 50 employees who refused to get flu shots

A health care provider in Minnesota fired 50 employees because they refused to get flu shots, KBJR reported.

>> Read more trending news

Essentia Health had imposed a Monday deadline for employees to get flu shots or receive an exemption for medical or religious reasons.

Since September, Essentia employees, volunteers, students and vendors had three choices: get a flu shot, show an approved religious or medical exemption, or leave the company, KBJR reported.

Essentia chief of patient quality and safety Dr. Rajesh Prabhu said the company wanted to increase patient safety and boost its 82 percent flu vaccination rate from 2016, which he said was not going to increase voluntarily.

“Purely voluntary or more education doesn't get you those high levels of immunization compliance and as you know other states, other health care organizations have done the same thing we have,” he told KBJR.

Prabhu said that as of Tuesday, 99.5 percent of employees have chosen the first two options, but 50 so far have been terminated with more left waiting to hear back on their exemptions.

Minnesota Nurses Association Duluth chairman Steve Strand said with so many employees in limbo, his union doesn't know how many members may have lost their jobs yet.

“We believe that they will be denying some of those, and then those individuals may end up terminated also,” Strand told KBJR.

But Strand said his association intends to fight any terminations for a policy they say is unnecessarily intrusive and may not even be effective. He cited Centers for Disease Control research showing this year's vaccine is expected to be 60 percent effective against the flu.

“The flu shot isn't a be-all end-all, it only has a certain efficacy,” Strand said.

Essentia said it stands by its mandatory policy.

"People may debate on how effective that is but based on what the level of evidence is and what our peers are doing, we thought this was the best way to protect our patients," Prabhu told KBJR.

'Vapor Wake' dogs to provide extra security at Macy's Thanksgiving parade

The 91st annual Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade will have an added layer of security to protect the 1 million spectators expected to attend: a team of 14 Labrador retrievers trained to detect explosives on moving targets in large crowds, Fox News reported.

>> Read more trending news

The dogs completed an 18-month Vapor Wake program that was developed at Auburn University’s College of Veterinary Medicine. They are different than normal bomb-sniffing dogs, which can identify explosives in stationary objects, Fox News reported. The Vapor Wake dogs look for mobile threats and can detect the “thermal plumes left behind in a person's wake,” Paul Hammond, the president of Vapor Wake training program VWK9 LLC, told Rolling Stone.

The dogs are trained to avoid the distractions of large crowds and loud noises at large events, and can sense explosive particles Wired reported. 

“You will see our Vapor Wake dogs and other canine dogs on both the balloons and during the route,” NYPD Chief of Patrol Terence Monahan told WABC.

The NYPD used eight Vapor Wake dogs at the Thanksgiving Day parade last year, Fox News reported.

In addition to the dogs, officers with assault weapons and portable radiation detectors will walk among the crowds, and sharpshooters on rooftops will scan building windows and balconies for anything unusual, police said. 

The parade begins at 9 a.m. and will be broadcast live on NBC. 

Deputies: Florida man had pickup repainted to avoid hit-and-run death charge

A Florida man accused of hitting a pedestrian while driving a pickup truck allegedly attempted to have the vehicle repainted to avoid prosecution, authorities said.

>> Read more trending news

Henry Earl Riner, 71, of Seffner, was arrested Monday and charged with leaving the scene of a crash with death, tampering with physical evidence and driving while his license was permanently revoked, The Tampa Bay Times reported.

Just before midnight Friday, Linda Kay Fisher, 46, was walking home on a dimly lit road after her shift as a waitress when she was hit and killed by a vehicle, police said. Her body was found in a ditch the next morning, the Times reported.

While authorities were searching for an orange-red truck that was involved in the crash, Riner allegedly was getting it repainted black, the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office said.

“A piece of the vehicle found at the scene was a unique color,” sheriff’s Cpl. Larry McKinnon told the Times. "It was like the color of a traffic cone.”

A tip to Crime Stoppers led deputies to Riner, the Times reported.

Deputies said they found a 1966 Chevrolet pickup truck that had recently been painted black. A photo of the truck before the paint job showed the vehicle had been an orange-red color, the Times reported. Damage to the vehicle was consistent with the collision that killed Fisher, deputies said.

Riner was released on $19,000 bail Tuesday afternoon.

Ohio dealer ordered to pay funeral expenses for drug user who overdosed

As part of his sentence, an Ohio drug dealer was ordered to cover the funeral expenses for a user who overdosed, WLWT reported.

>> Read more trending news

Michael Chandler, 29, of Cincinnati, was sentenced in U.S. District Court to 200 months in prison for distributing fentanyl.

Chandler also was ordered to pay more than $9,000 to cover the costs of a user’s death that was a result of his distributing the drug, WLWT reported. The user, a juvenile, overdosed and died after ingesting fentanyl on April 20, 2016, investigators said.

Authorities said they were able to trace the fentanyl to Chandler. He was indicted on six drug distribution charges in June 2016 and pleaded guilty in May 2017, WLWT reported.

103-year-old woman's secret to long life: 'Lots and lots of chocolate'

The fictional film character Forrest Gump famously noted that “My mom always said life was like a box of chocolates. You never know what you're gonna get.”

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In the case of a Washington State resident, it was longevity.

Mable Smith of Yakima turned 103 on Nov. 13 and credited her long life to chocolate, KIMA reported.

Smith celebrated her birthday with her three children, 11 grandchildren, 15 great-grandchildren and 19 great-great grandchildren.

What’s her secret to long life?

“I don’t know, good luck,” she told KIMA. “Veggies and chocolate and lots and lots of chocolate, especially Hershey’s.”

Georgia high school girls basketball coach charged with sexual assault

Investigators said an alleged sexual assault that resulted in the arrest of a Georgia high school coach happened before a basketball game on campus.

>> Read more trending news

“It's very disturbing. We're talking about an adult and a child. It's not only illegal, it's inappropriate. It's wrong,” said Lt. Scott Ware of the Hall County Sheriff’s Office.

Webster Daniel, 52, a middle school teacher and Chestatee High School girls basketball coach, is charged with sexually assaulting one of his players.

He was arrested at his home Tuesday night.

“There was unwanted, inappropriate sexual contact,” Ware said.

Warrants were not immediately available, but an incident report obtained through an open records request revealed the alleged assault happened on Nov. 16 between 4 and 5 p.m. on campus.

An online schedule shows a set of athletic events going on at the same time, including a home varsity basketball game, which started just an hour later.

The next morning, the player told a school resource officer about the alleged assault and Daniel was immediately suspended.

Daniel was unavailable for comment Wednesday. Earlier in the day, he had submitted a resignation letter.

It was an end to the connection he'd had with the school for more than a decade.

“Less than a week's time between the disclosure and the arrest. Really quick,” Ware said.

In a statement Wednesday, the Hall County School District said it was “truly saddened by the incident.”

Daniel posted an $11,000 bond for the sexual assault and battery charges.

Don’t forget safety while shopping on Black Friday, police say

Holiday shopping mania can make it easy to forget some common-sense rules to keep you and your belongings safe. Police recommend these tips before hitting the stores on Black Friday:

1Remove valuables from view: After a successful shopping run, you should place and secure all holiday packages in your trunk, away from prying eyes. Thefts are crimes of opportunity, and thieves wait and watch those who park, so lock and secure all windows and doors.

2Plan your route: Park in well-lighted spots, which thieves tend to avoid. It takes only three minutes for a vehicle to be burglarized or stolen, safety experts say.

3Don’t leave vehicle idling: No matter how quick the trip into the store will take, always turn off the ignition, lock your doors, roll up the windows and take your keys.

4Report any suspicious activity: Call 911 if you see something fishy and be sure to give a good description of the suspicious subject.

5Follow all traffic rules: For instance, don’t block intersections or rights of way, and park only in marked spaces. If you create a parking space, you risk being towed.

6Keep your eyes peeled: Watch for shoppers crossing streets and walking in parking lots. Look for cars backing in and out of parking spaces. Sunset Valley police want shoppers to remember that all incoming mall traffic has the right of way and should not stop — exiting traffic should always yield.

Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade 2017: What time, what channel, which balloons will be there?

The Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade has signaled the start of the holiday season for nearly 100 years. It draws 3 million people in person in New York City, and more than 50 million on television. 

There are stars who sing and dance, marching bands and balloons. Big balloons.

This year’s version of the parade is set to go off Thursday in New York City with a cast of more than 8,000.

Here’s what you need to know about this year’s parade.

What time does it start?

9 a.m. ET. It is scheduled to last until noon.

What channel is it on?

The parade is broadcast on NBC.

How long is the parade route?

2.5 miles

What is the parade route?

The parade begins at 77th Street and Central Park West in Manhattan. It moves south on Central Park West, and at Columbus Circle, it turns east onto Central Park South. When the parade reaches 6th Avenue, it turns south on to 34th Street. At 34th Street it turns west to Macy's Herald Square and ends at 34th Street and Seventh Avenue.

When was the first Macy's Thanksgiving day parade?

The first parade was held on Christmas in 1924.

Which balloons will we see this year?

Angry Birds’ Red

Ice Age’s Scrat and his Acorn

Red Mighty Morphin Power Ranger

Sinclair’s Dino

Hello Kitty

Pillsbury the Doughboy

Ronald McDonald

Trolls

SpongeBob SquarePants

Pikachu

The Elf on the Shelf

Charlie Brown

Diary of a Wimpy Kid

Super Wings’ Jett

Paw Patrol’s Chase

The Grinch

Frozen’s Olaf

Novelty Balloons

Charlie, Kit & C.J. Holiday Elves

Harold the Policeman

Yellow Star

Pumpkins

Harold the Baseball Player

Rex the Happy Dragon

Cloe the Clown

Christmas String of Lights

Candy Cane

Blue Ornament

Red and Gold Macy’s Star

What about the floats?

There will be 31 floats in the parade.

Who is performing?

Gwen Stefani

98 Degrees

Sara Evans

Andra Day

Cam

Common

Dustin Lynch

Wyclef Jean

Goo Goo Dolls

Smokey Robinson

Kat Graham

The Radio City Rockettes

Olivia Holt

JoJo Siwa

Andy Grammer

Miss America Cara Mund

Leslie Odom Jr.

Padma Lakshmi

Tom Colicchio

Angelica Hale

Bebe Rexha

Lauren Alaina

Nicky Jam

Sabrina Carpenter

Patti LaBelle

Marching Bands

There are 12 marching bands in the parade. They are:

Nation Ford High School Band

West Harrison High School

NYPD Marching Band

U.S. Air Force

Colony High School Band

Ohio University Marching Band

Rockford High School Marching Band

Macy’s Great American Marching Band

Prairie View A&M Marching Storm

Rosemount High School Marching Band

Davis High School Marching Band

Trumbull High School

Parade History

According to the New York Tourist Commission, the inaugural Macy's Day Parade took place on Christmas 1924 and had an audience of 250,000 people. There were no giant balloons until 1927 when Felix the Cat showed up. The parade was first broadcast on radio in 1932.

The Balloons

The balloons are filled with 12,000 cubic feet of helium. They are inflated the day before Thanksgiving at the American Museum of National History from 3 p.m. -10 p.m.

Some numbers

  • On average, 300 bands a year apply for the 12 slots in the parade
  • Those handling the balloons, 30 to 100 of them for each balloon, are volunteers.
  • It  takes 15 minutes to deflate the balloon.

 

 

Mama June proves she kept her weight loss promise 7 months later

Seven months after losing 300 pounds on “Mama June: From Not to Hot,” Mama June Shannon is here to prove she’s still keeping the weight off!

>> Read more trending news

The 38-year-old reality star was spotted out and about in Atlanta this week while Christmas shopping and was happy to show off her slim figure. Dressed in athletic wear leggings and a long-sleeved gray shirt, she was all smiles while proving she’s kept her weight loss promise.

“I can promise you I’m never going back to that size. I’m happy where I’m at,” Shannon told PEOPLE back in April after she underwent weight loss surgery and drastically changed her diet and exercise routine, going from 460 pounds to a size 4.

At the very beginning of her weight loss journey, she wanted to drop the pounds to make her ex Mike “Sugar Bear” Thompson jealous at his then-upcoming wedding to his new love. However, over time it became much more than that.

“My goal when I first started this weight loss journey was to make Sugar Bear kind of jealous,” she said. “But it’s no longer about revenge. Doing all the surgeries really took a toll on me -- not just physically, but emotionally. I feel like [I’m] becoming the person on the outside that I always felt like [I was] on the inside.”

When she made her big debut after shedding the weight, her daughter and “Toddlers & Tiaras” star Alana “Honey Boo Boo” Thompson, said, “She looks great. I’m really proud of her.”

While Shannon continues to drop jaws whenever she updates fans on how she’s been keeping up her weight loss, she barely turns heads back at home.

“It’s kind of crazy. A lot of people don’t recognize who I am until I talk,” she said. “It’s kind of like I’m in my own disguise. Normally when I walk through the streets, everybody notices me, and now it’s like nobody [does].”

However, she may not slip under the radar for much longer, because she’s headed back to your television screens in January for “Mama June: From Not to Hot” Season 2:

Joe Barton apologizes for graphic photo circulating online

U.S. Rep. Joe Barton, R-Ennis, issued an apology Wednesday after a sexually explicit photo of him made the rounds on social media.

>> Read more trending news

Barton reportedly sent the photo to a woman he was involved with after he and his now ex-wife had separated.

“While separated from my second wife, prior to the divorce, I had sexual relationships with other mature adult women,” he said, according to The Texas Tribune. “Each was consensual. Those relationships have ended. I am sorry I did not use better judgment during those days. I am sorry that I let my constituents down.”

Barton, who recently announced he would run for re-election in 2018, said through a spokeswoman that he has no plans of resigning.

Thick dust from Georgia Dome implosion impacting residents, businesses

The Georgia Dome implosion Monday morning in downtown Atlanta caused a massive dust cloud that settled over the area, covering nearby cars and buildings in a thick coat of dirt and grime.

>> Read more trending news

It also left some city residents worried about the impact of the particle pollution on their health. 

Neighbors with asthma, allergies and bronchitis have been taking extra medicine and staying inside to avoid breathing in the dust, according to WSB-TV. The dust has also made an impact on nearby businesses, such as window and car-washers. 

Gregory Price with 70s Car Wash told the TV station that cars have been coming in caked in the dust, which he described as a hard, clay-like consistency that’s difficult to get off. 

“It usually takes about an extra 20 or 30 minutes because you got to rinse it all off,” Price said. 

He wasn’t the only one who noticed the difference. A window washer said he’s never seen dust so thick; a woman claimed the soot is causing her congestion, watery eyes and difficulty breathing.

>> Related: Goodbye, Georgia Dome – thanks for the memories!

The Castleberry Hill Neighborhood Association has asked the demolition company for car wash vouchers, according to WSB-TV. The Georgia World Congress Center Authority had not responded to the station’s request for comment Tuesday. 

Progress slow at SpaceX’s planned spaceport

More than three years ago, SpaceX founder Elon Musk gathered with state leaders at this remote South Texas beach to trumpet it as the future location of the world’s first commercial spaceport. 

But so far, the only liftoffs from the shifting dunes are being achieved by seagulls and pelicans.

SpaceX — the Hawthorne, Calif., company started by Musk with the aim of reducing the cost of space travel and one day facilitating the colonization of Mars — still counts the Boca Chica site in its plans. The company installed two large tracking antennas at the location this year, perhaps the most tangible indication yet of its intended purpose as a launch point for commercial satellites and, eventually, exploration of the solar system.

But progress on the Boca Chica facility — in which Musk vowed SpaceX would invest $100 million and initially predicted could be sending up rockets by late 2016 — has been slower than either SpaceX or state officials envisioned when it was announced in 2014.

The state has pledged a total of $15.3 million in incentives to the project, although SpaceX has returned a small portion of the state money it has received so far because it hasn’t met early job-creation goals.

The slower rate of progress is partly the result of difficulties building on the beach after bedrock turned out to be deeper than expected and the water table turned out to be higher than expected. That prompted SpaceX to bring in hundreds of thousands of cubic yards of new soil to stabilize the site to support future structures. Other slowdowns have been caused by the company’s focus on more pressing issues after one of its rockets exploded in 2015 shortly after liftoff from a leased launch pad at Florida’s Cape Canaveral Air Force Station and another exploded on the pad in 2016, temporarily grounding some of SpaceX’s commercial operations both times.

Most recently, SpaceX has said the first blast-off from Boca Chica could take place by the end of 2018. Spokesman James Gleeson reiterated that goal in a recent interview — although he added a caveat.

“SpaceX has continued to make progress on building the first-ever commercial spaceport in South Texas while also overcoming a number of challenges in the last few years,” Gleeson said. “We continue to target late 2018 but we’re reviewing our progress in South Texas and SpaceX will turn the launch complex online as soon as it’s ready.”

Progress has been slow at the future commercial spaceport, but the company still counts it in its plans. Work on the spaceport is expected to pick up in early 2018, SpaceX has said.

Boca Chica is in Cameron County, about 20 miles east of Brownsville at the southernmost tip of Texas, where Texas Highway 4 dead-ends into the Gulf of Mexico. A small housing development, called Boca Chica Village, is nearby.

According to state documents obtained by the American-Statesman through an open-records request, the deadline for the Boca Chica spaceport to become operational or potentially lose more of the state incentive money pledged to it is less than a year away — on Sept. 30, 2018. The agreement also requires that 120 people be employed by the facility by the end of this year, 180 by the end of 2018 and 300 by the end of 2024.

Only a handful of people were working at the location during a recent visit by the American-Statesman, however, and there was little to distinguish it amid the windswept landscape as the future site of a cutting-edge launching point for space exploration.

Aside from the two tracking antennas brought in this year — which aren’t yet operational — the most notable structure was a large platform of compacted soil, set off by fencing and a “SpaceX Launch Site” sign. Across the highway, the metal framework of what appeared to be a storage building was being erected around some heavy equipment.

‘Par for the course’

The spaceport has been viewed by state and local Cameron County leaders as the linchpin to establishing South Texas as a hub for an emerging private U.S. space industry in an era of NASA budget cuts, and former Gov. Rick Perry was on hand for the ground-breaking ceremony in September 2014. At the time, the Brownsville Economic Development Corp. estimated SpaceX would create 500 jobs over 10 years with an annual payroll of more than $51 million.

Musk — a billionaire serial entrepreneur who also started electric-car maker Tesla and is known for bold statements and futuristic pronouncements — said during the groundbreaking that rockets launched from Boca Chica would carry commercial satellites at first but eventually could be critical to establishing a human presence on Mars. SpaceX’s formal name is Space Exploration Technologies Corp.

“It could very well be that the first person that departs for another planet will depart from this location,” Musk said at the time.

The rate of progress at Boca Chica since then isn’t necessarily a surprise to some SpaceX observers, however, because both the company and Musk have reputations in the aerospace industry for issuing ambitious timetables that often are revised.

“Being behind schedule is kind of par for the course for SpaceX,” said Bill Ostrove, primary space analyst for Forecast International. “They lay out very aggressive plans in terms of time schedules that are very rarely if ever met. There’s kind of an expectation that anytime SpaceX gives you a date, you always have to assume that there is going to be a few years of delay.”

Still, Musk does have a track record of eventually accomplishing many of the goals he sets — such as when SpaceX made history this year by relaunching into orbit and then successfully landing a booster rocket that it had flown before. The feat marked a milestone because the company views reusable rockets as the key to lowering the cost of space flight.

“I wouldn’t doubt (Musk) in the end,” Ostrove said, although he said he hadn’t heard anything specifically about SpaceX’s latest Boca Chica plans.

Texas beat out Florida, Georgia and Puerto Rico to win the future spaceport. The state pledged $2.3 million from the jobs-focused Texas Enterprise Fund and $13 million from another state incentive fund called the Spaceport Trust Fund, in addition to millions more in various tax incentives committed by local governments nearby the proposed launch site. SpaceX received its first payment from the state’s spaceport fund — routed through the Cameron County Spaceport Development Corp. — this year, totaling $2.6 million and intended to help pay for infrastructure, such as the tracking antennas.

To date, SpaceX has paid back about $81,000 of the $400,000 in incentives money it initially received from the Texas Enterprise Fund because it didn’t meet hiring goals for either 2015 or 2016. Under the incentives agreement with the state, the company was supposed to have created 60 full-time jobs related to the site by the end of last year, but it had created only 10, according to documents obtained by the American-Statesman.

Support for the project continues to be solid among state leaders and local Cameron County officials, however.

“The governor’s office remains confident Brownsville will be home to the launch of a new SpaceX venture,” said Ciara Matthews, a spokeswoman for Gov. Greg Abbott. “SpaceX has continually maintained a partnership of transparency with the state of Texas, and the governor’s office continues to work with the company to ensure a successful project and full compliance with their (Texas Enterprise Fund) agreement.”

Cameron County Judge Eddie Treviño, Jr. said he doesn’t consider the spaceport behind schedule because his understanding of SpaceX’s plans since he took office in November last year has been that the first launch wouldn’t take place until late 2018.

But Treviño also said he wasn’t aware that SpaceX had fallen short of its hiring targets, noting that Cameron County isn’t charged with monitoring job creation at the site since the company’s job-related incentives come from the state. Cameron County has granted a $1.8 million, 10-year property-tax abatement to SpaceX, he said.

“Obviously, (the hiring shortfall) is a slowdown and a little bit of a delay, but I haven’t heard anything (else) that would indicate the project is in a slowdown or is a project that is not going to come to fruition,” Treviño said. “We are being told (by SpaceX) that the plan and the project is still moving forward.”

He said he’s confident “we are going to see launches taking place from Cameron County” eventually.

“It’s really exciting,” Treviño said. “Obviously, we would love to see more tangible examples of the progress, but I’m sure we will.”

According to SpaceX, he and others won’t have to wait much longer for an increase in activity at the future spaceport. The recently installed antennas at Boca Chica are expected to be operational next year — although they’ll initially track flights blasting off from elsewhere — and the company also indicated development of the overall launch complex should pick up.

“Even as our teams worked to modernize and repair our launch complexes in Florida so that we could reliably return to flight for our customers, SpaceX invested $14 million into the South Texas project,” said Gleeson, the company’s spokesman.

“Now, with our launch construction projects in Florida wrapping up by early 2018, SpaceX will be able to turn more attention to our work in South Texas,” he said.

Pastor of three young children found dead day before Thanksgiving

Tennessee authorities are investigating the death Wednesday morning of a Memphis pastor .

>> Read more trending news

Quentin Barlow, 36, was found dead in his home on the day before Thanksgiving from unknown causes.

Barlow’s cousin, Samantha Westbrook, said she received the bad news in a phone call from her cousin.

“We’re grieving, we’re hurting, but our faith and trust remains in the Lord,” Westbrook said. “That’s all we know to do at a time like this. It hurts.”

Police had crime scene tape up at Barlow’s home as family members converged on the scene.

Westbrook said police do not suspect foul play at this time.

“We feel like Jobe,” she said. “The Lord giveth, and the Lord taketh away.”

It’s  a sad holiday for the family.

Barlow leaves behind a wife and three young children, including a month old baby.

“I’m just shocked,” Westbrook said. “We’re all just shocked, my entire family.”

>> Related: Young woman vanishes after online date, family fears the worst

Police are still looking into the cause of death. The family does not have any funeral arrangements made at this time.

 

Writer Emily Lindin closes her Twitter after sexist tweets

Teen Vogue’s Emily Lindin has more than 23,000 followers on Twitter but, unless you’re in that crowd, you won’t be seeing her tweets any time soon. On Tuesday night, Lindin locked down her account after a wildly unpopular tweet earned her the scorn of what seems like just about all of social media. And that’s a lot of scorn.

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Lindin wrote: “Here’s an unpopular opinion: I’m actually not at all concerned about innocent men losing their jobs over false sexual assault/harassment allegations.” When the backlash ensued, the writer tried to justify her position, writing “false allegations VERY rarely happen, so even bringing it up borders on a derailment tactic. It’s a microscopic risk in comparison to the issue at hand (worldwide, systemic oppression of half the population).”

Lindin then declared: “The benefit of all of us getting to finally tell the truth + the impact on victims FAR outweigh the loss of any one man’s reputation,” and added, “If some innocent men’s reputations have to take a hit in the process of undoing the patriarchy, that is a price I am absolutely willing to pay.”

Critics lined up to criticize her, with CNN’s Jake Tapper referencing “To Kill a Mockingbird,” in which a character with high moral standards champions above a prejudiced town.

He also hit back on Lindin after her response, saying that her point of view is “immoral” and it’s not a price that she will pay.

Donald Trump Jr. also weighed in on the controversy.

While she claims that she’s a columnist Teen Vogue, according to her bio on the magazine’s website, she hasn’t written since mid-July. Rare has reached out to Conde Nast, the company that owns Teen Vogue, asking for a comment. At the time of publication, Rare has not heard back.

In addition to her work at the magazine, Linden has produced “Unslut,” which is a documentary about combating “slut-shaming” and sexual bullying in schools. According to her bio on the film’s website, she has also written for a number of other outlets including “The Daily Dot” and “Glamour UK” and did a piece entitled “Let’s Talk about Sex with our Children” for the popular blog “Scary Mommy.”

Linden’s remarks come as an avalanche of sexual harassment claims are leveled against powerful men. The floodgates burst when Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein was accused of sexually harassing scores of women but the allegations have since been leveled against powerful men in Washington and journalism.

Some critics have also warned about painting sexual predators with a broad brush; Bari Weiss of the New York Times posited that there’s cause to be disturbed by the “moral flattening” that’s going on.

Just for reference, here’s a clip of Emily Linden and Amber Rose on the popular show “The Doctors” in which they talk about sexual bullying.

Not everyone’s happy that the Girl Scouts now say girls 'don’t owe anyone a hug'

A new consent initiative from the Girl Scouts of America is drawing the fire of people who say the organization has gone too far and assumed too much about the long-term ramifications of the behavior of girls at a young age.

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“Holidays and family get-togethers are a time for yummy food, sweet traditions, funny stories, and lots and lots of love,” begins the post, entitled “Reminder: She doesn’t owe anyone a hug. Not even at the holidays.”

>> Related: Girl Scouts say not to force your kids to hug relatives this holiday season

“But they could, without you even realizing it, also be a time when your daughter gets the wrong idea about consent and physical affection,” the post continues. At its core, it’s about learning behavior in little girls that might come back to bite later and granting little girls autonomy, the organization says:

Telling your child that she owes someone a hug either just because she hasn’t seen this person in a while or because they gave her a gift can set the stage for her questioning whether she ‘owes’ another person any type of physical affection when they’ve bought her dinner or done something else seemingly nice for her later in life.

The Girl Scouts encourages families to “give your girl the space to decide when and how she wants to show affection.” It says that girls who want to show affection are more than welcome to, adding that “many children may naturally want to hug and kiss family members, friends, and neighbors, and that’s lovely—but if your daughter is reticent, don’t force her.”

The Girl Scouts post added: “Of course, this doesn’t give her license to be rude!”

In a statement provided to ABC News, the Girl Scouts confirms that the post was published in part because of the avalanche of sexual assault stories coming out about men in politics, media, Hollywood and more.

“Given our expertise in healthy relationship development for girls, and in light of recent news stories about sexual harassment, we are proud to provide girls’ parents and caregivers with age-appropriate guidance to use when discussing this sensitive matter and other challenging topics, should they wish to do so,” the organization told ABC.

Parents and others commenting on a Facebook post about the initiative were split.

One Facebook user wrote “No girl is going to seriously think she has to get physical with a guy to be polite, just because she had to give Aunt Betty a hug at Christmas when she was little.” In a response, one user wrote“Actually some do. that’s the point,” while a second responded: “Children are condition[ed] to give and receive affection, even if they don’t consent to it. After years of this, it becomes difficult to say no to those affections later because they are told they have to do what the other person wants … It’s important to let children have autonomy and a say over their body. They get used to being able to say no, so they can say it later in life when it’s important.”

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