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Cesar Sayoc pleads guilty to mailing bombs targeting prominent Democrats

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Broward County Sheriff’s Office via Getty Images(NEW YORK) — Cesar Sayoc, the man behind a campaign of letter bombs targeting prominent Democrats, including former President Barack Obama, pleaded guilty to 65 counts in Manhattan federal court on Thursday. Federal prosecutors more than doubled the number of charges immediately prior to the plea hearing. Sayoc, of Aventura, Florida, was arrested in October after mass-mailing explosive devices to top Democrats, CNN and other prominent figures. He pleaded guilty to four sets of charges related to all 16 IEDs. Officials said Sayoc packed each IED with explosive material and glass shards that would function as shrapnel if the IED exploded. In court, Sayoc indicated he did not mean to injure anyone but acknowledged the devices would have detonated. Sayoc attached a picture of the intended victim marked with a red “X” outside each IED. Days after the first package was delivered, FBI investigators found a latent fingerprint from an envelope mailed to Democratic California Congresswoman Maxine Waters. The fingerprint belonged to Sayoc, FBI Director Chris Wray said in October. Also among those to

As threat passes, activists say Deer Park chemical fire brings attention to persistent issues

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poco_bw/iStock(HOUSTON) — A massive chemical fire south of Houston, Texas, triggered an emergency order for locals to shelter in place even after a dangerous chemical was detected in the air. Local officials and public health experts say most of the risk from the Deer Park fire has passed and that further testing didn’t find elevated levels of the dangerous chemical after a release this morning. But activists say the nearly week-long incident brought attention to the risk to communities located near facilities in the U.S. that use dangerous chemicals on a daily basis. “We’re all being completely violated in a way that we’re really not talking about,” Yvette Arellano, an activist with Texas Environmental Justice Advocacy Services, or TEJAS, told ABC News earlier this week. She said TEJAS has been pushing for a more comprehensive air monitoring system around the chemical facilities near Houston, harsher enforcement of violations, and more transparency about the impact of fires like this on the surrounding area. The group says this week’s fire brought attention to incidents they see all the time. The Houston Chronicle

Letter from deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein offers potential road map to special counsel Robert Mueller's probe

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Bill Chizek/iStock(WASHINGTON) — There’s no shortage of speculation on the special counsel Robert Mueller’s report, much of it totally uninformed. But we don’t need to speculate on the scope – the man who appointed Mueller has already given us a potential road map on what to expect from the special counsel. The bottom line: Do not expect a harsh condemnation of President Donald Trump or any of his associates if they have not been charged with crimes. The road map comes in the form a little-noticed 12-page letter written by Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein last June to Senate Judiciary Chairman Chuck Grassley. The letter was in response to Grassley’s demands for more information on the special counsel investigation, offers a brief history of special counsel investigations and actually quotes former and future Attorney General William Barr who appointed three special counsels during his time as attorney general under President George H.W. Bush. In the letter, Rosenstein makes it clear he believes the Department of Justice will not – and cannot without violating long-standing Department of Justice policy – include

Thousands await rescue in Mozambique after tropical cyclone kills hundreds

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Tafadzwa Ufumeli/Getty Images(BEIRA, Mozambique) — Thousands of people, some seen clinging to rooftops and tree branches, still await rescue from rising floodwaters in Mozambique, one week after an intense tropical cyclone walloped the southeast African nation. Nearly 350,000 others are at risk of becoming trapped in the coming days as remnants of tropical cyclone Idai dump rain over low-lying areas already inundated with swelling rivers and bulging dams. Some 100,000 people may need to be rescued from the town of Buzi alone, according to a spokesman for Mozambique’s Ministry of Land, Environment and Rural Development. “We have a critical situation in Buzi,” the spokesman, who asked not to be named, told ABC News via telephone Thursday. “If the rainfall increases, then those 100,000 need to be rescued. Levels of the dam are going high.” The heavy rain let up in Buzi and the hard-hit port city of Beira on Thursday, but showers are expected to return in the coming hours and days. Aid agencies worry additional rainfall will impede rescue missions. The cyclone made landfall near Beira late last Thursday

Money Moves: Cardi B files to trademark "Okurrr"

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ABC/Randy Holmes(LOS ANGELES) — After Pepsi built an entire Super Bowl ad around Cardi B saying her signature phrase “Okurrr,” it’s no wonder the rapper is now moving to trademark it. According to the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office’s website, Cardi’s filed paperwork to trademark the catchphrase for use on a long list of items, among them “paper goods, namely paper cups and posters.” She also wants to trademark the word for use on “clothing, namely t-shirts, sweatshirts, hooded sweatshirts, pants, shorts, jackets, footwear, headgear, namely hats and caps, blouses, bodysuits, dresses, jumpsuits, leggings, shirts, sweaters and undergarments.” Additionally, Cardi’s filed paperwork for the catchphrase spelled two different ways — “O-k-u-r-r-r,” and “O-k-u-r-r” — just in case someone tries to get cute. Cardi once described the phrase to Jimmy Fallon as the sound made by “a cold pigeon in New York City.” Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Big Ben turns blue again

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Mark Duffy/UK Parliament(LONDON) — Big Ben, the iconic clock tower in London, is returning to its former glory. The clock’s north face has been restored to its original Prussian blue and gold colors. Sir Charles Barry built the tower in 1859. Big Ben, which is currently covered in scaffolding, has been undergoing a major makeover that’s expected to be completed in 2021. “It was incredibly exciting to slowly piece together the tower’s appearance as has it evolved throughout the decades and we are thrilled to see the original color scheme looking out over modern London once more,” Phillipa McDonnell and Rhiannon Clarricoates, the Lincoln Conservation researchers who worked on the restoration project, told ABC News in an email. The famous 13-ton bell was silenced in August 2017 to start the $80 million renovation. The chimes still ring out for special occasions such as Armistice Day or New Year’s Eve. Three of the four clock dials are still being repaired. The last extensive conservation work at the Gothic tower was done between 1983 and 1985. The Westminster Palace, home to the

Trump signs executive order threatening aid to colleges if speakers silenced

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Official White House Photo by Joyce N. Boghosian(WASHINGTON) — President Donald Trump on Thursday signed an executive order that would deny colleges certain federal research and education grants if they failed to comply with free speech standards outlined by the administration. “Under the guise of speech codes and safe spaces and trigger warnings, these universities have tried to restrict free thought, impose total conformity and shut down the voices of great young Americans … all of that changes starting right now. We’re dealing with billions and billions and billions of dollars,” Trump said, surrounded by student activists at a White House ceremony Thursday afternoon. In doing so, Trump is responding to a rallying cry among conservatives who say their views are suppressed on campuses, and that speakers are sometimes assaulted or silenced when protesters threaten violence. Trump called the move “historic,” saying that students and American values have “been under siege,” as several students said free speech is at risk on their campuses. “Every year the federal government provides educational institutions with more than $35 billion in research funding. All

Father and daughter who allegedly blamed panhandlers for his wife's killing extradited back to Baltimore to face murder charges

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Baltimore Police Dept.(BALTIMORE) — A father and daughter who authorities say fabricated a story of a panhandler stabbing his wife to death were extradited to Baltimore early Thursday to face murder charges as newly released documents show the husband allegedly asked his brother to help kill the victim. Keith and Valeria Smith were brought back to Maryland by the Baltimore Police Department’s Warrant Apprehension Task Force after being caught in Texas earlier this month while attempting to make a run for the Mexican border, authorities said. Arrest warrants for the father and daugther released Thursday show that in the days prior to the Dec. 1 killing of Jacquelyn Smith, Keith Smith allgedly tried to get his brother to help him kill his wife of five years. ‘Get rid of Jacquelyn’ Keith Smith’s brother, Vick Smith, told police that his brother told him that Jacquelyn Smith was talking about divocing him, according to the arrest warrants. Vick Smith told police, according to the warrants, that he reached out to a close friend of his brother and told him that Keith Smith

Treasurer of NYPD charity for slain officers arrested for stealing over $400,000: Prosecutors

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Onnes/iStock(NEW YORK) — When a police officer dies in the line of duty it often prompts an outpouring of generosity from within the ranks to support the officer’s family. But Lorraine Shanley, a volunteer treasurer for Survivors of the Shield, a nonprofit that helps the families of fallen New York Police Department, “monetized people’s generosity” by stealing more than 20 percent of the donations to the organization, federal prosecutors said. Shanley was arrested Thursday and charged with bank fraud and aggravated identity theft in connection to an alleged scheme in which she rerouted more than $400,000 of the charity’s money into an account for her own use. Shanley “fraudulently obtained and expended at least approximately $410,000 held in the checking account of a charitable organization for which she volunteered as Treasurer by, among other things, forging the signature of another authorized signatory of the charity’s checks, double endorsing the charity’s checks and cashing and depositing them into her own personal accounts, writing unauthorized checks and making unauthorized checking account payments to pay for personal expenses and to distribute money to

'Pretty Little Liars: The Perfectionists' star Sasha Pieterse talks devoted Twitter fans & show's timeliness

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Freeform/Allyson Riggs(NEW YORK) — Pretty Little Liars ran for seven seasons and during that time, it developed a devoted fanbase thanks to the stars’ engaging use of social media.  Now, the show’s spinoff, Pretty Little Liars: The Perfectionists, aims to do the same. The first episode aired Wednesday night on Freeform and the show was the number one trending topic on Twitter worldwide. The series takes PLL favorites Alison DiLaurentis and Mona Vanderwaal, played by Sasha Pieterse and Janel Parrish respectively, and drops them into a whole new mystery set at the highly competitive Beacon Heights University. Both actresses were on hand to live-tweet the episode. “I loved just watching all the tweets and seeing how everybody was loving it and their questions,” Pieterse tells ABC Radio. “And it kind of brought me back to PLL where we had so many conversations with our fans all over the world.” She adds that seeing fans’ positive reactions to the show “was just rewarding because it means we did our job right.” The themes in The Perfectionists are also coincidentally relevant to

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