On tonight's episode of the Nightline podcast, there’s unrest in Baltimore after protests erupt following the funeral of Freddie Gray. Over a dozen police officers are reportedly injured after clashes with protesters. Also, Bruce Jenner’s family speaks out in support of the 1976 Olympic gold medalist’s decision to become a woman. Plus, a look at the reunion on Dancing with the Stars.
decade3d/iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Researchers are looking into whether the volume of a person's left atria may be correlated in some way with strokes.
According to a study published in the Journal of the American Heart Association, scientists looked at 169 patients with a regular heart rhythm and a history of atrial fibrillation. Those patients underwent a cardiac MRI before undergoing a procedure that would prevent their heart rhythms from becoming irregular again.
Those patients with a history of stroke, researchers found, had left atria that were larger in volume, but did not pump as well. The left atrium is one of the chambers of the heart where clots are known to form.
It was not determined definitively whether the measurements in patients' left atria could in any way predict future strokes. The measurements simply correlated to past strokes.
Nonetheless, researchers hope that future studies could examine whether similar tests could be done to predict or help detect risk of future strokes.
Photo by Samuel Corum/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images(BALTIMORE) -- Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan declared a state of emergency Monday following a violent gathering in Baltimore, where people threw objects at police, set cars on fire and looted businesses. Hogan also activated the National Guard.
Multiple police officers were injured in the violent protests after the funeral of Freddie Gray, who died of a spinal injury while in police custody earlier this month.
Police said a group of protesters were throwing bricks in the direction of officers near the Mondawmin Mall. A police presence in the area had been building throughout the afternoon Monday.
Maryland Governor Larry Hogan also activated the National Guard.
"These acts of violence and destruction ... cannot and will not be tolerated," Hogan said at a news conference Monday evening. Hogan called the clashes "disturbing" and referred to the protesters as "thugs."
Protesters were also seen climbing on a police cruiser and damaging several others. Police tweeted that people were also looting businesses and setting cars on fire.
One of the looted businesses was a CVS Pharmacy, but a spokesman for CVS said the store was closed earlier in the day out of an abundance of caution so no customers or employees were there at the time.
One of our officers has been injured at Mondawmin Mall. The group continues to throw bricks and other items at police officers.
Baltimore City Police Capt. Eric Kowalczyk said at a press availability that fifteen officers had been seriously injured. Two remained in the hospital Monday night, while the others had been released.
"Right now it is a group of lawless individuals with no regard" for safety, he said.
Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake activated Baltimore's emergency operations center Monday afternoon to coordinate response in the city.
Rawlings-Blake said Monday night that the city of Baltimore would institute a curfew beginning Tuesday night at 10 p.m. The curfew would go from 10 p.m. to 5 a.m. and would last for one week. "What that means," she said, "is that if you are on the streets, it's a medical emergency or you're going to work."
Baltimore already has youth curfews, which remain in effect Monday night and throughout the week.
Hogan was briefed on the situation, according to press secretary Shareese DeLeaver Churchill. According to a statement from Hogan earlier Monday, the Maryland State Police have been dispatched in response to the clashes, while the National Guard are on alert.
"Today's looting and acts of violence in Baltimore will not be tolerated," Hogan said. "There is a significant difference between protesting and violence and those committing these acts will be prosecuted under the fullest extent of the law."
Maryland Sen. Barbara Mikulski said: "We are extremely disappointed about the violence that has taken place in Baltimore by a few."
"We know the people of Baltimore. We know they have strong passions, we also know they respect each other’s rights, and we would ask everyone to please do that and certainly we respect the right to express your views but do it in a peaceful way and don’t feed into the very few number that have resorted to vandalism and violence," Mikulski added.
In response to the incidents on Monday, Major League Baseball's Baltimore Orioles cancelled their Monday night game at Baltimore's Camden Yards. Restrictions were also put in place at Baltimore's Penn Station, with only passengers showing tickets being allowed to enter.
"Too many people have spent generations building up this city," Rawlings-Blake said at a press conference Monday night, "for it to be destroyed by thugs."
Edie Foster, Public Information Manager for the Baltimore City Public Schools told ABC News that the schools will be closed on Tuesday.
According to a statement posted to the Baltimore City Schools website, the closure was enacted out of "a heightened responsibility to our students, families, and school communities" at a "time of tension and anxiety." The school system will also make crisis counselors and mental health professionals available to all students.
"We are deeply concerned about our students and community," the statement read, "and we hope to treat this situation not only as a teachable moment but also a time for thoughtful reflection on how we can reduce conflict and violence in our society."
Federal agents from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives are investigating several fires in Baltimore as possible arsons, an ATF spokesman told ABC News. ATF agents are already actively working fire scenes, including the massive structure fire at a community center. ATF arson investigators will work to determine if the fires were deliberately set, the spokesman said.
Before Gray's funeral on Monday, police had announced that there was a credible threat against law enforcement officers. A police press release warned that members of gangs including the Bloods, Crips, and Black Guerilla Family "have entered into a partnership to 'take-out' law enforcement officers."
Volatile protests had been held throughout the weekend, with some violence reported. Baltimore City Police said that between Saturday afternoon and the early morning Sunday, there had been 34 arrests.
Gray was picked up by police on Sunday, April 12. Police have not officially disclosed a reason why he was taken into custody, though they said Gray fled after officers made eye contact with him.
He went into a coma on Thursday, April 16, and died the morning of Sunday, April 19, his family attorney has said.
Controversy over Gray's arrest spread across the country when footage shot by bystanders appeared to show Gray shouting in pain as he was apprehended.
Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Newly sworn-in Attorney General Loretta Lynch on Monday night issued a statement calling the clashes between protesters and police in Baltimore "senseless acts of violence."
"I condemn the senseless acts of violence by some individuals in Baltimore that have resulted in harm to law enforcement officers, destruction of property and a shattering of the peace in the city of Baltimore," Lynch said in her statement. "Those who commit violent actions, ostensibly in protest of the death of Freddie Gray, do a disservice to his family, to his loved ones, and to legitimate peaceful protestors who are working to improve their community for all its residents."
Earlier in the day, after being sworn in as the successor to outgoing Attorney General Eric Holder, Lynch briefed President Obama on the situation in Baltimore.
The Department of Justice is currently investigating Gray's death.
Obama also spoke with Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake about the situation, offering assistance as needed. White House Senior Advisor Valerie Jarrett spoke with Maryland Governor Larry Hogan.
"As our investigative process continues," Lynch concluded, "I strongly urge every member of the Baltimore community to adhere to the principles of nonviolence."
Lynch also vowed to work with leaders in Baltimore to protect the "security and civil rights of all residence." She also promised to "bring the full resources of the Department of Justice to bear in protecting those under threat, investigating wrongdoing, and securing an end to violence."
ABC News(AURORA, Colo.) -- Aurora, Colorado theater shooter James Holmes was present in court Monday for the opening of his trial, and looked dramatically different from his earlier court appearances.
Holmes, who has previously been seen wearing an orange prison jumpsuit in various court hearings, was wearing khakis, a blue-and-white striped button-down shirt and glasses. On Monday, he also had a small mustache and beard.
His new look comes in stark contrast to his earlier appearances, when his unkempt hair was dyed bright orange.
Holmes appeared at a pretrial hearing at the Arapahoe County courthouse earlier Monday morning, when he read from several typed pages before the official trial began.
Victims' relatives were not allowed in Monday morning's hearing but will be seated in court for the trial. Each seat has a decorum notice taped to the back, warning audience members that they may be banned from court if they make any audible comments or have an outburst.
The prosecution team presented some of its exhibits Monday, including 911 calls from the movie theater, photos of explosives found in Holmes' apartment, video of one of the victims of the shooting and photos of all 12 people who were killed that night. They also showed video from one of Holmes' psychiatric evaluations in which he said "I only count fatalities" and that the injured were "collateral damage."
The defense also showed parts of its case, including video of Holmes as a child, as well as video of him in a holding cell the night of the shooting with bags on his hand -- which the defense says he thought were puppets.
The defense claims Holmes was diagnosed with "psychosis" that night and heard up to eight voices at a time.
Holmes has entered a plea of not guilty by reason of insanity, which means he acknowledges killing 12 people and injuring 70 more inside a movie theater in July 2012.
Prosecutors are seeking the death penalty. If he is found not guilty by reason of insanity, he would be committed indefinitely to a state mental institution. But if he were later deemed sane, he could, theoretically, be released, though legal experts say that is unlikely.
The district attorney described Monday how Holmes was declared sane by multiple state-appointed doctors and Holmes’ defense attorney saying there is “ample evidence he's not faking anything.”
New information about the shooting was also revealed Monday, including how Holmes scoped out various theaters and rated them based on the number of possible exits. Prosecutors also say Holmes took a Vicodin before heading to the theater and blasted techno music in his headphones during the shooting.
Defense attorney Daniel King focused much of his opening statement on the difference between the ability to plan and the side effects of mental disease, which Holmes’ team contends he had at the time of the shooting.
“It’s a brain disease just as cancer is a body disease,” King said of schizophrenia, which he said Holmes had.
“The question is not can they think or plan but what are they planning for... is it an illogical delusional objective? That’s the crucible of insanity, not planning,” King said.
The prosecution is scheduled to begin making its case on Tuesday morning.
MARK BRAZIER/iStock/Thinkstock(LONDON) -- The first approved HIV self-test kit is on sale in the United Kingdom.
BBC News reports that the kits do not need to be sent to a lab for results; with a small drop of the patient's blood, the kit can detect antibodies that signal the presence of HIV. The antibodies, BBC News notes, are only detectable three months after the infection is contracted.
Experts are asking for any positive tests using the kit to be confirmed at clinics.
Bio Sure UK, the company that produces the test kits, notes that up to 30 percent of people with HIV are undiagnosed, according to estimates. It adds that that group of undiagnosed individuals accounts for "at least two-thirds of all HIV transmission."
The kits are meant to work similarly to a pregnancy test.
Bio Sure UK hopes that the ability for early diagnosis will allow those with HIV to get treatment quickly and prevent the more serious complications.
Alex_Schmidt/iStock/Thinkstock(SAN FRANCISCO) -- A bartender and model is broadening her lawsuit against San Francisco transit police to include an Oakland cop after she says they used excessive force while booking her on St. Patrick’s Day last year and caused her to break at least four bones in her face.
Megan Sheehan acknowledges she was intoxicated and belligerent when she was apprehended at a Bay Area Rapid Transit station, but says officers left her with permanent physical damage after taking her to the nearby jail to charge her.
"I should have never gotten that drunk, but also there are ways to detain someone and not break their face," she told ABC station KGO-TV.
The dramatic moment was caught on security cameras from inside the Santa Rita jail, as well as body cameras that were being worn by officers near Sheehan, showing how two officers appear to throw her to the ground right after she turned toward one of the officers and told him to stop touching her.
An audible thud can be heard as Sheehan hit the ground, and people standing near are heard gasping. An officer kneeling next to her after she hit the ground can be heard requesting medical help.
According to the lawsuit filed by Sheehan’s attorney last July, she suffered "serious head injuries including but not limited to fracturing four of her cheek bones, splitting her molar, and cracking a front tooth."
The video shows Sheehan lying unconscious in a pool of blood as people near her, though it is unclear exactly who, say her name to try and get her to respond.
Sheehan, who is now 28 but was 27 at the time of the incident, did not remember anything of what happened on the night of the altercation, and it was only after her attorneys obtained video from inside the police station that they were able to determine how she broke the bones in her face.
"Finally, when we saw this last video we saw that, 'Oh, she couldn't put her hands out because they were being held behind her back,'" Liza de Vries, one of Sheehan's attorneys, told ABC News Monday.
"She's still recovering mentally from what happened. Physically she's still having her teeth repaired. Her facial bones have recovered...though she can still feel that they were broken," de Vries said.
The suit says that she spent two days being treated in a nearby hospital and never faced criminal charges.
De Vries told ABC News that they have an amendment hearing scheduled for the case on May 28 because they have now learned that in addition to a BART police officer there was also an Oakland police officer who was allegedly holding one of Sheehan's arms behind her back when she was pushed to the ground. As a result, they will ask to have that officer and the Oakland police department added as defendants in the suit.
ABC News’ calls to BART police and the Oakland police department were not immediately returned. They told KGO they would not comment on the case because it is in active litigation, though attorneys for BART have denied liability in earlier court proceedings.
Violence in Baltimore: Tensions are running high as Freddie Gray was laid to rest, his spine nearly severed after being dragged by police, put in a van. Thousands turning out for his funeral - meanwhile threats phoned in against police, gangs reportedly taking aim.
Earthquake Aftermath in Nepal: It's a race against time to find survivors after that devastating earthquake in Nepal that left more than 4000 people dead.
Cleveland Kidnapping Survivors: The 3 women who escaped a house of horror after being held hostage for a decade and now two of them are revealing how they survived.
Bruce Jenner: Millions of people watched his groundbreaking moment with Diane Sawyer – and it sparked national conversation about transgender issues.
Kentucky same-sex supporters pose, as pastor Rick Grogan from Fort Worth, TX, an opponent, seated, looks on. ABC News(WASHINGTON) -- The scene outside the Supreme Court Monday felt a lot like a football game tailgate party -- and for supporters and opponents of same-sex marriage who have spent days camped out to score a seat, Tuesday's oral arguments are the Super Bowl.
The justices will hear arguments on two related questions: one, whether states must allow same-sex couples to marry; and two, whether states must recognize same-sex marriages performed elsewhere.
There were at least sixty groups -- mainly supporters, but also some opponents -- who had been waiting on the corner of First and East Capitol Streets for days, hoping for a coveted chair inside the courtroom.
Frank Colasonti Jr. and his husband James Ryder of Birmingham, Michigan, were among the first in line. They said they had been there since Friday evening, snoozing in sleeping bags and hiding under tarps when it rained. But the partners for 27 years, husbands for the last one, said this argument was too important not to try to attend.
"We really never thought ..." Colasonti said before getting choked up.
"We really never thought we'd see it in our lifetime," Ryder said, finishing his husband’s sentence.
"It really never seemed like an option that it would ever happen," he continued, noting that they had filed their income taxes jointly for the first time this year.
The couple was among some 300 spouses who married on a single day in 2014 when Michigan's gay marriage ban was temporarily lifted. Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder later said he would not contest the validity of those marriages, although the ban was reinstated.
Michigan is one of four states arguing in favor of their same-sex marriage bans. The others are Kentucky, Ohio and Tennessee.
Besides the many same-sex couples and their families who flocked from those states, there were many law students who wanted to see a case that future classes will likely study.
"However this is decided it's going to be one of the most iconic and well-read cases in casebooks so this is going to be really exciting to be here," Wyatt Fore, a third-year law student at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, said. He said he had been in place, lawn chair and law books in tow, since Friday night.
Emotions and opinions on both sides of Tuesday's arguments run high, but at this unique gathering of legal minds, students, same-sex couples and pastors, the tendency is to live and let live -- or in this case, wait and let wait.
Pastor Rick Grogan of Fort Worth, Texas, acknowledged that he was one of the few opponents of same-sex marriage camped out, a buoy in a sea of Human Rights Campaign banners and rainbow flags.
"You've got, what, 20-something states who have banned it in their constitution. Now, nine people are going to tell the whole nation what to do," he said, sprawled on a blanket with an opened Bible in his hand.
But he said the discourse among his neighbors had been respectful. After all, if people toss footballs around during a pregame tailgate, why wouldn't they engage in elevated debate before a Supreme Court argument?
"Even though people disagree, it's been pleasant so far," Grogan said.
As he spoke, a group of same-sex marriage supporters from Kentucky posed for a group picture, just steps away.
NoahBryant/iStock/Thinkstock(TULSA, Okla.) -- Tulsa Undersheriff Tim Albin has resigned, Sheriff Stanley Glanz announced on Monday, following the release of an internal investigation that showed Albin pressured employees to give special treatment to Reserve Deputy Robert Bates, the deputy who shot and killed Eric Harris when he says he mistook his firearm for his Taser.
"The last few weeks has been difficult for both the community and for the Tulsa County Sheriff's Office," Glanz said in a statement Monday. "As we look as a community for answers to the situation which put Mr. Bates and Mr. Harris on that fatal path, I have also looked inside the Tulsa County Sheriff's Office organization to find what we could have done better and need to do differently."
"As a result of my own examination," Glanz added, "I believe it is time for a change in my leadership team."
Glanz notes that "given the gravity of the current situation and the need to go a different direction with our leadership and management, [Albin] agrees with me that it is time for a change."
Glanz also says that he will continue to examine the office, adding that more changes are coming.
The Tulsa Worldreports that Albin's resignation will be effective at the end of the week.
Last week, the World reported that it had obtained a Sheriff's Office memo regarding a special investigation into allegations of falsified documents and improper training for Robert Bates.
Bates is currently charged with second-degree manslaughter in Harris' death.
The delicious-looking sweet addition to Starbucks' popular coffee drinks will launch on May 1, with the return of the annual "Happy Hour" promotion. Between May 1 and 10, "customers who visit participating Starbucks stores from 3-5 p.m. local time for Frappuccino Happy Hour may enjoy half-priced Frappuccino blended beverages," the company said in a press release.
As part of the promotion, Starbucks is also unveiling a S'mores Frappuccino -- which includes marshmallow-infused whipped cream, milk chocolate sauce, a creamy blend of graham, coffee, milk and ice, and a graham cracker crumble.
Mashable reports that the cookie straw is a "rolled sweet wafer biscuit lined with rich chocolate ganache," that will be available beginning May 1 for 95 cents.
Rachelle and Chris Chapman with their new baby, Kaylee Rae. Rachelle Chapman(KNIGHTDALE, N.C.) -- Rachelle Friedman Chapman was paralyzed when a bridesmaid playfully pushed her into a pool at her bachelorette party five years ago, causing irreversible damage to her spinal cord.
But now, thanks to a surrogate, she's a new mom. Kaylee Rae Chapman was born at 10:48 a.m. Sunday, weighing 7 pounds, 11 ounces, Chapman told ABC News.
Even though Chapman knew the baby was on its way, because she wasn't the one who was pregnant, the birth was a bit of a shock, Chapman told ABC News, adding that she'd been up since 4 a.m. "Then, all of the sudden, boom. There's a baby."
Chapman, 29, injured her sixth vertebrae in the accident in 2010, making her a quadriplegic. She said she still has the use of her shoulders and arms, but she lacks dexterity in her fingers. So, Chapman will be able to hold Kaylee, but changing her diapers and clothing her will be a learning experience.
"Not a matter of if, it's a matter of when," Chapman said.
Chapman met Laurel Humes, who carried Kaylee for nine months, back in 2004 at East Carolina University, where she also met her husband, Chris. The two clicked, but didn't stay in touch.
Then, Humes saw Chapman's blog post about wanting to have a baby through a surrogate because her spinal cord injury left her with low blood pressure. The blood pressure medication could hurt a developing fetus, but forgoing the medicine could be dangerous, too. Then, "out of the blue" Humes sent Chapman a message that she'd been thinking about surrogacy.
Humes lives a few hours away, but the Chapmans visited her for milestone doctors' appointments, like hearing the baby's heartbeat for the first time. On Sunday morning, she went into labor. Three hours later, Kaylee was born.
"Laurel did amazing and is resting after some hard work," Chapman told her Facebook followers. "Thank you for the most beautiful gift we will ever receive!"
And Chapman said they wouldn't have Kaylee without the organization Surrogacy Together, a group that works to make surrogate pregnancies more affordable, and donations from their GoFundMe page.
They will probably head home to Knightdale, North Carolina, on Tuesday, where Kaylee can meet her furry siblings, dogs Peedee and Roger.
Photo by: JTB Photo/UIG via Getty Images(KATHMANDU, Nepal) -- The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) is working to assess the damage done by the recent earthquake to the Kathmandu Valley.
"I am deeply aggrieved by the magnitude of human loss caused by the earthquake in Nepal," said Irina Bokova, UNESCO's director general. "I am also shocked by its devastating impact on the unique cultural heritage in the country, in particular extensive and irreversible damage at the World Heritage site of Kathmandu Valley."
A preliminary assessment showed that monuments and sites within the valley have been heavily affected by the earthquake. Several other cultural and natural heritage sites nearby are also believed to be affected.
"UNESCO has mobilized its expertise as well as international support for Nepal at this difficult time, including for the safeguarding of its heritage," Bokova added.
UNESCO hopes to undertake an "in-depth damage assessment" in an effort to support and advise Nepalese authorities on the protection and recovery of those sites.
Earl Leaf/Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- Jayne Meadows has died, her agent confirmed to ABC News. She was 95.
Meadows, who was married to TV legend Steve Allen from 1954 until his death in 2000, was born in China and moved to Connecticut with her missionary parents as a child. As a teenager, she developed a love of theater and made a name for herself in a local company as "the redhead with the loud voice," she once told Emmy TV Legends.
Meadows went on to earn three Emmy nominations for her work on Meeting of Minds, St. Elsewhere and High Society. However, her favorite time professionally were the years she spent with her husband as a celebrity panelist on I've Got a Secret.
"That was a period in New York, where everybody I worked with, they were our best friends and I would do the show at night and the next day I'd be leaving the apartment...and the cab drivers [would yell], 'Jayney! Great show last night! How's Steve-o? How's the baby?'" she told Emmy TV Legends. "It was the medium that came into your living room. Every living room...they knew you as a friend."
Her work in TV was varied -- from appearances on What's My Line? and Hollywood Squares to The Honeymooners alongside her sister, Audrey Meadows. She also appeared on Broadway in Spring Again, The Gazebo, and Once In a Lifetime, and in films including Undercurrent and Lady in the Lake.
Meadows is survived by her son, Bill Allen.
"She was the most loving mother and grandmother I could ever imagine," he told Entertainment Tonight. "Seeing only the best in all her family members and giving us all confidence that we had value to offer the world and should take risks because we could do no wrong in her eyes."
James Gathany/Centers for Disease Control and Prevention(NEW YORK) -- The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Monday that a microneedle patch currently being developed could be a major advancement in the effort to vaccinate people against measles and other diseases.
The patch, being developed by the CDC and the Georgia Institute of Technology, is designed to be administered by workers with minimal training. It would also simplify storage, distribution and disposal, as compared to traditional vaccines.
A CDC press release said the square centimeter patch could be administered with the press of a thumb. The underside of the patch contains 100 "solid, conical microneedles made of polymer, sugar, and vaccine that are a fraction of a millimeter long."
The CDC says that when applied, the microneedles press into the skin and dissolve within minutes, releasing the vaccine. Afterward, the patch can be discarded.
"Every day, 400 children are killed by measles complications worldwide," said James Goodson, epidemiologist from the CDC's Global Immunization Division. "With no needles, syringes, sterile water or sharps disposals needed, the microneedle patch offers great hope of a new tool to reach the world's children faster, even in the most remote areas."
KAREN BLEIER/AFP/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Just hours after President Obama used his appearance at the White House Correspondents' Dinner to call for the release of an American journalist held prisoner in Iran, another American held at the same prison was taunted by Iranian prison guards who told him the president did not mention his name, his family said.
The prisoner, Marine Corps veteran Amir Hekmati, called his mother over the weekend from the notorious Evin prison in Tehran, terrified that gaining his release is not a priority for the U.S. government, his family said. Now, in an emotional letter to the White House, Amir’s sister is demanding to know why the president has never said her brother’s name in public. He has been imprisoned for nearly four years.
“He has already been mistreated, abused, and tortured,” writes Sarah Hekmati, Amir’s sister, in a letter to White House counter-terrorism advisor Lisa Monaco. “Now the mental torture continues as he is made to feel that the country he put his life on the line for, the one he defended, and the president he voted for has left him behind and are not actively trying to secure his freedom.”
Of the three Americans known to be imprisoned in Iran, Hekmati has been held the longest. He was arrested in 2011 when, according to his family, he was visiting his ailing grandmother in Iran. He was sentenced to death in January 2012 for “espionage, waging war against God and corrupting the earth.”
President Obama spoke out for the release of American journalist Jason Rezaian at the White House Correspondents’ Dinner, and earlier this year he spoke out for the release of Pastor Saeed Abedini at the National Prayer Breakfast. The Hekmati family said they have repeatedly asked the White House to push for Amir Hekmati’s release.
“Why has President Obama yet to utter the name Amir Hekmati?” his sister wrote. “Why on days significant for Amir -- Memorial Day, Veteran's Day, the anniversary of his death sentence, the anniversary of his imprisonment -- President Obama cannot say the name Amir Hekmati out loud, but he can say it for Jason Rezaian and he can say it for Pastor Abedini? Why when we make a request is it ignored? Why am I forced to write this email to you AGAIN, the same subject AGAIN, the same plea AGAIN?”
ABC News posed her questions to the White House Monday and was told by Press Secretary Josh Earnest that “each case and the efforts that we're undertaking to secure their release is treated independently.”
“Certainly when considering how best to secure the release of these individuals, a calculation is made about the wisdom of the publicity that surrounds the efforts to secure their release,” Earnest said.
The president did mention Hekmati in a March written statement about the U.S. citizens detained or missing in Iran and personally raised Hekmati’s case during a phone call with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani in September 2013, but he has never mentioned his name or his case in any of his public remarks.
“The concern for the well-being of those individuals is shared by everybody here at the White House. We've made clear what those concerns are to the Iranian government. And we're going to continue the effort to try to secure the release and safe return of these individuals,” Earnest said.
Meanwhile, the Hekmati family waits for answers.
“Please spare us this dignity and give us a straightforward answer as to why in nearly 4 years President Obama has [not] raised Amir’s plight individually outside of the context of the others imprisoned. Not even once. Not even when he was sentenced to death. The only question at this point is why,” Sarah Hekmati wrote.
The Hekmati family plans to bring attention to Amir’s plight on Capitol Hill later this week with television personality Montel Williams, who has championed their cause.
iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services on Monday announced a final recommendation for optimal levels of fluoride in drinking water -- lowering the recommendation to 0.7 milligrams per liter, the low end of the previous recommendation issued in 1962.
The department says in a press release the change was made "because Americans now have access to more sources of fluoride, such as toothpaste and mouth rinses, than they did when water fluoridation was first introduced in the United States." As a result, Americans have seen an increase in dental fluorosis -- a condition that manifests as lacy white markings or spots on the enamel of the teeth.
"While additional sources of fluoride are more widely used than they were in 1962," U.S. Deputy Surgeon General Rear Adm. Boris Lushniak said, "the need for community water fluoridation still continues."
By fluoridating water, Lushniak says the U.S. has reduced tooth decay in its citizens well beyond the level that could be achieved using only toothpaste and other fluoride products.
"Community water fluoridation is effective, inexpensive and does not depend on access or availability of professional services," Lushniak noted. "It has been the basis for the primary prevention of tooth decay for nearly 70 years."
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration sent a letter to bottled water manufacturers on Monday saying that they too should lower the fluoride levels in their products.
In a statement, the American Academy of Pediatrics supported the DHHS decision. "Water fluoridation continues to be one of the most important tools in our toolbox to prevent tooth decay," said AAP President Sandra Hassink, while acknowledging that limiting water fluoridation to the level recommended Monday would limit the risk of children to develop fluorosis.
The White House(WASHINGTON) -- The state dinner on Tuesday for Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe will be a celebration of "a long-awaited spring" and the long-awaited Obama china.
Guests at the lavish dinner will be treated to toro tartare, Wagyu tenderloin and silken custard cake prepared by famed chef Masaharu Morimoto, all served on the newly unveiled 11-piece Obama state china.
It took three and a half years and countless consultations to design the new service, which is manufactured by Pickard China of Antioch, Illinois, according to White House officials.
"For a new state china service, First Lady Michelle Obama wanted it to have modern elements, but also for it to be practical, in the sense that it would be complementary to the preceding historic state services," according to the White House.
The Obama china stands out, in part for the teal blue band of color around each plate, a hue that the White House has dubbed "Kailua Blue," a nod to the president's home state of Hawaii. The service also includes an individual tureen, "a form not found in other White House services."
The purchase of the china was funded by a special donation from the White House Endowment Trust of the White House Historical Association, a private, nonprofit organization.
The china will be showcased at Tuesday's dinner, set on cheery blue tablecloths, surrounding bright pink bouquets of orchids and cherry blossoms, officials said. The spring theme will be further underscored by a curtain of crystals hanging in the State Dining Room to represent the spring rain.
Guests will enjoy a menu that "fuses traditional American cuisine with a Japanese influence," according to the White House, including a classic American Caesar salad with a Japanese twist (literally, the salad is wrapped in a clear acetate and tied with a mizuhiki cord "emulating a gift to be opened").
iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- It’s becoming more and more common to leave at least a 20-percent tip when dining out, but one man left his waitress a pretty unheard-of gratuity: nearly 7,000 percent.
Mike from New York City left his server $3,000 on a bill for $43.50 last week.
“This woman had been serving us for almost a year now. She’s a lovely individual, and she talked about how she was served an eviction notice last month,” Mike, who asked to remain anonymous, told ABC News. "I just had also been constantly thinking about for quite some time my teacher’s project and this foundation, and I thought it was an appropriate time.”
The foundation he is referring to is “ReesSpecht Life,” a pay-it-forward movement started by his eighth-grade science teacher Rich Specht after Specht’s 22-month-old son died in a tragic drowning accident.
In response to his death, Specht and his wife started a pay-it-forward foundation to thank everyone who helped them after their son Richard Edwin-Ehmer Specht’s (nicknamed Rees) funeral.
"We wanted to pay them back, and no one would take anything in return. We thought, ‘If no one will let us pay it back, we’ll pay it forward,’” Specht told ABC News.
He and his wife printed up business cards that encouraged others to pay it forward, initially ordering 5,000 cards. They’ve since distributed more than 100,000 cards worldwide.
"It keeps growing. People keep doing these things. We made our website and we get people to share their stories of what they’ve done,” he explained. “We unofficially call people who do things ‘Rees’ Pieces,’ and I get excited even when someone buys a coffee for someone else and shares it with us.”
Mike took his act a little further to honor his former teacher.
“I met Mr. Specht in eighth grade -- I was his science student – and he’s an incredible human being. To see something so horrible happen to him...it doesn’t surprise me that he would start a foundation out of something so horrible that would just continue to keep good around and to keep wonderful things going,” Mike said. “It was heartwrenching for me to see it happen. I had been trying to pay it forward and this was just a big opportunity for me to be able to honor someone that’s so wonderful.”
To help the waitress with her rent, Mike settled on $3,000 since Manhattan rents are so high.
“She really needed it and has been so happy since then, so I feel I did the right thing,” he said. “She said she was going to devote herself to the foundation and continue to pay it forward.”
It’s a scenario Specht and his wife never imagined when they started the foundation.
“All we ever want is to make a difference in the world. My son only had 22 months and didn’t really have a chance, and that’s all I wanted for him: to know he inspired someone he never met to do something,” Specht said. “I don’t know if there is a word that fits it because I can’t describe the feeling. It restores something that was missing."
iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Wall Street posted small losses on Monday just days ahead of another Federal Reserve meeting.
The Dow Jones Industrial Average closed the day at 18,037.97, off 42.17 from its open.
The Nasdaq dipped 31.84 to 5,060.25, while the S&P 500 ended the session at 2,108.92, following losses of 8.77.
The Federal Reserve's Federal Open Market Committee is scheduled to meet again on Wednesday, with potential implications for interest rate hikes. The committee has previously preached patience in raising the interest rates, which have remained low for years.