breaking news


‘Katrina Girl’ rescued by Air Force para-rescuer to follow him into military service

Published: Monday, March 20, 2017 @ 3:25 PM

Lashay Brown, 3, hugs Air Force Staff Sgt. Mike Maroney, as she is relocated to the New Orleans International Airport on Sept. 7, 2005, after Hurricane Katrina flooded her family's home.
U.S. Air Force Photo/Airman 1st Class Veronica Pierce

When then-Air Force Staff Sgt. Mike Maroney received a tight hug and brilliant smile from a 3-year-old Hurricane Katrina survivor whom he plucked from a rooftop with her family, he expected that he would never see her again. 

Nearly 12 years after the sweltering September 2005 day that he said goodbye to the grateful child, they have forged a bond so strong that the girl, LaShay Brown, plans to follow Maroney’s footsteps into the military. 

LaShay, 14, of Bay St. Louis, Mississippi, also had Maroney escort her to her JROTC ball Saturday night at Bay High School. 

“It would be nobody else that could bring me here, and it would be more special to him,” LaShay told WLOX in Biloxi

>> Read more trending stories

Maroney credits that long-ago hug from LaShay with “rescuing him.” The para-rescuer, who was battling PTSD at the time, was a week into his rescue mission in New Orleans when he was lowered from a helicopter onto a roof where two parents and five children, including LaShay, had been stranded for days. 

Maroney, now a staff sergeant, recalled the rescue in 2015 for the Air Force Times, which was among dozens of publications that helped him find the little girl whose grin had stayed with him for a decade. The girl, whose name he never got, seemed fearless that day, he told the Times. 

As her mother cried on the helicopter, LaShay rubbed her back to comfort her. 

“It’s OK,” Maroney recalled her telling her mother. “We’re safe. Don’t worry.”

When the helicopter dropped off the family at the airport, which was being used as a staging area for evacuees to be moved out of the broken city, LaShay wrapped her arms around Maroney’s neck and hugged him in a moment captured by an Air Force photographer. 

That photo, which ended up on everything from military coins to Burger King place mats, represented for many the strength and resilience of Katrina survivors. It made its way into Mahoney’s heart, and it accompanied him on subsequent tours of duty to Iraq and Afghanistan, where he said it gave him hope during difficult moments. 

“If not for her hug and smile that day, my life would probably be a lot different,” Mahoney told WLOX

As the 10th anniversary of the deadly storm approached in 2015, Mahoney, who had since become a master sergeant in the Air Force Reserve, began trying to find the little girl. Thanks to a viral campaign people called #FindKatrinaGirl, he and LaShay were reunited on an episode of the television show “The Real.” 

Since then, Mahoney has become close to LaShay and her family. His encouragement led her to join the JROTC at school, so it was natural for her to ask him to escort her to the ball. 

“I’m going because I would do anything to repay the hug to LaShay and her family,” Mahoney told People last week. “They mean as much to me as my own.”

His guidance also led to LaShay’s decision to join the military after graduation. Maroney supports that decision, he told People. 

“I am proud of her no matter what she does and will support her in everything she does,” Maroney said. “I think she understands service, and I believe that she will do great things no matter what she chooses.”

Trump travel ban: Supreme Court allows key parts to go into effect

Published: Monday, June 26, 2017 @ 10:01 AM

FILE - This Jan. 25, 2012, file photo, shows the U.S. Supreme Court Building in Washington. The Supreme Court enters its final week of work before a long summer hiatus with action expected on the Trump administration’s travel ban and a decision due in a separation of church and state case that arises from a Missouri church playground.
AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite, File
  • Updated at 10:42: The Supreme Court will allow part of the travel ban to take effect; some immigrants will be banned from entering the country. 
  • Update at 10:29 a.m. ET: The  Supreme Court has ruled that it will hear arguments over President Donald Trump’s second executive order banning travel to the United States.


Original story:

The Supreme Court will rule on Monday whether to hear the challenge to President Donald Trump’s executive order banning immigration from several predominately Muslim nations.

That executive order and the revised order that followed were both challenged in lower courts, which ruled in favor of the states that brought suit, setting up today’s decision by the U.S. Supreme Court.

Here’s what can happen Monday and some background on the executive order.

What is the ban?

The original ban was issued on January 27, 2017, and it did the following:

- Suspended the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program for 120 days

- Cut the number of refugees to 50,000 in 2017

- Banned Syrian refugees from entry into the United States indefinitely

- Barred immigrants from seven predominantly Muslim countries -- Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen -- from entering the United States for 90 days.

How was it revised?

The revised order, executive order 13780, removed Iraq from the list of nations included in the ban, allowed refugees already approved by the State Department to enter the U.S. and lifted the ban on Syrian refugees. It was to go into effect at midnight on March 16, 2017.

What will happen on Monday?

The court will do one of three things Monday. It will either uphold Trump’s ban, refuse to hear the case or say it will hear the case in the fall when the court reconvenes.

What happens if the Supreme Court rules in Trump’s favor?

If the court rules in favor of the administration, the ban can be implemented within 72 hours.

What happens if the justices refuse to hear the case?

If the justices refuse to review the case, the lower court rulings will stand, stopping the Trump administration from banning entry into the U.S. based on the country from which a person emigrates.

Will the Supreme Court hear arguments?

Justices could choose to hear arguments about the ban in the fall. In the meantime, the lower court orders would stand.

What is the background?

President Trump signed an executive order that would ban refugees and immigrants from seven mostly Muslim countries from entering the United States for 90 days and would suspend a refugee program for 120 days. It would also ban Syrian refugees from entering the country.

That order sparked protests around the country and around the world. The states of Washington, Oregon, Minnesota, New York, Massachusetts and Hawaii filed suits over the ban.

In three days, from January 28 to January 31, 50 cases were filed against the order.

The courts granted a nationwide temporary restraining order that suspended much of the order. The 9th District Court of Appeals upheld the restraining orders.

A revised order was issued in March. That order, like the first, ran into legal challenges. A judge in Hawaii suspended the revised order, ruling that if the ban went into effect, it would likely cause "irreparable injury" by violating protections granted by the First Amendment against religious discrimination.

The judge said tweets by Trump suggested that the order sought to ban people on the basis of their religion, and not in the interest of national security, as Trump had claimed. 

 
 
 
 
 

Therapy dogs comfort grieving families at funeral homes

Published: Monday, June 26, 2017 @ 11:23 AM

A therapy dog.  (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

There’s Kermit in Texas, Lulu in New York and Dempsey in Ohio

They are therapy dogs who comfort grieving families at funeral homes across the country. 

Increasingly, funeral home directors are adding comfort animals as a service to help friends and relatives deal with the loss of a loved one.

>> Read more trending news

“The families love it,” Jessica Koth, spokeswoman for the National Funeral Directors Association, told “Today.” “An animal changes the mood of the room.”

While the group does not track the number of therapy animals, Koth said it is on the rise. 

In addition to their duties at funeral homes, some of the dogs also visit hospitals, nursing homes and libraries, where they are part of programs in which people read to to children.

There’s Charlie the labradoodle in Minnesota, Gracie in Missouri and Judd in Indiana

Tim Hoff, director of Hoff Funeral Homes in Minnesota, got the idea to get a therapy dog after attending a convention for funeral service professionals, according to the Winona Daily News. The Hoff family got Charlie from a breeder who specializes in therapy and service animals. 

“He’s just a lover,” Ashley Czaplewski, funeral director and Charlie’s handler, told the Daily News. “He seems to know exactly who needs his attention, and he sits right at their feet. It’s like he can see who’s struggling the most, even if we can’t.”

Before the dogs can start comforting the grieving, they undergo training, testing and certification to ensure they can handle the work. 

Judd spent a year in obedience classes and training before he was certified a grief therapy dog. 

“Judd displays that loving, gentle nature: ‘Everything is good. Just focus on me and I’m going to make it OK,’” Shari Wallace, his handler at Armes-Hunt Funeral Home, told “Today.” “He’s like a sponge: He absorbs your stress and your fear and your anger. People could be crying or hanging their head, but when he approaches, he becomes a distraction from their emotions.”

Woman's photo of son's hospital bill goes viral

Published: Monday, June 26, 2017 @ 11:15 AM



everydayplus/Getty Images/iStockphoto

A New Jersey mother wants parents and other Americans to know the cost of health care in the country. 

>> Read more trending news

In a now-viral tweet, Alison Chandra posted a photo of her son's latest hospital bill. Chandra’s son, Ethan, was born with heterotaxy syndrome, a rare genetic disorder in which organs form on the wrong side of the body, CNN reported. 

"Ethan was born with nine congenital heart defects and he has two left lungs. Five or so spleens of dubious function. His liver and his gallbladder are down the middle of his body along with his heart, and then his stomach is on the right instead of the left side," Chandra told CNN.

On Friday, Chandra tweeted a hospital bill for services received from Boston’s Children’s Hospital earlier this year.

"It seems fitting that, with the #TrumpCare debate raging, I got this bill in the mail today from Ethan's most recent open heart surgery," she wrote. “Without insurance we would owe $231,115 for 10 hours in the OR, 1 week in the CICU and 1 week on the cardiac floor.”

Chandra’s tweet has been liked more than 80,000 times and retweeted more than 53,000 times.

"That is why I like to tell our story. Maybe you hadn't thought of this side before. You don't picture a 3-year-old with all these fees,” she said. 

Chandra, who said she didn’t follow politics until November, said she was “shocked at how loudly each side yells about their specific talking points.”

“It paints these issues as black and white when they are anything but that,” she told CNN. “My fear is that this bill comes into play and suddenly essential health benefits are no longer covered, like hospitalization, prescription medications. (Ethan) will rely on prescription medications for the rest of his life. He is functionally asplenic and will need to take prophylactic antibiotics the rest of his life to prevent and protect against sepsis, a huge risk of death for our kids in the heterotaxy community.

“As a mother with a kid who has disorder you feel alone ... We just want him to be a kid.”

Read more at CNN.

Aspiring singer found murdered in home, police say

Published: Sunday, June 25, 2017 @ 7:18 PM

Family and friends are mourning the loss of a beloved daughter who was found dead in her home on Friday night.

Egypt Covington, 27, is believed to have been murdered, police said. Covington was found dead by a friend, according to MLive.com.

Covington’s father, Chuck Covington, broke down during an interview with WJBK describing his daughter, who had a “smile that lightens up the room” and “lift(ed) people up.”

The grieving father urged the murderer to come forward and surrender to police.

“People wanted to be around her because she lifted us up, and that’s gone now,” he said tearfully. “They’ll never able to walk, think, talk, hold their head up because of what they know they did.”

So far, police have not said how Egypt Covington was killed and have approached the investigation in a “low-key” way, according to Chuck Covington, given the small-town setting.

Egypt Covington was known locally for her singing and won a “Country Idol” competition. 

Palmer House Bar & Grill, an employer of Egypt Covington, posted condolences on social media:

So stunned and saddened with the news that our Rave sales rep, Egypt Covington, was murdered in her home last night. Thoughts and prayers for her and her family and friends. She was a beautiful and bright human being and touched many lives.