Letters to grieving families are a presidential tradition. Here are some famous ones.

Published: Wednesday, October 18, 2017 @ 1:33 PM

Allan Pinkerton, President Abraham Lincoln, and General John A. McClernand at Antietam, Maryland, October 1862.
Encyclopaedia Britannica/UIG/Getty Images/Universal Images Group
Allan Pinkerton, President Abraham Lincoln, and General John A. McClernand at Antietam, Maryland, October 1862.(Encyclopaedia Britannica/UIG/Getty Images/Universal Images Group)

By any measure, it’s one of the toughest jobs a president can have -- writing to the family of a soldier killed in action.

The issue of presidential condolences has come to the forefront in the past week as  President Donald Trump incorrectly claimed that his predecessor, former President Barack Obama, failed to write letters of condolence to the families of slain soldiers.

While Trump has not backed down from the claim, he has found himself being accused of indifference by the family of an Army sergeant killed in Niger two weeks ago.

According to the mother of La David Johnson, President Donald Trump showed “disrespect” to his loved ones by saying that the solider “knew what he signed up for” before he was killed in action.

The president has denied saying that, while Rep. Frederica Wilson, (D-Florida), said she was in the car when the president spoke toJohnson’s widow as they went to the airport to receive Johnson’s body.

Letters from Commanders-in-Chief to the families of those who are killed in war is not new. 

Perhaps one of the most famous condolence letters sent by a president was a letter sent by President Abraham Lincoln to Lydia Bixby, a widow whose five sons served in the Civil War.

While the letter has been often quoted, the facts of. Bixby’s story has been questioned. It’s believed that at least two of Bixby’s sons were captured during the war, one deserted and one was killed.

Lincoln did not know that when the letter was written. Some believe it may not have even been written by Lincoln, but, nevertheless attributed to him.

Here is that letter and a few others sent by presidents to grieving families.

Lincoln’s letter to Lydia Bixby:
Executive Mansion, Washington, Nov. 21, 1864
Dear Madam,
I have been shown in the files of the War Department a statement of the Adjutant-General of Massachusetts, that you are the mother of five sons who have died gloriously on the field of battle.
I feel how weak and fruitless must be any words of mine which should attempt to beguile you from the grief of a loss so overwhelming. But I cannot refrain from tendering to you the consolation that may be found in the thanks of the Republic they died to save.
I pray that our Heavenly Father may assuage the anguish of your bereavement, and leave you only the cherished memory of the loved and lost, and the solemn pride that must be yours, to have laid so costly a sacrifice upon the altar of Freedom. Yours, very sincerely and respectfully,
Abraham Lincoln

Another letter from President Lincoln to the parents of a man killed in the Civil War:
My dear Sir and Madam, In the untimely loss of your noble son, our affliction here, is scarcely less than your own.
So much of promised usefulness to one's country, and of bright hopes for one's self and friends, have rarely been so suddenly dashed, as in his fall. In size, in years, and in youthful appearance, a boy only, his power to command men, was surpassingly great. This power, combined with a fine intellect, an indomitable energy, and a taste altogether military, constituted in him, as seemed to me, the best natural talent, in that department, I ever knew.
And yet he was singularly modest and deferential in social intercourse.
My acquaintance with him began less than two years ago; yet through the latter half of the intervening period, it was as intimate as the disparity of our ages, and my engrossing engagements, would permit.
To me, he appeared to have no indulgences or pastimes; and I never heard him utter a profane, or intemperate word. What was conclusive of his good heart, he never forgot his parents. The honors he labored for so laudably, and, in the sad end, so gallantly gave his life, he meant for them, no less than for himself.
In the hope that it may be no intrusion upon the sacredness of your sorrow, I have ventured to address you this tribute to the memory of my young friend, and your brave and early fallen child.
May God give you that consolation which is beyond all earthly power. Sincerely your friend in a common affliction --
A. Lincoln

From President Lyndon Johnson to the parents of astronaut Gus Grissom:
Men of your son's utter dedication to country and cause are rare. The loss of such a man is humanity's loss.
On each of the happy occasions when I met with Gus, I was impressed by the strength of his spirit and his cool confidence in the success of our space program. He was a leader who shared his strength and faith with all who knew him. By his courage, skill and dedication, he has guaranteed future generations a knowledge of the universe that will enrich their lives on earth.
Your sacrifice is beyond measure. But I hope you can take some comfort from your knowledge that your pride can be without limit. 
Mrs. Johnson and I mourn with you as we pray for God's blessing. Millions share our debt to you for giving Gus to man, and inspiration to mankind.
Lyndon Johnson

From President Richard Nixon to the parents of a young man killed in the Vietnam War:
Dear Mr. and Mrs. Cummins:
It is with great sorrow that I have learned of the death of your son, Specialist Five Richard L. Cummins.
Of all the hardships of war, the cruelest are the losses of men such as your son. The only consolation I can offer is the profound respect of the nation he died to serve, and the humble recognition of a sacrifice no man can measure and no words can describe. Those who give their own lives to make the freedom of others possible live forever in honor.
Mrs. Nixon joins me in extending our own sympathy and in expressing the sympathy of a saddened nation. You will be in our prayers and in our hearts.
Sincerely,
Richard Nixon
From Richard Nixon to Jacqueline Kennedy on the assassination of President John F. Kennedy:
Dear Jackie,
In this tragic hour, Pat and I want you to know that our thoughts and prayers are with you.
While the hand of fate made Jack and me political opponents I always cherished the fact that we were personal friends from the time we came to the Congress together in 1947. That friendship evidenced itself in many ways including the invitation we received to attend your wedding.
Nothing I could say now could add to the splendid tributes which have come from throughout the world to him.
But I want you to know that the nation will also be forever grateful for your service as First Lady. You brought to the White House charm, beauty and elegance as the official hostess of America, and the mystique of the young in heart which was uniquely yours made an indelible impression on the American consciousness.
If in the days ahead we could be helpful in any way we shall be honored to be at your command.
Sincerely,
Dick Nixon 

Several weeks later, the former First Lady responded to Nixon’s letter. 
(Punctuation, phrasing, and spelling is as it was in Kennedy’s original handwritten letter.)
Dear Mr. Vice President –
I do thank you for your most thoughtful letter –
You two young men – colleagues in Congress – adversaries in 1960 – and now look what has happened – Whoever thought such a hideous thing could happen in this country –
I know how you must feel – so long on the path – so closely missing the greatest prize – and now for you, all the question comes up again – and you must commit all you and your family’s hopes and efforts again – Just one thing I would say to you –if it does not work out as you have hoped for so long – please be consoled by what you already have – your life and your family –
We never value life enough when we have it – and I would not have had Jack live his life any other way – thought I know his death could have been prevented, and I will never cease to torture myself with that –
But if you do not win – please think of all that you have – With my appreciation – and my regards to your family. I hope your daughters love Chapin School as much as I did – 
Sincerely
Jacqueline Kennedy

From President George W. Bush to the brother of a man killed in combat:
Dear Thad:
Johnnie Yellock passed along the copy of your book, My Brother In Arms. It looks like a moving tribute to your brother, Senior Airman Mark Andrew Forester, USAF. I appreciate your thoughtfulness and kind inscription.
I know you miss your brother dearly, and I wish there was something I could do to heal your broken heart. Mark's noble service in the United States Air Force helped preserve the security of our homeland and defend the liberties America holds dear. Our Nation will not forget Mark's selfless sacrifice and dedication in our efforts to make the world more peaceful and more free. We will forever honor his memory.
Laura and I send our respect and appreciation. May God bless you and your family.
Sincerely,
George W. Bush

From President Barack Obama:
I was deeply saddened to learn of the loss of your son, Chief Petty Officer Nicholas H. Hull, USN, and it was a solemn honor to join in saluting him as he returned home to his final resting place. Our Nation will not forget his sacrifice and we can never repay our debt to your family.
A simple letter cannot erase the pain of losing a child, but I hope you take solace in knowing that his brave service exceeded all measures of selflessness and devotion to this country. We pay tribute to him not only as a guardian of our liberty but also as the true embodiment of America’s spirit of service to a cause greater than ourselves.
Michelle and I offer our heartfelt sympathy and pray that God’s grace gives you comfort as you grieve. In life, you son was a shining example of all that is the best in our land. In rest, may he find the peace we all seek.
Sincerely,
Barack Obama

3 elephants forced onto Georgia interstate during tractor-trailer fire

Published: Monday, November 20, 2017 @ 5:02 PM



Cameron Spencer/Getty Images
(Cameron Spencer/Getty Images)

Three African elephants were forced onto the interstate near the Georgia-Tennessee border Monday morning after a tractor-trailer carrying the animals caught fire, the Chattanooga Fire Department said in a Facebook post.

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Firefighters responded to the fire on Interstate 24 East about 2 a.m., officials said.

“The owners got the elephants safely out of the trailer and gave them some hay to munch on while firefighters put the fire out,” the post read.

Elephants on I-24...Another Day in the Office So what is that peeking its large head over a guardrail on the interstate...

Posted by Chattanooga Fire Department on Monday, November 20, 2017

Officials have not said who owned the animals, which were headed to Sarasota, Florida.

The elephants are just the latest animals to find their way onto Georgia highways in the past few months.

Suzy, a 6-year-old Bengal tiger, was shot and killed after roaming a Henry County neighborhood and attacking a dog, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution previously reported. The tiger, who was owned by a former Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus presenter, escaped from a transport truck carrying 14 other big cats from Florida to Tennessee.

Federal authorities will investigate whether charges should be filed against circus parent company Feld Entertainment and its owner.

New York Times suspends reporter Glenn Thrush amid sexual misconduct claims

Published: Monday, November 20, 2017 @ 1:56 PM

Glenn Thrush, New York Times Reporter, Suspended Amid Sexual Misconduct Claims

The New York Times officials announced Monday that they were suspending reporter Glenn Thrush in the wake of allegations that the White House reporter made unwanted sexual advances toward multiple women.

>> Read more trending news

Thrush was accused of inappropriate behavior in a story published Monday by Vox. Thrush’s former colleague, Laura McGann, said he kissed her and put his hand on her thigh while they were at a bar one night after he told the third person in their group to leave them.

The incident allegedly took place five years ago, while Thrush was a reporter for Politico. He joined the New York Times in January to cover the Trump administration, according to the newspaper.

McGann, who was an editor at Politico when the alleged incident took place, said Thrush later told colleagues that their encounter went the other way and that he rejected advances from her. He reiterated his recollection to Vox, saying in a statement that “the encounter described was consensual, brief, and ended by me.”

Three other women recounted similar tales to Vox involving Thrush. They declined to be identified.

“I apologize to any woman who felt uncomfortable in my presence, and for any situation where I behaved inappropriately,” Thrush told Vox Sunday in an emailed statement. “Any behavior that makes a woman feel disrespected or uncomfortable is unacceptable.”

Officials with the Times said Monday that they were opening an investigation into the alleged incidents, one of which reportedly took place in June, after Thrush joined the newspaper.

“The behavior attributed to Glenn in this Vox story is very concerning and not in keeping with the standards and values of The New York Times,” the Times officials said in a statement. “We intend to fully investigate and while we do, Glenn will be suspended.”

Thrush said he was “deeply sorry” for an encounter that happened in June, in which a woman said Thrush began kissing her on the street after they had been in a bar. Thrush said he hasn’t had alcohol since the event, which he called “life changing.”

Another woman in the story talks about a consensual drunken encounter with Thrush five years ago that left her rattled, and a fourth woman who was surprised by an unexpected kiss.

Thrush worked as the chief political correspondent at Politico and as a senior staff writer for Politico Magazine before joining the Times staff. He previously worked at Newsday.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Keeping the kids happy in the car on long road trip

Published: Monday, November 20, 2017 @ 4:31 PM

Thanksgiving - By the Numbers

With the holidays fast approaching, ‘tis the season to think about the upcoming family festivities -- and how you’re going to get there. AAA estimates that even more families will be piling in their cars and hitting the road this Thanksgiving. As families start to map out their holiday travel plans, whether traveling to Grandma’s house or a favorite vacation spot, FamilyFun magazine and AAA conducted a travel survey of 400 parents and kids with some surprising and humorous findings:

 Keeping kids entertained is as important as filling up the tank

· What do parents say they always do before heading out on a road trip? Naturally, filling up the car with gas tops the list (90 percent) but so does packing snacks for their kids (90 percent) and packing electronics to keep kids busy (76 percent). Clearly, keeping those back seat travelers happy is a priority for moms and dads — ranking higher than such options as cleaning the windshield, checking the tires and even getting a hotel reservation. 

>> Read more trending news

Kids envision the car of the future to include an Xbox, mini-fridges and trampolines

· Almost half (44 percent) of kids surveyed said sitting still in a car for long trips is the worst part of the trip. In order to liven up the back seat, kids were asked what they would include in the “car of the future,” and their responses pointed to entertainment and space needs. Kids would include flat-screen TVs, Xboxes, PS4s and mini-fridges filled with snacks in their self-designed car. “It would have a spot for a trampoline so I wouldn’t have to sit forever,” wrote one child. “A dance floor with microphone,” said another, as well as “lots of room, so my younger brother couldn’t reach me.”

Technology rules in the back seat, but it’s not what kids like best about road trips

· Over half (63 percent) of kids surveyed said they’d bring an e-device, such as a tablet, laptop or smartphone, to make sure a road trip is fun. But while tech may be a top boredom-buster, it’s ultimately not what makes a trip fun. Kids said the best part of a road trip is actually “spending time with their family” and “getting to see new places.”

Boys choose music while girls choose creativity

· Keeping kids entertained is a top concern for parents, but it’s important to know your audience and what will fend off the back seat blues. The survey revealed that boys are more likely to want to bring their iPod or music player on a road trip, while girls are more likely to want to bring a stuffed animal, a book and drawing or craft supplies. 

Here are some tips for spending lots of time in the car:

 Backseat Fun & Games:

· License Plate Lingo – See who can be the first player to make a sentence out of the letters on a license plate ahead of you. For example, if the plate is LH5-2VF, you might shout, “Let’s have vacation fun!” The weirder the sentence, the better.

· Geography Go-Round – Start with any place in the world -- Kansas, for example. The next person has to think of a place that begins with the last letter of “Kansas,” such as “South Africa.” Whoever goes next needs a place that starts with an “A”. You can use a place only once per game, and it has to be a real place.

(Getty file photo)(Tatyana Tomsickova Photography/Getty Images)

Kids Fun Travel Kit:

Easy Games – Bring along a three-ring binder filled with clear plastic sleeves containing blank sheets of paper and simple games such as hangman and tic-tac-toe. Use dry-erase markers; kids can doodle and play, then wipe the sleeves clean and play again.
Goody Bags – For longer drives, consider bringing surprise goody bags to hand out at noteworthy intervals like passing a state border. Label each bag with the name of the milestone and inside have a snack, coloring page or even a special privilege coupon (e.g. you can pick the music we listen to for the next 15 minutes).
For more tips and information:

FamilyFun and AAA have also developed a Holiday Road Trips booklet of 20 handy ideas, including everything from driving safety and pack-along essentials to games that will keep your crew entertained. To download the full FamilyFun & AAA Holiday Road Trips booklet, visit http://bit.ly/1ubBHKJ.

Russian mega-yacht owned by Putin friend docks in Port of Palm Beach

Published: Monday, November 20, 2017 @ 5:01 PM

The Eclipse, a 533-foot private yacht owned by Russian businessman Roman Abramovich, is pictured here at the Port of Palm Beach. 
Andres Leiva / The Palm Beach Post
The Eclipse, a 533-foot private yacht owned by Russian businessman Roman Abramovich, is pictured here at the Port of Palm Beach. (Andres Leiva / The Palm Beach Post)

Days before President Donald Trump flies into town for Thanksgiving, one of the world’s most expensive yachts, owned by Russian oligarch Roman Abramovich, sailed into the Port of Palm Beach Friday afternoon.

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But Abramovich’s spokesman said the billionaire isn’t aboard — the ship’s just in town for scheduled maintenance.

The 533-foot Eclipse, valued at $400 million to $500 million, comes equipped with a pool, helipad, submarine and room for a crew of 92, according to marine websites. It made its way past the Bahamas and docked at 1:15 p.m, taking the slip normally reserved for the Grand Celebration, a cruise ship on hurricane-relief duty in St. Thomas, Virgin Islands.

Originally booked to stay through Dec. 5, the Eclipse might have to leave Dec. 1, as it is being followed by the 644-foot World, billed as “the largest private residential ship on the planet,” which is scheduled to arrive that day.

>> Related: Port of Palm Beach helps fill demand of mega yachts

Where will the Eclipse go?

The MarineTraffic app had it headed south on the Intracoastal Waterway, toward downtown West Palm Beach. Or at least it did — that flight plan vanished from the app on Saturday. Maybe they found out, as we were told, a ship that big would run aground in the Waterway.

Note to Transportation Security Administration: In any event, that route would have put a Russian submarine within a mile or so of the winter White House.

Forbes lists Abramovich’s net worth at $9.5 billion, the world’s 139th-richest person, with major holdings in steel, nickel and oil companies, as well as Britain’s Chelsea soccer team.

>> Related: President Trump expected to spend Thanksgiving at Mar-a-Lago

Bloomberg Politics has reported that presidential son-in-law Jared Kushner has met Abramovich one-on-one and with their wives on a number of occasions.We’re told they haven’t been in touch since a charity dinner in 2014, though.