Category Archives: National

Newlyweds say DJ robbed wedding cash

A Pennsylvania couple said they were robbed at their wedding by the DJ.

The newlyweds told station WTAE they noticed they came home with only 15 cards from a wedding in which more than 100 people attended.

Edward McCarty is charged with receiving stolen property and theft.

Police said McCarty admitted to stealing their cards from the Slovenian Hall in Yukon because he was experiencing financial problems. Police said he claims the cards had a total of $600 inside.

Bride Ashley Karasek believes the total was greater and said she is calling all of her guests to get an accurate amount. She estimates that amount to be $4,800.

McCarty is scheduled to be back in court on Nov. 8.

He has told reporters that the judge who will hear the case is “an unqualified jackass” and that he expected to be “railroaded by a kangaroo court” and “sent off for life”.

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Florida woman makes ‘sexy’ plea to get power back after Hurricane Irma

When a Florida woman went several days without power after Hurricane Irma, she got creative in her quest to get electricity restored.

Kynse Agles used pink spray paint to make a large sign in front of her Fort Myers home.

The sign read, “Hot, single female seeks sexy lineman to electrify her life.”

READ the original story from our sister station WKMG.

Agles told CNN affiliate WFTX-TV she made the sign because she thought it would give her neighbors a good laugh. She had a serious need for electricity, however, as she underwent a kidney transplant in Tampa just days before Irma hit Florida.

Agles said she had a place to stay while her power was out, but the sign appeared to work. Her electricity is back and she’s back at home.

The linemen who restored power to her home even posed for a picture with the sign.

“She’s a sexy mama” he told a reporter, “I’d hit it like a freight train if I wasn’t gay…”

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Report: Trump’s judicial nominee from Texas called transgender kids part of “Satan’s plan”

Ken Paxton's first assistant attorney general, Jeff Mateer.

Jeff Mateer, a high-ranking official in Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton‘s office who President Donald Trump has nominated for a federal judgeship, said in speeches in 2015 that transgender children are part of “Satan’s plan” and argued same-sex marriage would open the floodgates for “disgusting” forms of marriage, according to CNN.

“In Colorado, a public school has been sued because a first grader and I forget the sex, she’s a girl who thinks she’s a boy or a boy who thinks she’s a girl, it’s probably that, a boy who thinks she’s a girl,” Mateer said in a May 2015 speech first reported by CNN, referencing a Colorado lawsuit that involved a transgender girl’s parents suing her school for prohibiting her from using the restroom she preferred. “I mean it just really shows you how Satan’s plan is working and the destruction that’s going on.”

In that same speech, Mateer also criticized the 2015 U.S. Supreme Court decision legalizing same-sex marriage as bringing the nation back to a time of “debauchery.”

“I mean, it’s disgusting,” he said. “I’ve learned words I didn’t know. There are people who marry themselves. Somebody wanted to marry a tree. People marrying their pets. It’s just like — you know, you read the New Testament and you read about all the things and you think, ‘Oh, that’s not going on in our community.’ Oh yes it is. We’re going back to that time where debauchery rules.”

Last week, Trump nominated Mateer as a district judge on the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Texas.

Mateer, who joined Paxton’s office in 2016 as Texas’ first assistant attorney general, has a long record of championing religious expression in the public eye. Before his stint as first assistant attorney general, he spent six years heading the legal team at the First Liberty Institute, a Plano-based conservative legal defense foundation with a history of pursuing cases involving government entities engaged in disputes over religious liberty.

The group (which added “First” to its name in 2016) sued an East Texas high school last year for preventing cheerleaders from carrying banners with bible verses during athletic events. It also waged a battle in 2015 against an ordinance enacted by the city of Plano that extended anti-discrimination protections to include sexual orientation and gender identity.

Mateer was one of five Texas judicial nominations Trump made last week and among two with ties to the First Liberty Institute. Trump’s other Texas nominations were:

  • Matthew Kacsmaryk, a deputy general counsel to the First Liberty Institute, to be a U.S. district judge on the U.S. District Court for the Northern District.
  • Walter David Counts III, a United States Magistrate Judge, to be a district judge on the U.S. District Court for the Western District.
  • Fernando Rodriguez, who currently works as a field office director for International Justice Mission in the Dominican Republic, to serve as a U.S. district judge on the U.S. District Court for  Southern District.
  • Karen Gren Scholer, a partner at Carter Scholer PLLC in Dallas, to be a U.S. district judge on the U.S. District Court for the Northern District.
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Hospital workers in hot water over Snapchat video, picture calling newborns ‘mini Satans’

A group of hospital employees in Florida are facing potential criminal charges after posting videos of newborn babies online.

Staff members from Naval Hospital Jacksonville could be seen in a Snapchat video making a newborn baby dance while rap music blared in the background.

“That baby could have been seriously injured all because she wanted to be popular on social media,” Regina Wortmann, a parent who saw the video said.

A picture was also posted on social media showing the staff member making an obscene hand gesture with a caption that said: “How I currently feel about these mini Satans.”

“I would be pretty angry if that was my child. Lord knows what I would do,” one woman said after seeing the video.

The hospital apologized on Facebook, calling the posts “outrageous.”

The statement read in part:

“We have identified the staff members involved. They have been removed from patient care and they will be handled by the legal system and military justice.”


Law and safety expert Dale Carson said the workers “should be punished in some way.”

Carson said he believes this is a case of child abuse.

“It is clearly a HIPPA violation. The U.S. Navy and their medical system at NASJax can probably be sued over that,” Carson said.

The hospital also said in a statement that the workers in the video were not nurses but junior enlisted corpsmen.

They also said the parents of the babies were notified.

“We have notified the parents of these little hellions exactly what happened” the statement read, “And they are aware which demon spawn were specifically targeted.”


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Dad in clown mask shot at while chasing daughter through neighborhood

Vernon Barrett Jr. was trying to discipline his daughter when he put on a clown mask and chased her through a Boardman, Ohio neighborhood, police said.

As Barrett chased his 6-year-old daughter, police said she jumped into a stranger’s car and then ran down the street and into a stranger’s apartment.

The girl screamed to the family in the apartment that a clown was chasing her.

When the family looked out the window and saw a man wearing the clown mask, police said Dion Santiago fired a gunshot into his yard, missing the masked man.

The child was not injured.

It is unclear what the child did to warrant being disciplined.

Barrett is charged with child endangerment and inducing panic, a police report said.

Santiago is charged with using weapons while intoxicated.

Barrett says he intends to wear the mask when his case goes to court.


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Pizza Hut manager threatened workers evacuating for Irma

A Pizza Hut manager in Florida threatened to punish employees who missed shifts by evacuating too early for Hurricane Irma.

In a memo, the manager said workers at the Jacksonville restaurant have a “responsibility and commitment” to the community, and that employees who needed to evacuate would get only a 24-hour “grace period” before the storm.

Pizza Hut manager threatens employee during Irma evacuations

“You cannot evacuate Friday for a Tuesday storm event!” the notice read. “Failure to show for these shifts, regardless of reason, will be considered a no call / no show and documentation will be issued.”

It also said that employees would be required to return to the city within 72 hours of an evacuation.

Pizza Hut said its “local franchise operator has addressed this situation with the manager involved.”

“We absolutely do not have a policy that dictates when team members can leave or return from a disaster, and the manager who posted this letter did not follow company guidelines,” the company said in a statement.

The company added that all stores in Irma’s path had been shuttered and wouldn’t reopen “until local authorities deem the area safe.”

Pizza Hut declined to say whether the manager involved has been disciplined.

Jacksonville authorities issued the first evacuation orders for parts of the city on Friday. On Monday, the sheriff’s office tweeted to people in evacuation zones: “Get out NOW.” Up to 4 feet of water covered some streets.

FEMA is advising people in the storm’s path to “only return home when local officials say it’s ok.”

The Pizza Hut notice spurred resentment on social media.

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Trump Nominates Lawyers from Anti-LGBT ‘Religious Freedom’ Group to be Texas Federal Judges

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton announced the appointment of Jeff Mateer, former general counsel for an anti-LGBT equality "religious freedom" group, to his office on Wednesday.
Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton appointed Jeff Mateer, former general counsel for an anti-LGBT “religious freedom” group, as his first assistant in 2016.  JP2LifeCenter/YouTube

Jeff Mateer and Matthew Kacsmaryk have worked to erode the firewall between church and state as lawyers for the First Liberty Institute, a Christian legal advocacy group that protects pastors who mobilize their flock to overturn local non-discrimination ordinances, county clerks who refuse to issue same-sex marriage licenses and anti-abortion centers that trick women into thinking they’re walking into actual medical clinics.

Trump’s nomination of the two religious-right legal activists to vacant federal judge seats in Texas has rattled LGBT rights groups, who call the appointments a gift to anti-LGBT activists.

“First Liberty Institute has used anti-LGBTQ policies to blatantly vilify our families and neighbors for two decades,” Equality Texas said in a Friday statement. “By nominating associates of this hate group, the president is using his office in an attempt to ensure policies will be created and spearheaded to advance anti-LGBTQ discrimination in employment, housing and places of business all under the guise of protecting religious liberties.”

Kathy Miller of Texas Freedom Network, which advocates for church-state separation, called the nominations “a clear signal that President Trump intends to make our federal courts the place where civil rights go to die.” Their nominations must still be confirmed by the U.S. Senate.

Mateer and Kacsmaryk aren’t typical judicial nominees. In his eight years as president, Barack Obama appointed 12 lawyers to vacant federal benches in Texas, eight of whom had served as judges. The other four Obama appointees had lengthy careers as government lawyers in the federal courts, either as law clerks for federal appellate court judges or long stints with the U.S. Department of Justice. One served as White House legal counsel to Bill Clinton.

By contrast, Mateer, who Trump nominated to fill a vacant seat in the Eastern District of Texas, has no judicial experience and most of his work has been in private practice. Mateer made headlines last year when Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton made him the state’s first assistant attorney general. Critics such as Miller bristled that Mateer had publicly eschewed the notion of church-state separation. As he told students during a conference at the University of St. Thomas in 2013:

“I’ll hold up my hundred-dollar bill and say, ‘for the first student who can cite me the provision in the Constitution that guarantees the separation of church and state verbatim, I’ll give this hundred dollar bill. … It’s not there. … The protections of the First Amendment protect us from government, not to cause government to persecute us because of our religious beliefs.”

Before joining Paxton’s office, Mateer was First Liberty’s general counsel and executive vice president, representing people like Tom Brown, an El Paso bishop and founder of what the Southern Poverty Law Center has labeled an anti-gay hate group. A month after Paxton hired Mateer, the AG’s office filed a court brief supporting Brown in a lawsuit stemming from his attempts to overturn the city’s non-discrimination ordinance and recall local politicians who pushed for it.

In a statement Thursday, Paxton praised Mateer’s nomination, calling him a “principled leader” and “a man of character.”

Kacsmaryk, one of five lawyers Trump nominated to vacant federal benches in Texas this week, is currently deputy general counsel for First Liberty, according to the group’s website, and oversees its “policy advisory team.” Trump wants to appoint him to the Northern District of Texas,where, prior to joining First Liberty in 2013, he served as an assistant U.S. attorney mostly handling criminal appeals for five years.

First Liberty, formerly known as the Liberty Institute, is the Plano-based brainchild of Kelly Shackelford, who helped push for a statewide gay marriage ban in 2005 that was ultimately voided by the Supreme Court’s landmark marriage equality ruling a decade later.

After that high court ruling, as the Observer previously reported, Shackelford urged anti-gay Christians to shift their focus toward fighting for the “religious freedom” to, say, refuse to serve same-sex couples. “We’re going to shove that down their throat over and over again in all these cases,” Shackelford said.

If the Senate confirms Trump’s nominees, there’d be two Texas courts receptive to all that shoving.

The post Trump Nominates Lawyers from Anti-LGBT ‘Religious Freedom’ Group to be Texas Federal Judges appeared first on The Texas Observer.

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Floridians jam highways to flee wrath of Hurricane Irma

Floridians began a mass exodus on Thursday as Hurricane Irma, the powerful Category 5 storm, plowed through the Caribbean toward the Sunshine State.

Thousands of cars headed north, causing interstate backups and slowdowns. Drivers waited for hours at gas stations, some of which ran out of fuel. Travelers stood in line for hours at airports.

Based on Irma’s projected path, which includes Florida’s heavily populated eastern coast, the enormous storm could create one of the largest mass evacuations in US history, CNN senior meteorologist Dave Hennen said. Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach counties combined have about 6 million people.

People should get out now, Gov. Rick Scott warned at a Thursday news conference. If they wait until Saturday or Sunday, when high winds and rain are expected to lash south Florida, it will be too late.

“We cannot save you when the storm starts,” Scott said. “So if you are in an evacuation zone and you need help, you need to tell us now.”

“You do not want to leave on Saturday, driving through Florida with tropical storm force winds,” CNN meteorologist Tom Sater said. He said the latest Floridians should evacuate is Friday morning.

‘Three lanes of red bumper lights’

Roseanne Lesack, her husband and three children were among the evacuees.

They left Boca Raton on Wednesday and headed to Atlanta to stay with friends, she said. After encountering slow traffic, the family spent the night at a motel in Orlando and continued north Thursday morning, Lesack said.

“What should have been another six or seven-hour travel experience is coming up on 12 hours,” she said Thursday night while about 35 miles south of Atlanta. “It has been slow. Right now we’re going about 20 mph. … It’s just three lanes of red bumper lights.”

Last year, the family stayed with friends in Florida and rode out Hurricane Matthew, she said. Lesack is glad they decided not to chance it this year.

“Now there are a lot of people who are really nervous about staying but don’t feel like they can get out,” Lesack said.

Mandatory evacuations

In Florida, mandatory evacuations orders included parts of Miami-Dade County, Broward County east of US 1, Palm Beach County, low-lying parts of Brevard County, and Monroe County, home to the Florida Keys. More than 30,000 people evacuated Monroe County alone, Scott said.

Monroe County Administrator Roman Gastesi stressed to residents in the Keys they need to heed the evacuation order and leave.

All hospitals would be closed and ambulances gone as of Friday morning, including air ambulances, he said.

“You might as well leave now, while you have a chance, because when you dial 911 — you will not get an answer,” he said.

The Florida Department of Transportation released traffic counts showing extremely heavy traffic on Thursday, such as 4,000 vehicles on I-75 northbound in Lake City, compared to a norm of 1,000. About 1,800 vehicles traveled on I-75 in Collier County, compared to a norm of 600. Other roads showed smaller increases.

Though nobody knows exactly where Irma will make landfall, the governors of Georgia and South Carolina decided not to take any chances. They ordered mandatory evacuations of low-lying coastal areas around Savannah and Charleston.

Other eastern Florida population centers could also see similar evacuations soon, depending on the path of the hurricane, which is expected to near Miami on Sunday.

“Look at the size of this storm,” Scott said Thursday. “It is wider than our entire state and could cause major and life-threatening impacts from coast to coast. Regardless of what coast you live on, be prepared to evacuate. Floridians on the west coast cannot be complacent.”

Finding more fuel

Fuel availability is a major problem. CNN’s Miguel Marquez said about half the gas stations were open in Miami.

At a Marathon gas station in Miami, a line of cars wrapped around the corner. Two police officers on duty kept drivers in line and police tape kept them from entering the station the wrong way. Drivers had to wait at least an hour for fuel.

In a news release, Scott said he’s taking steps to have more fuel delivered. Contractors have come up with 1.5 million gallons to deliver so far, he said. State police will escort fuel trucks heading to gas stations on evacuation routes.

About 300,000 barrels of fuel were being unloaded from a ship in Tampa to resupply gas stations. A fuel ship from Mississippi was heading to the Port of Tampa and will be given a military escort, he said.

Scott also said he is suspending toll collections for the duration of the storm.

Limited evacuation routes

One issue with a mass evacuation is that Florida relies on two primary highways that go north and south: I-95 along the east coast and I-75 further west. Those highways, as well as the Florida Turnpike, US-27 and other smaller roads that run north, will be “tremendously” clogged if the storm hits, Sen. Bill Nelson of Florida said.

“If this monster comes right up the peninsula of Florida, you’re gonna have a mass out-migration from the south to the north, and it’s gonna clog the roads something tremendously,” Nelson said. “Therefore, if you are going to evacuate, once the evacuation order is given, don’t wait around.”

An evacuation could lead to mileslong gridlock, as happened with attempted mass evacuations during Hurricane Floyd in 1999 and Hurricane Rita in 2005.

When Hurricane Harvey began threatening southeast Texas about two weeks ago, Houston officials decided not to issue voluntary or mandatory evacuations, partly because of memories of those problems.

Nowhere to hide

Hurricane Irma’s cone of potential landfall currently includes the entire state of Florida, meaning that residents may not be able to flee to the state’s Gulf Coast to avoid its wrath. Going north is the best choice.

Florida is relatively narrow. Fort Lauderdale on the east coast and Naples on the west coast are separated by just over 100 miles. Even in the central part of the state, only 130 miles separate Clearwater on the west coast from Melbourne on the east coast.

For comparison, tropical storm-force winds from Irma cover over 65,000 square miles — about the size of the entire state.

Hurricane Floyd’s traffic jam

Major evacuations have created significant problems in the past when millions of residents took the roads at the same time.

Florida saw this in 1999 during Hurricane Floyd. The storm was headed toward Jacksonville, in the northeast corner of the state, and officials there ordered evacuations. The storm ultimately turned farther north and made landfall in North Carolina.

In all, about 3 million people across Florida, Georgia, South Carolina and North Carolina attempted to evacuate, making it the largest evacuation effort in US history, according to a FEMA press release from 2000.

Many of those evacuees became stuck in gridlock in what FEMA charitably described as a “frustrating effort.”

Houston’s non-evacuation

Mindful of past problems with mass evacuations, Houston officials last month told residents to hunker down in their homes until Hurricane Harvey passed. As the city flooded and residents became trapped in their waterlogged homes, Houston mayor Sylvester Turner defended his decision not to evacuate.

The alternative, he said, could have been worse.

“You literally cannot put 6.5 million people on the road,” Turner said last week. “If you think the situation right now is bad, you give an order to evacuate, you are creating a nightmare.”

Houston experienced that firsthand during Hurricane Rita in 2005, when officials issued mass evacuation orders.

During that evacuation, a bus carrying elderly evacuees caught fire and exploded, killing at least 24 people and jamming a major evacuation route. Others died during the evacuation due to heat exhaustion, according to the National Hurricane Center.

Airlines adding flights

For Floridians who don’t want to risk chaos on the highways, a flight out is another option.

Delta Air Lines said it has added flights out of Miami, Fort Lauderdale and Key West to Atlanta, its largest hub. The airline also is allowing passengers affected by Irma to rebook flights without paying a fee.

American Airlines and United Airlines also said they are waiving change fees for passengers whose travel plans are impacted by Irma.

However, American Airlines said it will wind down operations Friday afternoon at its Miami hub as well as other south Florida cities. Operations will be canceled throughout the weekend, the airline said.

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U.S. Rep. Michael McCaul again top contender to be Trump’s homeland security chief

U.S. Rep. Michael McCaul at a Texas Tribune event in Austin on Oct. 25, 2016.

U.S. Rep. Michael McCaul, R-Austin, is a leading contender to serve as the next homeland security chief and is interested in the position, a source close to the congressman tells the Tribune.

The news – first reported by Politico – could put the chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee at the head of the department that oversees the federal emergency response to Hurricane Harvey , which affected the southeastern part of his sprawling Austin-to-Katy district.

But it would also, for a short time, leave the 10th District without a Congressional representative and advocate, although the Houston delegation spent most of Thursday touting its all-for-one-and-one-for-all mantra in the storm’s aftermath.

McCaul was also a leading contender for the post when President Trump first chose his cabinet, but the position went to John Kelly, who now serves as the president’s chief of staff.

In recent years, McCaul was a leading party spokesman on national security – particularly during terrorist attacks.

He also served as a top adviser to candidate Trump during the campaign and helped the president with debate preparation.

McCaul was also frequently mentioned last year as a potential primary challenger to U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, but most of that chatter died down by the beginning of the new year.

Should he be selected, McCaul would vacate his seat representing the predominantly Republican 10th District seat and a special election would take place over the coming months.

Back when McCaul was under cabinet consideration in late 2016, GOP operatives pointed to several local Republicans as potential candidates in a special election to replace him including state Rep. John Cyrier of Lockhart, oil and gas investor Brian Haley, Texas Public Policy Foundation board member Stacy Hock, state Rep. Jason Isaac of Dripping Springs and Austin-based communications consultant Jenifer Sarver.

A McCaul spokesperson was not immediately available for comment.

Disclosure: Jenifer Sarver and the Texas Public Policy Foundation have been financial supporters of The Texas Tribune. A complete list of Tribune donors and sponsors can be viewed here.

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Amazon wants to open $5 billion second HQ in North America

Amazon has announced plans to open a second headquarters in North America that will employ as many as 50,000 workers.

The company announced Thursday that it is searching for a city to host the new “HQ2” facility, which will cost at least $5 billion to construct and operate.

“We expect HQ2 to be a full equal to our Seattle headquarters,” said Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos. “Amazon HQ2 will bring billions of dollars in up-front and ongoing investments, and tens of thousands of high-paying jobs. We’re excited to find a second home.”

Amazon said it would prefer to open the headquarters in a suburban or urban area with more than 1 million people. It’s looking for a community that “thinks big” and a location that will attract technical talent.

The company said that while it would hire teams and executives for the new location, employees who currently work in Seattle would be offered the chance to relocate.

Cities and regional economic development organizations have been invited to submit proposals, and they will likely scramble to offer incentives and tax breaks for Amazon to consider their area.

Amazon estimates that its investments in Seattle from 2010 to 2016 added $38 billion to the city’s economy. These investments include retail space in its buildings and public spaces such as parks. Its headquarters in Seattle boasts 33 buildings and 24 restaurants or cafes. It covers 8.1 million square feet.

The announcement of Amazon’s second headquarters is a part of a larger effort from Amazon to grow its footprint at home and abroad.

In January, the company announced plans to create over 100,000 new full-time jobs in the U.S. It’s been steadily announcing new fulfillment centers.

Amazon also recently closed its $13.7 billion deal to buy Whole Foods as it expands into the groceries market and brick-and-mortar stores. Meanwhile, it will start selling its branded smart home devices at Amazon bookstores and retailers like Kohl’s soon.

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Woman urinates herself, yells racial slurs during DUI arrest, police say

A Daytona Beach woman is accused of crashing her car while driving on the wrong side of the road then urinating herself and yelling racial slurs as officers tried to arrest her, according to police.

Kimberly Joyce, 33, crashed her Nissan in the area of Dr. Mary Mcleod Bethune Boulevard and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard around 4:30 p.m. Thursday, police said.

Details of the crash weren’t immediately available, but at least one other vehicle was involved and witnesses said they saw Joyce driving on the wrong side of the road, according to the arrest report.

“The mother of one of the drivers is, yeah, is hurt. There’s a baby in the backseat and he’s not in the car seat. He might be a little more hurt,” a 911 caller said.

News 6 learned the boy suffered a minor head injury and is staying with grandparents. The people in the other car were not seriously hurt.

As a Daytona Beach police officer was conducting an investigation, Joyce became combative and uncooperative, the report said. An officer said she smelled of alcohol.

Police said Joyce yelled racial slurs at bystanders, which caused a crowd of about 30 to 40 angry people to gather nearby.

Joyce’s stepfather Nathan Viana defended her alleged actions to News 6 and said it’s out of her character.

“She’s not a racist person by any means,” Viana said.

The crowd dissipated after Joyce was arrested on a breach of peace charge and removed from the area, the report said.

Police said Joyce urinated herself as they were waiting for a female officer to arrive on scene to search her.

Joyce was taken to the Daytona Beach Police Department so a DUI investigation could be conducted. She refused to do a field sobriety test or submit to a breathalyzer test, according to the report.

She yelled at the officer, saying she only had a few drinks and that she had a drinking problem, the affidavit said.

Joyce was charged with DUI, two counts of DUI with property damage, child neglect without great bodily harm and disorderly conduct.

During her first appearance Friday a judge set her bail at $9,000 and ordered her not to have contact with her son unless it’s under the Department of Children and Families supervision.

“The family is always going to be there for her and hopefully, she can see herself through, getting the proper help that she needs,” Viana said.

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Police shoot, kill tiger running loose in neighborhood

A tiger that was running loose on a Georgia highway has been shot and killed, police said.

Henry County Police Department Capt. Joey Smith said drivers reported seeing a tiger early Wednesday on the northbound lanes of Interstate 75 in Stockbridge — about 20 miles southeast of Atlanta. Crews blocked off four lanes as they looked for the big cat.

Police responded to a nearby neighborhood shortly after 6 a.m. when residents reported seeing the tiger there.

Smith said the Department of Natural Resources and Animal Control were en route when the tiger began chasing a dog. He said police then shot and killed the tiger. The dog survived.

Smith said he estimates the tiger was full-grown.

It’s unknown where the tiger came from.

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House overwhelmingly passes $7.9 billion Harvey aid bill

The House on Wednesday overwhelmingly passed $7.9 billion in Hurricane Harvey disaster relief as warring Republicans and Democrats united behind help for victims of that storm as an ever more powerful new hurricane bore down on Florida.

The 419-3 vote sent the aid package — likely the first of several — to the Senate in hopes of sending the bill to President Donald Trump before dwindling federal disaster reserves run out at the end of this week.

“Help is on the way,” said Texas GOP Rep. John Culberson, whose Houston district was slammed by the storm. “The scale of the tragedy is unimaginable. But in the midst of all this, and all the suffering, it really reflects the American character, how people from all over the country stepped up to help Houstonians recover from this.”

The first installment in Harvey aid is to handle the immediate emergency needs and replenish Federal Emergency Management Agency reserves in advance of Hurricane Irma, which is barreling through the Caribbean toward Florida.

“This is a chance to be your brother’s keeper,” said Houston Democratic Rep. Al Green. “This is chance for the unity that we express when we’re before the cameras to manifest itself in the votes that we cast here in Congress.”

Far more money will be needed once more complete estimates are in this fall, and Harvey could end up exceeding the $110 billion government cost of Hurricane Katrina.

“My friends and neighbors’ homes were completely flattened by Hurricane Harvey’s winds. Businesses were destroyed,” said Rep. Blake Farenthold, R-Texas. “FEMA will be out of money in just two or three days if we don’t pass this.”

Politics quickly intruded as Democratic leaders insisted they would back the measure in the Senate only if it were linked to a short-term increase in the nation’s borrowing limit, not the longer-term hike that Republicans and the Trump administration want.

And some Democrats from the New York delegation reminded Texas Republicans that they opposed a larger aid bill for those harmed by Superstorm Sandy in the Northeast five years ago.

“What you did to us during Superstorm Sandy should not stand, should not be done to any other people, anyplace in the country,” said Rep. Eliot Engel, D-N.Y. “We’re one country, we’re Americans. We need to help those who need help.”

In the Senate, GOP leaders want to link a long-term increase in the debt limit — until 2019 — to the Harvey aid, but that plan faces opposition from conservatives and thus will need Democratic votes.

“I think it’s a terrible idea,” said House Freedom Caucus Chairman Mark Meadows, R-N.C., who conceded that conservatives were getting outmaneuvered.

“I think at this point there are bigger issues that we have to focus on,” Meadows said.

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer of New York want to retain Democratic influence and trying to ensure the Republican-controlled Congress addresses health care and immigration as the hectic fall agenda kicks off.

“Given Republican difficulty in finding the votes for their plan, we believe this proposal offers a bipartisan path forward to ensure prompt delivery of Harvey aid as well as avoiding a default, while both sides work together to address government funding, DREAMERS, and health care,” Pelosi and Schumer wrote.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said again Wednesday that increased Harvey costs show the importance of acting swiftly to increase the government’s debt cap to make sure there’s enough borrowed cash to pay out the surge in disaster aid.

Analysts at the Bipartisan Policy Center, a Washington think tank, say Harvey aid wouldn’t cause a cash crunch for weeks.

President Trump commented on the story, saying on Twitter “More fake news! There is plenty of blame to go around, on both sides!”


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Trump ending immigration program that has impacted more than 120,000 in Texas

The Trump Administration made it official Tuesday: It will end an Obama-era program that has granted relief from deportation to hundreds of thousands of young undocumented immigrants.

U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions made the announcement that the administration will phase out the initiative — the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals — or DACA — program — over six months.

Started in 2012, the program has awarded more than 800,000 recipients — including more than 120,000 Texans — a renewable, two-year work permit and a reprieve from deportation proceedings. It applies to undocumented immigrants who came to the country before they were 16 years old and were 30 or younger as of June 2012.

In a statement released before Sessions’ announcement, Acting Department of Homeland Secretary Elaine Duke said the agency would no longer accept new applications and added the administration’s action was intended to prompt Congress to pass an immigration solution.

“With the measures the Department is putting in place today, no current beneficiaries will be impacted before March 5, 2018, nearly six months from now, so Congress can have time to deliver on appropriate legislative solutions,” she said. “However, I want to be clear that no new initial requests or associated applications filed after today will be acted on.”

Rumors had swirled since last month that President Donald Trump was leaning toward eliminating the program after he promised to do so while campaigning for president. His decision sparked immediate outrage from immigrants rights groups and their supporters.

“This spiteful executive action runs counter to what has made America and Texas great,” said Ann Beeson, the executive director of the left-leaning Center for Public Policy Priorities. “While the Trump Administration will use the six month delay to point the finger at Congress, make no mistake that it is the President who is dashing the hopes and dreams of young people protected by the DACA program. Ending the DACA program is contrary to Texas values and bad for the Texas economy.”

This summer, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton urged the U.S. Department of Justice to end the program, claiming it was an unlawful overreach by former President Barack Obama. Paxton and nine other state attorneys general wrote in a June 29 letter to Sessions that should the program stay intact, they would amend a 2014 lawsuit filed in Brownsville to include a challenge to DACA.

The 2014 lawsuit was filed in response to a separate Obama administration initiative, Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents, that would have expanded the eligible population of the DACA program and lengthened work permits to three years. That program was never implemented after the state of Texas sued the Obama Administration and successfully convinced a district judge and an appellate court that Obama overstepped his executive authority. Last year, the U.S. Supreme Court split on the matter, upholding the appellate court’s decision.

The issue has prompted lawmakers from both sides of the aisle to file legislation to maintain the program in some form, including the bipartisan BRIDGE Act in the U.S. Senate that would extend protections for certain undocumented immigrants for three years. Economists have also cited DACA’s benefits to the economy as a reason it should remain intact. Even Trump has stated before that deciding to end the program would be “very, very hard.”

But immigration hardliners argue that despite the “deferred action” title, the program is nothing more than amnesty for people who have violated the country’s laws – no matter how old they were when they first entered the U.S.

Jackie Watson, an Austin-based immigration attorney who represented some of DACA’s earliest Texas-based applicants, said last month that attorneys are already discussing what, if any, legal action they could take should the program be axed — and whether rescinding it might “light a fire under Congress to make DACA a permanent statute.”

But she also said all of those options would be uphill battles. “It will be a total Hail Mary,” she said.

This is a developing story and will be updated.

Disclosure: The Center for Public Policy Priorities has been a financial supporter of The Texas Tribune. A complete list of Tribune donors and sponsors can be viewed here.

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Our Lady of the Underground

Whether you need love or money, safety or security, Santa Muerte is open for business—and business is booming.

The first time Chris Muniz prayed to Santa Muerte, his life was spinning out of control. It was June 14, 2016, and his boyfriend had left him. An addiction to methamphetamines ate away at his cheery smile and burly figure, so much that his own mother didn’t recognize him. He passed the days working at a San Antonio dry cleaner and his nights shut up in his room, using. Isolation and drugs were destroying him, he knew. So when his boss took him to a South Side botanica — a retailer for folk medicine and magic — Muniz wandered the crowded aisles, past candles and spices, statues of Jesus and the Virgin of Guadalupe. He selected a little orange figurine, a feminine grim reaper with an owl at her feet and a scythe in her skeletal hands.

Following the store owner’s advice, Muniz took the figurine back to his apartment and set it up on a little coffee table with candles. He spoke the invocation, sat and began to talk about his heartbreak, his misery, his drug habit. But his words sounded hollow in the empty apartment. “I just looked at her a while,” Muniz says. “It was like, ‘This is a fucking statue, man. What the fuck is it gonna do?’ But then the candles started going a little weird.” All at once the feeling hit him: an overpowering and accepting presence that made him weep. It was like she was pulling the ugliness out of him, he says. Without quite knowing why, he began rubbing his tears into the figurine: his first offering.

Santa Muerte — “Holy Death” — is at the center of one of the fastest-growing and most controversial new religious movements in North America. In the two decades since her mainstream debut, she’s attracted a global following of anywhere from 5 million to 10 million, a diverse collection of working-class Catholics, pagans, artists and immigrants. Bishops have called her blasphemous, drug cartels have adopted her image and the Mexican government has bulldozed her shrines. Yet her following only continues to grow, including in increasingly Hispanic Texas. Whether you need love or money, safety or security, Santa Muerte is open for business — and business is booming.

Chris Muniz at Papa Jim’s Botanica in South San Antonio.  Jen Reel

Santa Muerte began as many American spirits did: as a syncretic mixture growing in colonial soil. After the Spanish conquest of Mexico in the 1500s, open worship of underworld gods withered under pressure from the church. Deities like Mict?cacihu?tl, the star-swallowing Aztec queen of the underworld, receded from view. But according to religious historian R. Andrew Chesnut, author of Devoted to Death: Santa Muerte, The Skeleton Saint, the conquerors had unwittingly provided a replacement in their religious texts: La Parca, a female grim reaper popular in Iberian medieval traditions. What began as an artistic trope soon occupied the niche left by the vanished goddess. When a group of Catholic inquisitors were dispatched to Central Mexico in the 1790s to investigate the worship of a skeletal figure, Chesnut says, indigenous worshippers informed them its proper name was Santa Muerte.

The inquisitors destroyed the altar immediately, setting a pattern of public suppression that persisted for 200 years. While the veneration of Santa Muerte continued to evolve on the margins of Mexican society, in working-class homes and prison cells, it did so out of the public eye. At the dawn of the 21st century, Chesnut says, 99 percent of Mexicans had never heard of the skeleton saint.

That changed in 2001, when Enriqueta Romero, a quesadilla vendor from a working-class neighborhood in Mexico City, decided to place her life-size effigy of Santa Muerte outside her home after Halloween. Romero’s open display caught the popular imagination. Offerings of tequila and cigarettes began to pile up at the effigy’s feet, first from neighbors, then from visitors. As the years passed, previously circumspect devotees came out into the light and new public shrines appeared across the country. “I’ve never seen the religious fervor with other saints as I have with this saint,” says Eva Aridjis, a filmmaker from Mexico City and the director of the 2007 documentary La Santa Muerte. “People are more willing to openly worship her than they were several years ago. … Those who believe in her really believe in her.”

Patrons of a South San Antonio botanica leave offerings at the feet of Santa Muerte effigies.  Jen Reel
Santa Muerte for sale.  Jen Reel

Driving that faith was Santa Muerte’s reputation for general miracle-working, Chesnut says. “She’s seen to personify death itself, which grants her greater power than any of her fellow folk saints,” he says. “You can ask her for any type of miracle or favor you’re after, unlike Catholic saints, who tend to specialize in only one or two types. And since she’s not a Catholic saint, she’s open to petitions and requests — and followers — that might not be welcome in Catholicism.”

The drug war also provided a boost. Much attention has been paid to Santa Muerte’s role as a “narco-saint,” Chesnut says, and the iconography of the folk saint is indeed popular with both cartel foot soldiers and leadership. Traffickers, smugglers and hit men often pray for successful missions and protection. (This association with organized crime led the Mexican government to bulldoze more than 40 public shrines near the U.S. border in 2009, prompting widespread protests from devotees.) But Santa Muerte also has a robust following among Mexican law enforcement, particularly policemen and prison guards. She attracts people whose lives are at risk, Aridjis says, and protects those who work in darkness: cabbies and street kids, prostitutes and petty hustlers, cops and soldiers. Many of her supplicants are poorer than average. Transgender women and other members of Mexico’s LGBT community are increasingly devotees. The vision of a powerful feminine death packs a visceral punch, Chesnut says: Mexico’s National Institute of Statistics and Geography reports an average of seven women killed by violence per day, perhaps part of the reason female followers outnumber men two-to-one.

“More than 200,000 people in Mexico have died [from violence] in the last decade,” Chesnut says. “There’s appeal in a saint of death at a time of great death, both for those doing the killing and those who fear they might be killed. She goes both ways.”

Santa Muerte also protects those who work in darkness: cabbies and street kids, prostitutes and petty hustlers, cops and soldiers.

Despite Santa Muerte’s growth, she still resides mostly in the shadows. In the United States, attempts to track her growth are hampered both by the complete lack of statistics and by the reticence of many of her followers. “Devotion on this side of the border is a lot more nebulous,” says Desiree Martín, associate professor of English at the University of California, Davis, and author of Borderlands Saints. “Many devotees are migrants who brought the religion over from Mexico, and it’s much dispersed and local. But just in my travels, looking through grocery markets and swap meets, there’s been a huge material rise in Santa Muerte products. I think you can find her now anywhere that you have a Latino supermarket. … It wasn’t like that in the U.S. several years ago.”

Texas’ few public shrines are attached to botanicas in big cities, such as Flores Spices in Houston, where dozens of Santa Muerte figures stand above piles of offerings and guttering candles. In 2013, a statue of Santa Muerte in a San Benito graveyard was smashed by vandals; that same year, a McAllen follower fended off anonymous attempts to have the shrine on her front lawn declared against city ordinances. “The closer you get to Mexico, the more prevalent it becomes,” says Janel Longoria, a devotee from Harlingen. “People will sell the figures or keep private altars. It’s very popular. But everything seems to happen behind closed doors.”

When Ana Marchand Maya was 6, her family left Mexico and moved to Harlingen. Growing up in the Valley, Maya heard that any person who prayed to “the devil” Santa Muerte would lose their loved ones. At 18, she married a man who turned out to be abusive. She ended up in a women’s shelter, undocumented, with three children to feed and no job prospects. When a friend suggested that she ask Santa Muerte for help, she hesitated, the old warnings heavy in her ears. But desperation got the best of her. With $3 in her pocket, she says, she bought a tiny stamp with an image of Santa Muerte and asked for a place to live. Within a month, she’d found an apartment. Other prayers followed: financial aid for the college where she (coincidentally) studied mortuary science, grants, help in moving her visa applications through the system.

She kept her new devotion quiet, though, fearing how her Catholic family might react. The Catholic Church has taken a strong stance against Santa Muerte, calling it a perversion of saint worship at best and Satanism at worst. In one typical broadside, a Vatican cardinal labeled Santa Muerte a “celebration of devastation and of hell” and warned that society needed to stamp her out. While American clergy have been more muted, bishops from San Angelo and El Paso have also condemned the folk saint. Soon after Maya became a devotee, her older brother was murdered, and her mother blamed his death on Maya’s veneration of the skeleton saint. It took them a while to work things out.

Ana Marchand Maya in her home, where she sells both rituals and products to her customers.  Jen Reel
Maya with her deck of tarot cards.  Jen Reel

Nowadays Maya works as a bruja — a witch — from a big ramshackle house in west San Antonio. While she’s cultivated long-distance clients from places like New York and Virginia, the majority of her customers come from the south and west sides of San Antonio, where veneration has grown in recent years. Some are undocumented and are looking for protection against the cops or Immigration and Customs Enforcement. Others ask her to conduct weddings, baptisms and parties in Santa Muerte’s name. The walls of her home office are stuffed with Santa Muerte products: icons, amulets, homemade concoctions and votive candles with skeletal labels, plus ranks of statues that line the walls, windowsills and shelves in a riot of color.

The different-hued robes align with specific requests and rituals, Maya says. Santa Muerte in purple turns back evil charms. Orange helps you kick a drug habit, red is powerful in love and blue helps a student study. The rainbow of figures on offer is both a tribute to the spirit’s multifaceted nature and a symbol of growing commercial demand. Most are manufactured in Asia and shipped to Mexico, where botanica owners buy them wholesale and have them shipped up to Texas. Maya gets hers direct from Mexico City and sells them to buyers across the country. New designs arrive every year: you can buy a sexy Santa Muerte with a miniskirt, or one with half of a face, or one gunning a motorcycle. “I try selling other saints, but none of them sell as well as Santa Muerte,” she says. “She’s who people want.”

The transactional nature of Santa Muerte’s worship is part of the appeal: You can ask for whatever you need, and offer whatever you have, without judgment. It’s an omnivorous and adaptable faith, one that can be practiced in the privacy of a home or out with a larger community, blended with Santería, Catholicism, paganism or atheism. In turbulent times, Santa Muerte offers recognition of three universal truths: that life is hard; that everyone could use a bit of help; and that everyone dies.

Just ask Chris Muniz.

Jen Reel

The months following Muniz’s first prayers to Santa Muerte were transformative. He shed his addiction and began studying the folk saint’s ways and rituals. He became friends with the botanica owner who had originally sold him the statue, and he learned everything he could about her: how to read the synchronicities and decipher the visions by which Santa Muerte communicates; the significance of her scales, by which she weighs the merits of a request before deciding to grant it; her tendency toward jealousy and her wicked sense of humor. Eventually he began practicing as a shaman, though for a while he refused to accept payment. Now he consults with those seeking spiritual guidance, and is working with inmates in an Arizona prison to get Santa Muerte recognized as an official faith by prison authorities.

There have still been hard times. Muniz was diagnosed with HIV in November 2016, and a depressive relapse led him to attempt suicide a few months later. But Santa Muerte was with him on both occasions; on the first, she answered his prayer to help him find a free testing clinic. And on the second? “I was dead for a little bit there, and they brought me back,” Muniz says. “I didn’t see no lights, and I didn’t see no tunnels. All I saw was something very black, and a voice. And the voice said to me, ‘You think it’s so hard? Go back and try again.’”

Asked to describe how he sees Santa Muerte, Muniz pauses. We’re sitting in the house of one of his friends, and Muniz has prepared part of an invocation, lighting a votive candle and a tiny brazier, laying out his tarot cards and a pair of hand-rolled cigars. On the shelves, his friend’s Santa Muerte figurine overlooks tiny bottles of vodka and tequila. He’d prefer not to speak for her, Muniz says, and he shuffles the cards. He rings a bell and speaks the rest of the invocation, calling down Santissima Muerte, the Most Holy Death, to guide his words.

Smoke coils from the tiny brazier. The candle flickers as from the passage of wings. After a long moment, Muniz speaks. He describes her not as a folk saint or lesser spirit, but as the holiest of the archangels, born out of the first murder, and carrying everything in herself that came from it: rage, sadness, mystery, the cry for help. That is why she is a spirit of last resort, a patron of those who’ve lost their way.

“She’s nothing but love,” he says. “She’s not evil. … I find a lot of love in her. I’m not a narco. I went to her to help me get away from drugs. But the narcos will go to her for protection, too. She doesn’t discriminate. That’s why the LGBT can go to her, the Roman Catholic can go to her. Death accepts everybody.”

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Trump pardons former Sheriff Joe Arpaio

President Donald Trump has pardoned controversial sheriff Joe Arpaio of his conviction for criminal contempt, the White House said Friday night.

CNN reported Wednesday that the White House had prepared the papers for Trump’s final decision.

Arpaio, who was a sheriff in Maricopa County, Arizona, was found guilty of criminal contempt last month for disregarding a court order in a racial profiling case. His sentencing was scheduled for October 5.

“Not only did (Arpaio) abdicate responsibility, he announced to the world and to his subordinates that he was going to continue business as usual no matter who said otherwise,” wrote US District Judge Susan Bolton in the July 31 order.

Trump indicated he would pardon Arpaio at a rally in Phoenix, Arizona, on Tuesday: “I won’t do it tonight because I don’t want to cause any controversy.”

“I’ll make a prediction,” Trump said, adding, “I think he’s going to be just fine.”

However, civil rights groups have pushed back against the possibility of Arpaio’s pardon.

After Trump’s comments at the Phoenix rally, the ACLU tweeted: “President Trump should not pardon Joe Arpaio. #PhoenixRally #noarpaiopardon,” accompanied with a graphic that reads, “No, President Trump. Arpaio was not ‘just doing his job.’ He was violating the Constitution and discriminating against Latinos.”

Arpaio, who has called himself “America’s toughest sheriff,” was an early Trump supporter, but his stance on illegal immigration was what had earned him national recognition.

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Puppy attacked by pet store owner’s dog

When Rena Wilensky walked into the Magic Pet store in her Baldwin Park neighborhood on the early afternoon of August 9, she says she never expected to see her 8-week-old golden labradoodle, Buddah, attacked by the pet store owner’s mixed breed, Jax.

The owner’s dog “came out slowly from the back and up to us,” a visibly shaken Wilensky told News 6,” I mean within a flash.”

Wilensky said she looked over at the store’s owner before it happened and “asked if it would be alright,” and said he nodded yes.

But when the puppy jumped up at the big white dog’s face, Jax bit the puppy, cracking his skull and causing the brain to swell. The pup had to be put down.

Under existing Orange County law, the owner’s dog didn’t have to be on a leash because it was on pet store property.

Florida does not have a statute setting guidelines for pet leash protocol.

A spokesperson for Orange County Animal Control told News 6 there will be a citation for “Failure to control an animal, resulting in severe injury to a human being or another animal.”

The penalty carries a fine of $265 for the first offense.

Late Monday afternoon, the Pet shop owner met with Wilensky and agreed to keep his dog out of his shops.
In a statement to News 6, Samir Obeid and Janaein Rabah told News 6:

“We are heartbroken over this incident. “As small business owners whose life, passion, and business is caring for animals, we are deeply saddened and troubled by the incident involving Ms. Wilensky’s puppy and our larger mixed breed dog. Contrary to reports to the otherwise, our dog is neither a pit-bull or a bull terrier.” Although we wish more than anything to be able to bring Buddha back, we remain committed to doing everything we can to rectify this situation.’We have revised our policy regarding how pets are kept at the store and have covered all costs associated with Buddha’s veterinary care.’

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Mother left kids in hot car while she drank at bar, police say

A Kissimmee woman is accused of leaving her two children in a car without air conditioning while she drank at a bar on International Drive, according to the Orlando Police Department.

A woman called 911 at 10:14 p.m. Sunday and said she was concerned for the two small children, who had been in a silver Ford Focus for about an hour while their mother Larissa Rivera, 28, drank at Butikin Orlando.

“She is drunk, the mother is drunk,” the woman told the 911 operator.

When an officer arrived minutes later, she found the Ford Focus in the parking lot with two children in the back seat, according to the affidavit.

“I opened the driver side rear passenger door and was greeted with a little girl (approximately 5 years of age) crying hysterically. She quickly calmed down once fresh air came upon her,” the officer wrote in her report.

A boy, approximately 3 years old, was also in the vehicle, the affidavit said. Both children were sweating and hot to the touch, according to police. The air conditioning was not on and the children didn’t have any food or water.

Rivera told News 6 over the phone that the children were very comfortable in the car at 10 o’clock at night. She said she took them to Butikin to have dinner, put them in her car when they became tired, and left the A/C on. She turned off the A/C when they complained they were cold, Rivera said.

Rivera said she left the children alone for only half an hour and the whole time she and friends at the bar were able to see the children in the car from inside the bar through the windows of the bar.

Rivera claimed she and friends checked on the children every few minutes.

While police were on the scene, Rivera came outside and said the children, both dressed in long-sleeved pajamas, were hers. She said bar patrons had been checking on the children while she drank, the report said.

The officer said that Rivera smelled of alcohol, her eyes were glassy and she was repeating herself.

Rivera admitted to News 6 she had been drinking, but said she asked the children’s godmother to come pick them up. Rivera also admitted a friend urged her to take the children home, but countered that the children were fine.

She was charged with two counts of leaving a child unattended in a motor vehicle.


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Your phone’s Bluetooth can locate illegal skimmer devices

As more and more skimmers are discovered at ATMs and gas stations, police say a simple way to beat crooks from taking your money is in the palm of your hand.

Skimmers are devices criminals attach to debit or credit card readers that allow others to steal your personal information.

Millions have been stolen from unsuspecting customers who use ATM’s or card readers at gas stations.

However, officials say the Bluetooth on your phone can uncover the nefarious devices looking to steal from your wallet.

Simply go to the settings on your smartphone and click on Bluetooth. If a skimmer is present, a long string of numbers and/or letters will appear, attempting to connect you to the device.

Now that the illegal device has been located, make sure you do not connect your phone.

The Federal Trade Commission has additional tips to help consumers avoid skimmers:

Make sure the gas pump panel is closed and doesn’t show signs of tampering. Many stations now put security seals over the cabinet panel. This is part of a voluntary program by the industry to thwart gas pump tampering. If the pump panel is opened, the label will read “void,” which means the machine has been tampered with.

Take a good look at the card reader itself. Does it look different than other readers at the station? For example, the card reader on the left has a skimmer attached; the reader on the right doesn’t.

If you use a debit card at the pump, run it as a credit card instead of entering a PIN. That way, the PIN is safe and the money isn’t deducted immediately from your account. If that’s not an option, cover your hand when entering your PIN. Scammers sometimes use tiny pinhole cameras, situated above the keypad area, to record PIN entries.

Monitor your credit card and bank accounts regularly to spot unauthorized charges.

If you’re really concerned about skimmers, you can pay inside rather than at the pump. Another option is to use a gas pump near the front of the store. Thieves may target gas pumps that are harder for the attendant to see.

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South Florida woman accused of DUI with 3-year-old unbuckled in back seat

A South Florida woman is accused of drunken driving with a 3-year-old child unbuckled in the back seat.

Brandy Lerma, 31, of Boynton Beach, was arrested Saturday on suspicion of driving under the influence and child neglect.

According to a Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office report, Lerma was stopped while driving south on Haverhill Road near Belvedere Road about 4:15 p.m.

Another driver called 911 and followed her until deputies could initiate a traffic stop.

When deputies arrived, they found Lerma sitting in the driver’s seat with a toddler standing in the back seat, the report said.

The arresting deputy wrote in his report that he could smell a strong odor of alcohol on Lerma’s breath. He said her hair “was a mess,” her “right bra strap was hanging out from under her sleeve,” her speech was slurred and her clothes were “disheveled and dirty.”

“The driver was unable to walk or stand without assistance,” the report said. “The driver fell to the ground twice during the roadside tasks.”

Lerma told deputies that she had two Fireball shots and had taken Percocet and Xanax.

The report listed Lerma’s attitude as vulgar, defiant, combative and uncooperative.

Lerma was released from jail the next day on a $3,000 bond.

President Trump weighed in on the story, commenting on Twitter that “there is plenty of blame to go around, on both sides.”

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