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iStock/Thinkstock(CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va.) --  The driver accused of barreling a car into a crowd protesting the "Unite the Right" rally in Charlottesville, Virginia has been charged with first-degree murder.

James Alex Fields Jr., 20, appeared in handcuffs and a black-and-white striped jail uniform while during a preliminary hearing in a downtown Charlottesville circuit court Thursday, where a murder charge against him was upgraded from second-degree murder to first-degree murder. A conviction for second-degree murder carries a maximum sentence of 40 years; first-degree murder carries a penalty of up to life in prison.

On Aug. 12, Fields allegedly drove into a crowd of counterprotestors who were demonstrating against the white nationalist rally, killing 32-year-old Heather Heyer and injuring several others.

Fields was initially charged with second-degree murder in Heyers' death, as well as three counts of malicious wounding, three counts of aggravated malicious wounding, two charges of felonious assault and failure to stop that led to death, court records show.

During the hearing, Fields appeared sullen and hunched over. At one point, a man sitting in the gallery interrupted the hearing, shouting, "F--- this, I'm out of here" before he left the courtroom.

On the day of the rally, a group of white nationalists, which included neo-Nazis and Ku Klux Klan members, descended onto Charlottesville, spurred by the city's plans to remove a Confederate statue from a downtown park. Violence broke out as counterprotesters clashed with white nationalists, prompting Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe to declare a state of emergency.

In addition to Fields, three other people appeared in court on charges relating to the rally, including discharging a firearm within 1,000 feet of a school, malicious wounding and felony assault on the day of the rally, according to court records.

About a dozens of protesters were seen outside the courthouse during the hearing, carrying signs that read "White supremacy is evil" and "Love over fear." The city had shut down nearby streets ahead of the hearing in anticipation of crowds.

Fields is being housed in a Virginia jail after he was denied bail in August. He did not enter a plea during Thursday's hearing.

Fields' attorney, Denise Lunsford, declined to provide a comment to ABC News.

A grand jury is scheduled to convene on Monday.

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iStock/Thinkstock(SAN DIEGO) --A California firefighter has died while battling the Thomas fire that is threatening the Golden State's Ventura and Santa Barbara counties, officials said.

The firefighter was an engineer with the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection from San Diego, said Cal Fire director Chief Ken Pimlott in a press release Thursday.

Pimlott did not immediately the firefighter's identity or details on how he died, asking the community to keep the family in their prayers.

"... [P]lease join me in keeping our fallen firefighter and his loved ones in your prayers all the responders on the front lines in your thoughts as they continue to work under extremely challenging conditions," Pimlott said.

As many as six wildfires were blazing through California's arid landscape last week. The Thomas fire, the largest of them, began as a 50-acre brush fire in the foothills of Santa Paula on Dec. 4, officials said.

The Thomas fire is now 30 percent contained by Thursday afternoon after it had burned through more than 242,5000 acres. A total of 8,144 fire personnel are battling the Thomas fire, which is currently threatening at least 18,000 structures, according to Cal Fire.

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iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- After the Federal Communications Commission voted Thursday along party lines to repeal net neutrality regulations imposed in 2015, the reaction was swift from technology companies, internet service providers, lawmakers and other stakeholders in both support and opposition to the move.

Critics of the vote believe that internet service providers might take advantage of the freedom to prioritize certain types of web traffic which could ultimately have an effect on speeds or pricing. Supporters have argued that removing the regulations will spur innovation and competition.

ABC News has compiled notable responses to Thursday's FCC vote:

Opposition to the FCC vote:


"We remain committed to the net neutrality policies that enjoy overwhelming public support, have been approved by the courts, and are working well for every part of the internet economy," a spokesperson said. "We will work with other net neutrality supporters large and small to promote strong, enforceable protections."


"We’re disappointed in the decision to gut #NetNeutrality protections that ushered in an unprecedented era of innovation, creativity & civic engagement. This is the beginning of a longer legal battle. Netflix stands w/ innovators, large & small, to oppose this misguided FCC order."


"The @FCC's vote to gut #NetNeutrality rules is a body blow to innocation and free expression. We will continue our  fight to defend the open Internet and reverse the misguided decision."

Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook chief operating officer

"Today’s decision from the Federal Communications Commission to end net neutrality is disappointing and harmful. An open internet is critical for new ideas and economic opportunity – and internet providers shouldn't be able to decide what people can see online or charge more for certain websites. We’re ready to work with members of Congress and others to help make the internet free and open for everyone."

New York state Attorney General Eric Schneiderman

"I will sue to stop the FCC’s illegal rollback of #netneutrality. New Yorkers and all Americans deserve a free and open internet."

Sen. Ed Markey, D-Mass.

"Don’t let @AjitPaiFCC fool you. The ONLY people benefitting from the repeal of #NetNeutrality are massive corporations that are already reaping in enormous profits. They want to end the internet as we know it to create a digital oligarchy that serves the wealthy few."

Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif.

"Today the FCC voted along party lines to repeal net neutrality. It is outrageous that they ruled in favor of multi-billion-dollar broadband companies over the interests of consumers. Americans deserve a fair and open internet. "

Support for the FCC vote:


“We commend Chairman Pai for his leadership. Today’s action does not mark the ‘end of the Internet as we know it; rather it heralds in a new era of light regulation that will benefit consumers.” - David Cohen, senior executive vice president and chief diversity officer


“For more than a decade, under both Republican and Democratic Administrations, AT&T has consistently made clear that we provide broadband service in an open and transparent way. In short, the internet will continue to work tomorrow just as it always has... We continue to support a legislative solution and will work with any interested members of Congress to achieve that solution.” - Bob Quinn, senior executive vice president of external and legislative affairs.

United States Telecom Association

“Today, the future of our open, thriving internet has been secured. The nation’s top consumer protection agency now has jurisdiction over fairness and neutrality across the internet, ensuring consistent rules apply to all players, including the most powerful online companies... It’s a great day for consumers and our innovation economy.” - Jonathan Spalter, CEO

Sen. John Thune, R-S.D., chairman of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation

“Now that the FCC has acted to reverse an ill-conceived regulatory scheme, Congress must take the lead... I favor Congress enacting net neutrality protections and establishing sensible limits on the power of regulators. I call on Democrats and Republicans who want to preserve a free and open internet to work together on permanent consumer protections.”

Rep. Greg Walden, R-Ore., chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee and Rep. Marsha Blackburn, R-Tenn., chairwoman of the Communications and Technology subcommittee

“The FCC’s vote today will preserve the open and dynamic Internet the American people have known since the early 1990s. Now, the table is set for Congress to provide clear, permanent rules through a bipartisan legislative solution."

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iStock/Thinkstock(HOUSTON) -- The Pi Kappa Alpha fraternity was indicted on Thursday for a 2016 hazing incident in which pledges were allegedly deprived of adequate food, water and sleep, according to prosecutors.

A grand jury in Harris County, Texas, indicted the Tennessee-based Pi Kappa Alpha International Fraternity Inc. following concurrent investigations by the Harris County District Attorney's Office and the University of Houston. The indictment does not charge any individual criminally, but it subjects the fraternity to a fine of up to $10,000 as well as conviction for hazing, including mental and physical abuse.

An official representative for the fraternity will have to be present for court hearings, prosecutors said.

“Brotherhood and collegiate good times should be safe and hazing is not,” Harris County District Attorney Kim Ogg said in a statement announcing the charge. “It is also illegal and that should be recognized by the dozens of fraternities and sororities on college campuses all over the Houston area."

In a statement, Pi Kappa Alpha International Fraternity Inc. said it "does not tolerate hazing, maltreatment of members, or any activities that do not treat individuals with dignity and respect."

Pi Kappa Alpha emphasized that the hazing allegations outlined in the indictment occurred within the former Epsilon Eta chapter, whose charter was suspended in August after the international fraternity learned of the alleged misconduct.

"Epsilon Eta Chapter was a separate, unincorporated association composed of adult male undergraduate students attending the University of Houston," the statement read. "The Fraternity does not control any chapter or its members or their activities; however if a chapter violates the Fraternity’s Standards or any rules or regulations from the host school or any applicable local, state or federal agency, the Fraternity retains the right to suspend a chapter’s charter."

Thursday's indictment focuses on the treatment of one student at the University of Houston who was allegedly abused, like others, during a "brutal three-day rite" while pledging the fraternity in November 2016, prosecutors said.

Prosecutors said the pledge was forced to roll around in vomit, spit and feces and go without food, drink and sleep throughout much of the ordeal. At one point, the pledge was ordered to run across a rural stretch of land in the darkness while holding a glow stick in what was apparently known as a "green light game," prosecutors said.

The pledge was then unexpectedly tackled by fraternity members, who were dressed in dark clothing and lying in wait, prosecutors said. He was later hospitalized for a lacerated spleen.
In July, the University of Houston placed the Pi Kappa Alpha fraternity under interim suspension pending an investigation. In October, the university suspended the fraternity for activities that violate the school's hazing policy after a months-long probe revealed violations that occurred off campus.

"Today we are grateful that our county partners have delivered a stern message through the grand jury’s decision against the fraternity, that such behavior, which jeopardizes the well being of our students, will not be tolerated," the University of Houston said in a statement reacting to the indictment Thursday.

The Harris County district attorney praised the university's efforts in the wake of the 2016 incident.

“The University of Houston showed resolve in conducting a thorough investigation and holding the fraternity accountable,” Ogg said.

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iStock/Thinkstock(BEVERLY HILLS, Calif.) -- A anesthesiologist in Beverly Hills has been charged with murder in connection with a patient's fatal overdose, Los Angeles prosecutors announced Thursday.

Stephen Kyosung Kim, 53, was working at the Rodeo Drive Plastic Surgery Center on Sept. 26 when he allegedly administered the medicine to the patient, 71-year-old Mark Greenspan, to help sedate him, according to a press release from the Los Angeles County District Attorney's Office.

Proseuctors accuse Kim of injecting himself with drugs during the procedure and then later giving Greenspan a lethal dose of Demerol, a narcotic used to treat pain, while he was in the recovery room.

Greenspan then went into cardiac arrest and died, according to the district attorney's office.

Kim was arrested Wednesday by the Beverly Hills Police Department and booked into a Los Angeles County jail, court records show. He was released after he posted a $1 million bail.

Kim is expected to be arraigned today at the Clara Shortridge Foltz Criminal Justice Center in downtown Los Angeles, prosecutors said. It is unclear whether he has entered a plea or retained an attorney.
If convicted, Kim faces 25 years to life in a state prison.

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iStock/Thinkstock(CAMBRIDGE, Mass.) --  To achieve an exceptional college application has become seemingly more and more difficult -- at least for certain groups of students.

Ben Huynh, a Vietnamese-American born to immigrant parents and raised in Chicago, received a 2400 on his SAT, had perfect grades, held leadership positions and was very involved in his passion for music, all elements of an impeccable application by most standards.

With his outstanding résumé, one would expect him to get into at least one of his top schools, but was rejected from most of them, including Harvard.

“I was a little disappointed,” Huynh said, adding he never once blamed under-represented minorities as part of the problem.

Despite his initial frustration, he said he remains a firm advocate of affirmative action. Though flawed, he said, the policy provides a level of balance that plays only a part in what is a complex and multifaceted admissions process.

Huynh ended up accepting a full ride to University of Chicago and is happy with how things turned out.

“I don’t think I’d do anything differently," he said. "I didn’t see the point to racialize myself, there are other more important factors to address.”

Huynh’s response is one of many mixed reactions from the Asian-American community to the ongoing debate about college admission practices, an issue brought back to light when the Department of Justice launched an investigation into the use of race in Harvard University’s admissions practices.

In November, the DOJ demanded Harvard to turn over admissions records as part of its investigation to examine whether Harvard is in violation of Title VI, which “prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, color or national origin” in Federal funded programs.

The investigation began as the national conversation about the controversial practice of affirmative action continues. The concern that top universities like Harvard may be limiting the numbers of Asian-Americans it admits in favor of other minorities as a way to create a diverse student body is mirrored by other lawsuits like the one filed by the Student for Fair Admissions in 2014.

That suit alleges Harvard intentionally discriminates against Asian-Americans by limiting the number of Asian students who are admitted.

Edward Blum, president of Student for Fair Admissions and the legal strategist behind the 2014 lawsuit, formed the non-profit organization with the goal to eliminate racial preferences in college admissions.

Blum praised the investigation as a “welcomed development,” in a statement.

“In order to create true diversity there are far better ways to go about it without raising the bar for some and lowering for others,” Blum told ABC News.

However, some Asian-American students don't see it that way. As a Chinese-American student at Harvard, Raymond Tang said he understood the need for policies like affirmative action and the innate selectivity in elite colleges, especially Ivy League schools.

“I wouldn’t be surprised if I didn’t get into Harvard, because I expect it to be hard to get in,” Tang told ABC News.

With a 2340 SAT score, six Hong Kong national medals in figure skating and numerous other successes in academia and the arts, Tiffany Lau is also a student with impeccable qualifications.

Now a 20-year-old History & Literature and Theater, Dance & Media major at Harvard, she too, emphasized the expected competitiveness in college admissions. Lau said she believes any applicant, regardless of race, should be expected to have “more than just great scores and impressive resume.”

In order to examine a person as a whole, she said, one must evaluate the components that make up the person’s identity. And that’s why she would not support a race-blind admissions process, “as an individual’s race is a central part of how they navigate the world, how they grew up and who they are,” said Lau.

Similarly, Tang said he believes schools are justified to accept students for different reasons.

“If there wasn’t a way to accommodate different experiences, they’ll end up with a homogeneous pool of students,” he said.

Others hold similar opinions to Blum and accept the current system as an ugly truth.

Michael Paik, a senior at the University of Pennsylvania who scored over 2300 on the SAT and was a straight A student, remembered consciously shaping his application to differentiate himself from other applicants who may be perceived as more “traditional” Asian-American students.

Paik said it’s a “commonly known thing” among Asian American households, since as a group, children tend to be raised in a culture where academic excellence is prioritized, making their application pool more competitive.

Even his non-Asian friends, some who are at the opposite end of the affirmative action spectrum, admitted that his applications will have to be much stronger to be considered, Paik added.

Between the myriad of variables at play and the limited spots available he recognized the complexity the issue warrants; however, he said although the process “is difficult and unpredictable” he still felt like “it’s unfair” at times.

His mother, Michelle Paik, felt more strongly about what she saw as “an unjust system,” especially having five children with two of her eldest sons in college and three more on their way.

“I was absolutely shocked when both of my sons got into their top choices, even though they were both top of their class,” said Mrs. Paik. She said it wasn’t for the lack of confidence in their abilities, but the unfortunate reality she and all of her children were acutely aware of -- that Asian Americans are held to a higher standard.

She didn’t want to discourage her children but she did warn them, “you may have all the qualifications but you are an Asian boy so there’s a big possibility you’ll be denied.”

Instead of what is in place now, Mrs. Paik supports preferential policies based on socio-economic background. When a group of students of similar backgrounds and received the same private education “why should someone receive so much more benefits just because of their last name and skin color?” she questioned.

As a mother of five, she often discussed the issue with other parents in the community who she said “share the same sentiments.” When they see certain unexpected college acceptances or rejections “they just roll their eyes, it’s an understood norm, which is sad,” Mrs. Paik told ABC News.

“At this point there’s nothing you can do, this is the system in place, in a way you do have to accept it and just try your best,” a mentality she has tried to instill in her children’s minds.

A Gallup poll taken in 2016 reflects the viewpoints of Mrs. Paik and that of many others, showing 65% of Americans are opposed to the consideration of race in admissions and support decisions that are based solely on merit.

Citing the poll as one of the evidence of Americans’ desire to end racial preference, Blum said the students and families involved in the lawsuit were replete with relief and gratification when they realized they had a channel to voice their frustration in a significant way.

The families were hopeful that the younger generation “will not be subject to the same kinds of discrimination,” the kind of quota system Harvard imposed on Jewish students back in the 1920s, Blum added.

Policies akin to affirmative action has been on the nation’s center stage for decades and as the Justice Department’s investigation and pending lawsuits move forward, the country is certain to continue to debate the merits behind admission practices that take race into consideration.

“It’s like a lottery," Mrs. Paik said. "You may have everything, but it’s not a guarantee at all."

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iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- The Federal Communications Commission voted Thursday to repeal the so-called net neutrality rules that govern the way internet service providers treat different types of content and data.

The five commissioners of the FCC voted along party lines — three Republicans to two Democrats — to roll back the rules, imposed in 2015 under President Barack Obama. The public debate over the rules had been heated at times and Thursday's decision came after a brief delay when, on the "advice of security," FCC chairman Ajit Pai announced that they would need to take a recess and the hearing room was evacuated.

Repeal supporters claimed the rules unnecessarily regulated the industry and impeded upon the free market.

Under the rules rescinded Thursday, internet service providers were prohibited from influencing loading speeds for specific websites or apps. The vote rolled back the policies that treated the internet like a utility and could potentially lead to the creation of different lanes of speeds for websites or content creators willing to pay for them. Critics worry that those costs could be passed along to consumers.

Internet service providers will have to disclose whether they engage in certain types of conduct, such as blocking and prioritization, following Thursday's decision. They must further explicitly publicize what is throttled and what is blocked, with the information posted on an easily accessible website hosted by the company or the FCC.

Repeal is a hallmark victory for the FCC's Republican chairman Ajit Pai whose 11-month tenure has seen him strongly advocate for reduced regulation. Pai was named FCC chairman in January by President Donald Trump, who has made no secret of his interest in reigning in Obama-era business regulations.

Eighteen state attorneys general made a last ditch effort to delay the vote by claiming they have uncovered more than a million public comments on the motion using fraudulent identities.

"The FCC must delay its vote until we get to the bottom of this massive fraud," said New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman. Pai ignored requests for a delay.

An additional bipartisan request to halt the vote came from Sens. Susan Collins, R-Maine and Angus King, I-Maine, this week, who argued that Congress and the FCC should hold public hearings "in order to investigate the best way to ensure citizens, and our economy have strong net neutrality protections that guarantee consumer choice, free markets, and continued growth."

More than a hundred House Republicans sent a letter to the FCC on Wednesday applauding the agency's plan to repeal its net neutrality rules.

Some internet service providers, including Comcast, while supporting the repeal, have promised never to throttle speeds or block websites.

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Subscribe To This Feed LOUIS) -- Two police officers were shot in the chest Thursday morning in a suburb of St. Louis, Missouri, but their bulletproof vests appeared to have saved their lives, officials said.

The uniformed members of the Bellefontaine Neighbors Police Department were injured in an encounter with a gunman around 7:15 a.m. local time, but expected to survive, McGuire said.

In the wake of the shooting the suspect ran down the street and barricaded himself in the house where he was believed to live, Sgt. Shawn McGuire of the St. Louis County Police Department said in a press conference Thursday afternoon.

Tactical teams arrived to the home around 9:30 a.m. and tried to make contact with the suspect, McGuire said. About an hour later, the suspect yelled something at police officers, confirming that he was indeed in the home.

Around 11:12 a.m., the suspect fired one round at officers through the back door of the home before retreating back inside, McGuire said. No officers were struck by the gunfire, McGuire added.

By 2:45 p.m., the suspect was apprehended inside the residence after officers made entry, McGuire said. The suspect sustained one gunshot wound to the upper chest and was taken to a local hospital to be treated for non-life threatening injuries, McGuire said.

The suspect did not put up a struggle when he was apprehended, and officers recovered two handguns from the home, McGuire said.

McGuire said the incident began when the department received a call Wednesday night about shots fired in the suburb. Police were unable to locate the person related to the report, but they remained in the area overnight near a residence where they thought the shots potentially came from.

In the morning, police received a call from a neighbor who saw someone leave the house. Two officers located the individual, a 37-year-old man, walking down the street and tried to have a dialogue with him, according to McGuire.

The officers ultimately attempted to take the man into custody and a scuffle ensued. At some point, the man took out a firearm and shot the officers, McGuire said.

Ballistic vests worn by the officers blocked the rounds of gunfire but they still suffered some injuries. Both were hospitalized for treatment and evaluation, according to McGuire.

St. Louis County Police Department spokesman Benjamin Granda said the vests appear to have been "instrumental" in limiting the officers' injuries.

One of the officers is a 44-year-old sergeant with 22 years of law enforcement experience who has been a member of the Bellefontaine Neighbors Police Department for eight years. The other is a 25-year-old woman who has served with the department for three years, according to Granda.

The firearm used to shoot the officers has not yet been recovered, McGuire said. The St. Louis County Police Department was on scene assisting with the barricaded suspect.

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WHAS(FORT KNOX, Ky.) -- Fort Knox, Kentucky was a scene filled with emotional reunions Wednesday as deployed soldiers returned home in time to spend the holidays with their loved ones.

The Army soldiers with the 1st Sustainment Command had spent six months away while they were deployed in Kuwait providing food, fuel, water, transportation and other materials for military personnel there, ABC Louisville affiliate WHAS reported.

On Wednesday, family members looked on eagerly as they waited for a glimpse of the U.S. service members.

"There he is right there," one mother told her young son once she spotted her husband. "Look at Daddy! Look!"

The official homecoming ceremony was cut short so families did not have to wait for their long-desired reunions, according to WHAS.

"Family members, find your soldiers," a woman's voice instructed those sitting in the crowd via intercom.

Soldier Chris Campbell returned home after his first deployment since becoming a father.

"It's great to be back," he said. "Things have changed, but the little luxury is still being able to see them on the camera every couple days."

Campbell's wife told WHAS that the reality of him being home is "really just started setting in."

"Now he gets to enjoy his kids," she said. "It's a feeling I can't even describe."

After soldier Kevin Howse first reunited with his wife, there was another young lady he had to make sure to see.

Howse conducted his tear-filled reunion with his young daughter at her daycare.

"Daddy, I missed you," Howse's daughter told him. "I missed you too, Daddy."

Howse said it's "difficult" for service members to be away from loved ones when they're deployed.

"We're used to it, but it doesn't get any better," he said. "Even though we're accustomed to it, still a little difficult at times. That's the life we chose, so that's what we do."
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Subscribe To This Feed -- A cow created a not-so-silent night in Philadelphia this week.

The cow, nicknamed “Stormy,” escaped not once, but twice from a living nativity scene at the Old First Reformed United Church of Christ in Philadelphia.

Stormy took off around 2:30 a.m. Wednesday morning and hoofed it to the highway.

Philadelphia police were able to box in Stormy with their cars and tie a rope around her neck. She was guided off the highway and back to the nativity scene.

But just a few hours later police tweeted that the cow had escaped again.

According to ABC News affiliate WPVI, Reverend Michael Caine of Old First Reformed UCC had tried to stop the 1,500 pound bovine when she made her second escape, but was unsuccessful.

Stormy then headed toward the upper level of a nearby parking garage, where her handlers and police were able to capture her again. According to WPVI, one of the state troopers who responded knew how to handle the situation because he owns a cattle ranch.

Stormy was returned for a second time to her pen in the church’s nativity scene, which also includes two sheep and two donkeys.

Old First Reformed UCC said in a statement that its “crèche was vandalized. The gate was opened and Stormy, the cow, escaped onto the south bound ramp of I-95.”

People have recently expressed concern over the animals’ welfare in the nativity scene, Caine told WPVI.

“She's not cold. She's been shown since she's a baby. She's not unnerved by the people or the city's commotion,” according to a Facebook post from the church. “Life in a barn isn't always easy.”

Caine told WPVI that the church has put on the nativity scene display since 1973.

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Subscribe To This Feed CITY, Kan.) -- A deadly fire that engulfed a home in Kansas City, Kansas, early Tuesday is now being investigated as a homicide, police said.

The Kansas City, Kansas Police Department announced the homicide investigation via Twitter late Wednesday, one day after officials found three bodies inside the scorched single-family residence. Though details surrounding the case are limited, police said the fire may be covering up a murder scene.

The identities of the three victims have not yet been released, but one woman told reporters that she feared her sister could be among the dead.

Patricia Green told ABC affiliate KMBC that her sister, Gwen, had lived at the home for the past several months.

“I hope for the best, that she’s somewhere at another location and she’ll see this broadcast and reach out to one of us and let us know that she’s OK,” Green said in an interview with KMBC on Tuesday.

She said she tried to call her sister multiple times, but “her phone is going straight to 'not accepting calls.'”

The fire was reported to authorities at around 3 a.m. local time Tuesday. Kansas City, Kansas Fire Chief John Paul Jones said via Twitter that "crews experienced heavy fire conditions upon arrival."

Firefighters found two bodies inside the residence after an initial search. A third body was later discovered in the home. The cause of death of the three victims remain under investigation, authorities said.

The Kansas City, Kansas Fire Department said it is conducting an "extensive fire investigation" and will release further details "at the appropriate time."

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ABC News(NEW YORK) -- Talk show host Tavis Smiley pushed back against allegations of sexual misconduct after PBS suspended the distribution of his namesake show on Wednesday, citing "multiple, credible allegations of conduct" that it said were inconsistent with its values.

“I have the utmost respect for women and celebrate the courage of those who have come forth to tell their truth,” Smiley said in a statement released on Facebook after the suspension was announced. “To be clear, I have never groped, coerced or exposed myself inappropriately to any workplace colleague in my entire broadcast career, covering six networks over 30 years.

“This has gone too far. And I, for one, intend to fight back,” he added.

Smiley, named one of TIME's 100 “Most Influential People in the World” in 2009, said he was "shocked" by the suspension and accused the network of "trampling" his reputation.

“If having a consensual relationship with a colleague years ago is the stuff that leads to this kind of public humiliation and personal destruction, heaven help us,” he said.

“The PBS investigators refused to review any of my personal documentation, refused to provide me the names of any accusers, refused to speak to my current staff, and refused to provide me any semblance of due process to defend myself against allegations from unknown sources,” he added. “Their mind was made up.”

Smiley said he first heard about PBS’s investigation from staffers who said they were contacted as a part of the public broadcaster’s probe, which he referred to as “biased and sloppy.”

“PBS launched a so-called investigation of me without ever informing me,” he said. “Only after being threatened with a lawsuit, did PBS investigators reluctantly agree to interview me for three hours.

“I learned of the investigation when former staffers started contacting me to share the uncomfortable experience of receiving a phone call from a stranger asking whether I had ever done anything to make them uncomfortable, and if they could provide other names of persons to call,” Smiley added.

He said he learned more about the investigation from reading a report in Variety, which first reported the suspension Wednesday afternoon

Citing unnamed sources, Variety said investigators took reports from 10 witnesses as part of the probe. It described the witnessess as a “mix of men and women of different races and employment levels in Smiley’s organization, most of them former staffers.”

PBS confirmed the suspension in a statement on Wednesday.

"PBS engaged an outside law firm to conduct an investigation immediately after learning of troubling allegations regarding Mr. Smiley,” a PBS spokesperson said. “This investigation included interviews with witnesses as well as with Mr. Smiley.

“The inquiry uncovered multiple, credible allegations of conduct that is inconsistent with the values and standards of PBS, and the totality of this information led to today’s decision,” the statement added.

The suspension comes less than a month after PBS fired veteran journalist Charlie Rose after multiple women levied claims of sexual misconduct against him.

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ABC News(NEW YORK) -- The mother of the Louisiana State University student who died following an apparent hazing incident at a fraternity said she believes her son was murdered, telling ABC News, "Nobody can physically drink that much, you can't, you have to be forced."

"This shouldn't have happened," Rae Ann Gruver said in an exclusive interview with ABC News' Amy Robach three months after her son, Max Gruver, 18, died following a night of drinking and alleged hazing at the Phi Delta Theta fraternity's LSU chapter.

On the night of September 13, Max Gruver and other fraternity pledges participated in a game dubbed "Bible Study," where pledges were asked questions about the fraternity and ordered to drink alcohol if they answered questions incorrectly, according to an affidavit filed by LSU police in October.

Max Gruver was pronounced dead on September 14, according to authorities. A preliminary autopsy revealed that he had "a highly elevated blood alcohol level plus the presence of THC," according to the East Baton Rouge Parish Coroner’s Office.

Stephen Gruver, Max's father, told ABC News that they eventually found out that his son's blood-alcohol level was .496, or approximately six times the legal limit.

"We learned that the hospital's gauge stops at .46, it doesn't go any higher," Stephen Gruver said. "And that was the next day. So that night, I'm sure it was enough to kill you."

Ten current and former fraternity members were arrested and face potential charges ranging from misdemeanor hazing to felony negligent homicide. The East Baton Rouge District Attorney's office told ABC News on Wednesday that the defendants have yet to be formally charged and no pleas have been entered.

When asked if she believed her son was murdered, Rae Ann Gruver responded "yes."

"It's senseless," she added of the allegations that her son was forced to consume alcohol prior to his death. "I mean, how is making your brother do all these things, and humiliating somebody, a brotherhood?"

"How does that bond you?" she added. "That's what I just don't understand ... It's just horrific."

Rae Ann Gruver added that they were initially encouraged by the research they had done about the fraternity their son chose to join.

"We went on the computer, we looked up on their national chapter," she said, adding that it claimed to be a hazing- and alcohol-free environment.

She said they were initially unaware of any past reports of drinking and hazing at the fraternity, and thought "our son made a great decision with this fraternity."

"If we had found out just a year ago a fraternity had had a hazing incident, we might be like ... with Max, like, 'I don't know that this is the one for you,'" she added.

Rae Ann Gruver recalled the last time she hugged her son, when she dropped him off at LSU on his freshman move-in day.

"I actually have a picture of the last hug of him and I," Rae Ann Gruver said. Stephen Gruver added when they dropped him off at school they had no idea "that was the last time" they would see him alive.

Rae Ann Gruver said they are sharing their family's heartbreak in order to prevent what happened to their son from happening to others, and called on students to speak up if they suspect something is off.

"They need to step up if they see something is wrong ... Don't be scared," she said. "You could possibly be saving somebody's life."

The Phi Delta Theta fraternity has shuttered its LSU chapter and revoked its charter following Max Gruver's death. The fraternity's national chapter posted a statement on it's website immediately following his death saying they "fully support local law enforcement in their decision to move forward and file charges against all of those alleged to be involved with the passing of Maxwell Gruver."

A spokesperson for LSU told ABC News that a Greek Life Task Force has been established to investigate the school's culture and environment and will write a report with recommendations for improvements by the end of January 2018. Meanwhile, Greek organizations can have registered, alcohol-free, on-campus events.

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Gerald Mayr/Senckenberg Research Institute(WASHINGTON) -- Giant penguins, standing over 6 feet tall and weighing more than 220 pounds, may have roamed Earth some 60 million years ago, according to new research.

Scientists on Tuesday said they discovered fossils of an ancient penguin that may have stood 5-foot-7 -- nearly the height of the average American male -- at about 223 pounds, according to a Nature Communications research report.

The monster flightless bird, called the Kumimanu biceae, is believed to have swam off the coast of New Zealand between 56 million and 60 million years ago, according to the research.

The size would dwarf the emperor penguin, the biggest penguin today, which stands at less than 4 feet tall.

Researchers said the fossils, unearthed in New Zealand, shed “considerable light on the early evolution of penguins.”

“Kumimanu shows that gigantism was not uncommon in early penguins, and was already in the earliest evolutionary stages of these birds," said Gerald Mayr, a paleontologist at the Senckenberg Research Institute in Frankfurt, Germany, and lead author of the Nature Communications report.

He said the fossils are “among the oldest known finds of penguins and it is worth noting that already earliest forms were enormously large.”

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Spencer Platt/Getty Images(LOS ANGELES) -- The secretary at the Rancho Tehama Elementary School made a split-second decision on a Tuesday morning last month: to get all the children inside the building within seconds of hearing gunshots.

"Because that call was made then, 47 seconds later, we had a completely locked-down school. Ten seconds after that, the shooter was in the quad firing shots," Rick Fitzpatrick, the superintendent of the Corning Union Elementary School District in California, told ABC News. "We had a 10-second cushion."

But almost five years before the Rancho Tehama shooting, the fate of students at an elementary school on the opposite side of the country was very different. On Dec. 14, 2012, 20 first-graders and six educators were killed at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut. And in the years since, school administrators and safety consultants have grappled with how best to secure schools to keep students safe in worst-case scenarios.

"There's a lot of things about Sandy Hook that they did right, and it still didn't work," said Fitzpatrick, who was the site principal of an elementary school at the time of the Sandy Hook shooting. He said he remembers "thinking it could have been any of us."

While little action has been taken at the federal level in terms of gun control, school shooting drills and preparation have increased dramatically.

In March 2016 the U.S. Government Accountability Office released a study looking at federal coordination of how schools prepare for emergencies. The study cited the Sandy Hook shooting as one of the motivators and found that 40 states required individual schools to conduct emergency exercises and 32 states required school districts to conduct such exercises. The nature of the exercises mentioned in the report, however, was not specified.

But just how students and teachers should prepare to face active shooter situations has been the subject of intense debate.

Lockdown drills vs. full-scale simulations

Katherine Cowan, the director of communications for the National Association of School Psychologists, said that there is a spectrum of kinds of drills that schools use and that the level of interaction varies.

Options include simple, announced lockdown drills and the much more controversial full-scale simulations, which sometimes feature actors with air rifles simulating shooters and local law enforcement officers responding to the scene.

Such full-scale simulations have caused outrage in some cases, including one in Winter Haven, Florida, in 2014 in which teachers, students and parents weren't told until afterward that the police officer who barged into their middle school classroom with an assault rifle was participating in a drill.

"It is not possible to know exactly how many schools are doing full-scale simulations versus other types of drills along the spectrum of training possibilities. However, it is pretty clear that it is exponentially more than before Newtown," Cowan told ABC News.

She said that law enforcement officials and school administrators "need to understand the cost-benefit and risks associated with whatever it is they choose to do," including the "potential psychological and emotional impacts of full-scale simulation."

Teaching students and teachers to fight back

The shift from solely using shooting drills to incorporating possible action by teachers and students against a would-be attacker started before Sandy Hook, experts said.

Greg Crane, a former Dallas-based police and SWAT officer, said that he and his wife, Lisa Crane, who was a high school principal, formed their approach to school safety — and their training company — after the Columbine High School shooting in Colorado in 1999.

"While I understood a securing-in-place mindset and protocol, my question ... was, 'What about when that specific response plan does not fit the scenario?'" he told ABC News, citing the possibility of a shooter breaching a school's secured area.

The name of the Cranes' company, the ALICE Training Institute, incorporates the acronym for people's response options to a school shooting: alert, lockdown, inform, counter, evacuate, Greg Crane said. He said the order of the responses in the acronym is not sequential for how individuals should respond but just the options they have.

The company holds 500 to 600 training sessions annually, Crane said, and sessions are adapted to each venue.

One part of the ALICE training model that has raised some experts' eyebrows is the suggestion that people throw items — including pencils and possibly canned goods — at attackers. Crane said while throwing things at shooters might not incapacitate them, doing so could make it harder for them to kill.

"I may not be able to stop him shooting at me, but if I can stop him from shooting accurately at me, then that's a huge benefit because that drives his hit rate down, and that drives his accuracy down," Crane said.

Beyond that kind of interaction with the shooter — which falls under the acronym's counter category — Crane said "the priority needs to be an empowerment and authorization of the people on the scene. Don’t tell them what they should do. Tell them what they can do."

Crane is not the only one to favor this model. Fitzpatrick credited the success of the lockdown at Rancho Tehama to the authority that the secretary had to immediately call the lockdown when she felt it was needed.

"If she had had to say, 'I need to call the principal, I have to call the superintendent’... we would have had a body count," Fitzpatrick said.

But school security consultant Ken Trump believes that the ALICE model is one of a number of proposals that "prey on the emotions of anxious parents and educators looking for a 'quick fix' to the complex issues of school safety and emergency planning," he writes on his website.

Trump, who is not related to the president, told ABC News that the focus on active shooter situations leads to school administrators' overlooking other security threats at schools like abductions by noncustodial parents, natural disasters and sexual assaults.

"It's not to say that you shouldn't prepare for active shooters, but we have a tunnel-vision focus on this, and we're losing focus on more day-to-day security issues," he said.

He called on schools to diversify the nature of their lockdown drills as well as the times when they are held, including while students are in class, during lunch or on the playground.

Trump said school administrators should also ask themselves, "Are we crossing the line of reasonableness with some of these over-the-top drills and theories and fads?"

Prevention is key

One group working to stop shootings before a person even plans an attack knows the subject matter all too well. Sandy Hook Promise is a group founded in 2013 by parents of two Sandy Hook victims, and it aims to prevent gun-related deaths and raise awareness about mental health issues.

The group holds training sessions at schools nationally, and a number of its initiatives, like one called Start With Hello, address issues surrounding social isolation that it believes can help prevent students from becoming violent.

"Everything that we do at Sandy Hook Promise has the nexus back to what happened with the Sandy Hook shooting," said Mark Barden, one of Sandy Hook Promise's founders, whose son Daniel was killed at the school. Barden said the shooter "was chronically socially isolated."

"We also know that the shooter was planning this for over a year and giving off all of these warning signs," Barden said. "We could have connected this person with the help that he needed before he committed this tragedy."

Barden said that the group has received feedback that its programs have helped prevent at least three school shootings.

He said a school guidance counselor told him that after taking Sandy Hook Promise training, a student at the school said something after the student saw a social media posting from another student that raised concerns. Barden said that officials were "able to uncover a very serious incident that was about to happen and they stopped it because of the model."

"I literally had goosebumps when this guidance counselor [was] telling me this story," Barden said. "To think that after all this work, we're making an actual difference — that's an incredible feeling for me. That’s the ultimate way to honor my little Daniel."

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