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Justice Department reaches settlement to pay $88M to families and survivors of Charleston church shooting

According to agency officials and a news release on Thursday, the Justice Department has agreed to pay $88 million to families and survivors of the 2015 deadly church shooting in Charleston, S.C., due to a failure in its gun background check system. A federal jury sentenced White supremacist Dylann Roof to death in January 2017 after he openly admitted to killing nine people at the historic Black church Mother Emmanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church during a bible study. A month before the sentencing, the jury convicted him on 33 federal charges, including hate crimes.

The 21-year-old Roof was arrested for a felony drug offense in Lexington County, S.C., a few months before he purchased the Glock 41 semi-automatic pistol used to kill nine people on June 17, 2015. Court records show that an examiner for the FBI’s background check system failed to contact the arresting agency for an incident report, which would have blocked him from purchasing the gun from Shooter’s Choice in West Columbia, S.C.  About a year ago, a federal judge ruled that a federal agent failed to follow the FBI’s system for conducting background check ruled under the Brady Act, which denies gun purchases to someone with a felony allowing lawsuits by family members and survivors to proceed.

The settlement in the lawsuit against the illegal gun purchase will provide $63 million for family members of the victims and $23 million for survivors. South Carolina state Sen. Clementa Pickney, 41, who was also a church pastor, Cynthia Hurd, 54; Tywanza Sanders, 26, Myra Thompson, 59; Ethel Lance, 70; Susie Jackson, 87; DePayne Middleton Doctor, 49; Sharonda Coleman-Singleton, 45; and Rev. Daniel Simmons Sr., 74, all died in the 2015 shooting.

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Facebook rebrands company to ‘Meta’ emphasizing ‘Metaverse’ vision

Facebook on Thursday announced that it has changed its company name to Meta. The name change, which was announced at the Facebook Connect augmented and virtual reality conference, reflects the company’s growing ambitions beyond social media with the metaverse, a classic sci-fi term Facebook has adopted to describe its vision for working and playing in a virtual world. Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg said his company is rebranding itself as Meta in an effort to encompass its virtual-reality vision for the future.

Zuckerberg says he expects the metaverse to reach a billion people within the next decade. The metaverse, he says, will be a place people will be able to interact, work and create products and content in what he hopes will be a new ecosystem that creates “millions” of jobs for creators. In explaining the rebrand, Zuckerberg said the name “Facebook” just doesn’t encompass “everything we do” any more. In addition to its primary social network, that now includes Instagram, Messenger, its Quest VR headset, its Horizon VR platform and more.

Facebook, now known as Meta, will also change its stock ticker from FB to MVRS, effective Dec. 1, the company said in the announcement of its name change.

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Former Chicago Blackhawks forward Kyle Beach comes forward as the person who accused former coach Brad Aldrich of sexual assault

Former Chicago Blackhawks forward Kyle Beach identified himself Thursday as “John Doe” in a sexual assault allegation against former coach Brad Aldrich. Beach was with the Blackhawks organization during the club’s 2010 Stanley Cup playoffs when he said former video coach Brad Aldrich assaulted him. According to an internal probe that was made public Tuesday, Beach told the team but senior Blackhawks staff did not take immediate action against Aldrich. The internal report found that Blackhawks management didn’t want to take any immediate action against Aldrich because the team was in the midst of their playoff run, which ended with the club winning the Stanley Cup. According to the internal probe, Aldrich did not deny that a sexual encounter with the player occurred, but he contended that it was consensual. The report didn’t name Beach and called him “John Doe” throughout the 107-page finding. The report led to the resignation of general manager Stan Bowman and a $2 million fine against the club.

Beach said: “So for me right now, it’s important to come forward to share my story because this is so much bigger than Kyle Beach. Yes, I’m a survivor, but there’s millions of people in this world that have been affected by sexual abuse or sexual assault, and I’m speaking out now to hopefully give them a voice, to give them the power to come forward so that we can make a change in this world and hopefully make this a safer place in sports but also in work and life and every day.”

The Blackhawks organization said after Beach went public: “First, we would like to acknowledge and commend Kyle Beach’s courage in coming forward. It was inexcusable for the then-executives of the Blackhawks organization to delay taking action regarding the reported sexual misconduct. No playoff game or championship is more important than protecting our players and staff from predatory behavior.” In addition, National Hockey League Players’ Association Executive Director Don Fehr said: “Kyle Beach has been through a horrific experience and has shown true courage in telling his story. There is no doubt that the system failed to support him in his time of need, and we are part of that system.”

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Arizona Cardinals’ J.J. Watts expected to undergo season-ending shoulder surgery

Arizona Cardinals’ J.J. Watt is expected to undergo shoulder surgery that is likely to be season-ending, according to ESPN’s Adam Schefter. Watt injured his shoulder against his former team the Houston Texans on Sunday, but still managed to play the rest of the game with the injury. The former All-Pro has 16 tackles, one sack and one forced fumble this season.

On Wednesday, the Cardinals ruled Watt out for Thursday night’s matchup against the Green Bay Packers due to his shoulder injury and he did not practice all week. While Watt was able to play through the injury on Sunday, it appears the issue was more serious than anticipated. According to NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport, the recovery timetable for this procedure is likely at least three months.

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2021 World Series Game 2: Houston Astros even the series with a 7-2 win over Braves

The Houston Astros have tied the World Series at 1-1 after beating the Atlanta Braves 7-2 on Wednesday at Minute Maid Park.

Astros starting pitcher Jose Urquidy struck out seven batters over five innings, allowing two runs, and Houston’s Jose Siri, Martin Maldonado and Michael Brantley all earned RBI singles in a 4-run second inning to help give the Astros a 5-1 lead.

The Astros bullpen then took over for the final 12 outs. Atlanta managed just two walks and no hits in the final three innings but wasn’t able to advance any runners past first.

Game 3 will against the Astros will be hosted by Atlanta at Truist Park on Friday at 8:09 p.m. ET.

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Authorities confirm the remains of 8-year-old boy found in Texas apartment was killed due to blunt force

Authorities confirmed on Wednesday that the child whose skeletal remains were found in a Houston-area apartment Sunday along with three abandoned siblings died violently due to blunt force sometime around Thanksgiving last year. Harris County Sheriff Ed Gonzalez said that the boy was 8 years old when he was killed via physical abuse allegedly by his mother’s boyfriend Brian Coulter, who has been charged with murder.

During a news conference Wednesday, Gonzalez said the apartment where the boy’s skeletal remains were found and where three siblings, ranging in ages from 7 to 15, lived was unfurnished and full of roaches, flies and soiled carpeting. The oldest boy contacted authorities, and Gonzalez said: “In the midst of the darkness and this horrific situation, I’m so glad that this 15-year-old finally reached out for help. I’m glad that he found assistance at the end of the other line with one of our call-takers. And I’m comforted to know that when he opened the door, and there was a Harris County Sheriff’s Office deputy there, that they could finally receive the care and protection that they needed for so long.”

The Sheriff’s office said that the dead boy’s mother and her boyfriend were charged Tuesday in the child’s death. Coulter, 31, faces a murder charge, and the boy’s mother, Gloria Williams, 35, faces charges of injury to a child by omission and tampering with evidence.  Williams and Coulter moved out of the apartment and lived separately from the children, at least two of whom were believed to be on the autism spectrum and were described as “special needs,” officials said Wednesday. The boys appeared malnourished, showed signs of physical injury and were brought to a hospital, according to officials.

A judge granted the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services temporary custody of the three children. The Texas Department of Family and Protective Services said in a statement that the department “sought and received emergency custody” of the three boys found abandoned in the apartment and said that the children are safe in CPS custody.

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Hundreds of thousand without power as severe Nor’easter hits New England and New York/Tri-State area

A severe Nor’easter pummeled southern New England and the New York tri-state area, bringing flooding rains, a dangerous storm surge and destructive winds gusting between 60 and 100 mph. The nor’easter knocked out power to more than half a million customers and forced school cancellations in eastern Massachusetts. Due to the storm’s pace of intensification, it was qualified as a “bomb cyclone.”

High winds and swiftly strengthening ocean storm left more than a dozen counties in southeastern Massachusetts and Rhode Island were 75 percent in the dark, with winds gusting to 94 mph on Martha’s Vineyard. Fierce winds resulted i a 3- to 4-foot ocean surge, which was considerably more than what was anticipated.

The bulk of the outages were focused in Massachusetts, with near half a million customers in the dark Wednesday. Hardest hit was Plymouth County, which was 90 percent in the dark. Around 85,000 were without electricity in Rhode Island and another 25,000 combined in Connecticut and Maine. As of Wednesday morning, conditions were beginning to ease. Still, bands of light to moderate rain were continuing to pinwheel ashore from the east-northeast in eastern Massachusetts, along the New Hampshire Seacoast and across parts of south coastal Maine on Wednesday morning. Winds were still gusting to around 60 mph in coastal areas.

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Houston Texans trade running back Mark Ingram back to New Orleans Saints

The Houston Texans are trading veteran running back Mark Ingram to the New Orleans Saints, per NFL Network’s Tom Pelissero and Ian Rapoport, a move that sends Ingram back to his original team. The Texans’ compensation is expected to involve late-round draft selections.

Ingram was drafted in the first round of the 2011 NFL Draft by the Saints, 28th overall, and now returns after playing for the Ravens and Texans. Ingram has averaged a career-low 3.2 yards per carry with the Texans this season (92 carries, 294 yards).

Ingram played eight years with the Saints, where he earned two of his three Pro Bowl nods, before signing a three-year, $15 million free-agent contract with the Baltimore Ravens in 2019. He was waived by the Ravens after two years and signed with the Texans in March. Ingram needs just 90 rushing yards to become the Saints’ all-time leading rusher, trailing only Deuce McAllister, 6,096 to 6,007.

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Atlanta Braves beat the Houston Astros 6-2 in Game 1 of the World Series

Game 1 of the 2021 World Series kicked off at Minute Maid Park in Houston on Tuesday, with the Atlanta Braves defeating the Houston Astros 6-2 to take a 1-0 series lead.

The Braves took an early lead over the Astros scoring five runs off Houston starter Framber Valdez. The Astros’ left-hander was knocked out of the game in just the third inning after a disappointing outing. Atlanta starter Charlie Morton took a ball off the bat of Yuli Gurriel to the shin the second inning, breaking his fibula. Morton actually stayed in the game until the next inning and left after striking out Jose Altuve. The Braves announced that he will miss the rest of the series. After Morton’s exit, the Braves bullpen kept the Astros lineup mostly at bay for the rest of the game.

Game 2 is set for Wednesday night at Minute Maid Park in Houston. The first pitch is scheduled for 8:09 p.m. ET.

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FDA panel recommends Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine for kids 5-11

The vaccines advisory committee to the Food and Drug Administration voted on Tuesday to recommend that Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine be approved for children between 5 and 11 years old. The Vaccines and Related Biological Products Advisory Committee convened to hear presentations for several hours before it held the vote. The FDA will consider the recommendation before deciding whether to grant emergency authorization for smaller doses vaccine for children in the younger age range. Last week, the pharma company said that the doses were better than 90% effective in children 5-11.

To date, fewer than 100 children between 5 and 11 have died from COVID-19 and 8,300 have been hospitalized, said Dr. Peter Marks, who heads the FDA vaccines division. If the FDA gives approval for the vaccine for younger children, it would also need to be approved by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky.

On Monday, Moderna said that smaller doses of its vaccine in children of the same age group has proven to be safe and spurs an antibody response in recipients in late-stage clinical trials.