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National

    Santa Claus made a special trip to an Ohio hospital to spread Christmas love to babies in the newborn intensive care unit. >> Read more trending news At Akron Children’s Hospital, 66 families received a special visit from St. Nick, who held the infants and chatted with the babies’ older siblings, WJW reported. The hospital posted some of the photographs on its Facebook page.  The touching photos were courtesy of Simon Says Smile, a volunteer program provided by Black Dog Photo Co., and started by Ashley Smas and Molly Conger. The program was started as a result of Molly’s son, Simon, who spent 82 days in Akron Children’s NICU due to an esophageal atresia and prematurity. Simon is now a healthy 5-year-old, WJW reported. “When your child is in the NICU you don’t have the opportunity to get regular hospital photos as you would at an adult hospital. I treasure the photos they [Black Dog Photo Co.] took for us that day and wanted to share that gift with others in the same situation,” Conger told WJW. The photos show Santa bonding with the babies, some of whom are wearing their Christmas outfits.
  • The fourth-largest wildfire in California history continues to grow and threaten thousands of homes despite armies of fire crews and fleets of bulldozers and aircraft.Although Santa Ana winds eased on Friday amid the blaze northwest of Los Angeles, they are expected to return with a vengeance over the weekend. And the fire is so large that winds on one end may be gustier than those on the other side.The 11-day-old Thomas fire surging through Ventura and Santa Barbara counties had devoured some 400 square miles (1,000 square kilometers) of brush and timber and burned more than 1,000 buildings, including well over 750 homes.Another 18,000 buildings are still in jeopardy, including mansions in the wealthy enclave of Montecito.The fire is only 35 percent surrounded despite efforts by some 8,000 firefighters, 32 helicopters and 78 bulldozers.Santa Barbara has had only a tiny amount of rain since Oct. 1, the start of the new water year, and is more than 3 inches (7.6 centimeters) below normal to date.The fire already has destroyed more than 1,000 buildings, including well over 700 homes, and threatens 18,000 more structures.Another focus of firefighting was on the eastern flank in canyons where a state firefighter was killed Thursday near the agricultural town of Fillmore.Officials have released no details on the death of 32-year-old Cory Iverson.The National Weather Service forecast extreme fire danger or 'red flag' conditions through at least Saturday evening, with winds gusting to 40 mph in the Santa Barbara County mountains where the fire is burning. Firefighters were facing first northerly 'sundowner' winds through the night that could turn into northeasterly Santa Ana winds, driving the flames in another direction.Everything about the fire was massive, from a footprint larger than that of many cities to the sheer scale of destruction that cremated entire neighborhoods or the legions attacking it: more than 8,000 firefighters from nearly a dozen states, aided by 32 helicopters and 78 bulldozers.Firefighting costs were approaching $89 million.
  • After spending two nights in jail in Lake County, Florida, on a trespassing charge filed when she refused to leave her apartment during an eviction, Juanita Fitzgerald was glad to spend her 94th birthday somewhere else. >> Read more trending news Fitzgerald was placed in a Eustis patrol car Tuesday after repeatedly refusing to leave the lobby of Franklin House. At one point, she reportedly told officers that if they wanted her to leave, they would have to 'carry me out of here.' >> Read: Eustis woman evicted days before her 94th birthday, jailed when she refuses to leave, police say Fitzgerald, who turned 94 Friday, spoke to WFTV from jail before she was released on her own recognizance Thursday. “There’s no reason for me to leave. Not one,” said Fitzgerald, who was sitting shackled in a wheelchair wearing an orange jumpsuit. Fitzgerald said she lived at Franklin House, an affordable housing facility in Eustis, for nearly eight years. She said she couldn’t understand why she was being evicted, but court records show she owed rent and would not pay. Bodycam footage released by Eustis police shows officers taking a screaming Fitzgerald to jail. At one point, she slides out of her wheelchair onto the ground to avoid arrest. Police said they offered Fitzgerald assistance from nearly a dozen agencies to avoid arresting her, but she refused, so they had no choice but to place her under arrest for trespassing. Franklin House resident Dave Howell didn't understand why Fitzgerald was so resistant to accepting help. 'Everybody here has attempted to help her,' he said. 'And one thing's that unique (is) she refuses all help.' After spending two nights in jail, Fitzgerald said she’ll bounce back. “I’m a born-again Christian and I’m spirit-filled,” she said. Fitzgerald also said she would like to go back to Franklin House, if possible. 'Yeah, I'd go back there and live,' she said. 'You know, that's all the people I know.' Since she was released from jail, members of the community have offered support to Fitzgerald. They include a Mount Dora dentist who offered to make her a new set of dentures as a Christmas present. She is currently staying in a Tavares hotel room, which is being paid for with donations. Fitzgerald's story was shared extensively on social media, with several people offering to pay her $500 bond to get out of jail and many others saying they were working to find her a permanent place to live.
  • The biggest figures and institutions in entertainment have established a commission to be chaired by Anita Hill that intends to combat sexual misconduct and inequality in the industry in the wake of the huge wave of revelations spurred by allegations against Harvey Weinstein.A statement Friday announced the founding of the Commission on Sexual Harassment and Advancing Equality in the Workplace, a group that grew out of a meeting called by 'Star Wars' producer Kathleen Kennedy and several other prominent women in the industry.'The Commission will not seek just one solution, but a comprehensive strategy to address the complex and interrelated causes of the problems of parity and power,' Kennedy said in a statement.The chief executives of nearly every major Hollywood studio, TV network and record label attended the meeting and agreed to found and to fund the group, the statement said. The long list includes Disney CEO Bob Iger, Paramount CEO Karen Stuart, Universal Music Group CEO Sir Lucian Grange and CBS chief executive Leslie Moonves.The movie and music academies and many of the major agencies and unions that represent entertainers also signed on.'The fact that so many industry leaders_across film, television, music, digital, unions, agencies ... and guilds_came together, in one room, to explore solutions speaks to a new era,' Kennedy said.The group chose as its chair the law professor Hill, who brought the concept of sexual harassment to national consciousness in 1991 when she testified during the Supreme Court confirmation hearings of Clarence Thomas.'It is time to end the culture of silence,' Hill said in a statement. 'I've been at this work for 26 years. This moment presents us with an unprecedented opportunity to make real change.'The commission said in its statement that it would reconvene immediately after the first of the year to hone its mission, scope and priorities.The revelations about Weinstein in The New York Times and the New Yorker in October have brought on two months unlike any the media world has ever seen, with nearly daily allegations of sexual harassment assault and abuse that have ensnared some of the most prominent players in entertainment including Kevin Spacey, Louis CK, Dustin Hoffman and Russell Simmons.Hill has been making appearances in Southern California in recent days before Friday's announcement, speaking to a gathering of entertainers and executives in Beverly Hills last week.She said there that she knew that despite Thomas' confirmation to the Supreme Court, the issue would one day return.'I never believed 1991 was the end,' she said, 'and I was going to make sure in my life that I never saw that as the defining moment for me or for this issue.'___AP Entertainment Writer Sandy Cohen contributed to this story.___Follow Andrew Dalton at www.twitter.com/andyjamesdalton
  • President Donald Trump’s former campaign chairman Paul Manafort is one step closer to being released from house arrest in Virginia and waiting out his trial at his home in Palm Beach Gardens. >> Read more trending news  In an order signed Friday, U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson said she was satisfied that the $10 million in property Manafort agreed to forfeit would be available if he failed to appear in court. Before Manafort can travel to his Palm Beach Gardens home, he and his wife and daughter must complete paperwork regarding the forfeiture of the properties. Under the terms of his release, Manafort must live at his home in BallenIsles and will have a curfew of 11 p.m. to 7 a.m. Manafort must continue wearing an electronic monitoring device but will be allowed to travel in Palm Beach and Broward counties and to Washington, D.C. for court hearings. He must also stay away from airports, train and bus stations and report weekly to a federal probation office in West Palm Beach. >> Related: Mueller investigation: Paul Manafort, 2 other former Trump campaign staffers charged Manafort and longtime associate Rick Gates were indicted by a grand jury Oct. 30 in an investigation led by special counsel Robert Mueller. They face charges of laundering millions of dollars through overseas shell companies and banks.
  • Marriage is supposed to lead to happily ever after, right? A new report reveals women over 85 are actually happier after their partner dies. >> Read more trending news  The Health Survey for England recently conducted a study to monitor trends in the nation’s health. To do so, researchers surveyed 8,000 British adults to ask them questions about topics, including happiness, depression, anxiety, sleep disturbance and self-confidence. After analyzing the results, they found that women have poorer mental health than men throughout much of their lives.  About 28 percent of women aged 16 to 24 reported mental health conditions, compared to just 16 percent of men. The percentage, however, decreases for young adult women. About 18 percent of both men and women between 25 and 34 said they had mental health issues.  >> Related: Study: Scientists can reverse aging cells to make humans younger It dwindles again for middle-aged women. Of those 45 to 54, 24 percent of women experienced mental health problems, compared to only 16 to 18 percent of men. And by the time people reached 85 and over, it dropped to 14 percent for women and spiked to 19 percent for men.  Why is that?  Women “are still more likely to bear the brunt of domestic and caring responsibilities,” Kate Lovett, the dean of the Royal College of Psychiatrists, told The Times. But as they age, they tend to have fewer obligations. “Men who are single, windowed or divorced are more vulnerable to developing depression and men who are in this age bracket may be more likely to be on their own,” she said. “Paradoxically married women are often more likely to develop depression.” >> Related: Study: Grandparents who babysit grandkids could add years to their lives Although the report showed women have more mental health issues, it noted suicide rates were three times higher among men than women.  “Thankfully, women are more likely to also speak out about their mental health and seek support from services,” Stephen Buckley, spokesman for the U.K.-based mental health charity, Mind, said in the article.  Want to learn more about the study? Take a look at the findings here.  >> Related: Mushrooms may fight off aging, study says
  • Do you sometimes sleep with your cell phone? The California Department of Public Health (CDPH) has issued a warning against it, because the radiation from the devices may be harmful to our bodies. >> Read more trending news  “Although the science is still evolving, there are concerns among some public health professionals and members of the public regarding long-term, high use exposure to the energy emitted by cell phones,” Karen Smith, CDPH director and state public health officer, said in a statement earlier this week.  Why is it potentially dangerous? When cellphones send and receive signals, they emit radio frequency energy, which maybe impact human health. “Children’s brains develop through the teenage years and may be more affected by cell phone use,” Smith wrote.  >> Related: Do cell phones cause cancer? New study sheds light on lingering question To limit the exposure, CDPH is implementing new guidelines, which include keeping the phone away from the body, reducing cellphone use when the signal is weak, decreasing the use of cell phones to stream audio or video, downloading or uploading large files and keeping the phone away from the bed at night. They also are advising people to remove headsets when not on a call and to avoid products that claim to block radio frequency energy as they may actually increase your risk. >> Related: Nighttime cellphone usage linked to poor mental health  'We know that simple steps, such as not keeping your phone in your pocket and moving it away from your bed at night, can help reduce exposure for both children and adults,' Smith said. Take a look at the details of the recommendations here.  >> Related: Study finds phones are dirtier than you think
  • A Virginia woman was mauled to death by her own pit bulls Thursday while out for a walk with them in her Goochland County neighborhood, authorities said. >> Read more trending news  Victim Bethany Lynn Stephens, 22, was found in a wooded area by her father after he went looking for her when she didn’t return home from the walk, according to WTVR-TV. He told told sheriff’s officials that her two dogs appeared to be “guarding” her body when he found his daughter. 'It appeared the attack was a violent attack initiated by the victims' dogs while the victim was out for a walk with the dogs,' Sheriff James Agnew said, citing the Medical Examiner's initial report indicated, WTVR reported.  'The victim had defensive wounds on her hands and arms trying to keep the dogs away from her, which would be consistent with being attacked while she was still alive,” Agnew told the TV station. He said Stephens apparently sustained injuries to her face and throat. 'It appears she was taken to the ground, lost consciousness, and the dogs then mauled her to death,' he said. Goochland County Animal control has custody of the pit bulls, which will be euthanized. The sheriff told WTVR it was a grisley mauling. >> Related: Dog attacked by 3 bears while being walked in Florida 'In my 40 years of law enforcement I've never seen anything quite like it. I hope I never see anything like it again,' he said.
  • Lawmakers in Colorado and New Mexico began revising their sexual misconduct policies Friday, joining other legislatures that are facing questions about whether they are doing enough to deter predatory behavior and protect victims.In Colorado, lawmakers voted unanimously to hire a consultant to review the Legislature's sexual harassment policy. It came as New Mexico lawmakers published a first draft of proposed revisions to sexual harassment rules and disciplinary procedures.Similar moves are underway in California. The efforts are aimed at adding accountability, increasing openness and protecting those who come forward with accusations at a time when lawmakers across the country have been forced to resign over sexual misconduct claims.Colorado, which has the highest proportion of female legislators in the country at 42 percent, has seen several lawmakers accused of sexual misconduct in recent weeks. House Speaker Crisanta Duran, a Democrat, said Friday that besides revamping how complaints are handled, the culture of the Capitol also needs to change.Her Republican counterpart in the Senate agreed.'If there is room for improvement or deficiencies in our policies, we're going to make it right,' state Sen. President Kevin Grantham said.In addition to the independent consultant, legislative leaders voted to hire the Legislature's first human resources employee. They also agreed to step up workplace harassment training and are considering creating an independent body to investigate complaints, instead of having legislative leaders handle them.New Mexico's Democratic-led Legislature is already rewriting its policy against sexual harassment in response to reports that widespread misconduct has gone unchecked.The proposal released Friday provides new, detailed descriptions of what constitutes harassment — including 'any language, jokes of a sexual nature, kidding, teasing and threats that are sexual in nature.'It would leave investigations of lawmakers to a legislative panel, despite calls for harassment investigations to be carried out by an independent authority.Under the suggested rules, sexual harassment complaints against lawmakers would be reviewed by the House speaker or Senate president and possibly referred to an ethics subcommittee. Sanctions that include reprimand, censure or expulsion would be determined by the entire House or Senate.New Mexico lobbyist Vanessa Alarid applauded provisions that would exempt initial complaints from public records requests to prevent the process from becoming a forum for politically motivated attacks. She has accused a former lawmaker of pressuring her to have sex in exchange for support of one of her measures.However, she said sexual harassment accusations must be vetted outside the Legislature to truly safeguard against retaliation.'It must be an outside unit that investigates complaints,' Alarid said.In California, the state Senate has hired two law firms to handle all sexual harassment allegations for the next two years and partnered with a local domestic violence and rape crisis center to provide counseling to victims.Senate President Pro Tem Kevin de Leon, a Democrat, also has promised to release the names of lawmakers who have been the subject of past harassment investigations within the next month, something the Legislature has so far failed to do.The California Assembly also has launched public hearings to improve its sexual harassment policies and plans to establish a hotline for victims.According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, 37 states reported having sexual harassment policies in an October 2016 survey.___Lee reported from Santa Fe. Associated Press writer Kathleen Ronayne in Sacramento, California, contributed to this report.
  • A deal has been reached that will spare the life of a dog ordered put to death after he bit a 12-year-old girl in a case that generated criticism from the Humane Society of Utah.Lindsy Bray, the owner of the Australian Shepherd named Dexter, agreed Thursday to pay a $145 fine for dog-at-large and dog licensing violations. A judge had imposed the original death sentence for the dog.In return for Bray's payment, officials in the small city of Santaquin dropped the dog-attack charge filed after Dexter escaped a fenced yard in October 2016 and nipped a girl. Though the bite broke no skin, city regulations state that any animal that has bitten, clawed, chased or harassed a person must be put down within five days.The Humane Society joined Bray in criticizing the penalty imposed on Dexter, saying it was the 5-year-old dog's first offense and that the rule is so broad that a dog jogging with its owner could be considered vicious if it was following the owner.The Santaquin City Council rejected a proposal for the rules to be revised but critics hope the council will reconsider next year, Humane Society of Utah president Craig Cook said Friday.Bray was relieved with the deal to save Dexter's life, saying 'right before Christmas is a good time to have this off my shoulders.'Dexter is currently recovering from the effects of the apparent ingestion of rat poison last month. The Humane Society offered a $5,000 reward for information about how he was poisoned.An investigation has turned up no evidence that Dexter was intentionally poisoned, said Santaquin Police Corporal Mike Wall.