Texas county issues disaster declaration ahead of April total solar eclipse

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(KILLEEN, Texas) — A small county in Texas is bracing for a state of emergency when hundreds of thousands of skywatchers are expected to flock to the South for the total solar eclipse in April.

Bell County Judge David Blackburn issued a local disaster declaration this week, ahead of the April 8 natural phenomenon, saying the county’s population of 400,000 residents is expected to double in tourists.

The declaration allows Bell County to coordinate with the state’s Department of Emergency Management if needed on eclipse day.

“In order to protect the health, safety, and welfare of both residents and visitors, Bell County has determined that extraordinary measures must be taken in the form of a local disaster declaration,” the county said in a press release Wednesday.

Bell County is expecting the influx of eclipse viewers in the area to cause traffic congestion, shortages of food and fuel and cellular network congestion, according to the release.

The declaration also requires property owners planning to host events with over 50 attendees to register with the county to ensure proper “life safety and critical infrastructure” is in place.

“Registering information will provide public safety officials and first responders with important information that will aid them during this period when roads and highways may be stressed, and responders may be impeded by population conditions,” the release notes.

A total solar eclipse occurs when the moon passes between the sun and the Earth and, for a short time, completely blocks the face of the sun, according to NASA.

In the U.S., the path of totality begins in Texas and will travel through Oklahoma, Arkansas, Missouri, Illinois, Kentucky, Indiana, Ohio, Pennsylvania, New York, Vermont, New Hampshire and Maine. Small parts of Tennessee and Michigan will also experience the total solar eclipse, the agency reports.

April’s total solar eclipse will be the last of its kind to occur in North America for 20 years and is expected to be the largest mass travel event in 2024, Michael Zeiler, expert solar eclipse cartographer, told ABC News.

Zeiler compared eclipse day travel to “50 simultaneous Super Bowls across the nation,” saying 4 million people are estimated to travel to view the eclipse.

“When you look at the number of people expected to come to the path of totality for the solar eclipse, we estimate those numbers are roughly the equivalent of 50 simultaneous Super Bowls across the nation, from Texas to Maine,” he said.

Zeiler said Texas is a prime place for eclipse chasers to head to because it is located in the path of totality and has the best chances for clear skies on eclipse day.

“You want to be in the center of the path for the longest duration,” Zeiler explained. “If you have a friend or relative in the path in Texas, and there are 12 million Texans inside the path, that’s the spot to go because that’s where the best weather prospects are.”

Zeiler explained how eclipse travel should be celebrated, despite the hazard of heavy tourism, “All of us are united in pursuing the unimaginable beauty of a total solar eclipse.”

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DHS looking for increased authority to investigate drug crimes

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(WASHINGTON) — It would only take a small change in legislation to allow more Homeland Security Investigations agents to investigate drug crimes without first getting the authority to do so from the Justice Department, a top Immigration and Customs Enforcement official told ABC News Thursday.

At the heart of the issue is law enforcement agencies’ Title 21 authority — which allows the federal government to investigate drug crimes. As it currently stands, Homeland Security Investigations has to ask the Justice Department first before investigating drug crimes.

Homeland Security Investigations is the Department of Homeland Security’s law enforcement arm.

Patrick J. Lechleitner, deputy director and senior official performing the duties of the director of ICE, which is Homeland Security Investigations’ parent agency, said the statue was written in the 1970s and doesn’t allow for law enforcement to tackle a 21st century problem.

“I just think it would benefit the American people just having the authority just to pivot and spin quickly because we are currently hamstrung because, you know, we’re delegated the authority,” he said in an interview. “So, by having the authority delegated to us fully delegated to us via legislation, literally we’re talking like a few words changed, right? That would reflect the current environment in 2024.”

He said that because of the delegated authority and the way the law is written, the agency now has only select agents work drug cases, and it can’t give the authority to their task force officers.

“We are limited in scope to who can do that,” he explained. “You would instantly add thousands and thousands of agents and officers to combat synthetic opioids and fentanyl and come and really add a lot more bearing to the fight. It’s just common sense.”

Lechleitner said the Homeland Security secretary should have the ability to delegate the authority to HSI without running into red tape.

“We’re trying to fight very nimble, agile adversaries with antiquated rules and regulations and it’s just not productive,” he said.

There is legislation proposed in both the House and Senate to give the authority to HSI, but it hasn’t gone anywhere since being introduced in September.

Louisiana GOP Rep. Clay Higgins’ office said in a press release that ” HSI agents are limited by a reliance on the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) to investigate Title 21 crimes.”

“Due to bureaucratic constraints, HSI lacks the independent statutory authority to enforce drug crimes and target these transnational criminal organizations,” Higgins, one of the sponsors of the bill, said in September 2023 “It’s absurd. This common-sense bill adds thousands of highly skilled federal law enforcement officers to lead the fight against drug trafficking at no cost to the American taxpayers. We must work to keep deadly drugs out of our communities and keep America’s borders safe.”

The DEA has not responded to an ABC News request for comment.

Last year, more than 112,000 people died of fentanyl overdoses, and Lechleitner said by giving the authority to HSI to investigate drug crimes, it could potentially save lives.

“We’re not looking to take anything away from anybody else, just add our resources to the fight. Allow us to take off the strap that puts our arm behind our back, allow us to be flexible enough to deal with these organizations in meaningful way with all of our partners, very closely aligned across the federal spectrum,” he said. “We have joint investigations and we deconflict all of it. We collaborate with everyone. And we’re just looking to try and do more so that we won’t have another 112,000 deaths.”

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The Who’s Pete Townshend to miss Teenage Cancer Trust concert celebrating Roger Daltrey

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The Who is set to headline Teenage Cancer Trust benefit shows at London’s Royal Albert Hall on March 18 and 20, but Pete Townshend wants fans to know he will not be taking part in a separate Teenage Cancer Trust concert celebrating his bandmate Roger Daltrey. 

Townshend announced on Instagram he won’t be able to make the March 24 show, Ovation, a Celebration of 24 Years of Gigs for TCT, because of his commitments to Tommy the Musical, which opens on Broadway on March 28.

The concert is a celebration of Daltrey’s tenure as host and curator of the annual Teenage Cancer Trust concerts; he’s stepping down from the post after this year.

“I’m sorry for anyone who feels I have let them down,” Townshend shared in his post, “my New York dates have been in my calendar for several months and I have tried to address this calendar conflict with Roger and Who management without any result.”

He adds, “That said, Roger is perfectly capable of blowing your minds in a solo show without me, and has a wonderful array of guests lined up to celebrate his 24 years of producing and performing at the annual Teenage Cancer Trust Concerts at the Royal Albert Hall.”

“I’ve said it before, I’ll say it again, Roger should have a knighthood for his Teenage Cancer Trust campaigning,” Pete writes.

As for those “wonderful array of guests” who’ll be joining Roger, they include Robert Plant with Saving GracePearl Jam’s Eddie VedderStereophonics’ Kelly Jones and Paul Weller.

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It’s “Showtime”: Catfish and the Bottlemen return with first new song in five years

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Catfish and the Bottlemen are back with their first new song in five years.

The track is called “Showtime” and follows the “Kathleen” outfit’s 2019 album, The Balance. You can listen to it now via digital outlets and watch its accompanying video streaming on YouTube.

A new Catfish album, their fourth, is also in the works.

Catfish and the Bottlemen are also set to return to the live stage for their first shows in three years, including headlining the 2024 Reading & Leeds festival.

(Video contains uncensored profanity.)

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Iron Maiden announces collaboration with ’Dead by Daylight’ video game

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Iron Maiden has announced a collaboration with the video game Dead by Daylight.

In Dead by Daylight, players can either be a Killer or one of four Survivors. As their titles suggest, the Killer is tasked with eliminating the Survivors, who must work together in order to do just that.

As part of the partnership with Maiden, Dead by Daylight players can now choose from a variety of costumes inspired by albums including Powerslave and Senjutsu for the Killer character to wear. Survivors can also suit up in a Maiden tour T-shirt.

You can check out a trailer now via the Dead by Daylight YouTube.

Iron Maiden has long been involved in the video game world with their Legacy of the Beast mobile game. In Legacy of the Beast, you play as Maiden mascot Eddie as you try to defeat different enemies. It’s also featured crossovers with bands including Disturbed, Ghost, Motörhead, Avenged Sevenfold and Five Finger Death Punch.

In Iron Maiden music happenings, the metal legends will launch a U.S. tour in October. Meanwhile, frontman Bruce Dickinson will release a new solo album, The Mandrake Project, on March 1.

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Manhattan DA Alvin Bragg slams Arizona prosecutor who won’t extradite murder suspect: ‘Political games’

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(NEW YORK) — Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg criticized his Maricopa County, Arizona, counterpart who doesn’t want to extradite a New York City murder suspect, saying she’s playing “political games in a murder case.”

Raad Almansoori, 26, is in custody in Arizona, where he is charged in two stabbings. He is also the suspect in the death of Denisse Oleas-Arancibia, 38, who was found beaten and strangled at New York’s SoHo 54 Hotel earlier this month.

Bragg said he learned from Maricopa County Attorney Rachel Mitchell’s Wednesday news conference that Mitchell would not extradite Almansoori.

“Her reasoning?” Bragg said at a news conference Thursday. “Not because that’s what the law dictates. Not because that’s what advances justice. Not because of a concern for victims. Not at the request of the NYPD. But rather, plain and simple, old-fashioned grandstanding and politics.”

“That should have no place in our profession,” Bragg said. “It is deeply disturbing to me that a member of my profession … would choose to play political games in a murder case.”

Mitchell said at her news conference Wednesday that she would not agree to send Almansoori to New York.

“Having observed the treatment of violent criminals in the New York area by the Manhattan DA there, Alvin Bragg,” Mitchell said, “I think it’s safer to keep him here and keep him in custody, so that he cannot be doing this to individuals either in our state or county, or anywhere in the United States.”

Mitchell “professes concern that a murder suspect in Manhattan would be released?” Bragg responded at his news conference. “I do not know what they do in Arizona, but I know that here in this county, New York County, we routinely seek and get remand … in our murder cases.”

Bragg said shootings in Manhattan decreased by 38% and homicides have dropped 24% during his two years as DA.

He stressed that New York City’s murder rate is less than half Phoenix’s rate.

Almansoori is facing charges of attempted homicide, theft of means and aggravated assault in Surprise, Arizona, and robbery, assault, theft and criminal damage in Phoenix, police said. He is being held without bond.

The Arizona and New York crimes are both important, Bragg said, but he slammed Mitchell for not calling him to speak about the cases and instead holding a news conference.

Moving forward, Bragg said he hopes to have “regular, professional conversations” about Almansoori’s extradition.

If Almansoori agrees to be extradited to New York, “it’s a moot issue,” Bragg said, but if he does not agree to be extradited, Bragg said his office would likely prepare an extradition package.

Bragg said that extradition package would be reviewed by the governor, not a local prosecutor.

“This is not the Maricopa County attorney’s decision, and I’m hoping that facts, law, justice and reason will prevail,” he said.

Almansoori was arrested in Arizona on Feb. 18 after he allegedly stabbed a woman and stole a car, authorities said. While in custody, Almansoori allegedly indicated to police that he was involved in another stabbing in Arizona, a deadly attack in New York City and an attack in Florida, authorities said.

ABC News’ Aaron Katersky and Alex Stone contributed to this report.

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U2’s ‘Achtung Baby’ wins RTÉ Choice Music Prize award for Classic Irish Album

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U2’s 1991 album Achtung Baby has won Ireland’s RTÉ Choice Music Prize for Classic Irish Album. 

In announcing the choice, the judging panel, made up of Irish music media and industry professionals, said “you cannot deny the album’s authenticity and significant cultural impact as one classic song after another unfolds over 55 minutes.”

They add, “To this day, it still resonates as a collection of songs that capture the spirit of change at both a personal as well as a societal level, when the Berlin wall came tumbling down, and Ireland sensed a change in the air.”

The panel also points out how the band’s Zoo TV tour “helped to reinvent the studio show,” and how U2 is doing that again with their Las Vegas residency dedicated to the album, U2:UV Achtung Baby Live At Sphere.

The RTÉ Choice Music Prize was established in 2005 to highlight the best in Irish music and “promote and showcase the health and growth of the local industry both within Ireland and overseas.”

The first-ever Classic Irish Album Award was handed out last year to Sinéad O’Connor’s 1990 release I Do Not Want What I Haven’t Got.

U2’s Achtung Baby, produced by Daniel Lanois and Brian Eno, went to #1 on the Billboard 200 chart and featured two top 10 hits, “One” and “Mysterious Ways.” The band is playing the album in full during their Las Vegas Sphere residency, which only has four dates left: February 23 and 24, and March 1 and 6.

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Normani says debut album represents “everything I’ve gone through to get to this moment”

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Normani‘s debut album, DOPAMINE, may put an end to fans’ inquiries about new music, but it has a deeper meaning for the singer.

“It feels like a representation of everything I’ve gone through to get to this moment,” Normani says in a cover feature for Who What Wear. “I know I needed time, experiences, and space coming out of [Fifth Harmony] in order to become the version of myself I needed to be. Without [all of that], I would not be able to exist within the creative space that I am in now. I would not be able to make the type of music I’m making now.”

With certain expectations placed on her, Normani says she sometimes finds herself thinking, “Is what everybody is saying true? Did I miss my moment? Did I wait too long? Do they still care?” She notes the self-doubt stems from the pressure she put on herself growing up “to be the absolute best that I could possibly be to be seen, heard, recognized, and acknowledged.” 

Now, Normani’s “on a quest to be able to recognize that all that I am is actually enough.” Understanding the healing power of her music also helps her silence the noise.

As Normani revealed, her parents started cancer treatments when she set out on her solo career, leading her to say, “F*** all of this. This is bigger than the music … This is life or death.”

Though she “always wanted to be there for them,” “pushing through made the circumstances of the last few years feel a bit lighter for my parents.”

“It was in those moments with my parents that made me realize that I have an opportunity to make an impact in this lifetime,” Normani said.

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Foul play suspected after woman who went for a run on university campus found dead: School

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(ATHENS, Ga.) — Foul play is suspected after a woman who went for a run on the University of Georgia’s Athens campus was found dead Thursday, school officials said.

A friend reported the woman missing shortly after noon after she failed to return home from a run at the school’s intramural fields earlier that morning, the university said.

University police officers subsequently found her in a wooded area behind a lake near the fields “unconscious and not breathing” with “visible injuries,” the university said. Officers attempted to provide medical aid but she was pronounced dead at the scene.

The name of the woman has not been released. The university did not say whether she was a student.

The Georgia Bureau of Investigation and Athens-Clarke County Police Department are assisting in an investigation into the death, the university said.

“We have been fully briefed on this terrible situation,” the university said in a statement. “We want to assure you that the safety and welfare of our campus community is our top concern.”

The incident follows the “sudden death” of a student in the campus’ Brumby Hall Wednesday night, the school said. A cause of death has not been released.

Classes have been canceled Thursday evening and Friday and will resume on Monday, the school said, calling the past 24 hours a “traumatic time” for the university.

University officials recommended that students travel in groups when possible and download the school’s safety app.

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DeSantis rules out being Trump’s VP, blames ex-aides with ‘ax to grind’ for attacks

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(TALLAHASSEE, Fla.) — Florida GOP Gov. Ron DeSantis this week quashed speculation about being Donald Trump’s vice president, blamed bitter ex-staffers for attacks he’s weathered from Trump’s allies, and criticized conservative media’s coverage of the the former president.

DeSantis made the remarks in a 30-minute Zoom call with supporters on Wednesday, audio of which was obtained by ABC News. (The New York Post was the first to report on the call).

“People were mentioning me [as his vice president]. I’m not doing that,” DeSantis said, when asked who he’d like to see Trump consider for the post.

“I know some people are really actively seeking it,” he continued. “It seems to me, just from watching kind of the body language and stuff, that you have a handful of folks who seem to be auditioning for it.”

As he campaigned for president, DeSantis, who suspended his run last month, ruled out being Trump’s running mate, but speculation arose on Tuesday after Trump, in a Fox News town hall, appeared to acknowledge the governor was among the people he was considering for the post.

After shooting down the idea, DeSantis criticized the way he believes Trump and his team are vetting vice presidential candidates, saying, “I have heard that they’re looking more in identity politics. I think that’s a mistake.”

A Trump spokeswoman, Karoline Leavitt, fired back in a statement, saying, “Ron DeSantis failed miserably in his presidential campaign and does not have a voice in selecting the next vice president of the United States.”

DeSantis endorsed Trump after dropping out but has not campaigned publicly for the former president.

Over 200 people joined Wednesday’s call, most of whom were people DeSantis’ campaign had recruited to be delegates at the Republican National Convention in July.

A woman who introduced the governor — who identified herself as a leader of DeSantis’ national delegate effort — said that the people on the call had been “willing to fight a floor battle for [DeSantis] in a brokered convention.”

At one point, DeSantis, who endured a barrage of attacks from Trump and his allies on the campaign trail, fielded a question about their attempts to “marginalize” the governor.

He downplayed the concern and attributed the blows to vengefulness of former allies who now work for Trump.

“I think he’s got people in his inner circle who were part of our orbit years ago that we fired. And I think some of that is they just have an ax to grind.”

The governor was likely referring to, among others, Susie Wiles, a top Trump aide who helped DeSantis reach the Florida governor’s mansion before being dismissed by the governor in 2019.

“She’s the main one,” a person close to the governor told ABC News.

Chris LaCivita, a Trump aide, reposted an X post about DeSantis’ comments, calling the governor a “sad little man.”

On Wednesday’s call, DeSantis expressed frustration with conservative media outlets he believes have failed to cover Trump critically enough during the primary.

“You know, he said at some point, he can shoot someone on Fifth Avenue and not lose a vote. Well, I think he could shoot someone on Fifth Avenue and the conservative media wouldn’t even report on it that it had happened. I mean, that’s kind of where we’re at,” he said.

As for his own political future, DeSantis did not rule out a 2028 presidential run, telling those on the call, “I think a lot happens in politics.”

ABC News previously reported that DeSantis has signaled privately he is open to running again in four years.

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