American family welcomes Ukrainians to Thanksgiving table

Michelle Franzen/ABC News

(DARIAN, CONNECTICUT) — Susan and Ted Holmes opened up their home to Liudmyla and Volodya Stepnyk and their three children, Yulia, Dmytro and Veronika, under the Biden administration’s “Uniting for Ukraine” resettlement program.

The Ukrainian family will celebrate their first Thanksgiving holiday in the U.S., gathering around the table and learning about the American tradition and foods. Susan Helms says they feel blessed they can share both cultures with her serving up a dinner at her home — pulling pockets of steamed stuffed cabbage out of a pot on a chilly night in Darien, Connecticut.

“Should we go get our plates and get our halupki?” Susan Helms asked.

Susan Helms says Liudmyla Stepnyk was up late making the dish. It is one of the Ukrainian traditions Liudmyla Stepnyk and her family find comfort in after fleeing their home in Western Ukraine when Russia invaded Ukraine in February.

Liudmyla Stepnyk practices some of her English, saying the pockets of cabbage are filled with rice, meat and are boiled. Susan Helms say they look like little presents.

Around the dinner table, the spirit of thanks and giving is felt with the sharing of meals.

The Stepnyk family arrived in August and are still getting used to life in America. Ted Holmes says it’s been a big change for he and his wife, who were empty nesters. He says both families share responsibilities in terms of cooking, which is a mix of Ukrainian and American food.

Ted Helms joked to ABC News that he and Volodya Stepnyk “just eat and show up.”

Susan Helms says she was determined to help once the war began and through her search was able to find relatives in Ukraine and decided to sponsor them to come to the U.S. She and Volodya Stepnyk connected on Facebook.

Under Ukraine’s martial law exemption, men who are raising three children or more can receive a deferment. Volodya Stepnyk says he made the decision to go to ensure the safety of his children. Yulia Stepnyk, who is the oldest of three children says her family first fled to Poland before connecting with Susan Helms and getting approval to come to the U.S.

Under the “Uniting for Ukraine” program, American-based citizens can financially sponsor displaced Ukrainians who are still outside the U.S. They apply to receive a temporary two-year humanitarian live and work visa and go through a vetting process. Susan Helms says once the family arrived, the kids were enrolled in school.

Yulia Stepnyk is 17 years old and in her last year of high school. Her siblings are in middle school and have already celebrated their birthdays in the U.S.

Volodya and Liudmyla Stepnyk say they are trying to make the best life they can for their children and are grateful they could come to America.

All say they are finding peace –something they haven’t felt since leaving their home but still miss the life they left behind.

Yulia Stepnyk has embraced the message of this holiday and said at first it felt strange coming to a new country, but she says she is no longer fearful.

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18 rescued from broken-down boat after days without food or water, authorities say

U.S. Coast Guard

(SAN DIEGO, CA) — Eighteen people aboard a broken-down and adrift boat were rescued off the coast of the United States-Mexico border on Wednesday evening after days without food or water, authorities said.

The U.S. Coast Guard said it received a report around 4 p.m. about a small, motorized boat full of people drifting in international waters about 16 nautical miles offshore of San Diego, near California’s border with Mexico, and dispatched a helicopter crew to help rescue them. The helicopter recovered five women and two young children from the boat, while a Mexican naval vessel rescued the remaining 11 men on board, according to the Coast Guard.

Three people were subsequently transported to nearby U.S. hospitals, the Coast Guard said. Their conditions were unknown.

The occupants — “presumed migrants” — told officials that their boat had broken down and they had been without food and water for five days, the Coast Guard said. Their boat was taking on water but not enough to sink it entirely. They were unable to call for help but a passerby spotted them and contacted authorities, according to the Coast Guard.

None of the individuals were in the water and all were wearing life jackets at the time of their rescue, the Coast Guard said.

 

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E. Jean Carroll files new lawsuit against Donald Trump alleging defamation, battery

Alec Tabak/New York Daily News/Tribune News Service via Getty Images

Former Elle columnist E. Jean Carroll sued former President Donald Trump for the second time on Thursday, alleging defamation and battery under a new law in New York that allows adult sex assault victims to file claims that would otherwise be barred by the passage of time.

New York’s Adult Survivors Act, which took effect on Thanksgiving, opens a one-year window for adult victims to file claims.

Carroll previously sued Trump for defamation over statements he made in 2019 when he denied her claim that he raped her in the dressing room of Bergdorf Goodman in the 1990s. Her new lawsuit alleged a second claim of defamation over statements Trump made last month.

It also alleged battery as she seeks to hold him accountable for the sexual assault that he has long denied.

“Trump’s underlying sexual assault severely injured Carroll, causing significant pain and suffering, lasting psychological harms, loss of dignity, and invasion of her privacy. His recent defamatory statement has only added to the harm that Carroll had already suffered,” the lawsuit said.

Trump called Carroll’s claim “a Hoax and a lie” in a post last month on his social media platform Truth Social. “And, while I am not supposed to say it, I will. This woman is not my type!” the post added.

“Trump’s false, insulting, and defamatory October 12 statement about Carroll—and his actual malice in making that statement—is fully consistent with his tried-and-true playbook for responding to credible public reports that he sexually assaulted women,” the lawsuit said.

Carroll’s attorney, Roberta Kaplan, asked the judge hearing the first lawsuit to deem the second one a related matter.

Carroll’s first lawsuit is pending the outcome of a January proceeding in the D.C. Court of Appeals.

Trump has argued the Justice Department should be substituted as the defendant in the case because, at the time of his allegedly defamatory statements, he was an employee of the federal government, which cannot be sued for defamation.

The Washington, D.C. Court of Appeals, which retains jurisdiction over the conduct of federal government employees, has scheduled oral arguments for January to decide whether Trump was acting in his official capacity as president when he denied Carroll’s rape claim and allegedly defamed her. If so, the case would go away.

 

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Biden reiterates call for assault weapons ban after mass shootings

Kevin Dietsch/Getty Images

President Joe Biden reiterated his call to pursue a ban on assault weapons following the latest mass shooting at a Walmart in Virginia and said it’s “sick” that the U.S. continues to sell semiautomatic weapons.

“The idea we still allow semiautomatic weapons to be purchased is sick. It’s just sick. It has no social redeeming values. Zero. None. Not a single, solitary rationale for it except profit for the gun manufacturer,” he said Thursday during a stop at a fire station in Nantucket, Massachusetts.

The chance of a ban actually making its way through Congress is all but impossible now that Republicans have control of the House of Representatives and the need for any legislation to get 60 votes to break a filibuster in the Senate. The president, however, said that will not stop him from trying.

“I’m going to try. I’m going to try to get rid of assault weapons,” he said.

The remarks come after a string of mass shootings thrust the issue of gun reform back to the national fore.

The killing in Virginia and a mass shooting at a gay nightclub in Colorado have renewed calls by advocates for tighter gun laws, such as a ban on assault weapons like the AR-15.

Biden has been unable to cobble together the bipartisan support needed to get a bill to his desk.

Biden also made brief comments on negotiations on a contract deal between railroad companies and unions to help avoid a strike but said he couldn’t talk about what is holding up each side from reaching a deal.

“I have not directly engaged yet,” Biden said, though his team remains in touch with all the parties involved.

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Red flag warning issued in Southern California due to high winds, brush fire danger

ABC News

(LOS ANGELES) — Residents in Southern California have more than heavy traffic to contend with this Thanksgiving.

The National Weather Service issued a red flag warning for parts of Los Angeles and Ventura Counties on Thursday that lasts until Friday morning, indicating critical fire weather conditions.

Wind gusts could approach 70 mph in some parts of Southern California, forecasts show. The dry wind, combined with the parched earth still reeling from a decades-long megadrought, could spread any fires that spark.

Temperatures are expected to reach 80 degrees in Los Angeles and Orange Counties, with the strong winds expected to pass through the canyons.

A high wind warning is also in effect for the hills east of Santa Barbara, including Burbank, Santa Clarita and Malibu.

The winds are leading to a high brush fire potential across the region, largely in part due to the direction of the wind. When the wind comes from the east, it is much drier than winds coming from the Pacific Ocean.

There are also scattered wind advisories for other portions of the southwest, with gusts expected to top 50 mph elsewhere throughout Southern California, as well as in Arizona and into western Texas.

Residents are urged to use caution with anything that can spark a wildfire. Power safety outages are possible in several regions, data from Southern California Edison shows.

 

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Grey wolves infected with this parasite are more likely to become pack leaders, scientists say

Yellowstone Cougar Project

(YELLOWSTONE, WYOMING) — Researchers studying grey wolf populations in Yellowstone National Park have discovered an intriguing reason why some wolves may be more inclined to become pack leaders.

Grey wolves exposed to Toxoplasma gondii — the parasite that causes the disease toxoplasmosis — are more than 46 times more likely to become a pack leader than uninfected wolves, according to a study published Thursday in Communications Biology.

The researchers analyzed behavioral and distribution data from 1995 to 2020 as well as blood samples from 229 anaesthetized wolves to study the association between risk-taking behaviors and infection with Toxoplasma gondii. They identified associations between parasite infection and high-risk behaviors in both males and females.

Wolves that tested positive for T. gondii were 11 times more likely to disperse from their pack and more than 46 times more likely to become a pack leader than uninfected wolves, according to the findings. Males were 50% more likely to leave their pack within a six-month period if infected with the parasite but that length of time jumped to 21 months if unaffected. Females displayed a 25% chance of leaving their pack within 30 months if infected, extending to 48 months if uninfected.

Infection with T. gondii often has no negative effects on the fitness of healthy individuals but can be fatal to young or immunosuppressed wolves, according to the researchers. They don’t yet know how this parasite influences things like survival rates, according to Connor Meyer, a wildlife biology Ph.D. student at the University of Montana and one of the authors of the study.

The findings are the first to demonstrate parasite infection affecting decision-making and behavior in the species, the researchers said.

Previous research has identified associations between T. gondii infection and increased boldness in hyenas as well as increased testosterone production in rats, the authors speculate that similar mechanisms could drive the risky behaviors observed in wolves that tested positive for the parasite.

The wolves occupying areas that overlapped with a higher population density of cougars were more likely to be infected with T. gondii than those not living near cougars, suggesting that wolves may become infected with the parasite as a result of direct contact with cougars and their environments, the researchers found. Cougars in Yellowstone National Park are known to be hosts of the parasite.

The findings “tell the story of this entire ecosystem and how species interact with each other,” said Kira Cassidy, one of the authors and a research associate for Yellowstone National Park and Yellowstone Forever, a nonprofit associated with the national park.

The researchers hypothesized that the infection would have wider implications on the wolf population, as infected pack leaders could lead their packs into more high-risk areas that overlap with cougars, potentially increasing the risk of further infection for uninfected wolves.

“So that’s probably the the link there with the actual mechanism behind the parasite and the infection,” Meyer said.

The study, only the second of its kind to look at how a toxoplasmosis infection can affect a species of predators, is a “powerful kind of testament to what long-term research is able to answer,” Meyer noted.

Added Cassidy: “Taking an ecosystem approach to a research question can be really difficult in a lot of places but Yellowstone is one of these places where we see all of the species that were here hundreds of years ago.”

Grey wolves were widely eradicated in the western U.S. in the 1940s but populations have begun to rebound in recent decades. Some say the increase is detrimental to humans due to the wolves’ ability to travel vast distances and therefore spread diseases. The wolves can also be a significant factor in the decline of big game herds and the killing of livestock.

Earlier this month, a federal judge in Montana temporarily restricted wolf hunting and trapping near Yellowstone and Glacier National Parks.

Wolves, however, are typically cautious of people. At Yellowstone, they are “the most shy and cautious” of all the large mammals, Cassidy said.

“If you see one, you’re incredibly lucky,” she said. “I would say overall, they are essentially no danger to people.”

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Bidens make surprise call into Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade

Nathan Howard/Getty Images

(NEW YORK) — President Joe Biden and first lady Jill Biden made a surprise call into the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, the second year in a row they phoned into the broadcast.

The president teased his call later with military service members and gave thanks to first responders.

“I want to say thanks to the firefighters, the police officers, first responders — they never take a break,” he said. “And by the way, we’re gonna be talking to some of our troops later today, both here and abroad.”

The call to service members was the only thing listed on Biden’s schedule for Thursday but he said he would also be “spending some time on the island thanking those first responders here.”

Spending the holiday on Nantucket is a long-standing tradition for the Bidens, who have been going there since the president and first lady were married. Jill Biden said the family will have Thanksgiving dinner and probably take a walk on the beach today.

Earlier this week the couple flew to North Carolina to celebrate “Friendsgiving” with members of the Marine Corps and their families.

“You are literally, not figuratively, the greatest fighting force, the best fighting force in the history of the world,” the president told them. “That’s not hyperbole — in the history of the world. It’s not a joke. And you really are incredible group of women and men. And again, I want to thank the spouses as well, because they put up with an awful lot because of your service.”

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Queen Camilla delivers Paddington bears left after Queen Elizabeth’s death to children’s charity

Mark Cuthbert/UK Press/Getty Images

(LONDON) — The hundreds of Paddington teddy bears left at royal residences following Queen Elizabeth II’s death in September have found a new home.

The teddy bears were hand-delivered Thursday by Camilla, the Queen Consort, to Barnardo’s, a children’s charity that will distribute the bears to kids in need across the United Kingdom.

Camilla — who was given the role of royal patron of Barnado’s in 2016 by the queen — arrived to Barnardo’s Bow Nursery school in East London in a fleet of taxis, along with the bears.

The taxis were symbolic because taxi drivers in the U.K. often transport children to and from the hospital for free.

At the nursery school — which provides child care and education to kids up to age 5 — Camilla joined a teddy bear tea party with students and two stars of the “Paddington” movie, Hugh Bonneville and Madeleine Harris.

Camilla also helped distribute some of the Paddington teddy bears, which paid tribute to Queen Elizabeth’s surprise appearance alongside Paddington in a special video recorded for her Platinum Jubilee celebration last June.

Following the end of the official mourning period after the queen’s death, the teddy bears left at royal residences were collected and cleaned by Royal Parks staff members and volunteers, according to Buckingham Palace.

Earlier this month, the bears, each in their signature blue duffle coats and red bucket hats, got to explore the inside of two royal residences, Buckingham Palace and Clarence House.

The royal family’s official Twitter account shared a video showing the bears’ journey from outside to inside the palaces.

— The Royal Family (@RoyalFamily) November 18, 2022 “>

“They have been doing some light reading at Clarence House,” the video noted at one point, “and exploring the Buckingham Palace State Rooms.”

 

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Virginia Walmart mass shooting: 16-year-old among victims

City of Chesapeake

(CHESAPEAKE, Va.) — Six people were gunned down in a mass shooting at a Walmart in Chesapeake, Virginia.

Survivors said the gunman walked into a break room and opened fire on Tuesday night.

The suspect was identified by city officials as 31-year-old Andre Bing of Chesapeake. Walmart said he worked at the store as an overnight team lead and had been an employee since 2010. He died at the scene from an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound, police said.

Governor orders flags to fly at half-staff through Sunday

Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin has ordered flags to be flown at half-staff over the state Capitol and all local, state and federal buildings and grounds across the commonwealth “in respect and memory of the victims of the Chesapeake shooting, their families, and the entire Chesapeake community.”

“I hereby order that the flags shall be lowered immediately on Wednesday, November 23, 2022 and remain at half-staff until Sunday, November 27, 2022 at sunset,” Youngkin said in a statement.

On Wednesday, the City of Chesapeake released the names of the victims on Twitter.

Here’s what we know about the victims:

Lorenzo Gamble

Brian Pendleton, 38

Pendleton’s mother, Michelle Johnson, told ABC News that her son “had a real big heart” and loved working at Walmart.

Pendleton had a condition called congenital hydrocephalus, but it never stopped him from leading a full life, she said.

“He liked to joke, and he liked to make people laugh, but he was a very good worker,” Johnson said.

“I’m going to miss my son,” she said.

Kellie Pyle

Randall Blevins

Tyneka Johnson

Chesapeake hasn’t released the name and photo of the sixth victim, a 16-year-old boy, because he’s a minor.

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Uvalde families prepare Thanksgiving meals for neighbors as holiday marks 6 months since tragedy

Tetra Images/Getty Images

(UVALDE, TX) — Thanksgiving Day marks six months since 19 students and two of their teachers were killed in a mass shooting at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas.

Some families of the victims spent the last few days before the holiday volunteering to prepare Thanksgiving meals for neighbors in need during an annual event called “Love Ya, Uvalde.” The Garcia family, whose daughter, Ellie Garcia, was one of the victims, were among the volunteers.

“It is very important for everybody to really cherish these moments of togetherness, the family, loved ones, friends,” said Steven Garcia, Ellie’s father, who volunteered at the event for the first time.

Volunteers spent hours on Tuesday prepping the meals, deboning turkeys, and decorating the space where the meals would be served. On Wednesday morning and into the afternoon, the food was served to over 200 people at the Uvalde County Fairplex. The group also delivered around 100 meals to people who couldn’t make it out. It is a community tradition that started in 1983.

The event took on special meaning as the tragedy’s 6-month mark approached, serving as a brief respite from the grief that has overwhelmed much of the community since the May 24 shooting rampage.

“It means the world for you to see the community come out and support. It’s very important,” said Garcia.

The Cazares family has volunteered at the event many times over the last 20 years, said Javier Cazares. His daughter Jackie, who was killed at Robb, would help serve the food and escort people to their seats each year. She was the “boss lady,” said Cazares.

“It’s hard not seeing her here. Very hard,” Cazares added, looking out over the hundreds gathered to celebrate Thanksgiving.

In the six months that have followed the shooting, the typically quiet town of 15,000 people has been rocked by anger, trauma and demands for accountability that have led to some results. In July, a Texas House investigative report said the law enforcement response to the shooting was riddled with “systemic failures and egregiously poor decision making.”

In the weeks that followed, the school district’s police chief, Pete Arredondo, was fired. The entire Uvalde school police force was disbanded in mid-October. On the same day, the district’s superintendent, Hal Harrell, unexpectedly announced his retirement. Last week, Mariano Pargas, who was the acting Uvalde city police chief during the shooting, quit before the city council could fire him.

But the upheaval that has defined the town since May was nowhere to be seen on this six-month mark. Families said they were remembering their loved ones as they gave back.

“This is something she wanted us to do,” Cazares said about his daughter. “So here we are, one more year.”

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