8 students injured in accident involving school bus in South Carolina, officials say

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(CHESTERFIELD, S.C.) — Eight students were injured in a school bus accident in South Carolina Friday afternoon, school officials said.

The bus was carrying 24 students from a middle school and elementary school in the Chesterfield County School District when the accident occurred around 4 p.m. in the town of Jefferson, the district said.

Eight students on the bus were transported to the hospital with injuries, the district said.

“The district superintendent, transportation staff, and area principals are working the accident,” school officials said in a statement.

This is a developing story. Please check back for updates.

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ISIS ‘Beatle’ given 8 life sentences as families call for Biden to help Americans held hostage

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(ALEXANDRIA, Va.) — A member of a group of British Islamic State terrorists dubbed “the Beatles” by their hostages was sentenced Friday in U.S. federal court to 8 concurrent life terms for kidnapping and murdering freelance journalist James Foley, as well as participating in the detention and murders of three other Americans.

The sentencing of El Shafee Elsheikh, 34, comes on the eighth anniversary of Foley’s murder which was broadcast across the world in a chilling beheading video by ISIS. Elsheikh was also convicted and sentenced for the kidnapping and murder of journalist Steven Sotloff, human rights activist Kayla Mueller and aid worker Peter Kassig.

Elsheikj, who was captured in Syria in 2018 alongside fellow “Beatle” Alexanda Kotey, was described by prosecutors at his sentencing hearing in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia as the most notorious, highest-ranking member of ISIS to face trial in the U.S. The foursome had held hostage 26 Westerners and murdered four Americans and several British and Japanese nationals in Syria.

Kotey was sentenced to life in prison in April.

Judge T.S. Ellis on Friday described the crimes as horrendous, noting Elsheikh’s involvement in the sexual abuse of Mueller, his decision to provide false testimony to law enforcement and his role as a leader of the group.

Due to a prior agreement with the United Kingdom, neither Elsheikh nor Kotey faced the death penalty. Another member of the group, Mohammed Emwazi, was killed in a drone strike in Syria in 2016. A fourth member, Aine Lesley Davis, was arrested in Turkey and extradited earlier this year to the United Kingdom to face terrorism charges.

Following the sentencing, Elsheikh immediately filed an appeal with the court citing ineffective council. Ellis rebutted to the defense, “I think you have been diligent.”

Diane Foley, the mother of James Foley, addressed Elsheikh directly during her testimony Friday, saying, “Love is so much stronger than hatred. I pity you Elsheikh.”

She told reporters Friday that more than 67 U.S. nationals are currently detained and held hostage abroad.

Foley said in an appeal to President Joe Biden, “I urgently call on our President Biden to employ our shrewdest negotiation to quickly bring these innocent Americans home, lest they die in captivity as our sons and daughter did.”

After the death of her son, Foley founded the James W. Foley Legacy Foundation, which advocates for Americans that have been held hostage abroad and promotes the safety of journalists worldwide.

She added, “Let this sentencing make clear to all who dared to kidnap, torture or kill any American citizen abroad. That U.S. justice will find you wherever you are, and that our government will hold you accountable for your crimes against our citizens.”

Marsha and Carl Mueller, the parents of Kayla Mueller, told reporters Friday that they have not given up looking for their daughter’s remains. The couple is working with private entities to try to find Kayla and learn exactly what happened to their daughter. They told reporters they met with FBI Director Christopher Wray who told them, “we are not going to stop until we find Kayla.”

The 26-year-old was on a humanitarian mission in Turkey in August 2013 when ISIS kidnapped her after she crossed the Syrian border to visit a hospital. In February 2015, U.S. officials confirmed that she died while in ISIS custody.

Elsheikh declined to speak at Friday’s sentencing. Marsha Mueller told reporters, “I was hoping he would be but I wasn’t shocked that he is going to appeal.”

Carl Mueller said of Elsheikh, “He’s obviously cold with no remorse throughout the whole trial and I still think he believes he was doing the right thing.”

Both families said they met with Kotey. Marsha Mueller told reporters Kotey” did articulate some remorse” and that she was grateful for that.

Foley stressed the need for the government to act swiftly in cases in cases where Americans are held, to avoid making the process of bringing them home more complicated.

Carl Mueller had tough words for the Obama administration who he said had “every opportunity to bring [Kayla] home” during the 18 months she was reportedly held captive.

“They definitely have learned their lesson and our children was the cost of that and hopefully, in the future, our government will do like so many others did, and get their people home. Not leave them in there for 18 months.”

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Kobe Bryant’s wife gives emotional testimony about helicopter crash photos

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(LOS ANGELES) — An emotional Vanessa Bryant took the stand Friday in her invasion of privacy trial over photos taken at the scene of the helicopter crash that killed her husband, basketball star Kobe Bryant, and their 13-year-old daughter.

Bryant filed a lawsuit several months after the 2020 crash against Los Angeles County, alleging that first responders took graphic photos of human remains at the scene as “souvenirs” and shared them with others. She is claiming she suffered emotional distress and is suing for an undisclosed amount of damages for negligence and invasion of privacy.

Bryant, the final plaintiffs’ witness, was overcome with emotion in the Los Angeles federal courtroom on Friday as she shared her fear and anxiety over the photos.

“I never had a panic attack before this,” she told the jury.

Bryant said she learned from a Los Angeles Times report that deputies had taken photos of the crash site. She said she lives in fear every day that they could be leaked and wants “justice for my husband and my daughter.”

Kobe Bryant and their daughter, Gianna, were headed to a basketball game at his Mamba Sports Academy in Thousand Oaks along with others connected to the basketball program on Jan. 26, 2020, when the helicopter they were traveling in crashed in Calabasas. All nine people on board, including the pilot, were killed.

Orange County financial adviser Chris Chester is also suing the county over photos taken of his wife and daughter, who were killed in the same crash. In July, U.S. District Judge John Walter decided to consolidate Bryant’s and Chester’s cases into one trial.

Chester took the witness stand on Thursday, telling the jury he was in “disbelief” after hearing reports that deputies and firefighters took and shared photos of his wife, Sarah, and their 13-year-old daughter, Payton.

“It was grief on top of grief,” he said, calling for “justice and accountability.”

LA County maintains that first responders did not share any photos publicly from the scene of the crash. It also attests that an investigation by the Internal Affairs Bureau of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department confirmed that all of the photos were destroyed.

During the trial, which began Aug. 10, the defense has also maintained that the photos have not surfaced online since the tragedy. Multiple county fire and sheriff’s personnel have also testified that they deleted whatever crash-site pictures they had on their cellphones.

Both Bryant’s and Chester’s lawsuits argue that the photos were shared before being deleted by first responders.

Los Angeles County Sheriff Alex Villanueva, who ordered deputies to delete the photos, is also expected to testify on Friday as the first witness for the defense.

ABC News’ Kyla Guilfoil contributed to this report.

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Liz Cheney to ABC News on Pence testifying: ‘I would hope that he will do that’

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(WASHINGTON) — GOP Rep. Liz Cheney, once a rising star in the Republican Party and considered a potential speaker of the House, told ABC News Chief Washington Correspondent Jonathan Karl that she has no regrets about her political career, including her primary landslide election loss in Wyoming on Tuesday, saying she now is laser-focused on keeping Donald Trump out of the White House.

During an exclusive and wide-ranging interview set to air Sunday on ABC’s “This Week,” Cheney, who serves as vice chair of the Jan. 6 select committee investigating the Capitol attack, told Karl she still hopes former Vice President Mike Pence testifies before the committee in the near future and that conversations with his legal team are still ongoing.

Pence had indicated this week that he would consider testifying before the committee if he were invited to do so.

“We’ve been in discussions with his counsel,” Cheney said, speaking with Karl in the Jan. 6 committee hearing room where millions of Americans have watched her during this summer’s series of hearings.

“Look, he played a critical role on January 6. If he had succumbed to the pressure that Donald Trump was putting on him, we would have had a much worse constitutional crisis. And I think that he has clearly, as he’s expressed, concerns about executive privilege, which, you know, I have tremendous respect. I think it’s, you know, hugely important constitutional issue in terms of separation of powers,” Cheney said.

“I believe in executive privilege. I think it matters. But I also think that when the country has been through something, as grave as this was, everyone who has information has an obligation to step forward. So, I would hope that that he will do that,” Cheney said.

“So, you think we’ll see him here in September in this room before the committee?” Karl asked.

“I would hope that he will understand how important it is for the American people to know every aspect of the truth about what happened that day,” Cheney said.

Cheney was asked if Trump would be asked to testify but she demurred.

“I don’t want to make any announcements about that this morning. So, let me just leave it there,” she said, adding that Trump’s interactions with the committee would be under oath.

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Buttigieg calls on airlines to improve customer service, launches website to help flyers

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(WASHINGTON) — Just ahead of Labor Day weekend, the federal government is doubling down on U.S. airlines, calling disruptions seen over the past few months “unacceptable” and demanding change.Department of Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg wrote to carriers on Thursday, calling on them to improve their customer service and warns airlines that new rules may be coming to better empower travelers who face flight disruptions within the airlines control.

“Americans expect when they purchase an airline ticket they will arrive at their destination safely, reliably, and affordably,” the secretary wrote.

According to data from the department, roughly 24% of domestic flights of U.S. airlines have been delayed and 3.2% have been canceled during the first six months of this year.

DOT said it will launch a new website in the coming weeks where travelers can see exactly what they are owed and the differences in compensation among all major airlines.

“When passengers do experience cancelations and delays, they deserve clear and transparent information on the services that your airline will provide, to address the expenses and inconveniences resulting from these disruptions,” Buttigieg wrote.

Buttigieg said airlines need to “assess” their customer service plans, and asks that carriers, at minimum, provide meal vouchers for delays of three hours or more and hotels for passengers who must wait overnight at an airport due to disruptions within the airline’s control.

Airlines for America (A4A), the group that lobbies on behalf of all major U.S. airlines, responded to the letter saying its members are “committed” to working with stakeholders to overcome these challenges.

Carriers have pointed to increased demand and staffing issues for the disruptions. A4A also cited data that indicates 63% of the cancelations for the first five months of 2022 were caused by weather and the National Airspace System (NAS) collectively.

The DOT letter comes amid a push for consumer rights – earlier this month the department announced a new rule that would “strengthen” protections for customers seeking refunds.

The rule, if enacted, would define the terms of a “significant” change and cancellation for the first time and also require airlines to issue refunds for flights delayed by three hours.

 

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Vast majority of the youngest Americans remain unvaccinated against COVID

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(NEW YORK) — It has now been two months since the start of the COVID-19 vaccine rollout for the youngest Americans, and despite some initial enthusiasm from a select group of parents, the vast majority of children under the age of 5 remain completely unvaccinated.

About 941,000 children, under the age of five have now received their first shot of a COVID-19 vaccine, newly updated federal data shows. The overall total represents approximately 4.8% of the 19.5 million U.S. children in that age group.

Just 182,000 of those children, or less than 1%, have been fully vaccinated.

When broken down by age group, data shows that the majority of children under 5 who have received at least one shot are between the ages of 2 and 4 — 682,000, compared to just 259,000 children under the age of 2.

Preliminary data reported by states shows that several states in the Northeast currently have the highest share of children under 5 vaccinated with at least one dose. Washington, D.C. continues to lead the nation with nearly 15% of its jurisdiction’s children under 5 vaccinated with their first shot, followed by Vermont (10.4%), and Massachusetts (6.87%).

Mississippi has the lowest percentage of children under 5 vaccinated, with 0.47% of children with their first shot, followed by Alabama (0.64%) and Louisiana (0.79%).

The overall totals, thus far, are notably lower than prior predictions, which had already suggested the initial rollout would be sluggish.

A recent Kaiser Family Foundation COVID-19 Vaccine Monitor survey found that many parents remain reluctant to vaccinate their young children.

As of July, 43% of parents with children ages 6 months to 4 years old said they will “definitely not” get their child vaccinated against COVID-19. In comparison, when polled in April, 27% of parents had stated they would “definitely not” get their child vaccinated against the virus.

Thirteen percent of parents said they would only inoculate their child, if required, and 27% reported they were waiting to see whether to vaccinate their child.

Only 7% of parents reported they got their child vaccinated right away, while another 10% of parents said that they were still planning to get their child vaccinated “right away.”

However, some officials have said that more children, particularly those under 5, may be vaccinated as the rollout continues, and they visit their pediatrician for their annual visit.

To date, about 29.6 million children ages 17 and under have received at least one COVID-19 vaccine dose. However, data also shows that just under 43.4 million eligible kids are still completely unvaccinated.

Less than a quarter of eligible children, ages 5 to 17, have also been boosted.

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Powerful solar weather brings northern lights farther south

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(NEW YORK) — The Northern Lights may be visible as far south as Pennsylvania and Iowa on Friday, Space Weather Prediction Center from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said.

The remarkable sky lights may come down farther south due to a geomagnetic storm that began on Wednesday, experts said.

The storm is the result of a coronal mass ejection, or CME, which is a powerful burst of magnetized plasma from the sun’s corona, its outermost layer.

Scientists detected two CMEs erupting on the sun and aimed for Earth, which they expected to arrive on August 18.

The CMEs can combine to create a geomagnetic storm, scientists say, to reach strong levels that may create auroras closer to the equator than usual.

The auroras, which make up what we know as the Northern Lights, form when high-energy particles from the sun collide with Earth’s atmosphere. The particles glow because they excite the gasses in the sky.

Stronger energy brings the glowing particles farther from the poles, experts say.

Leading up to the stronger storm, scientists said a coronal hole high-speed stream arrived on Thursday night to create a more minor geomagnetic storm.

A coronal hole is a cooler area in the sun’s outermost layer that can generate high-speed solar wind that is full of charged particles that can get spread across the solar system.

These high-speed streams can create auroras on Earth, too.

Typically, auroras are most visible from December to February, but viewers have strong chances from September to November, too, experts say.

Stronger solar weather is needed for such a view in the summer months.

Alaska is known as a top U.S. destination for seeing the lights, but visitors can also expect a view in northern Maine during favorable conditions, scientists say.

Experts say that less densely populated areas, where the night sky remains darkest, are most favorable for northern viewing of the magical sky lights.

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‘Multiple fatalities’ reported after two small planes collide mid-air at California airport, officials say

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(WATSONVILLE, Calif.) — Three people are dead after two small planes collided mid-air at a California airport on Thursday, authorities said.

The crash occurred shortly before 3 p.m. local time at the Watsonville Municipal Airport in Watsonville, an agricultural area located about 50 miles south of San Jose, officials said.

The two planes were attempting to land when they collided, the city of Watsonville said on social media. “We have reports of multiple fatalities,” it said.

A single-engine Cessna 152 and a twin-engine Cessna 340 “collided while the pilots were on their final approaches,” the Federal Aviation Administration said in a statement.

One person was in the Cessna 152 and two were in the Cessna 340, the agency said. No injuries were reported to anyone on the ground.

The Santa Cruz Sheriff’s Office said Friday that all three onboard the planes were killed in the crash. The names of the victims will be released following family notification.

The city tweeted Thursday that it was “absolutely saddened to hear about the tragic incident that took the lives of several people.”

“The City of Watsonville sends its deepest condolences to the friends and family of those who passed,” it added.

“We are grieving tonight from this unexpected and sudden loss,” Watsonville Mayor Ari Parker said. “I want to express my deepest and most heartfelt condolences.”

The Santa Cruz County Sheriff’s Office said it responded to an aircraft collision on Aviation Way near the airport and secured the scene with the Watsonville Police Department.

“This afternoon, two planes collided and came to rest at and near the Watsonville airport. There are multiple fatalities right now,” Lt. Patrick Dimick said. “There are multiple fatalities. We cannot confirm anything else at this time as we’ve just secured the airport for the NTSB and FAA to arrive and conduct their investigation.”

An investigation is underway by the National Transportation Safety Board and the FAA.

ABC News’ Michelle Mendez and Alex Stone contributed to this report.

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Severe European drought reveals sunken World War II warships on Danube River

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(LONDON) — Europe’s scorching drought has revealed the hulks of dozens of German warships that became submerged during World War Two near Serbia’s river port town of Prahovo.

The ships, sunken on Danube River, were part of Nazi Germany’s Black Sea fleet in 1944 as they retreated from advancing Soviet forces, officials said.

The vessels still impact the river today, often hampering river traffic during low water levels, authorities said.

Now, over 20 ships have come to the surface, many of which are still loaded with ammunition and explosives. Officials say the vessels pose a risk to shipping on the Danube.

The vessels have limited the navigable section of the stretch near Prahova to 100 meters, significantly slimmer than the prior 180 meters ships had access to.

Serbian officials have taken to dredging along the river to salvage the usable navigation lanes.

We have deployed almost [our] entire [dredging] capacity… We are struggling to keep out waterways navigable along their full length,” Veljko Kovacevic, Assistant Minister for Infrastructure and Transportation, told Reuters.

The increasing difficulties for shipping boats will impact the country’s vital transportation of coal, which accounts for two thirds of Serbia’s electrical output, officials said.

Further implicating the energy crisis, water flow in Serbia’s hydropower system dropped by half in the past two months, officials told the Balkan Green Energy News.

The country is also already enduring the impacts of the war in Ukraine upon their energy supply.

Officials said the ships vary, with some now showing turrets, command bridges, broken masts and twisted hulls, while even more still remain buried under sand banks.

In March, the Serbian government invited a contracted a private company for the salvage of some of the hulls and removal of ammunition and explosives. The operation cost officials an estimated $30 million, according to the country’s infrastructure ministry.

“The German flotilla has left behind a big ecological disaster that threatens us, people of Prahovo,” Velimir Trajilovic, 74, a pensioner from Prahovo who wrote a book about the German ships, told Reuters.

The exposure of more of the sunken fleet comes after a summer of low water levels and sizzling drought.

The Danube levels near Prahovo are less than half their average for this time of the summer, experts say.

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Wayfair cuts 5% of global workforce as sales slump

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(BOSTON) — Online home goods retailer Wayfair is laying off nearly 900 workers worldwide, which amounts to 5% of the company’s workforce, the company said in a memo to employees on Friday. The cuts include about 400 jobs in Boston, where Wayfair is headquartered, the company said.

Wayfair saw business surge during the pandemic, as people stuck at home eschewed brick-and-mortar shopping and increased spending on furniture, home renovations, and other domestic improvements. But the economic environment has turned against the company, as inflation has strained household budgets and limited nonessential purchases.

“We were seeing the tailwinds of the pandemic accelerate the adoption of ecommerce shopping, and I personally pushed hard to hire a strong team to support that growth,” Niraj Shah, the founder and CEO of Wayfair, said in the memo. “This year, that growth has not materialized as we had anticipated.”

Laid-off employees will receive severance based on geography, tenure and level, Wayfair said. The company is offering U.S.-based employees a minimum of 10 weeks pay, as well as continued vesting of existing equity through October, the company added.

Wayfair instituted a hiring freeze in May, signaling that its near-term outlook had changed. In total, the company has 18,000 employees.

In early trading on Friday morning, the company’s stock fell more than 10%.

“We are actively navigating Wayfair towards a level of profitability that will allow us to control our own destiny, while still investing aggressively in the future,” Shah, the CEO of Wayfair, said.

“This macro environment doesn’t change our belief in the size of the opportunity ahead, and we are moving purposefully to seize that opportunity,” he added.

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