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National

    Calling all cosmophiles: The 2018 Leonid meteor shower peaks this weekend. >> Read more trending news With clear skies, there's a good chance you may be able to see a meteor early Saturday and Sunday nights. According to the American Meteor Society, spectators can expect 10 to 15 meteors per hour during this year’s peak times: the early morning hours of Saturday and Sunday. “Earth will pass through the thickest part of the Leonid swarm at 7 p.m. EST (2300 GMT) on Nov. 17,” according to experts at Space.com. “But the best time to look will be during the after-midnight hours of Sunday morning, once the source the meteors appear to stream from, called the radiant, comes above the horizon for observers in North America.” Dawn is the best time to view the Leonids because viewers will be able to avoid the glare from a waxing gibbous moon, which sets before 2 a.m. local time, experts added. And under ideal dark-sky conditions, the meteors “ram into our upper atmosphere at 45 miles (72 kilometers) per second — faster than any other meteor shower.” The meteors are connected to the comet Tempel-Tuttle, which was discovered by German astronomer Ernst Wilhelm Tempel and American astronomer Horace P. Tuttle in 1865. Both astronomers discovered the comet independently. The comet “makes fairly frequent passes through the inner solar system,” according to David Samuhel, senior meteorologist and astronomy blogger at AccuWeather. “This lays out fresh debris in the path of the Earth's orbit every 33 years.” When it does make a close approach to the planet, stargazers get to revel in explosive showers. In 1833, stargazers reported as many as 72,000 shooting stars per hour, according to National Geographic. Later, in 1966, a group of hunters reported seeing 40 to 50 streaks per second over the duration of 15 minutes. Scientists currently predict the next major outburst won't take place until 2099. But, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported last year, the comet will be returning closer to Earth in 2031 and 2064, meaning more intense storms are on the horizon. Smaller showers, like the one occurring this weekend, happen annually. While the 2018 shower won’t bring hundreds of shooting stars per hour, it’s sure to be a delight in areas with clear skies and the absence of moonlight. What’s the difference between a meteoroid, meteor and, meteorite anyway? Bill Cooke, head of NASA’s Meteoroid Environment Office, told Space.com that a meteoroid is essentially space debris. For example, the “crumbs” left behind from Halley’s Comet trail are meteoroids. These “crumbs” can also be left behind by asteroids, such as the 3200 Phaethon. Once the meteoroids enter Earth’s atmosphere, they become meteors (or shooting stars). Though most meteors disintegrate before hitting the ground, meteors that do strike the surface of the planet are called meteorites, Cooke said. How to watch the meteor shower Clear skies are essential for prime meteor shower viewing. Skyglow, the light pollution caused by localized street lights, will block out the stars and negatively affect your viewing experience, so head somewhere far from city lights. When you’re outside in the dark, lie flat on your back with your feet facing south and look up at the vast sky. Give yourself 30 minutes for your eyes to adapt to the environment. Be sure to bring warm clothing, a sleeping bag, blanket or lawn chair and leave your telescope at home. Learn more about the Leonids at space.com.
  • Results from a third autopsy conducted in Lowndes County, Georgia, on the body of Kendrick Johnson — the second performed at the behest of Johnson’s parents — have been released, contradicting an earlier conclusion that the 17-year-old’s death was accidental. But the new autopsy’s impact is likely to be minimal, as a lengthy federal investigation already concluded there was no evidence of foul play. >> Read more trending news Johnson, the Lowndes High School sophomore whose body was found in a rolled-up gym mat nearly six years ago, died from non-accidental blunt force trauma between his neck and abdomen, the third autopsy concludes. That mirrors the findings from the first autopsy, paid for by Kendrick’s parents, Kenneth and Jackie Johnson, who once again hired William Anderson to examine their son’s body.  The state medical examiner’s office found the cause of death to be “positional asphyxia,” meaning he became trapped in a position that caused him to suffocate. That finding led the Lowndes County Sheriff’s Office to classify Johnson’s death as an accident. A review of the autopsies commissioned by federal investigators determined the GBI’s autopsy was more credible. But the Johnsons have never accepted the official line.  “Kendrick KJ Johnson WAS MURDERED but we already knew that,” Jackie Johnson posted to Facebook on Friday morning. The Johnsons remain convinced their son was killed by brothers Brian and Branden Bell, sons of a local FBI agent. Video evidence showed the Bells were nowhere near the old gymnasium of Lowndes High when Johnson was last seen alive. State and local investigators believe he got stuck inside the large, rolled-up gym mat, presumably reaching for a pair of sneakers. A lengthy federal investigation followed. In 2016, the Justice Department concluded there was “insufficient evidence to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that someone or some group of people willfully violated Kendrick Johnson’s civil rights or committed any other prosecutable federal crime.” Subsequent civil lawsuits filed by the Johnsons alleged a vast conspiracy and cover-up that included an FBI agent, a former sheriff and Lowndes County’s school superintendent. The Johnsons were ordered last year to pay attorneys’ fees to multiple defendants named in one of their suits. The judge in the case accused the Johnsons and their attorney, Chevene King, of fabricating evidence to support their claims.
  • Democrat Gil Cisneros captured a Republican-held U.S. House seat in Southern California on Saturday, capping a Democratic rout in which the party picked up six congressional seats in the state. In what had been the last undecided House contest in California, Cisneros beat Republican Young Kim for the state's 39th District seat. The Cisneros victory cements a stunning political realignment that will leave a vast stretch of the Los Angeles metropolitan area under Democratic control in the House. With Kim's defeat, four Republican-held House districts all or partly in Orange County, California, a one-time nationally known GOP stronghold southeast of Los Angeles, will have shifted in one election to the Democratic column. The change means that the county — Richard Nixon's birthplace and site of his presidential library — will only have Democrats representing its residents in Washington next year. Democrats also recently picked up the last Republican-held House seat anchored in Los Angeles County, when Democrat Katie Hill ousted Republican Rep. Steve Knight. With other gains — Republicans also lost a seat in the agricultural Central Valley — Democrats will hold a 45-8 edge in California U.S. House seats next year. The district was one of seven targeted by Democrats across California after Hillary Clinton carried them in the 2016 presidential election. Cisneros, 47, a $266 million lottery jackpot winner, had been locked in a close race with Kim in a district that has grown increasingly diverse. It's about equally divided between Republicans, Democrats and independents, as it is with Asians, Hispanics and whites. Kim, 55, a former state legislator, worked for years for retiring Republican Rep. Ed Royce, who is vacating the seat and had endorsed her. In a state where President Donald Trump is unpopular, Kim sought to create distance with the White House on trade and health care. Her immigrant background — and gender — made her stand out in a political party whose leaders in Washington are mostly older white men. 'I'm a different kind of candidate,' she had said. It wasn't enough. Democratic ads depicted her as a Trump underling, eager to carry out his agenda. Cisneros, a first-time candidate, described his interest in Congress as an extension of his time in the military — he said it was about public service. He runs a charitable foundation with his wife. On health care, he talked about his mother who went without insurance for 16 years. 'That should just not happen in this country,' he had said. While the election delivered mixed results around the U.S., it affirmed California's reputation as a Democratic fortress. Democrats are on track to hold every statewide office — again. The party holds a supermajority in both chambers of the Legislature — and a 3.7-million advantage in voter registration. There wasn't even a Republican on the ballot for U.S. Senate.
  • Education Secretary Betsy DeVos is moving to change the rules regarding sexual assault on college and university campuses. >> Read more trending news  At the University of Washington, students may have a heightened awareness of the issue, but they also know it's still difficult for many to report sexual assault or harassment.  “I know people who have been assaulted in the past and have not had their voices heard, and it's a very real issue,” said student Cameron Zinke in a brief interview. “I think it depends on the person a lot of the time. I would hope that they'd report it 'cause it's some really serious stuff,” said student Matthew Cinnamon. The new rules proposed by DeVos narrow the definition of sexual harassment and allow schools to offer accusers accommodations such as no-contact orders instead of investigating the incident. The old definition was broadly defined as unwelcome sexual conduct. The new rule is limited to conduct so severe and pervasive that it denies a person access to the school's education program. “We are absolutely for fairness. We believe in clear and transparent processes, and we want the truth to come out,' said Mary Ellen Stone, director of the King County Sexual Assault Resource Center. She believes the new proposal will discourage victims. “It sounds like they are going to be rolling back some of the progress that we've made specifically, (rules encouraging) victims of sexual assault to come forward.” Stone believes the changes could in fact make campuses more dangerous for victims and others. “It doesn't offer the victim any meaningful protection. It also puts other students at risk.” There will now be a 60-day comment period before the new rules take effect.
  • Two people were killed when a vintage World War II fighter plane crashed into the parking lot of an apartment complex in Fredericksburg, Texas Saturday, a state police spokesman said. Texas Department of Public Safety Sgt. Orlando Moreno said the two people were on board the plane. He did not identify the dead. Federal Aviation Administration spokesman Lynn Lunsford says the aircraft was destroyed and several automobiles damaged. The World War II P-51D Mustang fighter crashed at about 3:15 p.m. Saturday. Photos from the crash site showed pieces of the plane on top of parked vehicles. The Mustang was first built by North American Aviation in 1940 and was used by the U.S. military in World War II and the Korean War. Fredericksburg is home to the National Museum of the Pacific War . The museum said on Twitter that one of those in the plane who was killed was a veteran. It was not immediately clear if those killed, or the plane were associated with the museum, which has a collection of World War II equipment and memorabilia. The National Transportation Safety Board and the FAA said they would investigate at the site, which is about 70 miles (113 kilometers) north of San Antonio. ___ This version of the story corrects the title of Moreno to Texas Department of Public Safety, not Transportation.
  • A Missouri substitute teacher has been banned from his former school after thanking students who stood for the Pledge of Allegiance. >> Read more trending news Jim Furkin says he's been a substitute teacher for the St. Louis County, Missouri, school district for about 10 years. He’s filled in at Parkway South almost daily for the past five years, until now. Furkin says 22 of 24 students he was teaching stood during the Pledge of Allegiance, and he thanked them. “So I say, 'Thank you very much, all of you that participated. I appreciate that, and I'm sure all of those families that lost loved ones so we could have the freedoms we have today would appreciate that, too.’” Furkin said. “That's what I said.' School officials said his actions were a form of bullying to at least one student who didn’t stand. District officials said Furkin can’t teach anymore at Parkway South, but he can teach at other schools in the district. He said he will pass on the offer. “Yeah, I've had enough, and it's a shame,” Furkin said. “That's what I'm going to miss. I'm going to miss the kids.' In a letter home to parents and staff, the school superintendent said the pledge incident was not the only factor in Furkin being banned from Parkway South, but they didn’t elaborate because it was a “personal matter.”
  • A Florida man tried to steal a vending machine from an apartment building in May. >> Read more trending news  “He was quite brazen and he was all caught on camera,” Kenia Fallat, Miami police spokesman, told WSVN. In the video, he attempts to maneuver the big machine by scooting it inch by inch. After about three minutes, he pushes the machine full of food onto the elevator and takes it from the first floor up to the eighth. “When he got to the eighth floor, he pushed it into the hallway and it appears that he was intending to take the money that was inside the vending machine,” Fallat said. The machine was found with damage to the money slot, but the man had no luck getting inside to take money or food. Police are looking for the man seen in the video.
  • A teenager was shot and killed in Munhall,  Pennsylvania, on Saturday afternoon, and police say her boyfriend has confessed to the crime. >> Read more trending news Police in Allegheny County, Pennsylvania, identified the suspect in custody as Darion Abel, 20. Investigators say Abel and the victim had just ended a yearlong relationship, and Abel became angry about a future court appearance. He allegedly drove to her home, shot her several times, and then drove to the police station to turn himself in. Abel is charged with criminal homicide, burglary and carrying a concealed firearm without a license. They found the 19-year-old woman with multiple gunshots wounds, who was pronounced dead at the scene, police said.
  • A solitary, wild American flamingo has ornithologists from Michigan, Arkansas and other parts of the country coming to Florida to catch a glimpse of it.  >> Read more trending news  The sight of wild pink flamingos was once plentiful in Florida’s tropical climes in the 1800s. But by the end of the century, through settlement, hunting and feather and egg harvesting sightings of the birds have been scarce, according to the Audubon Society. The bird was first spotted Oct. 31 at the St. Marks National Wildlife Refuge, the Tallahassee Democrat reported.  “It just captivates people. How often do you get to see something like that in nature?” Refuge Ranger Robin Will told the Tallahassee Democrat. “It is that people are fascinated when nature does something unexpected like that.” This is the second time Will has seen a flamingo at the preserve in the 40 years she has worked there. The last time was in 1995. The previous recorded sighting of one at the park as in 1972.  It is not tagged so it is not from Busch Gardens, any other zoos, or from the established flock at the Hialeah Racetrack.  “I am going to assume he or she was swept up in a big part of (Hurricane) Michael’s turning radius and somehow maybe landed further west then made its way to the refuge,” Will told the Democrat. The last time the birds were seen at the park were after Hurricane Allison in 1995 and Hurricane Agnes in 1972.  The birds are known to fly considerable distances in response to changing conditions, according to the Audubon Society.  Before Hurricane Michael struck the Panhandle, it threatened Mexico and the Caribbean, known flamingo habitats.  Although once considered exotic to the state, researchers determined that Florida was once home to a thriving population of flamingos and appears to be repopulating. A flock of flamingos have been seen in the Everglades coming back over the last few years, according to the Audubon Society. “For a long time, the thought was that the majority of the free-flying birds escaped,” Audubon Florida Executive Director Julie Wraithmell told the Democrat. “Is it that it’s a bird that is unusual in north Florida or a harbinger of what could be one of Florida’s comeback stories?” After the research was published in February, Florida wildlife officials removed the flamingo from its listing of nonnative species.
  • Andrew Gillum, who tried to energize Florida's young and minority voters through a Democratic coalition seeking to end two decades of Republican control of the governor's office, ended his hard-fought campaign Saturday as the state's first black nominee for the post. Gillum, whose refrain had been 'bring it home' as he recounted stories of growing up poor in the state, concluded his campaign with a Facebook video he recorded alongside his wife in a park. In his four-minute plus video , Gillum congratulated Republican Ron DeSantis and also vowed to remain politically active even though his term as mayor of the Florida capital of Tallahassee ends next week. Of his future plans, Gillum said: 'stay tuned.' Gillum, just 39 years old, earned national attention and financial backing from well-known liberal billionaires with his first bid for statewide office. He ran on a liberal platform that included expanding Medicaid and raising taxes to spend more on education even though both ideas would have been hard to pass through the GOP-controlled Legislature. His final act as a candidate was less confrontational than that of another prominent African-American candidate in this year's midterm elections: Stacy Abrams in neighboring Georgia ended her campaign for governor on Friday, ceding to a Republican with an unapologetically indignant tone establishing herself as a leading voting rights advocate. 'This has been the journey of our lives,' said Gillum, appearing in the video with his wife, R. Jai Gillum. 'Although nobody wanted to be governor more than me that this was not just about an election cycle. This was about creating the type of change in this state that really allows for the voices of everyday people to show up again in our government, in our state, and in our communities. We know that this fight continues.' Gillum's concession came hours before Florida's counties must turn in their official results at noon Sunday after tense days of recounting ballots in both the gubernatorial and a U.S. Senate contest — two nationally watched midterm elections that have keep the presidential swing state on edge since Election Day. Gillum's brief remarks came hours after President Donald Trump, who at one point in the campaign had sharply criticized Gillum, praised him for running a tough race. 'He will be a strong Democrat warrior long into the future - a force to reckon with!' said Trump in a Twitter post. Gillum had initially conceded to DeSantis on election night, but he retracted it as the razor-thin margin between the two candidates narrowed. But he still trailed DeSantis by more than 30,000 votes following a legally required machine recount. Counties are wrapping up a hand recount this weekend and must submit their official results by noon Sunday. Gillum's concession assures Florida Republicans will retain their grasp on the governor's office since Jeb Bush's term starting in 1999. DeSantis, 40, was considered an underdog before Trump tweeted his support for DeSantis in December, a month before DeSantis even entered the race. Trump campaigned to help push DeSantis to a primary victory in August and visited Florida two more times to help the Republican in the final days of the election. DeSantis's campaign did not respond to Gillum's remarks, pointing instead to a statement the former congressman put out two days ago. 'Campaigns are meant to be vigorously debated contests of ideas and competing visions for the future,' DeSantis said. 'The campaign for governor achieved this objective as evidenced by historic voter turnout from people of all parties across our state. But campaigns of ideas must give way to governing and bringing people together to secure Florida's future. With the campaign now over, that's where all of my focus will be.' DeSantis stumbled out of the gate after winning the Aug. 28 primary, telling Fox News that voters shouldn't 'monkey this up' by electing Gillum. Despite implications that DeSantis is racially insensitive — an idea he angrily disputed during a debate — he is poised to officially win the state that Trump carried in 2016. He has promised to keep intact many of the same policies on education and health care that have been in place by previous Republican governors. DeSantis ran as a political outsider despite serving three terms in Congress and running for the U.S. Senate in 2016 before dropping out of the race when Republican Sen. Marco Rubio decided to run for re-election. DeSantis is a former Navy officer who graduated from Yale University before getting his law degree at Harvard University. He gained name recognition during the primary with more than 100 appearances on Fox News, often to defend the president. DeSantis ran a largely negative campaign, calling Gillum a socialist and saying he oversaw one of the most corrupt and crime-ridden cities in the state. Trump joined in on the criticism, tweeting similar messages. The corruption allegation stemmed from a continuing FBI investigation into City Hall that Gillum has said he is not a target of and is cooperating with; the charge that Tallahassee had the state's highest crime rate was false. Gillum portrayed DeSantis as racially divisive, repeatedly pointing out his 'monkey this up' comment. 'I'm not calling Mr. DeSantis a racist. I'm simply saying the racists believe he's a racist,' Gillum said previously. Gillum's announcement came as most Florida counties were winding down their hand recount in the state's contentious U.S. Senate race. The smattering of results publicly posted Saturday showed that Democratic U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson was only gaining a few hundred votes in his bitter contest with outgoing Gov. Rick Scott, a Republican. State officials ordered a manual recount earlier in the week after a legally required machine recount showed that Scott led incumbent Democrat Bill Nelson by about 12,600 votes. More than 8 million voters cast ballots in the race. Nelson and Democrats filed several lawsuits following the close election, challenging everything from the state's signature mismatch law to deadlines for mail-in ballots. If the 76-year-old Nelson loses, it would likely spell an end to a lengthy political career that stretches back four decades. Nelson was first elected to the U.S. Senate in 2000. A win for Scott would mark his third victory since the multimillionaire businessman launched his political career in 2010. In each race, Scott has barely edged his Democratic opponent. State law requires a machine recount in races where the margin is 0.5 percentage points or less. Once that recount was complete, if the differences in any of the races are 0.25 percentage points or less, a hand recount is ordered. Local canvassing boards only review ballots where a vote was not recorded by voting machines.