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Raccoon triggers transformer explosion, major power outage

A town in New Mexico was left in the dark Wednesday night after a raccoon met a fiery fate with a power station transformer.Those who live near the facility in Rio Rancho told KOB they saw, heard and felt the transformer explosion. Residents reported seeing flames, sparks and a blinding light, along with feeling their houses shaking.>> Read more trending news 

Approximately 9,600 customers lost power, the Public Service Company of New Mexico told KOB.A PNM spokesperson told KOB the utility will evaluate whether it needs to add extra protection to the fenced area around the power station to prevent a recurrence of wildlife interference with equipment.

Owl turns routine oil change into real hoot

A mechanic in New Hampshire attempting to perform an oil change Friday found a surprise guest on the car's engine.An Eastern Screech owl was discovered on the engine, according to a Facebook post by the Salem, New Hampshire Police Department. >> Read more trending news 

Police said the owl was friendly and easy to handle, but did appear to be a bit lethargic. While the car owner told police they had no idea how the bird got in the car, it's believed the owl sought the car's engine for warmth, or perhaps while chasing a mouse.The owl, which police named Shazam, was taken to On the Wing, a wildlife rehabilitation center.

Professor says 'Jingle Bells' is rooted in racism

It's one of the most famous Christmas carols, but a Boston University professor is calling it racist.

BU theater historian Kyna Hamill makes the argument in a research paper published earlier this year, “The story I must tell:" "Jingle Bells" in the Minstrel Repertoire.

"Jingle Bells" is a hometown favorite for people from Medford. It was written by James Lord Pierpont, and there's a plaque in the city commemorating where he wrote the song.

>> Read more trending news 

But Hamill said she looked into the history of the song, and of Pierpont's life. She said there's a different story entirely behind it.

"I don't have the definite answer to where he sat down and wrote the song," Hamill said in an interview for BU Today. "But—and this is where my town is going to be mad at me—it was absolutely not written in 1850 at the Simpson Tavern in Medford."

Hamill tracked down Pierpont's history, and found he was living in California in 1850, which is the year the song was allegedly written in Medford.

And that's not all, Boston25News reported.

Hamill found a playbill from the Harvard Theater Collection that shows the first time the song was performed was at Ordway Hall on Sept. 15, 1857, in blackface, during a minstrel show.

"The legacy of ‘Jingle Bells’ is, as we shall see, a prime example of a common misreading of much popular music from the nineteenth century in which its blackface and racist origins have been subtly and systematically removed from its history," Hamill argues in her research paper.

Hamill's research paper was published in September, Boston25News

Police: Florida man drives through bedroom with 3 children inside

A Florida man is facing a charge of reckless driving after plowing through a bedroom with three children inside early Saturday, the Florida Highway Patrol said. Johnny Woodberry, 44, was driving a 2005 Cadillac in Cocoa around 2 a.m. when he lost control of the vehicle and drove into the house, troopers told WFTV>> Read more trending news 

The three children were asleep inside the bedroom when the car drove through it, but troopers said they only sustained minor injuries.Troopers said the children were transported to Wuestoff Hospital and later released, WFTV reported. 

Woman with dementia enjoys heartwarming visit with Santa

Santa Claus paid a special visit to a great-grandmother with dementia in New Mexico, proving that the magic of the season delights those of all ages.Santa stopped by The Hartsocks’ Photography studio in Albuquerque Dec. 9 to spend time with one of his older fans. Karen, a great-grandmother who has dementia, posed with Santa for several heartwarming photos. The photo shoot was arranged by her daughter-in-law, Linda Rangel, KRQE reported.

 >> Read more trending news 

Rangel said that even though her mother-in-law is in the latter stages of dementia, her love of Santa Claus has remained. The photo studio wrote on its Facebook page that Karen has visited Santa at the mall for years, and even sleeps with a Santa doll, which she speaks to in her native Japanese. Karen recently entered hospice care, and her family wanted to capture her love for Santa in a photo shoot.Santa gave Karen a busy blanket, designed to reduce restlessness and agitation in those with dementia.The Hartsocks’ Photography studio posted photos from Karen's visit with Santa on its Facebook page. 

Report: CDC given list of 'forbidden' words for budget

The Trump administration has issued a list of seven words and phrases that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are "forbidden" from using in documents related to next year's budget, The Washington Post reported Friday.The list of banned words includes: vulnerable, entitlement, diversity, transgender, fetus, evidence-based and science-based, according to The Washington Post report. In certain cases, alternative phrasing was offered. CDC employees were encouraged to use the phrase, “the CDC bases its recommendations on science in consideration with community standards and wishes," in place of “science-based” or “evidence-based” according to a source cited in The Washington Post report.

 >> Read more trending news 

It is not clear why the Trump administration issued such a directive, but The Washington Post notes that other federal agencies, like Health and Human Services, have altered language addressing sexual orientation in its documentation since Trump took office.The directive was met with an "incredulous" reaction when it was announced at a meeting Thursday with CDC employees, The Washington Post reported.

The White House has not released a response to The Washington Post report.

'Roseanne' reboot reveals 2018 premiere date

Fans eagerly awaiting the return of the TV show "Roseanne" now can mark their calendars.The premiere episode will air March 27 at 8 p.m., Deadline reported. The premiere will be an hour long, while the other eight episodes of the season will be a half-hour long, Deadline noted.

>> Read more trending news 

Comedian Roseanne Barr turned her show about the blue-collar Conner family into a hit in the 1990s. Talks of a reboot have been in the works for years. Production for the nine-episode installment wrapped this month. Most of the main cast members from the original series are returning for the revival, including John Goodman as Dan Conner, Laurie Metcalf as Jackie Harris, Lecy Goranson as Becky Conner-Healy, Sara Gilbert as Darlene Conner and Michael Fishman as D.J. Conner. Guest stars returning for the revival include Johnny Galecki as David Healy, Estelle Parsons as Beverly Harris and Sandra Bernhard as Nancy Bartlett. 

Iowa sisters reunited days before one dies in school bus fire

For the second time in her life, Paige Hough had to say goodbye to her sister. This time, it was permanent.

>> Read more trending news

Hough was separated from her sister 10 years ago when her family put 6-year-old Megan Klindt up for adoption. Days after the sisters reconnected this month, Megan was killed when an Iowa school bus caught fire after rolling into a ditch on Tuesday. She was 16.

The driver of the bus, 74-year-old Donald Hendricks, also died in the 7 a.m. fire, The Des Moines Register reported. They were the only people onboard the bus in rural Pottawattamie County near Oakland. Hendricks began to back out of Klindt’s driveway and ended up in a ditch, where the bus caught fire, the Register reported.

“I talked with her the night before,” Hough told KETV. “This is so hard.”

When Megan was adopted, Hough was 16. 

“I would always look for her and thought about her,” Hough told KETV. “It was one of the hardest days of my life. Growing up, she wasn't my sister, she was my kid. I helped take care of her, I changed her, I took her to school, I taught her how to write her name, helped her do her homework. She was my life. She is my everything.”

The adoption court ruled that the sisters could reconnect when Megan turned 18. But when a cousin saw Megan at the mall and texted a picture to Hough, she headed to the shopping center.

“I was so nervous,” Hough said. “I just said, ‘Megan’ and she turned around and that was always my fear that she wouldn't know who I was or wouldn't recognize me since she was little.

“She turned around and said, ‘Oh my God,’ we were crying and she hugged me and it was the best thing that ever happened.”

The Klindt family decided to allow Hough to see her sister, KETV reported.

Megan invited Paige to her 16th birthday party Dec. 2.

"”t was like going to lunch with my family every day. There was no missing beats and we all talked. We were so happy,” Hough said. “I won't forget that day.”

Now, Hough must deal with another family tragedy.

“I've had a rough life. I lost my dad at a young age. I lost my grandmother who raised me at a young age,” she told KETV. “Megan was always my happy ending that I waited for."

When Hough turned 20 she got a tattoo on her wrist that had an infinity heart and Megan’s initials.

"It was to help me get through struggles and to motivate me,” Hough told KETV. “ Now it's more of a remembrance tattoo and I didn't think it would get to this point,”

Pit bull pup debuts as police dog in Kansas

A police department in Kansas has employed the state’s first pit bull police dog, The Wichita Eagle reported.

>> Read more trending news

The Stafford Police Department added Kano, a 55-pound red nose pit bull that has one blue eye and one brown eye. The puppy was named after a character from the game “Mortal Kombat” because of his unique eye color and patches, the Stafford Police Department wrote in a Facebook post.

The dog is trained in locating marijuana, methamphetamine, cocaine, heroin and ecstasy. Kano’s handler – Officer Mason Paden – said he knows that some may be a little apprehensive of a pit bull on the police force.

“I have always been ‘pro-Pit Bull’ these dogs are misunderstood. ... Just like people dogs are individuals too!” he posted on Facebook. “Kano and I plan to get out there and help try to change the bad name that so many have given the Pit Bull.”

“Anyone who watches him work can and will see the drive this dog has, not only that but how incredible these dogs are,” the department wrote.

Universal K-9 operations director Brad Croft told the Hutchinson News that they look for pit bulls between 1 year and 32 months old so departments can get a longer career out of the dog.

Texas man gets 52-year sentence for beheading wife

A Texas man was sentenced to 52 years in prison Friday in the decapitation death of his wife, the Waco Herald-Tribune reported.

>> Read more trending news

Davie Dauzat, 24, pleaded guilty to murder in Waco’s 54th State District Court. In August, a judge rejected a proposed plea agreement that would have given Dauzat a 50-year sentence for killing his wife, Natasha Dauzat, 21, on Aug. 25, 2016.

Authorities said Natasha Dauzat was stabbed “at least 43 times” with a knife at the couple’s home in Bellmead, a town just northeast of Waco.

Dauzat told investigators he killed his wife with a knife while their 1-year-old son and 3-year-old daughter were home. 

“It is certainly a tragedy for everybody involved in the situation and I think it highlights the dangers that drugs play in our society,” Dauzat’s defense attorney, Joseph Marcee, told the Herald-Tribune. “I certainly think that factored into everything and I think it is a tragedy.

“My client took responsibility for his actions today and that is something he wanted to do.”

Dauzat must spend at least 26 years in prison before he can seek parole.

In a victim-impact statement from the victim’s mother, Patricia Tagliarino, she said Dauzat deserved to die a slow, painful death like her daughter did, the Herald-Tribune reported.

She said she prays every day for him to die.

Georgia student discovers birth brother attended same college, had same major

The slogan for purchasing a DNA test kit on the genealogy website Ancestry.com is "Open a world of possibilities."

>> Read more trending newsFor a Georgia college junior, a DNA test earlier this week opened up his family history and helped him connect to a long-lost sibling and his birth parents.Kieron Christian Graham, 20, is majoring in political science at Kennesaw State University, which is located northwest of Atlanta. He was adopted in 1997 when he was 3 months old. Growing up, he knew the first names of his birth mother and father and that his birth mother had another child named "Vincent," who was nine years older, BuzzFeed reported.

"I periodically would look for them and check on Facebook, but I never knew their last name so it was always hard," Graham said.

His adoptive parents gave him an AncestryDNA test kit as an early Christmas present. On Tuesday he received the results in an email, BuzzFeed reported. Out of the 100 loose matches was a strong match to a 29-year-old man named Vincent Ghant, who also had taken a DNA test.

When Graham checked on Facebook, he found a Vincent Grant whose birthday matched the documents his adoptive parents had. He sent Ghant a friend request, and as they chatted on Tuesday, Graham mentioned the name of his birth mother, Shawn.

“My heart stopped,” Ghant told BuzzFeed. “I asked my mother about him throughout my life, but the pain was so heavy on her that it was hard for her to drum up the words to explain it to me. ... So it just got to the point where I was, like, I'll just wait for her when she's ready.”

The two men learned they were not only brothers, but they also were attending the same college, were both majoring in political science and lived only 15 minutes apart, BuzzFeed reported. Oddly enough, they also attended a class together.

The brothers finally met at a local bar this week, BuzzFeed reported. Graham recalled Ghant telling him, "I've been thinking about you for 20 years."

Ghant said the meeting was “very emotional.”

“I was excited but a little bit scared if he had any resentment towards my family,” Ghant said.

Graham had no hard feelings, understanding that his birth mother was a single parent and chose adoption to give him a better life.

"When I realized he didn't [have resentment] and that he had a great life, I was amazed," Ghant said.

Graham has since contacted his birth mother and plans to meet with her this weekend. He said he also plans to meet with his birth father, BuzzFeed reported.

"My birth father broke down in tears," he said.

Graham also met Ghant’s 17-year-old brother, Christian,

Graham told BuzzFeed that his adoptive parents have been wholly supportive of his journey of discovery. They also plan to meet Graham's birth mother and that entire side of the family, he said.

Carrie Fisher’s dog recognized her in new ‘Star Wars’ film

Carrie Fisher may be dead almost a year, but her dog still remembers the actress, New Musical Express reported.

>> Read more trending news

Fisher, who died last Dec. 27 at age 60, starred in “Star Wars: The Last Jedi,” which opened in theaters Thursday.

Fisher’s dog, Gary, attended the premiere of the film on Thursday at the TCL Chinese Theatre in Los Angeles. Gary watched the movie while sitting in the lap of Fisher’s former personal assistant, Corby McCoin, New Musical Express reported.

KABC reporter Veronica Miracle tweeted that Gary’s ears “perked up every time (Fisher) was on the screen.”

Gary even has a cameo in “The Last Jedi” and paid tribute to Fisher on the canine’s Instagram account, the New Musical Express reported.

Precious photos show Santa visiting infants at Ohio hospital

Santa Claus made a special trip to an Ohio hospital to spread Christmas love to babies in the newborn intensive care unit.

>> Read more trending news

At Akron Children’s Hospital, 66 families received a special visit from St. Nick, who held the infants and chatted with the babies’ older siblings, WJW reported.

The hospital posted some of the photographs on its Facebook page. 

The touching photos were courtesy of Simon Says Smile, a volunteer program provided by Black Dog Photo Co., and started by Ashley Smas and Molly Conger.

The program was started as a result of Molly’s son, Simon, who spent 82 days in Akron Children’s NICU due to an esophageal atresia and prematurity.

Simon is now a healthy 5-year-old, WJW reported.

“When your child is in the NICU you don’t have the opportunity to get regular hospital photos as you would at an adult hospital. I treasure the photos they [Black Dog Photo Co.] took for us that day and wanted to share that gift with others in the same situation,” Conger told WJW.

The photos show Santa bonding with the babies, some of whom are wearing their Christmas outfits.

Watch: Coyote attacks dog in suburban Chicago yard

An Illinois couple posted a scary video that showed their dog being attacked by a coyote.

>> Read more trending news

It happened very quickly in the Chicago suburb of Northfield, WGN reported.

Boozer, a cairn terrier, was outside when a coyote rushed in and circled it. The coyote then attacked, biting the 14-pound dog’s head and dragging it around the back yard.

The couple's home surveillance camera captured the attack. That’s when Barnaby Dinges’ wife ran into the yard screaming, scaring the coyote away, WGN reported.

“Literally we're on the phone and she just screams, 'oh my God.' I think she drops the phone. And I didn't know what was going on," Dinges told WGN. "I looked at this camera. And I just couldn't believe it. The coyote just came out of nowhere."

Boozer suffered several injuries, including a deep gash to his head that required staples and a "gouge" mark on his eye. However, the veterinarian believes Boozer will make a full recovery.

The family's home in Northfield is located near forest preserves, and the couple said they are sharing video of the attack as a warning to pet owners.

"I think this video shows ... in 10 or 15 seconds your family pet can be gone forever," Dinges said.

California swimmer hospitalized after sea lion bites him on the arm

A California man was hospitalized after being bitten on the arm by a sea lion in the waters off San Francisco, The Los Angeles Times reported.

>> Read more trending news

The attack occurred Thursday near Aquatic Park, San Francisco police said. The man had been swimming when the sea lion approached him. The man said he felt threatened and began splashing water at the animal, Officer Matthew Reiter said during a news conference.

“When it didn't work, he yelled at it and then the sea lion came up and bit him on the arm,” said Reiter, a member of the department's marine unit.

He said the man then used his arm to push the animal away and it left. People aboard a nearby sailboat rescued the swimmer and called the Coast Guard.

“The boat saved his life,” Reiter said. “Had that boat not seen him, this could have been a different story."

Reiter applied a tourniquet in an attempt to stop heavy bleeding, the Times reported. The swimmer was taken to a hospital "with a serious extremity injury," the San Francisco Fire Department said in a tweet.

The swimmer was talking the whole time, Reiter said.

“He was more worried about his clothes on the beach than he was about anything else,” he said. “It was a good sign.”

Female Democrat pulls out of House race amid sexual misconduct accusations

Andrea Ramsey, a Kansas Democrat running for a House seat in 2018, has dropped out of the race amid sexual misconduct accusations, according to the Kansas City Star.

>> Read more trending news

The retired businesswoman — who was considered one of the Democratic Party’s brightest political prospects — was hoping to challenge Republican Rep. Kevin Yoder of Kansas’ 3rd District in the 2018 midterm elections.

The Star reported on a 2005 lawsuit filed against LabOne, the company at which Ramsey worked as an executive vice president of human resources. One of Ramsey’s male subordinates, a man named Gary Funkhouser, alleged that she sexually harassed him and retaliated when he rejected her advances. Funkhouser claims Ramsey made “unwelcome and inappropriate sexual comments and innuendos” in September 2004 while he was a human resources manager. He also alleges that she made advances on a business trip in March 2005.

Funkhouser was fired by Ramsey in April of the same year.

Sources claim that the case was settled out-of-court and the alleged victim agreed to permanently dismiss the case.

In the statement in which she announced she was dropping out of the race, Ramsey strongly denied the allegations.

“My opponents have chosen to use these false allegations against me for political purposes, not only engaging in a whisper campaign, but also contacting political and news organizations,” Ramsey said. “These false allegations are disgraceful and demean the moment this country is in. For far too long, complaints of sexual harassment have been completely ignored. The timely and thorough investigation of complaints is a very good thing. We are seeing real change in how harassment is being handled from Topeka to Washington. We should always make it as safe as possible for people who have been wronged to come forward, and I have based my professional career as an employment lawyer and human resources executive on that principle.”

Ramsey also said that after the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) investigated the allegations, they chose not to pursue them and and Funkhouser eventually dismissed the lawsuit voluntarily.

“In its rush to claim the high ground in our roiling national conversation about harassment, the Democratic Party has implemented a zero-tolerance standard,” Ramsey said in her statement.

“For me, that means a vindictive, terminated employee’s false allegations are enough for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) to decide not to support our promising campaign. We are in a national moment where rough justice stands in place of careful analysis, nuance and due process.”

The DCCC, which is yet to endorse any of the candidates in the Democratic primary, released a statement about the accusations made against Ramsey.

“Members and candidates must all be held to the highest standard. If anyone is guilty of sexual harassment or sexual assault, that person should not hold public office,” committee spokeswoman Meredith Kelly said.

Ex-wife of NBA star Lorenzen Wright charged in connection to his murder

The ex-wife of former NBA player Lorenzen Wright was arrested in California and charged with first-degree murder Friday night.

>> Read more trending news

Sherra Wright-Robinson was arrested in her Riverside, California, home Friday. Jail records show she was booked into the Robert Presley Detention Center in Riverside at 9:28 p.m. PT. No charges are listed.

Wright-Robinson was indicted and arrested for conspiracy, criminal attempted first degree & first degree urder in the death of Wright, police said.

Deborah Marion, Wright's mother, said authorities told her Wright-Robinson would be charged with first-degree murder, the same charge that was filed against Billy Ray Turner, who was arrested on Dec. 5.

Wright starred at the University of Memphis and was drafted by the Los Angeles Clippers as the seventh overall pick in the 1996 NBA Draft. He played 13 seasons in the NBA with the Clippers, Memphis Grizzlies, Atlanta Hawks, Sacramento Kings and Cleveland Cavaliers before retiring in 2009.

The former NBA star was last seen alive on July 18, 2010 when he left Wright-Robinson’s home. The next day, police received a phone call from Wright's cell phone, but it was interrupted by gunfire, according to Shelby County District Attorney's Office.

Wright's body was later discovered on July 28, 2010, in a field near Hacks Cross and Winchester. The then 34-year-old was shot multiple times. 

Investigators found the alleged murder weapon in a lake near Walnut, Mississippi, on Nov. 9, 2017.

Grandmother, granddaughter graduate together from college

For the first time in its 150-year history, Chicago State University awarded diplomas to a grandmother and granddaughter during the same ceremony, WLS reported.

>> Read more trending news

Belinda Berry, 62, and Karea Berry, 25, both walked across the stage at the Jones Convocation Center on Thursday to accept their diplomas. 

Grandma graduated at the top of her class with a 3.8 grade-point average in business. Her granddaughter Karea Berry earned her bachelor’s degree in criminal justice, WLS reported. 

Both plan to pursue their master’s degrees.

"It was never planned, we both enrolled in school and we didn't know we were going to finish together because I was full-time and she was part-time, and it just worked out that way," Karea Berry said.

Belinda Berry walked first, followed by Karea Berry.

"I have always stressed that education is power,” said Belinda Berry, who went back to school part-time to improve her employment prospects. “I am very honored to be a role model and I hope that I am an inspiration to the young as well as the old, because it is never too late to pursue an education.”

Report: Toronto billionaire, wife found dead at their home

Toronto billionaire and philanthropist Barry Sherman and his wife were found dead in their mansion Friday afternoon, CTV reported Saturday.

>> Read more trending news

The Toronto Police Service is investigating the deaths as "suspicious."

During a news conference Friday, Constable David Hopkinson would not identify the two bodies. Hopkinson said police, fire units and ambulance responded to a "medical complaint" just before noon on Friday.

"The circumstances of their death appear suspicious and we are treating it that way," Hopkinson said. "Our investigators are inside investigating and taking apart the scene."

Ontario's health minister, Dr. Eric Hoskins, said the couple had been discovered dead.

“I am beyond words right now,” Hoskins tweeted. “My dear friends Barry and Honey Sherman have been found dead. Wonderful human beings, incredible philanthropists, great leaders in healthcare. A very, very sad day. Barry, Honey, rest in peace.”

Minister of Economic Development Brad Duguid also took to Twitter to express his condolences. "Deeply shocked & saddened to hear of the deaths of Barry & Honey Sherman. Philanthropists and entrepreneurs who made our province a better place to live."Sherman founded Toronto-based Apotex Inc. in 1974 with two employees, transforming into the largest Canadian-owned pharmaceutical company, CTV reported.

His fortune was recently estimated to be $4.77 billion by Canadian Business magazine, making him the 15th richest person in Canada.

Apotex employs more than 10,000 people in research, development, manufacturing and distribution facilities worldwide, with more than 6,000 employees at its Canadian operations, CTV reported.

Sherman's wife, Honey, was a member of the board of the Baycrest Foundation and the York University Foundation. She also served on the boards of Mount Sinai's Women's Auxiliary, the Simon Wiesenthal Center and the International American Joint Distribution Committee.

Apotex called news of the deaths "tragic."

“All of us at Apotex are deeply shocked and saddened by this news and our thoughts and prayers are with the family at this time," the company said in a statement.

Taco Bell to add self-serve ordering kiosks

Taco Bell is ready to give its customers more access in 2018.

>> Read more trending news

The fast-food chain will be increasing its digital presence and will add self-serve ordering kiosks, The Orange County Register reported.

Taco Bell, which operates more than 6,700 restaurants, said it has reached an agreement with its franchisees to fund new services that provide customers and employees with “frictionless digital experiences.”

The self-serve ordering kiosks, called “All Access,” is aimed at providing an easy connection for customers, including for delivery and group ordering, the Register reported..

Taco Bell said it also plans to “prioritize and invest” in faster networks and improved back-of-house systems.

“Our fantastic relationship with our franchisees and our growth mindset have enabled us to create an aggressive plan to make Taco Bell an All Access brand,” Taco Bell chief executive Brian Niccol said in a statement. “We always aim to stay relevant with changing consumer tastes and trends, whether that be creating innovative menu items or offering the latest technology that connects customers to our brand when they want it, where they want it.”

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