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Steelers’ Harrison on board cruise that rescues stranded rafters in Gulf of Mexico

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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Steelers linebacker James Harrison has spent the past few days on social media sharing images from the Legends of Pittsburgh cruise. 

However, the images he took Saturday went viral when the cruise ship he and other Pittsburgh athletes are aboard stopped to help rescue 16 people stranded on a raft in the Gulf of Mexico.

“We just stopped for this boat with 16 people in the middle of the ocean. Waiting for coast guard now,” Harrison wrote in one post.

We just stopped for this boat with 16 people in the middle of the ocean. Waiting for coast guard now.Posted by James Harrison on Saturday, February 27, 2016

Carnival Cruise Line spokeswoman Jennifer de la Cruz said the Carnival Sensation found the migrants, 15 men and one woman, about 50 miles north of Cuba and brought them aboard.

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Coast Guard Petty Officer Jon-Paul Rios said they would be turned over to Mexican immigration officials at the ship's next stop, Cozumel.

16ppl, wild!!!Posted by James Harrison on Saturday, February 27, 2016

According to the cruise’s website, the ship set sail Thursday and is to have guests including current and former Steelers Harrison, Antonio Brown and Rocky Bleier, as well as former Pirates player Manny Sanguillen and several former Penguins.

Charity presents surprise gift to student with cerebral palsy seen in video being kicked

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A Penn Hills teen with cerebral palsy, who was seen in a video posted to social media being kicked to the ground at school by a student, has had a lot of people show him support.

On Friday, another person stepped forward, wanting to help Isaiah Wooding.

Sherry Croney, the owner of True Image Tattoos in New Kensington, asked the teen to stop by her shop Friday for a surprise.

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“I spoke to his mother and found out what his favorite thing to do was. I thought he maybe had a favorite sports team or something like that, and she told us he really loves to watch wrestling,” Croney said.

She went and bought Isaiah, 16, a package of tickets to see the WWE wrestlers when they come to Pittsburgh in March. She obtained the tickets through a charity she runs in the name of her husband, Kevin Croney, who was killed in March 2015.

It was a welcomes gift for Isaiah, who was recently the target of bullying. 

A student recorded video of another student kicking Isaiah, knocking the 16-year-old, who has cerebral palsy, to the ground earlier this month in the hallways of Penn Hills high School. The footage was posted to Facebook and went viral.

None of that though was on his mind Friday as he accepted the generous gift.

“It's pretty amazing. I'm speechless. Truthfully told, I'm speechless,” Isaiah said.

Penn Hills police charged the 17-year-old seen in the video kicking Isaiah with simple assault. 

Air Force unveils image of top secret stealth bomber

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The Air Force has revealed an image of the B-21, a highly secretive, next-generation stealth bomber designed to replace an aging fleet of older planes flying missions around the world.

Secretary of the Air Force Deborah Lee James unveiled the illustration Friday for the first time at an Air Force Association convention in Orlando, Florida.

“We have an image. We have a designation, but here’s what we don’t have,” she told the audience. “We don’t yet have a name.”

James called on airmen and others to suggest names for the stealthy aircraft under development it had previously been known simply as the Long Range Strike-Bomber, or LRS-B.

“The main reason for releasing this picture is to make the program real for legislators, who, up to now, have seen it as kind of an abstraction or concept rather than a concrete item,” said Loren B. Thompson, a senior defense analyst with the Virginia-based Lexington Institute and a defense industry consultant.

The Air Force could buy between 80 to 100 of the Northrop Grumman bombers, which resemble the bat-winged B-2 Spirit.

Costs are not finalized, but the program could reach up to $80 billion by one estimate when research and development and procurement are factored in.

Designated as the first “21st century bomber,” the B-21 eventually would replace the workhorse B-52 Stratofortress, first flown in the 1950s, and the swing-wing B-1 Lancer, launched in the 1980s. The new bomber jet would join the fleet in the mid-2020s.

Congressional legislators will scrutinize the secretive bomber, because the Air Force cannot afford all the new weapons programs targeted in future years, Thompson said.

“The Air Force is trying to bolster the case for its new bomber in a Washington political culture that is suspicious of anything secret,” he said. “Sen. John McCain’s statement this week that he would oppose open-ended funding of the bomber’s development underscores the political challenge the Air Force faces.”

McCain, R-Ariz., is chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee.

The new design corrects issues with the B-2 that rendered it more detectable in some situations, Thompson added.

“The only thing an adversary can learn from looking at this picture (of the B-21) is that most of their existing radars are going to be useless in being able to detect it,” he said.

The B-21 design was chosen over a rival Boeing and Lockheed Martin team to build the next generation jet. Boeing filed a protest with the Government Accountability Office last year over losing the contract, but the GAO this month upheld the Air Force selection of Northrop Grumman.

The Air Force also bypassed the Fighters and Bombers Directorate, headquartered at Wright-Patterson, and gave oversight of the secretive plane’s research and development to the Rapid Capabilities Office in Washington, D.C.

The new stealth bomber would be built to fly from the continental United States and penetrate increasingly sophisticated air defenses of potential adversaries, Air Force officials have said.

“What you see in the artist’s rendering released by the Air Force is all the electronic items that will help make the plane lethal and survivable — items like an agile radar, passive sensors and a jamming system,” Thompson said.

Why students don't have to stand for Pledge of Allegiance in Florida

Compiled from Associated Press and Florida News Service reports.

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Students excused from having to daily recite the Pledge of Allegiance in Florida public schools would no longer have to stand and hold their hands over their heart either, under a bill that is headed to the House floor.

The House Education Committee on Wednesday unanimously approved a bill (HB 1403) that would change how students are notified of their right to skip the daily pledge and what the excused student must do during the pledge.

Current law requires schools to conspicuously post a notice, telling students they don’t have to recite the pledge if a parent asks in writing for a student to be excused. The law also requires excused students to still stand and hold their hands over their hearts while the pledge is recited.

The bill would allow the notice to instead be placed in a student handbook, and excused students would no longer be required to stand or hold their hands over their hearts.

The bill was filed after a parent of a child at a Panhandle school told the school district it was not following notice requirements. A Senate companion bill has not yet been heard in the first of its three required committees.

Are your contacts putting you at risk for infection by parasite?

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A Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report indicates that more than one million people who wear contact lenses are likely putting themselves at greater risk for infection by a parasite that feeds on eyeballs.

"I'm 57 years old, you know, and I never thought I'd end up at a point where I would have to lose an eye," Oze McCallum told WSB.

McCallum’s right eye was frosted and deformed, even after three previous surgeries.

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His infected eye will be surgically removed in a matter of days.

He’s a victim of a tiny organism seen only with a powerful microscope. It's called an acanthameoba.

"Is it feeding?" asked Strickland.

"Oh yeah. It's alive. It's a parasite that's actually feeding on my eye," he replied. "I've cried over it and I've been angry over it. I've shaken my fist and said, 'Why is this happening to me?'"

McCallum is suffering from an infection called acanthamoeba keratitis. Doctors are convinced his contact lens was the parasite's welcome mat.

"Do a lot of contact lens wearers know this risk is out there?" Strickland asked eye surgeon Barry Lee.

"Absolutely not," said Lee.

Lee reports an alarming increase is the number of acanthamoeba infections. He suspects too many patients are spending too much time wearing their lenses.

"Eyes were not made to have foreign bodies in them all the time,” Lee said.

CDC researcher Dr. Jennifer Cope published a stunning report in August which documents contact lens wearers' risky behavior.

Fifty percent of those surveyed said they'd slept overnight in their contacts. In addition, 85 percent have showered in them and 35 percent actually rinsed their lenses in common tap water.

"Even household tap water, although treated to be safe for drinking, is not sterile and contains microorganisms that can contaminate lens cases and contact lenses and cause eye infections," reads the report.

"Maybe my story can help somebody else not have to go through what I'm going through," said McCallum.

The CDC recommends proper contact lens handling practices, including "keeping all water away from contact lenses, discarding used disinfecting solution from the case and cleaning with fresh solution each day, and replacing their contact lens case every three months."

Mom thanks Delta staff for helping her breastfeed her baby

Fiza Pirani contributed to this story, which has been updated

A breastfeeding mom's Facebook post is drawing lots of attention for how an airline handled her pumping needs.

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A woman identifying herself as Jenna Mde posted a message on Delta Airline's Facebook page, thanking two flight attendants for the extra care they provided on a flight from Atlanta to Dallas-Love Field. 

"Yesterday, two flight attendants, Kaitlin K and Loretta, on my flight from Atlanta to Dallas-Love Field, allowed me to sit in an empty first class seat for more space and privacy while I pumped in flight. They offered me snacks and provided TONS of water during my pumping session. "Additionally, on my return flight this afternoon, the Dallas-Love Field gate attendant, Talesa, offered me an empty first-class seat so I could do the same," wrote Mde, who is a mom to triplets, according to her post.

<script>(function(d, s, id) {  var js, fjs = d.getElementsByTagName(s)[0];  if (d.getElementById(id)) return;  js = d.createElement(s); js.id = id;  js.src = "//connect.facebook.net/en_US/sdk.js#xfbml=1&amp;version=v2.3";  fjs.parentNode.insertBefore(js, fjs);}(document, 'script', 'facebook-jssdk'));</script>As a breastfeeding mother to triplets, it's important that I not miss a breast-pumping session, especially when...Posted by Jenna Mde on Saturday, February 13, 2016

Her story is in contrast to some earlier headlines about Delta and breastfeeding. For example, the company apologized to a passenger in January 2015 after requiring she check her breast pump. And in February 2014 the company was forced to apologize after an employee mistakenly told a passenger she could not breastfeed on the plane without a covering.

>>Related: Breastfeeding mom encountered by curious orangutan at zoo

Delta isn't alone: Multiple women nationwide say they have encountered push-back and negative reaction while breastfeeding in public.

"I am incredibly grateful for the lengths these individuals took to make my role as momma much easier and impressed by the advocacy this company has provided for breast-feeding and pumping," Mde wrote in her post.

Her story has been shared more than 2,700 times, and liked more than 43,000 times, attracting many positive comments. Mde told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution that she wanted to share her story so that Delta and the employees could get their deserved recognition. 

"I had no idea how fast and how far it would reach and the impact it would have on other mothers," she said. "Many have reached out to me saying that they were afraid to travel, not knowing how easy it would be to pump or feed their children."

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But after reading her story, Mde said, the women say they now feel comfortable doing so.

She knew there were some stories about women not being able to breastfeed freely in public, but said in the many years she's been flying Delta, Made has had no issue or interference, she said.

"This post wasn't about my surprise for being allowed to pump, but about how these women went out of their way to make it easier for me," she said.

A Delta spokesman did not immediately have a comment for the AJC on Mde's post, but on Monday morning, the company replied to her directly in a Facebook comment:

"We are very happy to hear that Kaitlin and Loretta were able to be there for you when needed," Delta wrote. "We would love to recognize them and pass your kinds words along as we know they would be very touched and happy to know this."

Man who lost wife, kids, dog in fire: ‘My whole life is over’

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Hours after losing his wife, his two young daughters, his dog and his house in a fire, Brent Patterson returned to his Gwinnett County neighborhood without a coat or shoes.

“They’re dead,” he told WSB-TV as tears streamed down his face. “My whole life is over. My whole life is over.”

The fire that killed Patterson’s wife, Kathy, and the couple’s 9- and 12-year-old daughters appears to have been wind-driven and flames spread rapidly through the home, Gwinnett fire spokesman Tommy Rutledge said Wednesday.

“The fire was so intense,” he said, “firefighters could not immediately enter the structure. They had to battle this blaze from outside.”

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And they did not find the body of one of the children until 5:30 a.m. Wednesday — nine hours after dispatchers received calls reporting the blaze. She was found in debris.

A team of firefighters, investigators and crime scene technicians from the Gwinnett County Police Department worked through the night to find the girl’s body.

They returned to the scene Wednesday to determine what caused the blaze.

‘A loud, popping sound’

Dispatchers received calls reporting the blaze about 8:30 p.m. Tuesday, Rutledge said.

“We arrived on the scene (and) found a two-story house on a slab engulfed in flames,” he said.

Firefighters were met outside the home by Patterson. He was screaming, Rutledge said.

Patterson told firefighters his family was on the second floor.

He said his wife and girls were upstairs getting ready for bed when he heard a loud, popping sound.

Patterson went downstairs to investigate and discovered the fire.

“He hollered back up to his wife and two children to get out of the house,” Rutledge said.

Patterson went outside. His wife and children were unable to escape.

“I couldn’t get back in,” Patterson told WSB on Wednesday. “There was nothing I could do.”

"He made attempts to re-enter the home to save his family, but was forced back due to intense heat and flames," Rutledge said "A neighbor tried to assist him with entering from the home, but was unsuccessful."

The home was equipped with one smoke alarm on the second floor. Patterson "did not remember ever hearing the alarm sound during the fire,” Rutledge said.

Neighbor Charles Fleck told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution he and his wife gave Patterson, who was covered in soot, a blanket.

“We had seen the house on fire, amazingly on fire,” Fleck said. “When we went around to check it out, we could see the husband was distraught.”

Preliminary investigation: No foul play suspected

The blaze appears to have started in a first-floor living room, in the area of an electric-powered reclining couch, Rutledge said. The couch was across the wall from the fireplace, which was burning at the time of the blaze. Within the same room, there were lamps positioned on either side of the couch.

The fire quickly extended to the second floor via a heat return vent and a mechanical/HVAC closet, Rutledge said.

“Fire investigators say that burn patterns and witness accounts match their findings and that no foul play is suspected at this point,” he said. “Please keep in mind that the information is preliminary.”

The exact cause of the fire is still unknown and remains under investigation, Rutledge said.

Church to pray for Patterson family

Patterson was treated at the scene for minor injuries.

Crews could not immediately find one of his daughters.

Rutledge said firefighters from the department’s technical rescue team had to be called in during the night to shore up walls on the main level of the home that were believed to be unstable.

Once the walls were secured, firefighters were able to recover the girl Wednesday morning.

The bodies of all three victims were turned over to the Gwinnett County Medical Examiner.

Authorities also found the family’s dog. They buried the dog in the backyard “as a show of respect due to the overwhelming loss sustained by the family,” Rutledge said.

Neighbors said Brent and Kathy Patterson “completely lived for their kids. Halloween, Christmas, all the holidays. Great, great parents.”

“They’re dead,” he told Channel 2 Action News as tears streamed down his face.Posted by AJC on Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Apollo 14 astronaut Edgar Mitchell dies at 85

Astronaut Edgar D. Mitchell, who was part of the Apollo 14 space crew that flew to the moon in 1971, died late Thursday in West Palm Beach, according to his family.

Mitchell, 85, lived in suburban Lake Worth and died at a local hospice at about 10 p.m. Thursday, his daughter, former West Palm Beach City Commissioner Kimberly Mitchell told The Palm Beach Post.

Mitchell’s ex-wife, Anita Mitchell, is a former Republican Party chairman for Palm Beach County and is currently former Florida governor and presidential candidate Jeb Bush’s Palm Beach County campaign chairman.

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Mitchell was the sixth man to walk on the moon. He was part of a three-man crew, with Alan Shepard Jr. and Stuart Roosa, who took part in the Apollo 14 space mission. It was the eighth manned mission in the United States Apollo program and they became the third ever to land on the moon. Mitchell was the lunar module pilot on the mission.

Apollo 14 launched just over 45 years ago, on Jan. 31, 1971. The nine-day mission ended Feb. 9 when the crew landed in the South Pacific Ocean.

Unlike other astronauts who tend to live reclusive lives, Mitchell remained in the public eye.

In 2011, he turned over the camera he took to the moon to the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum in Washington. The U.S. government filed a lawsuit against him in that same year, saying he stole the camera. Mitchell denied the allegations and said if it wasn’t for him, the camera would have never made it back to Earth.

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Mitchell was born in Hereford, Texas, on Sept. 17, 1930 but considered his hometown Artesia, N.M., near Roswell. Mitchell was open about his views on the paranormal and psychic, and he founded the Institute of Noetic Sciences, which sponsors research into the nature of consciousness, or studying the unexplained. In his 1996 memoir, “The Way of the Explorer,” he described the experience on his return to Earth as life-changing.

“What I experienced during that three-day trip home was nothing short of an overwhelming sense of universal connectedness. I actually felt what has been described as an ecstasy of unity,” he said.

University requires freshmen to wear Fitbit fitness trackers

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Oral Roberts University now requires all incoming freshmen to wear a Fitbit to monitor their physical activity.

Physical education has been a big part of the university’s curriculum for a long time

“It’s helped a lot of people even though they don’t like it sometimes when they have to work out,” said Christian Monsolve.

The university used to have students manually enter their “aerobic points” but now every step, heartbeat per minute and calorie burned is recorded straight into ORU’s system.

“I’ve gotten mixed reviews. I’ve had some people say it looks like an anklet and others say that they are tracking you,” Monsolve said.

Freshmen are required to take 10,000 steps per day and meet a heart-beats-per-minute standard throughout the week.

This year’s class is the first to use the devices. Professors have access to the information.

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