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Rihanna's Los Angeles home possibly burglarized again, report says

A possible break-in was reported at Rihanna's mansion in Los Angeles, KCBS said late Tuesday.

According to the news station, Los Angeles police were seen at the singer's Hollywood Hills home about 10:30 p.m. PDT Tuesday after responding to a reported burglary. Witnesses said a silver vehicle fled the scene as alarms sounded, police said.

Authorities said nobody was believed to be inside the house during the incident and did not say whether anything was stolen.

>> Read more trending news 

This marks the second break-in reported at the home in months. In May, police said Eduardo Leon of Fullerton, California, broke into the house and stayed there for 12 hours, KCBS reported. He faces charges of burglary, stalking, vandalism and resisting arrest, the station said.

Read more here.

Piano teacher may have molested dozens of kids over 3 decades, police say

Police believe a Roswell, Georgia, piano teacher may have sexually abused dozens of his students over three decades of teaching. 

>> Watch the news report here

WSB-TV first reported on Troy Palmer's arrest earlier this month at his home in north Fulton County.

Two victims came forward over the summer with stories about the abuse they suffered during Palmer's lessons. Since his arrest, police tell WSB-TV's Mike Petchenik that at least three more victims have contacted them.

>> PREVIOUS STORY: Georgia piano teacher arrested on child molestation charges

“We really suspect that there’s (dozens) of people that could be victims. He’s actually targeting boys," Officer Lisa Holland told Petchenik.

Investigators said Palmer abused some of those students while parents were just feet away.

According to arrest warrants, Palmer told parents to stay outside of his home so that he could have the kids inside. The warrant said he taught the children in a “sound proofed” and locked room. 

"It's kind of a classic 'grooming case' where he is a friend with the parents, tries to be friends with the kids and this goes on for years," Holland said.

Petchenik also spoke with a woman who lived up the street from Palmer and asked WSB-TV to conceal her identity. 

>> Read more news stories 

She recalled a specific comment that Palmer made to her that in hindsight was concerning.

"“He said something about loving children so much, how he loved the big, fat ones. ‘You just want to squeeze them,’” she told Petchenik.

Palmer was indicted on child molestation charges by a grand jury Tuesday and remains in the Fulton County Jail without bond.

Sonic to be sold to Arby's owner Inspire Brands for $2.3 billion

Atlanta-based Inspire Brands is buying Sonic in a $2.3 billion deal that will dramatically boost its size and reach, the companies announced Tuesday morning.

Sonic, which operates a chain of 3,500 restaurants with hundreds of franchisees, has about $4.4 billion in revenues – more than half the $7.6 billion in sales racked up by Inspire.

In a statement, Inspire officials called Sonic “an ideal fit for Inspire’s multi-brand portfolio.”

They praised Sonic for its “unique brand positioning,” as well as its innovation – especially in its use of digital technologies – and its solid financial performance.

Inspire, which is one of the 10 largest restaurant companies in the United States, has branches in 16 countries. 

>> PREVIOUSLY: Arby's closes $2.9 billion deal with Buffalo Wild Wings, forms new company

The company was formed early this year as the umbrella corporate management of several chains, the largest of which is Arby’s, with 3,400 restaurants, and Buffalo Wild Wings, which includes 1,250 restaurants. It also owns Rusty Tacos, which owns 25 restaurants.

Inspire is majority-owned by Atlanta-based Roark Capital Group, which has a series of franchises that generate $32 billion in revenues, according to the firm’s web site. Roark’s holdings include CKE Restaurants, which owns Carl’s Jr and Hardee’s, the Corner Bakery and FOCUS Brands, whose holdings include Auntie Anne’s Pretzels, Carvel Ice Cream, Cinnabon and Schlotzsky’s.

The company has more than 150,000 employees. 

>> Read more trending news 

The transaction is a stock deal based on a 19 percent premium to the closing price of Sonic stock on Monday, officials said. Inspire will pay $43.50 a share for the company.

Sonic is based in Oklahoma City and will continue to operate from there as a business unit of Inspire, officials said. Sonic, which calls itself “America’s Drive In,” is a 65-year-old chain.

Inspire has about $7.6 billion in sales, while Sonic has about $4.4 billion in revenues, according to the companies.

FBI crime stats: Violent offenses, property crimes declined in 2017

Violent and property crimes decreased nationally, according to the FBI’s annual survey of crime in the United States.

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Preliminary national numbers portend a further decline this year..

The 2017 stats are welcome news after the previous two years showed slight increases in violent crime. Last year nationally, violent crime dipped 0.9 percent, a rate of 392.9 offenses per 100,000 residents. Property crime was down 3.6 percent, or 2,362 offenses per 100,000 residents — the lowest total since the late 1960s.

Jeff Sessions, who was sworn in as U.S. attorney general in February 2017, took credit for the positive numbers, telling a law enforcement group Monday, “Those are the kind of results you get when you support law enforcement. Those are the kind of results we get when we work together.”

“If you want more shootings and more death, then listen to the (American Civil Liberties Union), Black Lives Matter, or Antifa,” Sessions said. “If you want public safety, then listen to the police professionals who have been studying this for 35 years.”

Baltimore remains America’s most dangerous city with a population greater than 500,000, recording 342 homicides in 2017, a staggering rate of 56 murders per 100,000 people. It was even worse in St. Louis, with a population of around 300,000 and a murder rate of 66 per 100,000 people.

There was some good news for America’s urban centers. According to an analysis by the Brennan Center for Justice, a nonpartisan public policy and law institute, murder rates dropped 8.1 percent in the country’s biggest cities.

The Brennan Center is forecasting a similar drop in 2018, projecting the murder rate in America’s 30 biggest cities to drop 7.6 percent.

Delta Airlines computer tracking system back up; outage over

Update 11:06 p.m. EDT Sept. 25: Delta Airlines has fixed it’s computer system after an outage Tuesday caused a nationwide groundstop.

Delta officials said operations were returning to normal and that it was working to rebook passengers whose flights were disrupted.

“We apologize to all customers for this inconvenience,” the company said in a written statement.

The ground stop did not affect flights in the air.

Original story:Atlanta-based Delta Airlines is experiencing an online outage, according to the company's Twitter account.

> Read more trending news 

Delta officials said the airline is having technical difficulties with its computer systems and that repairs are underway.

A ground stop is underway and airline officials said it may be another hour before the problem is fixed.

Passengers wrote on Twitter they are experiencing delays, can't buy tickets on their website or check flight status, and many are stuck on tarmacs across the country.

Delta released the following statement: 

“Delta IT teams are working diligently to address a technology issue impacting some of our systems. We have issued a Delta groundstop as we work to bring systems back up as quickly as possible. We apologize to all customers for this inconvenience.” 

Tyler Perry buys home for ailing mother of Atlanta gospel singer

Filmmaker Tyler Perry is lending a helping hand to the mother of a former colleague.

Perry reportedly just purchased a home for her in Atlanta. 

>> Read more trending news 

Perry recently bought a $350,000 house for Bettie Pace, the ailing mother of LaShun Pace, a gospel singer and actress who worked alongside Perry in a play in 1999.

When the “Madea” star learned Bettie Pace was sick and her dying wish was to own a home for her family, he made her dreams come true. 

>> Related: Tyler Perry announces lawsuit against Florida ex- deputy over black man’s disappearance

LaShun Pace, whose hits include “There’s A Leak In This Old Building,” revealed the news in a video obtained by TMZ.

In the two-minute clip, the mom, surrounded by cheering loved ones, thanks Perry before cutting a big red ribbon attached to the front of the home. 

“Tyler Perry, thank you son,” she said. “Thank you for the house. God bless you.”

“Now you see what happens when you just live right and become Tyler Perry’s friend,” LaShun Pace gushed at the end of the recording. 

>> Related: Tyler Perry invites “Cosby” star Geoffrey Owens to Atlanta to film

This isn’t the first time Perry has been generous. Earlier this month, he offered “Cosby Show” alum Geoffrey Owens a role on one of his shows after he was “job shamed” for working at Trader Joe’s.

Woman describes bitter escape from ‘cult’ of Scientology in new book

Author and former Scientologist Michelle LeClair was just a teenager when she was first introduced to the Church of Scientology. She had moved from Norman, Oklahoma to Los Angeles where she felt adrift and alone, the perfect conditions, she said, for being recruited into what she now identifies as a cult with diminished power.

>> Read more trending news 

“Nobody cares what the Church of Scientology has to say anymore. They are like the little man behind the curtain who doesn’t have the strength and power he thought he had. Everyone is aware this is a cult that is built on lies,” LeClair said.

After more than two decades as a high-donor member of the church, LeClair, 45, said the organization sought to destroy her and her livelihood when she came out as a gay woman. The realization that she would not be accepted as her authentic self led to her departure in 2010. LeClair, who has lived in Atlanta since 2015 with her music-producer partner, Tena Clark and LeClair’s children from a previous marriage, details her journey in a new memoir, “Perfectly Clear,” (Berkley, $27). 

The Church of Scientology has rebutted LeClair’s account noting in a statement to People Magazine that she has not been involved with the church in a decade and that any financial undoing was of her own making. The church also denied that it has any official position on homosexuality. “Instead of accepting responsibility for her actions, Ms. LeClair appears to be peddling fiction,” the statement said. “We hope Ms. LeClair can someday find solace.”

LeClair wanted to share her story to expose the Church of Scientology and its treatment of gay people, said LeClair who believes the church subjected her to gay conversion therapy as a teenager.

“I tried to come out at 19 and that wasn’t happening. I had no status in the church. I was confused myself,” said LeClair referring to the moment when she began “auditing” sessions with the Church of Scientology, a process the church says will help members achieve spiritual clarity and enlightenment. 

>> Trending: Bill Cosby sentenced to 3-10 years in state prison 

Looking back,LeClair realizes she was a prime target for recruiting. After the move to Los Angeles, her mother had begun working long hours as a consultant for a management training firm that was run by Scientologists. The stepfather that had provided some stability in her life left when her mother fell deeper and deeper into the church. LeClair spent a lot of time alone. She began working at the same company where her mother worked and found the kind of success and acceptance she had never felt before.

Since its founding in 1954 by science fiction writer L. Ron Hubbard, the Church of Scientology has been controversial. The medical and scientific communities have long disputed Hubbard’s claims about mental health, science and religion. The organization has been involved in a number of lawsuits including some from former members claiming to have been mistreated by the church. Since Hubbard’s death in 1986, the organization has been run by his protege, David Miscavige.

While the public faces of Scientology are major donors and celebrities like Tom Cruise, John Travolta and Leah Remini, who has since become an anti-Scientology activist, the organization preys on young, vulnerable and isolated individuals to work at the church, LeClair said. She fit the profile, but her confessions about her sexuality got her in trouble.

“When I tried to come out and the church told me it was wrong, it solidified my fear of who I was and I went back inside of my box and pushed down that side of me and allowed that to die,” she said. She had been ordered to read the teachings of Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard in Dianetics and Science of Survival.

>> Trending: Vote on SCOTUS nominee Brett Kavanaugh set for Friday by Senate committee 

“L. Ron Hubbard states clearly homosexuals are sexual deviants. They’re the lowest of the low,” LeClair said. “They can claim they do not have any stance on gay relationships but the Church of Scientology says we have to take what L. Ron Hubbard has written and said as pure truth.” 

LeClair survived her rocky beginnings with the church and went on to marry, have children and build a successful career as founder of one of the the largest woman owned life-insurance companies in the country. But she felt stifled in a relationship that she described as abusive. 

She has heard through family members that her ex-husband is furious about how he is depicted in the book. “I think he is very smart at this point to not do a lot of threatening,” LeClair said. “There is no way in the world he can come out fighting and not be proven wrong.” 

They share four children -- Sage, 17; Savannah, 12; and twins, Jadon and London, 11, who spend time with their father during holidays and summer vacation. LeClair said she was most worried about how the book would impact her children.

Sage has traveled with her to promote the book. “Over the years he has seen my truth and he is proud of me for coming out of it. He just recently said he wanted to read the book,” she said. But she didn’t want her view of his father to taint his relationship with his dad. 

“I have tried to teach them that love must guide them to truth and family must always be first, that they came into the world in a rocky way but they came as a gift from god to give me strength,” said LeClair.

LeClair has also found strength in her partner, Clark with whom she began a relationship in 2010. At the time, LeClair was at the top of her game. 

“I was one of the largest donors in the Church of Scientology, my business partner was Kirstie Alley. I had one of the largest woman-owned insurance agencies in the nation. I didn’t think I could get in trouble for anything with the church,” she said. 

She believed love would conquer all. 

“When love truly touched me, it rocked every single element of my life and my being and I knew it was something I could not or would not walk away from,” she said. She tried to counter the church’s opposition by stating that she was in love with a being, not a body and therefore it should be accepted. When the church asked about procreation, she offered that gay women can procreate and if they did not, why should they be judged differently than church members who chose not to marry or have children? 

“I thought everything was going to be okay,” LeClair said. And for two months everything seemed fine. But she quickly realized how naive she had been. 

>> Trending: Tearful mother pleads for return of 6-year-old boy who disappeared from North Carolina park

Though the church disputes her story, LeClair believes after her relationship with Clark was made known, the church launched an investigation into her business and financial affairs which they laid out as a narrative for the State of California.

The California Department of Corporations sued LeClair and her business partner Dror Soref in 2012, accusing them of running a $21 million entertainment-industry Ponzi scheme from 2007 to 2010 that bilked senior citizens and others out of their savings. LeClair took a plea deal in return for testifying against Soref whom she had met while they were both involved with the church. 

In 2014, Soref reached a civil settlement with the state without admitting any wrongdoing. That same year, the Department of Insurance revoked LeClair’s insurance license. Rather than enter into a costly court battle, she gave up her license to practice for five years. In 2017, criminal charges against LeClair were dropped. 

Since moving to metro Atlanta, LeClair and Clark have worked to rebuild. LeClair was concerned when in 2016, the Church of Scientology opened a location in Sandy Springs. “I felt very sad for Atlanta that this cult has made its way into such an amazing town,” she said. “I don’t feel it is my right to tell anybody what their religion should be but you have a very dangerous cult that just landed in your backyard and that is very concerning to me.”

Clark has also supported the family financially while LeClair has pondered her next career move. An entrepreneur at heart, she has been building a non-toxic luxury beauty brand that will launch next year. And now that she is able to regain her insurance license, she is also considering a return to the industry. 

LeClair has dedicated proceeds from her book to a trust for her insurance clients. She said she hopes her story will help anyone who has struggled to be their authentic self, to walk out of an abusive relationship, to escape Scientology or to rebuild after failure. “I want people to know we have a choice,” she said. 

>> Trending: Teacher says she was fired after refusing to abide by 'no zero' policy 

As for Scientology, that is a chapter that is finally in her past. “I look at Scientology as something that enveloped my life for many years, that stole my ability to explore my sexuality, that forced me to live a life of sorrow and pain and I refuse to let it define me today,” LeClair said. “I have a new definition of success and that is how hard do I love? How many kisses do I give my partner and my children every day? What am I doing in the world to give back for the second chance that I have?” 

‘I never thought my dog would get shot’: Puppy killed in front of kids

A man is accused of shooting and killing a puppy in front of children in northwest Atlanta, according to WSB-TV.

On Tuesday, police released surveillance photos of the suspect, who is believed to live in that area. Police also want to speak to a woman seen with the man when he was running away from the scene.

The man allegedly pulled out a gun and shot the 5-month-old brown lab, named Lady, on Hightower Road in the middle of the day Sept. 13.

After she was shot, Lady managed to take a few steps before collapsing and dying in the driveway, the news station reported.

“I never thought my dog would get shot,” the pet’s owner, who asked to remain anonymous, said.

The owner said her stepson and a group of young children were playing with Lady in front of her home when the man walked by and grabbed her by the collar.

“While he was walking away with the dog from the other side of the street, he shot the dog,” the owner said.

Anyone with information is asked to contact Crime Stoppers at 404-577-8477.

Hurricane safety: Who's responsible when a tree falls on your home or car?

After a hurricane strikes, there is always plenty of damage to homes, cars and other property.

>> Read more trending news

Here are some tips to help determine who might be responsible when a tree falls on a home or car.

The tree is yours:

  • If the tree falls on your home, your homeowners insurance should cover it. Homeowners insurance covers any covered structure on your property or a blocked driveway/wheelchair ramp. The insurance also pays up to $500 to remove the tree from your property.
  • If you rent, you should carry renters insurance but the landlord is usually responsible for the damage, so be sure to check your lease. 
  • If the tree falls on your vehicle, your auto insurance should pick up the tab, but you're still responsible for the deductible.

The tree is not yours:

  • All cases are different, but if the other party was negligent then they’re responsible. If the other party wasn't negligent, then you're responsible. 
  • If you're responsible and the tree falls on your home, then the same conditions apply from above.

Vote on SCOTUS nominee Brett Kavanaugh set for Friday by Senate committee

Controversy continues to swirl around Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh in the wake of decades-old sexual misconduct allegations leveled against him by a pair of women.

>> Read more trending news

What was expected to be a simple nomination process has become mired in allegations involving incidents alleged to have occurred while Kavanaugh was in high school or college.

Deborah Ramirez told The New Yorker he made unwanted advances toward her during a party at a dormitory during the 1983-84 school year, while she and Kavanaugh were attending Yale University. Earlier this month, Christine Blasey Ford told The Washington Post that Kavanaugh drunkenly groped her and tried to take off her clothes at a party in the 1980s, when they were both teenagers.

Update 10:45 p.m. EDT Sept. 25: Senate Republican leaders have tapped Arizona prosecutor Rachel Mitchell to question Christine Blasey Ford and SCOTUS nominee Brett Kavanaugh during a hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee Thursday, according to a statement from committee chair Chuck Grassley.

Mitchell, a career sex crimes prosecutor, will question Ford and Kavanaugh on Ford’s accusation that Kavanaugh sexually assaulted her at a party when the two were in high school in the early 1980s.

>> Related: Brett Kavanaugh denies sexual assault allegations in first TV interview: ‘I never did any such thing’

“The goal is to de-politicize the process and get to the truth, instead of grandstanding and giving senators  an opportunity to launch their presidential campaigns,” Grassley said.

Mitchell is on leave from the Maricopa County Prosecutor’s Office in order to participate in the hearing Thursday.

Update 8:45 p.m. EDT Sept. 25: Senate Judiciary Committee Ranking Member Dianne Feinstein called the planned vote Friday morning on Brett Kavanaugh’s SCOTUS nomination “outrageous.”

“For Republicans to schedule a Friday vote on Brett Kavanaugh today, two days before Dr. Blasey Ford has had a chance to tell her story, is outrageous,” the California Democrat said in a statement Tuesday.

Feinstein accused the GOP of creating an unfair process.

“First Republicans demanded Dr. Blasey Ford testify immediately. Now Republicans don’t even need to hear her before they move ahead with a vote, she said.

Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley, however, denied the accusations. 

>> Related: SCOTUS nominee Brett Kavanaugh in first TV interview repeatedly denies sexual assault accusations

“Still taking this 1 step at a time,” Grassley said in a post on social media.

Grassley said that committee rules require three days notice before a vote. 

“So we’re following regular order,” he said.

He also said if the committee isn’t ready to vote after Ford’s and Kavanaugh’s testimony Thursday, then they’ll postpone it.

Update 6:45 p.m. EDT Sept. 25: The Senate Judiciary Committee has scheduled a vote for Friday morning on the nomination of Brett Kavanaugh to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Ford is set to testify before the committee on Thursday about the assault she said she suffered at the hands of Kavanaugh at a party when the two were still in high school.

There’s no word yet on whether Ramirez will get a chance to tell her story before the committee votes, but committee staffers interviewed Kavanaugh Tuesday about her allegations and he denied them again, according to news reports.

Update 1:45 p.m. EDT Sept. 25: An attorney representing Ramirez said Tuesday that his client wants the FBI to investigate allegations against Kavanaugh.

“We remain adamant that an FBI investigation, where all witnesses are questioned under threat of perjury, is the only way to get the truth,” attorney John Clune wrote on Twitter.

Clune added that Ramirez stands by her account of drunken wrongdoing by Kavanaugh, as told to The New Yorker and published Sunday.

Original report: President Donald Trump on Tuesday accused Democrats of using the allegations to play a “con game” with Kavanaugh.

>> SCOTUS nominee Brett Kavanaugh in first TV interview repeatedly denies sexual assault accusations

The president claimed that Deborah Ramirez, a woman who accused Kavanaugh of making unwanted sexual advances toward her during a college party in the 1980s, said, “She was totally inebriated, and she was all messed up, and she doesn’t know it was him, but it might have been.”

“This is a con game being played by the Democrats,” Trump said.

Ramirez is the second woman to go public with accusations against Kavanaugh. She told The New Yorker in a story published Sunday that he made unwanted advances toward her during a party at a dormitory during the 1983-84 school year, while she and Kavanaugh were attending Yale University.

>> Second Kavanaugh accuser: Who is Deborah Ramirez?

University professor Christine Blasey Ford is expected to provide testimony Thursday at a public Senate Judiciary Committee hearing about a separate alleged encounter she says she had with the Supreme Court nominee when they were both teenagers.

Ford told The Washington Post earlier this month that Kavanaugh drunkenly groped her and tried to take off her clothes at a party in the 1980s.

Kavanaugh has issued several denials of the allegations.

>> Who is Brett Kavanaugh, Trump’s nominee to the Supreme Court?

"I’ve never sexually assaulted anyone," Kavanaugh said in an interview that aired Monday on Fox News. "I've always treated women with dignity and respect."

The Supreme Court nominee is also expected to testify at Thursday’s Senate Judiciary Committee hearing.

Just Dunkin': Dunkin' Donuts to change its name

Dunkin' is dropping the donuts - from its name, anyway.

>> Read more trending news

Donuts are still on the menu, but the company is renaming itself "Dunkin'" to reflect its increasing emphasis on coffee and other drinks. Besides, Dunkin' Donuts has already been on a first-name basis with its customers long before the tagline, "America Runs on Dunkin'."

In a press release, the chain says it recognizes that relationship, and this is just one of the many steps to transform itself into the premier beverage-led, on-the-go brand.

The change will officially take place in January when the new name will start appearing on napkins, boxes and signs at its U.S. stores. The name change will eventually be adopted by international stores.

Dunkin' has more than 12,500 restaurants globally.

The 68-year-old chain says its new logo will still have the familiar rounded font and orange-and-pink color scheme the company has used since 1973.

Canton, Massachusetts-based Dunkin' says the name change is one of several things it's doing to stay relevant to younger customers. It's also simplifying its menu and adding dedicated mobile ordering lanes. 

And don't worry, the donuts aren't going anywhere! 

The Associated Press contributed to this story.

Bill Cosby sentenced to 3-10 years in state prison

A judge sentenced comedian Bill Cosby to three to 10 years in state prison Tuesday, five months after a jury found him guilty of drugging and molesting a onetime friend in 2004.

>> Read more trending news

Judge Steven O’Neil handed down the sentence after ruling earlier Tuesday that Cosby, 81, is a “sexually violent predator.” The designation means he will have to undergo lifetime counseling and report regularly to authorities. 

Update 6:10 p.m. EDT Sept. 25: Bill Cosby has left the Montgomery County Correctional Facility in Eagleville, Pennsylvania, according to local media reports, where he was taken directly after his sentencing Tuesday. 

He has been moved to a state prison, the State Correctional Institution at Phoenix, CNN reported, where he’ll undergo testing and evaluations which will help authorities determine a permanent placement for him.

Every inmate goes through the process, which could take months.

Cosby was sentenced to as many as 10 years in prison on three counts of aggravated indecent assault against former friend and victim Andrea Constand.

Dozens of women had accused Cosby of drugging and raping them dating back to the 1970s.

Update 5:45 p.m. EDT Sept. 25: Bill Cosby is being moved to the state correctional facility after his sentencing Tuesday afternoon.

Several news outlets have posted his jail booking photo on social media.

Once he’s checked into prison, officials will issue him the following:  prison attire, one blanket, two sheets, one towel, one washcloth, one hygiene kit (containing a toothbrush, tooth paste, a bar of soap, shampoo, deodorant, a pen and a comb), according to WCAU-TV. 

Update 4 p.m. EDT Sept. 25: Montgomery County District Attorney Kevin Steele said Tuesday that he was “pleased” with the “fair and significant sentence” handed down to Cosby on Tuesday.

“He used his acting skills and endearing TV personality to win over his victims and then keep them silent about what he did to them,” Steele said. “Finally, Bill Cosby has been unmasked.”

He praised Andrea Constand, who was drugged and molested by Cosby in 2004, for her steadfast resolve in seeing the actor prosecuted. 

“We are all better off because she is in our lives,” Steele said. “She’s been through an ordeal these past 14 years and she’s been solid and steadfast. She’s been a rock. She’s done the right thing over, and over, and over again.”

>> Bill Cosby sentenced to prison: Read Andrea Constand's impact statement

Constand said in a victim-impact statement released Tuesday that life as she knew it “came to an abrupt halt” in January 2004, after she was drugged and sexually assaulted by Cosby.

“After the assault, I wasn’t sure what had actually happened, but the pain spoke volumes,” she said. “The shame was overwhelming. Self-doubt and confusion kept me from turning to my family or friends as I normally did. I felt completely alone, unable to trust anyone, including myself.”

She said that she is still grappling with fallout from the incident.

Update 3:40 p.m. EDT Sept. 25: A spokeswoman for the Montgomery County District Attorney’s Office told The Associated Press that Cosby will be held at the county jail for a few days before he’s taken too SCI Phoenix, a new state prison outside of Philadelphia.

>> 5 things to know about Bill Cosby, his prison sentence, victim Andrea Constand

“(There) staff will assess his physical, medical and security needs,” the AP reported. “Cosby could end up in a long-term medical care unit.”

Update 3:30 p.m. EDT Sept. 25: Cosby’s publicist, Andrew Wyatt, called his client’s trial “the most racist and sexist trial in the history of the United States” after a judge sentenced him Tuesday to three to 10 years in state prison.

Wyatt said jurors never heard of Cosby’s history as a pillar in the community during his trial. The comedian did not take the stand during the proceedings.

“Mr. Cosby knows that God is watching over him. He knows that these are lies,” Wyatt said. “They persecuted Jesus and look what happened. (I’m) not saying Mr. Cosby is Jesus, but we know what this country has done to black men for centuries.”

Wyatt said Cosby and Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh, who has been accused by at least two women of sexual misconduct, are victims of a “sex war.”

“What is going on in Washington today with Judge Kavanaugh is part of that sex war that Judge O'Neil along with his wife are a part of,” Wyatt said.

Update 3 p.m. EDT Sept. 25: Cosby kept his gaze down after Tuesday’s sentencing hearing as he was escorted from the courtroom with his hands handcuffed in front of him.

Attorney Gloria Allred, who represents 32 women who have accused Cosby of sexual assault, said the court sent an “important message” with Cosby’s sentence.

"This is a very important day,” she said. “Judgement day has come."

Update 2:20 p.m. EDT Sept. 25: O’Neil denied bail for Cosby after handing down his sentence Tuesday, according to WHYY.

Cosby’s attorneys had argued for bail, the news station reported.

“I’ve imposed sentencing at this stage,” O’Neil told Cosby’s attorneys, according to KYW-TV. “If you want to take it up with another court, you can.”

>> Bill Cosby found guilty in sexual assault trial

Update 2:10 p.m. EDT Sept. 25: O’Neil sentenced Cosby to three to 10 years imprisonment Tuesday.

Cosby will serve out his sentence in state prison, WHYY reported.

Prosecutors had asked for a sentence of five to 10 years in prison while the defense asked for Cosby to be sent home on house arrest. 

Cosby was convicted in April of three counts of aggravated indecent assault. A jury determined that Cosby drugged and molested Andrea Constand, who then worked as the director of operations for Temple University’s women’s basketball team, in 2004 at his suburban Philadelphia home.

>> Camille Cosby says ‘mob justice, not real justice’ led to Bill Cosby's sexual assault conviction

O’Neil earlier deemed Cosby a “sexually violent predator.” The designation means he will have to register as a sex offender and undergo counsel for the rest of his life.

Cosby’s conviction was the first of a celebrity accused of sexual misconduct in the #MeToo era.

Update 12:35 p.m. EDT Sept 25: O’Neil told people gathered in court Tuesday that he will announce Cosby’s sentence at 1:30 p.m., The Philadelphia Inquirer reported.

Update 12:15 p.m. EDT Sept. 25: Andrea Constand said in a victim-impact statement released Tuesday that life as she knew  it “came to an abrupt halt” in January 2004, after she was drugged and sexually assaulted by Cosby.

Constand was working as director of operations for Temple University’s women’s basketball team after a professional stint with a team in Italy when the assault happened. She said the incident made her feel powerless and left her with years of unrelenting pain, stress and anxiety.

>> Temple University rescinds Bill Cosby's honorary degree after sexual assault conviction

“When the sexual assaulted happened, I was a young woman brimming with confidence and looking forward to a future bright with possibilities,” she wrote. “Now, almost 15 years later, I’m a middle-aged woman who’s been stuck in a holding pattern for most of her adult life, unable to heal fully or to move forward.”

Cosby was found guilty in April of drugging and molesting Constand in 2004. The guilty verdict came less than a year after another jury deadlocked on the same charges. 

Cosby’s conviction marked the first of a celebrity in the #MeToo era. A judge is expected to hand down the comedian’s sentence Tuesday.

Update 11:45 a.m. EDT Sept. 25: A judge ruled Tuesday that Cosby is a “sexually violent predator,” meaning that he will have to undergo lifetime counseling and report regularly to authorities, according to The Associated Press.

The designation was made Tuesday by Judge Steven O’Neill on the second day of a two-day sentencing hearing for Cosby. Prosecutors are asking that the 81-year-old get five to 10 years in prison for drugging and molesting Andrea Constand in 2004. Cosby’s attorneys have asked for house arrest.

Update 8:55 a.m. EDT Sept. 25: Cosby arrived at the courthouse Tuesday morning to start the second day of his sentencing hearing on charges of aggravated indecent assault.

Cosby’s spokesman, Andrew Wyatt, told The Associated Press that the 81-year-old comedian doesn’t plan to make a statement in court. Cosby did not testify at either of his trials.

>> ‘The Cosby Show’ reruns are gone from Bounce TV

Prosecutors are asking for a sentence of five to 10 years in prison. His attorney wants the judge to send Cosby home on house arrest, saying he’s too old and frail for prison.

Update 5:30 p.m. EDT Sept. 24: Comedian Bill Cosby could see less than 4 years in jail after the judge Monday merged the three counts of aggravated indecent assault Cosby was convicted of into one for sentencing purposes because the counts were all connected to one event, according to news outlets. Cosby may not even see any jail time based on criminal guidelines in Pennsylvania and the fact that he has no previous record. He was facing as much as 30 years behind bars.

Also during proceedings Monday, victim Andrea Constand and members of her family delivered impact statements.

>> Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences expels Bill Cosby and Roman Polanski

Constand said she just wants “justice” in the case, according to CNN.

"I have testified, I have given you my victim impact statement. You heard me, the jury heard me and Mr. Cosby heard me. All I'm asking for is justice as the court sees fit," Constand said in court.

Her mother, father and older sister also delivered impact statements.

The defense has not called any witnesses, yet, including Bill Cosby, but could tomorrow. 

Original report: Cosby, 81, could spend the rest of his life behind bars. He is facing as many as 30 years in prison, although state guidelines for someone like Cosby, who does not have any prior convictions, call for between one and four years in prison.

The sentencing hearing will begin with testimony about Cosby's sex offender evaluation and whether he should be deemed a sexually violent predator. That would make him subject to lifetime counseling and community notification.

A jury found Cosby guilty in April 2018 of drugging and molesting onetime friend Andrea Constand in 2004. Constand was in court Monday for Cosby’s sentencing hearing.

Cosby was convicted on three counts of aggravated indecent assault, making his the first conviction of a celebrity accused of sexual misconduct in the #MeToo era.

The guilty verdict came less than a year after another jury deadlocked on the same charges. 

Jurors deliberated for more than 52 hours over six days in June 2017, but they couldn’t reach a unanimous decision on whether Cosby drugged and molested Constand at his suburban Philadelphia home, The Associated Press reported.

Cosby maintained that he and Constand shared a consensual sexual encounter. Cosby's attorney said Constand was a "con artist" who leveled false accusations against the comedian so that she could sue him.

Dozens of women have made high-profile accusations that Cosby had drugged and assaulted them, but Constand’s case was the only one to result in criminal charges against Cosby. 

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Weight Watchers rebrands as WW

Weight Watchers is no more.

The company, which offers various products for weight loss and maintenance, has rebranded as WW.

Touting itself as “Weight Watchers reimagined,” the brand’s new tagline is “Wellness that Works.”

>> Read more trending news 

“The name WW reflects that we’re becoming the world’s partner in wellness,” according to the company website. “We will always be the global leader in weight loss, but now WW welcomes anyone who wants to build healthy habits—whether that means eating better, moving more, developing a positive mindset, focusing on weight…or all of the above!”

CNBC reported that the change comes as diet and food trends are that is moving toward healthier and clean eating over weight loss.

“So this has been part of an evolution of a journey to go from being undisputed leader in healthy eating for weight loss to much broader than that,” CEO Mindy Grossman told CNBC Monday. “To truly be a partner to people in overall wellness — for what you eat, how you move, how your mind works — to support you and how you become part of a community.”

Digiday reported that the company is in the process of making its mobile app a stand-alone platform, competing with apps such as Noom, Fitbit and MyFitnessPal.

“What we want to do is deliver an experience that meets our customers’ needs, and I think, to do that well, we have to understand them better, and that centers around the data they provide,” WW chief technology officer Michael Lysaght said. “It’s all about using the data to help them on their journey in a way that will help them be more successful.”

The app will go beyond managing weight-loss by encouraging healthier eating choices and tracking fitness and other wellness activity.

Weight Watchers has been among the most popular weight loss and weight management programs. Notable participants include Oprah Winfrey and DJ Khaled.

Tearful mother pleads for return of 6-year-old boy who disappeared from North Carolina park

The desperate search for a 6-year-old North Carolina boy who vanished from a Gastonia park continued for a fourth day Tuesday as authorities offered a reward for information leading to the return of Maddox Ritch.

>> Watch the news report here

The boy was last seen Saturday at Rankin Lake Park with his father and a friend.

Update 4:55 p.m. EDT Sept. 25:  Maddox Ritch’s mother, Carrie, is pleading for help, asking anyone who may have seen her son to come forward.

"Continue praying for him, because I just want my baby home," she said, breaking down in tears during a news conference on Tuesday. "Please, anything you can do."

The FBI is now offering a $10,000 reward for information leading to the recovery of the child. The little boy with special needs disappeared Saturday from a park in Gastonia.

Officials said search crews on ATVS checked new areas around the park Tuesday, looking for any trace of the boy. 

Gastonia police officers and troopers went door-to-door Tuesday morning at businesses along Highway 321 just a few blocks away from the park. They were trying to obtain security camera footage that could reveal what happened to the child.

An employee at a local business said law enforcement has come to the shop six times since the boy went missing looking for video.

They’ve checked the dumpsters, we’ve seen them go from business to business, and they’ve just been in and out of our office,” Faith Gates said.

Gates also said it’s comforting knowing that investigators are thoroughly searching for the the boy.

Update 10:05 a.m. EDT Sept. 25: Officials said they're using recorded messages from Maddox's mother and father to play during the search, hoping he'll recognize their voices.

Neighbors told WSOCTV that the terrain around the park has many deep holes and they were concerned that Maddox could have fallen in one.

"Pray to God that they find him alive," resident Jerry Stewart said.

He said there is a lot of wetland around the park, and that it would be easy for a child to step into a deep drop.

"If you get too close and you miss your step, you are going to go somewhere," Stewart said.

Update 10:30 p.m. EDT Sept. 24: Officials said they've received 80 leads as of Monday afternoon, and they're looking into them all.

"No piece of information is too small,” Gastonia Police Chief Rob Helton said. “Something that you may think is insignificant can help us."

Later in the evening, local and federal authorities posted to social media outlets asking people to not spread rumors.

"The Gastonia Police Department and the FBI ask the public not to spread rumors on social media about the search for Maddox Ritch," the post read. 

>> On Search for boy with special needs at Gastonia park

Original report: Overnight, dozens of people continued to look for the child, and more than two dozen agencies are helping with the search and investigation.

Police said Maddox was with his father and another adult, who officials have yet to identify, before he disappeared.

Maddox is autistic and nonverbal but officials said there is a special team with the FBI that is highly trained and experienced in mysterious missing children's cases that are working to find him.

"We're going to explore all possibilities, including abduction, but we're also going to make sure we search every inch of land around here to make sure that he's not simply lost," said FBI Special Agent Jason Kaplan.

Police said the boy’s family has been interviewed and they are cooperating with law enforcement.

>> Read more trending news 

On Sunday, search dogs roamed the area near Rankin Lake, where Maddox was last seen. Search boats also checked the lake with divers and sonar devices.

Police are asking anyone who may have been at Rankin Lake Park on Saturday and saw Maddox, especially if they have pictures or videos, to call them.

"If you were at Rankin Lake Park on Saturday and saw Maddox or took video or photos of their outing at the park, call us," Helton said. "We know a lot of people were in the park and we have spoken to many of them, but we have not spoken to everyone. No piece of information is too small. Something you may think is insignificant could be helpful to our case.”

Crews have been searching more than 1,400 acres and will continue Monday morning. Search and rescue crews have been patrolling areas of the park on foot and on ATVs.

Maddox was last seen at the park at 1:30 p.m. Saturday.

He was last seen wearing an orange T-shirt with “I’m the man” on the front. Maddox is 4 feet tall and weighs 45 pounds. He has blond hair and blue eyes.

"They were walking around the lake,” Gastonia spokeswoman Rachel Bagley said. “They got around to the back side of the lake. He started running, according to the parents, and when they started running after him, they lost sight of him, and no one has seen him ever since."

The Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department's helicopter was used Sunday night once the sun set, and used its infrared technology. 

The city confirmed crews are reviewing surveillance video at the park, and crews worked through the night searching on foot and with dogs.

Officials said hundreds of volunteer agencies have assisted in the search, and the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children is also helping.

Gastonia police said additional search units from around the region have joined the search. They said hundreds of law enforcement, search and rescue teams, and state and federal authorities are now involved. 

Officials said they are receiving assistance from the Gastonia Police, Gaston County Sheriff's Department, Gaston County Emergency Management, Gaston County Police, Gastonia and Gaston County Fire Departments, Lincoln County Sheriff's Department, Lincolnton Fire, Charlotte Fire, Stanley Rescue, Lincoln County Land Search team, Spartanburg County Search and Rescue and Search and Rescue Dog Assistance, and Central Carolina K-9 Search Team. 

A spokesperson with the city said the park will be closed until further notice as crews continue their search.

Police advise the public to stay away from the area surrounding the park as they continue their search in the nearby neighborhoods. Officials are also asking people who live near the park to search areas around their homes where a child might hide.

“If you have a shed, barn, wooded area, go take a look and call us immediately if you find anything out of the ordinary,” Helton said.

If you have any information regarding Maddox's whereabouts, police encourage you to call the new 24-hour tip line at 704-869-1075.

“Every second counts when a child is missing,” Kaplan said. “Our focus is to find Maddox as quickly as possible and to bring him home.”

More than 500 props from ‘The Office’ up for auction

You won’t find Dwight’s stapler suspended in Jell-O, but now you can own Darryl’s red stapler or Pam’s staple remover from the NBC comedy “The Office.”

Until Oct. 5, fans can bid on more than 500 props from the online auction site Screenbid.

“The Office” aired from 2005 to 2013 as a mockumentary about workers at the Scranton, Pennsylvania, branch of the fictional Dunder Mifflin paper company.

The show followed the lives, loves and losses of Michael Scott, Jim and Pam Halpert and Dwight Schrute, and now successful bidders can bring part of the actual office set home.

>> Read more trending news 

Items range from the weird — the Band-Aids Andy used to prevent chafing during Michael Scott’s Dunder Mifflin Scranton Meredith Palmer Memorial Celebrity Rabies Awareness Pro-Am Fun Run Race for the Cure — to the sweet — Pam’s I love you sign language patch and photo with Roy.

There are true office supplies included in “The Office” auction, too: staplers, desks, chairs, computer monitors, phones and more.

Each item has an asking bid and lists what the current bid is, so you can budget your money accordingly. If you have trouble budgeting, maybe you should buy Oscar’s accounting budgets binder. The asking bid is $75, but the current bid is only $50. 

Be prepared for some competition to win items owned by the more popular characters. For example: The current bid for Jim’s desk lamp is $1,000. Bidding begins at $1,200 for Dwight’s Sales Associates Association Award 2008.

But not everything is that pricey. “Sporting stuff” the belonged to Kevin — played by Atlanta native Brian Baumgartner — has a current bid of $25. 

Maybe Ed Helms was your favorite former Atlantan on the show. In addition to the aforementioned Band-Aids, you can bid on Andy’s computer monitor, search committee poster and six other items.

The auction ends at 4 p.m. Oct. 5. Each item will arrive with a certificate of authenticity.

Find more details and shipping information Screenbid.

Southeastern grocery giant Publix set to open organic-focused GreenWise Atlanta market

Forget the chicken tender Pub Subs and sugary iced tea.

Publix has announced that it intends to open one of its new GreenWise Markets in metro Atlanta that sells only natural foods.

>> Read more trending news 

The new format is an extension of what shoppers know as the GreenWise section in Publix supermarkets that are about a quarter-aisle of healthier fare.

There was no announced opening date for the store in Marietta in Cobb County.

These standalone stores will offer prepared foods in additions to organic groceries.

The announcement comes a year after Amazon revealed its $13.7 million deal to buy Whole Foods.

“We admire the diverse cultural landscape and deep history of the Atlanta area,” Kevin Murphy, Publix senior vice president of retail operations, said in a news release earlier this month. “We look forward to creating a unique experience for our Atlanta-area customers.”

Marietta is set to be the fifth GreenWise Market. The first will open in Tallahassee later this month, the company said.

The stores in Mount Pleasant, South Carolina, and in the company’s Florida birthplace of Lakeland are set to open in 2019. There will also be a location in Boca Raton, Florida.

Company spokesman Brian West told the newspaper in Lakeland, The Ledger, that the stores will be about 25 percent smaller than a regular Publix.

“GreenWise Market will offer a thoughtfully curated selection of organic, specialty and traditional grocery items,” West told The Ledger. “Because there’s only a limited selection of traditional grocery items, we can focus on the natural, organic, specialty, and gourmet foods our customers are looking for.”

5 things to know about Bill Cosby, his prison sentence, victim Andrea Constand

Actor and comedian Bill Cosby was sentenced Tuesday to three to 10 years in state prison for drugging and molesting Andrea Constand, his once-friend, in 2004. 

More than 60 women have said publicly that Cosby drugged then assaulted them. Some of the alleged assaults date back to the early 1960s.  

>> Read more trending news 

Here are five things we know about Cosby, Constand and the sentencing:

The sentencing:

Cosby was sentenced by Judge Steven O’Neil. O’ Neil ruled Cosby, 81, is a “sexually violent predator,” meaning he will have to report regularly to authorities and undergo counseling for the rest of his life. Schools and neighbors will be required to know where he is.

Related: Bill Cosby sentenced to 3-10 years in state prison

Constand’s victim impact statement:

Constand, a former Temple University employee released a victim impact statement ahead of the sentencing. 

“I know now that I am one of the lucky ones. But still, when the sexual assault happened, I was a young woman brimming with confidence and looking forward to a future bright with possibilities,” the statement said. “Now, almost 15 years later, I’m a middle-aged woman who’s been stuck in a holding pattern for most of her adult life, unable to heal fully or to move forward.

“Bill Cosby took my beautiful, healthy young spirit and crushed it. He robbed me of my health and vitality, my open nature, and my trust in myself and others.”

Related: Bill Cosby sentenced to prison: Read Andrea Constand's impact statement

Denied bail:

Cosby was denied bail after the sentencing. A spokeswoman for the Montgomery County district attorney's office said Cosby will be held at the the Montgomery County Jail. After at least a few days, he will be taken to State Correctional Institution Phoenix, located outside Philadelphia.

Camile Cosby’s whereabouts:

The Associated Press reported that Cosby declined the chance to speak before the sentencing. He was smiling and laughing while speaking with his defense team. His wife, Camille, was not in court during the sentencing.

Constand reacts to Cosby’s sentence:

Constand was hugged by others in the court, smiling once the punishment was read out.

Tall people more likely to develop varicose veins, study finds

Varicose veins affect 30 million people in the United States, and the many of those people happen to be tall, according to a new report. 

>> Read more trending news 

Researchers from Stanford University School of Medicine recently conducted a study, published in the Circulation journal, to explore the link between height and varicose veins, which are swollen, twisted veins that can be seen just under the surface of the skin. The condition, usually in the legs, can cause moderate pain and can lead to more serious side effects like blood clots.

For the assessment, the researchers examined the UK Biobank, a genetic repository that includes data on more than 500,000 people aged 40 to 69. They then identified 30 genetic regions associated with the condition and later used an artificial intelligence machine to look for other unknown risk factors. 

>> Related: Waist-height ratio key to long life: study 

“These methods represent new ways of thinking about research,” co-author Erik Ingelsson explained in a statement. “You go in without a hypothesis about a specific biological mechanism and scan for something new. You could say that you turn the machine loose on it. In this case, we included 2,716 predictors of varicose veins in this machine-learning algorithm. Then we let the algorithms find the strongest predictors of varicose veins.”

The machine model confirmed already known factors, such as being older, female, overweight or pregnant or having a history of deep vein thrombosis, which occurs when a blood clot forms in one or more of the deep veins.

They also found an “unexpected” correlation between the condition and height, the findings revealed.

“We were very surprised to find that height came up from our machine-learning analyses,” co-author Alyssa Flores said.

Upon further investigation using Mendelian randomization analyses, a statistical technique to determine causal effects, they discovered height may not be just a factor but also a cause. 

>> Related: Study: Woman's height can affect length of pregnancy

“Our results strongly suggest height is a cause, not just a correlated factor, but an underlying mechanism leading to varicose veins,” Ingelsson said.

While the scientists do not yet understand why taller people may have a heightened risk for varicose veins, the team said they believe they have “a much better understanding of the biology that is altered in people at risk for the disease.”

Bill Cosby sentenced to prison: Read Andrea Constand's impact statement

Bill Cosby was sentenced to 3 to 10 years in state prison Tuesday. The sentencing comes five months after he was found guilty of drugging and molesting Andrea Constand in 2004.

Constand came forward to accuse Cosby of “inappropriate touching” in 2005. Cosby settled with Constand in 2006.

>> Read more trending news 

Cosby’s sentencing came less than a year after a jury deadlocked on the same drugging and molestation charges.

Read Constand’s victim impact statement below:

“To truly understand the impact that sexual assault has had on my life, you have to understand the person I was before it happened. “At the time of the assault, I was 30 years old, and a fit, confident athlete. I was strong, and skilled, with great reflexes, agility and speed. When I graduated from high school in Toronto, I was one of the top three female high school basketball players in Canada. Dozens of American colleges lined up to offer me basketball scholarships, and I chose the University of Arizona. “For four years, I was a shooting guard on the women’s basketball team, scoring up to 30 points a game. It was an amazing time in my life, and I learned a lot, developed a circle of really good friends, many of them teammates, and traveled around the U.S. to compete. “The only downside was that I missed my family, and developed severe homesickness when it started to affect my studies and my training, my dad came up with the idea to move his own father and mother to Tucson. “My grandparents were in their late 60s when they gamely agreed to move more than 2,000 miles to help me adjust to life away from home. They were retired after selling their Toronto restaurant business, and figured the warm, dry climate would suit them anyway. I had always enjoyed a special relationship with my grandparents. Not only had I grown up in their home, but I spoke Greek before I spoke English. They got an apartment close to mine, and I was there most days, talking and laughing over my favorite home-cooked meals. The homesickness quickly evaporated. “After I graduated from the University of Arizona with a degree in communications, I signed a two-year contract to play professional basketball for Italy. Going pro took my athletic training to a whole new level. once again, I thrived in the team atmosphere, and enjoyed traveling Europe although we rarely saw more than the basketball venues and the hotel rooms where we slept. “When my contract ended, my former coach from the University of Arizona encouraged me to apply for a job as director of operations for the women’s basketball team at Temple University in Philadelphia. It was a busy, challenging position that required me to manage a lot of logistical details so that others could focus on training the team for competition. I also made all the travel arrangements and went to tournaments with the team and support staff. “It was a great job but after a few years, I knew I wanted to pursue a career in the healing arts, my other passion. I also wanted to work closer to home, where I would be reunited with my large, extended family, and many friends. “I knew who I was and I liked who I was. I was at the top of my game, certain that the groundwork provided by my education and athletic training would stand me in good stead whatever challenges lay ahead. “How wrong I was. In fact, nothing could have prepared me for an evening of January 2004, when life as I knew it came to an abrupt halt. “I had just given my two-month notice at Temple when the man I had come to know as a mentor and friend drugged and sexually assaulted me. Instead of being able to run, jump and pretty much do anything I wanted physically, during the assault, I was paralyzed and completely helpless. I could not move my arms or legs. I couldn’t speak or even remain conscious. I was completely vulnerable, and powerless to protect myself. “After the assault, I wasn’t sure what had actually happened but the pain spoke volumes. The shame was overwhelming. Self-doubt and confusion kept me from turning to my family or friends as I normally did. I felt completely alone, unable to trust anyone, including myself. “I made it through the next few weeks by focusing on work. The women’s basketball team was in the middle of the Atlantic 10 tournament, and was traveling a lot. It was an extremely busy time for me, and the distraction helped take my mind off what had happened. “When the team wasn’t on the road, however, I was in the basketball office at Temple, and was required to interact with Mr. Cosby, who was on the board of trustees. The sound of his voice over the phone felt like a knife going through my guts. The sight of the man who drugged and sexually assaulted me coming into the basketball office filled me with dread. I did everything with my job required of me but kept my head down, counting the days until I could return to Canada. I trusted that once I left, things would get back to normal. “Instead, the pain and anguish came with me. At my parent’s house, where I was staying until I got settled, I couldn’t talk, eat, sleep or socialize. Instead of feeling less alone because I was back home with my family, I felt more isolated than ever. Instead of my legendary big appetite and “hollow leg” — a running joke in my family — I picked at my food, looking more like a scarecrow with each passing week. I was always a sound sleeper but now I couldn’t sleep for more than two or three hours. I felt exhausted all the time. “I used the demands of my new courses to opt out of family gatherings and events, and to avoid going out with friends. As far as anyone could tell, I was preoccupied with my studies. But the terrible truth about what had happened to me — at the hands of a man my family and friends admired and respected — was swirling around inside me. “Then the nightmares started. I dreamed that another woman was being assaulted right in front of me and it was all my fault. in the dream, I was consumed with guilt, and pretty soon, that agonizing feeling spilled over into my waking hours too. I became more and more anxious that what had happened to me was going to happen to someone else. I grew terrified that it might already be too late, that the sexual assaults were continuing because I didn’t speak out. “Then one morning I called my mother on the telephone to tell her what had happened to me. She had heard me cry out in my sleep. She wouldn’t let me put her off, and insisted that I tell her what was wrong. She wouldn’t settle for anything less than a complete and truthful explanation. “Reporting the assault to the Durham Regional police in Toronto only intensified the fear and pain, making me feel more vulnerable and ashamed than ever. When the Montgomery County District Attorney outside Philadelphia decided not to prosecute for lack of evidence, we were left with no sense of validation or justice. After we launched civil claims, the response from Mr. Cosby’s legal team was swift and furious. it was meant to frighten and intimidate and it worked. “The psychological, emotional and financial bullying included a slander campaign in the media that left my entire family reeling in shock and disbelief. Instead of being praised as a straight-shooter, I was called a gold-digger, a con artist, and a pathological liar. My hard-working middle-class parents were accused of trying to get money from a rich and famous man. “At the deposition during the civil trial, I had to relive every moment of the sexual assault in horrifying detail in front of Mr. Cosby and his lawyers. I felt traumatized all over again and was often in tears. I had to watch Cosby make jokes and attempt to degrade and diminish me, while his lawyers belittled and sneered at me. It deepened my sense of shame and helplessness, and at the end of each day, I left emotionally drained and exhausted. “When the case closed with a settlement, sealed testimony and a nondisclosure agreement, I thought that finally — finally — I could get on with my life, that this awful chapter in my life was over at last. These exact same feelings followed me throughout both criminal trials. The attacks on my character continued, spilling over outside the courtroom steps attempting to discredit me, and cast me in false light. These character assassinations have caused me to suffer insurmountable stress and anxiety, which I still experience today. “I still didn’t know that my sexual assault was just the tip of the iceberg. “Now, more than 60 other women have self-identified as sexual assault victims of Bill Cosby. We may never know the full extent of his double life as a sexual predator but his decades-long reign of terror as a serial rapist is over. “I have often asked myself why the burden of being the sole witness in two criminal trials had to fall to me. The pressure was enormous. I knew that how my testimony was perceived — that how I was perceived — would have an impact on every member of the jury and on the future mental and emotional well-being of every sexual assault victim who came before me. But I had to testify. It was the right thing to do, and I wanted to do the right thing, even if it was the most difficult thing I’ve ever done. When the first trial ended in a mistrial, I didn’t hesitate to step up again. “I know now that I am one of the lucky ones. But still, when the sexual assault happened, I was a young woman brimming with confidence and looking forward to a future bright with possibilities. Now, almost 15 years later, I’m a middle-aged woman who’s been stuck in a holding pattern for most of her adult life, unable to heal fully or to move forward. “Bill Cosby took my beautiful, healthy young spirit and crushed it. He robbed me of my health and vitality, my open nature, and my trust in myself and others. “I’ve never married and I have no partner. I live alone. My dogs are my constant companions, and the members of my immediate family are my closest friends. “My life revolves around my work as a therapeutic massage practitioner. Many of my clients need help reducing the effects of accumulated stress. But I’ve also trained in medical massage at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York, and often help cancer patients manage the side effects of chemotherapy and radiation. I help many others too — people with Parkinson’s, arthritis, diabetes, and so on. Some of my clients are in their 90s. I help them cope with the ravages of old age, reducing stiffness, aches and pains. “I like my work. I like knowing that I can help relieve pain and suffering in others. I know that it helps heal me too. “I no longer play basketball but I try to stay fit. Mostly, I practice yoga and meditation, and when the weather is warm, I like to pedal my bike up long steep hills. “It all feels like a step in the right direction: away from the dark and lonely place, toward the person I was before all this happened. “Instead of looking back, I am looking forward to looking forward. I want to get to the place where the person I was meant to be gets a second chance. “I know that I still have room to grow. “I would like to acknowledge some of the people who have helped me get here today. “I will always be grateful for their counsel, friendship and support. “First of all, my lawyers Dolores Troiani and Bebe Kivitz. These two smart, courageous women have been there for me since the beginning. Without them, I would never have been able to navigate this legal and emotional minefield. “I will also be eternally grateful to Kevin Steele, the District Attorney of Montgomery County, who had the guts to believe in me, in the truth, and for trusting the justice system could get things right — even if the process had to be repeated. “I also want to thank Mr. Steele’s incredible team of professionals, including assistant district attorneys Kristen Feden and Stewart Ryan, detectives Richard Schaffer, Mike Shade, Harry Hall, Jim Reape, Erin Slight, Kiersten McDonald, victims services, and many others, for their passion for justice, their skill, and their hard work and perseverance despite the odds. “Thank you to the jurors for their civic duty and great sacrifices. “Thank you to all of the friends, old and new, who have stood by me. You know who you are, and each and every one of you has made a huge difference. Please know that. “Last but not least, I want to thank my incredible family: my mother, Gianna, and my father, Andrew, my sister Diana, her husband Stuart, and their beautiful daughters — my nieces Andrea and Melanie. Thank you for proving over and over again that if there’s one thing in life you can always count on, it’s family.”

Firefighter leaves own wedding to put out fire

A volunteer firefighter didn’t let his own wedding stop him from doing his job.

KARE reported that Jeremy Bourasa, an on-call firefighter in St. Paul Park, Minnesota, had his ceremony with his bride, Krista Bourasa, at his fire station. They lost their previous venue weeks before their ceremony date.

“We talked about it, ‘What if there’s a call?’” Krista Bourasa told KARE. “I was like, ‘You can let the other guys go; you’re not leaving our wedding.’”

>> Read more trending news 

The St. Paul Pioneer Press reported that the couple wasn’t married for an our before an alarm sounded. There was a house fire a few miles away.

“Without hesitation, I took off my wedding clothes, put on my turnout gear and stepped on the first truck that was heading out,” Jeremy Bourasa said. 

The couple was in the middle of taking photos after the ceremony. The dispatcher was calling for mutual aid, which is an agreement among emergency responders to lend assistance across area boundaries.

“When they call for mutual aid, you just kind of know,” Jeremy Bourasa told the Paul Pioneer Press. “You just know that they’re short men. They have guys there, but it’s a very draining thing. Hoses are heavy. Tensions are high. The adrenaline push that you get, it can be exhausting.”

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“I kept hearing how bad it was and they needed more men,” Krista Bourasa told KARE. “I couldn’t just keep him. I looked at him and I just said, ‘Go ahead and go babe, you’re fine. Just go help them and come back when you can.’”

Three hours later, the groom returned and the couple had their first dance together as husband and wife.

“I had an experience that no one has had,” Jeremy Bourasa told the Paul Pioneer Press. “You get married at your fire hall, you get called to an active structure fire and put it out and still get to go to your reception.”

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