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Heavy Rain Across the Midwest Brings Flash Flooding


iStock/Thinkstock(CHICAGO) -- Very heavy rain across parts of the Midwest early this morning sparked off flash flooding from northern Illinois to Indiana.

Cars on local highways in Blackford County, Indiana, had to be abandoned as rapidly rising waters washed out roads, authorities said.

If flooding was not enough, a house caught on fire in Hartford City, Indiana, forcing local firefighters to fight the blaze from boats.

The most intense rain fell during the early morning hours Friday morning. However, dramatic weather has swept through the region for the past 24 hours, yielding significant rainfall totals. The heavy rain hit the Chicago area first, then tracked farther south and east, heading into northern Indiana.

Over the past 24 hours, Chicago's Midway Airport recorded over 4 inches of rain. Just a few miles away, Burbank, Illinois, logged over 5.5" of rainfall.

The intense band of rain continued southeast into northern Indiana, dropping from 4 to 6 inches of precipitation. Hartford City, Indiana, was hit especially hard, receiving 8 to 10 inches of rain within the past 24 hours. The highest rainfall total observed so far was five miles northwest of Hartford City, receiving 10.63 inches of rain.

This extremely heavy rainfall was sparked off by a stationary front sitting across the Midwest. It was a setup for heavy rain to develop and slowly move over the same locations for several hours.

Flash flooding will remain a concern throughout the upcoming weekend as scattered thunderstorms could contain locally heavy downpours and impact already saturated areas.

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Homeland Warns of ISIS Retaliation in US by Sympathizers


iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- Federal authorities Friday urged law enforcement across the country to be alert for possible attacks inside the United States in retaliation for U.S. airstrikes against the Islamic group ISIS, the brutal terrorist group that beheaded American journalist James Foley and has seized vast swaths of territory in Iraq and Syria.

In a joint bulletin issued to local, state and federal law enforcement, the Department of Homeland Security and FBI said that while they are "unaware of any specific, credible threats against the Homeland" and find direct threats from ISIS "not credible," they cannot rule out attacks in the U.S. from sympathizers radicalized by the group's online propaganda.

"[B]ecause of the individualized nature of the radicalization process -- it is difficult to predict triggers that will contribute to [homegrown violent extremists] attempting acts of violence," the bulletin states. Moreover, such lone offenders "present law enforcement with limited opportunities to detect and disrupt plots, which frequently involve simple plotting against targets of opportunity," according to the bulletin.

The group is known by the acronyms ISIS and ISIL and recently changed its name to the Islamic State, claiming it has formed an Islamic caliphate in the areas of Syria and Iraq that it controls.

The beheading of Foley was in retaliation for U.S. air attacks on ISIS fighters, according to a statement from the group. ISIS is holding at least one other American journalist, Steven Soltoff, and is threatening to kill him.

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How Peer Pressure Guilts People Into Charity


iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- If you've done the ice bucket challenge, it's probably because another person nominated you to do it. And maybe you did it out of the goodness of your heart, or maybe you did it because you didn't want to shell out $100 to charity.

There's no doubt that the viral trend has raised millions of dollars and an immeasurable amount of awareness of ALS, or Lou Gehrig's disease, but it's also becoming clear that peer-pressure is a growing part of charity –- especially in the age of social media. Facebook friends post links to Kickstarter and CaringBridge pages, urging each other to donate to the latest cause, or give a few bucks to a family impacted by tragedy.
In general, that's a good thing.

"It's a call to do something," Eugene Tempel, dean of the Indiana University Lilly Family School of Philanthropy, told ABC News. "That's been demonstrated in the past to be effective, in getting people together and getting people organized, responding to a cause."

He cited the devastating 2010 earthquake in Haiti as an example.

"People posted that they had texted a number to donate, and asked others to do it," he said.

Tempel called the ice bucket challenge an "unbelievable phenomenon." Sure, participants might feel some obligation after a pal nominates them to complete the challenge, but because the requests aren't face-to-face, living only in the bubble of social media, it's not really a negative form of peer pressure, he said.

"It's all in great fun, so that makes it very different from someone contributing because they feel like they don't have an alternative," Tempel said. "I think a person who doesn't want to respond can simply not respond."

That doesn't mean peer pressure isn't the trigger that leads to some donations or charitable acts.

In many cases, it is, as anyone who has gotten an email from a friend asking for contributions to their marathon fund for charity can understand. And it's hard to say no to someone's request if everyone on Facebook is on the chain. And many have expressed support for a Florida man who deliberately scuttled another Starkbucks "pay it forward" line in St. Petersburg.

A little push is OK, but when severe peer pressure -- begging someone to donate face-to-face, for example -- is involved, it ruins philanthropy, Tempel said.

"If people feel like they're put in a place where they can't decide yes or no freely, they will resent that," he said. "And in the long run, that is not good for philanthropy."

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James Foley's Siblings Say US Could Have Done More to Save Him


ABC News(NEW YORK) -- The brother and sister of U.S. journalist James Foley, who was slain by Islamic terrorists, believe more could have been done to save their brother and said the U.S. should reconsider its approach in dealing with kidnappers.

Michael and Katie Foley spoke with Katie Couric in an exclusive interview on Yahoo! News.

James Foley, 40, was beheaded by the Islamic group ISIS, which is also known as ISIL. The group is now threatening to execute another captured American journalist, Steven Sotloff.

ISIS killed Foley and is threatening to kill Sotloff partly because of the U.S. air attacks on their forces in Iraq. The group had also been rebuffed when it demanded a $100 million ransom for Foley.

"I really, really hope that in some way Jim's death pushes us to take another look at our approach, our policy, to terrorists and hostage negotiations and rethink that," Michael Foley, 38, said. "Because if the United States is doing it one way and Europe is doing it another way, by definition it won't work."

The U.S. does not negotiate with terrorists, but Europe has been known to pay for the release of prisoners.

“The U.S. could have done more on behalf of the western and American hostages over there and still...you know, dealt with the broader, worldwide issues. Other nations have done that. And that’s been a source of frustration for me,” Michael Foley told Couric.

“Take the money aside, there’s more that could have been done directly on Jim’s behalf and I really hope that with respect to Steven, they take some action quickly,” he said.

“There is things that can be done. We are sitting on prisoners for example in Guantanamo. It doesn’t have to be financial. There’s ways to do it...I just feel strongly that more can be done, moving forward,” Michael Foley said.


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The terrorists sent the Foley family a letter in August stating their son would be killed.

"It was just chilling, it was full of so much hate," Michael Foley said.

"I don't even know how a human being can even have that fierce and intense hate for someone else," Katie Foley, 26, said. "I don't even understand where that type of hate comes from."

The siblings said it's possible James volunteered to die first.

"I have no doubt...he's always been that way," Michael Foley said. "[He] truly cares more about others than himself. I think he was probably the strongest and most prepared for it. God forbid there's others. But you can see just from the clips, from the video, he wasn't afraid."

The heartbroken siblings, whose brother reported from the dangerous frontlines in the Middle East, also spoke about the day he was kidnapped in 2012.

Katie Foley, a nurse for the U.S. Navy, was the last person in their family to speak to James, through Skype on the morning of Thanksgiving, before she went to work.

"I told him, 'Happy Thanksgiving,'" she said. "And he's like, 'It's Thanksgiving over there?' And I said, 'Yes, it's Thanksgiving...we all love you.' And then, I went off to work, and, obviously, we know the rest of the story."

They hope their brother will be remembered as a good friend, journalist and teacher.

"Jim was a hero," Michael Foley said. "He was my hero."

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Ice Bucket Challenge Becomes a Halloween Costume


iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- The ice bucket challenge might have finally reached its tipping point.

The viral trend to raise awareness for ALS by dumping frigid water on your head has become a Halloween costume.

For $39.99, you'll get what looks like a shower curtain attached to an upside-down, blue bucket and an empty ice cube tray.

"We've received lots of interest in this, but it's still a work in progress," said a spokesperson from brandsonSale, the online retailer that introduced the costume on Friday.

The ice bucket challenge, in which people nominate each other to douse themselves in ice-cold water or else donate $100 to an ALS charity, has blown up in recent weeks. Even professional athletes and celebrities are in on the action –- LeBron James, Oprah Winfrey and Taylor Swift have all completed the challenge.

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Couple Tries to Sneak into Maternity Ward with Fake Babies, Police Say


iStock/Thinkstock(MERCED, Calif.) -- A couple carrying swaddled dolls they treated like real babies tried to sneak into the maternity ward of a northern California hospital, authorities said.

Mercy Medical Center in Merced alerted police and other area hospitals after the couple made two attempts to get past security and into its family birth center, once on Saturday and again on Monday, hospital spokesman Robert McLaughlin told ABC News on Friday. Both were carrying dolls.

"They acted like they were real," he said. "They hold them and hug them and change their diapers. It’s very odd."

The Merced Police Department has identified the couple and is investigating, but said there are no criminal charges.

"It's not illegal to have a fake baby," McLaughlin said.


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A security guard suspicious of the couple's intentions asked to take photos of them, which helped police track them down, he added.

The man and woman were first seen in the hospital’s emergency room on Saturday, McLaughlin said. The man was treated for an injury, and then the couple stayed in the hospital and went to the second floor, where the family birth center is located, he said.

"They said they had an appointment with an educator or something, which wasn’t true," McLaughlin said.

The woman was wearing hospital scrubs and carrying an outdated business card of the center’s director, he added, noting that staffers from each floor of the hospital wear a designated color, so employees immediately knew that the woman didn’t work there.

A security guard prevented the couple from getting inside the family birth center, McLaughlin said, adding that "everyone was safe."

It’s not clear why the couple wanted access to the area. The investigation is ongoing, police said.

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Census: Net Worth of Average US Household Drops 7%


iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- The average American household has a net worth of just under $69,000, according to a new report from the Census Bureau. That's a 7 percent decline over the past decade.

And, the report finds, the gap between the rich and the poor is getting wider.

While the rich continue getting richer, the poor are worse off than before the Great Recession. Between 2000 and 2011, the bottom 20 percent fell deeper in debt, and now have an average net worth of negative $6,029.

The richest Americans, meanwhile, have a positive net worth averaging more than $630,000. That's an increase of 11 percent.

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Tensions Begin to Ease as National Guard Ordered to Leave Ferguson


iStock/Thinkstock(FERGUSON, Mo.) -- The streets of Ferguson were mostly peaceful Thursday night, as the tensions are beginning to let up in the St. Louis suburb where unrest has ruled since the police shooting death of an unarmed black teen earlier this month.

Protesters gathered Thursday night with signs near the spot where Michael Brown, 18, was shot Aug. 9.

Authorities arrested seven people overnight, including five for failing to disperse, Missouri Highway Patrol Capt. Ron Johnson said at an early-morning news conference.

The peaceful night comes as Gov. Jay Nixon ordered the Missouri National Guard, which arrived Monday, to leave the town.

With Brown’s funeral scheduled for Monday, Johnson would not speculate on a possible uptick of violence.

A decision on whether the officer who shot Brown, Darren Wilson, would be indicted will not come quickly, St. Louis County Prosecutor Robert McCulloch said Wednesday. McCullough predicted that it could take until the middle of October for the grand jury to decide whether to charge Wilson.

Grand juries typically meet one day a week.

Federal authorities are investigating independently.

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Steven Sotloff's Family Waits While Son Is Held by ISIS


Obtained by ABC News(MIAMI) -- As the world waits to see what the terrorist group ISIS will do to American journalist Steven Sotloff, held under threat of death unless the U.S. stops intervening in Iraq, Sotloff's family awaits his fate from their Florida home.

Sotloff's parents have declined any media interviews and asked for privacy after it was revealed on Tuesday that Sotloff was being held by ISIS.

In a disturbing video that surfaced online Tuesday, Sotloff appeared on his knees in an orange jumpsuit as an armed black-clad figure stood behind him, gripping him by the shirt. Moments before in the video, the same figure had brutally murdered American journalist James Foley, saying his death was in retaliation for U.S. airstrikes on ISIS targets in Iraq and Sotloff could be next.

“The life of this American citizen, Obama, depends on your next decision,” the masked man says in what appears to be a British accent, referring to a stoic Sotloff.

At the time of his capture, Sotloff had been covering the Middle East for years as a freelance reporter, including stints in Yemen and Egypt. He wrote for Time magazine, the Christian Science Monitor, the Daily Caller, Foreign Policy, and most recently for World Affairs Journal.

The 31-year-old reporter studied journalism at the University of Central Florida, according to the Orlando Sentinel. His articles online show heartfelt reporting about the brutality of the Syrian war.

His parents live in Miami, and Sotloff's last Tweet, from August 2013, is about the Miami Heat NBA team.

His Twitter feed, which is his major online presence beyond his reported stories, shows a mix of humor and seriousness about his reporting.

Is it bad that I want to focus on #syria, but all I can think of is a #HEATFinals repeat?

— Steven Sotloff (@stevensotloff) June 12, 2013

Friends of Sotloff and his family have started a White House petition urging the government to do all it can to rescue the freelance reporter.

"Steven Sotloff is an American citizen and reporter with Time magazine who is believed to have gone missing in August of 2013," the petition reads. "Today, on August 19, 2014 it was revealed that Steven is a captive of the Islamist terrorist organization ISIS."

"We, the undersigned call upon you, President Obama, to take immediate action to save Steven's life by any means necessary,” it says. The petition has 7,336 signatures.

Matthew Van Dyke, a documentary filmmaker, self-described “revolutionary” and friend of Sotloff's, told ABC News that the two last saw each other in Washington, D.C., just a few weeks before Sotloff's disappearance. Van Dyke has reported from the Middle East, and joined the fighting during the Libyan revolution, and was held as a prisoner of war.

"We were talking about his upcoming trip to Syria," Van Dyke said. "I feel horrible for what he's going through, I can't really imagine. I mean I thought I had a tough time in Libya but to be held by ISIS for this long, Steven's been there for a year now and who knows what kind of conditions they're in. It's absolutely horrifying. I can't imagine it."

World Affairs, the journal that had most recently employed Sotloff, described him as "an honest and thoughtful journalist who strives to understand the story from local perspectives and report his findings straightforwardly. He is certainly courageous."

"He was not on assignment from World Affairs when captured. It is our hope and prayer that Steven is returned home to his family and loved ones safely," James Denton, publisher and editor of the magazine said in a statement.

A day after the video emerged in which the ISIS militant threatened Sotloff’s life, President Obama addressed the nation, saying the whole world was “appalled” at what ISIS had done. Hours later, the U.S. military announced it was continuing its bombing campaign targeting ISIS.


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Storm Blasts Dust, Sand Through the California Skies


File photo. iStock/Thinkstock(COACHELLA, Calif.) -- Strong winds blasted dust and sand through the Southern California skies, part of a storm system known as a haboob.

Scott Pam was driving in the area Thursday when the storm hit, and the wind ripped the door straps off of his car.

 

The dust, whipped around by 40-mph winds, left drivers with low visibility. The name “haboob” comes from the Arabic word habb, meaning “wind.”

The storm also bent trees across California’s Coachella Valley, but there were no reports of serious injuries.

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Stolen Brooklyn Bridge Flags Returned to US Officials -- In Germany


iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- The flags taken off the Brooklyn Bridge and swapped for white surrender flags have been handed over to U.S. officials, a law enforcement official told ABC News Thursday.

The handover took place far from the iconic landmark, however: it happened in Germany. The flags were given to the U.S. embassy a week after Mischa Leinkauf and Mattias Wermke, artists in that country, identified themselves as having perpetrated the stunt that became a national news sensation.

"They returned the flags to the embassy. There has been no determination on charges," the law enforcement official said.

 The artists said last week that the Brooklyn Bridge stunt was intended as a celebration of public art and not as any political statement.

The Berlin-based duo said that the flags that they put on top of the bridge were not bleached white but were made of white material and then hand-stitched so that it was done in "Old Glory" style with white stars and stripes. They said that they followed U.S. Flag Code in their handling of the American flags that they took down.

Prosecutors in New York could still pursue felony burglary charges against the duo, which could lead to the issuing of an international arrest warrant. Authorities also "have some significant leads" as to the people who assisted the Germans in their stunt in the U.S. The American accomplices are still being pursued.

New York Police Department officials are taking the flag return as a sign of "good faith" that the stunt was, "some sort of artistic thing or stunt," as opposed to a serious threat or attempt to scare American citizens, the law enforcement official said.

It is believed that the artists realized how serious this was and how much trouble they were in when NY Police Commissioner Bill Bratton announced on WABC's Sunday show Up Close with Diana Williams that investigators knew who the perpetrators were.

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A Different Look at Ferguson's Michael Brown Just Days Before His Death


iStock/Thinkstock(FERGUSON, Mo.) -- A different view of Michael Brown emerged Thursday in a video that is starkly different from the images previously seen of the unarmed teenager who shot dead by police in Ferguson, Missouri.

Brown, 18, is seen waiting to join the procession of graduates for Normandy High School in early August, just days before his controversial death on Aug. 9. He is wearing the traditional black cap and gown with a red sash around his neck and the tassel hanging jauntily off the back of his mortarboard.

Brown's family said that he was going to attend college in the fall.

The only other video images of Brown, who was 6-foot-4, to surface since the shooting has been in sharp contrast. Police released a surveillance video last week that showed a large man apparently stealing cigars from a convenience store.

The theft occurred shortly before Brown was shot at least six times following a confrontation with Officer Darren Wilson that left him with serious facial injuries. A Ferguson police report said that the officer who viewed the store surveillance video and saw Brown's body identified him as the prime suspect in the store robbery.


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Kentucky Firefighters Shocked in Electrical Mishap During Ice Bucket Challenge


iStock/Thinkstock(CAMPBELLSVILLE, Ky.) -- The popular ice bucket challenge has left four firefighters injured in Kentucky.

The marching band at Campbellsville University joined in on the ice bucket challenge, but instead of getting a bucket of water dumped on their heads, firefighters sprayed water on them from a ladder.  

Police Chief Tim Hazlette says the ladder got too close to a power line and the electrical current injured four firefighters.

Two of the firefighters' injuries are serious.

The ice bucket challenge has spread across the country this summer as participants dump a bucket of ice water on their heads to raise awareness -- and donations -- for ALS.

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Parents Attach Camera to Son to Capture First Day of School


iStock/Thinkstock(TAMPA, Fla.) -- For the parents of a first-grader in Florida, simply asking their son what he did on his first day of school this year was not enough.

"We wanted to see what it was like to be a first-grader on the first day of school," May Weber told ABC News.

Weber and her husband, Tim Weber, of Tampa, strapped a camera onto the chest of their 6-year-old son, Andrew, Tuesday for his first day at McFarlane Park Elementary in Tampa.

"I have that challenge every day when I pick my children up from school, I say, 'How was school? Tell me about your favorite part of school,' and I always get that one word answer," May Weber said. "Now I know maybe different kinds of questions to ask about their friends."

The video shows Andrew walking down a shrub-lined street on his way to McFarlane Park, walking into the school's decorated hallways and getting a hug from his new teacher, all from his own chest-level perspective.

"I was impressed by what the perspective was of a three-foot something child," Tim Weber said. "How big everything was, the furniture, how big adults were, how big some of the other kids at school."

"I think we sort of forget that perspective," he said.

Andrew himself says he had no qualms about meeting his classmates while wearing the video camera, claiming that it was the object of envy in his first-grade classroom.

"My friends wanted to wear it," he said.

Both Andrew's teacher, Arianne DeClue, and the school's principal, Denyse Riveiro, say they are using the video footage as a learning tool.

"On the first day of school everyone has nerves and jitters and it was exciting to see what the kids felt," DeClue told ABC News.

"I thought about from the child's perspective, what it looked like, what they were experiencing, the social skills, the developmental skills," principal Riveiro said.

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Umbrella Sparks Lockdown at Cal State San Marcos


iStock/Thinkstock(SAN DIEGO, Calif.) -- It rains so infrequently in California that a simple umbrella caused a college campus to go on lockdown.

On Wednesday, armed police moved into Cal State San Marcos, outside of San Diego, on reports of a man with gun.

Students were told to shelter in place and authorities held the man at gunpoint.

But it turned out it wasn't a gun-- it was simply an employee walking with a black umbrella.

The employee, identified as Bill Craig, has been a staff member at the school for 17 years.

After the scare, Craig said the police were just doing their jobs.

"What could you do but find the humor in it," he said.

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