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Howard volleyball player skips final conference tournament to make lifesaving donation to a stranger

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iStock(NEW YORK) — A senior volleyball player at Howard University spent her final conference tournament in recovery after making a lifesaving blood stem cell donation to a stranger.

Jurnee Farrell, 21, has played volleyball for Howard University throughout her four years at the school. During sophomore year her coach, Shaun Kupferberg, encouraged the women on his team to register with Be The Match, an organization that works to save lives through marrow donation, through a registration table they had on campus.

“Growing up my dad worked at a children’s hospital in Chicago. I grew up in that type of environment and saw what an organ donation or a tissue donation can do for a family,” Kupferberg said. “If somebody’s life can be saved by a simple donation it’s obviously an easy thing to do and we should be helping.”

Farrell got her cheek swabbed and registered as a potential donor with Be The Match. Two years later she received a call letting her know that she was a match for a 57-year-old woman with acute lymphoblastic leukemia.

The organization informed her that becoming a donor would involve several months of physicals and blood tests — but that Farrell’s donation could also save this woman’s life.

“It wasn’t registering to me that I would be saving someone’s life. I was just like, okay, I registered for this thing and I’m going to go through with it,” Farrell said. “It took me a lot of time to realize what I was doing.”

According to Be The Match’s website, African Americans have just a 23% chance of finding a matched adult donor through its registry.

Farrell’s donation date was Nov. 19. Recovery from the procedure, doctors informed her, would take 7 to 10 days.

Donating that day also meant that she would miss playing in the final conference tournament with her teammates, taking place that weekend.

“It was bittersweet, but it was definitely a no-brainer,” Farrell said. “If somebody gets the opportunity to save someone’s life, whether it be a stranger or a family member, I would hope that it’s a no-brainer for everybody.”

Kupferberg encouraged her to go through with the donation. “You’re doing something bigger than volleyball,” he told her.

“I talk to our team all the time about priorities. Obviously, contributing something of this magnitude is a priority,” Kupferberg said. “It was a pretty easy decision. If you want to talk about what you contribute to the world in twenty years and you can tell anybody that you had the chance to save someone’s life — that’s a major accomplishment.”

Farrell went through the donation procedure and a few days later was sitting on a bench cheering while her teammates won the conference title. They advance to the NCAA volleyball tournament, in which Farrell will take part.

“It’s one of those things that everything always works out the way it’s supposed to,” Kupferberg said. “You want to see her rewarded for making the right decision. Getting to play in the NCAA tournament is a blessing after all of that.”

Farrell will find out in one year through Be The Match if her donation was successful. If so, she has the option to anonymously reach out to the donor.

“I really want to meet her and put a face to such a big part of my life now,” Farrell said. “I think it becomes real when you’re donating but that feeling would be elevated even more if I were able to meet this person.”

For anyone looking to become a donor, Farrell has a message.

“You’re saving someone’s life and it’s super, super easy,” Farrell said. “For you to be in pain for four or five days is nothing compared to someone who’s been in pain for months. If you get the opportunity to save someone’s life with such an easy process — you shouldn’t hesitate.”

Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Over 350 lawyers, legal professionals who had abortions file brief in landmark Supreme Court case

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iStock(WASHINGTON) — More than 350 lawyers and legal professionals who had abortions filed an amicus brief with the Supreme Court Monday as part of the latest landmark abortion case.

“My hope is that my classmate on the Supreme Court will not want to demonize me,” Claudia Hammerman, a partner at the prestigious law firm Paul, Weiss, told ABC News. Hammerman is also the lead signer of the brief and a Harvard Law School alumnae. “I was smart and I deserved my career and I deserved to be able to give it my all and to become a mother when I was fully, emotionally, psychologically, and in terms of resources prepared to become the best mother I could be.”

The legal professionals included attorneys, law professors, public defenders, prosecutors, retired judges, current law students and a senior attorney with the Department of Justice, who joined the brief anonymously and “on behalf of herself and all the other lawyers working in the highest echelons of government who have had abortions.” Two MacArthur “Genius” Fellows are also among those who signed on.

The Supreme Court will hear arguments in June Medical Services vs. Gee, an abortion case out of Louisiana, on March 4, 2020. In question is a Louisiana law that requires abortion providers to have admitting privileges with a nearby hospital. A similar law, out of Texas, was struck down by the Supreme Court as unconstitutional in 2016.

Amicus — or “friends of the court” — briefs are filed on behalf of people who are not formally part of a case but who support one side. On Monday, several briefs were filed in the June Medical Services case urging the Supreme Court to strike down the law.

One brief was from the lawyers and legal professionals; another was from about a dozen “storytellers” from a variety of backgrounds who have had abortions; one was from abortion providers, including Planned Parenthood, the Nationals Abortion Federation, Physicians for Reproductive Health and Abortion Care Network.

The brief from legal professionals reads, “they would not have been able to realize their personal and/or professional goals were it not for their ability to control their reproductive lives.”

They wanted to put the brief together to show the justices that abortion was not an “abstract” concept but something that directly affects the legal community, Alexia Korberg, an associate at Paul, Weiss who worked on it, told ABC News.

A variety of personal stories were told in the brief, ranging from women who had abortions as teenagers to those who had them as mothers facing extreme health risks and fetal diagnoses. Some of the women said they had abortions while in abusive relationships, while others were dealing with depression or addiction when they got pregnant.

“A doctor’s appointment years ago is not the most important part of who I am, but it has allowed my life to be everything that it is today,” one woman, who was accepted to Harvard Law School shortly after getting an abortion, said in the brief.

In addition to the question of hospital admitting privileges — which the Supreme Court in 2016 deemed an undue burden unnecessary to improve the health outcomes of abortion, a statistically safe procedure when done by medical professionals — June Medical Services vs. Gee also includes a challenge from Louisiana on the rights of abortion providers and organizations to challenge abortion restrictions on behalf of patients.

Should the Supreme Court rule that providers and organizations do not have the right to represent patients in a third-party capacity, individual women would have to personally challenge laws, potentially putting their names into the spotlight and delaying their access to an abortion.

A number of the women in the amicus briefs explain why they would not have been able to personally challenge laws, including potential stigmas they may have faced personally and professionally.

One woman in the legal professionals brief who “received her first birth control prescription at the very same Planned Parenthood in front of which she and her family regularly protested,” said that putting her name on the brief and saying she had an abortion “will likely cost me my relationship with my mother.”

One woman in the “storytellers” brief said she would not have had the resources to sue the state, while another, who had two abortions due to pregnancy complications, said she would not have emotionally been able to handle bringing a lawsuit to obtain an abortion.

For the 2016 case, Whole Woman’s Health vs. Hellerstedt, a number of women, including over 110 legal professionals, also participated in filing amicus briefs.

Korberg, who worked on that brief as well, said many of the signers have told her “how empowering the experience was,” adding that the response then “was overwhelmingly positive.”

“It is empowering,” Hammerman, who also works abortion cases, agreed, “and I do feel it’s absolutely critical that people who can speak about it and normalize do that — make the roads for others.”

“I would never have been able to help the people I’ve helped as a lawyer … had I not been allowed the freedom to determine my own future, by controlling my own body at a pivotal point in my life,” a former public defender said in the brief filed Monday.

Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

 

Fellow officers mourn Alabama sheriff John Williams: 'He paid the ultimate sacrifice'

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iStock(HAYNEVILLE, Ala.) — A devoted Alabaman sheriff who was gunned down in the line of duty was mourned Monday by fellow grieving officers.

Lowndes County Sheriff John Williams, known as “Big John,” was fatally shot on Nov. 23 while responding to a call in Hayneville, about 25 miles from Montgomery.

Williams, a 62-year-old husband and father, was born in Lowndes County. He served with the Hayneville Police Department before joining the Lowndes County Sheriff’s Department in 1987.

He was elected sheriff in 2010.

“Nobody had to question John’s integrity,” Heath Taylor, Russell County Sheriff and president of the Alabama Sheriff’s Association, said at Monday’s funeral at the Garrett Coliseum in Montgomery.

Williams responded to a gas station that night at 8:15 when he was shot. The suspect, William Chase Johnson, 18, immediately fled the store on foot before he was captured after state officials issued an emergency alert to search for him.

Johnson has been charged with his murder. It was not immediately clear if he has entered a plea.

Taylor said Williams, despite being a sheriff, didn’t pass on the responsibility to answer the call.

“Just like he had done thousands of times before over the last 32 years,” Taylor said. “That was the type of love he had for his community. He paid the ultimate sacrifice for each and every one of us in this coliseum.

“He was a man of honor and pride and respect for others,” Taylor said, overcome with emotion. “Nothing made him happier than helping somebody in Lowndes County.”

Among the Alabama sheriffs who spoke at the service was Montgomery County Sheriff Derrick Cunningham, who said he and Williams “went everywhere together.”

“He loved being the sheriff,” Cunningham said. “He would give you the shirt off his back. He’s a true law enforcement officer.”

Williams was a “consummate professional and pillar of his community,” Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey‏ said in a tweet.

“He will be greatly missed by us all,” Ivey tweeted ahead of Monday’s service. “This tragedy is a grim reminder of the dangers that our law enforcement face each day. I’ve expressed to Mrs. Williams that she can take comfort in knowing his legacy will live on & that our state is praying for their family.”

Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Classes resume at Saugus High School in Santa Clarita, California, 18 days after deadly rampage

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iStock(SANTA CLARITA, Calif.) — With heavy hearts and under tight security, students returned on Monday to Saugus High School in Santa Clarita, California, for the first time since a 16-year-old boy went on a shooting rampage that left two classmates dead and three injured.

Students, many of them escorted by their parents, were greeted at the main gate to the school by teachers, administrators and counselors who offered hugs and words of encouragement as they resumed classes and attempted to return to some semblance of normal life.

All around the campus, community residents had hung signs, including a large banner with the word “Strong” and the school’s mascot, the Centurian.

But sheriff’s deputies posted outside the school also served as a reminder of the killings that occurred in the high school quad last month.

“School staff will be busy supporting grieving students and trying to restore as much normalcy as possible during this difficult time,” according to a note posted on the William S. Hart Union High School District website. “For the first week back, we will limit access to campus to students, staff, and parents who need to contact the office.”

At 7:40 a.m. on Nov. 14, Nathaniel Tennosuke Berhow, a 16-year-old student at Saugus High School, allegedly pulled a handgun out of his backpack and opened fire on classmates.

Killed in the attack were 15-year-old Gracie Muehlberger and 14-year-old Dominic Blackwell. Three other students were hurt in the rampage before Berhow turned the gun on himself and took his own life, officials said.

Investigators have yet to comment on a possible motive for the killings.

During a news conference last week, Los Angeles County Sheriff Alex Villanueva said Berhow used an untraceable “ghost gun,” a weapon purchased as a kit that can be assembled at home.

Villanueva said Berhow’s .45 caliber gun, a 1911-model replica semi-automatic pistol, was assembled from gun parts and did not have a serial number.

Just as students were returning to the Santa Clarita campus on Monday, gunfire rang out at a high school about 2,000 miles away.

At 10:17 a.m. local time, Waukesha South High School in Waukesha, Wisconsin, a suburb of Milwaukee, was put on lockdown for 90 minutes after a school resource officer confronted a student with a pistol inside a classroom, Waukesha Police Chief Russell Jack said at a news conference.

Jack said the school resource officer cleared other students from the classroom and was attempting to de-escalate the situation when the 17-year-old student pulled a handgun from his waistband and pointed it at the school resource officer and other officers who responded to the incident. One of the officers, an 11-year veteran of the police department, shot the teen, who was in stable condition at a hospital, Jack said.

Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Too worthy: Chris Hemsworth's wife sick of picking up all his Thor hammers around their house

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Marvel Studios(AUSTRALIA) — Many stars swipe mementos from their time on set, and unfortunately for Chris Hemsworth’s wife Elsa Pataky, his many Mjolnirs are no exception: she says their home is lousy with Thor’s hammers.

The Spanish actress tells the Australian radio show Fitzy & Wippa that Hemsworth has stolen a different hammer for each time he’s played the God of Thunder in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.  He’s got five by now, and she’s lamenting they’re running out of room to show off his prized props.  

“Yes, he always picks the best places in the house,” says Pataky.  Like the middle of the dining room table, one of the hosts added, quoting Hemsworth, to which Pataky says with a laugh, “I’m like, ‘It’s not going there. We have five of them…like, seriously, no.'”

Not just that, but since Avengers: Infinity War, Thor also acquired Stormbreaker, a massive magical axe, which means the Hemsworths have that underfoot, too.

Marvel is owned by Disney, the parent company of ABC News.

Copyright © 2019, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

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