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National

    Jeff Mateer, President Donald Trump’s nominee for federal judge and a top official in the Texas attorney general’s office, has come under fire after CNN reported Wednesday that he called transgender children evidence of Satan’s plan and argued that gay marriage would lead to bestiality and multiple-partner weddings. >> Read more trending news The quotes from Mateer were taken from two 2015 speeches given while he was general counsel for Liberty Institute, a legal advocacy group that operates from a conservative Christian perspective and is now known as First Liberty Institute. In a May 2015 speech on “The Church and Homosexuality,” Mateer said acceptance of same-sex marriage could lead to disturbing changes in accepted matrimonial practices, CNN said. “Why couldn’t four people want to get married? Why not one man and three women? Or three women and one man?” he asked. “I mean, it’s disgusting.” “There are people who marry themselves. Somebody wanted to marry a tree. People marrying their pets. It’s just like — you know, you read the New Testament and you read about all the things and you think, ‘Oh, that’s not going on in our community.’ Oh yes it is. We’re back to that time where debauchery rules,” CNN quoted Mateer as saying. He also criticized Colorado parents who sued a school for refusing to let their transgender daughter use the girl’s bathroom. “Now, I submit to you, a parent of three children who are now young adults — a first-grader really knows what their sexual identity? I mean, it just really shows you how Satan’s plan is working and the destruction that’s going on,” Mateer said. In a separate speech in November 2015, CNN reported that Mateer expressed support for conversion therapy, which seeks to change a person’s sexual orientation, often through religious means – a practice that leading psychiatric, medical and pediatric organizations have criticized as harmful. Mateer criticized California and New Jersey for banning conversion therapy, which he described as “Biblical counseling” at a conference hosted by Pastor Kevin Swanson, who preaches that the Biblical punishment for homosexuality is death, CNN said. “And if you’re giving conversion therapy, that’s been outlawed in at least two states and then in some local areas, so they’re invading that area,” Mateer said. On Sept. 7, Trump nominated Mateer, the top executive in Attorney General Ken Paxton’s office, to be a U.S. district judge in Plano. Senate confirmation is needed before Mateer can take a lifetime appointment as a federal judge. The Senate Judiciary Committee has not yet acted on his nomination.
  • A sweet -- and very large -- feline could be classified as a Hurricane Irma victim, but instead she’ll probably become famous as she goes viral.  Faye, weighing in at a whopping 24 pounds, was dropped off at the Jacksonville Humane Society in Jacksonville, Florida, and is up for adoption Wednesday. >> Read more trending news A Facebook post about the cat went up Tuesday night and had already been shared more than 600 times by Wednesday.  According to the shelter, the 12-year-old cat is an attention hound and needs a loving home where someone will help her cut back on food and treats.  “Faye loves attention and likes when you scratch right above her nubby tail,” the post said. “She will need a loving home to help her lose weight at a slow and steady pace outlined by our veterinarian.” Faye was brought in after Hurricane Irma, but her owner contacted them before the storm for help, so shelter officials aren’t totally blaming the storm. Those interested in adopting Faye or other pets at the North Florida shelter can visit the Jacksonville Humane Society website. 
  • Want to request a credit from Comcast for missed Xfinity cable, internet and phone service due to Hurricane Irma? The company has set up two ways to ask for it. Customers can either call its customer service line at 1-800-391-3000 or fill out a short online form at xfinity.com/florida-form. The online way is likely faster, since it doesn’t require customers to log in. >> Read more trending news Those without internet at home may be able to use their smartphone or find a place with available Wi-Fi.  A Comcast employee will respond, and credits may take one to two billing cycles to be posted to your account, according to the company. As of Monday, there were nearly 900,000 cable customers without service in Florida. That number includes a number of internet provider, not just Comcast. A Comcast spokeswoman said Tuesday that 97 percent of its customers have had their service restored. AT&T’s U-verse cable service has also been hit hard by outages, but the company has been mum about whether they will offer credits. It’s not mentioned on AT&T’s Irma support page. When reached for comment about the issue last week, a spokeswoman never responded to Palm Beach Post. “Unfortunately our equipment that services internet and TV took a hit,” a post on the AT&T support forum said. Due to the nature of the equipment, it can take time to replace or repair depending on the damaged caused by the water. Also power may not have been restored to our equipment as residential areas take priority. Just because you have power at your home, does not mean power has been restored in other areas that push the signal to your home. “We do have many crews out there trying to restore service to get everyone back up. I know this is a stressful time for everyone out there. Please know that AT&T is doing what we can to help. “ U.S. Senator Bill Nelson, D-Fla., asked the CEOs of America’s largest cell service and cable providers last week to waive late fees and issue rebates for victims of Irma. Hardly any of the companies responded. Comcast is also waiving a variety of fees, including late payment fees, early termination fees and fees for requipment that has not been returned.
  •   It’s one of a woman’s worst fears, to attend a party or event and run into someone else wearing the same thing. >> Read more trending news That not only happened at a wedding on Saturday, it happened to six women, who all showed up at the reception wearing the same dress.  One of the women, Debbie Speranza, posted a photo of the women on Facebook saying, “Imagine the odds.”  'My cousin and I walked into the reception and saw each other [in the same dress] and started laughing, but then another walked in … then another one … and another one,” Speranza told the Telegraph. The group was photographed with the bride at one point and actually looked like they could be her bridesmaids. The dress was sold by Forever New for $160, and Speranza had some advice for the company. “You really should start a bridal registry so that your customers can inquire whether anyone else has purchased one of your dresses for the same event,” she said on Facebook.  
  • When it comes to scary things in the Upside Down, it turns out that a Demogorgun is no match for intellectual property lawyers. >> Read more trending news “The Upside Down,” A “Stranger Things”-themed pop-up bar in Chicago, has been hit with a cease-and-desist letter from Netflix after it was found in violation of intellectual property laws because it never received Netflix’s blessing. But Netflix didn’t sent just any cease-and-desist letter. No, they got in on the spirit of the show with a nerdy, yet firm, directive for the bar’s owners: The bar, designed by the same folks that created the Windy City’s Emporium Arcade Bar, debuted on Aug. 18 in Logan Square. According to Eater Chicago, patrons of “The Upside Down” can order show-themed drinks, such as “Eleven’s Eggo’s,” served with a waffle wedge; and a drink named for the Demogorgun, the show’s big monster. Fans of the show’s theme music from Austin band S U R V I V E can indulge in a few kegs of Goose Island’s GI5-5538, a red ale that was brewed specifically for the band.  The bar is also decorated with a ton of “Stranger Things” memorabillia, including a huge mural of Eleven, the Byers family couch, Christmas lights (complete with the alphabet), an A/V rig and some props designed to look like the Hawkins Energy Department. Check out photos of the bar here. As one might guess, having all of this out in the open without permission would be cause for some concern from Netflix. The bar was originally scheduled to close after a six-week run, with plans for an extension if it was profitable. As it stands now, the bar will close on Oct. 1. Nevertheless, this looks like a win-win for the bar and the streaming service. The second season of “Stranger Things” debuts next month, and the letter does leave future pop-ups open to consideration, so both groups get publicity. So, Chicago, start pedaling your bikes over to the bar before the portal to the Upside Down closes. And Austinites, you’ve got 10 days to get yourself a flight to Chicago. 
  • A call to honor a black Civil War hero with a monument at the South Carolina Statehouse grounds, onetime epicenter of a groundswell movement to rid communities of Confederate symbols, is being made by two lawmakers in a bid to encourage consensus-building in a nation divided by the issue. Two state senators — a black Democrat and a white Republican — announced their proposal Wednesday to memorialize Robert Smalls, who in 1862 hijacked a Confederate supply ship he worked on, steered his family to freedom and delivered the ammunition-laden vessel to the Union. If approved, Smalls' would be the first monument on Statehouse grounds to an individual African-American in South Carolina, which removed the Confederate flag from those grounds in 2015 after a mass shooting by an avowed white supremacist. 'Robert Smalls was both a warrior and peacemaker, both a combative and kind man who accomplished incredible feats,' said Republican state Sen. Greg Gregory, who noted Smalls' titles after the war included state lawmaker and five-term congressman. 'Unfortunately, few people know of this man — one of our greatest citizens — and we're seeking to change that.' Moves to strip Confederate symbols from U.S. communities by those who see them as hated symbols of racism and slavery have triggered impassioned national debate and even violence like that arising from a white nationalist protest in Charlottesville, Virginia, over a Robert E. Lee statue. Others see such symbols as proud reminders of Southern heritage and ancestors who fought in the war. In South Carolina, a 2000 legislative compromise that took the Confederate battle flag off the Statehouse dome and put it beside a memorial on the Statehouse's front lawn also built a monument that broadly portrays centuries of African-American history in the state. That compromise also removed rebel flags from both chambers and barred altering any public monument that honors historic figures or events without overwhelming legislative approval. Still, the Confederate flag debate was far from settled. But lawmakers of both parties refused to revisit the issue until the 2015 death of nine black parishioners at a historic Charleston church prompted them to remove the flag altogether. Church gunman Dylann Roof, now on federal death row, was seen brandishing a Confederate flag in photographs that surfaced after his arrest. Sen. Darrell Jackson, D-Columbia, said he's long wanted Statehouse grounds to recognize the role of the hundreds of African-American politicians who served statewide during Reconstruction, particularly Smalls. He added the proposal is independent of calls to remove or alter other monuments around the state. He still intends to re-file a bill proposing to change the state's 'Heritage Act' — the 2000 compromise — to let local leaders make their own decisions about historical monuments in their communities. But he doesn't want that wrapped into the discussion on honoring Smalls. 'I'd rather spend my time building a monument than any time tearing down monuments,' Jackson said. 'History is not always good. Sometimes it's good. Sometimes it's bad, and sometimes it's ugly, but it's history, and it's important to tell the whole story.' One Statehouse monument some have called for removing or changing is a statue of 'Pitchfork' Ben Tillman, governor from 1890 to 1894 and then a U.S. senator. The inscription on Tillman's statue tells visitors he founded two universities as a 'friend and leader of the common people.' But it says nothing about his rise in power by the killing of black Republicans or his role in creating the Jim Crow-era of Southern segregation — white supremacy policies that Smalls opposed. After the flag's removal, House Speaker Jay Lucas vowed there won't be any further debate on amending the Heritage Act on his watch. His spokeswoman didn't immediately respond to the senators' proposal. House Minority Leader Todd Rutherford, D-Columbia, said a bill honoring Smalls should stand on its own. 'I think that's awesome,' he said, adding he only regrets that he didn't think of it first. Rutherford, who is black, said he recently learned all that Smalls accomplished during a visit to Beaufort County, where Smalls was born a slave and later purchased his former owner's home. Smalls' great-great grandson, Michael B. Moore, grew up hearing his grandmother's accounts of Smalls. He noted his famous ancestor took in his former owner's wife — who had dementia and still thought the property hers — letting her occupy the master bedroom until her death. 'We happen to be in a political climate that's very partisan and where people are often at each other's throats,' said Moore, of Charleston, adding Smalls' compassion on the former owner's wife was telling. 'To think about Robert in the way he acknowledged the humanity of this woman and embraced her in the way he did, that's something we can all learn from.
  • Community members are reacting to video from a local middle school showing a teacher caught in the middle of a fight. >> Read more trending news School officials are remaining tight-lipped about the incident, but residents are not. WSB-TV spoke residents who were in disbelief when they saw YouTube video of an incident inside a classroom at Rome Middle School in Floyd County. “That’s a very unfortunate situation, unfortunate for that teacher to get caught up in that,” said resident Rosemary Ringer. The cell phone video appears to show two students fighting, with a teacher standing in the middle, then getting caught in a crossfire of slaps. “People just taking things into their own hands and not stopping, taking a breath, assessing the situation,” said resident Abby Holcomb. WSB-TV reached out to Rome school district officials to find out what happened. At first, they said they didn’t know what we were talking about. But after we sent them the video, the superintendent called and said they are aware of the incident, but had no further comment. Officials did not tell us when it happened or the circumstances. Residents said the situation highlights what some teachers have to deal with. “I know my daughter went to school for early childhood and once she got in the classroom and saw the behavior of the students, she said, ‘It’s not for me,’ and she took another avenue and I can’t blame her,” Holcomb said. The superintendent said he would not tell us about any disciplinary action, citing privacy issues. Residents we spoke with said Rome Middle School is a good school and they believe this was an isolated incident.
  • For decades, scientists have assumed so-called gloomy octopuses (or octopus tetricus) were just a bunch of loners. But now there’s evidence these marine creatures hang out in small octo-cities, sometimes tens of them at a time. >> Read more trending news An international team of marine biologists found a site of 15 of the common Sydney, Australia, cephalopods in Jervis Bay, off of Australia’s eastern coast in December 2016, and appropriately named the city “Octlantis.” Lead researcher David Scheel of Alaska Pacific University told Quartz.com the discovery, published in the journal Marine and Freshwater Behavior and Physiology this month, was a surprise.  “These behaviors are the product of natural selection, and may be remarkably similar to vertebrate complex social behavior. This suggests that when the right conditions occur, evolution may produce very similar outcomes in diverse groups of organisms,” he said. >> Related: Red the full ‘Octlantis’ study But this isn’t the first time a site like this was discovered. In 2009, researchers found another gloomy octopus site near Jervis Bay with up to 16 animals. That site was named “Octopolis.” According to study co-author Stephanie Chancellor, both Octopolis and Octlantis had several seafloor rock outcroppings on otherwise flat and featureless grounds. >> Related: Strange creatures discovered off Australian coast “In addition to the rock outcroppings, octopuses who had been inhabiting the area had built up piles of shells left over from creatures they ate, most notably clams and scallops. These shell piles, or middens, were further sculpted to create dens, making these octopuses true environmental engineers,” she said in a statement. Does this mean octopus behavior is changing? According to Scheel, it’s more likely that humans’ ability to observe behavior has improved with better cameras and technology, Quartz reported. >> Related: No, you’re not seeing things. That’s really a great white shark in the public pool And just because these sites may exist, doesn’t mean they’re common. “Congregations such as these probably occur wherever shelter is limited to small patches of habitat, and food is plentiful,” he said, but added that he suspects gloomy octopuses have been socializing for a long time.
  • When a wall of water came toward him, all Cesar Garcia could think to do was protect his young daughter and try to save his nephew. Garcia and his extended family were celebrating his sister's birthday with a trip from Phoenix to a waterfall known as Water Wheel in the central Arizona wilderness. The family, including his mother, sisters and brother, brother-in-law, nieces and nephews, were a mile into their hike when a flash flood hit July 15, an unrelenting torrent that killed everyone in the group of 14 but Garcia, his wife and two children. 'All of the sudden this wave appeared from far away, and I screamed to them, 'Hey, let's get out of the way! Let's get out of the way!' But it was coming too fast, we couldn't do anything,' he told The Associated Press in his Phoenix home Wednesday. Garcia instinctively clutched his 1-year-old daughter, Marina, and grabbed the shirt of his nephew who had fallen. But the boy slipped from his grasp. 'I couldn't hold on to him,' he said. 'After that, it was just water, debris.' Rocks and trees in the water slammed into Garcia, tearing flesh from his legs and bruising his rib as he tried to shield his tiny daughter. The pair went under and Garcia was able to grab hold of a bush. But the force of the torrent was too strong, and they were washed away a second time, swallowed up by the muddy slurry tearing through jagged rocks. 'All I could think of was like, 'Hold on to my baby.' If I didn't hold on to her, she was going to be gone,' he said. 'You don't really think about saving yourself, you just think about the kids. You get hit, whatever, you just hold on to them, never let them go,' he said. Garcia managed to latch on to a tree, still keeping his grip on little Marina. Soon, hikers appeared, and he asked if they had seen any others. Yes, they said, a little way up was Garcia's wife. Nearby was his then-8-year-old son, who escaped the water's fury largely unscathed. Garcia said his instinct was to help the children near him, and he believes that's how his family reacted as well. Five children were among the 10 people who died in an instant. '(The adults) didn't want to save themselves because they were looking after the kids,' he said. Garcia and Marina had been swept about 40 yards (meters) downstream, and he clung to the tree for two hours as rescuers waited for the water to recede. It was frigid, he said, but a hiker gave him a towel to wrap around his daughter. It was while recovering in the hospital that he learned the fate of the rest of his relatives. They had all been within 10 to 15 feet (3 to 4.5 meters) of one another on the hike, but somehow it was Garcia's immediate family who survived. 'What are the chances that our tiny little family survived and the rest of our family didn't?' he said. 'I will ask myself, 'Why? Why me?'' Recovering from the physical and emotional effects has been difficult. 'The first couple weeks were really hard. I had a lot of nightmares and I couldn't sleep,' he said. His daughter was tormented in the early days as well, screaming, 'Agua, agua!' in her sleep, which is Spanish for 'water.' Immediately after the terror of that day, Garcia felt like he would never again go back to that site. 'I didn't want to go back there, but right now, I feel the need to go back there. I don't know. I just feel like it's something I need to do,' he said. ___ Follow Alina Hartounian on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/ahartoun .
  • Washington state on Wednesday sued the operator of one of the largest private immigration detention centers in the United States, claiming thousands of detainees were paid $1 per day for the work they performed but should have received the state's much higher minimum wage. State Attorney General Bob Ferguson filed the lawsuit claiming The GEO Group made millions of dollars and profits by illegally exploiting the workers. The Florida-based company owns and operates the Northwest Detention Center in Tacoma under a contract with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. Detainees since 2005 did laundry, cooked, cleaned and performed other work but were only paid $1 per day and in some cases did not receive that much because they were paid in food or snacks, the lawsuit said. 'The law is clear. They should have been paid the state's minimum wage at the time they were working,' Ferguson told reporters in Seattle. GEO denied the claims, saying the center has a volunteer work program and minimum wages rates and standards specified exclusively by the federal government under standards set for detainees in 2011. The company in an emailed statement said it 'refutes the baseless and meritless allegations made in this lawsuit, and we intend to vigorously defend our company against these claims.' Ferguson said the 2011 standards required GEO to pay detainees at least $1 day for their labor, but said the company was also required to follow Washington's minimum wage laws and that detainees that provide labor were protected as 'employees.' The state's minimum wage ranged from $7.35 an hour in 2005 to $11 an hour now. GEO's contract with the federal government requires it to comply with state laws, Ferguson added. The detention center opened in 2004 with 500 beds and now has 1,575, making it the fourth largest immigration detention centers in the U.S., according to Washington state officials. People are held at the center while facing deportation or other immigration proceedings. The lawsuit seeks a court order for GEO to comply with Washington minimum wage laws and to give up profits that it allegedly made by underpaying detainees. The amount is expected to be millions of dollars, Ferguson said. Ferguson said state officials would look into whether it would be possible to pay the former detainees back wages if it wins monetary damages in the case, but said it would be challenging to track them down. State officials will probably ask a judge to put any money awarded into a fund that would support people who are detained at the center and to people in the community near the center who may have been unable to find employment because the detainees were paid less than minimum wage.