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Here's what some veterans think about Memorial Day

Memorial Day -- it's a holiday many Americans celebrate by spending time with loved ones and enjoying the May weather. 

>> Read more trending news

But how might some of the more than 19 million U.S. veterans view and celebrate one the country's most somber holidays -- created to remember the men and women who died fighting for their country?

Retired U.S. Army Ben. Bob Drolet told WHNT, "We're engaged in conflict today in the Middle East and there are people who are giving their lives almost on a daily basis. So you have to have a day where you remember the sacrifices." 

And there are many sacrifices to remember. According to findings from the Pew Research Center, since Sept. 11, 2001, about half of U.S. vets have served alongside a comrade who was killed, with that number rising for men and women in combat. 

And because of those first-hand horrors experienced in battle, many soldiers and veterans spend Memorial Day a bit differently than the average American might. 

Take Capt. David Danelo, author of "The Return" and a Marine Corps Infantry officer who served in Iraq. "I'm proud to be a civilian and I'm proud to be a Marine." 

In honor of Memorial Day, Danelo talked to Legacy.com -- telling the site for Memorial Day he not only remembers his fallen comrades, but goes to visit the graves of those who may have been forgotten. "There's one cemetery in Philadelphia that has a Civil War veteran who I'll go see. He’s long been forgotten and nobody thinks about him. ... I just walk around there and pay my respects to [his] memory." 

The "Flags In" tradition is another way a lot of soldiers commemorate Memorial Day -- placing flags on the graves at Arlington National Cemetery. 

"It's kind of an emotional process to know, 'cause I feel connected to each one of these soldiers that served before me. So It's kind of like a brotherhood thing. ... We just want to take care of our brothers and sisters. Make sure they look good," Pfc. Michael Samuel told USA Today

But still, at least for wounded retired Staff Sgt. Luke Murphy, there is a feeling that civilians could make more of an effort to pay respects to fallen soldiers. 

In a CNN op-ed piece Murphy gave an emotional account of losing friend and fellow service member Sgt. 1st Class Jason Bishop while serving in Iraq. 

Murphy wrote in part, "When soldiers die, they don't just roll over and quit like in the movies. They fight like hell. ... And sometimes they lose. The biggest loser is the family, though. ... The next biggest losers are the guys who were with the soldier. Many times they've got survivor's guilt. ... So, what do nonfamily members and nonveterans think about on Memorial Day? Sometimes I think they just don't give a damn."

He suggests that people who want to show respect for members of the military could make a donation to organizations like Homes for Our Troops. That's the program that built Murphy and his family a new home that is accessible for someone with his injuries. 

So however you choose to spend Memorial Day, whether by the pool or at a parade -- just try to remember why the holiday exists. 

Woman left brain damaged after cosmetic surgery just weeks before wedding

With her wedding just two months away, Icilma Cornelius arrived at the office of Dr. Windell Boutte in metro Atlanta to prepare for her special day.

>> Read more trending news 

The 54-year-old bride-to-be came to the doctor’s full-service medical spa and cosmetic surgery center for Botox and another anti-wrinkle treatment. While there, the staff recommended cosmetic surgery that could give her a flat stomach before she married. Cornelius agreed to the surgical makeover by Boutte, whose website promotes the doctor as “nationally and internationally known” and a “doctor to the stars!”

Cornelius never got her perfected body. She never got to get married, either.

After eight hours of surgery in Boutte’s medical office, Cornelius’ heart stopped and a chaotic scene developed. The office wasn’t equipped to handle the emergency and had to call 911. Paramedics got the patient’s heart going, but getting her in the ambulance was delayed. Worried about possible infection from open incisions, Boutte and an employee sutured Cornelius’ skin, and then, because the stretcher wouldn’t fit in the elevator, paramedics had to carry it down stairs.

Cornelius made it to the hospital, but her injuries were catastrophic: Permanent brain damage, caused by lack of oxygen, left Cornelius unable to do almost anything for herself.

 >> Related: Georgia medical board easy on opioid violators

Every surgery comes with risks, but the risks can increase when a facility doesn’t have the equipment, protocols and staff to handle emergencies.

In lawsuits over Boutte’s care of Cornelius and two other patients, an attorney said Boutte routinely cuts corners, uses unqualified staff, misleads patients about the surgeries they will receive, and subjects them to an office that is not safe for the types of surgeries performed. 

“Dr. Boutte and her staff are more concerned about increasing profits versus a focus on patient safety, which should be of foremost concern,” said Susan Witt, the attorney.

The case is just the latest to raise questions about the safety of cosmetic surgeries in Georgia. In 2013, two patients died during in-office liposuction procedures by a Cobb County physician, Nedra Dodds. Nathaniel Johnson was criminally charged last year for performing cosmetic surgeries, even though his medical license was revoked. A patient of his died in 2010 during liposuction.

A physician reported Boutte to Georgia’s medical licensing board in 2016, but she continues to practice, still promoting herself as “Atlanta’s leading cosmetic surgeon,” The Atlanta Journal-Constitution and its investigative partner WSB-TV found in a joint examination of the case.

‘Nurse manager’ not a nurse

Through an attorney, Boutte declined an interview. Her website says she has “over 100,000 satisfied patients” and the site is loaded with testimonials from patients.

The site describes her Premiére Aesthetic Center as a “state-of-the-art building” where patients can pick from a huge buffet of services, including Brazilian butt lifts, tummy tucks and liposuction.

Boutte also advertises that she is “board certified in both surgery and dermatology.”

The AJC foundthough, that while she is a board-certified dermatologist, she is not a board-certified plastic surgeon or general surgeon.

>> Related: Secrecy rules at Georgia medical board

And Boutte’s surgery suite was not an accredited operating room or licensed surgery center. During Cornelius’ surgery, it didn’t have the monitoring equipment to quickly detect changes in respiration, the lawsuit alleged.

Lawsuits also have raised questions about whether Boutte allowed unqualified staff to do too much. Depositions revealed that a “nurse manager” wasn’t a nurse at all. And Boutte’s surgical assistant, who went to medical school in Peru but is not a licensed doctor here, was doing parts of procedures without Boutte staying in the same room and overseeing everything he did. “It’s absolutely outside the bounds of what he’s allowed to do,” Witt said.

In depositions, Boutte stood by her use of her staff and portrayed Cornelius’ result as something beyond her control, possibly the result of an allergic reaction.

But Witt, the attorney, and former patients say Boutte’s practice is a dangerous one that medical regulators have done nothing to rein in.

“The medical board’s failure to take action in the two and a half years they have known about Ms. Cornelius’ case, among others, amounts to gross negligence,” Witt said.

At least seven malpractice lawsuits have been filed against Boutte, counting the three filed by Witt. Boutte’s public medical board profile lists two malpractice settlements, including one for $900,000. Witt said the Cornelius case was recently settled for an amount that is confidential, but she said that settlement is not yet listed on Boutte’s board profile.

Witt said Boutte’s lack of professionalism was apparent in videos she produced and posted online showing her dancing to music while making incisions or preparing to operate with patients’ nude backsides exposed. The videos were introduced in another malpractice case.

The Georgia Composite Medical Board is barred from discussing individual cases and won’t comment.

Few rules for office surgeries

In Georgia, doctors may set up an in-office cosmetic surgery shop and do all sorts of procedures. The medical board has safety guidelines for office-based surgeries, but they are guidelines, not rules.

Those guidelines recommend accreditation of in-office surgery suites, which would set safety standards for the facility and staff, but Boutte did not go through that process, according to a deposition.

Dr. Carmen Kavali, a board-certified plastic surgeon, noted that a medical license allows a doctor to do almost any treatment or procedure that the doctor sees fit to undertake. Some doctors will take a weekend course on liposuction and then start offering it in an office setting.

Hospitals are more restrictive, using credentialing to limit what a doctor can do at their facilities.

>> Related: How a doctor convicted in drugs-for-sex case returned to practice

Kavali said she does short in-office surgeries with patients who are awake and able to speak. That would include minor liposuction, a scar revision or an upper eyelid procedure. Anything more than that, Kavali said, she and most other surgeons would do in a hospital because it’s safer.

“We’re fully-trained board-certified plastic surgeons,” Kavali said. “We do not have to cheat and keep people in the office.”

Boutte also didn’t follow a board guideline for office-based surgery that says adverse events — defined as an incident that leads to a patient death or transport to a hospital — should be reported.

In a deposition, Boutte explained why she didn’t report the Cornelius case to the board. “I believe she had an adverse event that was not caused by the surgery,” the doctor said.

Sisters file lawsuits

Without stronger rules, Georgia patients are left to sort out on their own whether a doctor is qualified and the office is well-equipped, the AJC and Channel 2 examination found.

Patients rarely know to ask about a facility’s accreditation or what board has certified their doctor.

When two sisters decided they both wanted liposuction, they found Boutte through online research and felt confident. “Her reviews were just stellar,” said Mitzi McFarland, one of the sisters.

McFarland said she was just 135 pounds and exercised. But after her third child, she said she could never get rid of the “muffin top.” She felt confident about something called SmartLipo because it was less invasive and had a short recovery.

Boutte advertises SmartLipo, and her prices were lower than other doctors, McFarland said. Plus, the office was beautiful and the qualifications Boutte posted appeared top-notch, she said.

The two sisters didn’t end up posting the next glowing reviews. Both have lawsuits pending against the doctor.

>> Related: He was caught on video, but Georgia doctor kept his medical license

McFarland said she ended up with results that horrified her — her abdomen was bumpy and appeared disfigured. Boutte agreed to do a “revision” surgery, but that didn’t go as planned, either. McFarland said she was supposed to be able to drive home, but she woke up disoriented, with a hamburger in her hand, in a hotel room that she had no memory of checking into.

She would find out from a text message from the doctor that Boutte had taken her to the hotel after the procedure. McFarland said her family had no idea where she was. An expert who examined McFarland’s care for the lawsuit concluded that Boutte breached care standards.

Later, the sisters found out they had had conventional liposuction instead of the SmartLipo they wanted.

After learning through her lawsuit about the lack of safety measures, the reality of Boutte’s training and the qualifications of her staff, McFarland wondered how the doctor had not been reined in.

“It feels like there is no oversight,” she said. “She hasn’t even had her hand slapped.”

Sinkhole opens on White House lawn outside press briefing room

A sinkhole opened Tuesday on the North Lawn of the White House, outside the press briefing room.

>> Read more trending news 

Reporters shared pictures of the hole on Twitter.

Voice of America’s Steve Herman noted that he’s been watching the hole grow bigger by the day.

By Tuesday afternoon, yellow caution tape and orange cones encircled the hole. A green board was then thrown on top of it.

By later in the afternoon, the sinkhole had its own social media following.

There’s no word on what caused it or any plans to repair it 

5 things to know about flesh-eating bacteria in Florida waters

The Florida Department of Health has a warning for Florida residents and tourists about a deadly strain of flesh-eating bacteria.

Federal health officials have said Vibrio vulnificus infections have increased each year since 2000.

As scary as that sounds, though, the likelihood of contracting the bacterium is still pretty small.

“You are more likely to die in a car accident on the way to (a) restaurant than from Vibrio,” says University of Florida microbiology professor Paul Gulig.

Here are five things to know about flesh-eating bacteria in Florida:

1. It’s the fish, not the water – Most people who die from the bacteria contracted it from eating raw or under-cooked seafood, especially shellfish, like oysters, rather than from swimming in the Gulf. Swimming in salt water with an open wound increases your chances of getting it, but that shouldn’t keep the vast majority of people from getting in the water.

2. Now is the time to be vigilant – Peak season for Vibrio is during the warmer months, between May and October. The warm weather breeds the bacteria, and people are more likely to be swimming in the water and consuming seafood while on vacation or enjoying the scenery. 

3. It’s extremely rare, and extremely deadly – According to the CDC, in 2014 there were about 90 total infections of Vibrio in the U.S., including 35 deaths. By comparison, the flu kills between 3,300 and 49,000 people every year. That being said, the bacteria is life-threatening. Vibrio kills one in three people who become infected.

4. It’s not really flesh-eating, it just looks that way – The only bacteria that are officially classified as “flesh eating” belong to the streptococcus A family. Vibrio is called “flesh eating” because it invades the blood stream and causes skin lesions that are similar to streptoccus A. 

5. Your risk is pretty low, even if you’re sick – Most people who are truly vulnerable to Vibrio already have a weakened immune system, and suffer from other ailments, like chronic liver disease. There is no evidence of person-to-person transmission. Just to be safe, though, health officials say you should clean any open wounds after you’ve gone swimming in the ocean. 

Retired Marine with amputated legs turned away from Six Flags ride, park cites safety

A military veteran was dismayed to be turned away from a Six Flags Over Georgia ride the other day, but the park cites safety precautions.

“We apologize to Mr. Jones for any inconvenience; however, to ensure safety, guests with certain disabilities are restricted from riding certain rides and attractions,” a statement from Six Flags said. “Our accessibility policy includes ride safety guidelines and the requirements of the federal American Disabilities Act.”

In 2010, USMC Staff Sgt. (Ret.) Johnny “Joey” Jones worked as a bomb technician while deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan. He stepped on an improvised explosive device and lost both of his legs. He now uses prosthetic limbs.

>> Read more trending news 

A lifelong fan of amusement parks, he says he’s been able to enjoy attractions at Disneyland, Universal Studios Hollywood and Sea World even after his injury.

“I do not try to ride a ride where your legs dangle,” he said. “I’ve only gone on rides where I knew the safety equipment could function. If there is a safe way to ride it, I’m on it.”

He and his son had boarded the Mind Bender roller coaster at Six Flags in Austell, Georgia, when an attendant said he had to exit the ride.

“I got in, the lap thing came down. I was fixed in. Once they saw my legs they asked me to get off,” Jones said. “(The attendant) said, ‘You’ve got to have two real legs to ride.’”

According to Six Flags’ safety policy, “Each rider must maintain an upright seated position with their head against the headrest and back against the seat back during the duration of the ride and their arms, hands, legs, and feet inside the ride vehicle at all times,” Six Flags’ safety policy states. “Guests must possess at least one (1) fully functioning arm and two (2) fully functional legs,” the policy posted on the Six Flags site reads. It goes on to say that riders “must have upper body control, a strong grasp, and must be restrained by a lap bar and notes that “exceptionally large or tall people may not be able to ride.”

The Mind Bender is a fast-moving attraction where the riders go upside down at times, according to the park ride’s description. “Guests should be prepared to brace for strong front-to-back, top-to-bottom and bottom-to-top forces as well as mild side-to side forces,” the safety guidelines say. “The Mind Bender is very difficult to evacuate due to the high, steep, narrow catwalks.”

In July 2011, The Associated Press reported that a U.S. Army veteran who’d lost his legs while deployed in Iraq was killed after he was thrown from a roller coaster in upstate New York. The family of Sgt. James Hackemer settled for “a seven-figure amount,” investigators having determined that “park workers didn't follow rules posted at the ride's entrance, which require that riders have both legs.”

Jones said he had not heard directly from Six Flags since posting messages about his experience on social media.

“I’m not trying to wage war against Six Flags,” said Jones, who’d like the opportunity to meet with a park representative. “There are thousands and thousands of us who are in this situation because of our service to our country. We’re just trying to reclaim a sense of normalcy.”

He also stressed that he isn’t disparaging the Six Flags attendant who turned him away, noting the employee was following guidelines. His experience at other parks has been pleasant, with employees going out of their way to accommodate him.

“If I go to Disney they’ll assign someone to walk with me to the front of the line,” he said. “They go from the angle of, ‘How can we get this guy on the ride?’ Within two seconds of walking into Universal someone walked up and said, ‘Would you like to sign up for special services?’”

At other area locations, including the Georgia Aquarium and the World of Coca-Cola, “they roll out sort of a red carpet.”

“At Six Flags I’m a burden,” Jones said. “At the other places it’s an opportunity to shine.”

4-year-old ‘superhero’ on a mission to save Alabama’s homeless

A 4-year-old boy in Birmingham, Alabama is saving the world one person at a time by handing out food and money to the local homeless community.

He’s pitched in to build a new homeless shelter, donating $5,000, Birmingham mayor Randall Woodfin posted on Facebook:

>> Read more trending news 

Austin Perine wears a red satin superhero cape that helps him work faster because “it blows in the wind,” the boy told CNN. He goes by the superhero name “President Austin” because he wants to become president of the United States.

When he visits with people on the streets, CNN reports, Austin Perine always wears his all-blue “work outfit,” complete with a T-shirt proudly displaying the hashtag #ShowLove in bold red letters.

Terance Perine, Austin’s father, told CBS News that his son was inspired to help the homeless after watching a show on Animal Planet where a panda left her cub alone.

When Austin asked what would happen to the baby panda, his dad told CBS News it appeared it would be “homeless for a while.” Austin asked him if people can be homeless too and wanted to meet a person living on the streets.

Terance Perine said that they went and bought food to hand out to some homeless people and it sparked something special in the boy. According to CNN, Austin Perine now spends his weekly allowance on food to give out to people on the street, to “show love” to the homeless. 

Washington Redskins running back Samaje Perine is Austin’s cousin, according to the Washington Redskins website.

After Austin Perine’s story was featured on CBS News, Burger King stepped in to help, giving him $1,000 a month to spend on chicken sandwiches to hand out.

Church’s Chicken also stepped up to donate to Perine’s “#ShowLove” campaign.

Birmingham’s new homeless shelter is expected to open in late 2018.

Alcohol, tobacco more dangerous than many illegal drugs, study finds

Legal drugs, such as tobacco and alcohol, cause significantly more harm to people globally than illegal ones, a new international study suggests. But researchers say that’s not surprising, considering the varying prevalence of each.

>> Read more trending news 

The research, which was published this month in the journal Addiction, found that combined tobacco and alcohol use cost more than a quarter of a billion disability-adjusted life-years worldwide. Illegal drugs on the other hand, only accounted for tens of millions. A disability-adjusted life year, according to the study, represents the number of years lost due to ill health, disability or early death.

"These findings are not surprising given that legality of the drugs coincides with social norms around drug use as well as use prevalence," Dr. Carla J. Berg, an associate professor in the Department of Behavioral Sciences and Health Education at the Rollins School of Public Health of Emory University, told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

>> Related: One woman in 14 still smokes while pregnant — and these states have the highest rates

Globally, one in five adults reported at least one occasion of heavy drinking in the past month and one in seven smokes tobacco, according to the 2015 data used for the study. Conversely, fewer than one in 20 people worldwide were estimated to use illicit drugs in the past year, including amphetamines, opioids, marijuana and cocaine.

But study co-author Dr. Robert West of University College London pointed out that the United States and Canada had among the highest rates of dependence on opioids (650 cases per 100,000), cocaine (301 cases per 100,000) and marijuana (749 cases per 100,000 people), according to U.S. News and World Report. Overall, the rates of marijuana and opioid dependence were about three times higher than the rest of the world.

>> Related: This common household chore is as damaging as smoking 20 cigarettes a day

"The U.S. has major research agendas moving forward to advance our knowledge-base in order to inform policy and practice regarding how to best address this problem," Berg said. "Surveillance is a key part of monitoring the problem, informing interventions, and evaluating policies and practices that are adopted and implemented."

Berg said that broad international studies, such as this one, help researchers better understand differences in drug use across countries.

"Not all countries regulate alcohol and tobacco in similar ways nor have policies or practices in place that aim to address specific aspects of behavior related to alcohol and tobacco use," Berg said.

>> Trending: Air pollution during pregnancy tied to high blood pressure in kids, study suggests

"Social norms are also quite different in relation to the use of these substances, particularly among different genders within a country or within other sub-populations," she explained. "Understanding these different multilevel factors and their impact on alcohol- and tobacco-related consequences are key to informing how countries like the U.S. should address this critical issue."

Berg adds that this kind of study is "critical" in helping researchers and governments understand the societal and individual costs of substance abuse. It also gives a better picture of how legalization and regulation impact usage and dependence.

"There could be a great deal to be learned from countries or areas of the world with lower prevalence of opioid dependence and areas of the world that have combated opioid dependence successfully," she said. "This speaks to how critical international research is to informing policy and practice."

Hawaii volcano: 'Explosive eruption' at Kilauea summit spurs concerns over ash, laze

An “explosive eruption” at Kilauea's summit on Hawaii's Big Island early Tuesday prompted officials to warn residents to protect themselves from ash fallout as the volcano eruption continues into its third week.

>> Read more trending news

More than 40 structures have been destroyed in the eruption that started May 3. It has since inundated almost 325 acres around Kilauea with lava and lead to concerns about laze, a toxic mixture of lava and haze that forms when hot lava hits ocean waters.

>> What is laze? Hawaii volcano lava reaches the Pacific Ocean

Update 4:37 p.m. EDT May 22: Lava continued to flow Tuesday on Hawaii's Big Island, creating toxic laze as it hit ocean waters.

Officials with the U.S. Geological Survey's Hawaiian Volcano Observatory said a majority of the lava was flowing Tuesday from a trio of fissures that have opened in recent days.

Update 11:56 a.m. EDT May 22: The U.S. Geological Survey’s Hawaiian Volcano Observatory released video Tuesday of lava hitting the ocean one day earlier, creating a toxic laze plume.

Laze is formed when lava enters the ocean, setting off a series of chemical reactions and cooling the lava until it transforms into glass, which shatters, according to USGS officials. It creates white clouds of steam that contain toxic gas and tiny shards of volcanic glass. 

Update 10:18 a.m. EDT May 22: Officials with the Hawaii Civil Defense Agency warned Tuesday of another “explosive eruption” at Kilauea’s summit

The Hawaiian Volcano Observatory reported the explosion around 3:45 a.m.

“The resulting ash plume may affect the surrounding areas,” officials warned. “The wind may carry the ash plume to the southwest toward Wood Valley, Pahala, Naalehu and Waiohinu.”

Authorities said the biggest hazard from Tuesday’s early morning eruption is likely to be ash fallout. Residents were asked to stay indoors and keep windows closed.

Hawaiian Volcano Observatory officials warned in an update Monday afternoon that "additional explosions (are) possible at any time" on Kilauea's summit.

Update 11:15 p.m. EDT May 21: Lava is flowing toward a geothermal power plant on Hawaii’s Big Island as Mount Kilauea continues its violent eruptions.

Reuters is reporting that workers are scrambling to shut down the Puna Geothermal Venture (PGV) plant to prevent the “uncontrollable release of toxic gases.”

The plant provides about 25 percent of the Big Island’s power, but has been closed since the volcanic eruptions started on May 3.

Update 12:35 p.m. EDT May 21: Officials with the U.S. Geological Survey's Hawaiian Volcano Observatory said early Monday that a small explosion happened just before 1 a.m. local time at the Halemaumau crater at Kilauea's summit.

The explosion shot ash about 7,000 feet into the air.

"Additional explosive events that could produce minor amounts of ashfall downwind are possible at any time," USGS officials said.

The Hawaiian County Civil Defense Agency warned residents to be aware of ashfall after the "explosive eruption."

Update 12:38 p.m. May 20: Lava from the Kilauea volcano has crossed Highway 137 and entered the Pacific Ocean, the Hawaii County Civil Defense said Sunday. A second lava flow is about 437 yards from the highway, the Star Advertiser of Honolulu reported.

Big Island residents may now have to contend with laze -- a mixture of lava and haze -- that forms when hot lava hits the ocean, CNN reported.

After making contact with the water, the laze sends hydrochloric acid and volcanic glass particles into the air.

Laze can lead to lung, eye and skin irritation, CNN reported.

"This hot, corrosive gas mixture caused two deaths immediately adjacent to the coastal entry point in 2000, when seawater washed across recent and active lava flows," the Hawaiian Volcano Observatory wrote on its website.

Officials have told people to avoid areas where lava meets the ocean, CNN reported.

Powerful eruptions accompanied by thunderous booms punctuated the air Friday around Kilauea volcano on Hawaii’s Big Island.

The volcano spewed lava bombs the size of cows as molten rock flowed from several of the 22 fissures that have opened around the volcano. 

Update 2 a.m. EDT May 19: Fast-moving lava isolated about 40 homes in a rural subdivision, forcing at least four people to be evacuated by county and National Guard helicopters, the Star-Advertiser of Honolulu reported.

According to the Hawaii County Civil Defense, police, firefighters and National Guard troops were stopping people from entering the area.

Update 11:30 p.m. EDT May 18: Hawaiian authorities have sent the National Guard, police and fire units into the East Rift Zone in Puna, according to the Hawaii Civil Defense Agency.

“There are approximately 40 homes in the area that are isolated. Officials are gaining access by helicopter to the area to assess how many people are there and if they need assistance. All persons in that area are asked to stay where they are and wait for further instructions,” the agency said on its website.

The Hawaii Volcano Observatory has confirmed another fissure opened on Friday, bringing the total number of fissures to 22. 

Thousands of people have been evacuated from their homes as Kilauea continues its violent eruptions.

Update 8:30 a.m. EDT May 18:  More lava is spewing 

from the Kilauea volcano as the 21st fissure opened Thursday, CNN reported.

Meanwhile, state officials have been handing out masks to protect people who live near Kilauea, ABC News reported. About 18,000 masks have been distributed, CNN reported. The safety measure protects residents from breathing in pieces of rock, glass and crystals that fall as the volcano continues to erupt, ABC News reported.

Update 10:45 p.m. EDT May 17: Lava is erupting from points along the fissure system on Kilauea volcano, according to the U.S. Geological Survey, but the agency is calling it a “low-level eruption” at this point. 

Although lava is still spattering from Fissure 17, the flow has not advanced significantly over the past day, the USGS said.

There are currently 18 fissures that have opened due to seismic activity on Kilauea’ over the past two weeks. 

Volcanic gas emission are still elevated throughout the area and residents are urged to remain on alert. 

“This eruption is still evolving and additional outbreaks of lava are possible. Ground deformation continues and seismicity remains elevated in the area,” the USGS reported late Thursday

Rain on the Big Island Thursday helped the situation with the ashfall, but volcano experts are warning the situation on Kilauea is  still very dynamic.

Original report: Several schools were closed as ash continued to fall Thursday due to elevated sulfur dioxide levels. Officials warned people in the area to take shelter and protect themselves from the falling ash.

>> Here's how to help victims of Hawaii volcano, earthquakes

"The resulting ash plume will cover the surrounding area," officials with the Hawaii County Civil Defense Agency said in a 5 a.m. alert. In a subsequent update, USGS officials said the ash plume was moving to the northeast.

The plume could be seen in an image taken from a webcam at the USGS’ Hawaiian Volcano Observatory.

"Driving conditions may be dangerous so if you are driving pull off the road and wait until visibility improves," the Hawaii County Civil Defense Agency warned.

Michelle Coombs, of the Hawaii Volcano Observatory, told Hawaii News Now that the situation remained “very, very active and very dynamic,” on Thursday.

“The potential for larger explosions is still there,” she said.

Officials with the USGS warned Tuesday that an eruption of Kilauea's volcano appeared "imminent."

>> Red alert declared on Hawaii’s Big Island; major Kilauea eruption ‘imminent’

The eruption on Kilauea began May 3. It has since forced thousands of people from their homes, destroyed nearly 40 structures -- including dozens of homes -- and created more than two dozen fissures in the ground surrounding the volcano.

Check back for updates to this developing story.

Shooter dead in Panama City, Florida standoff, reports say 

A standoff in Panama City, Florida, ended Tuesday with the death of the alleged shooter.

>> Read more trending news

When police were able to get inside the apartment of Kevin Robert Holroyd, they found the suspected killer dead in a gas-soaked apartment, according to the News Herald.

Authorities were searching for Holroyd, 49, in connection with a murder Tuesday morning in Santa Rosa Beach in Walton County, according to the sheriff’s office.

When they attempted to access his apartment building Tuesday afternoon, authorities said Holroyd opened fire on officers, sparking an intense exchange of gunfire, then a standoff that lasted several hours.

Update 4:10 p.m. EDT:

Investigators were searching the Briarwood Apartments after several rounds of gunfire were exchanged Tuesday afternoon between shooting suspect Kevin Robert Holroyd  and Bay County first responders.

Bay County authorities believe Holroyd is involved with the shooting death of a 30-year-old man in Walton County Tuesday morning, the News Herald reported.

Investigators had been watching Holroyd’s apartment when they received reports of a gas leak at the building, according to the News Herald. When they tried to check the building, the suspect opened fire.

Update 3:50 p.m. EDT: The Walton County Sheriff’s Office has confirmed the standoff in Panama City is related to a fatal shooting at a home in Santa Rosa Beach.

The victim has been identified as Clinton Street. Street was 30 years old and was killed at a house on White Heron Drive. There’s no word on what led to Street’s death or who the suspect is, but the sheriff’s office said in a tweet that the two incidents are related.

Update 2:40 p.m. EDT: Walton County sheriff’s deputies confirmed that a shooting in Panama City, described Tuesday afternoon by police as active and ongoing, appeared to be connected to a suspicious death reported earlier Tuesday in Santa Rosa Beach.

Authorities did not immediately elaborate on the connection.

Update 2:33 p.m. EDT: Police described the incident as an ongoing “active shooter situation,” according to multiple reports.

Caitlin Lawrence, public information officer for Panama City, told the News Herald that authorities believe the suspect was still on the scene Tuesday afternoon.

Original report: Witnesses told WJHG that they heard more than 50 shots.

What sounded like gunshots could be heard on-air as WMBB interviewed a witness about the shooting.

One person has been reported with a graze wound, the Panama City News Herald reported.

K-9 finds 60 lbs. of meth first day on job in California

The newest member of the West Covina Police Department was praised after locating about 60 pounds of methamphetamine during his first day on the job.

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K-9 Rye found the drugs during a traffic stop Saturday, according to the West Covina Police Department’s Facebook post

Officers stopped the silver 2010 Nissan Rouge for a vehicle code violation and found meth under the drivers seat. The police dog alerted the officers that there might be more drugs in the car, KUSA reports

About 60 pounds of meth were found hidden in two compartments under the driver’s seat and front passenger seat, officials said.

K-9 Rye was just field certified in narcotic detection in April 2018, according to the department. This was K-9 Rye’s first narcotic detection since he was certified. 

The driver, identified as 28-year-old Pedro Lopez, is accused of possession of methamphetamine and the sale and transporting narcotics in a hidden department, officials said.

Lopez’s bail has been set at $1 million. 

R. Kelly loses lawsuit against Georgia venue after attorneys quit

R. Kelly’s lawsuit against a Georgia venue was thrown out when he failed to appear in court.

In a May 15 filing, U.S. District Judge John Robert Blake dismissed the singer’s case against Macon Coliseum in Macon, Georgia. In the suit, Kelly’s management company, RSK Enterprises, claimed Macon Coliseum-operator Comcast Spectacor did not pay him $100,000 for a show he performed. Kelly asked for that amount plus damages.

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The case was thrown out because Kelly failed to appear in a Chicago court. He also did not appear at hearings on April 3 and May 8 and was warned “that any future failures to appear may subject this case to a dismissal for want of prosecution,” according to court documents.

Furthermore, the two attorneys representing RSK Enterprises, Heather Blaise and Travis Life, stepped down from the case in April.

“As a result of ethical obligations, Ms. Blaise and Mr. Life are no longer able to represent plaintiff,” part of the April 25 motion read, according to The Chicago Tribune.

The dismissal comes after a Texas woman, Faith A. Rodgers, filed a suit in a New York court Monday seeking unspecified damages, alleging sexual battery, false imprisonment and failure to disclose a sexually transmitted disease. Spotify announced earlier this month that it would no longer promote Kelly’s music by having it in playlists under a new hateful content policy.

CDC researcher Timothy Cunningham’s death ruled a suicide by drowning

The death of an Atlanta researcher whose body was pulled from the Chattahoochee River has been ruled a suicide by drowning, the Fulton County Medical Examiner said Tuesday. 

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Timothy Cunningham, an epidemiologist with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, was reported missing Feb. 14 from his northwest Atlanta home. On April 3, the 35-year-old’s body was found in the Chattahoochee River. 

Cunningham’s parents told investigators their son had not been diagnosed with depression, but did have mood swings, according to documents released by the Medical Examiner’s office.

His parents also questioned whether he could have been given some type of drug that changed his behavior in the days before his disappearance. 

Toxicology tests performed on his body showed Cunningham had marijuana in his system, but there were no other significant findings, Dr. Jan Gorniak, chief medical examiner, told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. There were no signs of other trauma and it’s still unknown how he came to be in the river.   

>> Related: Atlanta: police: Missing CDC reseracher was upset he didn’t get promotion

His parents and sister told investigators that in phone calls and text messages with Cunningham shortly before he disappeared, they noticed a difference in his tone. Atlanta police previously said Cunningham had been upset over not getting a promotion, though the CDC later said he had received a promotion several months prior to his disappearance. 

Cunningham’s parents suspected something was wrong when they were unable to reach him by phone. The two drove from their Maryland home to their son’s Atlanta home, where they found all of his personal belongings inside the house, including his wallet, cellphone, SUV and beloved dog, Mr. Bojangles. 

Fishermen spotted a body in the Chattahoochee on April 3, and two days later, the Medical Examiner’s office identified the remains as belonging to Cunningham. 

Atlanta police have said the department’s investigation into Cunningham’s disappearance and death has been closed. 

Hundreds attended the memorial service for Cunningham, a graduate of Morehouse College and Harvard University. Family and friends described a goal-oriented, driven man with a passion for helping others. 

>> Related: 5 things we know about missing CDC researcher Timothy Cunningham

“It wasn’t just a career or job for him,” Capt. Marcella Law with the National Center for Chronic Disease told the crowd. “Tim felt that it was his calling to use his gift and change lives.”

FedEx driver killed on Florida interstate when truck blows tire, hits car

A FedEx driver died Tuesday on a Florida interstate highway when a blown tire caused his freight truck to collide with a car, the Tampa Bay Times reported.

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The 22-year-old delivery driver, whose name has not been released by the Florida Highway Patrol, was eastbound on an outside lane of I-4 east of Tampa when a tire blew out on his freight truck at 10 a.m., troopers said. The FedEx tractor-trailer hit a Chevrolet Volt in the inside lane of the highway, crashed through a guard rail after impact and rolled onto the driver’s side, the Florida Highway Patrol reported.

Packages were thrown onto the grass near the vehicle, the Times reported. The truck driver was not wearing a seat belt, troopers said.

Two teenage girls in the Volt suffered minor injuries, the Times reported. Jordan Stynda, 19, and her passenger, Nicole Stynda, 17, were both wearing seat belts, the Times reported. They were not taken to a hospital, the newspaper reported. Their vehicle spun on impact but remained on the paved inside shoulder of the interstate, troopers said.

Man allegedly breaks into home, followed by family dog

A family’s dog makes a great watch dog. He watched as someone broke into his owners’ Massachusetts home.

In a video released by the Milton Police Department, the man can be seen breaking into the home through a back door two weeks ago, Boston25News reported.

He walked into different rooms asking if anyone was home, and eventually saw cameras and left the house with his face covered.

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But not only did security cameras pick up on the man, so did the family pet, who according to Inside Edition, followed the man, room to room, wagging its tail.

The dog went outside for a bit, but the man let the pet back in before leaving the home. 

Police shared the video on Facebook. Some commenters suggest that the dog may know the person. 

CDC warns pools, hot tubs, water parks are hotbed for disease outbreaks

You may want to think twice about jumping in that hotel pool or taking the kids to a popular water park nearby. 

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According to a new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, contaminated recreational waters led to 493 reported disease outbreaks between 2000 and 2014.

These outbreaks, commonly caused by pathogens or chemicals, resulted in at least 27,219 cases and eight deaths. About half of the outbreaks started between June and August.

Public health officials examined data from 46 states and Puerto Rico for the report and found that hotel pools and hot tubs contributed to about one-third (32 percent) of the outbreaks. Public parks came in second (23 percent), then club/rec facilities (14 percent) and water parks (11 percent).

While no significant trend was observed after 2007, the CDC said outbreaks caused by the parasite Cryptosporidium, also known as crypto, increased 25 percent per year between 2000 and 2006.

>> Related: 11 water safety tips all parents need to know

Of the 363 outbreaks with a microorganism as the culprit, 58 percent were classified as Crypto.

Crypto can spread when people swallow something that’s come into contact with an ill person’s feces, such as pool water contaminated with diarrhea, according to the CDC.

Swallowing just a mouthful of water contaminated with Crypto can make otherwise healthy people sick for up to three weeks with watery diarrhea, stomach cramps, nausea, or vomiting, and can lead to dehydration,” the CDC states on its website.

The parasite is highly resistant to pool chemicals aimed at cleaning the waters, including chlorine and bromine.

The CDC recommends anyone, adults or children, who has experienced diarrhea should wait two weeks before getting in pools, hot tubs or other public water containers and parks. 

Additionally, avoid swallowing water when swimming, rinse off in the shower before entering the water and take children on bathroom breaks often.

>> Related: 9 swimming holes that'll make you forget the pools are closed

Unlike Crypto, parasites Legionella and Pseudomonas can both be effectively controlled by halogens (chlorine, bromine) if the water is properly dosed. Unfortunately, 20 percent of public pools and hot tubs aren’t properly dosed with disinfectant.

Legionella can lead to a pneumonia-like condition known as Legionnaire’s disease or a flu-like condition called Pontiac fever. Legionella is transmitted when aerosolized water droplets often produced by hot tubs and spa jets are inhaled.

The number of outbreaks caused by Legionella increased 14 percent per year, according to the CDC report, but only accounted for 3 percent of the 363 identified microorganism outbreaks.

Pseudomonas, transmitted when skin comes in contact with contaminated water, may lead to rashes near the ear canal and otitis externa (or swimmer’s ear). Pseudomonas accounted for about 4 percent of the 363 outbreaks.

Army veteran drowns while saving fiancee's daughter

An Army Reserve member drowned in a Texas lake Saturday as he tried to save his fiancee's 6-year-old daughter, The Dallas Morning News reported.

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Brandyn Mitchell, 25, dove into Lake Ray Roberts near the north Texas city of Denton to help Keira Herrera get back onto a flotation device, the Fort Worth Star-Telegram reported.

"He was already on the float with (Keira) when she was struggling to hang on," Mitchell’s fiancee, Angelia Herrera, told the Star-Telegram. "He helped her, told her not to let go, then slipped."

Game Warden Darla Barr told the Denton Record-Chronicle that after the child made it to shore, bystanders could not find Mitchell.

Three hours later, rescuers with the Lewisville Fire Department's dive team pulled Mitchell’s body from water that was about 6 feet deep, the Morning News reported.

Mitchell's heroic act at the lake was typical of his character, Herrera told the Star-Telegram.

"He was in the process of enrolling in college to become a firefighter. He wanted to be a firefighter because he wanted to save lives. Running in when everyone is running out. He wanted to be a hero, not just once but every chance he could," Herrera told the newspaper. "Shortly put, he was an amazing man and I am lucky to have known him."

Mitchell’s mother, Stacy Thompson, said she was puzzled that her son drowned.

"Being in the Army and all that, he could swim like a fish. That's why I can't understand what happened," Thompson told the Star-Telegram. 

Herrera said she and Mitchell had set a wedding date before heading to the park, the Star-Telegram reported. They had one child together, 1-year-old Bryson, and were planning to combine families with Keira and Mitchell’s two children, Paris and Trenton Mitchell, the Star-Telegram reported.

Mitchell’s Instagram profile included the hashtags #proudfather and #soldier, and his Facebook page focused on his love for the Dallas Cowboys and snakes, the Morning News reported.

"He was an amazing father," Herrera told the Star-Telegram. "He was loved and will be missed. No matter what, he was a hero."

PHOTOS: Newlyweds Prince Harry, Meghan Markle attend Prince Charles’ 70th birthday celebration

Prince Harry and Meghan Markle, the Duke and Dutchess of Sussex, made their first royal engagement as newlyweds at The Prince Of Wales’ 70th Birthday Patronage Celebration.

Photos: Meghan Markle through the years

Photos of actress Meghan Markle before she married Prince Harry and became Duchess of Sussex.

'I am ugly crying:' 5-year-old with autism says first word in McDonald's drive-thru

A 5-year-old girl in Athens, Alabama, gave her mom the surprise of a lifetime during a trip through a McDonald’s drive-thru.

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Briana Blankenship shared the video of her daughter, Taylor, saying the word “mama” for the first time, according to WXIN.

Blankenship tells WXIN that Taylor has nonverbal autism and has never spoken until now:

“I am ugly crying in the McDonald's parking lot and the employees probably think I'm crazy. In the drive thru I suddenly heard Taylor say MAMA. 

“For those of you that don't know. Taylor is 5 and has nonverbal autism. She has NEVER said a word. EVER. 

“As soon as she said it I grabbed my phone and started recording. I'm pretty sure I held up the drive thru line but there was no way I wasn't getting proof of this. I can't explain how unbelievably grateful and ecstatic I am right now. #AutismAwareness #BigWin.”

The 5-year-old has been in speech therapy since she was 3 years old, WXIN reports. Blankenship said the next word the family hopes to hear is “dada.”

Houston Texans star J.J. Watt visits Santa Fe High School shooting victims 

Houston Texans defensive end J.J. Watt continues to make an impact in the wake of the mass shooting at a southeastern Texas high school, KTRK reported.

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Watt visited some of the victims injured in the deadly shooting at Santa Fe High School on Monday and took photographs with them and their nurses at the hospital. He also visited several victims at their homes, KHOU reported.

A gunman opened fire Friday at the high school in Santa Fe, Texas, killing 10 and wounding 13.

Among the students Watt visited Monday was Chase Yarborough, who he visited at home; and Clay Horn, who remains in the hospital after suffering a gunshot wound.

Horn could undergo more surgery Tuesday, KTRK reported.

>> J.J. Watt offers to pay for funerals of Santa Fe victims

Last week, Watt offered to pay the funeral expenses for the people who were killed.

>> Exchange student, substitute teacher among those killed

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