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  • eurobanks/iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- The iconic pink blossoms lining Washington D.C.'s tidal basin are expected to make their appearance historically early this year.The Yoshino cherry trees are predicted to reach peak bloom -- when 70 percent of the blossoms are open -- between March 14 and 17. According to the National Parks Service, this could be the earliest date on record.Because of the early bloom period, the National Cherry Blossom Festival will kick off on March 15 this year, five days earlier than scheduled.The tidal basin cherry blossom trees were a gift from Japan to the U.S. and the National Cherry Blossom Festival commemorates the friendship between the two nations."This National Cherry Blossom Festival is the biggest, greatest, most fun celebration of U.S.-Japan friendship anywhere in the world," Japanese Ambassador Kenichiro Sasae said at a press conference Wednesday morning. "I don’t need to say 'Make this cherry blossom festival great again,' because it's already great."The 2017 event marks the 90th anniversary of the first festival and the 105th anniversary of Japan's tree donation. The month-long celebration features parties, cultural events, a parade, a kite festival and fireworks.Copyright © 2017, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.
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  • aijohn784/iStock/Thinkstock(BRANDON, Fla.) -- A toddler died in Florida on Tuesday after being left inside a hot car for five hours, authorities said.The two-year-old boy, identified as Jacob Manchego, was found unresponsive in a locked SUV at a shopping plaza in Brandon. He was rushed to a local hospital where he later died, according to the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office.Authorities said Jacob’s half-sister, 21-year-old Fiorella Vanessa Silva-Tello, left the child in the vehicle.Silva-Tello arrived for work at Best Friends for Kidz, a Christian-based childcare and learning center located in the shopping plaza, on Tuesday at around 9:30 a.m. with Jacob in the car, according to the sheriff’s office, which also noted that she went into work and left the little boy unattended in the vehicle.At approximately 2:30 p.m. local time, Silva-Tello returned to the car, where she found Jacob unconscious, according to the sheriff’s office. She carried him to a dialysis center in the shopping plaza where first aid was administered. The Hillsborough County Fire Rescue arrived on scene and transported the child to the hospital, where he was pronounced dead, the sheriff's office said.No charges have been filed pending further investigation and review by the Hillsborough County State Attorney’s Office.Meteorologists with ABC's local affiliate WFTS said the temperature pushed 90 degrees Fahrenheit in Brandon on Tuesday.Best Friends for Kidz released a statement on Facebook on Tuesday, confirming Jacob’s death.“Today, a sweet little boy passed away. He had a remarkable laugh, he was full of energy and he loved to give hugs,” the statement said. “His name was Jacob and he was two years old. Jacob died in a vehicle where he was forgotten in. From what we know, the cause was heat exhaustion.”In the statement, Best Friends for Kidz said it will cooperate with investigators. The local business said Jacob was not in their care at the time of his death and his half-sister “made a tragic mistake.”“We are keeping Jacob's family in our prayers. For reasons unknown at this time his sister made a tragic mistake. We feel confident in this statement as an intentional act of cruelty would not be within her means,” the statement said. “Jacob was not in our care on this day so there is nothing we could change to fix this tragedy.”Best Friends for Kidz said it is collecting cards and donations for Jacob’s family to help with the funeral expenses as well as to “help keep his family going while they try to piece their lives back together.”The investigation into Jacob’s death is ongoing, the sheriff’s office said. Detectives are currently interviewing Jacob’s half-sister and any other potential witnesses along with gathering any physical evidence. Investigators will also be reviewing Jacob's prior history, including any calls for service at the residence in Brandon where the child lived.
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  • knoppper/iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- The Transportation Security Administration expects record travel over Spring Break, with as many as 62 million passengers expected to be screened.The TSA says that the Spring Break travel period begins in late February and extends into April. TSA Acting Administrator Huban Gowadia said in a statement that "security remains our top priority, and we are taking every measure, both seen and unseen to protect the millions of air travelers."The agency expects to offer additional automated screening lanes in the coming months, in an effort to "improve the screening process by automating many of the functions, allowing passengers to move more swiftly through the checkpoint." Automated screening lanes are currently available at Newark Liberty International Airport, Chicago O'Hare International Airport and Los Angeles International Airport.As for Spring Break travel, TSA suggests those planning to fly arrive early, apply for TSA Pre-Check and properly prepare for security.Copyright © 2017, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.
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  • ABC News(NEW YORK) — Parts of the Midwest were hit with severe weather Tuesday evening, including tornadoes and thunderstorms that claimed at least two fatalities.As of early Wednesday morning, there were at least 21 tornadoes reported across the Midwest, with more than half of those occurring in Illinois.
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  • iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) — Next month, the Supreme Court is scheduled to hear the case of Gavin Grimm, a transgender student, who has been seeking access to use the boys' bathroom at his high school.Attorneys on both sides are required to update the court on Wednesday. Last week, the Trump administration announced an effective rollback of an Obama administration policy that extended protections against sexual discrimination to people who identify as transgender — throwing a potential wrench in Grimm’s case before it heads to the high court.How we got hereOn behalf of Grimm, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) sued Gloucester County School Board. The teen is expected to graduate from Gloucester High School in Virginia this year. Grimm’s lawsuit argues that the school’s bathroom policy is unconstitutional under the Fourteenth Amendment and violates Title IX, a federal law prohibiting sex discrimination by schools.At first, the school allowed him to use the boys' bathroom, but after receiving complaints, the school board adopted a new policy in 2014 when Grimm was a sophomore, according to the ACLU.“I think what happened to Gavin in the fall of 2014, was absolutely horrible and I don’t think anyone should have to go through that,” said the ACLU’s Joshua Block, who is representing Grimm in the case.A district court sided with the school board and dismissed Grimm’s claim under Title IX.Grimm appealed to the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals, which sided with the teen.However, the Supreme Court has put a hold on the circuit court decision while it takes up the case.Meanwhile, in May 2016, the Obama administration issued federal guidance calling on all on public school districts nationwide to allow transgender students to use the bathroom that matches their gender identity.Citing Title IX, the letter from the Departments of Justice and Education said schools should not require a medical diagnosis, nor should they demand documentation reflecting the student's gender identity before taking steps to protect transgender students — "even in circumstances in which other students, parents, or community members raise objections."That guidance was rescinded last week by the Trump administration, which said that the Obama administration's guidance did not explain how it was consistent with the law.In a letter sent to schools last Wednesday, the Trump-era Departments of Justice and Education said that the Obama directive caused confusion and lawsuits over its enforcement.Grimm’s attorney said that the case has given the teen a "sense of purpose."“Whether that’s winning in court or through changing hearts and minds I think it’s given him a sense that he isn’t going through all of this for nothing,” said Block.What’s nextThe Supreme Court has requested that lawyers on both sides submit their views on how the case should proceed in light of the new guidance provided by the Departments of Justice and Education last week. Their letters are due at 2 p.m. Wednesday.Grimm’s attorney said that while he’s hopeful the court will side with them, he did not have any predictions on which way the court would rule.“I don’t have gut feelings on the case anymore. I think each step of the way this case has defied expectations," said Block. “[I] think that anyone who thinks they can predict with confidence what the Supreme Court’s going to do hasn’t been paying close enough attention.”The attorney for the school district declined to comment ahead of filing the district's letter with the court.What this could meanThe Supreme Court could return the case to the lower court to evaluate Grimm’s claim without the federal guidance or it could move ahead on evaluate the case based on his discrimination claim.The Obama administration guidance that's now been withdrawn was only one issue in the case. There
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  • Image Source Pink/iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- After tombstones were found toppled at Jewish cemeteries in Missouri and Pennsylvania and nearly 100 Jewish Community Centers and schools nationwide received bomb threats, Jewish leaders are urging President Trump to take action.On Monday, 21 bomb threats were called in to 13 JCCs and eight Jewish schools in Alabama, Delaware, Florida, Indiana, Maryland, Michigan, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island and Virginia, the JCC Association of North America said. No bombs were found at any locations.There have been 90 incidents this year alone, at 73 locations in 30 states and one Canadian province, the JCC Association said. The FBI and the Justice Department's civil rights division are investigating.While the threats were false, Jonathan Greenblatt, the CEO of the Anti-Defamation League, told ABC News the threats created "terror" for the people evacuated from the facilities — including preschool children, the elderly and teenagers — as well as their family members."This is absolutely abnormal, and it is totally unacceptable that anyone, anywhere, at any time could be terrorized because of their faith," he said.David Posner, the director of strategic performance at the JCC Association of North America, told ABC News that as far as the organization knows, "the FBI has not yet determined who the perpetrators are, so we do not yet know what their motives are." But he added that he sees a "general rise in the level of intolerance in this nation now, and I think it gives the feeling that people can act with greater impunity."Besides bomb threats, two Jewish cemeteries have been vandalized in one week. On Feb. 20, over 100 tombstones were found overturned at the Chesed Shel Emeth Society cemetery in University City, Missouri. On Sunday in Philadelphia, over 100 headstones were discovered toppled and cracked at the city's Mount Carmel Cemetery. Authorities are investigating both cases.Rabbi Yosef Goldman of Philadelphia's Temple Beth Zion–Beth Israel recalled seeing "row upon row of toppled tombstones" at Mount Carmel Cemetery."Many of them weighed several hundred pounds," he said. "What I saw was devastating."Steve Rosenberg, an official with the Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia who visited the cemetery, said, "It was clearly a deliberate act of violence and desecration.""It took a lot of effort and intention to commit this crime ... Headstones are very heavy, and some of them are gigantic — the size of a car," he added. "This had to be a group of people that were here for a long time."The Philadelphia Police Department announced Tuesday that the rewards for information leading to an arrest and conviction had risen to a total of $50,000, from an initial $13,000: the Anti-Defamation League, through the Mizel Family Foundation, is offering a $10,000 reward; councilman Allan Domb is offering a $12,000 reward, mayor Jim Kenney is offering a $15,000 reward, an anonymous donor is offering a $10,000 reward, and the Fraternal Order of Police Lodge #5 is offering a $3,000 Reward for information leading to an arrest only.Greenblatt said the anti-Semitism extends beyond cemetery vandalism and threats to JCCs to graffiti at synagogues and a "tsunami of anti-Semitic slander on social media."Religious attacks in the past week were also aimed at the Muslim community; investigators said a fire at a Florida mosque on Feb. 24 was intentionally set.Goldman and Greenblatt, who both noted a surge of anti-Semitism and hate crimes since the presidential election, pointed to the role of the Trump administration."We have not seen — until last week — our political leadership speak out in a strong way against these incidents," Greenblatt said.When anti-Semitism was not immediately condemned by the White House, "extremists felt emboldened," he added."Words have consequences, and a lack of words have consequences," he said.On Feb. 21, Trump for the
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