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Freedom Caucus says it now backs GOP health care plan

Members of the House Freedom Caucus announced Wednesday that It will now back a Republican health care plan since an amendment that allows states to opt out of some Affordable Care Act rules has been included.

"While the revised version still does not fully repeal Obamacare, we are prepared to support it to keep our promise to the American people to lower healthcare costs," the Freedom Caucus said in a statement.

The Freedom Caucus includes 30 conservative Republican members who successfully blocked a GOP plan to hold a vote last month to repeal and replace the ACA.

The amendment allows states, under certain conditions, to apply for waivers from provisions that ban insurance companies from charging people with pre-existing conditions higher premiums if the state offers high-risk insurance pools as an alternative.

"The MacArthur amendment will grant states the ability to repeal cost driving aspects of Obamacare left in place under the original AHCA," the Freedom Caucus said in a statement.

With the support of the Freedom Caucus, House leadership is close to the 216 votes needed for passage.

The Associated Press reported that House Speaker Paul Ryan said the changes were helping the legislation gain support, but he stopped short of saying the plan has the votes the GOP would need to finally push the high-profile measure through the House.

School district: No shooter at Washington state middle school, despite report

School district officials said authorities did not find a shooter at Hawkins Middle School in Mason County, Washington, on Wednesday afternoon, after deputies said they were responding to a report of an active shooter.

>> Read more trending news

Mason County sheriff’s deputies told KIRO7.com they received a report a shooter in the school’s cafeteria.

Here’s what we know:

Florida woman finds grenade in grandfather's war memorabilia

A Holly Hill woman found a potentially dangerous item while cleaning out her grandfather’s house after his passing.

Among his war memorabilia, the woman, who police did not identify, found a rusty grenade.

>> Read more trending news

The woman dropped the grenade off Monday at the police department, which called the Volusia County Bomb Squad to remove it.

Police blocked the roadways around the fire station and evacuated the building until the grenade was safely removed by the bomb squad.

The grenade is believed to be a relic from World War II. 

NYPD officer accused of drunken driving in crash that killed woman celebrating sister’s birthday

A Long Island woman acting as the designated driver for her sister’s 21st birthday celebration was killed in a crash that investigators said was caused by an off-duty police officer who was drinking and driving. 

Vanessa Raghubar, 22, of Elmont, died Monday of injuries she suffered in the crash, which occurred early Sunday, according to the New York Post. Raghubar, a native of Georgetown, Guyana, underwent surgery for internal injuries and a broken pelvis before her death at Jamaica Hospital. 

Raghubar’s cousin told the Post that Raghubar went so far as to turn down a sip of alcohol to toast her younger sister, who the family celebrated with dinner and time at a bar. Raghubar planned to drive family members home after the gathering. 

“They did blood tests at the hospital after she was hit (and) it showed she didn’t have a drop,” Diana Chand told the newspaper

Raghubar was taking her sister, Maria Raghubar, and her sister’s boyfriend home around 4 a.m. Sunday when the Honda she was driving was struck from behind on the Van Wyck Expressway in Queens, the Post reported. The impact pushed the car into a tree and a light pole. 

An off-duty New York City detective, Neville Smith, was driving the Mercedes that hit Raghubar’s car. Smith, 32, was initially charged with multiple counts of vehicular assault, driving while intoxicated and refusal to take a breath test. 

New York court records on Wednesday showed that the charges were upgraded to include vehicular manslaughter and criminally negligent homicide in Raghubar’s death. 

Queens District Attorney Richard Brown told WABC-TV in New York that drinking and driving is a “deadly combination.”

“The defendant, a police officer bound to enforce the law, is now accused of breaking the law, and with deadly consequences,” Brown said. “An innocent woman, just 22 years old, is dead. The others in the vehicle with her were also injured.”

Raghubar’s family told WABC-TV on Monday that Maria Raghubar, who was also critically injured, spent much of Monday in surgery as doctors tried to save her life. Her boyfriend, Justin Harricharra, suffered head, back and spinal injuries. 

“It’s really foggy,” Harricharra, 20, told the news station. “What I remember was waking up in the hospital and them telling me I was in an accident.”

>> Read more trending stories

Vanessa Raghubar, a York College senior studying psychology, was anticipated to graduate in June. Family members described her bond with her younger sister as “closer than twins.”

“My daughter was such a sweet child,” Raghubar’s mother, Janice Perry, told the news station. “My daughter was so educated. She had a big future ahead of her. And that someone would just take her life is wrong. The cop was wrong.”

“We need justice for our baby,” Perry said. “She can’t -- it can’t go like this. We need justice.”

Friends and strangers alike mourned Raghubar on social media. 

The Root reported that Smith was placed on a 30-day suspension without pay following his arrest.  

Passerby rescues 5-year-old from lake

A truck swerved into an Oklahoma lake on Wednesday to avoid a car that ran a stop sign.

Police in Sapulpa, Oklahoma, responded to the area Wednesday morning after a woman’s truck was reported in the water. 

>> Read more trending news 

The woman, whose 5-year-old grandson was in her vehicle, was trying to avoid another driver when her vehicle plunged into Sahoma Lake.

She got out on her own, and a family passing by stopped to help. 

A man jumped out of a passing car and pulled the 5-year-old out of the lake. 

KOKI-TV was at the scene when the 5-year-old’s mother arrived. 

“I was devastated and screaming and crying,” she said. “I didn’t know if they were really OK or not.”

She said she was grateful for the family's help. 

“It’s a good thing those people were here, because I don’t think she would have been able to get him out as fast as they did,” she said.

The child’s grandmother went to the hospital with some health issues. The child was not injured. 

Police officers step in when dad can’t make father/daughter dance

Two sisters are thanking their local police officers for saving the day when their dad couldn’t make it to the daddy-daughter dance.

>> Read more trending news 

“I got to finally go to the dance that I really wanted to go to instead of just me and my mom,” 10-year-old Haley Olsen of Phoenix, Arizona told KNXV.

>>RELATED: Police officer adopts 83-year-old veteran with dementia living alone 

Olsen’s dad couldn’t make it at the sat minute because of work.

“My husband wasn’t able to come and I don’t have a lot of positive male role models in my life, so I thought, ‘Why not police officers?!'” said mom Laura Castaneda.

Four officers went above and beyond to make the night magical for the sisters.

“My and my police officer created a giant circle of the cha-cha-cha and it was super fun!” Haley said with a big smile.

Their mom can’t thank the officers enough.

“I will forever be grateful and my girls will have this memory for the rest of their lives, so I can’t thank them enough,” said Castaneda.

NASA’s Cassini spacecraft starts historic dive between Saturn and its rings 

After nearly 20 years in space and 13 years in orbit around Saturn, NASA’s Cassini spacecraft begins its grand finale, going where no craft has gone before.

>> Read more trending news

The final mission, according to NASA, involves a “daring” series of dives (22 in total) between Saturn and its icy rings, and ends with Cassini plunging into Saturn’s atmosphere in its final orbit in September.

>> Related: How to watch the rare total solar eclipse this summer

In its first dive Wednesday morning around 5 a.m., Cassini used its high-gain antenna as a protective shield as it passed through the ring plane.

According to NASA, the first images of Cassini’s opening dive should be available earlyThursday morning.

The historic event was also featured in a Google Doodle Wednesday.

>> Related: Where is Cassini now?

During its flight through uncharted territory, Cassini will collect new data about Saturn, including its internal arrangement based on the planet’s gravity and magnetic fields, how much material is in its icy rings and the spacecraft will, of course, deliver “ultra-close” images of Saturn’s rings and clouds.

Even in its final moments on Sept. 15, as Cassini meets its demise by burning up like a meteor and becoming a part of the planet itself, scientists will receive real-time data about Saturn’s composition.

But scientists say there is one concern about the possibility of flying particles tripping up the entire spacecraft, the Los Angeles Times reported.

Though models of Saturn show the narrow region between the planet and its rings should be free of dust, the models could be wrong — that’s why Cassini’s high-gain antenna was used as a protective shield in its first dive.

Cassini mission project manager Earle Maise said the risk puts them at a 97 percent chance of success.

>> Related: NASA Astronaut returns to Earth after 173 days in space

During its historic 20-year journey, Cassini has observed jets of water containing organic chemicals (including hydrogen) from one of Saturn’s moons, which has led scientists to believe there could be microbes using chemical energy to produce methane and energy for life, Vox reported.

And that’s just one of several remarkable achievements.

But with Cassini running low on rocket fuel and the risk of it potentially colliding with two of Saturn’s moons, NASA has chosen to “safely dispose of the spacecraft in the atmosphere of Saturn.”

More about Cassini’s Grand Finale here.

More about Cassini’s Grand Finale at Saturn.jpl.nasa.gov.

Brother shoots, kills 13-year-old sister while playing with gun, police say

Police arrested a 17-year-old on Tuesday night after authorities said he shot and killed his 13-year-old sister in an apparently accidental shooting.

>> Read more trending stories

Authorities responded to the family’s home in Florida City, Florida, around 6 p.m. after 17-year-old Martaevious Santiago called 911, Miami-Dade police said.

Medics with Miami-Dade Fire Rescue found Santiago’s sister, 13-year-old Tedra King, dead of a gunshot wound to the head, police said.

Investigators determined that Santiago was holding a loaded semi-automatic handgun and joking with his sister.

“(Tedra) was being playful with him due to it being his birthday,” police said. “(Tedra) then hugged her brother as he held the handgun. As (Tedra) turned around to walk away, Santiago pointed the handgun to the back of the victim’s head and pulled the trigger, shooting her.”

Authorities booked Santiago into jail on a charge of aggravated manslaughter of a child under 18.

Tedra’s stepfather told WTVJ that he was home when the shooting happened.

“There’s no weapons in my home,” Vernon Williams told WTVJ. “I don’t know. I don’t know.”

Police said the gun came from a 14-year-old friend of Santiago. The unidentified juvenile was arrested on an outstanding delinquency warrant, officials said.

Miami-Dade Schools Superintendent Alberto Carvalho on Wednesday morning called the shooting the result of “heartbreaking, reckless gun violence” in one of a pair of tweets about the shooting.

Police continue to investigate.

Family re-creates Blockbuster for autistic son heartbroken over store’s closure

A Texas family went the extra mile for their son with autism, recreating his favorite Blockbuster store at their home after the store shut its doors.

The Zuniga family’s gesture for their 20-year-old son, Hector Andres Zuniga, went viral this week after his brother, Javier Zuniga, posted photos of the surprise for his older brother on Twitter.

“My autistic brother was sad that Blockbuster was closing down,” Javier Zuniga, 19, wrote. “So my parents made a mini one at home for him!”

The photos showed Hector Andres’ father, also named Hector Zuniga, showing him the shelves, complete with Blockbuster signs, that the family bought from the Sharyland, Texas, store as it sold off its inventory. The shelves were full of Hector Andres’ favorite titles, from Elmo and Barney to Rugrats and Blue’s Clues. 

Blockbuster, which went bankrupt and closed nearly all of its stores in 2013, has just 12 stores left in the U.S., nine of them in Alaska. The rest are in Texas, according to the New York Post

Hector Zuniga told The Huffington Post that his son would go to the store at least twice a week to rent movies and buy snacks. The staff, who waited on him since he was 13, knew him well. 

They also knew how hard he would take the news of the store’s closure. They pulled Hector Andres’ mother, Rosa Zuniga, aside a few months ago and broke the news to her. 

She called her husband, who knew immediately that it would take some finesse to explain the closure to their son. 

“(He) is a happy-go-lucky kid. He’s all heart, he’s very tender, but like anyone else, he has bad days,” Hector Zuniga said. “And we knew one of those bad days was around the corner when we found out that the Blockbuster was about to close.”

It was during that phone call that the parents hatched their plan to ease the change in their son’s routine. 

“The employees told us when they’d start selling their stock, and when they did, I was one of the first customers in the store,” Hector Zuniga told The Huffington Post

The family secretly bought everything they would need to set up Hector Andres’ own private Blockbuster. Employees of the store helped by setting aside anything they knew that he would like. 

When the store closed its doors over the weekend, the family was there with Hector Andres to help him understand that he would no longer be able to rent movies there. He predictably got upset, but his father told him not to worry, that there was a surprise waiting for him at home.

While Hector Andres worked on a puzzle, his father and brother set up his new at-home Blockbuster. When he finally saw it for himself, his father said, “His eyes were as big as saucers.”

>> Read more trending stories

The joy on his face was captured in the photos Javier Zuniga shared on Twitter. The tweet immediately took off and, by Wednesday morning, had been retweeted more than 32,000 times. People were amazed by the steps the family took to make Hector Andres happy.

“Please tell your parents how incredible they are, and thank you so much for documenting this beautiful moment,” one woman wrote. 

“Your parents are absolutely amazing for this,” another stated. 

Many people said the tweet made them cry. Some shared other popular memes to express how emotional the Zuniga family’s story made them. 

 “Pfft, you gotta con … *clears throat* control your … *clears throat again* just leave me alone, I stubbed my tow (sic) on these emotions,” one man wrote. 

The family said the gesture was “a hit” with Hector Andres, who grabbed several DVDs off of the shelves and ran to his room to watch them. But not before thanking his father.

“His way of saying, ‘I love you,’ is by going up to you and grabbing your earlobe,” Hector Zuniga told The Huffington Post. “So he came up to me and grabbed my ear. It was one of those moments that us parents live for.”

‘Silence of the Lambs’ director Jonathan Demme dies at 73

Academy Award winning filmmaker Jonathan Demme, best known for directing “The Silence of the Lambs” and “Philadelphia,” has died. He was 73.

>> Read more trending stories

An unidentified source close to Demme’s family told IndieWire on Wednesday that Demme died of esophageal cancer and complications from heart disease.

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