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School police officer accused of hitting 50-year-old woman with patrol car, leaving scene

A school police officer in Texas is facing charges after he appeared to hit a pedestrian and leave the scene.

KPRC reported that surveillance video shows off-duty Aldine Independent School District police Officer Omario Gatheright hit a 50-year-old woman with his patrol car. The incident happened Sunday night in Houston.

>> Read more trending news 

The Houston Chronicle reported that the woman was hit when she was crossing the street as Gatheright pulled out of a Panda Express restaurant parking lot, according to Houston Police Department spokeswoman Jodi Silva.

“I tried to get up and he came around and said, ‘I'll be back for you.’ I thought he would help me up, but he left and never came back for me,” the woman told KTRK. She was treated at a hospital and released, according to KPRC.

Gatheright was arrested for failure to stop and render aid and was taken to jail. He had been with Aldine ISD for three years, but has since been on administrative leave.

“Aldine ISD was made aware that an employee has been arrested in connection with an automobile accident that occurred while he was off-duty Sunday night,” the district said in a statement to KPRC. “The AISD police officer has been removed from duty and placed on administrative leave while an investigation is underway.”

Florida raises estimate for the state's manatee population

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) - It has been a deadly year for manatees, but Florida wildlife officials believe there are more of the threatened marine mammals than they previously thought.

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission now says roughly 7,500 to 10,300 manatees swim in state waters, a significant increase from previous estimates of roughly 6,000.

A statement Tuesday said the population estimate comes from data collected in a 2015-2016 survey and analyzed with upgraded computer models.

It's good news in an otherwise tough year for the sea cows. Wildlife officials have documented 779 manatee deaths so far this year, compared to 538 in 2017.

Experts blame a winter cold snap, a prolonged red tide and collisions with boats. Wildlife commission statistics show red tide caused or is suspected in over 200 manatee deaths.

Manhunt for dad in shooting deaths of daughter, niece ends

HIGHLAND SPRINGS, Va. (AP) - The Florida man accused of shooting and killing his teen daughter and teen niece in Virginia has been arrested in New York City.

News outlets cite a Tuesday tweet from Henrico County police confirming that 39-year-old Abdool Zaman was arrested with the assistance of New York City police and the U.S. Marshals Service. Zaman was wanted in connection with the deaths of 18-year-old Vanessa Zaman and 18-year-old Leona Samlall, who were shot at an apartment complex Dec. 13.

WWBT-TV reports that Virginia State Police records show Samlall had been on the missing children's list for 26 months. The station also reported that Samlall withdrew from Highland Springs High School around two years ago.

It's unclear whether Zaman has a lawyer. Police haven't released further details.

Michael Flynn tells judge he knew lying to FBI was a crime

President Donald Trump’s former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn is scheduled to be sentenced at hearing Tuesday at a federal courthouse in Washington after he pleaded guilty last year to lying to the FBI.

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Flynn resigned from his post in the Trump administration in February 2017 after serving just 24 days in office. He pleaded guilty in December 2017 to lying to the FBI about his contacts with Russian officials and agreed to fully cooperate with special counsel Robert Mueller’s team.

Authorities said in court records filed earlier this month that Flynn has since met with investigators 19 times and provided information in three separate investigations, including the probe into Russian election meddling.

>> From Cox Media Group's Jamie Dupree: FBI 302 shows Flynn misled FBI agents about 2016 Russian contacts

Update 12:50 p.m. EST Dec. 18: Court proceedings resumed just after 12:40 p.m. Tuesday after U.S. District Judge Emmet Sullivan called a recess to the proceedings.

Sullivan cautioned people not to "read too much into the questions" asked before the break, including a question about whether Flynn could have been charged with treason, The Huffington Post reported.

"I wasn't suggesting he had committed treason," Sullivan said, according to Vox.com. "I was just curious."

Update 12:05 p.m. EST Dec. 18: Court proceedings were paused Tuesday morning for a recess to allow Flynn time to confer with his attorneys after U.S. District Judge Emmet Sullivan asked whether Flynn could have been charged with treason, The Huffington Post reported.

Court is expected resume at 12:30 p.m.

Sullivan asked Flynn several questions earlier Tuesday to make sure he wanted to proceed with his sentencing hearing. Sullivan asked Flynn to consider whether to push the hearing back until after he’s completed his cooperation with Mueller’s team, Vox.com reported.

Update 11:40 a.m. EST Dec. 18: Flynn told U.S. District Judge Emmet Sullivan on Tuesday that he knew it was a crime to lie to the FBI, CNN reported.

Sullivan asked Flynn a series of questions Tuesday to make sure he wanted to move forward with his sentencing hearing after Flynn said in a defense memo that the FBI never warned him that it was against the law to lie to federal agents.

Update 10 a.m. EST Dec. 18: Flynn has arrived at the courthouse ahead of his scheduled sentencing hearing.

Original report: President Donald Trump on Tuesday wished Flynn luck ahead of his scheduled sentencing for lying to FBI investigators probing Russian election meddling and its possible ties to Trump and his presidential campaign.

“Good luck today in court to General Michael Flynn,” Trump wrote Tuesday morning in a tweet. “Will be interesting to see what he has to say, despite tremendous pressure being put on him, about Russian Collusion in our great and, obviously, highly successful political campaign. There was no Collusion!”

>> Michael Flynn's former business associates accused of illegally lobbying for Turkey

Flynn is scheduled to be sentenced at an 11 a.m. hearing before U.S. District Judge Emmet Sullivan, according to court records.

Prosecutors asked a judge earlier this month to sentence Flynn to little or no jail time in connection to the case, citing his cooperation with investigators.

>> More on Robert Mueller's investigation 

In a memo filed last week, Flynn’s attorneys asked he be spared jail time and suggested that FBI agents played to his desire to keep the situation quiet and, as a result, kept him from involving a lawyer when investigators approached him just days after Trump’s inauguration.

Mueller’s team has sharply pushed back at any suggestion that Flynn was duped, with prosecutors responding that as a high-ranking military officer steeped in national security issues, Flynn “knows he should not lie to federal agents.”

>> Former Trump attorney Michael Cohen sentenced to 3 years in prison, Trump responds on Twitter

Flynn is, so far, the only member of Trump’s administration to plead guilty to charges in the Mueller investigation, according to Reuters. Last week, a federal judge in New York sentenced Trump’s former long-time attorney Michael Cohen to 36 months in prison for charges that included one count of lying to Congress that had been levied against Trump’s former fixer by Mueller’s office.

Trump has frequently railed against the investigation, which he has called a witch hunt, and denied any collusion with Russia.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Gators gone wild! 2018 was their year

NASA's 1st flight to moon, Apollo 8, marks 50th anniversary

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. (AP) - Fifty years ago on Christmas Eve, a tumultuous year of assassinations, riots and war drew to a close in heroic and hopeful fashion with the three Apollo 8 astronauts reading from the Book of Genesis on live TV as they orbited the moon.

To this day, that 1968 mission is considered to be NASA's boldest and perhaps most dangerous undertaking. That first voyage by humans to another world set the stage for the still grander Apollo 11 moon landing seven months later.

There was unprecedented and unfathomable risk to putting three men atop a monstrous new rocket for the first time and sending them all the way to the moon. The mission was whipped together in just four months in order to reach the moon by year's end, before the Soviet Union.

There was the Old Testament reading by commander Frank Borman, Jim Lovell and Bill Anders.

Lastly, there was the photo named "Earthrise," showing our blue and white ball - humanity's home - rising above the bleak, gray lunar landscape and 240,000 miles (386 million kilometers) in the distance.

Humans had never set eyes on the far side of the moon, or on our planet as a cosmic oasis, surrounded completely by the black void of space. A half-century later, only 24 U.S. astronauts who flew to the moon have witnessed these wondrous sights in person.

The Apollo 8 crew is still around: Borman and Lovell are 90, Anders is 85.

To Lovell, the journey had the thrill and romance of true exploration, and provided an uplifting cap for Americans to a painful, contentious year marked by the assassinations of Martin Luther King Jr. and Robert Kennedy, nationwide riots and protests of the Vietnam War.

The mission's impact was perhaps best summed up in a four-word telegram received by Borman. "Thanks, you saved 1968."

NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine - who at age 43 missed Apollo - marvels over the gutsy decision in August that year to launch astronauts to the moon in four months' time. He's pushing for a return to the moon, but with real sustainability this next go-around.

The space agency flipped missions and decided that instead of orbiting Earth, Borman and his crew would fly to the moon to beat the Soviets and pave the way for the lunar landings to come. And that was despite on its previous test flight, the Saturn V rocket lost parts and engines failed.

"Even more worrisome than all of this," Bridenstine noted earlier this month, Apollo 8 would be in orbit around the moon on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. "In other words, if there was a failure here, it would wreck Christmas not only for everybody in the United States, but for everybody in the world."

As that first moon shot neared, Borman's wife, Susan, demanded to know the crew's chances. A NASA director answered: 50-50.

Borman wanted to get to the moon and get back fast. In his mind, a single lap around the moon would suffice. His bosses insisted on more.

"My main concern in this whole flight was to get there ahead of the Russians and get home. That was a significant achievement in my eyes," Borman explained at the Chicago launch of the book "Rocket Men" last spring.

Everyone eventually agreed: Ten orbits it would be.

Liftoff of the Saturn V occurred on the morning of Saturday, Dec. 21, 1968.

On Christmas Eve, the spaceship successfully slipped into orbit around the moon. Before bedtime, the first envoys to another world took turns reading the first 10 verses from Genesis. It had been left to Borman, before the flight, to find "something appropriate" to say for what was expected to be the biggest broadcast audience to date.

"We all tried for quite a while to figure out something, and it all came up trite or foolish," Borman recalled. Finally, the wife of a friend of a friend came up with the idea of Genesis.

"In the beginning," Anders read, "God created the heaven and the Earth ..."

Borman ended the broadcast with, "And from the crew of Apollo 8, we close with good night, good luck, a Merry Christmas, and God bless all of you - all of you on the good Earth."

On Christmas morning, their spacecraft went around the moon for the final time. The engine firing needed to shoot them back to Earth occurred while the capsule was out of communication with Mission Control in Houston. Lovell broke the nervous silence as the ship reappeared: "Please be informed there is a Santa Claus."

Back in Houston, meanwhile, a limousine driver knocked on Marilyn Lovell's door and handed her a gift-wrapped mink stole with a card that read: "To Marilyn, Merry Christmas from the man in the moon." Lovell bought the coat for his wife and arranged its fancy delivery before liftoff.

Splashdown occurred in the pre-dawn darkness on Dec. 27, bringing the incredible six-day journey to a close. Time magazine named the three astronauts "Men of the Year."

It wasn't until after the astronauts were back that the significance of their Earth pictures sank in.

Anders snapped the iconic Earthrise photo during the crew's fourth orbit of the moon, frantically switching from black-and-white to color film to capture the planet's exquisite, fragile beauty.

"Oh my God, look at that picture over there!" Anders said. "There's the Earth coming up. Wow, is that pretty!"

Before the flight, no one had thought about photographing Earth, according to Anders. The astronauts were under orders to get pictures for potential lunar landing sites while orbiting 70 miles (112 kilometers) above the moon.

"We came to explore the moon and what we discovered was the Earth," Anders is fond of saying.

His Earthrise photo is a pillar of today's environmental movement. It remains a legacy of Apollo and humanity's achievement, said professor emeritus John Logsdon of George Washington University's Space Policy Institute, forever underscoring the absence of political borders as seen from space.

Anders wondered then - and now - "This is not a very big place, why can't we get along?"

Lovell remains awestruck by the fact he could hide all of Earth behind his thumb.

"Over 3 billion people, mountains, oceans, deserts, everything I ever knew was behind my thumb," he recalled at a recent anniversary celebration at Washington's National Cathedral.

Astronaut-artist Nicole Stott said the golden anniversary provides an opportunity to reintroduce the world to Earthrise. She and three other former space travelers are holding a celebration at NASA's Kennedy Space Center on Friday, 50 years to the day Apollo 8 launched.

"That one image, I think, it just gives us the who and where we are in the universe so beautifully," she said.

By July 1969, Apollo 8 was overshadowed by Apollo 11's Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin moon landing. But without Apollo 8, noted George Washington's Logsdon, NASA likely would not have met President John F. Kennedy's deadline of putting a man on the moon by the end of the decade.

Borman and Anders never flew in space again, and Soviet cosmonauts never made it to the moon.

Lovell went on to command the ill-fated Apollo 13 - "but that's another story." That flight was the most demanding, he said, "But Apollo 8 was the one of exploration, the one of repeating the Lewis and Clark expedition ... finding the new Earth."

___ AP video journalist Federica Narancio contributed to this report from Washington.

___

The Associated Press Health & Science Department receives support from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute's Department of Science Education. The AP is solely responsible for all content.

Donald Trump, Melania Trump pose in official White House Christmas portrait

The White House has released the official Christmas portrait of President Donald Trump and First Lady Melania Trump.

>> Read more trending news 

Related: Photos: Melania Trump unveils 2018 White House Christmas decorations

The image was taken Saturday in the Cross Hall on the first floor of the White House. Andrea Hanks snapped the photo, which shows 45 in a tuxedo and Melania Trump in a form-hugging white sequined long-sleeve dress.

Vice President Mike Pence and Second Lady Karen Pence also shared their official portrait. The Myles Cullen photo was taken Dec. 8 at the Vice President's Residence at the Naval Observatory in Washington, D.C.

Judge rules school, cops had no duty to protect students in Parkland shooting

A federal judge has ruled that the school district and Broward County Sheriff's Office had no legal duty to protect students during the shooting earlier this year at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.

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U.S. District Judge Beth Bloom dismissed the lawsuit brought by 15 student survivors of the shooting against six defendants, including the Broward School District, the Broward Sheriff's Office and school resource deputy Scot Peterson.

The plaintiffs argued that the Sheriff's Office, the school district and others failed to protect students against shooter Nikolas Cruz, despite many warnings about his behavior before the Feb. 14 shooting that left 17 dead. It specifically criticized deputy Scot Peterson, who was armed but failed to confront Cruz during the shooting.

“His arbitrary and conscience-shocking actions and inactions directly and predictably caused children to die, get injured, and get traumatized,” the lawsuit said of Peterson, according to the Sun Sentinel.

But Bloom said in the ruling that students -- unlike mental patients and prison inmates -- are not in a custodial relationship with the state, reported WPLG-TV.

"Absent that type of restraint, there can be no concomitant duty to provide for the student's safety and general well-being," Bloom wrote.

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