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Cruise ship with more than 300 sick passengers returns to Florida port

A Royal Caribbean cruise ship returned to Port Everglades today after more than 300 people became ill with a stomach virus.

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Cruise officials said there were 332 cases of the gastrointestinal illness, just under 6 percent of the more than 5,000 guests and crew aboard the Independence of the Seas, according to a CNN report.

The cruise left South Florida on Monday, and the illness began to spread by Wednesday, WSVN in Miami reported. Passengers were given over-the-counter medication, and staff quickly cleaned and disinfected the entire ship, a Royal Caribbean spokesperson said.

But passengers reported a not-so-memorable cruise.

"Imagine being in a waiting room and sitting next to five or six people all throwing up at the same time," passenger Cheryl Roberts told WSVN.

Roberts said all of the sick passengers she spoke to had lunch on the ship.

"We all didn’t eat off of the ship, and now we’re all either throwing up or we have horrible diarrhea," she said.

A Royal Caribbean statement said the cruise line is "taking steps like intensive sanitary procedures to minimize the risk of any further issues."

UPS driver fired after stealing iPhone he delivered, police say

A Florida man lost his job with UPS and faces grand theft charges after a homeowner's surveillance video caught him stealing an iPhone he had delivered hours earlier, police say. 

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Jason Christopher Mohn, 47, was caught Tuesday taking the package from a woman's porch, stuffing it under his shirt and fleeing hours after it was initially delivered, according to WFTS.

A video from two hours prior to the theft showed Mohn, a UPS contractor, delivering the iPhone X to the St. Pete Beach address.

Jovita Acute-Parker said she installed the two cameras at her front door to feel safer. She said she couldn't believe it when the cameras caught the theft. The suspect turned toward the camera as he left. 

If that wasn't enough to seal the case for police, the stolen iPhone was later found by Mohn's supervisor among his personal belongings at work, a police report says. He was fired immediately and arrested Wednesday.

"Stupidest thief ever," Acute-Parker told WFTS with a laugh after getting her $1,000 iPhone back. 

According to Pinellas County Sheriff's Office records, Mohn was released Friday on a $2,000 bond. 

Earthquake recorded off Texas Gulf Coast

A size 3.0 magnitude earthquake was recorded Saturday about 60 miles from South Padre Island on the Texas Gulf Coast, according to the U.S. Geological Survey

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The earthquake had an epicenter about 10 miles below the water’s surface. 

The geological group asked anyone who felt the quake to share information with them.

Donations pour in after 7-year-old girl’s letter to Santa asking for blanket, food

A 7-year-old’s heartbreaking letter to Santa asking for a blanket, ball and food, brought in hundreds of donations to help her and other impoverished children at her school.

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“I have (been) good this day,” Crystal Pacheco wrote. “This Christmas I would like a ball and a food. I need a (blanket).”

The letter was part of a classroom exercise by Monte Cristo Elementary School first-grade teacher Ruth Espiricueta, who asked them to list two wants and a need.

“I started reading them and it's like, I did not expect her to say, ‘I need food. I want food, but I need a blanket more,'" Espiricueta told KGBT. "And I asked, ‘Well, why do you need a blanket more than the food?’ ‘Well, I get to eat at school -- sometimes I may not have at home, but I get to eat at school. A blanket I have one, but it's not warm enough.’"

Espiricueta posted the letter on social media, sparking hundreds of donations of blankets and other items to the school, according to KRGV

"Unfortunately, there are other students that, as part of their needs, they included food, towels, blankets, pillows, bed, clothes, shoes and a stove," Espiricueta told ABC News. "Some of my students were not even excited about Christmas because they know that their parents cannot afford to buy a Christmas tree or gifts for them."

Crystal wrote the letter thinking about her brother, with whom she would use the ball, food for the family and the blanket because the house is too cold, her mother Maria Cortez told KRGV.

“I'm just very emotional and proud of my children, because I raise them to appreciate the little that we have," Cortez told KGBT.

The school hopes to get 724 blankets to give to each student, so far they have 616.

Tiny KFC serving miniature food opens in Portland

The smallest KFC in the world, serving miniature $5 fill ups, opened Saturday in Portland

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Customers lined up for the free sample of the tiny fried chicken, biscuit, mashed potatoes with a small dollop of gravy, a finger-nail sized cookie and what could only be a sip of a soft drink.

The novelty fast food restaurant was open until 4 p.m., according to The Oregonian.

Man pushed Iraq veteran to ground, stole service dog

An Iraq veteran says a man pushed her to the icy ground and stole her service dog.

Ashley McCall relies on her 65-pound service dog Jax to help with her anxiety and depression, but that constant source of joy and happiness was suddenly swiped from her Thursday afternoon.

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She says a man started asking questions about Jax while she was getting ready to put him in the car behind her Concord, New Hampshire apartment.

"And he reaches for my door and he pulls it open so I shut it back and as I do that he takes me and slams me to the ground and then takes Jax and gets into this silver Ford Focus and leaves and starts speeding off," said McCall.

Meanwhile, next door at the florist shop, the owner, who used to be in law enforcement, noticed that same car had been sitting in his parking lot all morning. He thought it was suspicious, so he approached the two people in the car. 

"The explanation they were waiting for someone didn’t make sense in this day and age when everyone has a cell phone; you can pick up the phone, call, and ask them where they are so from the beginning it looked like there was some ambush that was about to happen at some point," said owner Fred Keach.

When the alleged ambush happened, Keach called police with a plate number, type of car and description of the men. 

The suspect left the leash and service vest behind, but all the McCalls want is their beloved companion. 

"Ultimately, we just want the dog back. He's a family member. He's not a pet. He's a family member," said McCall.

Matt Kemp traded back to Dodgers in major 5-player deal

The Braves and Dodgers announced a five-player trade Saturday afternoon that sent outfielder Matt Kemp back to Los Angeles.

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Atlanta added starting pitchers Brandon McCarthy and Scott Kazmir, infielder Charlie Culberson, first baseman Adrian Gonzalez and cash. Gonzalez was designated for assignment.

The Dodgers snuck under the $197 million luxury tax threshold, while the Braves open an outfield spot for top prospect Ronald Acuna.

Kazmir and McCarthy have endured several injuries through recent years, with both presenting moderate upside when healthy. 

Culberson could be a utility option. He’s played sparingly for the Dodgers the past two seasons, with his most memorable performance coming at the end of the 2016 season, when Culberson hit a walk-off home run to clinch the NL West in Vin Scully’s final home game.

Report: CDC given list of 'forbidden' words for budget

The Trump administration has issued a list of seven words and phrases that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are "forbidden" from using in documents related to next year's budget, The Washington Post reported Friday.The list of banned words includes: vulnerable, entitlement, diversity, transgender, fetus, evidence-based and science-based, according to The Washington Post report. In certain cases, alternative phrasing was offered. CDC employees were encouraged to use the phrase, “the CDC bases its recommendations on science in consideration with community standards and wishes," in place of “science-based” or “evidence-based” according to a source cited in The Washington Post report.

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It is not clear why the Trump administration issued such a directive, but The Washington Post notes that other federal agencies, like Health and Human Services, have altered language addressing sexual orientation in its documentation since Trump took office.The directive was met with an "incredulous" reaction when it was announced at a meeting Thursday with CDC employees, The Washington Post reported.

The White House has not released a response to The Washington Post report.

Iowa sisters reunited days before one dies in school bus fire

For the second time in her life, Paige Hough had to say goodbye to her sister. This time, it was permanent.

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Hough was separated from her sister 10 years ago when her family put 6-year-old Megan Klindt up for adoption. Days after the sisters reconnected this month, Megan was killed when an Iowa school bus caught fire after rolling into a ditch on Tuesday. She was 16.

The driver of the bus, 74-year-old Donald Hendricks, also died in the 7 a.m. fire, The Des Moines Register reported. They were the only people onboard the bus in rural Pottawattamie County near Oakland. Hendricks began to back out of Klindt’s driveway and ended up in a ditch, where the bus caught fire, the Register reported.

“I talked with her the night before,” Hough told KETV. “This is so hard.”

When Megan was adopted, Hough was 16. 

“I would always look for her and thought about her,” Hough told KETV. “It was one of the hardest days of my life. Growing up, she wasn't my sister, she was my kid. I helped take care of her, I changed her, I took her to school, I taught her how to write her name, helped her do her homework. She was my life. She is my everything.”

The adoption court ruled that the sisters could reconnect when Megan turned 18. But when a cousin saw Megan at the mall and texted a picture to Hough, she headed to the shopping center.

“I was so nervous,” Hough said. “I just said, ‘Megan’ and she turned around and that was always my fear that she wouldn't know who I was or wouldn't recognize me since she was little.

“She turned around and said, ‘Oh my God,’ we were crying and she hugged me and it was the best thing that ever happened.”

The Klindt family decided to allow Hough to see her sister, KETV reported.

Megan invited Paige to her 16th birthday party Dec. 2.

"”t was like going to lunch with my family every day. There was no missing beats and we all talked. We were so happy,” Hough said. “I won't forget that day.”

Now, Hough must deal with another family tragedy.

“I've had a rough life. I lost my dad at a young age. I lost my grandmother who raised me at a young age,” she told KETV. “Megan was always my happy ending that I waited for."

When Hough turned 20 she got a tattoo on her wrist that had an infinity heart and Megan’s initials.

"It was to help me get through struggles and to motivate me,” Hough told KETV. “ Now it's more of a remembrance tattoo and I didn't think it would get to this point,”

Pit bull pup debuts as police dog in Kansas

A police department in Kansas has employed the state’s first pit bull police dog, The Wichita Eagle reported.

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The Stafford Police Department added Kano, a 55-pound red nose pit bull that has one blue eye and one brown eye. The puppy was named after a character from the game “Mortal Kombat” because of his unique eye color and patches, the Stafford Police Department wrote in a Facebook post.

The dog is trained in locating marijuana, methamphetamine, cocaine, heroin and ecstasy. Kano’s handler – Officer Mason Paden – said he knows that some may be a little apprehensive of a pit bull on the police force.

“I have always been ‘pro-Pit Bull’ these dogs are misunderstood. ... Just like people dogs are individuals too!” he posted on Facebook. “Kano and I plan to get out there and help try to change the bad name that so many have given the Pit Bull.”

“Anyone who watches him work can and will see the drive this dog has, not only that but how incredible these dogs are,” the department wrote.

Universal K-9 operations director Brad Croft told the Hutchinson News that they look for pit bulls between 1 year and 32 months old so departments can get a longer career out of the dog.

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