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Ray Rice Wins Appeal, Indefinite Suspension Lifted

Kenneth K. Lam/Baltimore Sun/MCT via Getty Images(BALTIMORE) -- Former Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice won his appeal against the National Football League on Friday, overturning his indefinite suspension for striking his then-fiancée in the elevator of an Atlantic City, N.J. hotel in February.

Rice was initially suspended for two games, but when video from within the elevator surfaced publicly in September, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell made the suspension indefinite. Shortly thereafter, the Baltimore Ravens released Rice from his contract.

A statement put out by the NFL Players Association on Rice's behalf called the decision "a victory for a disciplinary process that is fair and transparent."

"We take no pleasure in seeing a decision that confirms what we have been saying about the Commissioner's office acting arbitrarily," the statement continues, "the only remaining action is for NFL owners to embrace a fair process with a neutral arbitrator in all cases."

The NFL released a statement Friday saying that the league would respect the judge's decision. With the suspension overturned, the NFL said that Rice was "eligible to play upon signing a new contract."

Judge Barbara Jones heard the appeal and said in her decision that "the sole issue in this matter is whether what Rice told the Commissioner and other League representatives about the assault at their June 16, 2014 meeting was 'a starkly different sequence of events' than what was captured on the 'inside the elevator' video." Jones was only charged with determining the validity of the suspension, not Rice's actions on the night in question.

Rice had argued that by extending the suspension, Goodell had unfairly punished him twice for the same incident.

Jones said in her decision that because the story Rice told at the June meeting was not significantly different, "the imposition of a second suspension based upon the same incident, and the same known facts about that incident, was arbitrary."

"I do not doubt that viewing the video in September evoked horror in Commissioner Goodell as it did with the public," Jones said, "but this does not change the fact that Rice did not lie or mislead the NFL at the June 16 meeting."

Jones notes that, had Goodell imposed an indefinite suspension in the first place, "an arbitrator would be hard pressed to find that the Commissioner had abused his discretion," but by implementing a shorter suspension and than extending it, he had unfairly imposed two punishments based on the same incident and the same information about that incident.

Jones did mandate that the other aspects of the initial punishment -- continued use of counseling and other professional services -- still stand.

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Suspected Gunman Dead After Officer-Involved Shooting in Austin, Texas

Twitter/hanskpaap(AUSTIN, Texas) -- A gunman in Austin, Texas, tried to burn down the Mexican consulate and fired more than 100 rounds at city buildings and at a police officer early Friday before dying of a bullet wound.

It was not immediately clear whether the shooter, identified by ABC News as Larry Steven McQuilliams, 49, was killed by police or shot himself, authorities said.

Austin Police Department Assistant Chief Raul Munguia, speaking at a news conference, said residents reported hearing shots at 2:22 a.m., and calls continued to come in as the suspect was “attacking government facilities.” Police said the timing of the attack was especially dangerous because bars were closing in downtown Austin, sending potentially thousands of people onto the streets.

After an officer fired at the suspect, police noticed that he was wearing a vest, and a bomb squad was called to the scene, Munguia said. No police officers were injured, but Austin’s Police Department headquarters was evacuated.

The suspect tried to set the Mexican consulate ablaze and successfully ignited a fire, but it extinguished before the consulate was significantly damaged, police said. He also unleashed a barrage of bullets at the Austin Police Department, a federal courthouse and a downtown bank, authorities said.

While he was firing “a lot of bullets” at police headquarters, an officer saw him and returned fire, according to police. McQuilliams died at the scene.

Authorities executed a search warrant at his apartment Friday and have reviewed his social media accounts, but so far a motive is still unclear.

The FBI is “assisting” with the investigation, police said.

McQuilliams was arrested in 1992 by the Austin Police Department for aggravated robbery with a deadly weapon, but the case was dismissed, according to public records.

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Cousins Trapped in Snowbank Say 'Thanks' to Rescuers

Bronwyn8/iStock/Thinkstock(NEWBURGH, N.Y.) -- Two New York boys expressed thanks to their rescuers Friday after the pair were inadvertently trapped for about eight hours in a snowbank when a plow operator pushed snow over them, not realizing they were there.

Cousins Jason Rivera, 9, and Elijah Martinez, 11, told ABC News they were feeling good after being buried under 7 feet of snow.

"I want to say, thank you ... for the cop shovels to help us up, help us out of the snow," Jason said from his hospital bed. "I thank you for trying to help us ... out of the snow and helping us two little kids."

Jason and Elijah were playing in the snow and building a snow fort Wednesday at 6 p.m. near their homes in Newburgh, Orange County, when a snow plow came by and accidentally threw a wall of snow on top of them. The two were buried side by side in the pitch-black darkness.

"I only saw his hoodie because it was glowing, glowing in the dark," Elijah said about Jason.

Though their heads were in an air pocket, the rest of their bodies were encased in ice.

"The only thing he could move was one of his arms," Elijah said. "That's it."

When the boys didn’t return home by 10 p.m., family and friends set out looking for them before calling police. Both of their mothers walked by the snow pile that trapping their sons, but neither heard the boys screaming inside.

Eventually, a police officer spotted a shovel sticking out of the snow and started digging. The officer came across one of the boy's boots. About 30 people, including police officers, relatives and neighbors, frantically dug through the snow to pull them to safety as subfreezing temperatures set in.

The boys were pulled from the snow around 2 a.m., cold, but otherwise OK, and taken to the hospital for observation.

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Protesters Disrupt Shopping in St. Louis Area

Photo by Joshua Lott/Getty Images(FERGUSON, Mo.) -- Protesters upset by the decision not to indict police officer Darren Wilson in connection with the fatal shooting of 18-year-old Michael Brown earlier this week showed up on Friday to voice their dissatisfaction on a day when consumers typically go on a shopping splurge.

Over 100 protesters marched through the Galleria Mall near St. Louis, blocked the aisle and forcing some stores to temporarily close.

According to the Saint Louis Post-Dispatch, the protest eventually moved on to the West County Center, during which protesters laid on the floor, representing the time that Michael Brown's body was left on the street.

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Search On for Missing Ohio State Football Player

Kirk Irwin/Getty Images (COLUMBUS, Ohio) -- An Ohio State University football player who was still missing Friday after going out for a walk early Wednesday texted his mother that he was confused due to concussions, police said.

Ohio State University football defensive tackle Kosta Karageorge left his apartment about 2 a.m. Wednesday morning, according to his family. He hasn't been heard from since.

A missing-person report filed with Columbus police Wednesday evening says Karageorge told his mother he was sorry if he was an embarrassment, but concussions had his head messed up, the Columbus Dispatch says.

Ohio State head coach Urban Meyer praised Karageorge in a statement released Friday.

"Our thoughts continue to be with the family of Kosta Karageorge and we pray that he is safe and that he is found soon," Meyer said. "He is a young man who joined the football team in August and was a hard worker on the field and pleasant off the field. He has been an important player in practice for us, right up until the time he was reported missing. If anyone knows anything about his whereabouts, please help his family and contact the authorities."

Buckeyes team physican Dr. Jim Borchers declined to comment on whether Karageorge had any record of being treated for concussions.

"First and foremost, our primary concern is for the health, safety and welfare of Kosta," Borchers said in statement. "While we are not able to discuss or comment about the medical care regarding our student-athletes, we are confident in our medical procedures and policies to return athletes to participation following injury or illness."

About 100 people met in Columbus today to search for Karageorge, the Columbus Dispatch reported.

Karageorge, who is also on the Ohio State wrestling team, had no vehicle, wallet or ID when he left, the sister told the newspaper.

Karageorge, 22, is a white male, 6 feet, 3 inches tall, and weighs about 270 pounds. He was last seen wearing black sweatpants over jeans, black Timberland boots, and a black hoodie with FOC on it.

Anyone with information about Karageorge's whereabouts can call 614-747-1729.

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Orion: NASA's Next Big Mission Prepares to Blast Off

Photo credit: NASA/Kim Shiflett(NEW YORK) -- NASA is putting the finishing touches on its next big project, the Orion spacecraft, which is set for liftoff next week.

This unmanned test mission will launch on Dec. 4 at 7:04 a.m. ET on a Delta IV rocket from Cape Canaveral and will land four and a half hours later with a splashdown 600 miles off the coast of San Diego in the Pacific Ocean.

While in orbit, the spacecraft will circle Earth twice at an altitude of 3,600 miles.

Orion will make re-entry at 20,000 mph with temperatures hitting 4,000 degrees.

NASA will be watching closely to see how Orion holds up during the flight. If successful, the capsule could be used for future long term missions into deep space, including trips to Mars.

Orion seats four astronauts -- one more than NASA's Apollo spacefraft.

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Texas Homeowner Uses Facebook to Find Thief

iStock/Thinkstock(HARRIS COUNTY, Texas) -- A Texas homeowner turned to social media after a teen allegedly snatched a package off his front doorstep.

Jeff Turner, who lives in Harris County, said he witnessed the incident on his home video surveillance. The FedEx package had just been delivered when someone swooped in, with a sweatshirt covering his face. The person can be seen looking back and forth before grabbing the package and running off.

“It was bold,” Turner said. “The more I thought about it, the kind of madder I got, and I thought, ‘You know what, I’m going to post this to a social media site.’”

Turner turned to his Facebook friends, posting screen-grabs of the surveillance footage on his neighborhood watch Facebook page to see whether anyone recognized the person.

It didn’t take long for neighbors to identify a local teen who was allegedly responsible.

But Turner took mercy and didn’t go to police, and the stolen item – a Houston Rockets sweater – was returned to Turner’s son, Jared.

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Florida Mom Goes Viral With 'Handmade Ugly Tacky Christmas Sweaters'

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Christmas sweaters are the "ugly" trend that everyone loves to hate, but no one may really love the sweaters more than Deb Rottum.

The 45-year-old mother of three from Tampa has become a viral star thanks to the Christmas sweater creations she hand crafts and then posts to her eBay store,"Deb's Handmade Ugly Tacky Christmas Sweaters."

“It takes me about two hours to make a sweater,” Rottum told ABC News.

It’s not just the detailed design that is gaining Rottum Internet fame. It is the way in which she displays the sweaters online, by posing in them herself in an arms-wide-open stance.

“I put my arms out so people can see what I’ve done to the sleeves of the sweater,” Rottum said.

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As for the seemingly crazed expression that Rottum has on her face in each picture, Rottum says that is a strategic move as well.

“My goofy face was just [to say], ‘Hey, have fun. Come buy my sweater,” Rottum said, laughing.

Commenters on Rottum’s eBay page are sometimes horrified and sometimes not amused.

“She scares me,” one commenter wrote.

“My kid seen that face and will not sleep alone,” wrote another.

Even with detractors, Rottum is watching sales of her sweaters skyrocket. Her sales have quadrupled and her designs are gaining worldwide attention.

“I had a girl from the U.K. want a sweater with skunks because she has pet skunks,” Rottum said. “I did one with a shark, a Hello Kitty and a duck just this week.”

“I love it,” she said. “I think it’s so much fun when people comment and tell me how much fun they had with a sweater I made.”

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Here's Proof Pigs Actually Do Fly (Almost)

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- They say pigs don't fly, but this one came close.

A pig landed on a US Airways flight out of Connecticut on Wednesday, but was taken off the plane after it became disruptive, a spokesperson told ABC News.

Jonathan Skolnik, a professor at the University of Massachusetts Amherst and a passenger on the flight, told ABC News he thought the woman with the pig was carrying a duffel bag when she got on the plane and headed straight for the empty seat next to him.

"But it turns out it wasn't a duffel bag. We could smell it and it was a pig on a leash," he said. "She tethered it to the arm rest next to me and started to deal with her stuff, but the pig was walking back and forth."

"I was terrified, because I was thinking I'm gonna be on the plane with the pig," Snolnik added, saying he guesses the pig weighed between 50 and 70 pounds.

But the flight didn't take off with the pig. The woman and the animal eventually deplaned.

American Airlines, the parent company of US Airways, confirmed to ABC News that a passenger brought the pig aboard as an emotional support animal. After the pig became disruptive, she was asked to leave, a spokesperson said.

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More than 250,000 Still Without Power on Thanksgiving Afternoon

Andrejs Jegorovs/iStockphoto/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- More than 250,000 are without power this Thanksgiving after Wednesday's storms knocked out power lines along the East Coast.

The storm system grounded hundreds of flights and clogged up highways on Wednesday. Over 350,000 electric customers lost power.

Thursday afternoon, when most families would prefer to be cooking turkeys or watching football, at least 251,175 power customers are in the dark. That total includes homes in 10 states, from Maine to Virginia.

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Ferguson Officer Darren Wilson Confident Federal Probe Will Clear Him Too

ABC News(FERGUSON, Mo.) -- The Ferguson police officer cleared of charges by a Missouri grand jury in the killing an unarmed black teenager says he’s confident a federal criminal probe into his actions will find “nothing” and clear him too.

In an exclusive interview with ABC News’ George Stephanopoulos, Officer Darren Wilson insisted he carried no racial bias when he fatally shot 18-year-old Michael Brown, and Wilson said he’s never been accused of acting in a racist manner during his entire law enforcement career.

“I did my job and followed my training,” Wilson said. “The training took over.”

The U.S. Justice Department is now conducting two probes sparked by Wilson's fatal confrontation with Brown on Aug. 9.

A criminal investigation will try to determine whether Wilson used unreasonable force and intentionally violated Brown’s civil rights when he shot the teenager. The second probe - though not criminal in nature – will look more broadly into whether the Ferguson police department has routinely engaged in a "pattern or practice" of unlawful and discriminatory policing.

Training will be one of several “priority areas" scrutinized by the federal probes, Attorney General Eric Holder said Tuesday.

In his interview this week with Stephanopoulos, Wilson said he’s worried about being caught in the crosshairs of a federal criminal investigation, but is confident investigators will find “nothing” to suggest he broke the law.

“I stand by what I did,” he said. “I stand by my training, and just have to wait and see what they determine.”

Stephanopoulos asked Wilson: “You're confident that no charges will be brought?”

Wilson responded simply, “Yeah.”

During its criminal investigation into Wilson, the Justice Department will be analyzing his past record, but “racial animus” is not something federal prosecutors have to prove to bring charges, according to William Yeomans, a former top civil rights prosecutor who spent 26 years at the Justice Department.

Investigators would have to show Wilson shot Brown with the specific intent to violate Brown’s civil rights and “use more force than was reasonably necessary under the circumstances,” Yeomans said. Reaching that threshold “can be very difficult” when there are conflicting eyewitness accounts and few pieces of physical evidence, according to Yeomans.

“It's difficult to prove what was going on in his head,” Yeomans said.

In his interview this week, Wilson acknowledged that – while the Ferguson community is predominantly black – the police force there is overwhelmingly white. But he said that didn’t create any inherent mistrust or tension between him and those he encountered while on patrol.

Testifying before a St. Louis County grand jury two months ago, however, he described his beat in Ferguson as “an antipolice area for sure.”

“That community doesn’t like the police,” he testified.

Holder echoed that sentiment Tuesday, saying, “Michael Brown's tragic death has revealed a deep distrust between some in the Ferguson community and its police force.”

Holder said the Justice Department will conduct an “intensive review” of the “priority areas" identified by the broader probe into the entire Ferguson police department, including a look at how officers handled searches and traffic stops of black drivers.

According to data released by the Missouri state government, about 67 percent of the Ferguson population is black, but last year 86 percent of those stopped by police were black, and 92 percent of those searched were black.

In addition, according to the same data, Ferguson police were twice as likely to search a black individual than a white individual, but they were significantly less likely to actually find contraband on black individuals compared with when they searched white individuals.

“There are obvious ways the police department needs to be reformed,” Yeomans said. “And I am confident that once this process is concluded, it will be a significantly different police department.”

Holder vowed that the two federal probes will be “conducted rigorously and in a timely manner” so that federal authorities can begin “to restore trust, to rebuild understanding and to foster cooperation between law enforcement and community members.”

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Several Arrests Made Near Thanksgiving Day Parade

Reptile8488/iStockphoto/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Seven protesters were arrested near the route of the annual Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade in New York City on Thursday. The arrests came amid rumblings on social media about disrupting the parade and Black Friday to protest a Missouri grand jury’s decisions not to indict the police officer who shot Michael Brown to death.

An estimated 50 protesters gathered a block away from the parade route at the New York Public Library. Several people were arrested when they started trying to interrupt the parade, including vandalizing, breaking windows and knocking over barricades, police said.

The parade was not interrupted, and the rest of the protesters returned to the library where they are now "peacefully" protesting, according to police.

“We will not tolerate, under any circumstances, any effort to disrupt this parade,” Police Commissioner Bill Bratton said before the arrests. “This is a national event, a historic event. Anybody who would seek to interrupt it would be callous, indeed, on this very special day.”

Hashtags such as #stoptheparade were trending Thursday morning. The NYPD was aware of the Internet conversations calling for demonstrations on Thanksgiving, Bratton said.

On a larger scale, a movement to boycott Thanksgiving Day and Black Friday has been gaining steam on social media, asking people to sit out Thanksgiving and Black Friday events to protest the grand jury's decision to not charge Officer Darren Wilson for killing the unarmed teen.

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Cash Pours In to Fix Bakery Damaged in Ferguson Riots

ABC NEWS(FERGUSON, Mo.) -- A Missouri woman whose business was vandalized in Ferguson riots is busy pushing out pies and cakes at her bakery on Thanksgiving, despite broken windows and damage to the store.

Supporters raised more than $200,000 in two days to help Natalie DuBose, the owner of Natalie's Cakes & More. DuBose said her bakery, which she opened this summer, was damaged when protesters rioted following news that police officer Darren Wilson had not been indicted in the shooting death of unarmed teenager Michael Brown.

"My main windows were smashed and bakery damaged," she wrote on a GoFundMe page launched on Tuesday. "I'm beside myself, but with the holidays, can't stop working.

"I'm truly mixing batter right now.”

Rioters smashed windows, burned down businesses and set police cars on fire late Monday in Ferguson after the grand jury's decision to not indict Wilson was announced.

DuBose was in tears Tuesday after learning the violence had reached her shop.

An employee who answered the phone at the bakery Thursday told ABC News the staff is busy delivering orders, despite the damage.

Kristine Froeba, a supporter who's helping run the bakery's social media pages, said DuBose is hard at work.

"She's backed up with her Thanksgiving orders, she's baking around the clock, the phone is ringing off the hook," Froeba said. "She's so busy."

DuBose says she's grateful for the financial support.

"I am truly and humbly blessed," she wrote on the GoFundMe page early Thursday.

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Snowmobiler Killed in Montana Avalanche

boggy22/iStockphoto/Thinkstock(COOKE CITY, Mont.) -- A Montana man was killed in an avalanche on Wednesday while snowmobiling on Henderson Peak.

According to a press release from the Gallatin National Forest Avalanche Center, the man was partially buried in an avalanche at about 1:30 p.m. Wednesday. His snowmobiling partner had rescue gear, but despite effort to dig the victim out of the snow, CPR was unsuccessful.

The GNFAC is asking skiers and snowmobilers to be cautious due to recent heavy snowfall. A Backcountry Avalanche Warning remains in place  for the area through at least Friday morning due to strong winds and heavy snow.

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FAA Releases Report Detailing Nearly 200 Drone Sightings Since February

estt/iStockphoto/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- The Federal Aviation Administration released a report on Wednesday detailing 194 drone sightings between February and November.

The FAA said in a statement that it receives approximately 25 reports per month of drone sightings by pilots. Most sightings had little to no impact on pilots, though in some cases, the FAA notes, pilots were forced to alter course to avoid an unmanned craft. At least six of the entries reflect "near misses," including at least one with a commercial aircraft and at least one other with a medevac helicopter.

Approximately 109 of the reports included drones operating more than 500 feet in the air. About 30 instances involved drones within five miles of airports.

"The FAA is in the process of executing a plan for safe and staged integration of unmanned aircraft into the National Airspace System," the agency's statement said. It pointed to increased awareness by pilots and improved reporting and record keeping for the increased number of reports.

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