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iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Wednesday's winter storm has left almost 400,000 customers without power in the northeast.

Public Service Company of New Hampshire spokesman Martin Murray says, "The reason that this has occurred is we really had wet, heavy snow, that's fallen on evergreen trees and there hasn't been a lot of wind to push that snow off so instead they've been weighed down and they've interfered with power lines and equipment."

In New Hampshire, Maine, Massachusetts, Connecticut, and Rhode Island, 293,000 customers are without power.

In New York, New Jersey, Maryland, West Virginia, Virginia, and Pennsylvania, nearly 100,000 customers are without power.

It's expected to take days to restore power in some areas.

The storm is also impacting Thanksgiving travel. As of Wednesday night, 4,624 flights were delayed and 735 were cancelled, according to the flight-tracking company FlightAware.


Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio


iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Jessica and Jason Neal are like any loving parents figuring out how to care for their large family, but what sets them apart is they believe they always have room for one more.

“We have two biological children, we have adopted six, we’ve done foster care for 92 kids and we are waiting to adopt one from Africa,” Jason Neal told ABC’s Robin Roberts.

The Neals describe their life as “unperfectly perfect organized chaos,” but they wouldn’t have it any other way, Jessica Neal said.

Jessica and Jason, both 41, met in 1993. After getting married, they moved to a small town in Ohio. Jessica desperately wanted a large family, so she was devastated when her doctor told her she could not conceive.

Despite the doctor’s prognosis, the Neals had two biological children, Kira, 17, and Dayton, 16. Jessica was told to stop trying after her doctors found a large tumor in her hand that grew during each pregnancy. She was diagnosed with an arteriovenous malformation in her right hand and arm, and eventually had to have half her palm amputated.

Not letting this sidetrack their ambitions for a large family, Jessica and Jason decided to become involved in foster care. At the same time, Jason had gone into ministry as a youth pastor, and the couple quickly realized they could have a big impact in kids’ lives through foster care.

In 2001, Jessica and Jason relocated to St. Cloud, Minnesota, where Jason had been hired as a pastor at a local church in the community. Jessica later got a job with the city’s reserve police force.

The couple continued fostering for the next decade. Whenever the Neals would get a call that a foster child was in need of placement, they wouldn’t hesitate to bring the child home.

“Somebody’s got to step in to the gap,” Jason said. “Somebody’s got to be willing to put their heart on the line for these kids.”

The Neals said they treated all of their foster children as their own, providing new pillows and new clothes to each to help them feel at home.

“You get to take the tag off something, that’s really special,” Jessica said.

Jessica and Jason said they also held family meetings to check-in with their biological children, Kira and Dayton, who both were vital parts of their fostering.

“It’s all contributed to who I am as a person and who I want to be,” Kira said.

“It’s constant chaos, and constant fun,” Dayton echoed. “Because no matter what happens, you have someone to be with.”

In 2006, the Neals decided to adopt twins Miriam and Malachi, as well as their older brother, Titus, and little sister, Ruthie, all from Minnesota.

“We went from two kids to six kids overnight,” Jason said.

The twins, now 10, have medical challenges. Miriam suffers from an autoimmune disorder and needs infusions twice a month. Malachi suffers from a vascular disorder that often leaves him in chronic pain.

Despite the medical hardships and the family’s mounting financial difficulties, the Neals adopted again. In 2010, Josie, then 4, came into their lives through private adoption in Minnesota.

“I think we make a mistake in America where we try to shelter our kids from all the pain in the world,” Jason said. “I want to teach my children how to make a difference.”

Now, the couple faces a new challenge. On a recent mission to Liberia, West Africa, with Teamwork Africa, a non-profit organization dedicated to establishing churches in Liberia, Jessica met an 8-year-old boy named Emmanuel. The boy has cerebral palsy and does not talk, but the Neals decided they would try to adopt him.

“I met his eyes and I just knew at that moment that’s my guy,” Jessica explained. “I just fell in love.”

However, dealing with an international adoption includes many unexpected difficulties, most notably the $15,000 in adoption fees they still need to bring him home.

In the meantime, the Neals have stayed involved with Teamwork Africa and remain in touch with Emmanuel through a local pastor and his community.


Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio


iStock/Thinkstock(ALEXANDRIA, Va.) -- Josh McCoy has earned a whopping number of Boy Scout merit badges.

It took him three years but in November, the 14-year-old from Alexandria, Virginia, collected his 135th merit badge, the most a scout can currently get.

McCoy, a member of Troop 1145, said his motivation was a bit personal — his father, Tim McCoy, had earned 82 as a scout and he wanted to beat his total.

“I’m a very competitive person,” he told ABC News. “After that, there was so many left to do so I wanted to keep going and then [I] wanted to just finish them. … Not many people do it.”

His mother, Darlene, sewed a special sash so all the badges would fit.

“It’s actually two sashes sewn together,” McCoy said. “The Boy Scouts don’t actually have one sash that holds them all.”

From tying knots and programming a robot to scuba diving and playing the bugle, the badges represent activities that McCoy has mastered or at least seriously dabbled in. McCoy said some of his merit badges had involved three to four hours of learning and work — and others, a bit longer.

“It took me two years to learn how to play 15 songs,” he said about bugling.

He said his favorite merit badge was geocaching, in which the scout uses GPS to find a location.

“I did that with my dad and it was a lot of fun,” he said. “Now it’s a hobby of mine.”

His least favorite: backpacking 70 miles over the course of four trips. He completed it in a month and covered an additional 20 miles.

McCoy said that before becoming a Boy Scout, he had no clue about what he wanted to do for a career.

“I think it’s worth it,” he said of earning merit badges. “You learn a lot of skills. … I have a good sense of what I want to do. Engineering.”


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Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio


Michael Brown's mother, Lesley McSpadden, standing outside the Ferguson Police Department Monday night. (JEWEL SAMAD/AFP/Getty Images)(FERGUSON, Mo.) -- The family of slain Ferguson teenager Michael Brown is hurt and "taken aback" by Officer Darren Wilson's statement that he has a "clean conscience" and couldn't have done it any differently.

Brown's parents appeared in New York with the Rev. Al Sharpton and the families of other African Americans who were killed by police. Sharpton said it would be the first Thanksgiving for these families "with an empty seat at the table."

They spoke a day after Wilson emerged publicly for the first time in months and told ABC News' George Stephanopoulos his version of what happened on Aug. 9 when he shot and killed Brown following a confrontation.

Earlier this week Wilson was cleared by a St. Louis County grand jury of any criminal activity in Brown's death.

At one point during the interview with Stephanopoulos, Wilson said he doesn’t believe he could have done anything differently that day and that he had a clean conscience. "The reason I have a clean conscience is because I know I did my job right,” he said.

Benjamin Crump, a lawyer for the Brown family, said on Wednesday the parents have been doing media interviews in New York and he said it is hard "listening to them break down over and over again" as they discuss Wilson's comments about their son.

"It was very hurtful to the parents when he said he had a clear conscience... They were taken back... They thought he had no regard for their child," Crump said.

The lawyer said that Wilson "tried to villify" Brown, who was 18, by saying the teenager had a fierce look and that Brown had stared at the officer "like he was trying to intimidate me."

"I expected him to say my heart is heavy, my conscience is troubled. He didn’t say that," Crump said.

Sharpton said that in Wilson's grand jury testimony, which has been released, the officer said the area where the shooting occurred was a high crime area. "That shows prejudgment... It goes to his state of mind," Sharpton said.

In the interview with ABC News, Wilson said, "I’m sorry that their son lost his life. It wasn’t the intention of that day. It’s what occurred that day. And there’s no … nothing you could say that’s going to make a parent feel better.”


Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio


Joel Auerbach/Getty Images(FERGUSON, Mo.) -- NFL player Benjamin Watson is one of countless Americans still struggling to understand Michael Brown's shooting death at the hands of a Ferguson, Missouri police officer.

Watson, a tight end for the New Orleans Saints, poured his heart out in a viral Facebook post late Tuesday. He described himself as confused, embarrassed, offended, angry and sad for a variety of reasons.

"I'm angry because the stories of injustice that have been passed down for generations seem to be continuing before our very eyes," he wrote.

The post has been shared more than 150,000 times on Facebook, and it appears Watson's honesty is what made the update go viral. Fans commented that they are "proud" of the athlete and "in awe." "Tears running down my face," one woman wrote.

 

 

Watson also addressed the racial tension that's sparked demonstrations across the country, saying the problem is "sin," not "skin."

"Sin is the reason we rebel against authority," he wrote. "Sin is the reason we are racist, prejudiced and lie to cover for our own. Sin is the reason we riot, loot and burn."

Watson said he will never really know what happened between Brown and Darren Wilson, the police officer who shot the unarmed teenager this summer.

"I'm sympathetic, because I wasn't there so I don't know exactly what happened. Maybe Darren Wilson acted within his rights and duty as an officer of the law and killed Michael Brown in self defense like any of us would in the circumstance ... Or maybe he provoked Michael and ignited the series of events that led him to eventually murdering the young man to prove a point."


Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio





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