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Astros beat Yankees, look for second world title in 3 seasons

9 0 20 Oct 2019

The Houston Astros captured their second pennant in three years, defeating the visiting New York Yankees 6-4 Saturday and ending the American League Championship Series in six games.

The Astros, MLB champs of 2017, will open the World Series on Tuesday night at their home, Minute Maid Park, against the National League-winning Washington Nationals.

Houston has won at least 100 regular season games the past consecutive seasons with a core of young talent — most notably 5-foot-6 superstar José Altuve — collected from six consecutive losing campaigns in 2009-14.

The franchise is credited, and in some circles derided, for their “tanking” strategy — tolerating losing to acquire the best young players in MLB’s annual amateur draft that rewards the worst teams.

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Houston Astros first baseman Yuli Gurriel (10) celebrates after hitting a single during the eighth inning against the New York Yankees in game six of the 2019 ALCS playoff baseball series at Minute Maid Park on October 19, 2019.Troy Taormina / Reuters

Soothsaying “Sports Illustrated” famously crowned the Astros 2017 World Series winners – all the way back in 2014 – in an article explaining the team’s lose-by-choice strategy.

On Saturday, the Astros struck in the bottom of the first inning when first baseman Yuli Gurriel hit one out of the park with two on base, putting the Astros ahead 3-0.

New York catcher Gary Sánchez hit a single to bat in a run for the Yankees in the top of the second.

In the top of the fourth, Yankee pitcher Jose Urquidy hit a home run making it 3-2.

In the bottom of the sixth inning, the Astros’ third baseman and shortstop Alex Bregman batted a run in with a ground ball for a 4-2 score.

In the top of the ninth, the Yankees tied the game 4-4 when D.J. Lemahieu hit one out of the park.

Tuesday will mark the first World Series game in Nationals franchise history. The team played as the Montreal Expos from 1969 through 2004, before moving to the the nation’s capital.

The Nationals lost the face of their franchise this past winter when Bryce Harper was lured away by the Philadelphia Phillies with a 13-year, $330 million deal. But thanks to 20-year-old Juan Soto, one of baseball’s most exciting young stars, Washington improved from last year and qualified for the playoffs as a wildcard team.

Washington stunned the mighty Los Angeles Dodgers in the NL Division Series before sweeping the NL Central champion St. Louis Cardinals.

Dennis Romero contributed.

Egypt uncovers 3,000-year-old mummies in the Valley of the Kings

5 0 20 Oct 2019

LUXOR, Egypt — Colorful wooden coffins adorned with paintings and inscriptions that were recently discovered by a team of Egyptian archaeologists were opened on Saturday to reveal perfectly preserved mummies.

The 30 sealed coffins were found by accident under a mound behind the Asasif Necropolis on the west bank of the Nile river, Mostafa Waziri, secretary-general for Egypt’s Supreme Council of Antiquities, told NBC News

“I’m very happy we found this discovery with Egyptian hands,” Waziri said.

The archaeologists were conducting an unrelated dig when someone noticed what appeared to be the face of a coffin, Waziri explained. They continued digging to discover a cachette of coffins stacked in two layers only a few feet under the sand.

The coffins are estimated to be 3,000 years old and belonged to men, women and two children, who were most likely priests.

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Egypt’s Antiquities Minister Khaled el-Enany, and Mostafa Waziri, the Secretary General of the Supreme Council of Antiquities, surround a sarcophagus belonging to a man in front Hatshepsut Temple at Valley of the Kings in Luxor on Oct. 19, 2019.Khaled Desouki / AFP – Getty Images

Egypt’s Ministry of Antiquities has described the coffins as one of the “biggest and most important” discoveries in recent years.

On Saturday, glove-clad archaeologists delicately pried open two of the coffins to uncover perfectly preserved mummies — one man and one woman — wrapped in cloth. One had a piece of skull visible.

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The gender of the mummies can be distinguished by the shape of their hands. Waziri said women were buried with their hands open while men’s hands were closed.

The Asasif Necropolis is located in the ancient town of West Thebes. Most tombs at the necropolis date back to the Late Period, which ended in 332 B.C., but the newly discovered coffins are believed to be much older.

The elaborate decorations on the coffins were likely to compensate for the fact they weren’t buried in proper tombs, Waziri said. The similarity in design suggests they were all made at the same workshop.

The coffins were well preserved because they were so well hidden from tomb raiders, Waziri said.

Coffins found in tombs are often damaged due to termites, but because these were buried in the sand, they were completely intact.

The 20 coffins pulled from the site will be displayed in the Grand Egyptian Museum set to open in Giza next year.

Molly Hunter and Charlene Gubash reported from Luxor, Egypt, and Linda Givetash from London.

Associated Press contributed.

Meghan Markle on media scrutiny: Not that many people have asked if Im OK

5 0 20 Oct 2019

Meghan Markle, the Duchess of Sussex, speaks out in a new documentary about media attention and being vulnerable during pregnancy and new motherhood.

“Any woman, especially when they’re pregnant, they are vulnerable. So, that made things very challenging, when you have a newborn,” Markle says in a preview of a new documentary set to air on ABC on Oct. 23. “Not that many people have asked if I’m OK.”

“Harry and Meghan: An African Journey” follows Markle and her husband, Prince Harry, on a recent tour of Africa.

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Markle’s remarks come after the royal couple sued a British tabloid newspaper for publishing a private letter she wrote to her father.

Harry accused the tabloid of editing the letter in “an intentionally destructive manner” to “manipulate” readers with an unflattering portrayal of his wife.

“I have been a silent witness to her private suffering for too long. To stand back and do nothing would be contrary to everything we believe in,” the prince said in the statement posted on the couple’s royal website.

He has also said that the media attention Markle has been receiving reminds him of the press scrutiny of his late mother, Princess Diana.

“Every single time I hear a click, every single time I see a flash it takes me straight back. It’s the worst reminder of her life as a opposed to the best,” he said.

Markle fans showed their support to her on social media with the hashtag #WeLoveYouMeghan, which began trending on Twitter on Friday.

“Sudden prominence is a very dehumanizing experience. There’s a part of your life that you lose, & it later dawns on you that you’ll never get it back. The people who treat you like a human make all the difference,” Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., tweeted.

The star of NBC’s “The Good Place” Jameela Jamil also shared the video clip of Markle’s comments on Twitter saying, “I like her so much.

Associated Press contributed.

Giant cranes at collapsed Hard Rock Hotel where 3 died to be demolished

11 0 19 Oct 2019

Two cranes leaning on a collapsed Hard Rock Hotel construction site in New Orleans where three people died on Oct. 12 are to be demolished in controlled explosions.

The demolition was originally scheduled to take place on Friday, but city officials have postponed it multiple times due to high winds. On Saturday, it was rescheduled to Sunday at 12 p.m. at the earliest.

New Orleans Fire Chief Tim McConnell said Saturday that the demolition is a “dangerous operation.”

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The “cranes are more damaged than we thought,” the fire chief said, requiring “changes in methodology” for bringing them down safely.

Mayor LaToya Cantrell said planning for the demolition is a “fluid operation.” She stressed that she “will not authorize the use of explosives overnight” but will instead ensure it occurs during daylight.

McConnell said 112 people were working inside the building when the 18-story structure began to crumble, NBC affiliate WDSU in New Orleans reported.

Of the three people who died in the collapse, the bodies of two remain inside the site, and the National Guard has been brought in to assist in the search and recovery of those victims.

Cantrell said recovering the remains would be a top priority once the area was rendered safe.

If the plans succeed, the towers would drop without damaging neighboring structures that include the Saenger Theatre and the New Orleans Athletic Club, both built in the 1920s.

An existing evacuation zone around the collapsed building will be expanded four hours before the demolition takes place, McConnell said.

The towers — one around 270 feet high, the other about 300 feet — weigh tons and have loomed over the unstable wreckage for a week.

The Associated Press contributed.

New video shows the moment Oregon school coach disarmed and hugged gun-wielding student

16 0 19 Oct 2019

Newly released surveillance video shows the moment an Oregon school coach disarmed and hugged a shotgun-wielding student, averting a potential tragedy.

Angel Granados-Diaz, 19, is seen on the video walking into the fine arts building of Parkrose High School in Portland with a shotgun hidden under his jacket on May 17, 2019.

Officials said Granados-Diaz was experiencing a mental health crisis when he brought the gun containing one round to school.

Angel Granados DiasPortland police dept.

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Keanon Lowe, a former star wide receiver for the University of Oregon Ducks who works at Parkrose High as a security guard and football and track-and-field coach, said he saw something in Granados-Diaz’ face, “the look in his eyes. I looked at the gun and I realized it was a real gun and them my instincts just took over.”

Students are seen in the video running away as Lowe takes the gun from Granados-Diaz. After handing the gun off to another teacher, Lowe grabs Granados-Diaz into a hug.

“I just wanted to let him know that I was there for him. I told him I was there to save him. I was there for a reason and that this is a life worth living.” Lowe said afterward.

Keanon Lowe, a former analyst for the 49ers and wide receiver at the University of Oregon, subdued a person with a gun who appeared on a Portland, Oregon high school campus on May 17, 2019.AP file

“The universe works in amazing ways. I’m lucky and I’m happy that I was in that classroom for all those kids and I was able to prevent that tragedy,” he said.

Later, police are shown arriving at the school and taking Granados-Diaz into custody. No one at the school was injured.

Granados-Diaz has remained in custody since he was arrested in May. Last week, he pleaded guilty to two charges related to having a loaded gun in a public place.

A judge sentenced him to 36 months of probation, as well as immediate mental health and substance abuse treatment.

Multnomah County Deputy District Attorney Parakram Singh said, “Through the course of the investigation it became clear to law enforcement and our office that Mr. Granados-Diaz did not have the intent to hurt anyone other than himself while at Parkrose High School,” NBC afiliate KGW reported.

The resolution of the case helps Granados-Diaz address his suicidal ideations and ensures a level of accountability for taking a loaded gun to school, Singh added.

Two decades later, Dawsons Creek actor reflects on historic gay kiss

10 0 19 Oct 2019

Retrospective looks at “Dawson’s Creek” often focus on how the titular character Dawson Leery can be considered “annoying” and a “wannabe filmmaker“who treated women as collateral to actualize his vision of himself as a tortured artist. But besides introducing viewers to an arguably excruciating main character, the WB show also gave viewers one of the most iconic moments in television history back in 1998: primetime TV’s first “passionate” gay kiss.

More than 20 years later, Kerr Smith, who played Jack McPhee on the teen drama, reflected on the impact of that kiss in an interview with Too Fab.

“We were the first ones to do that,” Smith told the entertainment blog. “It was a crazy experience back then.”

Kerr Smith as Jack McPhee in “Dawson’s Creek.”Courtesy of Everett Collection

During the show’s season 3 finale, titled “True Love,” Jack confessed his true feelings for Ethan (Adam Kaufman) with a kiss. The storyline ends in heartbreak — Ethan has got back together with his ex-boyfriend and doesn’t reciprocate Jack’s feelings — but history was made nonetheless.

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Before “Dawson’s Creek,” Will and Jack kissed on NBC’s “Will and Grace” to protest the fact that they had never seen two gay men kiss on television, and a few other shows, including “LA Law” and “Relativity” featured two women kissing. Yet, LGBTQ representation either generally wasn’t included or lacked nuance in earlier television eras. In the 1996 “Friends” episode “The One With the Lesbian Wedding,” for instance, the series did not show Susan and Carol kissing at their own wedding ceremony.

As a result, McPhee said he felt a “huge” responsibility to play Jack authentically after Kevin Williamson, the creator of “Dawson’s Creek,” approached him with the storylines of Jack’s coming out and the kiss.

While Jack dated Joey (Katie Holmes) in earlier episodes, Smith said Williamson “always had the intention of making one of his characters gay.”

“He was still in the closet at that point too, and every character in ‘Dawson’s Creek’ is an extension of Kevin Williamson,” Smith told Too Fab.

Greg Berlanti, the openly gay writer, producer and director behind hits, such as “Chilling Adventures of Sabrina” and “You,” mostly wrote Jack’s character arc, according to Smith.

“It was an intense experience and I remember calling everybody I respected and said, ‘Hey should I do this?’” Smith recalled. “Doing the first male-male kiss, I remember it was intense. I’m glad we did it and it was part of history.”

Smith and Berlanti have recently reunited for The CW’s “Riverdale,” based on the characters of Archie Comics. Smith joins the cast as Mr. Honey, a new strict school principal, while Berlanti executive produces the show.

“Riverdale” also includes a gay character, Kevin (Casey Cott), whom Smith likened to Jack on “Dawson’s Creek.” Kevin, too, made history as the first openly gay character in Archie Comics history.

When it comes to LGBTQ television representation, however, there’s still room for improvement, according to LGBTQ advocates. According to GLAAD’s Where We Are on TV report, LGBTQ characters made up 8.8 percent of regular characters on primetime scripted shows in 2018.

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Brexit in the balance ahead of super Saturday in U.K. Parliament

15 0 19 Oct 2019

LONDON — Is this the day Brexit is decided?

The U.K. was set for a potentially decisive Saturday as Parliament gathered for a rare weekend vote on Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s exit deal with the European Union.

Support for the deal was on a knife-edge at the start of what was shaping up to be a day of drama in Westminster.

Opening the debate Saturday, Johnson urged lawmakers to approve what he called “a deal that can heal the rift in British politics, unite the warring instincts in us all.”

The prime minister defied expectations this week and negotiated a new divorce settlement with Europe, setting the stage for Saturday’s vote — Parliament’s first weekend sitting for 37 years.

If his deal passes, it would represent the most important step toward Brexit since the U.K. voted to leave the bloc in a June 2016 referendum.

Johnson’s predecessor, Theresa May, failed three times to pass her own proposal.

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If Johnson fails he will be forced to ask European leaders for an extension to the current deadline of Oct. 31., a huge climbdown for a prime minister who has vowed he would never do this.

This would prevent a damaging “no deal” Brexit and potentially allow time for the U.K. to hold an election or even a second referendum to try and break the deadlock.

However, as so often with Brexit there could be a twist.

A rebel group of lawmakers have tabled another vote that would loosely endorse the prime minister’s deal but delay final confirmation.

Under this scenario, Johnson would still have to ask Europe for a delay. This would buy time for lawmakers to scrutinize and potentially tweak the deal. They could even choose to vote it down at a later date.

This vote is designed to avoid the U.K. crashing out of Europe without a deal, the default scenario if Johnson’s deal passes Saturday but somehow falls at a later hurdle before Oct. 31.

This has been dubbed “super Saturday” — the first time Parliament has sat on a weekend since the Falklands War between the U.K. and Argentina in 1982.

Johnson’s Conservative Party does not have enough lawmakers to pass the deal alone.

Having lost the support of his former allies the Democratic Unionist Party, it appears Johnson will have to rely on winning the backing of rebels from the opposition Labour Party.

Outlining his opposition to the deal Saturday, Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn said it “would be a disaster for working people, it would hammer the economy, cost jobs and sell workers’ rights down the river.”

Since Britain voted for Brexit the process has been marked by chaos, division and repeated delays.

Over the past 40 years, the U.K. has embedded itself so deeply in Europe’s political and economic union that removing itself is an incredibly complex task.

Deciding what Brexit should look like means choosing which E.U. rules to keep and which to scrap. This has sparked bitter disagreements and ultimately three years of deadlock.

Johnson surprised his critics in forging his own plan, but to do so he was forced into a series of concessions on key promises. His is also a “harder” version of Brexit compared to May’s plan.

Whereas she built in a safety net, saving Britain from a damaging “no deal Brexit” if negotiations fail, Johnson’s plan features no such clause.

It also keeps some E.U. rules in Northern Ireland, an attempt to avoid a “hard border” with the Republic of Ireland, which some fear could ignite sectarian violence.

Robotic Mayflower to cross the Atlantic on 400th anniversary of Pilgrims journey

10 0 19 Oct 2019

Four hundred years after the Mayflower crossed the Atlantic Ocean in 1620 and brought the Pilgrims to America, a new kind of ship is poised to make the same 3,200-mile voyage — but this time there won’t be a single human on board.

The Mayflower Autonomous Ship will set sail from Plymouth, England, on Sept. 6, 2020, and is expected to make landfall in Plymouth, Massachusetts, about 12 days later. The futuristic ship — powered by solar and wind energy and guided by GPS — will make the journey as part of an international celebration marking the 400th anniversary of its namesake’s crossing.

“There’s never really been anything of this scale undertaking a mission of this kind,” said Kevin Jones, executive dean of the faculty of science and engineering at the University of Plymouth in England, which is part of a consortium of universities, tech firms and nonprofit organizations involved with the project. “We wanted something that would be visually interesting and forward-looking — something that would capture the public’s imagination.”

Now under construction in a shipyard in Gdansk, Poland, the sleek trimaran will be 53 feet long and will have solar panels covering its three aluminum hulls. Solar energy will be stored in onboard batteries, and will power the vessel’s electric motors and propellers.

The ship’s top speed is expected to be about 20 knots (23 miles per hour). Though Jones and his colleagues are hoping to not need it, the vessel will be equipped with a biodiesel backup generator for emergency situations.

The Mayflower Autonomous Ship’s journey is expected to take about 12 days.University of Birmingham’s Human Interface Technologies Team (HIT)

The new ship will be equipped with sensors to measure air pressure, water temperature and salinity, and will collect water samples to measure levels of microplastic pollution in the ocean. The vessel will also have acoustic sensors to eavesdrop on marine mammals, such as whales, to study their populations in different regions of the ocean.

“We want to illustrate what an autonomous ship can do, so that it can serve as a gateway to other opportunities,” Jones said, referring to his hope that this project will inspire other lines of scientific research.

The Mayflower Autonomous Ship is being built by MSubs, an engineering firm based in Plymouth, England. IBM recently joined the project to oversee development of the artificial intelligence systems that will help the ship navigate and make on-the-fly decisions about its course — including steering clear of other vessels.

Stephen Turnock, a professor of maritime fluid dynamics at the University of Southampton, who is not involved with the project, praised the ship’s innovative design and its hull-integrated solar panels but questioned whether the ship would be able to cope with any stormy weather it encounters on the passage.

“Because of its size, you do worry about if extreme weather comes in, how it might survive in those conditions,” he said. “The sea can be a very extreme environment, and sometimes even with someone onboard a vessel, there’s nothing they can do to withstand those conditions.”

Turnock said it was unlikely that a successful crossing by the new ship would lead to fleets of autonomous ships, particularly large cargo ships. But, he said, the same technologies seen on the new ship could be used on existing vessels to make them safer and more efficient.

“We probably won’t have fully autonomous ships, because you’d always want someone looking after security, but what people do onboard the ship could be very different from what they do at the moment,” he said. “Some functions may well be looked after remotely or by automatic systems, which will reduce the number of crew you need. … We’ll get a lot of valuable information back from this whole process.”

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Black school officer was fired for repeating racial slur used by black student

7 0 19 Oct 2019

A black security officer at a Wisconsin high school was fired for telling a student who is also black to stop calling him the N-word.

The firing of Marlon Anderson from West High School in Madison prompted some students to walk out in protest Friday morning and for school officials to say they will reexamine policies on the use of racial slurs in schools.

Anderson told NBC News on Friday that after a black student repeatedly called him a n—–, he asked the student last week to stop.

Marlon Anderson was fired from West High School in Madison, Wis., for telling an unruly student who called him the N-word several times not to call him the racial slur.Courtesy Marlon Anderson

This week, Anderson said he learned that school officials terminated his employment, citing a zero tolerance policy on the use of derogatory language by staff members.

“My understanding of the policy was white staff shouldn’t use the N-word under any circumstances,” Anderson said. “But I had no idea me being called the word and me telling the student not to call me the word would get me fired.”

Anderson said he worked in the Madison Metropolitan School District for 11 years and at West High School for 3½ years.

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Anderson shared the news of his firing in a Facebook post Wednesday.

“Short story…. I get called a b—- ass n—- by a student, I responded do ‘not call me a n—-!’ And I got fired,” he wrote, adding that the district’s response had surprised him.

Madison Teachers Incorporated, the union that represents teachers and support staff, said it filed a grievance Thursday seeking Anderson’s reinstatement with full back pay.

Students at the high school held a walkout Friday morning in support of Anderson and marched to the district’s administrative building. Videos posted to social media showed that teachers at the school also joined the walkout.

Anderson’s son, Noah, 17, who is the president of the black student union, helped lead the protest.

The school board president said officials would review the district’s policies.

“We’ve taken a tough stance on racial slurs, and we believe that language has no place in schools,” the board president, Gloria Reyes, said in a statement.

The board will review its “underlying policies, and examine them with a racial equity lens understanding that universal policies can often deepen inequities,” the statement said. “We will ask the community for help in that process.”

District Superintendent Jane Belmore told NBC News in a statement Friday that since the incident occurred, “different viewpoints from many facets of our community are surfacing.”

“Let me be clear, there is no doubt that language matters and racial slurs are harmful,” Belmore said. “However, at this point, we have an opportunity to look more deeply into the response to the use of racial slurs in our schools.”

The superintendent added that the district will act as quickly as possible on the appeal process for Anderson.

Anderson’s Facebook post drew hundreds of comments of support, including from some who said they are former students and that Anderson had helped them feel safe.

Anderson said the response on social media and from the community have been overwhelming.

“It got me a little emotional, because to be honest, you don’t get that type of response from people until you’re in a casket,” he said Friday. “But I had the opportunity to hear the effect that I’ve had on people’s lives.”

Giuliani asked for visa for ousted Ukraine prosecutor

6 0 19 Oct 2019

President Donald Trump’s personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, attempted to secure a visa from the State Department for ousted Ukraine prosecutor Viktor Shokin, diplomat George Kent told congressional investigators this week, according to two people familiar with his deposition.

Kent spoke Tuesday behind closed doors to House investigators spearheading the formal impeachment inquiry against Trump.

The visa request story was first reported Friday by CNN.

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Shokin, fired in 2016 following an international campaign for his ouster that included the support of then-Vice President Joe Biden, helped Giuliani form the basis of an unproven story that he was let go at the say so of the former vice president to thwart any corruption inquiries into his son’s work in Ukraine.

Deputy Assistant Secretary of State George Kent leaves Capitol Hill after testifying before congressional lawmakers as part of the House impeachment inquiry into President Donald Trump, on Tuesday.Andrew Harnik / AP

Hunter Biden worked on the board of Ukranian energy firm Burisma from 2014 to 2018. No wrongdoing on his part or on the part of his father has been proven.

But the theory that the former vice president intervened in Ukraine on behalf of his son has been repeated by Trump, who could face off against Joe Biden in the 2020 election.

It’s unclear when Giuliani requested the visa, but he and associates Igor Fruman, Lev Parnas and George Boyle interviewed Shokin by phone Jan. 23, according to documents the Intelligence Community Inspector General Michael Atkinson gave to Congress and obtained by NBC News.

Two days later, on Jan. 25, Giuliani and associates interviewed Shokin’s successor, Yuriy Lutsenko, in person at Giuliani’s Manhattan office, according to the same documents.

Viktor Shokin in 2016 in Ukraine.Gleb Garanich / Reuters file

The information from those interviews was the basis of Giuliani’s claims that Joe Biden pressed Ukraine to fire Shokin, Ukraine’s general prosecutor, because Shokin was investigating the energy company whose board Hunter Biden sat on.

Fruman and Parnas were arrested last week on suspicion of conspiracy, making false statements to the Federal Election Commission and falsification of records in connection with an alleged attempt to influence U.S. politicians and government officials.

Boyle, a former New York Police Department detective, works for the firm Giuliani Partners.

Dennis Romero contributed.