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Are Bert and Ernie gay? 'Sesame Street' weighs in on ex-writer's comments

The nonprofit organization behind the beloved children's show "Sesame Street" is weighing in on a question that has sparked debates for decades: Are Bert and Ernie a gay couple?

The answer: Nope, they're puppets, Sesame Workshop said in a statement Tuesday.

>> ‘Sesame Street’ theme park Sesame Place becomes first in the world to get autism certification

"As we have always said, Bert and Ernie are best friends," the statement said. "They were created to teach preschoolers that people can be good friends with those who are very different from themselves. Even though they are identified as male characters and possess many human characteristics (as most 'Sesame Street' Muppets do), they remain puppets, and do not have a sexual orientation."

Hours later, the organization added: "'Sesame Street' has always stood for inclusion and acceptance. It's a place where people of all cultures and backgrounds are welcome. Bert and Ernie were created to be best friends, and to teach young children that people can get along with those who are very different from themselves."

>> See the tweets here

The comments came days after former "Sesame Street" writer Mark Saltzman gave a much different answer to the same question.

"I always felt that without a huge agenda, when I was writing Bert and Ernie, they were," Saltzman, who wrote for the show in the mid '80s through the late '90s, said in an article published Sunday by gay news site Queerty. "I didn't have any other way to contextualize them."

Saltzman said he drew from experiences with his own partner, Arnold Glassman, while writing some of the sketches. Glassman died in 2003.

>> Read more trending news 

"I don't think I'd know how else to write them but as a loving couple," Saltzman added.

Saltzman's comments quickly went viral on social media, drawing both praise and criticism.

Frank Oz, who created Bert, soon offered his own take.

"It seems Mr. Mark Saltzman was asked if Bert & Ernie are gay," Oz tweeted Tuesday afternoon. "It's fine that he feels they are. They're not, of course. But why that question? Does it really matter? Why the need to define people as only gay? There's much more to a human being than just straightness or gayness."

>> See the tweet here

Saltzman later told The New York Times that his remarks to Queerty had been misunderstood.

"As a writer, you just bring what you know into your work," he told the Times

"Somehow, in the uproar, that turned into Bert and Ernie being gay," he added. "There is a difference."

Read more here.

'Avengers 4' movie: Jeremy Renner teases bruised, bloody Hawkeye

Actor Jeremy Renner wants you to know that Hawkeye will be returning to the upcoming untitled “Avengers 4” reshoot, despite the rumors.

>> On AJC.com: Where ‘Avengers: Infinity War’ filmed in Atlanta

The superhero, along with Ant-Man and the Wasp, didn’t make it to Marvel’s Atlanta-filmed “Avengers: Infinity War,” but Renner is officially back in action for the next installation.

>> Read more trending news 

The 47-year-old shared a photo of himself in character on Instagram, all beaten up and bruised.

>> See the photo here

“Not everyday begins the same ... but always finish with a smile,” he captioned the post.

>> On AJC.com: Behind the scenes on the Atlanta ‘Avengers’ sets

“Avengers 4” is currently undergoing reshoots and will hit theaters on May 3, 2019.

“The current rumour is that it will be called 'Avengers: End Game', but we might not get confirmation of that until the end of 2018,” Digital Spy reported last week.

NBA star Russell Westbrook, wife Nina expecting twin girls

NBA star Russell Westbrook and his wife, Nina, announced Tuesday they are expecting twin girls in a YouTube video produced by the Oklahoma City Thunder.

>> Watch the news report here

>> Need something to lift your spirits? Read more uplifting news 

The video is called "The Westbrook Family." Nina lets out the news they're having twins 2:12 into the video. Russell mentions they will be girls at the 2:28 mark.

> Watch the video here

The couple already have a 1-year-old son named Noah.

>> Read more trending news 

Russell had arthroscopic knee surgery last week. The seven-time All-Star and former MVP is expected to miss preseason and may not be ready for the start of the regular season. The Thunder's first game is Oct. 16 at Golden State.

Hurricane Florence: Michael Jordan to donate $2M to relief efforts

Charlotte Hornets chairman and NBA basketball legend Michael Jordan, along with the Hornets organization and the NBA, have announced that they’re working together with a number of community organizations to provide relief and support to the people affected by Hurricane Florence.

Jordan is donating $1 million each to The American Red Cross and The Foundation for the Carolinas’ Hurricane Florence Response Fund.

>> On WSOCTV.com: 'We share more than a state line': Panthers, local organizations unite in Florence relief efforts

“It’s truly devastating for me to see the damage that Hurricane Florence is doing to my beloved home state of North Carolina and to the surrounding areas,” Jordan said in a statement.

>> On WSOCTV.com: Floodwaters of Florence put North Carolina dams under stress

The Hornets, in partnership with Food Lion will pack thousands of disaster food boxes Friday at Second Harvest Food Bank of Metrolina. The boxes will be distributed across the Carolinas to provide meals to victims of Florence.

>> Read more trending news 

“The recovery effort will be massive, and it will take a long time to repair the damage and for families to get back on their feet,” said Jordan.

Fans are encouraged to visit here to make a donation.

“To all those affected, stay safe and know that we’re here to help,” Jordan said.

>> Hurricane Florence: Here's how you can help

Hornets and NBA merchandising partner Fanatics, have collaborated to create a T-shirt with the Hornets logo in the middle of North and South Carolina. The shirt features the phrase “Carolina Strong” and all the proceeds will be donated to the Foundation for the Carolinas’ Hurricane Florence Response Fund.

Purchase a T-shirt here.

Couple desperate to find dog after Jeep with dog inside stolen from Washington hospital

A Yelm couple is desperate to find their dog after their Jeep was stolen during a hospital visit.

>> Read more trending news

KIRO-TV said the thief may not have even known the dog was inside at the time.

An empty leash outside of a Yelm home was once the spot where Ivey, a 5-year-old Labrador mix, loved to sit between the sun and the shade.

Last night, Samantha Worley says she had a panic attack and was taken to an Allenmoore hospital in Tacoma.

Her husband, Richard, followed along in a 1991 Jeep Cherokee with Ivey in the back.

"We were inside the waiting room for about an hour when he went to check on the dog and our Jeep," Samantha Worley said. "And he noticed the Jeep was gone."

The couple checked with hospital security, who told them it wasn't towed, and there was no broken glass.

They called Tacoma police, who said it was likely the Jeep -- with Ivey in the back -- was stolen.

Now, they have no Jeep and no dog.

"You feel 100 percent hopeless, and you are. I can't go out, and I could be out there walking around the neighborhood and calling for her," Samantha Worley said.

The couple posted on social media about their dog, and neighbors in the area have shared it more than 100 times and even offered to look themselves.

Richard Worley says for the couple, the dog was everything.

"I just got out of the Army recently and was struggling a bit. She's not technically a therapy dog, but she is to us," Richard Worley said.

Without their Jeep, the couple can't search for Ivey, and they think the person may not have known until later the dog was inside.

They've enlisted friends who can help, but they're hoping someone can somehow spot the dog who's made their family even more special.

"She could still be in the Jeep at this point, and so that's our concern. That they dumped the Jeep somewhere and left her in it," Samantha Worley said.

670-mph hyperloop from Ohio to Chicago moves closer with new regulations

An exceptionally fast transportation system may be a step closer to reality in Ohio.

>> Read more trending news 

Hyperloop Transportation Technologies (HyperloopTT) and German insurance company Munich Re said Monday that a set of core safety requirements and certification guidelines for the fledgling mode of transportation have been created.

The hyperloop is expected to transport pods of people and goods through a tube — moving at some 670 miles per hour. It is expected to reduce the commute from Columbus to Chicago to 35 minutes and from Columbus to Pittsburgh to 23 minutes.

A hyperloop route connecting Pittsburgh, Columbus and Chicago is one route under consideration.

The loop blends magnetic levitation with a low-pressure tube to minimize air drag.

“The creation of regulations and legal frameworks are critical components to our ongoing feasibility study between Chicago and Cleveland,” Grace Gallucci, executive director of Northeast Ohio Areawide Coordinating Agency, said in a statement. “We look forward to continuing to work alongside HyperloopTT and their partners to implement these guidelines and policies into a framework specific to the Great Lakes Hyperloop.”

>> Related: Another distribution company is setting up near Dayton International

“Last year we told the world that HyperloopTT’s system was insurable,” Claudia Hasse, head of special enterprise risks at Munich Re, said in the same statement. “We are now able to insure their first commercial projects around the world and are working together to include our services into HyperloopTT’s technology license.”

“HyperloopTT is the first company to have an insurable commercial system,” said Dirk Ahlborn, chief executive of HyperloopTT. “We have proven the technology to be feasible at every level and through our work with these partners, stakeholders and governments we are creating the safest, most secure system possible.”

Body cameras didn't capture officer shooting man; 3 officers relieved of duty in Memphis

Three officers have been "relieved of duty" pending investigation after a Memphis Police Department officer shot a man in South Memphis. 

Officials released new details surrounding the incident Tuesday, including the fact that the shooting wasn't captured on the officer's body camera. 

Police Director Mike Rallings provided an update on the investigation Tuesday, saying that the investigation is ongoing. 

"I'm not confident that policy was followed," Rallings said

According to Tennessee Bureau of Investigation officials, the Shelby County District Attorney’s Office requested that TBI investigate the incident. 

The investigation is underway to determine if the actions of the officers were justified. 

According to MPD, the shooting happened around 6:30 p.m. following a traffic stop in the 1200 block of Gill Avenue. 

When officers approached the vehicle and asked the driver for his ID and insurance information, the driver told police he didn't have either. 

Police said the driver -- identified as Martavious Banks -- began reaching downward when an officer saw a gun inside the car.

That is when Banks fled the scene, hitting a curb before police stopped the car a second time on Gill Avenue. Police said he then ran away from officers. 

Police chased the man and a “confrontation occurred,” according to MPD. The man was shot by police and was taken to Regional One in critical condition. 

According to officials, Banks had six outstanding warrants against him. He had four separate arrest warrants for suspended licenses, assault and violation of probation.

RELATED: Man shot, critically injured by police officer after traffic stop in South Memphis

Rallings said when Banks got out of his car and led police on a foot chase, all three officers involved did not have their body cameras activated so the shooting was not captured on his video. 

"Let me assure you that I will get answers, and we will hold officers accountable,” said Rallings.

Brett Kavanaugh accuser Christine Blasey Ford wants FBI investigation before testifying in Senate

Attorneys for California college professor Christine Blasey Ford are asking the Senate Judiciary Committee for an FBI investigation before she testifies about an alleged sexual assault involving Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh 36 years ago when the pair was in high school, according to news reports. 

>> Read more trending news 

In a letter to Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley, Ford’s attorney said an investigation “should be the first step in addressing the allegations,” The Associated Press reported.

Although Ford has pledged to fully cooperate, her attorney said since going public with the accusation, she’s been the target of “vicious harassment and even death threats,” and has had to relocate her family, according to the AP

Grassley responded with sympathy over the threats to Ford’s life.

“Nobody should be subject to threats and intimidation, and Dr. Ford is no exception,” Grassley said in a statement, but the Iowa Republican also discounted an FBI investigation.

“Dr. Ford’s testimony would reflect her personal knowledge and memory of events. Nothing the FBI or any other investigator does would have any bearing on what Dr. Ford tells the committee, so there is no reason for any further delay,” he said, according to The Washington Post.

>> Jamie Dupree: Senators wait to see if Kavanaugh accuser will testify

Grassley said the invitation for Ford to testify Monday still stands.

President Donald Trump said Tuesday he is not in favor of an FBI investigation about the allegation, either.

>> Related: Trump: FBI shouldn't investigate Kavanaugh allegation

“I don’t think the FBI really should be involved because they don’t want to be involved,” Trump told reporters during a meeting with Polish President Andrzej Duda. “If they wanted to be, I would certainly do that, but as you know they say this is not really their thing.”

The committee had scheduled a hearing for Monday on the alleged incident after a letter surfaced last week, but that could now be in question.

The Washington Post reported Sunday that Ford wrote a confidential letter to California Democratic Sen. Diane Feinstein detailing the assault allegation. Feinstein said she turned the letter over to the FBI.

>> Related: Who is Christine Blasey Ford, Brett Kavanaugh's accuser? 

Kavanaugh, who was nominated by Trump to fill the seat left vacant by the retiring Justice Anthony Kennedy, has denied the assault ever happened, and said Tuesday he looks forward to testifying about it.

>> Related: Who is Brett Kavanaugh, Trump’s nominee to the U.S. Supreme Court?

The Senate Judiciary Committee was originally scheduled to take a vote this week on Kavanaugh’s nomination after concluding confirmation hearings last week, but now it’s unclear when, or even if, that might happen. 

Hurricane safety: Here’s what to do if your car is swept away by water

Keeping a cool head and remembering these tips may save your life if your vehicle is ever overcome by water. 

According to a 2006 study, as many as 400 people drown in North America in cars that are submerged in water.

Because seconds matter, especially after your car is submerged, it’s important that you stay calm and follow these steps.

Brace for impact

If you know you’re going into a lake or river, it’s important to brace yourself for impact to avoid serious injury before you attempt your escape. 

Keep your hands at “ten and two” on the steering wheel so if the airbag inflates, you will avoid serious injury to your head and extremities.

While your vehicle is floating

Immediately undo your seat belt and then unbuckle any children starting with the oldest child first. Older children can help unbuckle any younger passengers.

Unlock the doors and open windows:

Even though a door is not considered the best way to exit a vehicle until it’s fully submerged, it’s important to unlock them while your electrical system is still functioning.

According to WikiHow, try to open a window right after you enter the water. If your electrical system is not functioning, use an object to break the glass. The headrests in most cars can be removed and the metal inserts may break the glass. Do not attempt to break the windshield because the safety glass is designed to break in a manner that would make it hard to escape through.

Some other suitable objects to break the glass include steering wheel locks, tools, keys or window-breaking tools that are typically hammer-shaped. 

Escape

After taking a deep breath, try to escape through the window. If you have children in the vehicle, push them out first. If they can’t swim, give them an object that floats and tell them not to let go of it.

Swim

As you escape the vehicle, try not to kick in a manner that might injure others escaping. If you’re submerged when you escape, follow the bubbles to the surface.

Get help

Most water can be cold enough that hypothermia can occur even after a short period underwater. Additionally, you may experience shock or injuries from the accident. Once you have reached the edge of the water, seek medical attention immediately.

It’s important to note that while water caused by flooding or storm surge may appear on a known route, motorists should never intentionally drive into high water.

Hurricane safety: Those who have lived through storms offer their advice

Those who live in Florida and other parts of the country that frequently get hurricane warnings know what to do when a storm is bearing down on them. For those who rarely get a mega-storm in their state, those who have been through hurricanes are sharing their expertise via social media

>> Read more trending news 

It’s the little things that you don’t focus on daily. Paperwork like your birth certificate, passport and credit cards needs to be gathered before the storm, according to people who have survived storms. 

>>Read: Building an emergency disaster kit can be easy and cheap, here's how

Other people added their comments to the post, suggesting items like a hand-crank transistor radio to stay connected. Others still suggested getting cash now instead of waiting until after the stormwaters recede.

Those on social media may be onto something. 

>>Read: Family emergency supply kit must-haves

The National Hurricane Center agrees that people should plan before the storm hits. 

It’s also important to have a family emergency plan. The Federal Emergency Management Agency has put together a checklist as a starting point.

>>Read: Storm evacuations: How coin, frozen cup of water could keep you from getting sick

Georgia’s Emergency Management Agency has suggested learning the flood risks and getting ready kits together for both your home and your car.

What should be in the kit? Water, food, a battery-operated radio, garbage bags and a can opener are a good start. 

>>Read: Why you should never use a generator during a storm 

If you are forced to evacuate, make sure you have helpful apps to find gas, hotel rooms and traffic routes.

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