Recently in National News Category

Texans wide receiver, Andres Johnson, played Santa for some lucky Houston children on Tuesday.

The football star performed what's become an annual Christmas tradition for him, reported Yahoo! News. Johnson's Foundation, the Andre Johnson Charitable Foundation, funded a shopping spree for 12 lucky children in which they had 80 seconds to fill their carts with as many toys as possible at Toys R Us.

The finale ticket rang over $19,000 for Johnson, reported ABC News. That's roughly $1,600 in gifts for each child and their siblings. "A Barbie Dream House, rap star, a Nerf gun for my brother, a princess thing, a dream light and a horse," said Houston child Makena Fruia.

Later, Johnson continued the holiday spirit by surprising each of the 800 students at the nearby Bastian Elementary School with an early present, reported ABC News. The football player worked with the Houston Police Department's Blue Santa program to provide the gifts.

Angus T. Jones, the "half" on CBS's popular show "Two and a Half Men", apologized Tuesday for offending cast and crew with his Monday YouTube rant about the sitcom.

Jones' apology arrived a day after his YouTube video spread like wildfire, reported CNN News. In the video, the actor repeatedly told viewers to stop watching the show and referred to the sitcom as "filth".

As reported by CNN News: "I apologize if my remarks reflect me showing indifference to and disrespect of my colleagues and a lack of appreciation of the extraordinary opportunity of which I have been blessed," Jones said in a statement released by his publicist. "I never intended that."

The show has shot about half of its episodes for this season, reported the Washington Post. Jones has not appeared in every episode, but he's under contract for the full season.

Target and Toys R Us are joining the likes of Gap, J.C. Penny, and Walmart in the race to kick start the highly-profitable holiday shopping season.

U.S. retailers have typically waited until the Friday after Thanksgiving to make their end-of-the-year push, but stakes are high this year as U.S. retailers generally earn more than a third of their annual sales during the holidays, reported the Chicago Tribune.

Retailers are trying to get customers into their stores before the competition does, but they also report that customers have mentioned that they like shopping on Thanksgiving, reported the Chicago Tribune. "Customers repeatedly told us that they liked being able to do their Black Friday shopping after they had finished their turkey dinners, so they didn't have to spend all night outside in line and could sleep in on Friday," Troy Rice, executive vice president of stores and services at Toys R Us, told Reuters.

While some customers prefer shopping with their stuffing, USA Today's opinion poll from Tuesday shows that most customers are unhappy with the new, early shopping hours. "Stop making people work on Thanksgiving! Consumers and stores can wait until the next day. People should spend Thanksgiving enjoying time with their families and friends," said shopper Stephanie Demmler.

Indianapolis explosion destroys homes, kills 2

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An explosion sparked a fire and destroyed about three dozen houses, killing two people, in an Indianapolis neighborhood Saturday night, authorities said Sunday.

The explosion occurred at roughly 11 p.m. on Saturday in a neighborhood on the south side of Indianapolis, CBS News reported. The explosion destroyed two neighboring houses and caused a fire that spread to nearby houses, killing two people.

As a precaution, Citizens Energy shut off gas to all the houses in the neighborhood, reported WLFI Channel 18 News. As of Sunday morning the company had received no reports of the odor of gas in the neighborhood and no gas leaks had been discovered, an official said.

About 200 residents took refuge in a nearby elementary school, CBS News reported. Most eventually went to stay with relatives, but about 15 to 20 stayed the night at the school.

Officials patrolled the neighborhood during the night and said they are expecting more fatalities, reported WLFI Channel 18 News.

Random House and Penguin agree on merger

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Two of the publishing world's biggest players have agreed to a merger that will create the largest publishing house in existence.

Bertelsmann, owner of Random House, and Pearson, owner of Penguin, agreed Monday to combine the two houses to create the largest consumer book publisher in the world, reported the New York Times. The deal would allow the German and British companies, respectively, to better tackle the challenges of publishing in the era of e-books.

The joining of Random House and Penguin will bring together nearly one forth of global English-language consumer book sales, reported the Wall Street Journal. Random House would bring E.L. James, author of the best selling "Fifty Shades of Grey", and Penguin would bring an impressive list of classics, including George Orwell, author of the dystopian thriller "1984".

In the deal, Bertelsmann will have a 53 percent stake and Pearson will have a 47 percent stake, reported the Wall Street Journal, but it must first pass antitrust regulations. Bertelsmann said it expects the deal to close in late 2013.

9-year-old girl shot after being mistaken for a skunk

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A 9-year-old girl was accidentally shot by a relative who mistook her for a skunk outside a Pennsylvania Halloween party, police said.

The girl, who was wearing a black costume and a black hat with a white tassel, was outside the western Pennsylvania home when a male relative mistook her for a skunk and fired a shotgun at her, said police, hitting her in the arm and back, the Star Tribune reported.

The girl was alert and talking when she was flown to the Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh, about 30 miles away, reported the Washington Post, but her current condition is unknown.

Pittsburgh police said that it is unknown whether the male relative had been drinking or not and that it is unsure if charges will be filed, reported the Star Tribune. A decision will be released in a few days, police said.

21 names released in Zumba sex case

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Police released the names of 21 men who allegedly paid for sex from a Zumba instructor in a seaside community in Maine Monday morning.

Alexis Wright, a 29-year-old Zumba instructor in Kennebunk, Maine, has been accused of accepting payment from men for sex and then videotaping the events, reported CNN News Sunday. Wright allegedly received help from her business partner Mark Strong, a 57-year-old insurance salesman and private investigator.

The Kennebunk Police Department said in a statement Friday that they were waiting to release the names of the men involved, reported CNN News. Monday morning the names were released after Superior Court Justice Thomas Warren denied a motion by an attorney representing two of the accused people seeking to block disclosure of the names, reported the Huffington Post.

Wright and Strong both pleaded not guilty this month to prostitution-related charges, reported the Huffington Post. Wright is charged with 106 counts and Strong with 59 counts. Police say over 150 people are suspected of soliciting sex from the Zumba instructor.

Cleveland authorities say teen stole, drove transit bus

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Cleveland authorities said a 16-year-old boy stole a public transit bus and drove it five miles before being arrested.

The Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority is investigating how the teenager entered the bus maintenance facility Thursday morning, reported the Seattle Times. Although the facility is monitored by police and has security fencing and cameras, the teenager was able to start the large bus and leave driving it.

A spokeswoman for the Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority said starting the bus would have been very difficult for the teen since the bus uses a series of buttons to start and not a key, reported ABC News.

The teen was later spotted in the parked bus, which had a smashed window and mirror, by a transit supervisor, said the spokeswoman.

Honda recalls over 500,000 Accords

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Honda Motor Company has issued a recall for more than 500,000 of its widely-popular Accord because of a potential fire risk in the car's engine.

To recall covers roughly 572,000 Accord V6's from model years 2003-2007, reported CNN News. The power steering hoses in these models have a risk of leaking, creating smoke and potentially sparking engine fires, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

At this point, no crashes or injuries have been reported except for one documented engine fire, Honda said in a statement Friday.

This recall is an expansion of a previous recall made by Honda in May of around 53,000 2007 and 2008 Acura TL's, according to WPTV Channel 5 News. The car company is promising to replace these power steering hoses free of charge, but replacement parts won't be available until next year.

This is just one recall in a list of recalls Honda has issued, ranging from the CR-V and Acura ILX to the Odyssey minivan, reported WPTV Channel 5 News.

NYC schools to give 'morning after' pill to students

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Students at 13 New York City high schools will now have access to the morning-after pill, Plan B, without parent consent.

The New York City Department of Education is providing the morning-after pills through school nurse offices, Fox News reported. School nurse offices can now give Plan B to girls as young as 14 without telling their parents but parents are allowed to "opt out". After receiving a school policy letter, parents can choose to exclude their children from the offer.

The city's Board of Health has said that only 1 to 2 percent of parents have chosen to opt out, reported ABC News. According to health department spokesman Chanel Caraway "this suggests that parents are OK with the service being available to their children". Roughly 5,500 of the 12,000 girls were given the drug last year, the board of health said.

Plan B works like normal birth control pills, but it is taken after unprotected sex to prevent an unplanned pregnancy, said the manufacturer Teva Pharmaceuticals.

This distribution of Plan B would be the first in the U.S.

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