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Phillips Hired as Broncos DC


NFL via Getty Images(PHOENIX) -- Wade Phillips is the Denver Broncos new defensive coordinator after the two parties reached an agreement Wednesday night.

The 67-year-old Phillips will reunite with head coach Gary Kubiak. Phillips served as Kubiak's defensive coordinator for most of three seasons with the Houston Texans.

Kubiak was fired from Houston in the middle of the 2013 season and Phillips took over as the interim head coach. Houston decided not to bring Phillips back the next season, leading him to take the year off.

This isn't Phillips' first time in Denver: he served as the Broncos defensive coordinator from 1989-92 and was the team's head coach from 1993-94.

Next season will be Phillips' 39th as an NFL coach.

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ISIS Appears to Arrange Prisoner Swap in New Hostage Recording


Oleg Zabielin/iStock/Thinkstock(AMMAN, Jordan) -- In a new message uploaded online Wednesday, a Japanese hostage of the terror group ISIS purportedly arranges a prisoner swap in which he would go free in exchange for a convicted terrorist held by Jordan -– or a Jordanian pilot held by ISIS will be killed.

In an audio recording, allegedly made by captive Japanese journalist Kenji Goto, Goto says that if al Qaeda convict Sajida al-Rishawi “is not ready for exchange for my life at the Turkish border by Thursday sunset” then Jordanian pilot Lt. Muath al-Kaseasbeh “will be killed immediately.” The recording refers to sunset in Mosul, Iraq, meaning mid-morning east coast time.

Earlier Wednesday Jordan’s government said it would go through with a prisoner swap with the terror group ISIS in order to get its captured pilot back, but a top official of the Middle Eastern nation says the government has not received proof that he’s still alive. Goto’s message did not say the Jordanian pilot would be freed in the newly-proposed arrangement.

Foreign Minister Nasser Judeh posted a message on Twitter saying the government asked for, but has not received, “evidence of health and safety of the hero, Muath.” Al-Kaseasbeh was captured by ISIS last December after his aircraft was shot down.

Al-Rishawi, an Iraqi woman, has been on death row in Jordan since she confessed to her role as a would-be suicide bomber in a string of al Qaeda attacks in Jordan in 2005 that killed dozens.

Prior to reports of Jordan’s willingness to accept the trade, Middle East expert Jon Alterman told ABC News that by asking for, and potentially gaining al-Rishawi’s release, ISIS is attempting to bolster its long-held goal of being seen as a proper nation-state on a geopolitical scale.

“What it represents is ISIS again trying to act like a real country. It’s a small group of outlaws trying to engage in governments,” Alterman, head of the Middle East Program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, said Tuesday.

ISIS, the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, has publicly beheaded dozens of captives, including a handful of Western journalists and aid workers, sometimes after making demands of their governments.

The Japanese hostage Goto was not mentioned in statements made by Jordanian officials about a potential deal Wednesday, despite reports that Japanese officials have been working closely with Jordan to find ways to free both hostages.

“Please save Kenji’s life,” Goto’s mother said in her own video, released Tuesday. “Kenji has only a little time left.”

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Maryland Mansion Fire: Dry Christmas Tree Blamed for Deadly Blaze


Photo by Jonathan Newton / The Washington Post via Getty Images(ANNAPOLIS, Md.) -- An electrical failure that set ablaze a 15-foot Christmas tree caused a mansion fire in Annapolis, Maryland, earlier this month that killed six people, authorities announced Wednesday.

Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives agents also concluded that the fire, which started in the home's great room, was an accident.

"While the explanation that has been shared with us today does not bring solace, it does start us down the long road to acceptance," read a statement issued Wednesday by the Boone and Pyle families.

It took almost a week for six bodies to be found in the burned-down mansion. All those who were thought to be inside are believed to be accounted for, according to fire department officials.

The 16,000-square-foot mansion was owned by tech executive Don Pyle and his wife Sandra.

According to relatives, the Pyles had four of their grandchildren -- Alexis (Lexi) Boone, 8; Kaitlyn (Katie) Boone, 7; Charlotte Boone, 8; and Wesley (Wes) Boone, 6 -– over at the time of the four-alarm fire. All six died in the blaze.

Crews started going through the wreckage last Wednesday, according to ABC affiliate WJLA, a process that ATF investigators said could take weeks.

The house was "built more like a commercial structure," Anne Arundel County Fire Capt. Russ Davies told reporters, so searching is a "time-consuming process."

Initially the fire had been handled as a criminal investigation.

Relatives described the Pyles as loving grandparents nicknamed “Pop-Pop” and “Dee-Dee.” The night before the blaze, Don and Sandra treated their four grandchildren to a special outing to Medieval Times, according to a family spokeswoman -– even taking them to Target beforehand to pick up costumes for the occasion.

Family members of the victims thanked well-wishers last week in a statement. Attributed to "the Boone and Pyle families," it said in part, “We wish to express our gratitude and appreciation for the love and support being shared with us during this tragic event. We are blessed that so many family, friends, and neighbors have come together for us in our time of need."

“Life is fragile," the statement concluded. "Make time today to embrace your loved ones."

Authorities said at Wednesday's news conference that they would conduct additional tests and analysis.

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FTC Announces $40 Million Settlement with TracFone Over 'Unlimited' Data Deception


triloks/iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- The Federal Trade Commission announced Wednesday that it had agreed to a $40 million settlement with TracFone over alleged deception involving "unlimited" data plans.

TracFone is the largest prepaid mobile provider in the U.S., according to the FTC. The agency claims that TracFone advertised unlimited data plans, but instead, when users surpassed a fixed amount of data in a one-month period, TracFone would throttle or slow down their data speed.

According to a complaint, "customers often experienced slow-downs of at least 60% and sometimes even 90%, significantly impairing their ability to engage in online activities." The FTC said that one TracFone employee who tested the effects of throttling said that "customer experience is affected because it is very slow...'regular' users like me may get upset."

The FTC claims that there was no technical reason for the company to limit data; instead, the decision to do so was made to "reduce the high costs associated" with the unlimited data.

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One in 12 Americans Don't Follow Prescription Medication Directions in Effort to Save Money


Fuse/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- New data provided by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows that one in 12 Americans choose not to take prescription medication as directed to save money.

Eight percent of Americans, the CDC says, do not take prescription medicine as directed in an effort to save money. An even larger 15 percent said they have asked their physician for a lower-cost medication than what was prescribed for them.

The CDC also notes that alternative cost-reducing strategies including alternative drug therapy and purchase of prescription drugs from another country were also tactics employed by between 1.5 percent and 4.2 percent of American adults.

Adults between the ages of 18 and 64 were nearly twice as likely -- 8.5 percent to 4.4 percent -- to report not taking medicines as prescribed as seniors were, a figure that jumped when looking at uninsured adults.

Perhaps just as staggering is almost 20 percent of the $263 billion spent on prescription drugs each year in the U.S. was paid for out of pocket.

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Farewell Ceremony Held for Resigning Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel


JIM WATSON/AFP/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel is still on the job until his successor -- Ash Carter -- is confirmed by the Senate, but on Wednesday the military held a farewell ceremony for the resigning secretary.

The event, held at Fort Myer in Arlington, Virginia, including a marching honor guard and the Marine Band. President Obama, Vice President Joe Biden and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Martin Dempsey all attended and spoke about Hagel's commitment to service. Obama and Biden also shared stories of their time spent with Hagel in the Senate.

The president thanked Hagel for his "guiding hand" and said that because of him "this institution is better positioned for the future."

"We have a lot of obligations as a country," Vice President Biden said during his remarks. "We only have one truly sacred obligation...to equip those who we sent to war and care for them and their families while and when they come home from war."

"No one has been more committed to fulfilling that obligation than you," Biden told the secretary of defense.

Hagel also gave what was billed as a farewell address. Among the points Hagel made in the speech was the need to hold those who serve in the U.S. military to high standards, the ability of the U.S. to self-correct from mistakes and the acknowledgement that the U.S. does make mistakes. Hagel also called for the wise use of America's power, praising the "courage and dignity of America's servicemen and women all over the world."

"With all the world's travails and problems," Hagel said, "it is still a hopeful world. This, I believe."

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Despite Confusion, Gene Hackman Is 'Alive and Well,' Says Rep


Photo by Vera Anderson/WireImage(NEW YORK) -- After a Grantland article ran Tuesday with the headline "The Greatest Living American Actor at 85: Gene Hackman Is Gone But Still in Charge," there was concern that the 84-year-old had died.

If you are confused about the age in the title and his real age, Hackman turns 85 on Friday.

The title has since changed from "Gone" to "Retired," but not before several tweets went out with "RIP" and "condolences" for the acting legend's family.

If that wasn't enough, a Facebook page with "RIP Gene Hackman" also went up that claimed he died on Monday.

It read, "He will be missed but not forgotten. Please show your sympathy and condolences by commenting on and liking this page," according to ET Canada.

People were confused, but have since been relieved to find out the actor's fine. On Wednesday, Hackman's rep told ABC News that the Hoosiers star is "alive and well."

Other actors like Dylan McDermott were not all that happy that people took the headline and ran with it. He had originally tweeted "Rest in Peace" about the icon, then took it down when he found out it was all just a hoax.

 

I guess Gene Hackman's death was a celebrity hoax. People have too much damn time on their hands...

— Dylan McDermott (@DylanMcDermott) January 28, 2015

 

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