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Boston Globe/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- Former New England Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez’s April suicide marked the last chapter in a dramatic fall from superstardom into a life of violence and incarceration. Now, findings from an autopsy on his 27-year-old brain have some asking whether his football career – and specifically, the blows to the head he received on the field – could be at least partly to blame.

The findings, released Thursday, indicate chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) – a condition that is the result of repeated head trauma. In recent years, research has uncovered evidence of a connection between CTE and certain contact sports, most notably professional football. A growing number of former NFL players and their families have come forward, describing the onset of psychiatric conditions and behavior changes believed to be linked to CTE.

But as to whether CTE was to blame in any way for Hernandez’s murder conviction, and later his suicide in prison, experts are split.

“The brain lesions noted on autopsy could be compatible with the psychiatric features, although the mechanism is unknown,” said Dr. Luca Giliberto of the Litwin-Zucker Research Center for Alzheimer's Disease and Memory Disorders at the Feinstein Institute for Medical Research in Manhasset, New York.

Even though the exact way CTE affects the likelihood of violent behavior is still a mystery, he believes a connection is, at least, possible.

“All data and evidence show that the risk is real,” Giliberto said. “We cannot hide our heads in the sand when we see these cases and say, ‘maybe not.’ If we keep hiding we will keep collecting more cases like Hernandez.”

Others, however, were more skeptical that enough evidence exists to blame violent behavior on CTE.

“Even though there has been speculation about behavioral changes due to CTE, no one has proven any correlation,” said Dr. Anthony G. Alessi, associate clinical professor of neurology and orthopedics at UConn Health. “This is where science breaks down and litigation comes into action.”

Indeed, most in the field agree that the research is only in its very early phases. The largest study so far on CTE in former NFL players, conducted at Boston University, involves the brains of just 111 such athletes. In all of these cases, the athletes themselves or their families volunteered the brains for study after these players had died. While the findings thus far have been revealing – 110 of the 111 brains studied showed evidence of CTE – they are not representative of all professional players in the sport. This means that researchers do not yet know how prevalent this condition is among all players on the professional level, much less among the millions of others who play or have played at the college and high school levels. Nor can these findings provide solid answers yet on the connection between CTE and behavior.

Where both Giliberto and Alessi agree is that sports in which head collisions are common definitely put players at risk of brain trauma and CTE. And they warn that the damage can start early.

“Around a six and half million young Americans are involved in some kind of youth sports associated with a high risk of collision damage to the brain,” Alessi said.

Of particular concern is repeated head trauma before the age of 13, while the brain is still maturing, he said. This can have dangerous future consequences, he noted.

Giliberto noted that entities like the NFL should also take steps to talk openly about the topic, as well as to step up and provide data needed to take advantage of the millions of dollars invested on research in this topic.

“The phenomenon of CTE has been there since times of gladiators,” Giliberto said. “It was just that we never looked at it and admitted that it existed.”

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ABC News(NEW YORK) -- Former White House communications director Anthony Scaramucci defended his decision to stand by President Donald Trump after his many controversial statements on the campaign trail.

Scaramucci told the co-hosts of "The View" he stood by Trump during the election because "he was going to win — I saw that."

Scaramucci was fired 11 days after the announcement of his appointment as communications director, at the advice of the incoming White House chief of staff John Kelly — who joined the administration only days earlier. Former press secretary Sean Spicer announced his resignation on the same day Scaramucci was appointed.

Scaramucci explained he first realized Trump would win when he attended the campaign's first fundraiser in May 2016.

"I went into the audience and started shaking hands with the people," Scaramucci said. "People were desperate."

"I'm going one person to the next, and it's dawning on me — oh my god. The country is separating like in 1890 and 1912."

Scaramucci was referring to two presidential election cycles where a powerful third party emerged as a result of polarized differences in political beliefs in America — in 1890, the Populist Party emerged as a result of economic strife, and in 1912, Democrat Woodrow Wilson beat Theodore Roosevelt with the Progressive Party.

"I knew he was going to win!" Scaramucci said. "I said ... if I can somehow help incrementally, whatever the flaws are of this man ... I wanna be there as an American patriot to try and help him!"

When asked if Scaramucci would consider himself "complicit" in the president's wrongdoings, he said: "I would say that I'm not. I don't agree with everything that he says."

Among his disagreements with Trump, Scaramucci listed his "15 years" working for marriage equality.

Scaramucci concluded his reasoning with a call for unity in America.

"We are polarized and we are killing each other," Scaramucci said. "Whether you like the president or you don't ... we gotta meet somewhere in the middle to get things done for the American people — we have to do it!"

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Images_By_Kenny/iStock/Thinkstock(SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico) -- The death toll in storm-battered areas is rising as Hurricane Maria continued to barrel through the Caribbean on Friday, two days after its landfall in Puerto Rico left the U.S. territory battered and in the dark.

Maria remained a major Category 3 hurricane Friday as of 2 p.m. ET, with 125 mph maximum sustained winds. The storm's eye at the time was located 90 north of Grand Turk Island in Turks and Caicos, moving toward the northwest at 8 mph, according to the National Hurricane Center.

The death toll from the hurricane is at least 23, including 15 in Dominica, six in Puerto Rico and two in Guadeloupe.

Maria came ashore in Puerto Rico early Wednesday as a powerful Category 4 hurricane with 155 mph winds -- the first Category 4 to hit the island since 1932. The storm wiped out the island's power grid and dumped 20 to 30 inches of rain in 24 hours, with some areas seeing 40 inches locally.

There is potential for the death toll in Puerto Rico to rise, the island's Secretary of the Department of Safety said Friday.

Although Maria has hurtled past the island, Puerto Rico will see heavy rainfall through Saturday from the storm's trailing rain bands, likely an additional 3 to 6 inches, according to the National Hurricane Center.

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo departed for Puerto Rico on Friday to bring donated supplies to the island and assess the need, after Puerto Rico's governor made a request for aid. Cuomo traveled with members of the National Guard as well as New York Congresswoman and Puerto Rico native Nydia Velázquez.

Residents of Puerto Rico's hard-hit north coast were seen wading through floodwater inside what's left of their homes.

ABC News correspondents observed widespread destruction in the town of Guaynabo, about 10 miles south of San Juan where trees and power lines were downed and storefronts and building facades had crumbled. Neighborhoods in Guaynabo were filled with waist-deep floodwaters and destroyed homes that were apparently not built to any kind of code.

Guaynabo resident Ramon Caldero and his family hunkered down in their kitchen during the storm, which caused part of the ceiling to collapse in his sister's room.

"I was worried," Caldero told ABC News. "My sister was screaming."

Christy Caban of Nashville, Tennessee, rode out the storm with her husband and 13-month-old baby in their hotel room just east of San Juan.

"We don't have power, we don't have water," Caban told ABC News.

Puerto Rico's emergency management agency confirmed that 100 percent of the island had lost power by Wednesday afternoon, noting that anyone with electricity was using a generator.

Abner Gomez Cortes, executive director of the agency, told ABC News more than 12,000 people are currently in shelters, and hospitals are running on generators. Two hospitals -- one in Caguas and one in Bayamon -- were damaged in the storm.

A spokesperson with the Puerto Rico governor's office confirmed to ABC News at least one person has died in the storm. The person was killed in Bayamon, just southwest of San Juan, after being hit in the head by a wooden panel.

Meanwhile, telecommunications throughout the island have "collapsed," Cortes said, describing the storm as unprecedented.

Multiple transmission lines sustained damage, according to Ricardo Ramos, director of the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority. Ramos said he hopes to start launching helicopters by this weekend to begin inspecting the lines.

Puerto Rico Gov. Ricardo Rossello has imposed a curfew on the island Wednesday from 6 p.m. to 6 a.m. ET through Saturday.

Puerto Rico narrowly missed landfall by Hurricane Irma two weeks ago, with the Category 5 storm traveling just north of the U.S. territory. The island suffered heavy rain and wind, but nothing near the widespread damage incurred by Maria.

Speaking at the United Nations General Assembly in New York City on Thursday, President Donald Trump said Hurricane Maria "absolutely obliterated" the U.S. territory and "totally destroyed" its power grid, but that the recovery process will begin soon with "great gusto."

Puerto Rico “got hit with winds, they say they’ve never seen winds like this anywhere," Trump added.

On the forecast track


Maria is expected to turn toward the north-northwest later Friday, then turn toward the north by late Saturday, according to the National Hurricane Center. That means the storm's core will move away from Turks and Caicos on Friday and pass near the Southeast Bahamas through Sunday.

The National Hurricane Center on Friday warned a "dangerous storm surge" coupled with "large and destructive waves" will raise water levels by as much as 9 to 12 feet above normal tide levels in parts of Turks and Caicos and the Southeast Bahamas. And through Saturday, Maria is expected to produce up to 20 inches of rain in parts of Dominican Republic and Turks and Caicos.

But Maria is forecast to gradually weaken during the next 48 hours and beyond due to higher wind shear as the hurricane moves into the cooler waters of the Atlantic Ocean. The diminishing storm will move between Bermuda and the eastern coast of the United States before heading further east and out to sea sometime next week, according to the latest forecast models.

The storm's path is still expected to steer clear of the U.S. mainland.

"At this point, I don’t think Maria will have any major impacts to the mainland besides the high surf and rip currents," ABC News senior meteorologist Max Golembo said Friday morning.

Other Caribbean islands devastated

Maria also did severe damage to other Caribbean islands without making landfall.

Dominica's prime minister, Roosevelt Skerrit, told ABS Television on Thursday that at least 15 people have died and many homes are destroyed beyond repair. The death toll in the island nation is likely to rise and search and rescue missions are ongoing. At least 16 additional people are missing in some communities, he said.

“We have many deaths, but it is a miracle that we do not have hundreds of deaths in the country,” Skerrit told ABS Television.

According to Skerrit, the island has no electricity and only limited telecommunications have been restored since the storm. Some villages are now only accessible by sea or via helicopter

The prime minister told ABS Television that his home's roof was ripped off during the storm and he had to take cover under a bed to protect himself from falling debris.

While wiping away tears during the emotional interview, Skerrit issued an urgent appeal for desperately needed aid, namely water, tarps and baby supplies.

“It’s going to take us a very long time to get back,” he said.

Hartley Henry, an adviser to Dominica's prime minister, told reporters via WhatsApp on Wednesday that his country has suffered a "tremendous loss of housing and public buildings" since the storm hit, ripping off roofs and tearing doors from hinges. Dominica's main general hospital "took a beating" and "patient care has been compromised," he said.

"The country is in a daze -- no electricity, no running water," Henry said via a WhatsApp message. "In summary, the island has been devastated."

The Ross University School of Medicine, based in Portsmouth, Dominica, announced Wednesday on Facebook that it is attempting to make contact with all of its students. More than 1,400 students and faculty have signed the registration sheet so far, and the school has reached out to the family members of more than 700 others, who informed them that they are safe.

In Guadeloupe, officials announced Wednesday two people were killed and two others were missing in the storm's wake.

France's Interior Minister Gerard Collomb said some 80,000 people in Guadeloupe -- around 40 percent of the population -- were without electricity Wednesday. Many roads there are impassible due to flooding and French Navy planes have not been able to assess the damage on the island due to bad weather conditions.

In Martinique, about 70,000 homes were without electricity and 50,000 homes did not have access to safe drinking water Wednesday. Fallen trees and downed power poles have blocked many roads there, Collomb said.

Police and soldiers have been deployed in both Martinique and Guadeloupe to ensure security. More than 3,000 first responders are on the French Caribbean islands, according to Collomb.

The U.S. Department of State sent a message of solidarity Wednesday to the people of Dominica and all across the Caribbean who were affected by Maria.

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HsinJuHSU/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Following months of controversy, the Education Department said on Thursday it would end Obama-era guidance on campus sexual assaults.

In a "dear colleague" letter, released in 2011, the Obama administration instructed schools to use a "preponderance of evidence" standard, rather than the more stringent "clear and convincing evidence standard, to prove sexual assault.

But the Trump administration argues using a lower standard of proof in sexual misconduct cases "suggests a discriminatory purpose."

Quoting a recent court decision, the newly-released interim guidance said the Obama administration policy represents "a deliberate choice by the university to make cases of sexual misconduct easier to prove -- and thus more difficult to defend, both for guilty and innocent students alike."

Under the new guidance, schools can choose which standard of proof they use, but it should be "consistent with the standard the school applies in other student misconduct cases," according to a document released on Thursday.

Education Secretary Betsy DeVos first broadcast her intent to withdraw the "failed" Obama-era guidance in a press conference earlier this month, saying it was unfair to alleged perpetrators.

"One rape is too many ... And one person denied due process is too many," she said at George Mason Law School. "Every student accused of sexual misconduct must know that guilt is no predetermined."

"It's no wonder so many call these proceedings kangaroo courts," she said, referencing the lack of due process for both victims and the accused in on-campus sexual assault proceedings.

Academic studies put the prevalence of false allegations between 2 and 10 percent.

Thursday’s announcement comes just months after DeVos sparked a controversy by meeting with so-called "men's rights" groups like the National Coalition for Men and groups that speak out on behalf of the accused, like Families Advocating for Campus Equality.

Volunteers for these groups say they just want to make sure all involved get a fair process.

"Victims for a long time weren't taken seriously, and President Obama tried to correct that -- but some of us think that he over-corrected, to the point where those who haven't committed any crimes, like myself, are at a risk of losing their futures, losing their lives, and being destroyed, essentially," Jonathan Andrews, a 23-year-old volunteer who says he was falsely accused of rape after he himself was sexually assaulted, told ABC News in July.

But survivor's advocates, with whom the secretary also met, say the groups push harmful, blame-the-victim stereotypes.

"She's meeting with groups and individuals today who believe that sexual assault is some sort of feminist plot to hurt men," said Mara Keisling, Executive Director of National Center for Transgender Equality.

In response to today's announcement, the National Women's Law Center called the move "devastating."

"It will discourage students from reporting assaults," the group said in a statement, adding the standards set forth today represent "a huge step back to a time when sexual assault was a secret that was swept under the rug."

The American Association of University Women went even further, saying in a statement, "today’s announcement confirms our suspicions: the U.S. Department of Education’s intent is to roll back critical civil rights protections for students."

Obama Education Secretary John King tweeted that the move is "shameful and wrong" and "undermines student safety."

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20th Century Fox(NEW YORK) -- Taron Egerton is in theaters again as Gary "Eggsy" Unwin in Kingsman: The Golden Circle, the followup to the 2015 blockbuster Kingsman: The Secret Service

Egerton was fresh out of drama school when he auditioned for the first film. He tells ABC's Peter Travers there was a specific moment during the beginning of the "strenuous" audition process for Director Matthew Vaughn when the 27-year-old star knew he had a real shot at the part.

Vaughn "doesn’t mince his words...I remember my first audition for him. He...looked like he had a lot on his mind. He sat down and didn’t look at me. I did the scene, and he was still looking down. And I sort of went, 'Are we done?' And he looked up and went, 'What was your name again?' And that was the first moment where I thought I might [have] a shot here."

"Very many" followed, Egerton laughed. "He really put me through my paces."

After getting the part, the new drama school grad had to act alongside Oscar-winners Michael Caine and Colin Firth, the latter playing the agent who recruits Egerton's "street kid" to become a spy. "I was helped by...an amazingly gracious cast," says Egerton. "Colin Firth, particularly...kind of holding my hand, and making me feel valid among these certified film stars."

In the original, Egerton's character saves the world from a murderous plot launched by a mad billionaire played by Samuel L. Jackson.  The sequel sees Eggsy unite with his agency's American cousins, The Statesman, played by Pedro Pascal, Halle Berry, Jeff Bridges, and Channing Tatum, in order to topple another wannabe world dominator -- played by yet another Oscar-winner, Julianne Moore.

Kingsman: The Golden Circle is in theaters now.

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iStock/Thinkstock(LONDON) -- London is putting the brakes on Uber.

The ride-hailing company won't be issued a new license to operate in London, according to Transport for London (TfL).

TfL said Uber, whose current license would expire by Sept. 30, was not fit to hold a private-hire operator license due to "public safety and security implications." TfL cited Uber's approach to reporting criminal offenses and conducting background checks on drivers.

Uber has 21 days to appeal TfL's decision. More than 3 million customers use the Uber app in London, along with 400,000 drivers.

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Girl Scouts of Central Indiana(NEW YORK) -- Last April Melina Lakey was riding home from a movie with her parents when their SUV clipped a drainage ditch and rolled over six times, landing on its roof.

The 9-year-old was pulled to safety by her dad, Jeff Lakey, who was driving. When Melina saw that her mom, Ashley McCollum-Lakey, was stuck in the passenger seat, she ran back to help.

“When the airbags deploy you can’t see any of the doors, so she lifted them up so I could find my way out,” McCollum-Lakey told ABC News. “She said, ‘Mommy I’m right here. Come to me.’”

She continued, “She lifted up five impact airbags to get me out, through glass and debris.”

Melina, a Girl Scout from Pendleton, Indiana, was honored Thursday for her heroism by the Girl Scouts of the USA.

She received the Medal of Honor, one of two Lifesaving Awards given by the Girl Scouts for “saving life or attempting to save life without risk to the candidate’s own life.”

The Girl Scouts of Central Indiana, the 45-county council that represents Melina’s troop, has awarded only one other Lifesaving Award in the past decade, according to a council spokeswoman.

“It felt really good,” Melina, a fourth grader who has been a Girl Scout for the past five years, told ABC News. “It felt like everybody cared.”

Melina, who was 8 at the time of the accident, took control after rescuing her mom by calling 911 on her parents' cellphone. She and her mom, who is her troop leader, had spent that April day at a local fire department with fellow Girl Scouts learning first aid skills and what to do in an emergency.

“They said that if you’re ever in a big accident, always call 911,” Melina said.

She added, "Even though you think [an accident] is not going to happen to you, it still will. They taught me everything I needed."

Melina and her dad escaped the accident with no injuries. McCollum-Lakey suffered a shoulder injury and some bruising but credits her daughter with saving her life.

“Melina didn’t think twice,” she said. “She knew there was glass and debris and she just wanted to make sure that she knew mommy and daddy were OK.”

Melina, whose favorite Girl Scout activity is hiking, also received a congratulatory letter from Girl Scouts of the USA CEO Sylvia Acevedo.

“Your extraordinary courage, incredible confidence, and your willingness to take decisive action in the midst of an emergency has not only saved a life, but also serves as a shining example for Girl Scouts everywhere of fortitude and dedication,” the letter read in part. “Your heroism and sound judgment have earned you a place in the pantheon of heroes who have come before you, and left an indelible mark on the Girl Scouts.”

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