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Fort Worth Star-Telegram/TNS via Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- The U.S. government believes that journalist Austin Tice, missing for more than six years in Syria, is still alive, according to the Trump administration's top official for freeing hostages.

The FBI is still chasing down leads, including from his fellow journalists, but the U.S. "has every reason to believe" Tice is still alive and being held captive in Syria, said Special Presidential Envoy for Hostage Affairs Robert O'Brien in his first public remarks on the case.

Also on Tuesday, several groups announced a new effort to raise money to increase the reward for information leading to Tice's freedom.

O'Brien would not say who the U.S. believes is holding Tice, but he blamed Iran for detaining several other U.S. citizens and not being helpful with Tice's case. The Iranian regime has supported the government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad with troops and weapons throughout its conflict.

Tice is believed to have been kidnapped by pro-Syrian regime forces while he was covering the civil war in August 2012. Over a month after he was taken, a video was released, showing him blindfolded, removed from a car, and led by armed men up a hill, saying "Oh, Jesus."

"The Iranians are not helpful, and they're heavily involved in Syria," said O'Brien, a lawyer who served in the Marines, advised Mitt Romney and Scott Walker's presidential campaigns and now, as special envoy, leads diplomatic efforts to free Americans unjustly detained abroad and work with their families.

A State Department spokesperson later told ABC News that O'Brien "did not intend in his comments to link Iran to Tice's disappearance."

While Tice has not been heard from publicly since that 2012 video, O'Brien declined to say whether the U.S. has received any additional proof of life, instead referencing Tice's physical fitness and age. Still, the U.S. is "deeply concerned" about his well-being, O'Brien added.

While President Donald Trump has never publicly commented on Tice's case, O'Brien said the president has been briefed regularly on it and would take steps to publicize Tice's case if it helped.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has been "intimately involved" in Tice's case, O'Brien said, including meeting with his parents. U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley has also been leading efforts, in particular working with countries at the U.N. who could help pressure the Syrian regime to assist with his case, like Russia.

"We continue to call on the Russians to exert whatever influence they can in Syria to bring Austin home," said O'Brien. "It's something the United States would be grateful for."

Because the U.S. closed its embassy in Damascus, the U.S. works through the Czech Republic "to obtain information about Austin Tice's welfare and whereabouts" within Syria, another State Department spokesperson told ABC News.

Also important to these efforts is an FBI reward of $1 million that was announced in April for information leading to Tice's safe location, recovery and return. O'Brien said it was an important tool that has helped in other American hostage cases.

Tice's father Marc and National Press Club President Andrea Edney announced a new campaign to raise up to $1 million to add to the FBI reward. Next year, restaurants in the Washington metro area are set to partner with the Free Austin Tice coalition and donate a portion of their profits on a "Night Out for Austin Tice" to the reward fund. Set for May 2, 2019, the date is the eve of World Press Freedom Day, and Edney said they hope to expand the event nationwide.

"We know Austin longs to walk free. 2,282 days," his father Marc said, referring to the number of days his son has now spent missing. "Austin urgently needs to be freed. Maybe soon."

Marc and Debra Tice, his parents, will make another trip to the Middle East this month -- at least their seventh -- as they search for a breakthrough on their son's case. And they will again apply for visas to Syria while they are in Lebanon to try get close to where their son is being held.

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Zach Gibson/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- A band of House Democrats determined to oppose House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi's speaker bid are planning to release a signed letter as soon as this week indicating that they have gathered enough support to deny her the 218 votes needed to win the gavel on the House floor in January, a move they say would complicate her path to a second term as speaker and force renewed discussion about her stepping aside.

"This is a simple letter saying we want new leadership, which is what a vast majority of Democrats and the American people want," Rep. Seth Moulton, D-Mass., a member of the group, told reporters Tuesday.

Pelosi, who has said she's "100 percent confident" that she will be the next House speaker, has been working since last week on her bid, meeting and talking with new members and incumbent Democrats, to shore up support.

Prominent Democrats off Capitol Hill -- from New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo and former Sen. John Kerry, to former Vice President Al Gore -- have been making calls on her behalf, and influential House Democrats and activists have provided a steady drumbeat of public endorsements.

But Pelosi's critics argue that she has an increasingly apparent math problem. While she's expected to lock up the caucus speaker vote with a majority of members on Nov. 28, they're hoping to publicly release their letter before that vote to hammer their point home.

"It's time for a change," Rep. Filemon Vela, D-Texas, who is opposed to Pelosi, told ABC News. "It's time for new blood."

ABC News has identified at least 14 sitting Democrats and incoming members who have vowed to oppose Pelosi on the House floor. Sources involved in the effort say that number has grown to at least 20 members, with many more incoming Democrats undecided. Pelosi can only afford to lose six votes -- a number that could grow to 14 if Democrats win the eight House races yet to be called.

"The whole point of the letter is to accelerate this process so that it doesn’t spill out onto the floor. She’s the one that is driving this to a floor vote. We want to make it clear before it comes to that that she should step aside," Moulton said.

Pelosi's allies have been quick to criticize the group vowing to block her as working to derail the will of the majority of House Democrats, and have ridiculed the group for not being able to find a candidate to challenge her for speaker head-on.

"If they’re foolish enough to sign their names to a letter when they don't have to, when they don’t know whether Pelosi is going to win or lose, and when they don’t even have a candidate to oppose her, then it doesn’t bode well for their leadership if they succeed," a Pelosi confidant told ABC News.

But Pelosi's critics say they don't need a candidate of their own to challenge her.

"There’s a very practical political reason why no one has come out. They don’t want to alienate Pelosi supporters. So it only makes sense from a political perspective that a new candidate steps up after it’s clear that she doesn’t have the votes," Moulton, who said he is not seeking to replace Pelosi, told reporters Tuesday.

Pelosi's allies say the California Democrat -- a veteran of countless leadership battles and whipping efforts -- is working methodically to line up the votes. Her team is listening to incoming members and sitting Democrats about their priorities and desired changes to rules governing the House floor, and believe there is still a path for her to reach 218 -- or a majority of House members present and voting -- on the House floor.

"I think she'll navigate it," Rep. Cheri Bustos, D-Ill., a rising star in the party who is running for a lower-level post, said Tuesday. "She's a smart woman."

One option they are exploring is tinkering with the threshold she needs to clinch the gavel: Pelosi can win on the floor with less than 218 votes if she can convince her critics not to vote, or vote "present," instead of for her or another candidate. They are also making the case to incoming members that voting against her in caucus but for her on the floor (in support of the caucus recommendation) will provide them with sufficient cover for their re-election races.

Meanwhile, Pelosi's outreach continues. She's mixed and mingled with new members during their orientation in Washington, and has plans to meet with leaders of the Progressive Caucus and members of the Congressional Black Caucus late this week.

On Wednesday, the Democratic caucus will meet for the first time as a group since the Election Day victory, huddling in their meeting room in the basement of the Capitol with new members and tentative plans to discuss some of rule changes sought by Pelosi's critics.

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John Lamparski/Getty Images(LOS ANGELES) -- Boardwalk Empire alum Paz de la Huerta has slapped Harvey Weinstein with a new sexual assault lawsuit, according to Deadline.

In a copy of the suit obtained by the entertainment website, the 34-year-old actress alleges the disgraced movie mogul exposed himself in a "taunting manner" while greeting her at the door of his Four Seasons Hotel room in Beverly Hills in 2011.

The documents go on to claim that another undressed woman was in the room, and that Weinstein invited her "to participate in a three party sexual encounter."

The alleged incident took place a year after a couple of earlier encounters in which de la Huerta has previously claimed she was raped by Weinstein in New York City. The suit alleges she was there to Weinstein to, "stop stalking and harassing her and quickly left the vicinity of Weinstein’s room feeling embarrassed, scared, shocked and humiliated. She added that that Weinstein appeared angered by her rejection and denunciation."

She explains her appearance in the doorway of Weinstein's Four Seasons hotel room as an attempt to warn him to, "stop the harassing phone calls, which he had that day resumed, and any further uninvited visits to her building."

Weinstein's lawyer, Ben Brafman, denied the claims on Tuesday, according to Deadline, saying, "It is our understanding that the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office carefully reviewed Ms. De la Huerta’s claims of sexual assault by Mr. Weinstein many months ago and made a conscious decision to reject her as a complainant for obvious reasons."

Adds Brafman: "We also believe that her newly minted version of events including her new California claims are equally preposterous and unfortunately, the product of an unstable personality with a vivid imagination."

De la Huerta's lawsuit come on the heels of another accusation of sexual misconduct earlier this month, alleging Weinstein assaulted a 16-year-old model: claims Brafman, called "preposterous" in a statement to ABC News.

Last month, Weinstein scored an apparent legal victory, when the Manhattan District Attorney’s office dropped one of the charges against him involving Lucia Evans, the actress who accused Weinstein of forcing her to perform oral sex in 2004.

Ever since allegations of sexual misconduct against Weinstein came to light late last year, he has continued to deny any claims of non-consensual sex.

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Courtesy Jeff Hill (BUTTE COUNTY, Calif.) -- A Northern California man who lost his home to the Camp Fire helped rescue a mule he found stuck in a swimming pool, surrounded by the remnants of homes that burned down in the blaze.

Jeff Hill, 29, told ABC News that he returned to Butte County, the community where wildfires destroyed more than 7,000 structures, on Sunday to check on a friend's father who had not evacuated. When he got there, he found that the home was one of the few spared by the Camp Fire.

"We expected to find the remains of his dad," Hill said. "The house was still standing, and his dad made it out alive."

As Hill and a friend walked up to the home, they noticed a mule pacing back and forth. They went over to the animal to see if it was OK and make sure it hadn't been burned when they saw another mule lying in the pool in the backyard.

The mule, who was trapped in the pool cover, looked as if she had given up and "had the look of defeat in her eyes," Hill said.

"There’s no telling how long she was there but she was shivering uncontrollably and ultimately lost her fight," he wrote on Facebook. "She was all caught up in the pool cover but her being suspended by it prevented her from drowning."

When Hill and his friend, fellow Butte County resident Geoff Shelden, cut the straps of the pool cover, the mule was so exhausted that she went under water. The two men then floated her to the shallow end of the pool so she could stand up, put a chain around her neck and walked her up the stairs, Hill said.

The mule shook off the water, stood "shoulder-to-shoulder" with her rescuers and appeared to thank them.

"She came up and put her head in between us, let us love on her a little bit as a thank you," Hill said.

The mule then turned to walk away, but shot one last glance toward them.

"As she was walking away, she looked back at us one more time," Hill said. "I felt it was reassurance, saying, 'I'm OK,' and 'Thank you.'"

The Butte County community has rallied together in the wake of the devastation wrought by the Camp Fire, Hill said.

Hill's childhood home in Paradise, California, was completely wiped out by the inferno. He had lived there a total of about 20 years, having moved back a couple of years ago after his parents renovated it.

The home's central fireplace is the only structure still standing, before and after photos show.

Hill was at work at the Paradise Irrigation District on Thursday when the fire began.

"I saw the huge plume of smoke. We were all looking at it," he said. "We were thinking, 'Oh gosh. That's really close to us.'"

Hill said the sky got "darker and darker" as the fire neared and smoke filled the sky. Once alerts detailing the rapid spread of the fire began going out, he rushed home to grab as many possessions as he could.

When he got home, he saw field behind his home was on fire. It took just 10 minutes for the embers to reach his yard, he said.

Hill, a father to two sons, ages 2 and 4, with another child on the way, grabbed many of his children's mementos, his Rottweiler-Labrador retriever named Tara and got out.

"The only thing that was on my mind was kids," he said. "Anything that I can grab kid-related, anything that could never be replaced."

As Hill was driving away, he saw his front yard catch fire, he said.

Hill’s law enforcement friends told him later that his house was destroyed.

"The entire town of Paradise is virtually gone," said Hill, who has lived there his whole life. "The infrastructure is completely lost."

He said he felt "numb" when he returned to his home on Saturday to find nothing there.

"I wanted to cry," he said. "There's just so much going on and so much devastation that I just kind of stood there in silence and just kind of stared for a while."

However, his entire family made it out safe, although they now have "nothing" in the aftermath of the fire, he said.

Hill, who is currently staying with his father in Chico, about 15 miles west of Paradise, has created a GoFundMe campaign called "Family home lost to Camp Fire."

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iStock/ThinkstockBY: DR. JOHANNA KREAFLE

A recent study from the Nationwide Children’s Hospital in Columbus, Ohio shows that participation in the Make-A-Wish program may give children better quality of life and reduce hospital visits and healthcare costs.

Patients who received a wish were 2.5 times more likely to have fewer unplanned hospital admissions and 1.9 times more likely to have fewer unplanned emergency department visits compared to patients of similar age, gender, disease category, and disease complexity who would also quality for a wish but did not receive one.

What is the Make-A-Wish Foundation?

The Make-A-Wish Foundation is a non-profit organization whose goal is to provide children aged three to 17-years-old who have progressive, life-limiting, or life-threatening medical conditions, with experiences known as “wishes.” These wishes include “I wish to…” “go,” “be (someone for a day),” “meet,” and “have” (i.e. receive gifts.) The foundation is funded by contributions from individual donors, corporations, and other organizations.

What are the goals and mission of the Make-A-Wish Foundation?

The Make-A-Wish Foundation “serves a unique, and vital, role in helping strengthen and empower children battling illnesses.” And, “wishes make life better for kids with critical illnesses.”

How many “wishes” does the foundation grant?

The Make-A-Wish Foundation was founded in November 1980 and the first wish was granted in the spring of 1981 to Frank “Bopsy” Salazar, a 7-year-old who had leukemia. Bopsy had three wishes: to be a fireman, go to Disneyland, and ride in a hot air balloon -- all of which were granted to him. Since then, more than 285,000 children in the United States and its territories have benefited from experiencing their wishes. The foundation granted 15,300 wishes last year alone; which means on average, a wish is granted every 34 minutes.

There is a long-held belief that receiving a wish improves a child’s quality of life and potentially improves their family’s quality of life, enhances family bonding, reduces stress, increases hope and serves as a distraction from illness.

But recent research done at Nationwide Children’s Hospital shows it may do a lot more than that. This study showed that patients who received a wish were 2.5 times more likely to have fewer unplanned hospital admissions and 1.9 times more likely to have fewer unplanned emergency department visits compared to patients of similar age, gender, disease category, and disease complexity who would also quality for a wish but did not receive one. (The study's author, Dr. Anup Patel, is a member of the Medical Advisory Council for the non-profit Make-A-Wish Foundation. A list of all board members can be found here.)

And, a higher percentage of "wish kids" achieved a decrease in healthcare costs after their wish was granted, compared to those children who did not receive a wish over the same period of time -- this savings was even after the cost of the wish was factored in.

Johanna Kreafle, M.D. is an emergency medicine physician at the Carolinas Medical Center in Charlotte, North Carolina, and a member of the ABC News Medical Unit.

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Subscribe To This Feed YORK) -- When Amazon builds its new Queens headquarters in Long Island City, the development will bring thousands of jobs, new construction, and, apparently, a helipad.

Government officials in New York agreed to let the Seattle-based retailer include a helicopter landing pad at the new facility as part of the deal.

But if the helipad can't be built on the actual site, the New York State Urban Development Corporation and New York City Economic Development Corporation said they would "assist the company in securing access to a helipad in an alternative location in reasonable proximity to the development sites," according to the agreement.

New York State Urban Development Corporation

The agreement states that Amazon alone will pay for any construction and "limit flights and landings to corporate use by the company," select "the least disruptive feasible location," "restrict landings to no more than 120 per year" and require that all flights be exclusively over water or the development sites."

It's not clear if the helicopter would be for Jeff Bezos' use. The Amazon CEO was injured in a helicopter crash in 2003.

A year later, Bezos told Fast Company, "I have to say, nothing extremely profound flashed through my head in those few seconds. My main thought was, This is such a silly way to die... It wasn’t life-changing in any major way. I’ve learned a fairly tactical lesson from it, I’m afraid. The biggest takeaway is: Avoid helicopters whenever possible! They’re not as reliable as fixed-wing aircraft."

Amazon did not immediately respond to ABC News' request for comment. A spokesman for the New York City mayor's office did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

When built, the helipad may stand in contrast to its surroundings. The future Amazon HQ neighbors the Queensbridge Houses, the largest public housing development in the Western Hemisphere.

Starting in 2020, Amazon "will hold or participate in events on a semi-annual basis at Queensbridge Houses such as job fairs and resume workshops in order to promote employment opportunities to NYCHA tenants for at least the initial three years of the project," according to the deal.

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Phil Ellsworth / ESPN(CINCINNATI) -- The third time might be the charm for former Cleveland Browns coach Hue Jackson. For the third time, Jackson is returning to Cincinnati, where he'll be special assistant to Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis, ESPN reports.

Lewis said Tuesday in a statement that he has "a great comfort level with Hue," and suggested Jackson could most assist him on game days, specifically with opponent analysis and defense. The Bengals have just fired defensive coordinator Teryl Austin after the team's recent 51-14 loss to the New Orleans Saints.

For his part, Jackson said he is "pleased" to be onboard with the Bengals, and "[looks] forward to doing my part to help it finish strong this season."

But some believe the Bengals' decision to acquire Jackson is no coincidence, with the Bengals and Browns scheduled to face off twice in the remainder of the season.  They'll play Nov. 25 in Cincinnati and on Dec. 23 in Cleveland.

ESPN highlights tweets by Browns cornerback Damarious Randall Tuesday.


— Damarious Randall (@RandallTime) November 13, 2018

In other words Hue we play the browns twice tell us what you know 😭😭😭...

— Damarious Randall (@RandallTime) November 13, 2018

"In other words Hue we play the [Browns] twice tell us what you know," Randall tweeted.

On Monday, Lewis responded to questions about his plans for defensive plays going forward, saying, "I've got a plan," according to ESPN. Regarding plans for Jackson to join the Bengals, Lewis simply replied, "Watch and see."

The Bengals have not revealed details about the length or terms of Jackson's contract.
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