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May 14, 2018

Former Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) underwent surgery Monday to treat pancreatic cancer. Reid, who retired from the Senate in 2017, had kept his diagnosis private. But the upper chamber's current cancer fighter, Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), wished his former colleague well after the news broke Monday — and you know what they say: It takes one to know one. Kimberly Alters

December 8, 2017

Brown University will no longer offer student loan packages to students in need of financial aid — instead, the university will exclusively provide scholarships. On Thursday, Brown announced it had raised $30 million in donations, enabling the change. "This initiative takes financial aid at the university to the next level," Brown President Christina Paxson said.

Brown's scholarship offers for returning and incoming undergraduate students receiving financial aid will start in the 2018-2019 academic year. In the meantime, the school wants another $90 million to sustain its financial aid program through the future. If the recent fundraising drive is any indicator, Brown won't struggle to get the money it wants: In just three months, Brown received $30 million from just over 2,000 donors, and some single donations alone accounted for millions.

In 2003, Brown announced that it would implement need-blind admissions for U.S. students to ensure that the university did not reject the admission of applicants who were unable to pay tuition. Five years later, the school eliminated parent contribution to tuition for families making less than $60,000 and replaced student loans with scholarships for families making below $100,000.

The eventual complete elimination of student loans is intended to "create opportunities for greater economic diversity among students." In 2017, the total cost of attendance at Brown University for one year was a whopping $64,566 for tuition, fees, and room and board — still only the 50th most expensive college in the country. For the 2018-2019 academic year, the price will jump to $67,439. Kelly O'Meara Morales

January 27, 2015

The Alaska SeaLife Center is teaching basic behavior to a blind harbor seal. The pup, Bryce, was rescued in late December.

Veterinary staff at the aquarium told The Associated Press that Bryce likely suffered from a head trauma, causing him to go blind. He is learning to be hand-fed and to identify targets using audible clues. The staff also noted that Bryce's sight may be improving, but only in one eye.

Because he is blind, federal officials said Bryce can't be released back into the wild. He will stay at the Alaska SeaLife Center until officials find him a permanent home. Meghan DeMaria

December 27, 2014

Charlotte, North Carolina, resident Crystal Davis' holiday week began on a sad note. The single mother of five works two jobs, and she had saved up and wrapped presents to put under the family's Christmas tree.

But on Sunday night, a thief broke into the Davis home and stole the packages. The Carolina Panthers' defensive line coach Eric Washington saw a story about the incident on NBC Charlotte, and he and his family decided to help. On Christmas Eve, Washington's wife Amy and his sister Angela went shopping, then made a surprise visit to the Davis home to drop off replacement presents.

"This has turned out to be an awesome Christmas," Davis said. "I think it's the best one yet."

Watch the local NBC station's follow-up story on the feel-good moment, below. --Sarah Eberspacher

November 11, 2014

President Obama announced Tuesday that Meryl Streep and Stevie Wonder are among the latest Americans who will receive the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

The president will award the medals on Nov. 24 at the White House. The medal is the highest honor given to civilians in the U.S., The Associated Press reports, and it recognizes "contributions to U.S. security, world peace, and cultural achievement."

Composer Stephen Sondheim, former NBC anchor Tom Brokaw, author Isabel Allende, and Ethel Kennedy are among the other recipients. Choreographer Alvin Ailey and Rep. Edward Roybal (D-Calif.), who founded the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, will receive the award posthumously.

"From scientists who kept America on the cutting edge to public servants who help write new chapters in our American story, these citizens have made extraordinary contributions to our country and the world," Obama said in a statement. Meghan DeMaria

November 6, 2014

President Obama has awarded Alonzo H. Cushing, first lieutenant in the Union Army, the Congressional Medal of Honor.

In a ceremony at the White House on Thursday, Obama honored Cushing, who died in the Battle of Gettysburg on July 3, 1863. He was 22 when he was shot and killed by Confederate soldiers during Pickett's Charge.

Recommendations for the Medal of Honor must be made within a few years of a heroic act, but Congress made an exception for Cushing, thanks to the lobbying of one 94-year-old woman. Margaret Zerwekh spent almost 50 years trying to get Cushing the Medal of Honor — she told The Washington Post that Cushing "helped make this country what it is" and that he "saved the Union."

Zerwekh has a special connection to Cushing, because her home in Delafield, Wisconsin, once belonged to the Cushings. She wrote letters to every member of Congress from Wisconsin — and multiple presidents — about awarding Cushing the honor. Finally, Congress passed legislation last year to suspend the time limit in Cushing's case.

"No matter how long it takes, it's never too late to do the right thing," Obama said at the ceremony. "This story is part of our larger American story and one that continues to this very day." --Meghan DeMaria

August 28, 2014

Mo'ne Davis, the 13-year old pitcher who set a Little League record and landed a Sports Illustrated cover, has returned to Philadelphia with her Little League teammates.

The Taney Dragons are returning from the Little League World Series, and Philadelphia honored the team in style. The city hosted a parade downtown to honor the team, followed by an event at Citizens Bank Park with the Philadelphia Phillies — which, yes, included an appearance by the Phillie Phanatic. In a ceremony before the Phillies game, Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter honored the team, and all 12 of the Dragons threw first pitches to the Phillies players.

Davis' team won its first two Little League games in the World Series before losing to Las Vegas and Chicago, the U.S. champion. Check out some of the best photos from Wednesday's celebrations below. --Meghan DeMaria

August 14, 2014

Arizona State senior offensive lineman Edward "Chip" Sarafin has revealed that he is gay, becoming the first active college football player to do so. The school's athletic department confirmed Wednesday that Sarafin had come out after he told a Phoenix-based magazine for gay sports, Compete, that he had told his teammates he was gay last spring, and it "benefited my peace of mind greatly." Read more at USA Today. Harold Maass

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