Museum of the Bible faces revelations, controversy as it opens

Bill O'Leary/The Washington Post via Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- In the beginning, there was Hobby Lobby  president Steve Green and his first purchase of a biblical artifact in 2009 that launched the Green Collection.

What Green has accomplished since then is a full-fledged museum dedicated to the "Book of Books" in Washington, D.C.

After nearly three years of construction, the Museum of the Bible will open its 40-foot tall, bronze doors — the Gutenberg Gates — inscribed with Genesis’s first chapter in Latin to the public Saturday.

Taking a page from the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture that opened last September, the Museum of the Bible will provide guests free admission and timed tickets as a way to control the crowds.

The museum is 430,000 square feet, features a 140-foot LED display mounted to the ceiling that show images like stained glass, a grand staircase with glass railings winding up as if to reach to the heavens, a glass galley that offers a view of the Capitol and the Washington Monument, an outdoor Biblical garden on the rooftop, and a massive 472-seat theater that will host the Broadway’s Amazing Grace musical production until January.

Artifacts include the Codex Climaci Rescriptus, first edition Bibles and Torah scrolls, and other artifacts on loan from the Vatican Library and Museum and the Israel Antiquity Authority.

To go through the entire museum, viewing every exhibit and video, would take nine 8-hour days.

A conservative Christian known for winning his company’s 2014 Supreme Court case against Obamacare's contraceptive mandate, Green and the other leaders have stressed that the museum is nonsectarian and is an invitation for visitors of all faiths to engage with the Bible.

The exhibits' contents are devoid of hot button issues like same-sex marriage and abortion, officials say.

The opening gala was held Thursday night at the Trump Tower, the Washington Post reported.

Zeiss said his hope is that President Donald Trump would visit the museum and that "every president would come at some time."

In 2010, the Museum of the Bible was formed as a 501(c)(3) nonprofit with the intent, according to IRS tax form files pulled from ProPublica, “to bring to life the living word of God, to tell its compelling story of preservation, and to inspire confidence in the absolute authority and reliability of the Bible.”

The nonprofit’s mission statement changed on its 2012 tax form: “We exist to invite people to engage with the Bible through our four primary activities: traveling exhibits, scholarship, building of a permanent museum in DC, and developing elective high school curriculum.”

Green told reporters that “the intent had always been to be a nonsectarian museum.”

Candida Moss, a University of Birmingham theology professor and co-author of the book “Bible Nation: The United States of Hobby Lobby,” called it a “good faith effort” from the museum to be nonsectarian.

It has been “external criticism that has pushed them towards the museum that they have,” she said.

The museum has included a section devoted to the Hebrew Bible and a few references to the Quran, though Green stressed to reporters this is a museum of the Bible.

Moss also argued that the museum is being billed as a “Christian Smithsonian” which is misleading to visitors, and it’s “difficult to say you’re a nonsectarian museum and have people signing faith statements,” which Green confirms is asked of all members of the museum’s board of directors.

Dan Barker, the co-president of the Freedom from Religion Foundation, said the Greens have a “very specific evangelical motive” that they’ve tried to present as objective.

“When I visit the place I’m going to be looking for signs of proselytizing. If there are none, then I’ll applaud that,” Barker told ABC News.

Moss and Barker both intend to visit the museum.

“There’s been a lot of people that have argued that ... we’re going to be proselytizing or be an evangelical view or protestant view,” Green said. “I think of a movie reviewer that reviews a movie they’ve not even seen. So how much credit can you give to someone who’s not even been in the museum?”

Professor Christopher Rollston, a George Washington University professor who’s an expert on the Old Testament, said “the museum is currently walking a fine line” on being nonsectarian, but noted that they have donors and may have visitors who might expect the museum to push a more religious framework to its exhibits.

“But they’re trying to be quite historical in the wordings of the displays that they have,” Rollston said, adding that, “They have made it clear that they’re willing to listen to scholars’ critiques.”

“At this point, I’m reasonably pleased with most of the wording in the exhibits and with most of the displays,” said Rollston, who’s toured the museum in September and November. “…I’m hopeful that the ways in which the museum has been responsive to scholarship is something that will continue. And I’m hoping to that the willingness of the museum to listen doesn’t end after the opening.”

Rollston said he’s going to remain “vigilant” about the museum's exhibits and the display language used to see if it continues to be “historical in nature and not sectarian.”

But Rollston pointed out that it’s a private museum, so the museum’s leaders are going to do as they please.

Green added, “If we wanted to espouse our faith, we could, but we’re choosing not to. And so we invite visitors to come in and decide if we’ve done that job well.”

Besides combating the criticism that his museum is evangelical propaganda, Green has had to answer for the $3 million settlement Hobby Lobby paid to the U.S. Justice Department this summer for illegally importing Iraqi artifacts, which his company also forfeited.

“We should have exercised more oversight and carefully questioned how the acquisitions were handled,” Green said in a statement at the time.

Green admitted to reporters Tuesday that “mistakes were made early on and we learned from those mistakes,” and assured the authenticity of the artifacts in the museum from his collection.

He also argued that acquiring artifacts was a new area for them at the time, they didn’t have a lot of expertise and there’s liabilities when you import items.

“We’ve paid the fine. We’ve moved on. You learn. It’s a new area for us. It takes a lot of expertise,” Green told ABC News in an interview Tuesday. “We are acquiring and bringing together the best team of experts that we can to help us in that process.”

One such piece on display is the Dead Sea Scrolls fragment. A plaque card titled “Are these fragments real? Research continues” accompanies the display and reads “scholarly opinions of their authenticity remain divided.”

Rollston, who was a witness in the 2012 Israeli “Epigraphic Forgery Trial,” said he has some concerns about the authenticity and provenance, or history of ownership, of some of the Green Collection’s artifacts shown in the museum.

But he said he was “particularly pleased” that the museum chose to be “honest” about the scrolls because museums are not generally candid about artifacts potentially being forgeries. Rollston argued that it’s important for all museums to display forgeries or potential forgeries so the public is aware it’s an issue.

The nonprofit opened a traveling exhibit “Passages,” in 2011 that has been to the Vatican City, Cuba, Israel, and soon after purchased the Washington Design Center for $50 million in 2012 as a home for a permanent museum.

Because the museum is in part a historical building, the museum and its team of 500 to 600 onsite construction workers daily had to be careful in demolition and renovations.

Keeping with their nonsectarian mission, private events can be hosted at the museum with a donation. The events, though, that have been booked almost a year before the museum opened, have the Bible somewhere as the core of their presentation, according to the museum's president’s Cary Summers.

“So we haven’t figured out all the rules of the game yet. Who do we invite, who don’t we,” Summers told ABC News. “And we’re learning through this pre-opening what has worked well and what hasn’t.”

Part of the third floor is dedicated to an exhibit, “World of Jesus of Nazareth,” that attempts to transport visitors to first century Israel during the time of Jesus Christ.

Lorelei Mah and Sammy Mah, two of the founders to the museum, recently returned from a trip to Israel to find that the exhibit “immediately transported us back.”

“Close your eyes. Takes you back,” Lorelei Mah told ABC News.

The museum also has technology that’s never been used anywhere else in the world, according to Summers. “Washington Revelations” is a flight stimulation, Disney-esque amusement ride, pointing out “the Bible’s presence in inscriptions, place names and monuments in our nation’s capital.”

The Bibles of Presidents Dwight D. Eisenhower, Harry Truman and George W. Bush’s family Bible are also featured in the museum.

Green said that he hoped that once the museum is open, more individuals and institutions might be inspired to donate or loan artifacts.

However, what Rollston wished the museum focused more attention on is Thomas Jefferson’s “The Life and Morals of Jesus of Nazareth,” also known as the “Jefferson Bible.”

America’s third president and one of the nation’s founding fathers took from the Gospels of the New Testament but omitted the Bible’s miracles, like Jesus’ resurrection, to create a piece of work that’s a combination of enlightenment thought and Christian beliefs.

Rollston said it’s important in a museum about the Bible to highlight the Jefferson Bible because the Enlightenment view of the Bible was the “predominant view of the Founding Fathers” and Jefferson was such an important figure in American history.

The museum also features modern cultural references.

In the museum’s Impact of the Bible exhibit, Elvis Presley’s Bible is displayed a few steps away from mannequins donning Dolce & Gabbana outfits with religious themes.

Kanye West’s “Jesus Walks” and Coolio's “Gangsta's Paradise” can be heard in the music section for its lyrics’ biblical references. The exhibit also has a small science section of bronze statues of George Washington Carver, Galileo Galilei and Isaac Newton as attempt to provide proof science and religion can co-exist.

Lee Leibold, who calls himself an “incurable collector,” and his wife, Beth, had visited "Passages," the temporary exhibit which Hobby Lobby opened in Oklahoma City back in 2011.

Hearing of Green’s intent to build a permanent Museum of the Bible, Lee wanted to find something he could collect and contribute.

He donated two pieces: Woodrow Wilson’s personal church pew when he became president and the original letter written on White House stationery signed by Wilson that accompanied each of the one million New Testaments given to World War I soldiers.

While the church pew is not on display, as Lee was told it would be featured in traveling exhibits, visitors can see the original letter from the president that urges American soldiers to read their personal pocket Bibles.

“The Bible is the Word of Life. I beg that you will read it and find this out for yourselves, read — not little snatches here and there — but long passages that will really be the road to the heart of it,” Wilson’s message reads.

On Tuesday, Lee and Beth traveled from Texas to tour the museum, excited to see Wilson’s letter displayed.

Stepping into the museum as “very moving and a little overwhelming” and was pleased that the museum incorporated the Hebrew Bible, Beth Leibold said.

“It’s open to everybody to get a really unique perspective, whatever their viewpoints are and [to] learn,” she said as she toured the "Impact of the Bible" exhibits.

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Rain, wind likely for much of East this weekend

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- The weather system which has already brought flooding rains to the Northwest and heavy snow to the Rockies is moving into the Midwest on Saturday with the Northeast to follow.

A wind advisory is in effect from Texas to Ohio as wind speeds can be expected from 20 to 30 mph with gusts over 45 mph. These gusts are high enough to cause tree limbs to fall, which may lead to scattered power outages.

This system is expected to bring periods of heavy rain to the Midwest on Saturday afternoon and through the evening hours. Some areas ahead of the cold front could bring damaging winds and small hail in the afternoon and early evening hours.

Into the East

The front moves on to the East Coast and Northeast by Sunday.

The bulk of the rain from Washington, D.C. through Boston will pass during the overnight hours Saturday into Sunday Morning. Wet and windy conditions will likely impact airports at major hubs like Washington, New York, Philadelphia and Boston, as well as make for slick driving conditions on the roads.

On the back end of the storm, gusty winds from the northwest will remain and bring some lake effect snow showers across portions of Ohio, Pennsylvania and New York. Higher elevations east of Lake Erie and Lake Ontario could see as much as 3 to 6 inches of snow.

Cold winds

The end of the weekend and beginning of next week will bring cold winds to the Midwest and Northeast.

Gusty winds will continue throughout the day Sunday as cold air fills in behind the cold front. Wind chill values will be anywhere from the teens to 30s Sunday as cold and blustery conditions stretch from Marquette, Michigan all the way to Nashville, Tennessee.

By Monday, the chill moves into the Northeast to kick off the work week.

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Reward climbs to $190K for killer of veteran Baltimore police detective

iStock/Thinkstock(BALTIMORE) -- A reward has climbed to $215,000 in the search for the killer of a veteran Baltimore police detective who was fatally shot in the head while on duty, the FBI said.

Detective Sean Suiter, a married father of five and an 18-year veteran with the Baltimore Police, was conducting a follow-up to a homicide investigation around 5 p.m. Wednesday when he saw a man engaging in suspicious activity, police said.

Suiter approached the man and was shot in the head shortly after, police said.

Suiter's partner was nearby and rushed over to render aid, police said.

On Wednesday evening, Suiter was in "very, very grave condition" and was fighting "for his life," Baltimore Police Commissioner Kevin Davis said.

Suiter, 43, died around noon Thursday, authorities said.

Davis said Suiter was "a loved guy" who "loved being a cop."

Baltimore Police Major Martin Bartness wrote on Twitter, "Suiter was my rock" as a new sergeant.

"He knew his post; colleagues & citizens respected him. He was the man u wanted investigating ur case & patrolling ur neighborhood," he said. "Quick with a smile & big of heart, he is dearly missed. RIP, my friend."

The manhunt is ongoing for Suiter's killer, whom Davis described as "cold" and "callous."

Davis said that evidence suggests the suspect may have been wounded.

He said the suspect is likely in the Baltimore community.

Davis said today that tips have come in, adding, "I encourage our tipsters to keep calling."

"I know that our community is just as upset about this as we are," Davis said at a news conference this afternoon. "When a cop is killed, that goes way beyond that murder. It's an attack on American policing."

Maryland Governor Larry Hogan said in a statement Thursday, "It is difficult to express the sadness - and anger - that comes with losing this dedicated public servant to such a cruel and senseless act of violence.

"The State of Maryland will continue to support local law enforcement as they hunt down the individual that committed this heinous crime, and ensure that the full force of justice is brought to bear," he added.

"We join all Marylanders in praying for Det. Suiter's wife, children, and loved ones during this time of tragedy," Hogan said. "May God continue to bless the brave men and women who serve and protect us every single day, including all of Detective Suiter's fellow officers on the Baltimore City police force."

The FBI in Baltimore said anyone with information can call 1-800-CALL-FBI.

“Editors’ Note: Earlier this evening ABC News Radio reported that a suspect had been apprehended. As of this report, the suspect is still on the loose.”

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Trump family's hunting history reexamined in light of new elephant trophy policy

Yves Adams/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Donald Trump Jr. caused an uproar among some when pictures surfaced of him holding the tail of a dead elephant after a big-game hunt in Africa years ago. Now, new policy changes
proposed by his father’s administration may allow Americans to bring the carcasses of elephants and lions killed in Zimbabwe and Zambia back to the U.S.

The importing of so-called hunting trophies was banned by former President Obama in 2014, but the Fish and Wildlife Service announced that it will allow Americans to bring back elephant and lion
trophies. Fish and Wildlife officials said they would begin issuing permits on Oct. 20, and had been ready to issue permits for elephant trophies on Friday. The elephant trophy ban will remain, at least for now, as Trump tweeted late Friday the administration would futher review the facts.

The African lion population has decreased 42 percent in the past 20 years, according to the African Wildlife Foundation.

During the press briefing Friday, White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders said that the change in policy stems from a study that was initiated during the Obama administration.

She said the study determined that both Zambia and Zimbabwe met “strict international conservation standards that allowed Americans to resume hunting in those countries.”

Sanders noted the ban on imported ivory remains in place.

Neither of Trump's sons have spoken about the policy changes yet, but both Donald Trump Jr. and President Trump have publicly spoken about their family’s hunting history in the past.

Controversial 2012 safari trip

Back in 2012, years before their father ran for president, photos surfaced of Donald Trump Jr. and Eric Trump's hunting trip to Zimbabwe.

Photos released by the safari company at the time, which were later published on TMZ and elsewhere, showed the brothers posing next to various dead animals that were killed as part of their hunt.
Donald Trump Jr. was 34 years old at the time, and Eric Trump was 28.

Various photos show the brothers flanking a crocodile hanging from a tree, smiling behind the horns of a killed waterbuck, and standing together as Eric held a dead leopard. Donald Trump Jr. was
pictured sitting next to a dead buffalo while holding a gun and wearing an ammunition belt, and Eric Trump can be seen sitting on one of the dead animals with guns resting on its horns.

The Trump brothers were not pictured with any dead lions in 2012, but Donald Trump Jr. was pictured next to a dead elephant while holding its severed tail.

A spokesperson for the Trump sons did not immediately return ABC News’ request for comment on the recent policy change. It remains unclear if the brothers brought back any animal trophies from
their safari trip, as it was legal to do so at the time.

Donald Trump Jr. has spoken about the 2012 trip in the past.

In a 2012 interview with a Forbes contributor, Donald Jr. reportedly told him that it was African tradition to cut off an elephant's tail and use its hair to make bracelets, and that it is seen as
a sign of respect for the animal.

Following the uproar caused by the photos, Donald Jr. and Eric released a statement to E! News, calling themselves “avid outdoorsmen and were brought up hunting and fishing with our grandfather who
taught us that nothing should ever be taken for granted or wasted.”

“We have the utmost respect for nature and have always hunted in accordance with local laws and regulations. In addition, all meat was donated to local villagers who were incredibly grateful. We
love traveling and being in the woods—at the end of the day, we are outdoorsmen at heart,” the statement read.

That didn’t stop critics from going after Donald Trump Jr. on Twitter, and he responded in kind.

“I AM A HUNTER I don't hide from that,” he wrote in one tweet to a critic.

More recently, Donald Trump Jr. has shared a number of photos from domestic hunting trips, including one in Montana earlier this month. He also shared a photo from a bow hunting trip in the Yukon
“earlier this fall,” and went pheasant hunting in Iowa with Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa) in October.

Family feelings

President Trump commented on his sons’ love of hunting to TMZ after the photos were released in 2012. At the time, Donald Trump defended his sons but acknowledged he felt differently about hunting.

“My sons love hunting. They're hunters and they've become good at it. I am not a believer in hunting and I'm surprised they like it,” Trump told TMZ at the time.

“I know that anything they did was 100 percent okay in terms of the hunting community,” Trump added to TMZ.

Donald Trump Jr. echoed that sentiment in his interview with Forbes in 2012, saying that his father “really doesn’t understand why Eric and I hunt. However, he is open-minded and so always allowed
us to go hunting.”

The brothers said their interest in hunting came from Ivana Trump's father.

“Our maternal grandfather was Czechoslovakian. When we were young, he would have us to his place in Czechoslovakia for a month or more during summers…He loved to hunt and fish and taught us how,”
Donald Trump Jr. told Forbes in 2012.

But Ivana Trump herself has spoken out about her sons' hunting, writing in her book published just last month, “Raising Trump,” that she was "not fond of" it.

“I don’t object to their going to Patagonia to shoot birds. There are a million of them there, enough to spare," Ivana Trump wrote. "But why go to Zimbabwe to shoot Bambi and Dumbo? I don’t blame
people for giving them a hard time about it."

Citing sons in gun policy

While President Trump may not “understand” his sons’ interest in hunting, he has referenced it when appealing to gun rights supporters both during the campaign and since he has taken office.

A month before Donald Trump announced his candidacy, he tweeted about his sons’ ties to the National Rifle Association.

“My two sons, Eric & Don, have long been expert hunters & marksmen @NRA. They go on safaris & give animals to the poor & starving villagers!” he tweeted.

And while the president never talks about hunting himself, he said he does own a gun. In his 2015 book, Trump wrote that he "owns guns. Fortunately, I have never had to use." According to publicly
accessible records, President Trump has had a concealed weapons permit since 2010.

“I'm a member of the NRA. My sons, Don and Eric, are members of the NRA for a long time. They're hunters. They're great members of the NRA,” Trump said during an MSNBC town hall event in February

He has specifically mentioned his sons’ NRA membership in speeches he has given to the gun rights group, both as a candidate in 2016 and as president earlier this year.

“I can tell you, both sons, they love the outdoors. Frankly, I think they love the outdoors more than they love, by a long shot, Fifth Avenue,” he said in his April 2017 speech to the NRA.

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Following Whitefish controversy, embattled Puerto Rico power authority director resigns

DC Productions/iStock/Thinkstock(SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico) -- The embattled head of Puerto Rico's power authority is stepping down, ABC News has confirmed.

PREPA executive director Ricardo Ramos presented his letter of resignation to the agency's governing board on Friday.

"There were a series of distractions, and he made the decision to go in a different direction," Puerto Rico Gov. Ricardo Rossello told reporters in Spanish. "My job now is to restore the electric

The island's power grid has struggled since Hurricane Maria made landfall 58 days ago. Currently, fewer than 45 percent of customers have power.

Ramos had faced backlash since he approved a $300 million contract with Whitefish, a tiny, Montana-based energy company with just two full-time employees, to repair downed transmission lines
crisscrossing the mountains, rather than requesting mutual aid from other public utility companies.

Critics, including lawmakers and FEMA, questioned the procurement process and whether the rates were "reasonable." PREPA abruptly moved to cancel the contract late last month.

Less than two weeks later, the grid suffered a major setback when the failure of a previously repaired power line plunged millions back into darkness, reducing coverage from 43 percent to just 18
in a matter of minutes.

The lack of power isn't the only issue plaguing the island.

Cellphone connectivity remains spotty, prompting AT&T to launch a drone -- dubbed the "Flying COW," or cell on wings -- to provide temporary wireless connectivity. The drone, fitted with LTE radios
and antennas, hovers 200 feet in the air and can cover 40 square miles at a time.

Worse still, a small percentage of residents still don't have access to clean drinking water. A boil water advisory remains in effect.

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Western storms bring snow, winds through the weekend as they move east

Michael Blann/iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- More than a dozen states are under snow and wind alerts as the storms that brought moderate snowfall to the West Coast continue to move eastward.

On Friday afternoon, winter storm warnings and advisories were still in effect across the northern and central Rocky Mountains as snow continued to fall.

Over a dozen states are under snow and wind alerts from the Rockies to the Ohio Valley as the storm moves east.

Snowfall in the Rockies will begin to diminish Friday evening as the storm pushes toward the Central Plains and into the Great Lakes region.

Wind advisories for gusts between 30 and 50 mph are expected tonight into Saturday in areas further east that are still ahead of the storm, such as the Northern Plains and Ohio Valley.

On Saturday afternoon, a cold front will be moving across the Ohio and Tennessee valleys, which could produce some strong storms with possible hail and damaging winds that afternoon and evening.

As the storm moves into the Northeast, it will bring heavy rain and windy conditions from Washington, D.C., to Boston Saturday evening into Sunday morning. Travelers can expect flight delays during
this time frame.

Parts of the Northeast will experience showers Sunday morning as the front lingers along the coast, but they will clear out completely by the afternoon.

After the rain comes the colder air, which could bring lake-effect snow as well as snow in high elevations from Michigan to the western New York and down to the Appalachian Mountains.

On Monday morning, the cold air will reach the east, with winds chills in the 20s and teens expected across the Midwest and Northeast.

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Three inmates break out of Florida jail through library ceiling: Sheriff's office

moodboard/Thinkstock(CRAWFORDVILLE, Fla.) -- Three inmates are at large after they broke out of a Florida jail, apparently by exiting through the ceiling of the jail's law library, the Wakulla County Sheriff's Office said.

The three inmates -- Joel Teraill Cooper, Donald James Cotterman and Casey Martina Brandon -- escaped from the Wakulla County jail in the Florida Panhandle at 12:09 a.m. today, the sheriff's office said.

"We have no indication that these individuals are armed but because they are escaped inmates they are considered dangerous," the sheriff's office said.

While the investigation into the escape is ongoing, the sheriff's office said "preliminary evidence shows that the inmates were able to gain access through a breach of the ceiling in our Law Library."

The inmates then apparently "made their way across the building above the ceiling to an exit point where they made their escape," the sheriff's office said.

Cotterman, 44, is a registered sex offender, who is charged with burglary, criminal mischief and weapon possession, the sheriff's office said. Brandon, 25, is charged with burglary, theft, vehicle theft and criminal mischief. Cooper, 43, is charged with burglary of a business, the sheriff's office said.

"We have a large force working non-stop until we locate these escaped inmates," the sheriff's office said.

Anyone with information is asked to call the sheriff's office at 850-745-7100 or 850-926-0800.

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Pentagon releases data on sex assault reports made at military installations around the world

iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- The Pentagon published the number of sexual assault reports made at U.S. military installations around the world for fiscal years 2013 through 2016 on Friday.

The report, provided by the Department of Defense's Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Office, details the total number of reports of sexual assault made across U.S. Army, Navy, Marine Corps, Air Force and joint bases, as well in combat zones like Iraq and Afghanistan.

The number of reports doesn't necessarily mean the alleged incident occurred at that installation, but rather point to where the service member is getting assistance with their sexual assault report. The incident could have occurred "while on deployment, while away on leave, or even prior to entering the military," the Pentagon said.

According to the press release, the data was published now "due to recent requests for this information under the Freedom of Information Act." However, it also occurs as reports of sexual harassment and assault have been leveled against powerful men in politics, the media and Hollywood.

For each of the military branches, as well as the joint bases and combat zones, the total number of reports in 2016 were largely identical to those in 2015.

Released in May of this year, the latest Pentagon survey of sexual assault in the military, which estimates the "prevalence” or rate of sexual assault, showed the estimated number of sexual assaults had decreased to 14,900 in 2016, down from the 20,300 measured in the last survey conducted in 2014.

Meanwhile, the number of sexual assaults reported by victims in 2016 rose slightly to 6,172, an increase that Pentagon officials said indicated greater awareness of the care and responses available to victims.

In the report released on Friday, the Pentagon estimated that for the 2016 fiscal year, 32 percent of service members who experience sexual assault now report it, up from 25 percent in fiscal years 2014 and 2015.

The full report is available here.

ABC News' Luis Martinez contributed to this report.

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Man accidentally shoots himself, wife at church while discussing weapons in churches: Police

iStock/Thinkstock(TELLICO PLAINS, Tenn.) --  A man accidentally shot himself and his wife in their Tennessee church after he had taken his gun out during a discussion about weapons in places of worship, police said.

The man, 81, and his wife, 80, both suffered non-life-threatening injuries, police said.

The incident happened Thursday afternoon as members of the First United Methodist Church in Tellico Plains -- about 60 miles southwest of Knoxville -- were gathered at the church for a pre-Thanksgiving lunch, Tellico Plains Police Department Chief Russ Parks told ABC News.

The church members were discussing weapons during worship services on the heels of the shooting at a Texas church earlier this month that killed over two dozen people, Parks said, and "one of the gentlemen said, 'Well, I take my gun with me everywhere.'"

The 81-year-old man took his handgun out of his pocket, removed the magazine, cleared the weapon and handed it to other churchgoers who wanted to see it, Parks said.

He then took his weapon back, placed the magazine back in it, put the gun back in his holster and placed it in his pocket, Parks said.

When another man came over and asked to see the weapon, the man pulled his gun back out of his pocket and accidentally hit the trigger, firing one round, Parks said.

A single bullet struck the gun owner in his right hand before hitting his 80-year-old wife, Parks said. That bullet went through the woman's left side of her abdomen and came out of the right side of her abdomen, after which it struck her inside right forearm, came out of her forearm, struck the wall, ricocheted and landed at her wheelchair, Parks said.

No one else was injured, police said.

No charges will be filed, Parks said.

"This was an accident. It was not intentional," Parks said. "It just slipped his mind that he recharged the weapon."

Parks said the man was carrying the gun legally.

Parks added, "We are currently working on a program now for our local citizens on weapon safety. Sometimes we don't get enough of that for the general public."

A representative for the First United Methodist Church did not immediately respond to ABC News' request for comment.
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'Wonder' author on her inspiration for the book and meeting an 'Auggie Pullman come to life'

ABC News(NEW YORK) -- Starting at a new school with new classmates can be a daunting task for most children. But for Nathaniel Newman, the first day of middle school was extra intimidating, because he’s not like most kids.

Nathaniel was born with Treacher Collins syndrome, an extremely rare craniofacial disorder caused by mutations in the POLR1C gene. It affects an estimated 1 in 50,000 people in the United States.

In the first year of his life, Nathaniel had more than 10 surgeries because of the malformations in his face. But despite the hardships he’s faced so far in his short life, Nathaniel said he "kind of" likes being different.

“I know everyone looks different, except I look a lot more different than everyone else,” Nathaniel, 13, told ABC News’ Elizabeth Vargas.

“I kind of like it,” Nathaniel added. “It just seems fun ‘cause I stand out.”

So in the fall of 2015, when Nathaniel was about to attend his first day of sixth grade at B.D. Billinghurst Middle School in Reno, Nevada, his parents Magda and Russel Newman had a plan to ease his transition.

“Russel and Nathaniel sit down and write a letter,” Magda Newman told “20/20.”

“My name is Nathaniel Newman, and I am 12 years old. I am different. I don’t want you to be surprised when we meet,” part of the letter read. “I have three dogs. I like 'Pokémon' a lot, as well as 'Star Wars.' I really just want you to treat me like everyone else.”

The letter included a photo of Nathaniel, as well as a mention of the bestselling children’s book “Wonder.”

“Like, ‘Hey, you might have read “Wonder” now. Well, I’m a kid just like Auggie Pullman,’” Russel Newman recalled of the letter.

“Wonder” tells the story of the fictional character 10-year-old Auggie Pullman, who was born with a facial difference -- much like Treacher Collins.

While “Wonder” isn’t based on real people, its author R.J. Palacio says she was inspired to write it by a chance encounter she had with a young girl while she was at an ice cream shop with her two sons.

“I realized that there was a little girl sitting directly next to me,” Palacio told “20/20.” “She had a very severe cranial facial difference, and I kind of panicked ‘cause my little boy started to cry hysterically.”

In her haste to protect the girl from her son’s reaction, Palacio said, she turned the stroller around and started quickly pushing it away.

“It was terrible, and I was so mad at myself for the way that I handled it,” Palacio said. “For the rest of the day, I just kept thinking about all the things I wished I’d said and done.”

Palacio started writing with the hope that her story could inspire parents and children alike.

“I just thought, ‘OK, I’m going to write a book, and it’s going to be about what it must be like to face a world every day that doesn’t know how to face you back,’” Palacio said.

When the book came out in 2012, nurse Pat Chibbaro, who worked with the Newman family, read it and immediately told the Newmans about it.

“I literally read it in three hours, cried the whole time,” Russel Newman said. “I remember calling back Pat and going, ‘Pat, did she spy on us? Like, this is freaky.’”

Russel and Magda Newman and their sons Nathaniel and Jacob got to meet Palacio face to face. “And when she saw Nathaniel, you could just see this look in her face,” Russel Newman recalled.

“I remember thinking, ‘Oh my goodness, this is Auggie Pullman come to life,’” Palacio said.

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