Good morning, and TGIF! Here are some of the stories we're following today:
1. Tensions cool dramatically in St. Louis suburb
After nearly a week of clashes between police and protesters amid racial tensions, Thursday night took a different turn in Ferguson, Missouri, where the atmosphere was more like a block party. That change can be attributed to a new police force — the state Highway Patrol — being put in charge of overseeing safety. Gov. Jay Nixon tasked Highway Patrol Capt. Ron Johnson, who is black and grew up in Ferguson, with leading troopers in the city. He was greeted by cheers and promised the crowd that his officers were “going to march with you.” Still, some protesters are demanding the name of the officer who fatally shot 18-year-old Michael Brown, whose death Saturday became a flashpoint for the unrest. That officer could be identified Friday. Read more in NEWS.
Johnson's ability to diffuse the situation won him admiration on social media:
2. Iraq’s al-Maliki agrees to give up post
The political winds are shifting in Iraq, which has seen major cities overrun by Islamic militants who’ve created a flood of refugees looking to escape the deadly violence. In the latest announcement, Nouri al-Maliki, the country’s prime minister for eight years, said late Thursday he will relinquish the post to fellow Dawa Party member Haider al-Abadi. Al-Maliki has been struggling for weeks to stay in power amid opponents accusing him of failing to secure the country and alienating the Sunni minority. Read more in NEWS.
3. Robin Williams was in early stages of Parkinson’s
The late comedian’s wife revealed Thursday that before he took his life, he was suffering from the early stages of Parkinson’s. The stunning admission could have contributed to his state of mind, doctors say, because the disease itself can produce depression. “I think it makes absolute sense that if you have a pre-existing depression and you get a disorder that by itself has a tendency to cause depression and you also just learned you have the disorder, it creates the perfect storm,” one doctor told NBC News. Williams’ body was found Monday in his home in Northern California, and he had been known to be struggling with depression and addiction throughout his life. Read more in HEALTH.
4. Suitcase killing: Daughter, boyfriend charged with murder
A vacation to the tourist resort of Bali, Indonesia, ended in the murder of Chicago widow Sheila von Wiese-Mack. Now, her daughter, Heather Mack, 19, and the teen’s boyfriend, Tommy Schaefer, 21, are potentially facing the death penalty by firing squad if found guilty in her death. Her battered body was found stuffed in a suitcase Tuesday after it was left in the back of a taxi. Friends say the mother and daughter had a strained relationship; Bali police have yet to provide a motive. Read more in NEWS.
5. Missing Amish girls found safe after frantic search
Police in rural Oswegatchie, New York, scrambled to find Fannie Miller, 12, and Delila Miller, 6, on Thursday after the girls went missing. There were few details about how they disappeared and recovered. Police say they were found after being “dropped off from a vehicle,” and then they walked to the nearest home where a man who recognized them took them home. Read more in NEWS.
6. Chuck Todd tapped as new host of ‘Meet the Press’
There’s a shakeup at the longest-running show in American television history. Todd, currently NBC News’ political director and host of MSNBC’s “The Daily Rundown,” will replace moderator David Gregory, it was announced Thursday. “There is no one with a bigger passion for politics than Chuck. His unique ability to deliver that passion with razor sharp analysis and infectious enthusiasm makes him the perfect next generation moderator of this beloved broadcast,” NBC News President Deborah Turness said in a statement. Gregory departs after six years as host of the Sunday morning public affairs show. Read more in NEWS.
… What’s trending today?
Pope Francis has been making the rounds in South Korea as part of his stop in Asia for the continent’s version of World Youth Day. The popular pontiff is also expected to meet with some of the survivors of the tragic Sewol ferry sinking in April. Meanwhile, at a packed Daejeon World Cup Stadium on Friday, Pope Franic got a raucous welcome that included a standard stadium cheer.