TIME weather

Tornadoes in Southern Plains Destroy Homes, Flip Cars

The driver of a truck which crashed during severe weather on Interstate 35 gestures to his rescuers after being cut from the truck in Moore, Okla., May 6, 2015
Sue Ogrocki—AP The driver of a truck which crashed during severe weather on Interstate 35 gestures to his rescuers after being cut from the truck in Moore, Okla., on May 6, 2015

At least 12 people were injured, but no deaths were immediately reported

(OKLAHOMA CITY) — Authorities are set to survey the damage left behind after tornadoes swept across the southern Plains, overturning cars and destroying dozens of homes near Oklahoma City.

At least 12 people were injured, but no deaths were immediately reported from the twisters that also hit rural parts of Texas, Kansas and Nebraska on Wednesday night.

“We’ll have much better picture of how widespread the damage is when the sun comes up tomorrow,” meteorologist Forrest Mitchell with the National Weather Service in Norman said.

The Oklahoma City area seemed to be the hardest hit. A twister destroyed homes in Grady County, southwest of the city, and it appeared another tornado touched down in the area later Wednesday evening when a second storm came through.

“We do strongly think there was a tornado on the south side of Oklahoma City,” meteorologist Michael Scotten said after the second storm that hit around 8:40 p.m.

That storm flipped vehicles on Interstate 35 and left power lines strewn across the roadway, Scotten said.

Lara O’Leary, a spokeswoman for Emergency Medical Services Authority, said late Wednesday that the company transported 12 patients from a trailer park in south Oklahoma City to local hospitals. She did not have further details about the extent of the patients’ injuries.

Grady County Emergency Management Director Dale Thompson said about 10 homes were destroyed in Amber and 25 were destroyed in Bridge Creek. As the storm moved to the east, forecasters declared a tornado emergency for Moore, where seven schoolchildren were among 24 people killed in a storm two years ago. When the first of the storms moved through Wednesday, school districts held their pupils in safe places.

Also in Grady County, all animals were accounted for after a zoo in Tuttle was hit by a tornado, Alisa Voegeli, a dispatcher at the sheriff’s office, said. The damage had initially prompted fears that wild animals had escaped.

At Will Rogers World Airport in Oklahoma City, people were twice evacuated into a tunnel outside the security zone.

After the tornadoes passed through, flash flooding remained a concern.

The National Weather Service received widespread reports of 5 to 8 inches of rain in the area, Mitchell said. A measurement of 7.1 inches at the Oklahoma City airport set a new daily rainfall record, he said, topping the previous record of 2.61 inches.

Oklahoma City spokeswoman Kristy Yager said the rainfall prompted the city to issue a flash flood emergency for the first time in its history. Emergency crews were canvassing the city Wednesday night, she said.

O’Leary said the ambulance service responded to water rescues “all over” the Oklahoma City metro area. Two ambulance crews required also assistance after getting stuck in high water, she said.

A flash flood warning was in effect for parts of six counties in central Oklahoma until 9 a.m. The same warning was also in effect for two counties in north-central Texas. That area also saw reports of tornadoes late Wednesday, but there were no immediate reports of damage or injuries, according to Mitchell.

In Nebraska, 10 to 15 homes were damaged near Grand Island, and between Hardy and Ruskin, near the Kansas line.

At least nine tornadoes were reported in Kansas, the strongest of them in the sparsely populated north-central part of the state. That included a large tornado near the tiny town of Republic just south of the Nebraska state line, where some homes were damaged. In Harvey County, a tornado destroyed a hog barn and damaged trees, according to the National Weather Service.

The Storm Prediction Center had warned that bad weather would come to Tornado Alley and said more storms were possible later in the week.

“People just really need to stay weather aware, have a plan and understand that severe storms are possible across portions of the southern Plains almost daily through Saturday,” meteorologist Jonathan Kurtz said.

TIME Kansas

White Supremacist Says He Will Plead Guilty in Jewish-Site Shootings

In this March 27, 2015, file photo, Frazier Glenn Miller, left, appears in court in Olathe, Kan., where he asked for his right to a speedy trial.
John Sleezer—AP Frazier Glenn Miller, left, appears in court in Olathe, Kans., on March 27, 2015

White supremacist Frazier Glenn Miller, 74, doesn't believe he has much longer to live and wants to plead guilty to capital murder to avoid a lengthy trial

(KANSAS CITY, Mo.) — A white supremacist accused of killing three people at two Jewish centers in Kansas says he plans to plead guilty to capital murder to avoid a lengthy trial because of his failing health.

Frazier Glenn Miller, 74, of Aurora, Missouri, told The Associated Press in a phone call from jail on Monday that he doesn’t think he has much longer to live and wants a chance to speak in court about why he committed the crimes.

Miller is accused of fatally shooting William Lewis Corporon, 69, and his 14-year-old grandson, Reat Griffin Underwood, at the Jewish Community Center of Greater Kansas City in Overland Park, Kansas, on April 13, 2014. The two were there so the teen could compete in a singing contest.

Minutes after they were shot, Miller killed Terri LaMano, 53, at a nearby Jewish retirement home where she was visiting her mother, prosecutors said. He was taken into custody after that shooting.

Miller has told the AP and other media outlets that he planned and executed the fatal attacks, and that it was his intent to use the trial as a means to “put the Jews on trial where they belong.”

He called the slayings justified, though he said he regrets killing the 14-year-old.

Miller, who has chronic emphysema, has repeatedly insisted on receiving a speedy trial despite his attorneys’ insistence they need more time to develop a defense strategy.

He said he’s afraid it could take at least six months before he gets a trial date and even longer before sentencing, and he doesn’t think he will be around that long.

“I’m not sure I have the stamina to go through all of that,” Miller said. “I want to get it over with.”

Neither Steve Howe, the district attorney for Johnson County, Kansas, nor Miller’s defense attorney immediately returned calls seeking comment. Howe told the AP last year a judge has issued a gag order that prevents him or other attorneys from talking about the case.

Miller, also known as Frazier Glenn Cross, is a Vietnam War veteran who founded the Carolina Knights of the Ku Klux Klan in his native North Carolina and later the White Patriot Party.

He was the target of a nationwide manhunt in 1987, when federal agents tracked him and three other men to a rural Missouri home stocked with hand grenades and automatic weapons. He was indicted on weapons charges and accused of plotting robberies and the assassination of the Southern Poverty Law Center’s founder. He served three years in federal prison.

Miller also ran for the U.S. House in 2006 and the U.S. Senate in 2010 in Missouri, each time espousing a white-power platform.

TIME Laws

Kansas Tattoo Parlors Say Nobody’s Getting Inked on Welfare Checks

Gov. Sam Brownback signs a welfare reform bill into law in Topeka, Kan. on April 16, 2015.
Orlin Wagner—AP Gov. Sam Brownback signs a welfare reform bill into law in Topeka, Kans., on Apr. 16, 2015.

A new law also restricts welfare spending on lingerie, concert tickets and psychics

Kansas Governor Sam Brownback signed into law Thursday some of the country’s strictest prohibitions on where welfare money can and can’t be spent. For needy families in the Sunflower State, concerts are out. Casinos: out. Lingerie: out. Fortune tellers: out. The law lists more than two dozen products or businesses that are now off-limits.

But owners and operators of a half-dozen Kansas psychics, lingerie stores and tattoo parlors, in which poor families are now restricted from spending cash assistance from the state, all say essentially the same thing: patrons aren’t using welfare in here anyway.

“I’ve never seen anybody try that,” says Aimee Teets, a receptionist at Aftershock Tattoo Co., in Olathe, Kan. Teets says some pre-loadable cards aren’t even accepted at her business, so it’s possible that a benefits card from the state would’ve been denied even before the law was passed.

According to the National Conference of State Legislators, 23 states have passed restrictions on state benefit cards in attempts to prevent purchases on items like alcohol and gambling. The law signed in Kansas Thursday is believed to be among the most restrictive in the U.S.

But according to studies, most welfare recipients appear to be spending a majority of their money on basic necessities. According to an analysis of Bureau of Labor Statistics figures, a vast majority of families on public assistance spend that money on housing, food and transportation. Only a small percentage goes to expenses like entertainment.

The Associated Press also cites a 2014 federal report looking at eight states’ welfare transactions showing that spending on liquor stores, casinos and strip clubs made up less than 1% of the total.

Liz Bartlett, a sales associate at lingerie store Clair de Lune in Overland Park, Kan., says she’s never been aware of anyone using welfare money on purchases at the store. Tattooists who spoke to TIME agreed. “I’ve never heard of anything like that,” says Jim, the general manager of The Mercy Seat who refused to give his last name. “But we’re cash only anyway.”

That still poses a problem for state officials hoping to keep welfare monies in check. The new law allows people to withdraw $25 a day, and the state can’t easily control where it’s spent.

“The purchases may be declined if an EBT card is used,” says Theresa Freed, a spokesperson for the Kansas Department for Children and Families. “If [Temporary Assistance for Needy Families] cash funds are withdrawn from an EBT card, it is very difficult to track the use of those funds.”

TIME Terrorism

Kansas Man Arrested for Plotting Attack on Army Base, Pledging Loyalty to ISIS

"We will bring the Islamic State straight to your doorstep."

A Kansas man was arrested Friday for planning to detonate a bomb at a U.S. army base and pledging loyalty to the militant group Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria (ISIS), prosecutors said, the latest of several ISIS-related arrests on American soil.

John T. Booker, a 20-year old U.S. Citizen from Topeka, was planning a suicide attack on the Fort Riley army base in Kansas in an attempt to support ISIS, authorities said. A criminal complaint alleges that Booker, who also goes by the name Mohammed Abdullah Hassan, posted to Facebook “I will soon be leaving you forever so goodbye! I’m going to wage jihad and hopes that i die” and “Getting ready to be killed in jihad is HUGE adrenaline rush!! I am so nervous. NOT because I’m scared to die but I am eager to meet my lord.”

The alleged plot comes in the wake of other home-grown terrorism arrests over the last two weeks. On Thursday, a Wisconsin man was arrested for trying to join ISIS, and last Friday a Philadelphia mother of two was arrested for trying to go to Syria to martyr herself for the group. And last week, two New York City women were arrested after allegedly plotting a Boston Marathon-style attack.

When the FBI questioned Booker about his Facebook posts, he said he enlisted in the U.S. Army with the intent to commit an insider attack like Major Nidal Hassan did at Fort Hood in Texas, according to prosecutors. He said if his army officer ever told him to kill a fellow Muslim, he would kill the officer instead.

After waiving his Miranda rights, Booker also told the agents that he intended to target high-ranking army officials, but that he didn’t envision using a machine gun—he was more interested in an attack with a small gun or sword. This led to Booker being denied entry into the military, but he was not immediately arrested.

Throughout his plan to attack Fort Riley, Booker was accompanied by two undercover FBI agents who he believed were helping him. Booker rented two storage units where he kept materials and explosives for a car bomb, and planned for the accomplices to build the bomb, prosecutors said. The plan was for Booker and one of the accomplices to bring the bomb to Fort Riley and for Booker to detonate it himself, since he wanted to be the one to flip the switch, prosecutors said.

Booker also asked the undercover officers to take care of his debts so he could enter paradise as a martyr after his death. In one of the videos he made about his plan, he said:

“Today, Inshallah, we are going to build this bomb with 1,000 pounds of Ammonium Nitrate… This message is to you, America. You sit in your homes and you think that this war is just over in Iraq… we will bring the Islamic State straight to your doorstep. You think this is just a game… when this bomb blows up and kills as many kuffar [non-Muslims] as possible, maybe then you’ll realize it.

Booker was arrested by FBI agents Friday, as he drove in to Fort Riley to carry out the attack. As he was making preparations to detonate the device, he was taken into custody. He is facing federal charges for attempting to use a weapon of mass destruction against U.S. property. Booker, who is being represented by the Federal Public Defender’s office, will plead not guilty.

TIME Kansas

Kansas Legislation Bans Welfare Recipients From Spending Benefits on Cruises

Welfare recipients would be barred from spending benefits at liquor stores, pools and cruises.

Kansas legislators have passed a bill that imposes a wave of new restrictions on how welfare recipients can withdraw and spend their money.

The bill, which was approved on Thursday, still requires a signature from Republican Gov. Sam Brownback, who has supported the legislation in the past.

Welfare recipients will be limited to withdrawing a maximum of $25 a day and will be prohibited from spending the funds at certain businesses, including liquor stores, swimming pools and cruise ships, according to The Huffington Post.

“We’re trying to make sure those benefits are used the way they were intended,” State Representative Michael O’Donnell, a Republican, told the Topeka Capital-Journal. “This is about prosperity. This is about having a great life.”

Read more at The Huffington Post

TIME public health

Antibiotic-Resistant Bacteria From Texan Cattle Yards Are Now Airborne, Study Finds

A herd of longhorn cattle stand as wildfire rages near on September 1, 2011 in Graford, Texas
Tom Pennington—Getty Images A herd of longhorn cattle stand as wildfire rages near on September 1, 2011 in Graford, Texas

Researchers say the bacteria are capable of "traveling for long distances"

A new study says the DNA from antibiotic-resistant bacteria found in American cattle yards has become airborne, creating a new pathway by which such bacteria can potentially spread to humans and hinder treatment of life-threatening infections.

Researchers gathered airborne particulate matter (PM) from around 10 commercial cattle yards within a 200 mile radius of Lubbock, Texas over a period of six-months. They found the air downwind of the yards contained antibiotics, bacteria and a “significantly greater” number of microbial communities containing antibiotic-resistant genes. That’s according to the study to be published in next month’s issue of Environmental Health Perspectives.

“To our knowledge, this study is among the first to detect and quantify antibiotics and antibiotic resistance genes…associated with airborne PM emitted from beef cattle feed yards,” said the authors, who are researchers in environmental toxicology at Texas Tech University and at a testing lab in Lubbock.

Co-author Phil Smith told the Texas Tribune that the bacteria could be active for a long time and “could be traveling for long distances.”

His colleague, molecular biologist Greg Mayer, told the paper that some of the study’s findings “made me not want to breathe.”

Because antibodies are poorly absorbed by cows they are released into the environment through excretion. Once in the environment, bacteria will undergo natural selection and genes that have acquired natural immunities will survive.

The genes that have gone airborne are contained in dried fecal matter that has become dust and gets picked up by winds as they whip through the stockyards.

The Texas Tribune reported that representatives from the Texas cattle industry (estimated to control around 14 million beef cows) criticized the study, saying it portrayed the airborne bacteria as overly hazardous to human health.

But the mass of PM2.5 particles (the kind that can be inhaled into lungs) released into the atmosphere is eye opening, with the study estimating the total amount released by cattle yards in Colorado, Kansas, Nebraska, Oklahoma and Texas exceeds 46,000 lbs.(21,000 kg) per day.

Antibiotic-resistant bacterial DNA is already known to be transferable to humans if ingested via water or meat.


TIME Diet/Nutrition

Farmers Are Researching How to Grow Gluten-Free Wheat

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Getty Images

Farmers in Kansas are in the early stages of research

Kansas farmers are funding research to learn how to grow gluten-free wheat.

The Kansas Wheat Commission is putting $200,000 towards two years of research to understand all the parts of wheat’s DNA that cause problems for people with gluten sensitivities, the Associated Press reports. Researchers are focusing on various proteins in wheat—as well as exploring past varieties of wheat—that may have fallen out of favor in recent years, but may be tolerable for wider population.

Gluten is a substance in wheat that gives dough elasticity. For people with celiac disease, consuming gluten can result in intestinal problems. While a small percentage of people in the United States have celiac disease, the gluten-free diet has become widely adopted.

The research, still in the very early stages, began in July at the Wheat Innovation Center in Manhattan, Kansas, the AP reports.

Read more at the Associated Press

TIME toxins

How Ice Cream Gets Contaminated—and Sometimes Kills

What could have caused 3 deaths in Kansas

Three people in Kansas have died after eating contaminated Blue Bell Creameries brand ice cream products. A total of five people were infected, and the ice cream has been recalled. But how does ice cream get tainted in the first place?

The bacteria that contaminated the ice cream is called Listeria monocytogenes, and according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), about 1,600 Americans get sick from Listeria every year. It’s the third leading cause of death from food poisoning. It’s the same bacteria that contaminated caramel apples from California in January, causing 35 people in 12 states to get sick, and killing seven.

The bacteria grows very well at refrigerator temperatures, even as low as 40 degrees Fahrenheit. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) says that the longer ready-to-eat refrigerated foods are stored in the fridge, the more opportunity the bacteria has to grow.

“It’s why it’s a problem for cooler foods like ice cream and cheese,” says Bill Marler, a food safety lawyer in Washington state.

MORE: 3 Kansas Patients Die From Tainted Ice Cream

The FDA was able to confirm that three strains of the bacteria came from a single Blue Bell production line at one facility in Brenham, Texas, though the agency has not disclosed a precise point of contact. Blue Bell says one of its machines produced the problem.

“Likely what happened is the piece of machinery was contaminated. The liquid form of the ice cream goes through the machine when it’s not yet frozen, but around 40 degrees, and it’s a great place for [listeria] to grow,” says Marler.

It’s not the first time contaminated ice cream has sickened Americans. In December 2014, Snoqualmie Gourmet Ice Cream, Inc. issued a voluntary recall of several of its ice cream, gelato, custard and sorbet products when they tested positive Listeria, and sickened two people. In 1994, 200,000 people became ill from eating Schwan’s ice cream that had been transported by a distribution truck that had previously transported non-pasteurized liquid eggs contaminated with Salmonella.

Other recent dairy outbreaks include a 2014 outbreak of Listeria in cheese and dairy products produced by Oasis Brands, Inc. Five people became ill and one died. A year earlier, six people were infected with Listeria in Crave Brothers Farmstead Cheese Company cheese products—one person died.

TIME Infectious Disease

3 Kansas Patients Die From Tainted Ice Cream

A total of five people were infected

Three people in Kansas have died after eating contaminated Blue Bell Creameries brand ice cream products, health officials said.

A total of five people in the state were infected with life-threatening listeriosis, which is caused by exposure to the bacteria Listeria monocytogenes. Four of the ill individuals told health authorities they drank milkshakes made with a Blue Bell brand ice cream product called “Scoops” in the last month.

MORE: Here’s What Foods Are Most Likely To Have E. Coli or Salmonella

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says all of the individuals were being treated in the same hospital for unrelated conditions, suggesting they acquired the infections at the hospital.

The tainted products came from one Blue Bell production facility in Brenham, Texas, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) said in a statement. The agency found three strains of the bacteria in Blue Bell Chocolate Chip Country Cookies, Great Divide Bars, Sour Pop Green Apple Bars, Cotton Candy Bars, Scoops, Vanilla Stick Slices, Almond Bars and No Sugar Added Moo Bars.

The CDC says Blue Bell has removed potentially contaminated products from the market, buy but that “contaminated ice cream products may still be in the freezers of consumers, institutions, and retailers.”

“One of our machines produced a limited amount of frozen snacks with a potential listeria problem,” Blue Bell said in a statement that noted it was the company’s first product recall in over a century. “When this was detected all products produced by this machine were withdrawn. Our Blue Bell team members recovered all involved products in stores and storage. This withdrawal in no way includes our half gallons, quarts, pints, cups, three gallon ice cream or the majority of take-home frozen snack novelties.”

TIME weather

Expect More Bad Weather in the Southern U.S. and Rockies on Monday

An Oklahoma Department of Transportation sand truck rest on it's top in the median of US 412 west of Enid, Okla. Sunday, after it was involved in an accident with another vehicle on Feb. 22, 2015
Billy Hefton—AP An Oklahoma Department of Transportation sand truck rest on it's top in the median of US 412 west of Enid, Okla. Sunday, after it was involved in an accident with another vehicle on Feb. 22, 2015

Motorists should prepare for hazardous travel conditions

The Rocky Mountains and Southern Plains are in for snowy and icy conditions Monday as a winter storm continues to move across the region.

Multiple accidents have already been attributed to the storm, with injuries being reported in Utah and Kansas, according to the Weather Channel. Motorists should continue to take utmost caution.

Those planning on catching a flight may want to double-check the status of their bookings. Dallas–Fort Worth International Airport canceled about half of the flights scheduled for Monday after already grounding around 160 flights on Sunday. Denver International canceled more than 330 flights over weekend, according to Denver’s Channel 7 News.

Meanwhile, schools in Texas, Colorado, Kansas, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Louisiana, New Mexico and Alabama have announced cancellations or delays of classes due to weather concerns.

Read next: 7 Reasons to Love This Freezing Weather

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