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

TIME Kansas

Kansas Gov. Rescinds Protections for LGBT State Workers

Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback speaks at the Kansas Statehouse in Topeka, Kan., Jan. 2015.
Orlin Wagner—AP Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback speaks at the Kansas Statehouse in Topeka, Kan., Jan. 2015.

It reverses a 2007 order that barred employment discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity

Kansas Governor Sam Brownback on Tuesday rescinded protections for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender state workers.

The protections had been instituted by then-Govenor and former Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, a Democrat whose 2007 order established “protected class rights” that prohibited employment discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity.

Brownback, a Republican, made the move by executive order, and he signed a second executive order reaffirming the state’s commitment to bar employment discrimination on the basis of “race, color, gender, religion, national origin, ancestry or age.”

“This Executive Order ensures that state employees enjoy the same civil rights as all Kansans without creating additional ‘protected classes’ as the previous order did,” Brownback said in a statement. “Any such expansion of ‘protected classes’ should be done by the legislature and not through unilateral action.”

Democrats spoke out against the new order’s reversal on LGBT rights, while state Republicans had mixed reactions. Tom Witt, executive director of Equality Kansas, told the Kansas City Star that the move was “an outrage.”

“Gay, lesbian, and transgender state employees across Kansas have trusted they would be safe from discrimination and harassment in their workplace,” he said, “but Sam Brownback has, by erasing their job protections, declared ‘open season’ on every one of them.”

TIME Healthcare

Nonprofit Hospitals Seize Low-Income Patients’ Wages

An investigation reveals the ongoing struggles of people too poor to afford health insurance but no poor enough to qualify for Medicaid

Many hospitals in the U.S. receive tax breaks in exchange for the community service of providing care to those who cannot afford to pay. But hospitals in at least five states employ aggressive debt collectors to garnish the wages of low-income patients with unpaid debts, a ProPublica/NPR investigation revealed Friday.

Hospitals in Kansas, Oklahoma, Nebraska, Alabama and Missouri pass debts along to for-profit collection agencies. People affected tend to be those who earn too much to qualify for assistance in states that rejected the Medicaid expansion in President Barack Obama’s health care law, but not enough to purchase health care on their own. The cost of health care services for the uninsured tend to be significantly higher than for people with health insurance.

Read more at ProPublica

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