TIME States

Iowa Declares State of Emergency Over Bird Flu

Iowa Freedom Summit Features GOP Presidential  Hopefuls
Scott Olson—Getty Images Iowa Governor Terry Branstad speaks to guests at the Iowa Freedom Summit in Des Moines, Iowa, on Jan. 24, 2015 .

"While the avian influenza outbreak does not pose a risk to humans, we are taking the matter very seriously," the governor said on Friday.

Iowa Governor Terry Branstad declared a state of emergency in his state on Friday to confront a spiraling bird flu outbreak.

Millions of birds across the country have been infected by the highly pathogenic H5 avian flu in the most recent outbreak, which could result in the biggest death toll in U.S. history according to Reuters.

“While the avian influenza outbreak does not pose a risk to humans, we are taking the matter very seriously and believe declaring a state of emergency is the best way to make all resources available,” Branstad said in a statement. “We’ll continue our work – as we’ve been doing since the first outbreak in Buena Vista County – in hopes of stopping the virus’ aggressive spread throughout Iowa.”

In Iowa, 21 sites have presumed or confirmed cases.

 

TIME justice

This Facebook Post About Baltimore Cost a Prosecutor Her Job

Facebook Removes Feeling Fat
Bloomberg via Getty Images The Facebook Inc. logo is seen on an Apple Inc. iPhone in London, U.K., on May 14, 2012.

“Solution. Simple. Shoot em. Period. End of discussion."

A woman in Michigan has lost her job after posting a note on Facebook that called for violent protesters to be shot.

Teana Walsh, an assistant prosecutor with the Wayne County Prosecutor’s Office, resigned on Friday, the Detroit News reports.

On Wednesday, her Facebook account included a post that has since been taken down about the violence rocking Baltimore:

“Solution. Simple. Shoot em. Period. End of discussion. I don’t care what causes the protestors to turn violent…what the ‘they did it because’ reason is…no way is this acceptable. Flipping disgusting.”

Assistant Prosecutor Maria Miller said the post did not reflect her colleague’s true character. “During her tenure in the office, Teana Walsh has been known for her great work ethic and her compassion for victims of crime and their families,” she said. “Her post was up online briefly and she immediately took it down. The post was completely out of character for her and certainly does not reflect the person that we know.”

Walsh was not the only public official to find herself in hot water as a result of an insensitive post on social media. On Thursday, Cleveland Mayor Frank Jackson told reporters that the director of a city community relations board, Blaine Griffin, had been reprimanded after the board’s twitter account asked if the city should be “burned down like” Baltimore.

[Detroit News]

TIME Law Enforcement

Family of Homeless Man Killed in L.A. Police Shooting Files $20 Million Claim

Heleine Tchayou
Tami Abdollah—AP Heleine Tchayou, second from right, the mother of Charly Leundeu Keunang, a homeless man who was shot and killed during a confrontation on Skid Row by Los Angeles police, speaks at a news conference outside LAPD headquarters in Los Angeles, Thursday, April 30, 2015. The family of Keunang has filed a $20 million claim against the city. (AP Photo/Tami Abdollah)

"He did not have to die!"

The family of a homeless man who was shot and killed during a scuffle with Los Angeles police in March is suing the city, attorneys said Thursday, and seeking a $20 million for wrongful death.

“He did not have to die!” said Heleine Tchayou, mother of 43-year-old Charly Keunang, through a French translator, Reuters reports. “Charly was a thoughtful and caring son.” Keunang, originally from Cameroon, was shot and killed on March 1 after police say he reached for an officer’s gun as they tried to arrest him for suspected robbery.

The family’s claim labeled Keunang’s death “a cop-created killing in which six heavily-armed, highly-trained law enforcement officers initiated a conflict with an unarmed homeless man and then less than three minutes later, shot him six times in the chest, killing him as they held him down on the sidewalk.”

The incident, which was caught on video, came amid greater scrutiny of police tactics nationwide and sparked protests in Los Angeles.

[Reuters]

TIME Drugs

Emerging Drug Flakka Causing More Naked Rage and Paranoia Incidents

The new drug causes body temperature to spike dangerously

Flakka, a new designer drug popular in Florida, is continuing to generate bizarre incidents of naked rage and paranoia among users — but officials say it’s no laughing matter.

The synthetic drug has spawned a number of tales including how one Florida man believed he was Thor, and ran naked through a neighborhood and then tried to have sex with a tree, the Associated Press reported Thursday. Another flakka user ran nude down a busy city street, convinced he was being chased by a pack of German shepherds.

Flakka, which is similar to bath salts and usually smoked via electronic cigarettes, causes the naked incidents because it causes a spike in body temperature of up to 106 degrees, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Like amphetamines, flakka users seek the high of the drug’s stimulation but may also become prone to violent outbursts, paranoia and hallucinations.

“I’ve had one addict describe it as $5 insanity,” Don Maines, a drug treatment counselor in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., told AP. “They still want to try it because it’s so cheap.”

Flakka has spread to other states besides Florida, where most incidents have been reported, including Ohio, Texas and Tennessee, according to the U.S. National Institute on Drug Abuse.

Read next: See Which State Has the Highest Daily Use of Mood-Altering Drugs

[AP]

TIME U.S.

Here’s Where It’s Legal for Women to Go Topless in the U.S.

A guide to patchwork and confusing laws on taking it off

Local officials in the Venice Beach neighborhood of Los Angeles voiced support this week for allowing women to sunbathe topless, calling the move “a serious equality issue” and citing the city’s Italian namesake as one of many European regions where toplessness is socially acceptable. But topless sunbathing is illegal in the city and county of Los Angeles, and the local disagreement is just the skin of a patchwork of nudity laws and customs that vary by state and municipality across the country.

The vast majority of states actually have laws on the books making clear that women can’t be arrested under state law solely for being topless in settings where it’s OK for men. But many local ordinances ban the practice anyway. And there’s plenty of grey area for police officers to make their own interpretations and make arrests for “public indecency” or “disorderly conduct.”

Celebrities like Chelsea Handler and Miley Cyrus have been public critics of what they call a double-standard that women face when it comes to going shirtless, and have tried to get Instagram to stop taking down photos of breasts, garnering some support with the hashtag #FreeTheNipple. Scout Willis, daughter of the actor Bruce Willis, recently illustrated the point that women are technically permitted to walk the streets of New York City topless—but not to post topless photos on Instagram—by posting shirtless photos of herself on city sidewalks to Twitter.

GoTopless.org

So how to keep track of it all? The organization GoTopless, which advocates for “toplessness equality” in the U.S., has put together the map above illustrating the different laws in different states. Though green states indicate there is some degree of “topless freedom,” that does not mean it’s legal for women to go shirtless throughout the state. Local ordinances may ban or allow the practice in opposition to state law, and California is listed green despite the fight in Venice Beach. Orange states have “ambiguous laws;” in red states, female toplessness is illegal.

Even in areas with topless freedom, police officers may still arrest citizens for disorderly conduct. In in New York City, where it’s technically allowed, police officers have needed reminders that they cannot arrest women simply for going shirtless in locations where it would be permissible for men to do the same, the New York Times reports. “Simply exposing their breasts in public,” police were warned in 2013, doesn’t amount to a crime.

TIME States

Indiana Politicians Want to Drug Test People on Welfare

A similar measure failed to gain legislative approval last year

Lawmakers in Indiana are weighing a measure that would require some welfare recipients to undergo drug testing and risk losing their benefits if they failed.

Democratic State Rep. Terry Goodin proposed the drug testing requirement as an amendment to a bill currently before Indiana’s House, based on his concerns over intravenous drug use causing a spike in HIV cases. The Republican-majority House voted 79-15 on Tuesday to approve Goodin’s amendment to the bill, which will be considered in a final vote Wednesday.

The proposed change would require welfare recipients considered high-risk for drug abuse to be tested, as well as those who had previously been charged with a drug-related crime.

If recipients failed a drug test, they’d receive counseling that they would have to pay for themselves. If they repeatedly failed the tests, they’d be taken off welfare for at least three months. They would also be responsible for the cost of any positive drug tests.

Republicans pushed a similar proposal in 2014 but it failed to pass in the Senate. Civil liberties organizations have criticized measures like this in the past.

[The Indianapolis Star]

TIME Indiana

Indiana Hires PR Firm After Religious-Objections Law Flap

Opponents of Indiana Senate Bill 101, the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, march past the Indiana Statehouse in Indianapolis on April 4, 2015
Doug McSchooler—AP Opponents of Indiana Senate Bill 101, the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, march past the Indiana Statehouse in Indianapolis on April 4, 2015

A PR firm will try to restore Indiana's image "as a welcoming place to live, visit and do business"

(INDIANAPOLIS) — Indiana’s economic and tourism development agencies hired a public relations firm Monday to repair the damage to the state’s reputation from a religious objections law that raised the specter of discrimination against gays and others.

Meanwhile, the General Board of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), which had canceled conventions in Indianapolis amid the national controversy over the law, said it was bringing its meeting back to the city now that Republican Gov. Mike Pence has signed amendments to the statute that satisfied its concerns.

The Indiana Economic Development Corp. announced Monday it was collaborating with the Indiana Office of Tourism Development in hiring the Porter Novelli firm to strengthen Indiana’s reputation “as a welcoming place to live, visit and do business.”

Amid the uproar over the Republican-backed law that many feared would allow businesses to discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity, two groups canceled Indianapolis conventions and two others considered doing so. Fort Wayne, the state’s second-largest city, had six national conventions express concerns about continuing business in Indiana, local officials said.0

The IEDC news release did not mention the law known formally as the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, but the reason for hiring the firm was made clear in an email sent by the tourism office’s communications director, Jake Oakman, to local tourism officials. The Associated Press obtained a copy of the email.

“The Indiana Office of Tourism Development is partnering with the IEDC on this initiative to restore Indiana’s image after the recent political controversy surrounding RFRA,” Oakman wrote.

Indiana Senate Appropriations Chairman Luke Kenley, R-Noblesville, said his committee last week added $1 million to tourism funding in the pending two-year state budget specifically for that purpose.

The IEDC has signed an initial letter of engagement with Porter Novelli to define the scope of work and develop a budget for the project, the agency said.

Senate Democratic Leader Tim Lanane, D-Anderson, used the IEDC announcement to renew a call to amend Indiana’s Civil Rights Act to add sexual orientation and gender identity.

“The actions announced today by the IEDC are an admission by the governor that more must be done to clean up the mess … created with RFRA,” Lanane said.

The General Board of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) announced Monday that the amendments signed into law on April 2 addressed its concerns and it has selected Indianapolis for its 2017 General Assembly after earlier pulling the meeting from the city.

The Indianapolis-based denomination’s general minister and president, Sharon Watkins, said “there is a newly invigorated statewide understanding that Indiana needs improved laws and ordinances protecting all people from discrimination.”

“Locating our assembly in Indianapolis, now that our concerns have been addressed, positions us more strongly as a moral voice in the movement for equal protection under the law for all,” Watkins said.

TIME States

Obama Signs Disaster Declaration for January Blizzard

Blizzard Hits New England
Stan Grossfeld—The Boston Globe/Getty Images Piles of snow seen during the blizzard in Quincy, Mass. on Jan. 27, 2015.

Massachusetts Governor had asked for about $400 million for 28-day period

(BOSTON) — Gov. Charlie Baker says federal disaster aid that the state has been granted for a late January blizzard could bring between $80 million and $90 million, but he’s disappointed a broader request wasn’t approved.

Baker spoke Monday night after returning from a meeting in Washington, D.C., with Vice President Joe Biden.

He says the state will go back and review documents to see what qualifies for federal assistance. The state also has 30 days to appeal.

Baker says his request for about $400 million in aid for the entire 28-day period that also included February storms was a little unusual. He says he realizes that while the amount of snow Massachusetts received was uncommon, federal officials might not have wanted to set a national precedent.

President Obama signed the disaster declaration for the Jan. 26-28 storm on Monday.

TIME Law

Pizza Shop That Backed Indiana Religious Freedom Law Reopens

Many customers wait for service as Memories Pizza reopened for business ON April, 9, 2015, in Walkerton, Ind.
Tom Coyne–AP Many customers wait for service as Memories Pizza reopened for business ON April, 9, 2015, in Walkerton, Ind.

Shop closed after owner said his religious beliefs wouldn't allow him to cater a gay wedding

(WALKERTON, Ind.) — A northern Indiana pizzeria that closed after its owner said his religious beliefs wouldn’t allow him to cater a gay wedding opened Thursday to a full house of friends, regulars and people wanting to show their support.

“It’s a relief to get going again and try to get back to normal,” said Kevin O’Connor, owner of Memories Pizza.

O’Connor closed the shop for eight days after comments by him and his daughter, Crystal, to a local television station supporting a new religious objections law. The law, which has since been revised, sparked a boycott of Indiana.

O’Connor said the criticism hasn’t changed his beliefs. He said gays are welcome in his restaurant in the small, one-traffic-light town of Walkerton, 20 miles southwest of South Bend, but that he would decline to cater a same-sex wedding because it would conflict with his Christian beliefs.

“I’d do the same thing again. It’s my belief. It’s our belief. It’s what we grew up on,” he said. “I’m just sorry it comes to this because neither one of us dislike any of those people. I don’t hold any grudges.”

A crowdfunding campaign started by supporters raised more than $842,000 with donations from 29,160 contributors in 48 hours. O’Connor said he hasn’t received the money yet, but said he plans to give some to charity and use some money to make improvements to the restaurant.

The 61-year-old father of eight who has owned the restaurant for nine years said he never thought about taking the money and retiring.

“I enjoy it. I don’t want to leave here,” he said. “I want this to be something that my daughter can enjoy.”

Crystal O’Connor said the amount of money was overwhelming.

“We were like, ‘Stop! Stop! Stop!'” she said.

“It was really making us uncomfortable,” her father said.

The restaurant reopened about 4 p.m. Thursday. He says that within an hour, all eight tables were filled and six people were waiting for carryout orders. There were no protests as of 7 p.m.

Jeanne and Ken Gumm from outside LaPorte, about 20 miles northwest of Walkerton, said they had been waiting for the pizzeria to reopen so they could show their support.

“We couldn’t wait to get down here,” said Ken Gumm, 66, a tank truck driver. “To us this whole thing isn’t about gay marriage. It’s mostly about freedom of religion.”

Read next: Why Religious Freedom Bills Could Be Great for Gay Rights

TIME States

Oklahoma Senate Approves of Nitrogen Gas for Executions

Bill was sent to Republican Governor Mary Fallin, who supports the death penalty

(OKLAHOMA CITY) — With U.S. death penalty states scrambling for alternatives to lethal injection amid a shortage of deadly drugs, Oklahoma legislators believe they’ve found a foolproof and humane method — nitrogen gas hypoxia.

Without a single dissenting vote, the Oklahoma Senate gave final legislative approval Thursday and sent the governor a bill that would allow the new method to be used if lethal injection is ruled unconstitutional or if the deadly drugs become unavailable. Republican Gov. Mary Fallin supports the death penalty, but her spokesman declined to comment on the measure Thursday.

Critics of using nitrogen gas say that one concern is that the method is untested, and some states even ban its use to put animals to sleep.

Executions are on hold in Oklahoma while the U.S. Supreme Court considers whether the state’s current three-drug method of lethal injection is constitutional. Oklahoma and other states have been forced to come up with new drugs and new sources for drugs as pharmaceutical companies, many of which are based in Europe, have stopped selling them for executions.

There are no reports of nitrogen gas ever being used to execute humans. But supporters of Oklahoma’s plan argue that nitrogen-induced hypoxia — or a lack of oxygen in the blood — is a humane execution method.

“The process is fast and painless,” said Oklahoma City Republican Rep. Mike Christian, a former Oklahoma Highway Patrol trooper who wrote the bill. “It’s foolproof.

Added benefits, Christian said, are that nitrogen is easy to access and medical experts wouldn’t need to be involved in the process.

“There is no way for anti-death penalty activists … to restrict its supply,” Christian added.

But opponents say there’s no way to know whether the method is painless and effective.

“It just hasn’t been tried, so we don’t know,” said Rep. Emily Virgin, a Democrat from Norman who opposes the death penalty. “This is all based on some Internet research and a documentary from the BBC.”

“I think it’s dangerous for the Legislature to fool itself into thinking they’ve adopted some proven method for executing the condemned in Oklahoma, when in fact they have authorized a highly experimental method of execution that’s banned in many jurisdictions for the euthanasia of animals,” said Ryan Kiesel, a former Democrat legislator and the executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Oklahoma, which opposes the death penalty.

The changes come after a botched execution last year in which Oklahoma was using a new sedative as the first in a three-drug combination. State officials tried to halt the lethal injection after the inmate writhed on the gurney and moaned. He died 43 minutes after the process began.

The problematic execution was blamed on a poorly placed intravenous line and prompted a lawsuit from Oklahoma death row inmates, who argue that the state’s new drug combination presents a serious risk of pain and suffering. The U.S. Supreme Court is scheduled to hear arguments later this month.

Under the bill that passed Thursday, lethal injection would remain the state’s first choice for executions and nitrogen gas would be its first backup method — ahead of the electric chair, which the state hasn’t used since 1966, and a firing squad, which has never been used in Oklahoma.

Other death penalty states also are looking at alternatives to lethal injection. Tennessee passed a law last year to reinstate the electric chair if it can’t get lethal drugs, and Utah has reinstated the firing squad as a backup method.

___

Online:

House Bill 1879: http://bit.ly/1vetcRn

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