TIME weather

Northeast Storm Strengthens After Dumping Snow on Millions

Nor'easter Storm Brings Light Snow To New York
A man takes a picture of ducks and geese at a lake in Brooklyn's Prospect Park following an evening storm on Jan. 24, 2015 in New York City. Spencer Platt—Getty Images

Millions across the Northeast woke up to a blanket of white Saturday morning after an overnight storm, which was expected to last through the day, dropped several inches of snow in some parts. By Saturday afternoon, New England was experiencing the brunt of the storm, with the largest accumulation falling in Hartford County, Connecticut, which had 8 inches by 1 p.m. Rhode Island, Maine and Massachusetts could also expect 6 to 10 inches, according to the National Weather Service. Those areas can also expect to be hit with gusty winds.

The “front-end” of the storm delivered up to 9 inches of powder in areas of Connecticut and New Jersey…

Read the rest of the story from our partner NBCNews.com

TIME weather

Winter Storm Is Turning the Northeast Into a Wonderland

It's cold and getting colder

A winter snow storm that blanketed the northeastern United States early Saturday morning shows no signs of letting up. The storm delivered some nine inches of snow in parts of New Jersey and Connecticut, while New York City got five inches according to Weather.com. More northern parts of the state got as much as 9 inches. In the afternoon, rain turned to snow creating slushy conditions. Another cold front is expected in the region on Monday.

TIME Crime

Rapper Faces Life Sentence Over Album That ‘Promoted’ Gang Violence

Gett Money Gang

Prosecutors do not accuse him of participating directly in any gang violence

A rapper facing life behind bars for the content of a recent album went on CNN Thursday to deny all charges against him, saying he feels law enforcement is, “trying to eradicate black men.”

The San Diego-based rapper is facing indictment not for violent behavior, but because of a rap album he recorded which features violent imagery and graphic language.

Brandon Duncan, known by the stage name Tiny Doo, was arrested eight months ago for conspiring to benefit from gang activity, CNN reports. Unable to afford $500,000 bail, he has remained in prison for most of that time.

Duncan was charged in connection with a series of 2013 shooting incidents perpetrated by a notorious California gang, the Lincoln Park Bloods. Though prosecutors claim he is associated with the gang, they have not accused Duncan of participating, nor do they claim he had any direct knowledge of the attacks. Rather, he faces indictment under a 2000 California law because he allegedly benefited financially from the gang’s activity through sales of his album, No Safety.

Prosecutors say his album cover—which features a loaded revolver—and some of his lyrics have “direct correlation to what the gang has been doing.” They also say social media messages posted to Duncan’s account prove he’s a gang member.

Duncan denied the claims in the CNN interview. “I go to work every day,” the rapper, who was working in construction at the time of his arrest, said. “How am I benefiting from what someone else is doing? I haven’t sold a million records or anything.”

The rapper has called his music purely artistic fiction. “I said I had a million dollars on a couple of raps, too. Obviously I don’t have that, because I’d be home already,” he told Vice.com in an interview from jail in December. “It’s entertainment. It’s not real.”

Duncan faces nine counts of criminal street gang conspiracy, and will stand trial with 14 other men who prosecutors say increased their stature and respect because of the incidents. The rapper’s lawyer told CNN none of the men are being charged with actually participating.

“They’re going after the person who says the word ‘gun,’ rather than the person who actually used the gun,” the attorney, Brian Watkins, said.

In a statement, the San Diego District Attorney’s office maintained that there is sufficient evidence supporting the defendants’ alleged gang involvement. If the men are found to be active members of the Bloods, they can be held responsible for the actions of other gang members according to California law.

“The focus is holding violent individuals accountable for crimes that terrorized a neighborhood,” spokesman Steve Walker said. “Criminal charges against these defendants were filed appropriately under this specific law, which was put in place by voters to stop deadly gang violence and hold active gang members accountable.”

Duncan’s trial date has been set for Apr. 20.

[CNN]

TIME measles

Anti-Vaxxers Fingered in Disney Measles Outbreak

Doctors group urges measles shots as Disneyland outbreak spreads

A spokesman for the California state health department has told Reuters that he believes “unvaccinated individuals have been the principal factor” in a mid-December measles outbreak at Disneyland that has infected more than 70 people in six western states and Mexico, including five Disney employees.

The outbreak of the respiratory disease, which is caused by a highly communicable virus, has increased the focus on parents who choose not to vaccinate their children. Measles was thought to have been eliminated in the United States in 2000, meaning the disease is not native to the U.S. (Nonetheless, 644 measles cases were reported in America in 2014.) But it is not uncommon in the rest of the world, and healthcare officials presume an infected foreigner brought the virus to Disneyland or the accompanying Disneyland Adventure Theme Park in Anaheim, Calif., between Dec. 15 and 20.

Of the 34 California measles victims whose vaccination history could be ascertained, 28 had not received the measles shot. The American Academy of Pediatrics and the Centers for Disease Control recommend that children first receive the MMR (Measles, Mumps, Rubella) vaccine at the age of 12-15 months and then again between their fourth and sixth birthdays.

[Reuters]

TIME

Federal Judge Strikes Down Gay-Marriage Ban in Alabama

(MONTGOMERY) A federal judge has struck down Alabama laws banning gay marriage.

U.S. District Judge Callie V.S. Granade ruled Friday in favor of two Mobile women who sued to challenge Alabama’s refusal to recognize their marriage performed in California.

Plaintiffs Cari Searcy and Kimberly McKeand said that they had been a couple for more than a decade and had a child together with the help of a sperm donor. However, an Alabama court refused to let Searcy be recognized as the child’s adoptive parent because state law did not recognize the couple as spouses.

Granade said a state statute and 2006 amendment to the Alabama Constitution were both in violation of the equal protection clause of the U.S. Constitution.

TIME

Justices Will Review Use of Midazolam as Execution Drug

(WASHINGTON) — The Supreme Court is stepping into the issue of lethal injection executions for the first time since 2008 in an appeal filed by death row inmates in Oklahoma.

The justices agreed Friday to review whether the sedative midazolam can be used in executions because of concerns that it does not produce a deep, comalike unconsciousness and ensure that a prisoner does not experience intense and needless pain when other drugs are injected to kill him. The order came eight days after the court refused to halt the execution of an Oklahoma man that employed the same combination of drugs.

Oklahoma uses midazolam as one of three drugs in lethal injection executions. The second drug serves to paralyze the inmate and the third one is used to stop his heart.

The case probably will be argued in April, with a decision expected by the end of June.

The appeal was brought to the court by four Oklahoma inmates with execution dates ranging from January to March. The justices allowed Charles Warner to be put to death on January 15 and denied stays of execution for the other three.

At the time, Justice Sonia Sotomayor wrote a dissent that was joined by three other justices, calling on the court to examine whether the drug could be used in accordance with the constitutional prohibition on cruel and unusual punishment.

Friday’s order does not formally call a halt to those scheduled procedures. But it is inconceivable that the court would allow them to proceed when the justices already have agreed to a full-blown review of the issue.

In 2008, the justices upheld the use of a different three-drug combination in a case from Kentucky and set a high bar for challenges to lethal injections. Chief Justice John Roberts wrote then that the court probably would not stop executions unless “the condemned prisoner establishes that the state’s lethal injection protocol creates a demonstrated risk of severe pain.”

What has changed since 2008 is that states have been forced to change the drugs they use in executions after drug manufacturers took steps to ensure their products are not used in executions.

The inmates are trying to stop their executions, arguing that the state would essentially be experimenting on them by injecting them with unproven and untested drugs.

“The drug protocol in Oklahoma is not capable of producing a humane execution, even if it is administered properly,” said Dale Baich, a lawyer for the three surviving inmates.

Last April, Oklahoma used midazolam for the first time in a grisly procedure. Inmate Clayton Lockett clenched his teeth, moaned and writhed on the gurney before a doctor noticed a problem with the intravenous line and the execution was called off. Lockett died 43 minutes after the procedure began.

Oklahoma revamped its procedures in response to the Lockett execution, including a tenfold increase in the amount of midazolam used. In last week’s execution, Warner showed no signs of physical distress.

Florida used the same procedure in an execution carried out the same night.

TIME energy

Most Americans Are Spending Less Than $2 Per Gallon for Gas

The average household will save $750 on gas this year

The price of gas is plummeting like a bungee jumper without a rope.

A majority of Americans are paying less than $2 per gallon for gas for the first time since 2009, and the ever-cheapening fuel it helping put more money in consumers’ pockets and bolster the economy. About 6 in 10 U.S. gas stations are selling a gallon of gas for under $2, according to AAA. The average gas price has dropped for a record 120 consecutive days to less than $2.04 a gallon. That’s the cheapest average in nearly six years.

American consumers will benefit immensely this year from the drop: The Department of Energy predicted last week that the average American household would spend about $750 less for gasoline in 2015 compared with last year.

“It’s crazy,” Michael Noel, an economics professor at Texas Tech University who studies oil and gasoline prices, told the Associated Press of the fuel price drop. “But for consumers it’s very, very good.”

MORE: The Cost of Cheap Gas

Lower fuel prices will also likely help the U.S. economy grow significantly this year. The World Bank expects the American economy to grow 3.2% this year, compared with 2.4% in 2014, and some forecasts are even higher.

The downside? Oil drillers and refineries in states like Texas and North Dakota are likely to suffer from lower gas prices. Layoffs of thousands of workers have begun in recent weeks.

TIME Environment

Official Wants Frozen to Teach Kids About Climate Change

FROZEN
Arendelle Disney

Apparently Disney didn't go for it

The U.S. special representative to the Arctic said this week that he told a Disney executive educators should use Frozen to teach kids about climate change—but the idea didn’t go over so well.

Admiral Robert Papp told an audience at this week’s Arctic Frontiers conference that after realizing his granddaughters were obsessed with Frozen, he approached Disney executives about making PSAs about climate change starring Anna and Elsa to raise awareness about the disappearing ice. “I said you’ve taught an entire generation about the Arctic,” Papp said he told the executive. “Unfortunately the Arctic that you’ve taught them about is a fantasy kingdom in Norway where everything is nice. What we really need to do is educate the American youth about the plight of the polar bear, about the thawing tundra, about Alaskan villages that run the risk of falling into the sea because of the lack of sea ice protecting their shores.”

Papp said the executive was receptive, but skeptical. “‘Admiral you might not understand, here at Disney it’s in our culture to tell stories that project optimism and have happy endings,'” he told him.

But who knows what’s in store for the rumored Frozen sequel that may or may-not be happening.

[h/t National Journal]

TIME Aviation

The TSA Seized a Record Number of Guns in 2014

TSA: How to Travel by Commercial Airflight With A Firearm
After filling out a brief disclosure form, commercial air flight travelers are allowed to transport unloaded firearms in locked, hard-sided cases as checked luggage only, as can be seen in props provided by the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) at Dulles International Airport on Wednesday, June 11, 2014, in Washington, DC. The Washington Post—Getty Images

Security agents found six per day on average

The Transportation Security Administration kept especially busy in 2014: A record high of 2,212 guns were seized from carry-on luggage, marking a 22% increase over 2013 numbers.

The TSA found an average of more than six firearms per day, the agency said Friday, and of those seized, 83% were loaded. Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport saw 120 guns seized, the most of any airport.

Passengers who try to bring firearms onto a plane in their carry-on bags can be arrested and criminally charged.

TIME 2016 Election

Jindal Blurs the Lines With Prayer Rally This Weekend

Bobby Jindal
Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, R-La. speaks in New York on Oct. 16, 2014. John Minchillo—AP

It is no secret that Bobby Jindal is praying very seriously about a run for the White House. This weekend, his prayer will look a lot like a giant evangelical rally in Baton Rouge.

The governor of Louisiana is keynoting a six-hour worship gathering on Saturday called “The Response: A Call To Prayer For a Nation In Crisis” at Louisiana State University. The event, sponsored by the conservative and controversial American Family Association, aims to spiritually reawaken America in light of “unprecedented struggles” the country is facing: “financial debt, terrorism, and a multitude of natural disasters … fatherless homes, an epidemic of drugs and crime in our inner cities, a saturation of pornography in our homes, abortion, and racism.” The American Renewal Project, a non-profit spearheaded by conservative political operative David Lane that aims to get more Christians involved in politics, is also behind the event. Lane hopes to recruit 1,000 pastors to run for political office this campaign cycle. The Response coincides with the state’s Right to Life March, which is also happening Saturday on LSU’s campus and which Jindal is also keynoting. Together, the events are poised to draw thousands.

Organizers say the Response is purely about spiritual renewal, not politics. But from the get-go, those lines are blurred. Jindal invited 49 other governors to attend the Response. “This gathering will be apolitical in nature and open to all who would like to join us in humble posture before our Creator to intervene on behalf of our people and nation,” Jindal explained to the governors, in a letter obtained by the Christian Broadcasting Network. “There will only be one name lifted up that day–Jesus!”

The irony in the event has several layers. To begin, Jindal’s invitation to the governors, like most of the Response’s promotional materials, draws inspiration only from passages in the Hebrew Scriptures, what Christians call the Old Testament, to support an event aimed at lifting up Jesus Christ. His letter primarily cites the Hebrew prophet Joel, who likely lived in Judah during the Persian period of Jewish history (539-331 BC). Joel tells the Hebrew people to “declare a holy fast,” “call a solemn assembly,” and “summon the elders,” to “cry out to the Lord.” The Response organizers are trying to imitate those instructions with this event, but conflating Joel’s call to return to the Hebrew God with a contemporary evangelical call to return to Jesus changes the prophet’s original context and the significance of the words for today’s Jewish community.

Next, for the Hebrew prophet Joel, to call the elders is actually a political move, not just a spiritual one. The prophet goes on to lament a plague of locusts, that like an invading army that has destroyed his own nation’s fields and farming prospects. His call to God for aid is a political plea on behalf of his people. Jindal and fellow organizers are using a political Bible passage to promote an event that they say has a solely spiritual ambition. And yet, even as Jindal says the event is apolitical, he wrote an open invitation to the event on official state letterhead, and hosted 72 organizers for the event at the Governor’s mansion in December.

Perhaps most importantly, the Response in the United States is becoming more than a spiritual institution: It is a prelude to a presidential run. Five days after Rick Perry held a Response rally in August of 2011, he declared his candidacy for president. Neither Perry nor Jindal are evangelicals—Perry is a life-long Methodist and Jindal is Catholic—but for both, the Response event is a way to harness the spirituality of the conservative evangelical base for their own political ambitions. It is no small reward, either. Perry’s event drew some 30,000 people in Houston.

The Response may be the largest religious base Jindal is courting, but it is not the only one. After the Response, Jindal is headed to Naples to speak at the Legatus Summit, a annual conference for Catholic business leaders. Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York is speaking at the event, but Fox News’ Bret Baier and actor Gary Sinise withdrew their participation earlier this month due to controversy over the group’s opposition to gay marriage.

It is not surprising that Jindal would appeal to this conservative religious base. He is a Hindu convert and a Rhodes scholar biology major who supports creationism. He’s continually fought the courts and the Obama administration for his signature school voucher program that uses public dollars to pay for private and religious schooling. This week, he went after the U.S. House of Representatives for failing to pass an anti-abortion measure on the eve of the national March for Life. “It shouldn’t take a lot of political courage to stand up and say we are going to end late-term abortions in America,” Jindal told Fox News Thursday night.

Jindal has also been hammering radical Islam. During a 10-day economic and foreign policy trip to Europe, Jindal blasted so-called “no-go” zones, supposed communities in Europe where non-Muslims are not allowed and where sharia law runs rampant. Fox News later issued an apology for promoting the term, clarifying that no such zones exist. Jindal didn’t slow down. “Radical Islamists do not believe in freedom or common decency nor are they willing to accommodate them in any way and anywhere,” he said in a speech to the Henry Jackson Society in London. “We are fools to pretend otherwise. How many Muslims in this world agree with these radicals? I have no idea, I hope it is a small minority.” He added: “Let’s be honest here, Islam has a problem. If Islam does not support what is happening in the name of Islam, then they need to stand up and stop it.”

Jindal’s past history of blending of religious and political themes only makes it even more clear that the Response will not be strictly spiritual, despite what organizers say.

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