Storm to clobber U.S. Midwest with snow, wind and frigid temps

A jogger runs through the rain past the reflecting pool at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, U.S., February 7, 2018.

By Brendan O’Brien

MILWAUKEE (Reuters) – A storm is expected to clobber Chicago, Detroit and Milwaukee with heavy snow, gusty winds and freezing temperatures that will slow travel for millions of commuters on Thursday evening and Friday.

The storm system that stretches from western Montana across parts of Minnesota, Wisconsin and Illinois and east into southern Michigan will drop as much 12 inches (30 cm) of snow and produce 35 miles per hour (56 kph) winds, the National Weather Service said in several advisories.

“Periods of snow will cause primarily travel difficulties. Be prepared for snow covered roads and limited visibilities,” the service said in an advisory for southern Wisconsin.

Wind chill temperatures were expected to drop below 0 Fahrenheit (-18 C) in many areas across the region on Thursday night and into Friday morning.

United Airlines said on Twitter the storm was expected to impact operations this week and that travel waivers were in effect for areas affected by the snow.

Winter weather across the United States over the last several days has killed several people in accidents in the Midwest since Monday, including six in Iowa, two in Missouri and one in Montana, local media in those states reported.

(Editing by Matthew Mpoke Bigg)

Federal agents found fetuses in body broker’s warehouse

Arthur Rathburn is pictured at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, Michigan, U.S. in November 1988.

By John Shiffman and Brian Grow

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Federal agents discovered four preserved fetuses in the Detroit warehouse of a man who sold human body parts, confidential photographs reviewed by Reuters show.

The fetuses were found during a December 2013 raid of businessman Arthur Rathburn’s warehouse. The fetuses, which appear to have been in their second trimester, were submerged in a liquid that included human brain tissue.

Rathburn, a former body broker, is accused of defrauding customers by sending them diseased body parts. He has pleaded not guilty and his trial is set for January.

How Rathburn acquired the fetuses and what he intended to do with them is unclear. Rathburn’s lawyers did not respond to requests for comment, and neither the indictment nor other documents made public in his case mention the fetuses.

“This needs to be reviewed,” said U.S. Representative Marsha Blackburn, a Republican from Tennessee who recently chaired a special U.S. House committee on the use of fetal tissue.

Blackburn recoiled when a Reuters reporter showed her some of the photographs, taken by government officials involved in the raid.

In four of the photos, a crime scene investigator in a hazmat suit uses forceps to lift a different fetus from the brownish liquid. In three other photos, a marker that includes a government evidence identification number lies beside a fetus.

“The actions depicted in these photos are an insult to human dignity,” said U.S. Representative Bob Goodlatte, chairman of the House Judiciary Committee. A Republican from Virginia, Goodlatte said that if individuals “violate federal laws and traffic in body parts of unborn children for monetary gain,” they should be “held accountable.”

Blackburn said the discoveries in Rathburn’s warehouse raise questions about the practices of body brokers across America. Such brokers take cadavers donated to science, dismember them and sell them for parts, typically for use in medical research and education. The multimillion-dollar industry has been built largely on the poor, who donate their bodies in return for a free cremation of leftover body parts.

The buying and selling of cadavers and other body parts — with the exception of organs used in transplants — is legal and virtually unregulated in America. But trading in fetal tissue violates U.S. law.

In most states, including Michigan, public health authorities are not required to regularly inspect body broker facilities. As a result, it’s impossible to know whether body brokers who deal in adult donors are acquiring and profiting from fetuses.

Blackburn’s call for action came in response to a Reuters series that exposed abuses in the human body trade and what Blackburn called “lax oversight” and “lax enforcement” of the industry.

Photos from inside Rathburn’s warehouse offered a stark example of government failures to police the industry. They include images of rotting human heads, some floating face up in a plastic cooler. The Federal Bureau of Investigation, which has been investigating Rathburn and other body brokers, declined to comment.

Blackburn said she found other Reuters stories about the body trade disturbing.

As part of the news agency’s examination of the industry, for example, a Reuters reporter was able to purchase two human heads and a cervical spine from Restore Life USA, a broker based in Blackburn’s home state of Tennessee. The deals were struck after just a few emails, at a cost of $900 plus shipping.

“It is sickening” how easily Restore Life sold the parts to Reuters, Blackburn said.

Told of Blackburn’s concerns, Restore Life owner James Byrd said his company has “invited her to tour our facility and to review the policy and procedures we have in place.”

(Shiffman reported from Washington. Grow reported from Atlanta. Edited by Blake Morrison.)

U.S. judge halts deportation of Iraqis nationwide

FILE PHOTO: Protesters rally outside the federal court just before a hearing to consider a class-action lawsuit filed on behalf of Iraqi nationals facing deportation, in Detroit, Michigan, U.S., June 21, 2017. REUTERS/Rebecca Cook

By Steve Friess

DETROIT (Reuters) – A federal judge halted late on Monday the deportation of all Iraqi nationals detained during immigration sweeps across the United States this month until at least July 10, expanding a stay he imposed last week.

The stay had initially only protected 114 detainees from the Detroit area.

U.S. District Judge Mark Goldsmith sided with lawyers from the American Civil Liberties Union who filed an amended complaint on Saturday seeking to prevent Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) from deporting Iraqis from anywhere in the United States.

The ACLU argued those being deported could face persecution, torture, or death because many were Chaldean Catholics, Sunni Muslims, or Iraqi Kurds and that the groups were recognized as targets of ill-treatment in Iraq.

Goldsmith agreed with the ACLU on the grave consequences deportees may face, writing in his seven-page opinion and order that: “Such harm far outweighs any interest the Government may have in proceeding with the removals immediately.”

On Thursday, Goldsmith ordered a stay in the Michigan Iraqis’ deportation for at least two weeks while he decided whether he had jurisdiction over the merits of deporting immigrants who could face physical danger in their countries of origin.

He expanded his stay on Monday to the broader class of Iraqi nationals nationwide, saying it applies to the removal of all Iraqi nationals in the United States with final orders of removal who have been or will be detained by ICE.

There are 1,444 Iraqi nationals who have final deportation orders against them, although only 199 of them were detained as part of a nationwide sweep by immigration authorities, federal prosecutors said in court on Monday.

Those detained had convictions for serious crimes, including rape and kidnapping, ICE said.

Goldsmith also said his stays were designed to give detainees time to find legal representation to appeal against their deportation orders, and to give him time to weigh the question of his jurisdiction.

Daniel Lemisch, acting U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Michigan, called the opinion “highly extraordinary.”

“But it’s a very extraordinary circumstance because of the on-the-ground situation in Iraq,” Lemisch said by phone, referring to the danger faced by possible deportees.

ACLU attorney Lee Gelernt praised the ruling for saying that “the lives of these individuals should not depend on what part of the United States they reside and whether they could find a lawyer to file a federal court action.”

Goldsmith’s order came the same day the U.S. Supreme Court handed a victory to President Donald Trump by reviving parts of a travel ban on people from six Muslim-majority countries.

The roundup in Michigan followed Iraq’s agreement to accept deportees as part of a deal that removed the country from Trump’s revised temporary travel ban.

Some of those affected came to the United States as children and committed their crimes decades ago, but they had been allowed to stay because Iraq previously declined to issue travel documents for them.

That changed after the two governments came to the agreement in March.

(Reporting by Steve Friess in Detroit; Editing by Eric M. Johnson, Bill Trott and Paul Tait)

U.S. arrests nearly 200 Iraqis in deportation sweep

Chaldean-Americans protest against the seizure of family members Sunday by Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents during a rally outside the Mother of God Chaldean church in Southfield, Michigan, U.S., June 12, 2017. REUTERS/Rebecca Cook

DETROIT (Reuters) – U.S. immigration authorities have arrested and moved to deport 199 Iraqi immigrants, mostly from the Detroit area, in the last three weeks after Iraq agreed to accept deportees as part of a deal removing it from President Donald Trump’s travel ban, officials said on Wednesday.

In the Detroit area, 114 Iraqi nationals were arrested over the weekend, and 85 throughout the rest of the country over the past several weeks, Gillian Christensen, a U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement spokeswoman, said in a statement.

The actions came as part of the Trump administration’s push to increase immigration enforcement and make countries, which have resisted in the past, take back nationals ordered deported from the United States.

The crackdown on Iraqi immigrants followed the U.S. government’s decision to drop Iraq from a list of Muslim-majority nations targeted by a revised version of Trump’s temporary travel ban issued in March.

The overwhelming majority of those arrested had criminal convictions for crimes including murder, rape, assault, kidnapping, burglary, drug trafficking, weapons violations and other offenses, Christensen said.

As of April 17, 2017, there were 1,444 Iraqi nationals with final orders for removal, she said. Since the March 12 agreement with Iraq regarding deportees, eight Iraqi nationals have been removed to Iraq.

Dozens of Iraqi Chaldean Catholics in Detroit were among those targeted in the immigration sweeps, some of whom fear they will be killed if deported to their home country, immigration attorneys and family members said.

“It is very worrisome that ICE has signaled its intention to remove Chaldean Christians to Iraq where their safety not only cannot be guaranteed, but where they face persecution and death for their religious beliefs,” Martin Manna, president of the Chaldean Community Foundation, said in a statement on Wednesday.

Kurdish Iraqis also were picked up in Nashville, Tennessee, attorneys, activists and family members said.

At least some of those arrested came to the United States as children, got in trouble and already served their sentences, according to immigration attorneys and activists. Some have lived in the United States so long they no longer speak Arabic.

An Iraqi official previously said Iraqi diplomatic and consular missions would coordinate with U.S. authorities to issue travel documents for the deportees.

(Reporting by Ben Klayman; Editing by Tom Brown)

Flint water system improving, but still unstable

Michigan Governor Rick Snyder drinks some water as he testifies for Flint Michigan water hearing on Capitol in Washington

DETROIT (Reuters) – The drinking water in Flint, Michigan, where high lead levels led to a health crisis that drew national attention, is improving, but remains unstable, a top environmental official said Friday.

“The drinking water system is recovering,” Robert Kaplan, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s acting administrator for the region that includes Flint, told local and state officials meeting in the city to discuss the crisis.

“You’ve got a dramatic decrease in the soluble lead. What we’re seeing though is particulate lead, which indicates that the system is unstable,” he told the meeting by phone.

Under the direction of a state-appointed emergency manager, Flint switched water supplies to the Flint River from Detroit’s system in 2014 to save money. The state has been criticized for its initial poor handling of the issue.

The corrosive river water leached lead, a toxic substance that can damage the nervous system, from the city’s water pipes. Flint switched back to the Detroit system last October.

“Whenever we see a positive trend in Flint’s water quality, that’s good news, but we still have much work to do to get people the quality of water they need and deserve,” Michigan Governor Rick Snyder said in a statement on Friday.

Kaplan said while the addition of chemical phosphates to recoat the pipes to inhibit corrosion is working, the almost invisible lead particles remain a random and unpredictable problem.

Kaplan said water filters reliably deal with the lead, but the best approach would be for residents to vigorously flush their home water systems by turning on all faucets and spigots and running the water to clean the sediment out and rebuild the protective phosphate coating.

He said local and state officials need to have a simple message for residents in the city of 100,000 people to take that approach.

“If we don’t have an extremely simple message, as in free water, you will not be charged for the water that you use that is related to this flushing, I’m afraid we’re not able to get that lead washed out of the system,” he said.

The state previously approved $30 million to help Flint residents pay their water bills dating back to when the switch to the Flint River was made.

Kaplan said a full recovery of Flint’s water system will take time, adding experts would not provide a time table at this point.

(Reporting by Ben Klayman; Editing by Alistair Bell)

Satanic Statue Unveiled in Detroit

In what is being called the “largest public satanic ceremony in history”, a 8 1/2 foot tall satanic monument has been displayed in Detroit, Michigan.

The statue of Baphomet was unveiled at a ticketed special event before midnight on July 25th.  The crowd cheered at the unveiling chanting “hail satan.”  The statue features two children, one boy and one girl, looking up adoringly at the satanic creature.

About 100 protesters showed up to challenge the placement of the statue saying it was disrespectful to religions.

“Baphomet contains binary elements symbolizing a reconciliation of opposites, emblematic of the willingness to embrace, and even celebrate differences,” Jex Blackmore, who organized the unveiling, told TIME.  Blackmore admits his name is a pseudonym for “safety reasons.”

The statue was originally part of the Satanic Temple’s plan to place a satanic statue on the grounds of the Oklahoma State House grounds where a Ten Commandments monument was placed.  The group now plans to take the statue to Arkansas after the governor approved a Ten Commandments monument for that state’s Capitol grounds.

February Could Show Record Setting Cold

Meteorologists say that February 2015 could end up as one of the coldest months in Detroit history with an average temperature of just over 13 degrees.

“I’m doing some calculations but I think we are on track here to have the coldest month ever in Detroit, the way things are looking,” said AccuWeather’s Dean DeVore. “And it’s going to be brutally cold here today.”

“It’s like an open spigot from like Barrow, Alaska down to the Great Lakes. Meantime, they can’t buy a drop of rain on the west coast for the past month or so,” AccuWeather’s Dave Bowers added. “It’s been wicked. It really is quite a contrast. The western half of the country is having an extremely warm winter, and here it really is more like the Northwest Territories in our backyard.

“We’re running about almost 12 degrees below normal his month.”

Other cities across the U.S. have been setting records for cold temperatures.  Cleveland fell to -5 on Monday breaking a record set in 1873 and the first time since 1889 it was below zero on February 23rd.  The temperature hit -17 on Friday, shattering the previous low and was just 3 degrees short of the all time record for low temperature in the city.

Ann Arbor, Michigan hit -7 on Monday which broke the previous record for the date set in 1900.

Detroit Man Stabs Two People For Not Being Muslim

A Detroit man has been arrested after he stabbed two people at a bus stop who told him they were not Muslims.

Terrance Thomas approached a bus stop near Detroit on Saturday where a group was making small talk.  Thomas then asked the people if they were Muslims.  Two of them group said they were not Muslim.

Thomas then pulled out a knife and stabbed one victim five times and the other victim once in the hand.

Thomas fled the scene but was caught by police just a few minutes after his assault.  He had two knives and a package of marijuana.

Thomas is jailed on one million dollars bond facing charges of two counts to assault with intent to murder, once count of carrying a dangerous weapon and possession of a controlled substance.

The FBI announced they are investigating the attack as a hate crime.

Florist In Detroit Delivering Flowers By Drone

A federal judge’s ruling that the FAA does not have jurisdiction over drone aircraft is already rippling across the United States.  In Detroit, a florist has announced they will begin delivery using drone aircraft., the online unit of a Detroit area florist, originally began testing drone delivery just before Valentine’s Day before being ordered to stop by the FAA.

Federal administrative law judge Patrick Geraghty ruled last week that the FAA’s argument they control anything that flies through the air was so ridiculous that it means the agency could fine someone for throwing a paper airplane or using a balsa wood toy glider.

The government has been calling on the FAA to issue regulations regarding personal use of drones but the agency has been resisting for over three years.  Now, with the judge’s ruling, essentially it’s anything goes for personal drone users.

Berry Flowers said they would be testing mostly in the suburban Detroit area until they work the issues out of the drone delivery service before offering it city-wide.  The business also delivers flowers nationally through FedEx and other services, so nationwide delivery in the future is a possibility.

The court ruling doesn’t just benefit shop owners.  The court’s ruling would allow anyone to use drones to spy on neighbors, business competitors or strangers.  Drones could be flown outside someone’s bedroom windows and there would be no way to stop them.

Abortion Coverage May Be Banned In Michigan

A pro-life group in Michigan has submitted a petition to the Republican controlled legislature that would put restrictions on abortion coverage in insurance plans.

The new law would require women to purchase an additional rider to any insurance plan if they want to cover an abortion.

The “Abortion Insurance Opt-Out Act” could be passed by majority vote in the state legislature and does not require the signature of the governor. Governor Rick Snyder, a Republican who says he’s pro-life, said he is opposed to this particular measure.

The group had to obtain 58,088 valid signatures from state citizens to require action by lawmakers. The Detroit Free Press reported the group obtained at least 299,000 valid signatures.

If the legislature does not take action within 40 days of returning from a break, the matter will go to a vote on the November 2014 ballot.