Iowa, Illinois investigating infections linked to McDonald’s salad

FILE PHOTO: The logo of a McDonald's Corp restaurant is seen in Los Angeles, California, U.S. October 24, 2017. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson

(Reuters) – The Iowa and Illinois health departments said on Thursday that they were investigating cyclospora infections linked to salads at McDonald Corp’s restaurants.

McDonald’s shares fell 1.4 percent after-hours on Thursday.

The Illinois Department of Public Health said it had seen about 90 cases, and the Iowa Department of Public Health said it had recorded 15 cases.

In about one-fourth of the Illinois cases people reported eating salads from McDonald’s in the days before they became ill.

McDonald’s, the world’s largest restaurant chain, said in a statement that it had been in contact with public health authorities in both states.

It said that it had voluntarily stopped selling salads at the approximately 3,000 affected U.S. restaurants until it could switch to another lettuce blend supplier.

“We are closely monitoring this situation and cooperating with state and federal public health authorities as they further investigate,” the company said.

The parasite, cyclospora cayetanensis, infects the small intestine, typically causing watery diarrhea and frequent, sometimes explosive bowel movements. It is spread by ingesting food or water contaminated with feces and not directly from one person to another.

Several outbreaks have occurred in the United States in the past several years, especially during the summer months, that had been linked to imported fresh produce including raspberries, basil, snow peas, and lettuce.

(Reporting by Nivedita Balu in Bengaluru and Alana Wise in New York; Editing by Maju Samuel)

Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds signs ‘Heartbeat Bill’ into law

Supporters of Planned Parenthood (L) rally next to anti-abortion activists outside a Planned Parenthood clinic in Detroit, Michigan, U.S. February 11, 2017. REUTERS/Rebecca Cook
Press Release from Faith2Action
Heartbeat Law–Most Protective Law in the Nation!
 
May 4, 2018 – For Immediate Release
Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds signed the state Heartbeat Bill into law today, legally protecting unborn babies in Iowa whose beating hearts can be detected.
“We thank Gov. Reynolds and the leaders in the Iowa State Senate and House who worked tirelessly to keep hearts beating,” said Janet Porter, President of Faith2Action, who authored the nation’s first Heartbeat Bills at the state and federal level.
“We call on Speaker Paul Ryan to follow Iowa’s lead and call an immediate floor vote on the federal Heartbeat Bill (H.R. 490), now with 171 co-sponsors–more than any pro-life bill in Congress,” declared Porter.
 
Former Majority Leader Tom DeLay testified for the Iowa Heartbeat Bill in committee and has been leading the team fighting for passage of the federal Heartbeat Bill in Washington, sponsored by Congressman Steve King, from Iowa.  “Leaving Congress without ending abortion is my biggest regret–a regret Speaker Ryan doesn’t have to have,” said DeLay.
 
“Speaker Ryan can call for a floor vote to end abortion for every baby whose heartbeat can be heard right now–there’s nothing stopping him,” stated DeLay.
DeLay also offered advice to the Speaker and the Republicans in Congress:  “Nothing will bring out the Republican base in the midterm elections more than keeping your pro-life promises by passing the federal Heartbeat Bill, H.R. 490.”  Leader Delay was fully exonerated from every trumped-up charge against him.
In the last two weeks, more than 300,000 faxes were sent to Speaker Ryan, leadership, and members of Congress calling for a vote of the federal Heartbeat Bill.  Porter added, “In addition to Congress, other states will soon be introducing and passing Heartbeat Bills.  It’s common sense–to ignore a fetal heartbeat is to deny science.” 

Iowa passes ‘fetal heartbeat’ abortion ban, most restrictive in U.S.

Opponents of a California law, requiring anti-abortion pregnancy centers to post signs notifying women of the availability of state-funded contraception and abortion, hold a rally in front of the U.S. Supreme Court in Washington, U.S., March 20, 2018. REUTERS/Andrew Chung

By Barbara Goldberg

(Reuters) – Iowa’s Republican-controlled legislature passed the most restrictive abortion ban in the United States on Wednesday, outlawing the procedure after a fetal heartbeat is detected, often at six weeks and before a woman realizes she is pregnant.

The Senate voted 29-17 to pass the House of Representatives-approved bill, according to the legislature’s online voting tallies. The bill now goes to Republican Governor Kim Reynolds, an abortion opponent, who has not said publicly whether she will sign it into law.

The legislation is aimed at triggering a challenge to Roe v. Wade, the U.S. Supreme Court’s 1973 landmark decision which established that women have a constitutional right to an abortion, activists on both sides of the issue said.

Abortion opponents aim to land abortion questions back in front of the nation’s top court, where they believe the 5-4 conservative majority could sharply curtail abortion access or ban it outright.

“We created an opportunity to take a run at Roe v. Wade – 100 percent,” said Republican state Senator Rick Bertrand of Sioux City, who said the legislation is designed to be “thrust into the court” that has become more conservative following President Donald Trump’s appointment of Justice Neil Gorsuch.

Spokeswoman Becca Lee of Planned Parenthood of the Heartland, which supports access to abortion, called it an “intentionally unconstitutional ban on 99 percent of safe, legal abortion, designed to challenge Roe v. Wade.”

“The bill weaponizes fetal heartbeat, which is by all accounts an arbitrary standard that bans abortion long before the point of fetal viability,” Lee said in an email to Reuters.

Mississippi’s Republican governor in March signed into law a bill banning abortion after 15 weeks with some exceptions, sparking an immediate court challenge by abortion rights advocates.

A similar court challenge is underway in Kentucky, which in April enacted a ban on a common abortion procedure from the 11th week of pregnancy.

The newest Iowa bill, which the state Senate passed early Wednesday after overnight wrangling by lawmakers, requires any woman seeking an abortion to undergo an abdominal ultrasound to screen for a fetal heartbeat. If one is detected, healthcare providers are barred from performing an abortion.

Among the few exceptions are if the woman was raped or a victim of incest and has reported that to authorities.

The bill would ban most abortions in the state and was passed in the final days of the Iowa legislative session.

(Reporting by Barbara Goldberg in New York; editing by Scott Malone and Jonathan Oatis)

Note from Editor:  Links to our shows with  Janet Porter and Congressman Tom DeLay.

Join the Fight to Save Babies 

Heartbeats, the miracle of Life 

U.S. top court rejects challenge to California gun waiting period

Firearms are shown for sale at the AO Sword gun store in El Cajon, California, January 5, 2016. REUTERS/Mike Blake

By Andrew Chung

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – In a blow to gun rights activists, the U.S. Supreme Court on Tuesday turned away a challenge to California’s 10-day waiting period for firearms purchases that is intended to guard against impulsive violence and suicides.

The court’s action underscored its continued reluctance to step into the national debate over gun control roiled by a series of mass shootings including one at a Florida school last week. One of the court’s most conservative justices, Clarence Thomas, dissented from the decision to reject the case and accused his colleagues of showing contempt toward constitutional protections for gun rights.

The gun rights groups and individual gun owners who challenged the law had argued that it violated their right to keep and bear arms under the U.S. Constitution’s Second Amendment. The challengers did not seek to invalidate California’s waiting period for everyone, just for people who already owned guns and passed a background check.

In his dissent, Thomas scolded his colleagues. “If a lower court treated another right so cavalierly, I have little doubt this court would intervene,” Thomas wrote. “But as evidenced by our continued inaction in this area, the Second Amendment is a disfavored right in this court.”

The Supreme Court has not taken up a major firearms case since issuing important gun rulings in 2008 and 2010.

The United States has among the most lenient gun control laws in the world. With the U.S. Congress deeply divided over gun control, it has fallen to states and localities to impose firearms restrictions. Democratic-governed California has some of the broadest firearms measures of any state.

A series of mass shootings including one in which a gunman killed 17 people at a Parkland, Florida high school on Feb. 14 have added to the long-simmering U.S. debate over gun control and the availability of firearms.

In another gun case, the high court on Tuesday also declined to take up a National Rifle Association challenge to California’s refusal to lower its fees on firearms sales and instead use a surplus generated by the fees to fund efforts to track down illegal weapons.

Thomas said he suspected that the Supreme Court would readily hear cases involving potentially unconstitutional waiting periods if they involved abortion, racist publications or police traffic stops.

“The right to keep and bear arms is apparently this court’s constitutional orphan. And the lower courts seem to have gotten the message,” Thomas added.

Lead plaintiff Jeff Silvester, the Calguns Foundation and its executive director Brandon Combs, and the Second Amendment Foundation in 2011 challenged the 10-day waiting period between the purchase of a firearm and its actual delivery to the buyer, saying it violated the Second Amendment for individuals who already lawfully own a firearm or are licensed to carry one.

The waiting period gives a gun buyer inclined to use it for an impulsive purpose a “cooling off” period before obtaining it, which has been shown in studies to reduce handgun suicides and homicides, the state said in a legal filing. The waiting period also gives officials time to run background checks and ensure that weapons being sold are not stolen or being purchased for someone prohibited from gun ownership, the state said.

The states of California, Hawaii, Rhode Island, Illinois, Minnesota, Florida, Iowa, Maryland and New Jersey as well as Washington, D.C., have waiting periods that vary in duration and type of firearm, according to the Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence gun control advocacy group.

The San Francisco-based 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld California’s law in 2016, reversing a federal trial court that had ruled it unconstitutional.

Last year, the Supreme Court left in place a California law that bars permits to carry a concealed gun in public places unless the applicant can show “good cause” for having it.

(Reporting by Andrew Chung; Editing by Will Dunham)

Killer Storm brings freezing rain and snow to U.S. Northeast

(Reuters) – A winter storm packing freezing rain and heavy snow was expected to sweep across much of the U.S. Northeast on Wednesday, snarling transportation, closing dozens of schools and threatening power outages.

The same storm system 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.

Much of the region from southern Indiana northeast through Maine was under either a winter storm watch or warning. Some 6 to 12 inches (15 to 30 cm) of snow and a 1/4 inch (.5 cm) of ice accumulation were in the forecast, the National Weather Service said.

“Travel will be dangerous and nearly impossible,” the service said, warning that ice may cause widespread power outages.

Dozens of school districts in the East Coast, including in Pittsburgh and Albany, New York canceled classes on Wednesday while Baltimore schools delayed the start of school for two hours. Federal agencies in Washington D.C. were also opening two hours later than normal.

About 800 flights within, into or out of the United States were canceled on Wednesday nationwide, according to the FlightAware tracking service.

(Reporting by Brendan O’Brien in Milwaukee; Editing by Frances Kerry)

Deadly winter storm delays travel in U.S. Midwest, Northeast

Weather conditions for winter storm 2-6-18 National Weather Service

(Reuters) – A winter storm will dump snow and freezing rain on the U.S. Midwest and the Northeast beginning on Tuesday after it caused several deaths as it snarled highways and spurred the cancellation of hundreds of flights at Chicago’s main airport.

The National Weather Service warned commuters in northern Texas, east through southern Illinois and Indiana, and New York and Massachusetts, to watch for icy road conditions, wind gusts and reduced visibility throughout the day and into Wednesday.

“The ice and snow will result in difficult travel conditions,” the NWS said in an advisory. “Motorists are strongly urged to slow down and allow plenty of time to reach their destinations.”

Winds of 40-miles an hour(65 kph) and as much as 4 inches (10 cm) of snow are expected across the affected regions, with parts of New York and Vermont getting as much as a foot of snow, the NWS said.

The storm was responsible for the death of six people on Monday in crashes throughout Iowa, the Des Moines Register reported.

Two people also died in southwest Missouri and more than 70 others were injured after icy roads caused a high number of crashes, the Springfield News-Leader reported.

At Chicago’s busy O’Hare International Airport, the storm caused the cancellation of more than 460 flights, according to the flight tracking website FlightAware.

(Reporting by Brendan O’Brien in Milwaukee; Editing by Bernadette Baum)

Deep freeze keeps grip on eastern United States; four die

Elena Barduniotis from Colorado waits in Times Square ahead of New Year's celebrations in Manhattan.

By Brendan O’Brien

MILWAUKEE (Reuters) – A record-shattering Arctic freeze kept its grip on much of the United States east of the Rocky Mountains on Tuesday but temperatures everywhere except the Northeast were expected to warm within 24 hours.

Many school districts shut their classrooms due to the cold snap, which claimed four lives over the long New Year’s weekend.

The National Weather Service issued wind chill warnings for Tuesday as dangerously low temperatures were due from eastern Montana across the Midwest into the Atlantic coast and the Northeast and down through the deep South.

School districts in Iowa, Massachusetts, Indiana, Ohio and North Carolina canceled or delayed the start of classes as bitterly cold temperatures, 20 degrees to 30 degrees Fahrenheit (11 to 17 degrees Celsius) below normal, were expected across the eastern half of the United States.

“Just the bitter cold which is just too dangerous to put kids out on the street waiting for a bus that may not come,” Herb Levine, superintendent of the Peabody Public Schools, north of Boston, told a local CBS affiliate television station.

The cold was blamed for the deaths of two men in separate incidents in Milwaukee, according to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. A homeless man was found dead on a porch in Charleston, West Virginia, while another man was found dead outside a church in Detroit and police said he may have froze to death, local news outlets reported.

Washington Mayor Muriel Bowser urged residents to call the city if they saw people outside.

“We want every resident to have shelter and warmth,” she said in a tweet.

Many places across the United States experienced record low temperatures over the last few days. Omaha, Nebraska, posted a low of minus 20F (minus 29C), breaking a 130-year-old record, and Aberdeen, South Dakota, shattered a record set in 1919 with a temperature of minus 32F (minus 36C).

The cold should ease across most of the country after Tuesday, but the northeastern section of the country will see a repeat of the frigid weather on Thursday or Friday as another arctic blast hits the area.

Private AccuWeather forecaster said the cold snap could combine with a storm brewing off the Bahamas to bring snow and high winds to much of the Eastern Seaboard as it heads north on Wednesday and Thursday.

(Reporting by Brendan O’Brien in Milwaukee; Editing by Raissa Kasolowsky and Jeffrey Benkoe)

Iowa pulls request to opt out of Obamacare requirements

Iowa pulls request to opt out of Obamacare requirements

By Susan Cornwell

(Reuters) – Iowa on Monday withdrew a request to waive some Obamacare rules to help shore up its struggling healthcare insurance market, marking a setback in efforts by Republican-governed states to sidestep requirements of the Obama-era law.

With open enrollment for the Affordable Care Act – better known as Obamacare – set to start in just over a week, the state announced it would no longer wait to hear if federal officials would approve its request aimed at cutting individual healthcare insurance premiums and widening coverage.

The withdrawal prompted a leading U.S. Senate Republican to urge Congress to approve a bipartisan fix to Obamacare, which President Donald Trump has vowed to scrap.

Iowa was viewed as a test case by some for other states that submitted similar, if far less-reaching, waivers and of how the Trump administration would respond to such requests.

Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds said the law had not been flexible enough to accommodate the state’s request.

“Ultimately, Obamacare is an inflexible law that Congress must repeal and replace,” the governor said in a statement, adding that premiums under Obamacare had increased by 110 percent for Iowans since 2013.

Iowa sought the waiver after its individual healthcare marketplace shrank to only one insurer for next year, Minnesota-based Medica.

Some of the state’s requests were similar to provisions included in Republican repeal and replace bills this year. For instance, the waiver sought to replace Obamacare’s income-based tax credits with flat age-based credits and eliminate insurer payments that Trump cut off earlier this month.

Senator Lamar Alexander, Republican of Tennessee, said the move by Iowa demonstrated the need for repairs to Obamacare that he and Democratic Senator Patty Murray have proposed aimed at stabilizing insurance markets. It would also provide states more flexibility in reshaping some parts of Obamacare.

Trump has sent mixed signals over whether he would support the bipartisan fix. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said on Sunday that he was willing to bring up the proposal for a vote but needed to know where Trump stood.

Alexander said the bipartisan repair proposal would allow the federal government to approve Iowa’s waiver.

Alexander told reporters that the Congressional Budget Office, a nonpartisan scorekeeper, would soon announce its analysis of the bipartisan repair legislation, possibly on Tuesday.

(Reporting by Susan Cornwell,; additional reporting by Yasmeen Abutaleb and Amanda Becker in Washington; Editing by Andrew Hay)

Planned Parenthood to close four Iowa clinics after cuts

FILE PHOTO - Iowa Governor Terry Branstad arrives to testify before a Senate Foreign Relations Committee confirmation hearing on his nomination to be U.S. ambassador to China at Capitol Hill in Washington D.C., U.S. on May 2, 2017. REUTERS/Carlos Barria/File Photo

By Chris Kenning

(Reuters) – Planned Parenthood said on Thursday it would shutter four of its 12 clinics in Iowa as a result of a measure backed by Republican Governor Terry Branstad that blocks public money for family planning services to abortion providers.

Health centers in Burlington, Keokuk and Sioux City will close on June 30 and one in Quad Cities soon after as a result of losing $2 million in funds under the new measure, said Susan Allen, a spokeswoman for Planned Parenthood of the Heartland. The four clinics served 14,676 patients in the last three years, she said, including many rural and poor women.

“It will be devastating,” Allen said.

The closures marked the latest fallout from a continuing push by Republicans, including President Donald Trump, to yank funding from Planned Parenthood. Many have long opposed the organization, some on religious grounds, because its healthcare services include abortions, although it receives no federal funding for abortions, as stipulated by federal law.

The Republican-controlled U.S. House of Representatives included such a defunding measure as part of the American Health Care Act, the bill aimed at replacing Obamacare.

Iowa’s Republican-led legislature agreed in its recent budget to discontinue a federal Medicaid family planning program and replace it with a state program that bars funding to organizations that provide abortions or maintain facilities where abortions are carried out. The move cost the state about $3 million.

Texas in 2011 made a similar move that has reduced funding. A state report in 2015 found that nearly 30,000 fewer women received birth control, cancer screenings and other care as a result.

A coalition of 35 Iowa groups that oppose abortion have previously argued that funding for family planning indirectly subsidizes abortions.

“The pro-life movement is making tremendous strides in changing the hearts and minds, to return to a culture that once again respects human life,” said Ben Hammes, a spokesman for Branstad, who said there were 2,400 doctors, nurses and clinics around the state for family planning that do not provide abortions.

Planned Parenthood of the Heartland said it will continue to operate eight clinics in Iowa. They provide services including cancer screenings, birth control, STD testing and annual checkups.

The group said in a tweet on Thursday that politicians driven more by personal beliefs than facts were hurting access to women’s health care.

“The devastation in Iowa is a sign of what could be next for the rest of the nation,” Danielle Wells, an official at Planned Parenthood Federation of America, said in an email.

(Reporting by Chris Kenning; Editing by Jonathan Oatis)

Iowa Supreme Court blocks portion of 20-week abortion ban

Iowa Governor Terry Branstad testifies before a Senate Foreign Relations Committee confirmation hearing on his nomination to be U.S. ambassador to China at Capitol Hill in Washington D.C., U.S. on May 2, 2017. REUTERS/Carlos Barria/File Photo

By Timothy Mclaughlin

(Reuters) – The Iowa Supreme Court on Friday granted an emergency temporary injunction halting a portion of a 20-week abortion ban that was signed into law by Republican Governor Terry Branstad just hours earlier.

The law, passed by Iowa’s Republican-controlled House and Senate last month, bans abortions once a pregnancy reaches 20 weeks and stipulates a three-day waiting period before women can undergo any abortion.

The law does not make exceptions for instances of rape or incest but does allow for abortions if the mother’s life or health is at risk.

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and Planned Parenthood, a group that provides family planning services, including abortions, challenged the waiting-period part of the legislation in court as well as the requirement for an additional clinical visit women must make before an abortion.

The state Supreme Court on Friday issued the injunction after it was denied Thursday by a district judge.

“We are pleased that the court granted the temporary injunction, ruling on the side of Iowa women who need access to, and have a constitutional right, to safe, legal abortion,” Suzanna de Baca, chief executive of Planned Parenthood of the Heartland said in a statement.

The state will have an opportunity to respond to the court’s decision on Monday.

“This is all part of the process and we’re confident that the stay will be lifted very shortly,” said Ben Hammes, a spokesman for the Republican governor.

Women in the United States have the right under the Constitution to end a pregnancy, but abortion opponents have pushed for tougher regulations, particularly in conservative states.

There are 24 states that impose prohibitions on abortions after a certain number of weeks, according to the Guttmacher Institute, which tracks reproductive policy.

Seventeen of these states ban abortion at about 20 weeks and after.

Iowa’s law, Hammes said after the signing, marked a “return to a culture that once again respects human life.”

In Tennessee, a bill similar to the Iowa measure was sent to the desk of that state’s Republican governor on Wednesday to possibly be signed into law.

(Reporting by Timothy Mclaughlin in Chicago; Editing by Jonathan Oatis)