Schools shut, flights canceled as storm sweeps U.S. Midwest, East Coast

A local resident removes snow from a car during a winter storm in Washington, U.S., February 20, 2019. REUTERS/Carlos Barria

(Reuters) – A winter storm swept across much of the U.S. Midwest and East Coast on Wednesday, hampering air travel and prompting officials to close federal offices in Washington and several large public school systems.

The National Weather Service warned the storm could make travel very difficult, with snow, sleet and freezing rain potentially causing downed branches and power outages.

The storm reached from northern Minnesota down through Missouri and east into the Mid-Atlantic region and could bring as much as 6 inches (15 cm) of snow along with sleet and freezing rain, the National Weather Service said in an advisory.

The storm forced the closing of federal agencies in Washington as well as schools in Philadelphia, Baltimore and Washington.

Hundreds of flights were delayed or canceled in and out of major airports in Washington, Philadelphia and Chicago, according to Flightaware.com. Airports told passengers on social media to check their airlines for delays and cancellations.

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

Midwest U.S. in brutal grip of colder-than-Antarctica deep freeze

A pedestrian stops to take a photo by Chicago River, as bitter cold phenomenon called the polar vortex has descended on much of the central and eastern United States, in Chicago, Illinois, U.S., January 29, 2019. REUTERS/Pinar Istek

By Suzannah Gonzales

CHICAGO (Reuters) – Frozen Arctic winds brought record-low temperatures across much of the U.S. Midwest on Wednesday, unnerving residents accustomed to brutal winters and keeping them huddled indoors as offices closed and even mail carriers halted their rounds.

Classes were canceled Wednesday and Thursday in many cities, including Chicago, home of the nation’s third-largest school system, and police warned of the risk of accidents on icy highways.

Man blows snow during a winter storm in Buffalo, New York, U.S., January 30, 2019. REUTERS/Lindsay Dedario

Man blows snow during a winter storm in Buffalo, New York, U.S., January 30, 2019. REUTERS/Lindsay Dedario

In a rare move, the U.S. Postal Service appeared to temporarily set aside its credo that “neither snow nor rain … nor gloom of night” would stop its work: it halted deliveries from parts of the Dakotas through Ohio.

Temperatures in parts of the Northern Plains and Great Lakes plunged to as low minus 42 Fahrenheit (minus 41 Celsius) in Park Rapids, Minnesota, and minus 31F in Fargo, North Dakota, according to the National Weather Service. The frigid winds were bound for the U.S. East Coast later on Wednesday into Thursday.

Andrew Orrison, a meteorologist with the service, said the some of the coldest wind chills were recorded in International Falls, Minnesota, at minus 55F (minus 48C). Even the South Pole in Antarctica was warmer, with an expected low of minus 24F (minus 31C) with wind chill.

The bitter cold was caused by a displacement of the polar vortex, a stream of air that normally spins around the stratosphere over the North Pole, but whose current was disrupted and was now pushing south.

An Illinois police department found a fictitious cause for the icy blast, posting on Facebook that its officers had arrested Elsa, the frosty character from the Disney movie “Frozen,” for bringing the arctic air to the Midwest.

Aftermath of an accident in Grand Rapids, Michigan, U.S., January 29, 2019 in this picture obtained from social media. Picture taken January 29, 2019. JASON COFFELT/via REUTERS

Aftermath of an accident in Grand Rapids, Michigan, U.S., January 29, 2019 in this picture obtained from social media. Picture taken January 29, 2019. JASON COFFELT/via REUTERS

The McLean Police Department shared a staged photo of officers putting a woman dressed in a blue princess gown in pink handcuffs and escorting her into a police car.

Officials opened warming centers across the region, and in Chicago, police stations were open to anyone seeking refuge from the cold. Five city buses were also deployed to serve as mobile warming centers for homeless people.

The Chicago Police Department said that at most, it could encourage people to get out of the cold.

“But we will never force someone,” police officer Michael Carroll said.

At least five deaths relating to cold weather have been reported since Saturday in Iowa, Indiana, Illinois, Wisconsin and Minnesota, local media reports said.

Hundreds of flights, more than half of those scheduled, were canceled on Wednesday out of Chicago O’Hare and Chicago Midway international airports, according to the flight tracking site FlightAware.

Train service Amtrak said it would cancel all trains in and out of Chicago on Wednesday.

Most federal government offices in Washington D.C. opened three hours late on Wednesday due to the frigid weather already impacting the area.

(Reporting by Suzannah Gonzales, additional reporting by Rich McKay in Atlanta, and Gina Cherelus and Jonathan Allen in New York; Editing by Scott Malone and Bernadette Baum)

Snowstorm, high winds, targets northern U.S. Plains, may stall spring planting

By Julie Ingwersen

CHICAGO (Reuters) – A blizzard is expected to bring high winds and 12 inches (30 cm) of snow or more to parts of South Dakota and Nebraska on Friday and Saturday, an agricultural meteorologist said on Thursday.

The snowfall, along with cold temperatures in the wake of the storm, could delay the planting of corn and spring wheat in the Dakotas and Minnesota into May.

Nebraska and Minnesota were the No. 3 and 4 corn producers last year in the United States, the world’s top supplier of the feed grain, and South Dakota was No. 6. For spring wheat, North Dakota and Minnesota are the top two U.S. growers.

“In addition to adding on to the snow pack in the northern Plains, it’s also a persistently cold pattern going forward,” said Joel Widenor, meteorologist with the Commodity Weather Group, adding, “It’s going to make it tough to dry out the soil.”

The storm should dump 6 to 12 inches (15 to 30 cm) of snow across parts of South Dakota, Widenor said. The National Weather Service projected 12 to 18 inches across northern Nebraska and posted blizzard warnings for both states.

“At this point, it seems like it’s going to be out into May before we get our first chance at some warming,” Widenor said.

He noted that in a typical year, farmers in the Dakotas, Minnesota and Nebraska by mid-May are at least halfway finished with seeding corn and spring wheat.

RAIN CHANCES IMPROVE FOR SOUTHERN PLAINS

Forecasting models indicated that another storm late next week could bring much-needed rain to the southern U.S. Plains winter wheat belt, although meteorologists were skeptical.

“The models definitely shifted wetter today versus where they have been the last couple days. But we are still very low confidence on that,” Widenor said.

The region’s hard red winter wheat has struggled with months of drought. The U.S. Department of Agriculture on Monday rated 30 percent of the overall U.S. winter wheat crop in good to excellent condition, compared with 32 percent the previous week and 53 percent a year ago.

Widenor said his firm’s current forecast called for about half of the Plains hard red winter wheat belt to receive 0.25 to 1 inch of rain from the storm arriving April 20, with the other half, including west Texas, western Oklahoma and southwest Kansas, missing out.

(Reporting by Julie Ingwersen; Editing by Bernadette Baum)

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)

Storm barrels through U.S. Midwest with snow and frigid temperatures

Satellite image from the National Weather Service. 2-9-18

By Brendan O’Brien and Suzannah Gonzales

MILWAUKEE, Wis./CHICAGO (Reuters) – A major winter storm barreled into Chicago and Milwaukee early on Friday, dumping heavy snow and dropping temperatures well below freezing as it forced schools to close and threatened to leave travel at a stand still across the Midwest.

The storm system stretches from western Montana across the Dakotas and parts of Minnesota, Wisconsin and Illinois, and reaches as far east as southern Michigan. The storm could drop up to 14 inches (36 cm) of snow in some areas, the National Weather Service said.

Chicago was anticipating six to 12 inches of snow early on Friday morning with more snow expected over the weekend, according to the service’s weather forecast.

“The city is ready for this,” Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel said during a news conference about the city’s preparedness on Thursday. “Make no mistake though, this is a heavy snow, heavier than we’ve seen in a number of winters.”

City officials announced school closures in Chicago, Detroit and Milwaukee because of the weather.

Wind chill temperatures were expected to drop below 0 Fahrenheit (-18 C) in many areas across the region, and officials warned of limited visibility on roads.

Chicago’s O’Hare and Midway international airports canceled more than 200 flights on Thursday before the storm hit, and several airlines were also anticipating delays or cancellations.

United Airlines said on Twitter that waivers were in effect for snow-hit areas this week allowing travelers to change flights without charges, and Delta Air Lines offered to rebook flights on Friday for 18 Midwest cities.

Winter weather across the United States this week killed several people in accidents in the Midwest, including six in Iowa, two in Missouri and one in Montana, local media in those states reported.

(Editing by Peter Graff)

Morningside welcomes Congresswoman Michele Bachmann to The Jim Bakker Show

Morningside welcomes Congresswoman Michelle Bachmann to The Jim Bakker Show

By Kami Klein

On Tuesday, December 12, at noon, The Jim Bakker Show will be taping a special interview with former Minnesota Congresswoman Michele Bachmann.  Currently Michele serves as the Executive Director of Skyline United Nations, a U.N. ministry seeking to bring a biblical perspective to the U.N.  As a much needed  voice for evangelical Christians standing with Israel, Congresswoman Bachmann will have much to tell on the President’s recent decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, and her observations on United Nations leaders.   

While speaking to the congregation of Skyline Church in San Diego California, Bachmann confirmed the challenges she will face as she attempts to shine God’s truth on the corruption now ingrained within this important international organization.  “We are taking this unbelievably audacious step of going to the U.N.,” Bachmann shared, “I don’t know of a darker, more deceived place on Earth than the U.N.

Because Bachmann admits she’s never had any love for the United Nations as an organization, she experienced a lot of soul searching and prayer before deciding to accept the position.  She has felt that policies that emanate from the global body, are mostly globalist and socialist in nature.

“Their goal has been from the very beginning the creation of a one-world order – not a one-world order under the umbrella of the Holy Spirit, but man’s attempt at a one-world order, that only brings about chaos, confusion, deception, delusion, pain. And that’s when, rather than cursing the darkness, Skyline Church is about to light a candle.”

We encourage you to be a part of this timely and informative interview with the former Congresswoman on Tuesday, December 12th at noon on Grace Street.  If you are unable to attend please be sure to watch when the show airs on your station or on Jimbakkershow.com/video/.  We hope to see you there!  

Sources:  WND article   One News Now article    Times of San Diego article 

Family of Australian woman fatally shot wants Minnesota cop charged

FILE PHOTO: Justine Damond, also known as Justine Ruszczyk, from Sydney, is seen in this 2015 photo released by Stephen Govel Photography in New York, U.S., on July 17, 2017. Stephen Govel/Stephen Govel Photography/Handout via REUTERS/File Photo

By Chris Kenning

(Reuters) – The family of an Australian woman who was fatally shot wants the Minneapolis policeman involved charged, their attorney said on Tuesday, the same day investigators sent the evidence collected to the local prosecutor.

State investigators did not release their findings in the July 15 shooting of Sydney native Justine Damond, 40, who died from a single gunshot fired by Officer Mohamed Noor. The policeman was in a patrol car with Officer Matthew Harrity.

Damond had called police about a possible sexual assault near her house and had approached the police after their arrival, authorities previously said. Damond was living in Minneapolis and engaged to be married.

The shooting sparked outrage in Minnesota as well as in Australia, where Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull called the incident “shocking” and “inexplicable.” Minneapolis’ police chief resigned after city officials said procedures had been violated during the incident and Damond “didn’t have to die.”

The attorney for Damond’s family, Bob Bennett, said her family believes the officer should be held accountable.

“They certainly believe charges are merited,” he said in a telephone interview.

The most likely charges may be second-degree manslaughter, which carries a sentence of up to 10 years, Bennett said.

Attorneys for the officers could not be reached. Noor previously expressed condolences to the Damond family in a statement, but declined to discuss the shooting.

Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman will review the case file to determine what, if any, charges might be brought after the findings were submitted Tuesday, according to a statement. A decision is expected by the end of the year, his office said.

Harrity told investigators he was startled by a loud sound near the patrol car shortly before Noor fired through the open driver’s-side window, striking Damond. Court documents said a woman slapped the back of the car before the shooting.

Noor was put on paid leave after the shooting. Neither officer had their body cameras activated, police have said.

Damond’s family has not yet filed a civil lawsuit, Bennett said. He is the same lawyer who reached a nearly $3 million settlement for the family of black motorist Philando Castile who was shot and killed by Minnesota police in July 2016 during a traffic stop.

Because of past criticism over a lack of transparency when grand juries consider possible charges in police shootings, Freeman plans to decide on charges himself, his spokesman said.

Freeman’s office said in a statement it might ask for additional investigation into the matter.

(Reporting by Chris Kenning; Editing by Jonathan Oatis)

Probe of fatal Minneapolis school blast focuses on repair work

Damage to the building is seen as emergency personnel work the scene of school building collapse at Minnehaha Academy in Minneapolis, Minnesota, U.S., August 2, 2017. REUTERS/Adam Bettcher

By Gina Cherelus

(Reuters) – Authorities in Minneapolis were investigating on Thursday whether contractors working at a Christian private school caused a gas explosion that leveled a building, killing two staff members and injuring nine other people.

“Various agencies will be on site this morning to pinpoint exactly how this happened,” the fire department’s assistant chief, Bryan Tyner, said on Thursday. “That investigation will include local, state and federal agencies.”

Minneapolis fire department officials told reporters on Wednesday there were early indications that a gas line was ruptured by contractors working on the campus.

The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), which investigates accidents involving pipelines, said on Thursday it had sent an emergency response team to the site and that its officials were expected to brief reporters later in the day.

The federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives has also sent agents and trained canines to join the investigation.

School receptionist Ruth Berg and custodian John Carlson were killed by the blast that tore through the Upper School of the Minnehaha Academy at about 10 a.m. local time on Wednesday, officials said.

“Please keep John’s family, Ruth’s family, those who were injured, and our school community, in your prayers,” the school said on Facebook.

The school described Carlson, 82, as its “biggest cheerleader.” He had graduated from Minnehaha in 1953. Berg, 47, was engaged to be married, local media reported.

One of the injured was in critical condition at a local hospital. He was named as Bryan Duffey, an assistant soccer coach at the school. One other person was listed as satisfactory, while seven were treated and released, the Hennepin County Medical Center said on Thursday.

“We pray for his healing and for the wisdom of the doctors and nurses caring for him at this time,” the school said in a statement on Thursday, referring to Duffey.

Minnehaha Academy was founded in 1913 and teaches more than 800 students from pre-kindergarten through 12th grade on two campuses, according to its website.

School was not in session on Wednesday due to the summer break. City fire officials said the situation would have been far worse if pupils were in class.

Hundreds of people crowded into a chapel for a prayer service at the academy on Wednesday night.

“We’re going to get through it,” said Minnehaha Academy President Donna Harris, who was injured in the explosion. “We trust God. He is going to do phenomenal work.”

(Reporting by Gina Cherelus in New York; Additional reporting by Brendan O’Brien in Milwaukee; Editing by Jeffrey Benkoe and Diane Craft)

Investigators look for answers in deadly Minneapolis school explosion

Investigators look for answers in deadly Minneapolis school explosion

(Reuters) – Federal and state authorities on Thursday investigated the cause of a gas explosion that ripped through a Christian private school in Minneapolis, killing two people and injured nine.

School receptionist Ruth Berg and staff member John Carlson were killed in the explosion that tore through the Upper School of the Minnehaha Academy at about 10 a.m. local time on Wednesday, the school said.

“Please keep John’s family, Ruth’s family, those who were injured, and our school community, in your prayers,” the school said on Facebook.

The school called Carlson, who graduated from the school in 1953, its “biggest cheerleader.” Carlson, 82, was a custodian and Berg, a 47-year-old receptionist, was engaged to be married, the Minneapolis Star-Tribune newspaper reported.

Local officials said it appeared that a ruptured gas line may have led to the explosion, caused by contractors working at the school, local media reported.

The academy said there had been a gas leak and explosion at its school.

The state fire marshal and local fire officials were combing through the rubble on Thursday to determine the exact cause of the explosion, Minneapolis Fire Chief John Fruetel said at a news conference on Wednesday.

“The investigators will continue their work and hopefully they will have some answers … in the coming days,” he said.

The federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives had agents on the scene, the agency said on Twitter.

According to its website, Minnehaha Academy was founded in 1913 and teaches more than 800 students from pre-kindergarten through 12th grade on two campuses.

School was not in session due to summer break.

“It would have been dramatically worse … we were pretty lucky in that sense,” Fruetel said.

Of the nine people injured, one was in critical condition and three were in satisfactory condition at Hennepin County Medical Center. Another five were released, the hospital said on Twitter.

Hundreds of people crowded into the campus chapel for a prayer service at the academy’s lower and middle campus on Wednesday night.

“We’re going to get through it,” said Minnehaha Academy President Donna Harris, who was injured in the explosion. “We trust God. He is going to do phenomenal work.”

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

Minneapolis orders stricter police body-camera rules after fatal shooting

Justine Damond, also known as Justine Ruszczyk, from Sydney, is seen in this 2015 photo released by Stephen Govel Photography in New York, U.S., on July 17, 2017. Stephen Govel/Stephen Govel Photography/Handout via REUTERS

By Chris Kenning

CHICAGO (Reuters) – Minneapolis officials set stricter police body camera rules on Wednesday, more than a week after officers failed to activate cameras during the fatal police shooting of an Australian woman.

Mayor Betsy Hodges and acting Police Chief Medaria Arradondo said the new policy will require officers to turn on cameras anytime they are dispatched to a call or undertake any self-initiated activity. The new policy takes effect on Saturday.

“What good is a camera if it is not being used when it may be needed the most?” said Arradondo, who acknowledged that some officers were not using the cameras frequently enough.

Justine Damond was shot shortly before midnight on July 15 by an officer responding to an emergency call she had placed about a possible assault in her residential neighborhood. The shooting sparked outrage in Australia and Minnesota.

Authorities said officer Mohamed Noor shot the 40-year-old woman through the window as she approached his patrol car. Neither his nor his partner’s body camera were on, nor was dashboard camera activated.

The incident, still under investigation, led Hodges to request the resignation of the city’s police chief.

Minneapolis rolled out cameras late last year with use guidelines calling for officers to activate them “when safe” in a variety of situations including traffic stops, emergency responses, vehicle pursuits, searches and before any use of force.

Arradondo said supervisors were being trained to audit the use of the cameras.

“Many of our officers are using our cameras a lot,” he said. But some officers, he said, are failing to use them enough.

The new policy will still include some exceptions, but will reduce the amount of discretion officers have in using them, officials said.

The technology has been adopted by police departments across the country, increasing sharply after the 2014 police shooting of a teenager in Ferguson, Missouri, sparked demonstrations over police treatment of minorities.

At least 14 people were killed in the United States by officers wearing body cams that were either not turned on or inoperative since 2014, the American Civil Liberties Union said in December. Even so, that was a tiny fraction of police-involved shootings.

Jim Pasco, a senior adviser with the Fraternal Order of Police, said recently that noncompliance among police was not widespread nationally. A Pew Research Center report earlier this year found 66 percent of police supported the use of body cameras.

(Reporting by Chris Kenning; Editing by Matthew Lewis)