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)

U.S. Supreme Court declines church’s challenge to Nebraska funeral picketing law

Trump adds five conservatives to list of possible Supreme Court picks

By Chris Kenning

CHICAGO (Reuters) – The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday left in place a Nebraska law that prohibits picketing near funerals after it was challenged by a Kansas church known for anti-gay protests.

Topeka-based Westboro Baptist Church had filed suit against the 2006 Nebraska measure prohibiting protests within 500 feet of a cemetery or church before and after a funeral.

The Supreme Court said it would not take up the church’s challenge to the state law.

Westboro members are known for protesting at military funerals, including soldiers killed in Iraq and Afghanistan, which they believe are result of God’s wrath over the United States’ tolerance of gay, lesbian and transgender people and adultery.

“We’re going to keep going,” Westboro lawyer Margie Phelps said in an interview with Reuters on Monday. “We’ve got to warn the nation.”

The church has protested at hundreds of funerals over the last decade, Phelps said. That has continued after the 2014 death of Fred Phelps, the pastor who led the vitriolic “God Hates Fags” anti-gay campaign across the United States.

Nebraska Attorney General Doug Peterson could not immediately be reached for comment.

The 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in August that the state law appropriately balanced free-speech rights and the privacy right of mourners to grieve without intrusions.

The Nebraska law had been challenged by Phelps’ sister Shirley Phelps-Roper, a Westboro member involved in picketing the October 2011 funeral of Caleb Nelson, a 26-year-old Navy SEAL from Omaha.

Protesters held signs with messages that said “no peace for the wicked” and “thank God for dead soldiers.”

The 8th Circuit upheld a similar ordinance in 2012 from the city of Manchester, Missouri, involving a 300-foot buffer. Phelps said many states have similar laws.

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 2011 that the church’s picketing at a private funeral and even hurtful protest messages were protected by the U.S. Constitution’s First Amendment.

 

 

(Reporting by Chris Kenning, Editing by Ben Klayman and Dan Grebler)

 

Pamper yourself at Morningside Salon, Massage and Chiropractic

Salon

By Kami Klein

There is nothing quite like taking some time to pamper yourself. Your well being brings out inner joy and feeling your best means you can give your best.  Morningside is so excited to offer an amazing spa experience at the Morningside Salon and Massage and bring your body and spirit into alignment at Morningside Chiropractic.   

Experience the bliss of a soothing shampoo and designer cut and style.  Need a new color to brighten and show off the real you?  Have a very special occasion that deserves a stunning new look?  How about a heavenly hair massage and delicious deep conditioning treatment?  Morningside Salon’s talented Amber Graham Hill our resident talented stylist wants you to feel as gorgeous as you are!

Unwind, rejuvenate and treat yourself to a massage from Heart and Hands massage specialist Laurie Matzke. Pick from one of our therapeutic, signature massages to reduce stress, support your immune system, relieve pain, improve circulation and increase your sense of balance and well being.  A relaxed and happy body reflects in everything you do, so indulge yourself a bit in Laurie’s caring hands.  

Dr. Ralph LeBlanc at Morningside Chiropractic has been the chiropractor for Lori and Jim Bakker since 2002.  Dr LeBlanc is all about a healthy lifestyle and believes in a completely drug free, non invasive approach to chiropractic health which has been shown to treat many conditions and heal the body naturally.  Dr. Ralph is CEO and founder of The Center of Wellness, LLC, a State of the Art Wellness Center, in beautiful Branson, Missouri. His expertise is invaluable to his patients and his loving approach to healing amazingly effective!  

For all you do for others, you deserve to feel like a million inside and out. Call 417-779-9399 and make an appointment today and put pampering yourself and caring for YOU to the top of your list!

   

Monsanto, BASF weed killers strain U.S. states with crop damage complaints

Monsanto's research farm is pictured near Carman, Manitoba, Canada on August 3, 2017.

By Tom Polansek

CHICAGO (Reuters) – U.S. farmers have overwhelmed state governments with thousands of complaints about crop damage linked to new versions of weed killers, threatening future sales by manufacturers Monsanto Co and BASF.

Monsanto is banking on weed killers using a chemical known as dicamba – and seeds engineered to resist it – to dominate soybean production in the United States, the world’s second-largest exporter.

The United States has faced a weed-killer crisis this year caused by the new formulations of dicamba-based herbicides, which farmers and weed experts say have harmed crops because they evaporate and drift away from where they are applied.

Monsanto and BASF say the herbicides are safe when properly applied. They need to convince regulators after the flood of complaints to state agriculture departments.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) last year approved use of the weed killers on dicamba-resistant crops during the summer growing season. Previously, farmers used dicamba to kill weeds before they planted seeds, and not while the crops were growing.

However, the EPA approved such use only until Nov. 9, 2018, because “extraordinary precautions” are needed to prevent dicamba products from tainting vulnerable crops, a spokesman told Reuters in a statement last week. The agency wanted to be able to step in if there were problems, he said.

Next year, the EPA will determine whether to extend its approval by reviewing damage complaints and consulting with state and industry experts. States are separately considering new restrictions on usage for 2018.

Major soybean-growing states, including Arkansas, Missouri and Illinois, each received roughly four years’ worth of complaints about possible pesticide damage to crops this year due to dicamba use, state regulators said.

Now agriculture officials face long backlogs of cases to investigate, which are driving up costs for lab tests and overtime. Several states had to reassign employees to handle the load.

“We don’t have the staff to be able to handle 400 investigations in a year plus do all the other required work,” said Paul Bailey, director of the Plant Industries division of the Missouri Department of Agriculture.

In Missouri, farmers filed about 310 complaints over suspected dicamba damage, on top of the roughly 80 complaints about pesticides the state receives in a typical year, he said.

Nationwide, states launched 2,708 investigations into dicamba-related plant injury by Oct. 15, according to data compiled by the University of Missouri.

States investigate such complaints to determine whether applicators followed the rules for using chemicals. Those found to have violated regulations can be fined.

Monsanto has said that U.S. farmers spraying this past summer failed to follow detailed instructions of up to 4,550 words printed on labels.

The companies will change usage instructions in hopes of avoiding a repeat of the past summer’s problems.

“With significant adoption and a lot of interest in this new technology, we recognize that many states have received a number of reports of potential off-target application of dicamba in 2017,” Monsanto spokeswoman Charla Lord said last month.

 

PHOTOGRAPHING DAMAGED SOYBEANS

State investigators try to visit fields within days after farmers report possible damage to take photos before signs of injury, such as cupped leaves on soybean plants hit by dicamba, disappear. They question farmers and the people who applied the herbicide, and often gather samples from plants to test.

In Arkansas, farmers filed about 985 complaints associated with dicamba, the most of any state. Investigators are probing about 1,200 total complaints involving pesticide use, which includes weed killers, said Terry Walker, director of the Arkansas State Plant Board.

Arkansas delayed inspections of animal feed and allowed overtime to handle the dicamba cases, which is not normal practice, Walker said. He was unable to provide a cost estimate for dealing with the complaints.

Among the farmers who reported damage was Reed Storey, who said he wanted to ensure state officials knew dicamba caused damage even when users follow the instructions.

“I’m calling strictly to let y’all know that we have an issue with this product,” Storey, who spoke last month, said he told Arkansas regulators.

Illinois received about 421 total pesticide complaints, the most since at least 1989, said Warren Goetsch, acting chief of the Bureau of Environmental Programs at the Illinois Department of Agriculture. That includes at least 245 complaints associated with dicamba, which could take until next year to finish investigating, he said.

“It’s frustrating I think for us that we’re as behind as we are,” Goetsch said.

 

MONSANTO’S BIG BET

Monsanto is betting on dicamba-tolerant soybeans to replace those that withstand glyphosate, an herbicide used for decades but which is becoming less effective as weeds develop resistance. The company aims for its dicamba-resistant seeds to account for half the U.S. soybeans planted by 2019.

Monsanto, which is in the process of being acquired by Bayer AG  for $63.5 billion, said it plans to open a call center to help customers use dicamba next year and is talking with states about the product.

Monsanto’s net sales increased $1.1 billion, or 8 percent, in fiscal year 2017 due partly to increased sales of its dicamba-resistant soybean seeds.

The company and BASF already face several lawsuits from farmers alleging damage to plants from dicamba used by neighbors.

 

ANALYZING PLANT SAMPLES

The EPA provides grants to states that help fund investigations into pesticide damage and this year offered 35 states extra assistance analyzing plant samples for dicamba, according to the agency.

Minnesota and Illinois turned to the EPA for help, with the latter saying the federal agency has better equipment to detect low levels of dicamba.

In Iowa, the state’s laboratory bureau received 515 samples to test this year, up 35 percent, as dicamba use helped drive up the total number of pesticide complaints to 270 from a typical range of 70 to 120, according to the state. Each test costs up to $9.

“We are really anxious to flip the page and look ahead to 2018 and try to figure out the things that can be done to improve the situation,” said Mike Naig, deputy secretary of the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship.

 

(Reporting by Tom Polansek; Editing by Jo Winterbottom and Matthew Lewis)

 

Stricter Missouri abortion rules take effect after legal fight

By Chris Kenning

(Reuters) – New abortion regulations took effect on Tuesday in Missouri that critics argue will make it more difficult for women to access the procedure.

A judge on Monday declined to block a requirement that physicians performing abortions inform their patients about abortion risks at least 72 hours before their procedure. Previously, a different provider could give that mandated information.

That means repeat doctor visits for women seeking abortions, some of whom must travel hundreds of miles to reach one of Missouri’s three clinics, said Bonyen Lee-Gilmore, a spokeswoman for Planned Parenthood Great Plains. There is also a shortage of abortion doctors, she said.

The organization had sued to stop the new regulations because of the provider requirement.

“This is about making it as difficult as possible to obtain an abortion,” Lee-Gilmore said in a phone interview on Tuesday. “Abortion access is chipped away one seemingly moderate restriction at a time.”

Missouri Attorney General Josh Hawley praised the law in a statement issued late on Monday, saying, “SB5 enacts sensible regulations that protect the health of women in Missouri and we will continue to vigorously defend these.”

The provider restriction was part of broader abortion regulations that went into effect on Monday after they were passed by Missouri lawmakers during a July special session called by Republican Governor Eric Greitens.

Among other things, the law gives the attorney general power to enforce abortion laws, requires annual surprise inspections of clinics and exempts pregnancy resource centers, which counsel against abortions, from a local St. Louis law banning employers from discriminating against those who have had an abortion. Critics of the St. Louis ordinance believed it could require the centers to hire workers who favor abortion rights.

The legislative session was called after a federal judge in April blocked requirements for clinics to meet standards for surgical centers and for doctors to have hospital privileges as unconstitutional barriers to access.

Since then, doctors in Missouri, formerly one of seven states down to only one clinic providing abortions, have begun offering them at three locations, in St. Louis, Columbia and Kansas City.

But the new regulation offsets the benefits of those new locations, Lee-Gilmore said.

U.S. state legislatures enacted 41 new abortion restrictions in the first half of 2017, according to the Guttmacher Institute, a reproductive health think tank that supports abortion rights.

(Reporting by Chris Kenning; editing by Patrick Enright and Tom Brown)

After protests, St. Louis mayor says address racism

Demonstrators continue to protest for a fourth day after the not guilty verdict in the murder trial of Jason Stockley, a former St. Louis police officer, charged with the 2011 shooting of Anthony Lamar Smith, who was black, in St. Louis, Missouri, U.S., September 18, 2017. REUTERS/Joshua Lott

By Brendan O’Brien

ST. LOUIS (Reuters) – The legacies of racism, not only the violent protests that gripped St. Louis after a white former police officer was acquitted of murdering a black man, must be addressed, the city’s mayor said on Tuesday.

Mayor Lyda Krewson said she had listened and read the reaction of residents since the controversial verdict on Friday and was ready to find ways to move the city forward.

“What we are seeing and feeling is not only about this case,” Krewson told reporters.

“What we have is a legacy of policies that have disproportionately impacted people along racial and economic lines,” she added. “This is institutional racism.”

The city has been working to expedite existing plans to increase equity as well as develop new approaches, including changing how police shootings are investigated and granting subpoena powers to a police civilian oversight board, and expanding jobs programs, Krewson said.

“We, here in St. Louis, are once again ground zero for the frustration and anger at our shared legacy of these disproportional outcomes,” she said. “The only option is to move forward.”

Krewson said town halls scheduled for Tuesday night and later were canceled. As she spoke, dozens of protesters chanted outside her office.

Some activists had planned to voice complaints about police tactics used during protests after a judge found former officer Jason Stockley, 36, not guilty of first-degree murder in the killing of Anthony Lamar Smith, 24.

Largely peaceful protests during the day have turned violent at night with some demonstrators carrying guns, bats and hammers, smashing windows and clashing with police. Police arrested 123 people on Sunday, when officers in riot gear used pepper spray on activists.

The clashes have evoked memories of riots following the 2014 shooting of a black teenager by a white officer in nearby Ferguson.

Protesters have cited anger over a police tactic known as “kettling,” in which officers form a square surrounding protesters to make arrests. Some caught inside police lines Sunday said officers used excessive force, according to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

St. Louis police are also investigating whether some of its officers chanted “Whose streets? Our streets,” appropriating a refrain used by the protesters that one civilian oversight official said could inflame tensions.

“I wish that wouldn’t have been said,” Krewson said.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Missouri asked the city in a Tuesday letter to preserve video evidence ahead of what it said was a likely lawsuit challenging police tactics.

Complaints of police misconduct were being reviewed, but intimidation tactics would not be tolerated, Krewson said. Police had generally shown “great restraint,” she said.

(Reporting by Chris Kenning in Chicago; Editing by Robin Pomeroy and Steve Orlofsky)

St. Louis mayor to meet with protesters after nights of violence

St. Louis mayor to meet with protesters after nights of violence

By Greg Bailey

ST. LOUIS (Reuters) – Activists in St. Louis plan to voice their concerns directly to the mayor on Tuesday over the acquittal of a white policeman who shot a black man to death, a verdict that sparked four nights of violent protest.

Mayor Lyda Krewson will speak with residents at a town hall meeting at a local high school, hoping to defuse tensions in a city where demonstrators have clashed with police and destroyed property.

“Let’s show up and hold Mayor Lyda Krewson accountable,” Resist – STL, an activist group, said on Facebook.

The town hall meeting comes four days after a judge found former police officer Jason Stockley, 36, not guilty of first-degree murder in the 2011 killing of Anthony Lamar Smith, 24.

Largely peaceful protests during the day have turned violent at night with some demonstrators carrying guns, bats and hammers, smashing windows, clashing with police and blocking traffic.

Police arrested 123 people on Sunday, when officers in riot gear used pepper spray on activists who defied orders to disperse following larger, peaceful protests. Several hundred people marched again on Monday night in a peaceful demonstration as on-and-off rain appeared to keep some at home.

St. Louis police are investigating whether some of its officers chanted “Whose streets? Our streets,” appropriating a refrain used by the protesters themselves in what one official said could inflame tensions.

A grainy video posted online showed a group of officers and the chant can be heard. A St. Louis Post-Dispatch photographer, David Carson, tweeted that he and others heard officers chant the phrase.

Nicolle Barton, executive director of the St. Louis police civilian oversight board, said: “Certainly we do not want that to be taking place.”

The clashes have evoked memories of riots following the 2014 shooting of a black teenager by a white officer in nearby Ferguson.

(Additional reporting by Brendan O’Brien in Milwawukee; Editing by Robin Pomeroy)

Police, protesters clash in St. Louis after ex-cop acquitted of murdering black man

Police, protesters clash in St. Louis after ex-cop acquitted of murdering black man

By Valerie Volcovici and Kenny Bahr

ST. LOUIS (Reuters) – Police fired tear gas and rubber bullets during clashes with protesters in St Louis early on Saturday after a white former policeman was acquitted of murdering a black suspect.

A peaceful rally over Friday’s not guilty verdict turned violent after police confronted a small group of demonstrators – three years after the shooting of another black suspect in the nearby suburb of Ferguson stirred nationwide anger and debate.

Officers fired tear gas as people broke windows at a library and two restaurants and threw bricks and water bottles at officers. Protesters also threw rocks and paint at the home of St. Louis Mayor Lyda Krewson, said Acting Police Commissioner Lawrence O’Toole.

Nine city officers and a state trooper were injured and at least 23 people were taken into custody, he said.

Former city policeman Jason Stockley, 36, was found not guilty of the first-degree murder of Anthony Lamar Smith, 24, shot to death on Dec. 20, 2011.

After the ruling, around 600 protesters marched from the courthouse through downtown St. Louis, chanting “No justice, no peace” and “Hey hey! Ho ho! These killer cops have got to go!” Some held “Black Lives Matter” signs.

“I’m sad, I’m hurt, I’m mad,” Reverend Clinton Stancil of the Wayman AME Church in St. Louis said by telephone. “We haven’t made any progress since Ferguson, that’s clear. Cops can still kill us with impunity.”

Men protest outside the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department after the not guilty verdict in the murder trial of Jason Stockley, a former St. Louis police officer, charged with the 2011 shooting of Anthony Lamar Smith, who was black, in St. Louis, Missouri, U.S., September 15, 2017. REUTERS/Whitney Curtis

Men protest outside the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department after the not guilty verdict in the murder trial of Jason Stockley, a former St. Louis police officer, charged with the 2011 shooting of Anthony Lamar Smith, who was black, in St. Louis, Missouri, U.S., September 15, 2017. REUTERS/Whitney Curtis

“NO PROGRESS SINCE FERGUSON”

Ferguson became the focal point of a national debate on race relations after white officer Darren Wilson shot dead black teenager Michael Brown on Aug. 9, 2014. Protests and clashes broke out after a grand jury cleared the officer, giving rise to the Black Lives Matter movement.

After Friday’s verdict, one group of demonstrators tried to climb onto Interstate 40 but was blocked by police. Another group blocked an intersection by sitting down in the street for six minutes of silence.

After most protesters drifted away, a smaller group of people police described as “agitators” lingered on the streets in an upscale neighborhood near the mayor’s house. The group taunted officers who arrived in riot gear by the busload.

“Reports of bricks thrown at police. That’s not protest. That’s a crime. We stand behind our officers. This violence won’t be tolerated,” Missouri Governor Eric Greitens said on Twitter.

Smith was shot five times in his car after trying to flee Stockley and his partner, following an alleged drug deal, authorities said.

Prosecutors said that during the pursuit, Stockley could be heard saying on an internal police car video he was going to kill Smith.

At Stockley’s direction, his partner, who was driving, slammed the police cruiser into Smith’s vehicle and they came to a stop. Stockley then approached Smith’s car and opened fire with his service weapon, court documents said.

The former policeman believed Smith was armed, defense attorneys said, and a gun was found in the car. But prosecutors argued Stockley planted the weapon and that the gun had only Stockley’s DNA on it.

Stockley’s attorney, Neil Bruntrager, said his client was relieved at the verdict. “It’s been a long road for him,” Bruntrager said.

St. Louis prosecutor Kimberly Gardner called on protesters to avoid violence.

“I understand the verdict has created anger and frustration for many in our community,” she told reporters at the courthouse.

Stockley waived his right to a jury trial, allowing the judge to decide. He left the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department in 2013 and was arrested last year.

Smith’s family settled a wrongful death lawsuit against the city for $900,000 in 2013, according to Al Watkins, an attorney for Smith’s fiancée, Christina Wilson.

(Additional reporting by Brendan O’Brien in Milwaukee, Suzannah Gonzales in Chicago, Chris Kenning in Louisville, Kentucky and Gina Cherelus in New York; Editing by Simon Cameron-Moore and Andrew Heavens)

Anthem cuts back Obamacare coverage in Missouri to 68 counties

FILE PHOTO: The office building of health insurer Anthem in seen in Los Angeles, California February 5, 2015. REUTERS/Gus Ruelas

NEW YORK (Reuters) – U.S. health insurer Anthem Inc said on Friday that it will no longer offer Obamacare plans in 17 counties in Missouri but will remain in the bulk of the state, covering 68 counties that would not otherwise have Obamacare coverage for their residents.

Health insurers are facing an upheaval in their businesses amid growing uncertainty about healthcare legislation under President Donald Trump, who seeks to follow through on his promise to dismantle former President Barack Obama’s signature healthcare law, formally known as the Affordable Care Act.

Insurers such as UnitedHealth Group Inc, Aetna Inc and Humana Inc have exited most of the states where they sold Obamacare plans, leaving hundreds of U.S. counties at risk of losing access to private health coverage in 2018.

But other insurers, including Centene Corp, have filled those gaps, expanding into counties that had lost their coverage options.

Every U.S. county is currently projected to have at least one insurer offering Obamacare individual coverage next year. Still, 1,476 counties could have only one insurer in 2018.

(Reporting by Michael Erman; Editing by Steve Orlofsky)