Storm punishes swath of U.S. with snow, ice and freezing rain

A winter storm that contributed to at least five deaths in the Midwest pummeled the mid-Atlantic region for a second day Sunday, bringing with it an icy mix that knocked out power, cancelled flights and contributed to hundreds of car accidents.

Virginia State Police said the driver of a military surplus vehicle was killed late Saturday after he lost control on Interstate 81 because of slick road conditions.

Police said Ronald W. Harris, 73, of Gainesville, Georgia, died after his vehicle was struck by two tractor-trailers. The two tractor-trailer drivers were taken to a hospital for injuries that were not life-threatening. The state medical examiner determined Sunday that Harris’ death was storm-related, police said.

Virginia State Police said they responded to more than 300 traffic crashes and helped nearly 200 disabled vehicles in Virginia from midnight to late Sunday afternoon.

The storm knocked out power to nearly 200,000 people in Virginia and North Carolina at its height Sunday, according to PowerOutage.us.

Judge blocks Trump birth control coverage rules in 13 states

OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) — A U.S. judge in California on Sunday blocked Trump administration rules, which would allow more employers to opt out of providing women with no-cost birth control, from taking effect in 13 states and Washington, D.C.

Judge Haywood Gilliam granted a request for a preliminary injunction by California, 12 other states and Washington, D.C. The plaintiffs sought to prevent the rules from taking effect as scheduled on Monday while a lawsuit against them moved forward.

But Gilliam limited the scope of the ruling to the plaintiffs, rejecting their request that he block the rules nationwide.

The changes would allow more employers, including publicly traded companies, to opt out of providing no-cost contraceptive coverage to women by claiming religious objections. Some private employers could also object on moral grounds.

California and the other states argue that women would be forced to turn to state-funded programs for birth control and experience unintended pregnancies.

Trump’s weekend: new Russia questions, shutdown irritants

WASHINGTON (AP) — It wasn’t the weekend that President Donald Trump wanted: largely alone at the White House, irked by a pair of startling Russia headlines and baffled that he’s not getting more credit for staying put during the partial government shutdown.

Trump surprised his aides by deciding, with just a few hours’ notice, to call in to Jeanine Pirro’s show on Fox News on Saturday night to push back against coverage of his presidency on multiple fronts, particularly published reports about his approach toward Russia.

Even then, the president avoided directly answering when Pirro asked whether he currently is or has ever worked for Russia. The question came after The New York Times reported that law enforcement officials began investigating, in 2017, whether Trump had been working on behalf of Russia against U.S. interests. The newspaper said the investigation came after the president’s firing of FBI Director James Comey.

“I think it’s the most insulting thing I’ve ever been asked,” Trump told Pirro, a personal friend. “I think it’s the most insulting article I’ve ever had written, and if you read the article you’ll see that they found absolutely nothing.”

Trump went on to assert that no president has taken a harder stance against Russia than he has.

Man who killed officer said he was hit by ultrasonic waves

DAVIS, Calif. (AP) — The man who shot and killed a rookie California police officer left a letter on the bed in the home where he lived claiming police bombarded him with ultrasonic waves, officials said.

Police in the college town of Davis near Sacramento on Saturday made public the one-paragraph letter they said was written by Kevin Douglas Limbaugh, 48. He killed himself Thursday after fatally shooting Officer Natalie Corona.

Police spokesman Lt. Paul Doroshov said the paper was found face up on the gunman’s bed.

“The Davis Police department has been hitting me with ultra sonic (sic) waves meant to keep dogs from barking,” the letter said. “I notified the press, internal affairs, and even the FBI about it. I am highly sensitive to its affect (sic) on my inner ear. I did my best to appease them, but they have continued for years and I can’t live this way anymore.”

The handwritten note was signed “Citizen Kevin Limbaugh.” Also recovered as evidence from the man’s home were two unregistered guns.

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Saints rally past Eagles 20-14, will host NFC title game

NEW ORLEANS (AP) — When the New Orleans Saints finally found their rhythm, they marched one step closer to the Super Bowl.

Using a dominant ball-control offense and a few gambles that paid off, the Saints got two touchdown passes from Drew Brees and two interceptions from Marcus Lattimore in a 20-14 victory over the Philadelphia Eagles.

Brees took the Saints on scoring drives of 92, 79 and 67 yards after falling behind 14-0. Lattimore clinched it when Nick Foles’ pass from the Saints 27 deflected off usually sure-handed receiver Alshon Jeffery with about two minutes remaining. A couple dozen Saints players surged off the sideline toward the end zone in celebration, while Jeffery fell face-first to the turf in agony.

“We were real calm and poised and we knew we were going to get things done,” Brees said.

New Orleans (14-3) will host the NFC title game next week against the Rams (13-4). Los Angeles, which fell 45-35 at the Superdome in November, will try again next week, with the winner going to the Super Bowl. The Saints’ win finished off a sweep of the divisional round by teams coming off byes.

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Industry wary of alternatives tries to protect a word: meat

LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) — More than four months after Missouri became the first U.S. state to regulate the term “meat” on product labels, Nebraska’s powerful farm groups are pushing for similar protection from veggie burgers, tofu dogs and other items that look and taste like real meat.

Nebraska lawmakers will consider a bill this year defining meat as “any edible portion of any livestock or poultry, carcass, or part thereof” and excluding “lab-grown or insect or plant-based food products.” It would make it a crime to advertise or sell something “as meat that is not derived from poultry or livestock.”

Similar measures aimed at meat alternatives are pending in Tennessee, Virginia and Wyoming. They come amid a debate over what to call products that are being developed using the emerging science of meat grown by culturing cells in a lab. Supporters of the science are embracing the term “clean meat” — language the conventional meat industry strongly opposes.

The issue strikes a particularly strong chord in Nebraska, one of the nation’s top states for livestock production, where cars roll down the interstate with “Beef State” license plates and the governor each year proclaims May as “Beef Month.”

Farm groups have found an unusual ally in state Sen. Carol Blood, a city-dwelling vegetarian from the Omaha suburb of Bellevue. Blood, who grew up on a farm, said she introduced the measure because agriculture is Nebraska’s largest industry and needs to be protected for the good of the whole state.

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DNA of wolf declared extinct in wild lives on in Texas pack

DALLAS (AP) — Researchers say a pack of wild canines found frolicking near the beaches of the Texas Gulf Coast carries a substantial amount of red wolf genes, a surprising discovery because the animal was declared extinct in the wild nearly 40 years ago.

The finding has led wildlife biologists and others to develop a new understanding that the red wolf DNA is remarkably resilient after decades of human hunting, loss of habitat and other factors had led the animal to near decimation.

“Overall, it’s incredibly rare to rediscover animals in a region where they were thought to be extinct and it’s even more exciting to show that a piece of an endangered genome has been preserved in the wild,” said Elizabeth Heppenheimer, a Princeton University biologist involved in the research on the pack found on Galveston Island in Texas. The work of the Princeton team was published in the scientific journal Genes.

The genetic analysis found that the Galveston canines appear to be a hybrid of red wolf and coyote, but Heppenheimer cautions that without additional testing, it’s difficult to label the animal.

Ron Sutherland, a North Carolina-based conservation scientist with the Wildlands Network, said it’s exciting to have found “this unique and fascinating medium-sized wolf.” The survival of the red wolf genes “without much help from us for the last 40 years is wonderful news,” said Sutherland, who was not involved in the Princeton study.

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