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'POLAR VORTEX' PUSHES SUBZERO TEMPS INTO MIDWEST

Monday, 06 January 2014 07:29 Published in National News

CHICAGO (AP) — A whirlpool of frigid, dense air known as a "polar vortex" descended Monday into much of the U.S., pummeling parts of the country with a dangerous cold that could break decades-old records with wind chill warnings stretching from Montana to Alabama.

For a big chunk of the Midwest, the subzero temperatures were moving in behind another winter wallop: more than a foot of snow and high winds that made traveling treacherous. Officials closed schools in cities including Chicago, St. Louis and Milwaukee and warned residents to stay indoors and avoid the frigid cold altogether.

The forecast is extreme: 32 below zero in Fargo, N.D.; minus 21 in Madison, Wis.; and 15 below zero in Minneapolis, Indianapolis and Chicago. Wind chills — what it feels like outside when high winds are factored into the temperature — could drop into the minus 50s and 60s.

"It's just a dangerous cold," said National Weather Service meteorologist Butch Dye in Missouri.

It hasn't been this cold for almost two decades in many parts of the country. Frostbite and hypothermia can set in quickly at 15 to 30 below zero.

Between a heater that barely works and the drafty windows that invite the cold air inside his home, Jeffery Davis decided he'd be better off sitting in a doughnut shop for three hours Monday until it was time to go to work in downtown Chicago.

So he threw on two pairs of pants, two t-shirts, "at least three jackets," two hats, a pair of gloves, the "thickest socks you'd probably ever find" and boots, and trudged to the train stop in his South Side neighborhood that took him to within a few blocks of the library where he works.

"I never remember it ever being this cold," said Davis, 51. "I'm flabbergasted."

One after another, people came into the shop, some to buy coffee, others, like Davis, to just sit and wait.

Giovannni Lucero, a 29-year-old painter, said he was prepared for the storm. To keep his pipes from freezing, he'd left the faucet running and opened the kitchen and bathroom cabinet doors to let the warm air in his house reach the pipes.

"We stocked up yesterday on groceries because you never know," Lucero said.

And he was reminded on the way to work that he'd make the right decision to buy a four-wheel drive truck. "There were accidents everywhere because of the ice," he said.

Roads were treacherous across the region. Indianapolis Mayor Greg Ballard upgraded the city's travel emergency level to "red," making it illegal for anyone to drive except for emergencies or seeking shelter. The last time the city issued such a travel warning was during a blizzard in 1978.

National Weather Service meteorologist Philip Schumacher urged motorists in the Dakotas — where wind chills were as low as the minus 50s — to carry winter survival kits and a charged cellphone in case they become stranded.

Elnur Toktombetov, a Chicago taxi driver, woke up at 2:30 a.m. Monday anticipating a busy day. By 3:25 a.m. he was on the road, armed with hot tea and doughnuts. An hour into his shift, his Toyota's windows were still coated with ice on the inside.

"People are really not comfortable with this weather," Toktombetov said. "They're really happy to catch the cab. And I notice they really tip well."

For several Midwestern states, the bitter cold was adding to problems caused by a weekend snow storm. The National Weather Service said the snowfall at Chicago's O'Hare International Airport totaled more than 11 inches — the most since the Feb. 2, 2011, storm that shut down the city's famed Lake Shore Drive.

Police in suburban Detroit said heavy snow was believed to have caused a roof to collapse at an empty building in Lake Orion on Sunday evening. No one was hurt. More than 16 inches of snow fell on nearby Flint, Mich.

Missouri transportation officials said it was too cold for rock salt to be effective, and several Illinois roadways were closed because of drifting snow.

More than 1,000 flights were canceled Sunday at airports throughout the Midwest including Chicago, Indianapolis and St. Louis.

Many cities came to a virtual standstill. In St. Louis, where more than 10 inches of snow fell, the Gateway Arch, St. Louis Art Museum and St. Louis Zoo were part of the seemingly endless list of things closed. Shopping malls and movie theaters closed, too. Even Hidden Valley Ski Resort, the region's only ski area, shut down.

School was called off Monday for the entire state of Minnesota, as well as cities and districts in Wisconsin, Illinois, Indiana, Ohio and Iowa, among others. Chicago Public School officials reversed an earlier decision to keep schools open, announcing late in the day Sunday that classes would be canceled Monday.

Government offices and courts in several states closed Monday. In Indiana, the General Assembly postponed the opening day of its 2014 session, and the state appellate courts, including the Indiana Supreme Court, said they would be closed.

More than 40,000 homes and businesses in Indiana, 16,000 in Illinois and 2,000 in Missouri were without power early Monday.

Ray Radlich was among the volunteers at New Life Evangelistic Center, a St. Louis homeless shelter, who braved the cold to search for the homeless and get them to shelters.

Among those Radlich and his team brought in Sunday was 55-year-old Garcia Salvaje, who has been without a home since a fire at his apartment last week. Salvaje, a veteran, had surgery three months ago for a spinal problem. The cold makes the pain from his still-healing back intense.

"I get all achy and pained all the way up my feet, to my legs, up my spine," Salvaje said.

Southern states were bracing for possible record temperatures, too, with single-digit highs expected Tuesday in Georgia and Alabama.

Temperatures plunged into the 20s early Monday in north Georgia, the frigid start of dangerously cold temperatures for the first part of the week. The Georgia Department of Transportation said its crews were prepared to respond to reports of black ice in north Georgia.

Temperatures were expected to dip into the 30s in parts of Florida on Tuesday. Though Florida Citrus Mutual spokesman Andrew Meadows said it must be at 28 degrees or lower four hours straight for fruit to freeze badly, fruits and vegetables were a concern in other parts of the South.

With two freezing nights ahead, Louisiana citrus farmers could lose any fruit they cannot pick in time.

In Plaquemines Parish, south of New Orleans, Ben Becnel Jr. estimated that Ben & Ben Becnel Inc. had about 5,000 bushels of fruit on the trees, mostly navel oranges and the sweet, thin-skinned mandarin oranges called satsumas.

"We're scrambling right now," he said.

___

Associated Press writers Julie Smyth in Columbus, Ohio; Tom Coyne in Indianapolis; Jim Salter in St. Louis; Brett Barrouquere in Louisville, Ky.; Verena Dobnik in New York City; David N. Goodman in Berkeley, Mich.; Ashley M. Heher and Don Babwin in Chicago; and Christine Amario in Miami contributed to this report.

GIRL DECLARED BRAIN DEAD MOVED FROM HOSPITAL

Monday, 06 January 2014 06:59 Published in Health & Fitness

OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) -- Acting with a court order, the family of a 13-year-old California girl declared brain dead after a tonsillectomy has had her taken from a California hospital to be cared for elsewhere, the family's attorney says.

Jahi McMath was moved by a critical care team while attached to a ventilator but without a feeding tube, Christopher Dolan told The Associated Press.

She left from Children's Hospital of Oakland in a private ambulance shortly before 8 p.m. Sunday, Dolan said. Her destination was not immediately disclosed.

"It was a very tense situation," said Dolan. "Everybody played by the rules."

David Durand, the hospital's Chief of Pediatrics, said the girl was released to the coroner. The coroner then released her into the custody of her mother, Nailah Winkfield, as per court order, Durand said in an email.

On Friday Alameda County Superior Court Judge Evelio Grillo said Jahi could be transferred under an agreement with Children's Hospital and the girl's mother will be held accountable for developments that could include Jahi going into cardiac arrest.

The Alameda County coroner's office issued a death certificate for the girl Friday but said the document is incomplete because no cause of death has been determined pending an autopsy.

"They may have issued one but we don't have it. We don't think she's dead," Dolan said. "We got all the necessary legal paperwork in order to get Jahi out of there." He said the deal to move the girl came together Sunday.

A court injunction prohibiting Children's Hospital from removing the ventilator that has kept Jahi's heart pumping since her Dec. 9 surgery expires at 5 p.m. Tuesday.

Dolan wouldn't specify where the girl was taken but he said "they are going to care for her, respect her and love her. And they're going to call her Jahi, not `the body.'"

He told reporters at his office in San Francisco late Sunday that the girl will be getting a feeding tube before she is transferred to a permanent facility.

Dolan asked for privacy for the caregivers because the issue has raised such strong emotions.

"It's brought out the best in people and the worst in people," he said. "We've had people make threats from around the country. It's sad people act that way, so for Jahi's safety and for those around her, we will not be saying where she went or where she is."

The girl's uncle, Omari Seeley, told reporters that "we're very grateful. We're very proud. We want to thank everyone who supported us, everyone who stood in our corner, everyone who prayed for us, everyone who donated to make this possible. Without you guys, none of this would be possible."

After spending weeks in a very public and tense fight with the hospital, Jahi's family does not plan to disclose any more about their plans for her continued care until she is resettled, her uncle, Omari Sealey, told reporters on Friday.

The hospital has argued since before Christmas that Jahi's brain death means she is legally dead and she should be disconnected from the ventilator. It also has refused to fit her with a feeding tube or a breathing tube that would help stabilize her during a move, saying it was unethical to perform medical procedures on a dead person.

Hospital spokesman Sam Singer said officials were not informed where the girl was being taken.

"We hope that the family finds peace in this very, very tragic story," he said.

Winkfield, refusing to believe her daughter is dead as long as her heart is beating, has gone to court to stop the machine from being disconnected. She has wanted to transfer Jahi to another facility and hoped to force Children's Hospital either to insert the tubes or to allow an outside doctor to do the procedures.

Grillo on Friday rejected the family's move to have the hospital insert the tubes, noting the girl could be moved with the ventilator and intravenous fluid lines she has now. He also refused to compel the hospital to permit an outside doctor perform the procedures on its premises.

Dolan said Friday the family has located an unaffiliated physician to put in the tubes and that an outpatient clinic in New York that treats people with traumatic brain injures has expressed willingness to care for Jahi.

Jahi went into cardiac arrest while recovering from surgery to remove her tonsils, adenoids and uvula along with bony structures from her nose and throat and palate tissue. Three doctors have declared the girl brain dead based on exams and tests showing no blood flow or electrical activity in either her cerebrum or the brain stem that controls breathing.

Multiple outside doctors and bioethicists observing the case have confirmed that a patient in that condition meets the legal criteria for death and has no chance of recovering.

The judge earlier this week ordered Children's Hospital to keep Jahi on the ventilator until Jan. 7 at 5 p.m. He said Friday that he would dissolve the injunction as soon as Winkfield assumes custody of her daughter's body.

© 2014 THE ASSOCIATED PRESS. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. THIS MATERIAL MAY NOT BE PUBLISHED, BROADCAST, REWRITTEN OR REDISTRIBUTED. Learn more about our PRIVACY POLICY and TERMS OF USE.

BRAIN SAMPLES STOLEN FROM INDIANA MEDICAL MUSEUM

Monday, 06 January 2014 06:56 Published in Health & Fitness

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) -- A man who allegedly stole human brain samples from a medical history museum was arrested after a California man who bought some of the tissue online alerted authorities.

David Charles, 21, was arrested Dec. 16 after investigators were tipped off by a San Diego man who became suspicious about six jars of brain tissue he'd bought on eBay for $600.

Charles faces theft and other charges. It was not immediately clear whether he has an attorney.

Marion County court documents allege Charles broke into the Indiana Medical History Museum several times over the past year and stole jars of preserved human tissues, including brain samples, from long-dead psychiatric patients.

The museum is on the grounds of a former state psychiatric hospital, Central State Hospital, which closed in 1994. The museum's director said the tissues are from autopsies spanning from roughly the 1890s to the 1940s.

"A museum's mission is to hold these materials as cultural and scientific objects in the public interest. To have that disturbed - to have that broken - is extraordinarily disturbing to those of us in the museum field," the museum's executive director, Mary Ellen Hennessey Nottage, told The Indianapolis Star (HTTP://INDY.ST/1BBGS2U ).

Indianapolis police had investigated several break-ins at the museum's storage facility before the San Diego man helped lead police to Charles. That man called the Indianapolis museum after noticing labels on the containers that he bought on eBay, court documents state.

Indianapolis police detectives traced the transactions and eventually spoke to the seller. Police said that seller had obtained the brain matter from Charles.

Charles was arrested during a police sting after the eBay middleman arranged a meeting in a parking lot. Court documents state that the day before his arrest, Charles had stolen 60 jars of human tissue from the museum.

Nottage, who said she's grateful much of the stolen material has been returned. She also said she spoke to the San Diego man who bought the six jars.

"He just said he liked to collect odd things," she told The Star.

---

Information from: The Indianapolis Star, HTTP://WWW.INDYSTAR.COM

© 2014 THE ASSOCIATED PRESS. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. THIS MATERIAL MAY NOT BE PUBLISHED, BROADCAST, REWRITTEN OR REDISTRIBUTED. Learn more about our PRIVACY POLICY and TERMS OF USE.

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