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Midwest

Whistleblower alleges mistakes in initial East Palestine disaster response

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The Environmental Protection Agency disputed whistleblower claims of mistakes and “no confidence” in early data collected from the site where a Norfolk-Southern train hauling caustic materials derailed along the Pennsylvania-Ohio border last year.

A person who said he helped craft the technology and interpret data from advanced radiological sensors on a high-tech EPA plane used to survey the damage and take hazmat readings told The Associated Press the aircraft was enlisted too late. In turn, the whistleblower told the outlet, it may have been unnecessary to burn off toxic vinyl chloride from five rail cars in a controlled release.

The EPA’s “ASPECT” single-engine turboprop based in Texas hosts what the agency calls a “suite of sensors and software” that provides vital data collection assistance in disaster areas. Those tools include an infrared line scanner, various spectrometers and a digital mapping camera, among other abilities.

Robert Kroutil told the AP the plane didn’t fly over the site, near the Ohio-Pennsylvania border, until a day after the controlled release of vinyl chloride. 

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POLITICIANS REACT TO BIDEN VISITING EAST PALESTINE AFTER 1 YEAR: ‘TOO LITTLE TOO LATE’

“We could tell the data provided from the ASPECT plane’s two East Palestine flights on Feb. 7 was incomplete and irregular. We had no confidence in the data. We could not trust it,” said Kroutil, whose team considered the results of the flyover to be inconclusive, alleging chemical sensors were not active when the aircraft flew over now-polluted creeks in the area.

In comments to NewsNation, Kroutil called the deployment “the most unusual … I’ve ever seen.”

In a lengthy response to a Fox News Digital inquiry, the EPA pushed back on the allegations, saying whistleblower characterizations of the ASPECT plane’s response are “false,” adding weather conditions prevented the plane from prompt surveying of the location.

“EPA Region 5 [in the Midwest] requested ASPECT to fly to East Palestine late in the day on February 5, 2023. As soon as the request was made, the aircraft was deployed the same day from its home base in Addison, Texas, to Pittsburgh. Due to low ceilings and icing conditions, the flight crew made the determination that the aircraft was unable to fly safely on February 6, 2023, the day of the controlled burn.”

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PENCE TORCHES ‘AWOL’ BIDEN: HE ‘DERAILED’ OHIO LONG BEFORE FAILURE TO ADDRESS TRAIN SPILL CRISIS

When Mother Nature cooperated the following day, ASPECT flew two missions over the location, the agency said, adding that EPA staff was already on scene “establishing a robust air monitoring network … within the community.”

The EPA told Fox News Digital readings from the ground on the first two days – before the plane flew over – depicted contaminants to be below detection levels with the exception of particulates. It said Kroutil, “the contractor mentioned,” was not part of the ASPECT flight crew in Ohio and that the agency does not comment on internal personnel matters relating to contractors.

Since the disaster, the agency said it has collected 28,000 air samples and that, in the time since residents were allowed back to their homes, there have not been “sustained chemicals of concern found in the air.” The agency added it will continue to honor public records requests and be transparent in its response to the tragedy.

Ohio Republican Gov. Mike DeWine’s office said that when it comes to whistleblowers, anyone with time-sensitive and pertinent information has been asked repeatedly to come forward, including in the immediate aftermath of the Norfolk-Southern spill. 

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“They failed to bring it forward,” a spokesman for DeWine said. 

“If there was a person who had knowledge at the time … they knew who was in charge and it was very clear who was on the ground,” he said, adding that Sen. JD Vance, R-Ohio, and DeWine publicly made the same plea.

ERIN BROCKOVICH REBUKES FEDERAL RESPONSE TO EAST PALESTINE DISASTER

“We do understand there are experts who had other opinions [on the disaster response]. … Vance said no one brought [further information] forward,” the spokesman added.

Requests seeking comment from Vance’s office went unanswered, but the senator notably called President Biden’s visit to East Palestine one year after the derailment “pure politics” and akin to a “political stunt.”

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Across the nearby Pennsylvania border, waterways, air and land were similarly affected by the disaster, including in the Beaver County district of State Sen. Elder Vogel, Jr.

“It is very disheartening to hear that these alleged delays and botched response approaches took place – especially since those in East Palestine, Ohio, and areas in my district here in Pennsylvania have been dealing with the aftermath of this derailment for over a year now,” Vogel told Fox News Digital regarding the whistleblower’s account prior to EPA pushback.

“Earlier intervention could have made a difference following the derailment and better assisted those responding to the incident.” 

Former President Trump looks at Little Beaver Creek and water pumps as he visits East Palestine, Ohio, following the Feb. 3 Norfolk Southern freight train derailment Feb. 22, 2023. (Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post via Getty Images)

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Sen. Doug Mastriano, R–Pa., of Gettysburg, held at least two hearings in Beaver County in response to the disaster, including one in March where residents sounded off about how they are still feeling long-term effects. 

In April, Mastriano, Vogel and State Sen. Michele Brooks launched an effort to allow Pennsylvania-based victims of the disaster to claim an added tax deduction on any payouts from Norfolk-Southern.

Fox News Digital further reached out to Pennsylvania Gov. Josh Shapiro, a Democrat, who was also a public fixture in the aftermath of the disaster, but did not receive a response by press time. Calls placed to officials in the city of East Palestine for comment also went unanswered. 

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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Midwest

More bad weather could hit Iowa, where 3 powerful tornadoes caused millions in damage

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For block after block through the small city of Greenfield, Iowa, the destructive power of an EF-4 tornado that ripped apart more than 100 of the town’s homes in just one minute is evident in the muddy, shattered mess left behind.

All along the mile-long swath Thursday was the deafening clamor of heavy equipment scooping up the splintered homes, smashed vehicles and shredded trees. But on either side of that path, picturesque houses and lawns seem untouched, and one might be hard-pressed to believe a twister packing peak winds of 175-185 mph (109-115 kph) had ravaged the community of 2,000, killing four people and injuring at least 35.

STORMS SPIN UP TORNADOES IN IOWA THAT CAUSE INJURIES, TOPPLE WIND TURBINES

More than 202 homes were destroyed by a series of tornadoes that raked the state on Tuesday, Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds said Thursday at a news conference. Most were in and around Greenfield. The count does not include businesses or other buildings destroyed or damaged, like Greenfield’s 25-bed hospital.

The havoc spun by the tornado now shows on the faces of people still processing how quickly homes and lives were shattered.

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Among those killed were Dean and Pam Wiggins, said their grandson Tom Wiggins.

Local residents clean up debris from a tornado damaged home, Wednesday, May 22, 2024, in Greenfield, Iowa.  (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)

On Thursday, Tom Wiggins tried to find any of his grandparents’ mementos that remained after the tornado demolished their home, leaving little more than the structure’s foundation. He described them as “incredibly loved by not only our family but the entire town.”

Not far away, Bill Yount, 64, also was cleaning up.

“It’s like somebody took a bomb,” said Yount, gesturing to the land — covered with wood, debris, trees stripped of their leaves, heavy machinery and equipment to clean up the mess.

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Yount’s house was the only one “that really survived. And I don’t know why,” Yount said, pointing to the devastated remains of his neighbors’ homes.

Also surveying the damage was 80-year-old Edith Schaecher, who was briefly trapped in her collapsed house with her daughter until neighbors helped them out. They sought shelter in a basement concrete shower, holding pillows over their heads to protect from the falling debris.

“It was over within probably 30 seconds,” she said, destroying the home where she had lived for 47 years.

Schaecher’s neighbor, Joan Mitchell, was with her 57-year-old son in the home she’d lived in for 10 years when the tornado roared through.

She had ignored the tornado warnings — until she was knocked to the floor and two recliners flew on top of her.

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“I kept praying and praying, and after that I started hollering, ‘Help! Help! Help!’” Mitchell recalled. Both she and her son survived with bumps and bruises.

The governor praised the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s response on Thursday as she sought a disaster declaration for multiple counties. After surveying Tuesday’s destruction, the National Weather Service determined that three separate powerful tornados carved paths totaling 130 miles (209.21 kilometers) across Iowa, according to Donna Dubberke, the meteorologist in charge in Des Moines.

Colton Newbury, 24, was working in Des Moines when the twister hit, nearly 60 miles (97 kilometers) away from his wife and 10-month-old daughter at their home in Greenfield.

He rushed back only to find their home was “a hole in the ground,” he said. His wife hadn’t heard the sirens. Newbury said his cousin ran out to get his wife and baby, and they rode out the tornado in the cousin’s basement. The winds pulled entire homes away, he said: “About every house on the block, just foundations left.”

Still more severe weather was moving across the Midwest. The weather service’s Storm Prediction Center shows an enhanced severe storm risk late Thursday into Friday morning for much of Nebraska and western Iowa, including areas where tornadoes hit Iowa and hurricane-force winds, large hail and torrential rain flooded streets and basements in Nebraska.

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This latest band of severe weather — including possible tornadoes — will hit Iowa “when people are sleeping,” warned NWS meteorologist Andrew Ansorge of Des Moines.

“Because of the damage already there, it won’t take much wind to inflict even more damage on these homes,” Ansorge said. “It’s just a bad deal all the way around.”

More severe weather also could hit Saturday and Sunday in storm-damaged parts of Texas, Oklahoma and Kansas. An emergency was declared in Temple, Texas, after powerful storms ripped through the city of more than 90,000. Thousands lost power, Thursday’s classes were canceled and nearby Fort Cavazos reported debris blocking traffic at the Army installation.

Before Tuesday’s twister in Greenfield, this year’s deadliest tornado was the one that killed three people in Logan County, Ohio on March 14. The Greenfield tornado set a new grim record as it obliterated homes and crumpled massive power-producing wind turbines outside the city.

The Greenfield tornado, initially rated an EF-3, was identified Thursday as the third EF4 tornado of 2024, with the first in Marietta-Lake Murray, Oklahoma, in April and the second in Barnsdall, Oklahoma, earlier this month. On average there are three or four EF4 tornadoes a year with a record high of 13 in 2011, according to Storm Prediction Center Warning Coordination Meteorologist Matt Elliott.

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It was so destructive that it took authorities more than a day to account for the area’s residents, and Iowa’s Department of Public Safety said the number of injured is likely even higher. Officials haven’t yet released the names of the Greenfield victims.

A fifth person was killed Tuesday about 25 miles (40 kilometers) from Greenfield when her car was blown off the road in a tornado, according to the Adams County Sheriff’s Office. Monica Zamarron, 46, died in the crash Tuesday afternoon, officials said.

Reynolds has requested an expedited presidential disaster declaration for those Iowa counties that sustained significant damage. FEMA Administrator Deanne Criswell joined her at the news conference in Greenfield and said that her agency will process the request as quickly as possible to get resources — which could include funding for temporary housing — to those left without homes.

This is a historically busy tornado season in the U.S., in an era when climate change is heightening the severity of storms around the world. April had the country’s second-highest number of tornadoes on record.

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Through Tuesday, 859 tornadoes had been confirmed this year, 27% more than the U.S. sees on average, according to NOAA’s Storm Prediction Center in Norman, Oklahoma. Iowa has recorded the most, with 81 confirmed twisters.

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Detroit, MI

Flint woman found dead in vehicle on Michigan freeway

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Flint woman found dead in vehicle on Michigan freeway


Car in Southwest Detroit sinkhole, Pro-Palestinian encampment at Wayne State and more top stories

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Car in Southwest Detroit sinkhole, Pro-Palestinian encampment at Wayne State and more top stories

04:01

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(CBS DETROIT) – A driver was found dead inside a vehicle on I-94 in Van Buren Township early Friday, state police said. 

Van Buren Township officers notified Michigan State Police that they found a Honda Civic on the I-94 freeway exit ramp at Haggerty Road at 2:35 a.m., and the driver was dead.

When troopers arrived, they identified the driver as a 59-year-old Flint woman and notified her family. 

The investigation pends an autopsy and medical examiner’s report. 

No evidence of foul play was found, state police said. 

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“The on scene investigation did not locate any signs of foul play, narcotics use, or any evidence of a crash,” Michigan State Police Lt. Mike Shaw said. “Once the autopsy is completed, we will be able to determine our next steps in this investigation.”  



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Milwaukee, WI

The Milwaukee Bucks’ Draft Picks: Current Status And Future Options

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The Milwaukee Bucks’ Draft Picks: Current Status And Future Options


As the Milwaukee Bucks gear up for another critical offseason, their draft capital is under close scrutiny. It’s a bare cupboard thanks to their goal of building a championship-caliber team around Giannis Antetokounmpo before the clock strikes midnight on his prime.

That leaves Milwaukee with very few options when it comes to upgrade their roser—an important task following a second-straight premature playoff exit in the first round. Here’s a comprehensive look at the current status of the Bucks’ draft picks, the ones they’ve traded away, and the options they have moving forward.

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Inventory of Draft Picks

Picks the Bucks Currently Own:

  • 2024 First-Round Pick: The Bucks own the 23rd selection in the 2024 NBA Draft. They were initially awarded the 21st pick, but the New Orleans Pelicans held a swap.
  • 2024 Second-Round Pick: The Bucks own the 33rd selection in the 2024 NBA Draft.
  • 2026 First-Round Pick: Milwaukee retains this pick, although it is subject to a potential pick swap with the New Orleans Pelicans.
  • 2028 First-Round Pick: The Portland Trail Blazers hold the right to swap picks with the Bucks.
  • 2030 First-Round Pick: Similar to 2028, the Trail Blazers have the right to swap picks.
  • 2031 First-Round Pick: Available to trade starting the night of the 2024 draft.
  • 2031 Second-Round Pick: This pick is also available for trade or use.

Traded Away Draft Picks

The Bucks have traded away several picks in recent years as they’ve pushed for championship contention. Here’s a detailed look at those transactions:

  • 2025 First-Round Pick: This pick is conditionally owed to New Orleans (if it falls within the 1-4 range) or New York (if it falls within the 5-30 range).
  • 2027 First-Round Pick: This pick is fully unprotected and owed to the New Orleans Pelicans.
  • 2029 First-Round Pick: This pick is unprotected and committed to the Portland Trail Blazers.

General Options with Draft Picks

Given the limited and conditional nature of their draft assets, the Bucks’ front office needs to be strategic. Here are some potential options they can explore:

1. Using Existing Picks for Long-Term Roster-Building

The Bucks could keep their 23rd and 33rd overall selections to add more young players to their roster. This would give them cheaper alternatives than trading for a veteran who has already signed a lucrative contract. This would also give them a lottery-ticket to develop players who could become stable parts of the franchise.

2. Utilizing Picks in Draft-Day Trades

On draft night, the Bucks can leverage their picks to move up or acquire additional assets. This can include:

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  • Moving Up in the Draft: Packaging their 2024 first-round pick with a player or another pick to move higher in the draft and select a promising young talent.
  • Trade for a Veteran: Combining their 23rd overall pick, 33rd overall selection, 2031 first and/or 2031 second in any combination with a current player to upgrade the roster.

3. Strategic Pick Swaps

Considering the numerous pick swaps with New Orleans and Portland, the Bucks can:

  • Negotiate Pick Swaps: Engage in discussions with the Pelicans and Blazers to navigate around the swaps, potentially offering other assets to retain certain picks. This would give them more flexibility about which picks they can trade this offseason.

The Bucks have a nuanced draft pick situation. While they’ve traded away significant future assets to build a championship-contending roster, they still hold a couple of valuable picks. The key for the Bucks is to leverage their existing picks to enhance their roster while navigating the complexities of their traded and swapped picks.

As the offseason unfolds, the Bucks’ front office faces the challenge of balancing immediate roster improvements with the preservation of future flexibility. The decisions made regarding their draft picks will be pivotal in maintaining their competitive edge and maximizing the prime years of Giannis Antetokounmpo. Whether they opt for immediate trades or strategic draft maneuvers, the Bucks’ draft strategy will play a crucial role in shaping their pursuit of sustained success.



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