Expect Lane Closure on Southbound I-49 Near Nevada for Crash Clean-Up

VERNON COUNTY, Mo. — Drivers can expect a lane closure on Tuesday (1/09) along southbound I-49 as contractor crews work to clean up a recent crash.

The southbound I-49 lane between Vernon County routes D & M near mile marker 108 north of Nevada will be closed between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m.

Drivers are encouraged to find an alternate route. There are no signed detours.

Signs and message boards will alert drivers approaching the work zone. You can check MoDOT’s traveler Information map here for road closings/traffic routes.

Alabama woman who joined IS hopes to return from Syria camp

ROJ CAMP, Syria (AP) — A woman who ran away from home in Alabama at the age of 20, joined the Islamic State group and had a child with one of its fighters says she still hopes to return to the United States, serve prison time if necessary, and advocate against the extremists.

In a rare interview from the Roj detention camp in Syria where she is being held by U.S.-allied Kurdish forces, Hoda Muthana said she was brainwashed by online traffickers into joining the group in 2014 and regrets everything except her young son, now of pre-school age.

“If I need to sit in prison, and do my time, I will do it. … I won’t fight against it,” the 28-year-old told The News Movement. “I’m hoping my government looks at me as someone young at the time and naive.”

It’s a line she’s repeated in various media interviews since fleeing from one of the extremist group’s last enclaves in Syria in early 2019.

But four years earlier, at the height of the extremists’ power, she had voiced enthusiastic support for them on social media and in an interview with BuzzFeed News. IS then ruled a self-declared Islamic caliphate stretching across roughly a third of both Syria and Iraq. In posts sent from her Twitter account in 2015 she called on Americans to join the group and carry out attacks in the U.S., suggesting drive-by shootings or vehicle rammings targeting gatherings for national holidays.

In her interview with TNM, Muthana now says her phone was taken from her and that the tweets were sent by IS supporters.

Muthana was born in New Jersey to Yemeni immigrants and once had a U.S. passport. She was raised in a conservative Muslim household in Hoover, Alabama, just outside Birmingham. In 2014, she told her family she was going on a school trip but flew to Turkey and crossed into Syria instead, funding the travel with tuition checks that she had secretly cashed.

The Obama administration cancelled her citizenship in 2016, saying her father was an accredited Yemeni diplomat at the time she was born — a rare revocation of birthright citizenship. Her lawyers have disputed that move, arguing that the father’s diplomatic accreditation ended before she was born.

The Trump administration maintained that she was not a citizen and barred her from returning, even as it pressed European allies to repatriate their own detained nationals to reduce pressure on the detention camps.

U.S. courts have sided with the government on the question of Muthana’s citizenship, and last January the Supreme Court declined to consider her lawsuit seeking re-entry.

That has left her and her son languishing in a detention camp in northern Syria housing thousands of widows of Islamic State fighters and their children.

Some 65,600 suspected Islamic State members and their families — both Syrians and foreign citizens — are held in camps and prisons in northeastern Syria run by U.S.-allied Kurdish groups, according to a Human Rights Watch report released last month.

Women accused of affiliation with IS and their minor children are largely housed in the al-Hol and Roj camps, under what the rights group described as “life threatening conditions.” The camp inmates include more than 37,400 foreigners, among them Europeans and North Americans.

Human Rights Watch and other monitors have cited dire living conditions in the camps, including inadequate food, water and medical care, as well as the physical and sexual abuse of inmates by guards and fellow detainees.

Kurdish-led authorities and activists have blamed IS sleeper cells for surging violence within the facilities, including the beheading of two Egyptian girls, aged 11 and 13, in al-Hol camp in November. Turkish airstrikes targeting the Kurdish groups launched that month also hit close to al-Hol. Camp officials alleged that the Turkish strikes were targeting security forces guarding the camp.

“None of the foreigners have been brought before a judicial authority … to determine the necessity and legality of their detention, making their captivity arbitrary and unlawful,” Human Rights Watch wrote. “Detention based solely on family ties amounts to collective punishment, a war crime.”

Calls to repatriate the detainees were largely ignored in the immediate aftermath of IS’ bloody reign, which was marked by massacres, beheadings and other atrocities, many of which were broadcast to the world in graphic films circulated on social media.

But with the passage of time, the pace of repatriations has started to pick up. Human Rights Watch said some 3,100 foreigners — mostly women and children — have been sent home over the past year. Most were Iraqis, who comprise the majority of detainees, but citizens were also repatriated to Australia, Canada, France, Germany, the Netherlands, Russia and the United Kingdom.

The U.S. has repatriated a total of 39 American nationals. It’s unclear how many other Americans remain in the camps.

These days, Muthana portrays herself as a victim of the Islamic State.

Speaking with TNM, she describes how, after arriving in Syria in 2014, she was detained in a guest house reserved for unmarried women and children. “I’ve never seen that kind of filthiness in my life, like there was 100 women and twice as much kids, running around, too much noise, filthy beds,” she said.

The only way to escape was to marry a fighter. She eventually married and remarried three times. Her first two husbands, including the father of her son, were killed in battle. She reportedly divorced her third husband.

The extremist group, which is also known as ISIS, no longer controls any territory in Syria or Iraq but continues to carry out sporadic attacks and has supporters in the camps themselves. Muthana says she still has to be careful about what she says because of fear of reprisal.

“Even here, right now, I can’t fully say everything I want to say. But once I do leave, I will. I will be an advocate against this,” she said. “I wish I can help the victims of ISIS in the West understand that someone like me is not part of it, that I as well am a victim of ISIS.”

Hassan Shibly, an attorney who has assisted Muthana’s family, said it is “absolutely clear that she was brainwashed and taken advantage of.”

He said her family wishes she could come back, pay her debt to society and then help others from “falling into the dark path that she was led down.”

“She was absolutely misguided, and no one is denying that. But again, she was a teenager who was the victim of a very sophisticated recruitment operation that focuses on taking advantage of the young, the vulnerable, the disenfranchised,” he said.

17% of people live near toxic release facilities—here's how it breaks down in the Four States

17% of people live near toxic release facilities—here’s how it breaks down by state.

The Supreme Court on June 30 reduced the capability of the EPA to regulate carbon emissions of state power plants in its ruling on West Virginia vs. EPA. Beyond the ruling’s impact on U.S. climate goals, it will also have ramifications for the people who live near power plants. Electricity generation is the second largest contributor to carbon emissions in the U.S., and exposure to pollutants from power plants heightens the risk of respiratory and cardiac health conditions.

Corporate sites across the U.S. are releasing toxins into the surrounding land, air, and water—with many people living in affected communities unaware of the damage being caused. After an accidental release from a chemical plant in West Virginia chemical plant in 1985, Congress passed the Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act. The act established the EPA Toxic Release Inventory, which provides citizens with crucial information on what toxins are being emitted in their areas and which companies are doing the emitting. The TRI has allowed certain states to put emission-curbing legislation in place to safeguard public health, such as when Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker passed legislation in 2019 allocating $2.4 billion to climate change resilience.

The EPA’s TRI program currently recognizes 770 chemicals; any site that manufactures or uses these chemicals at above-average levels qualifies for listing in the TRI. Chemicals described by the TRI as “toxic” are known to cause cancer or other negative health issues, as well as adverse effects on the environment. Facilities report the amounts of chemicals they release annually to the TRI, with the “release” of a chemical meaning it is “emitted to the air or water, or placed in some type of land disposal.”

The facilities in the TRI are usually quite large and deal in electricity, metals, mining, chemicals, or hazardous waste. However, not all toxic chemicals used by corporations are listed in the TRI, meaning its inventory of toxin-emitting sites is not exhaustive.

Stacker analyzed data from the EPA Toxic Release Inventory and the U.S. Census Bureau’s five-year American Community Survey to identify the percent of each state’s population living in census tracts with toxic release sites, as well as the corporations and facilities responsible for emitting the highest amounts of toxins annually. These results reflect the last full year of data, 2020, from the 2020 National Analysis Dataset released in October 2021.

Read on to discover where the most toxins are being released in the Four States, what part of your environment they may be polluting, and who is being affected.

4. Oklahoma

  • Population living near toxic release sites: 20.3%
    — 18.3% of state’s white population
    — 21.0% of state’s Hispanic population
    — 18.4% of state’s Black population
    — 22.4% of state’s Native American population
    — 15.0% of state’s Asian population
    — 15.8% of state’s Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islander population
  • Total number of sites: 362

Oklahoma’s biggest toxin-emitting site is a paper manufacturer: the International Paper facility released 5.9 million pounds of pollutants, mainly into the air, in 2020. Of the chemicals emitted into the atmosphere in Oklahoma in 2020, 50% was ammonia, 29% methanol, and 5% toluene.

3. Missouri

  • Population living near toxic release sites: 21.7%
    — 21.9% of state’s white population
    — 24.1% of state’s Hispanic population
    — 15.3% of state’s Black population
    — 28.2% of state’s Native American population
    — 14.4% of state’s Asian population
    — 24.3% of state’s Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islander population
  • Total number of sites: 507

Combination mine-and-mills comprised four of five of Missouri’s top toxin-emitting sites in 2020. The biggest offenders were facilities in Buick (over 11 million pounds), Brushy Creek (over 6.7 million pounds), Sweetwater (about 3.8 million pounds), and Fletcher (about 3.2 million pounds). The vast majority of toxins were released into the land.

2. Kansas

  • Population living near toxic release sites: 25.0%
    — 23.4% of state’s white population
    — 24.6% of state’s Hispanic population
    — 15.8% of state’s Black population
    — 28.5% of state’s Native American population
    — 15.4% of state’s Asian population
    — 31.4% of state’s Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islander population
  • Total number of sites: 322

Of the 15.9 million pounds of toxins released on-site in 2020 in Kansas, 10 million pounds went into the air, 1.3 million pounds into the water, and 4.5 million pounds into the land. PQ Corporation was responsible for 5 million pounds, the most in the state. Second was Koch Fertilizer Dodge City, which released over 3 million pounds.

1. Arkansas

  • Population living near toxic release sites: 27.1%
    — 24.0% of state’s white population
    — 41.7% of state’s Hispanic population
    — 27.4% of state’s Black population
    — 30.3% of state’s Native American population
    — 25.1% of state’s Asian population
    — 69.3% of state’s Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islander population
  • Total number of sites: 341

Arkansas’ 2020 toxin amounts were primarily due to three paper distributors. Evergreen Packaging released over 2.7 million pounds that year; Clean Harbors El Dorado LLC, over 2.2 million pounds; and Domtar’s Ashdown mill, with 2.1 million pounds.

OK Gov. Kevin Stitt begins second term

OKLAHOMA CITY — Governor Kevin Stitt delivered his second Inaugural Address on Monday.

Stitt said one of his goals is to bring professional educators to the top in the region in pay and benefits.

Stitt is just one of five governors in Oklahoma to be reelected to a second term. The others are George Nigh, Frank Keating, Brad Henry, and Mary Fallin. 

Since statehood, Oklahoma has had 28 governors. Six governors were Republican and 22 governors were Democrat.

State Superintendent of Public Instruction Ryan Walters was also sworn in at the State Capitol on Monday beginning his four-year term.

“It is an honor to be elected and serve as the next State Superintendent,” Walters said in a prepared statement. “I look forward to giving Oklahoma students the best opportunity to learn from the great teachers here in Oklahoma.”

Ryan Walters

Walters said his plans are to audit every educational dollar, fight to increase teacher pay, and evaluate best practices.

“I look forward to working with Governor Stitt, the Legislature, and the State Board of Education to empower parents, increase teacher pay, protect girls’ sports and keep the fundamentals of Oklahoma’s educational system at the forefront during my tenure,” Walters said.

Grove voters head to the polls on Tuesday

GROVE, Okla. – An obscure election ballot measure will be voted on by Grove voters in Tuesday’s election.

Voters are being asked to decide whether to provide the power company Public Service Company of Oklahoma with a new 25-year franchise to serve the city. The measure allows the power company to use the city’s land easements when working on power lines, said Debbie Bottoroff, city manager.

“If the vote doesn’t pass PSO will have to get the property owner’s permission to use the property easement,” Bottoroff said.  “This would slow down service response times and rates would increase.”

The issue is only on the ballot every 25 years. 

Jennifer McAffrey sworn in as District Judge for Ottawa and Delaware counties

MAMI, Okla.  – Judges for the 13th District were sworn in on Monday at the Ottawa County Courthouse.

Before a standing room only filled with former prosecutors, judges, attorneys, and law enforcement officials, the Honorable Jennifer McAffrey was sworn in as District Judge for Delaware and Ottawa counties.  

Judge McAffrey, the former Associate Judge for Ottawa County, assumes the district’s top judicial post after former District Judge Barry Denney resigned.

“The people of Oklahoma should know they have the finest core of judicial representation,” said retired Oklahoma Supreme Court Justice John Reif, who administered the oath of office to McAffrey.

Reif also swore in Matt Whalen as Associate Judge for Ottawa County.

Special Judges Nick Lelecas and Becky Baird and judges from Mayes, Rogers, Osage, and Nowata counties were sworn in by Reif for their second term as judges.

Judge David Crutchfield remains the Associate Judge in Delaware County.

Walmart removes 'KKK boots' from online store

BENTONVILLE, Ark. (KNWA/KFTA) — Walmart has removed a listing from its online store after learning that a pair of men’s boots displayed the letters “KKK” on them.

According to a Walmart spokesperson, the “tactical military hiking boots” in question were listed by a third-party seller and removed on January 7, shortly after the Bentonville-based retailer became aware of them. A spokesperson for the Council on American-Islamic Relations, a grassroots civil rights and advocacy group, contacted Walmart’s corporate offices to “respectfully ask that they be removed” after receiving a tip about the shoes by email.

A Walmart spokesperson provided the following statement when asked to comment on the situation:

This item was listed by an outside third-party seller and removed because the item is inconsistent with our values and violates Walmart’s prohibited product policy. Like other major retailers, we operate an online marketplace that allows third-party sellers to offer merchandise to customers through our eCommerce platform. We have a process in place designed to prevent third party sellers from offering inappropriate items on our platform.

Still, at times, inappropriate items make their way onto our platform. We are reviewing how this happened and will apply what we learn to further improve our rules and processes to prevent the sale of inappropriate merchandise.

Walmart spokesperson, January 9

Walmart has a “Prohibited Products Policy” for marketplace sellers that provides an overview of products and categories that cannot be listed there. The boots are no longer available on the Walmart website.

“We thank Walmart for dropping an online listing for oddly/poorly named ‘KKK’ boots after we brought this to their attention,” CAIR said in a press release. 

Missouri's "Yellowstone Ranch" nestled in the Ozarks

Interior view of “The Double Down Ranch” located near the town of Cassville in Southwest Missouri (Photo courtesy: Allen Treadwell, Hayden Outdoors Real Estate).

CASSVILLE, Mo. — You’ve heard of “Yellowstone,” the incredibly popular television show on Paramount Network, featuring the “Dutton Family’s” beautiful, equestrian style home and the secluded property that surrounds the ranch. Even if you don’t watch the cowboy-themed program, you’ll still appreciate this Missouri ranch, with amenities that one could argue, trump its TV equivalent — and it could all be yours.

The Double Down Ranch” is a 77 acre, luxury equestrian property located in Barry County (near the Missouri/Arkansas state line), and is situated among the rolling hills of the Ozarks.

The listed price — $15 million, brokered by Hayden Outdoors Real Estate. The ranch consists of the main residence, riding arena, barns, a guest house, several equestrian facilities, and much more. There are a number of pastures sectioned off with hand-crafted pipe fencing and several corrals. The property is seeded with some of the best grass money can buy: Bermuda.

“It’s not for everyone, but if horses and a western lifestyle is your passion, then there’s not a better property in the world,” said Allen Treadwell, a licensed broker with Hayden Outdoors Real Estate.

SLIDESHOW: View Photos of The Double Down Ranch

Main Residence

The rustic main residence is a whopping 18,000 square feet. Yellow Pine beams, milled on the east coast in 1912, line much of the two-story interior, which consists of 4 bedrooms and 4-1/2 baths — all spread throughout several sections of the grand estate.

The east wing of this equestrian mansion was built for entertaining. It features a two story great room, stone fireplace, large curved bar, billiard room, and a private poker room. The highlight of the entertainment room: Several large, custom-made structural horseshoes built into the ceiling beams.

“The architect that designed the house spent almost two years in the design process and then it was a multi-year build. Everything was thought of, from the smallest details to the largest,” said Treadwell.

“The Double Down Ranch” main residence outdoor pool (Photo courtesy: Allen Treadwell, Hayden Outdoors Real Estate).

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In the central wing of the house, there’s a custom kitchen, breakfast nook, and wood stove. Just off the kitchen — a butler pantry with custom cabinetry, that includes a extra refrigerator and freezer. The grand dining room is exactly that — grand. It’s customized with hand-painted murals.

The north wing is dominated by the master suite. It’s designed with a seating area, fireplace, coffee bar, two sink vanity areas, two half baths, a walk-in shower, and a large soaking tub.

No mansion is complete without covered parking. This one comes with an eight-car garage.

“I’ve been fortunate enough to have spent hours and hours on this property, and every time I’m there I see some new amazing detail that jumps out at you, including things I didn’t notice before. Overall, the attention to detail is remarkable,” said Treadwell.

Equestrian Facilities

Located on the 77 acre property is a massive, luxurious 60,000 square foot, climate-controlled riding arena with a stadium-sized sound system, LED lighting, and corrals. It’s capable of housing several thousand spectators. Treadwell said the riding arena is called, “The finest privately owned arena in the world.”

Near the arena are stalls, stables, and the main barn with six stalls, a managers office, bathroom and shower facilities, a loft for entertaining, and a large shop.

“There’s somebody out there that’s going to fall in love with this place, immediately. And it is going to be their dream. Because of the location that it is in, somebody’s going to get an incredible deal on this property. Price-wise, it’s no where near what it would cost if it were located in California or Texas,” said Treadwell.

The ranch features a 60,000 square foot, climate-controlled riding arena (Photo courtesy: Allen Treadwell, Hayden Outdoors Real Estate).

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Guest House

For family and friends, there’s even a guest house, separated from the main residence. Inside, you’ll find 6 bedrooms, 4 full baths and 2 half baths, spread out between two stories. This caretaker residence or guest house complements the look of the main house (interior and exterior). The interior has several high-end amenities, and there’s a two-car garage.

The ranch guest house features six bedrooms and four full baths (Photo courtesy: Allen Treadwell, Hayden Outdoors Real Estate).

Treadwell’s final sales pitch: “You couldn’t find something like this anywhere else in the world for for what you’re getting.”

Comet to pass by Earth for first time in 50,000 years

(Photo courtesy: Getty Images)

KSNF/KODE — A green comet discovered last March will make its closest approach to Earth this month. The comet “C/2022 E3 (ZTF)” was first discovered by astronomers using the wide-field survey camera at California’s Zwicky Transient Facility. 

When it was first found, it was already inside the orbit of Jupiter. Since then, it has brightened substantially and is sweeping across the northern constellation, Corona Borealis in the predawn skies, according to NASA.

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The agency notes that it is still too dim to see without a telescope — though an image from December reveals its bright coma, short broad dust tail, and faint ion tail. The comet will soon be at perihelion, (its closest pass by the Sun) on January 12th and at the closest to Earth on February 1st. 

NASA notes that the brightness of comets is unpredictable, but by then, comet “C/2022 E3 (ZTF)” could become only just visible to the eye in the night skies. The key for those wishing to see the comet then, will need to find a dark location to observe from. Those who live in the Northern Hemisphere will find the comet in the morning sky, as it moves swiftly toward the northwest during January.

Current projections suggest looking for two well known constellations to pinpoint the comet’s location. Between January 12th and February 1st, look for the comet to appear just south of the Big Dipper, and north of the Little Dipper.

According to NASA, the comet has a full orbit of around 50,000 years, meaning that the last time it came close to Earth was when Neanderthals roamed the planet.

Teacher overdoses in front of students, police say

(Photo courtesy: Getty Images)

KSNF/KODE — A public school teacher at a suburban New Jersey middle school has been arrested after he overdosed in front of students, police said.

According to the Westfield, NJ Police Department, students found 57-year-old Frank Thompson, an art teacher at Roosevelt Intermediate School in Westfield, unconscious on the floor of a classroom shortly after 9:00 a.m. on November 29th, 2022. School Resource Officer, Fortunata Riga administered the opioid antidote naloxone, which he carries with him, the police report stated.

Authorities later found drugs and drug paraphernalia in a classroom closet, and on Thursday (1/5), charged Thompson with endangering the welfare of children, possession of fentanyl and possession of drug paraphernalia. Thompson is due to appear in court on February 1st.

In the statement from police, school Superintendent, Dr. Raymond González said the district could not comment on personnel matters, but added, “We will maintain a continued focus on student and staff safety and on preserving the integrity of the classroom learning environment.”