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Tornado Touches Down at New Orleans Airport, Brick Wall Torn Off Baptist Church

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Tornado Touches Down at New Orleans Airport, Brick Wall Torn Off Baptist Church

UPDATE, 3:20 p.m.:

The severe weather moving through Kenner on Tuesday tore off the back wall of the New Mount Bethel Baptist Church in the Lincoln Manor neighborhood.

The destruction of the building’s rear brick facade was one of the more dramatic examples of how much power is being packed by the winds of the weather system affecting southeastern Louisiana.

Melvin Robertson, who sits on New Mount Bethel’s board of deacons, said it was about 10:30 a.m. when the church in the 1400 block of 31st Street was damaged. Aside from the back wall, strong winds also wrecked a fence isolating the building’s air conditioning unit as well as some grease trap equipment, Robertson said.

Robertson said the church planned on continuing its normally-scheduled activities after cleaning up the debris and covering up the back wall. Church leaders were hopeful that there were no other major storm-related issues affecting the building.

Kenner’s New Mount Bethel counts on a 200-member congregation, Robertson said. Most of them live in Kenner, Metairie or LaPlace, and none were at the church when it was damaged.

The church is well north of the Kenner spot where National Weather Service and Jefferson Parish officials said a tornado touched down about 11:30 a.m. Tuesday, causing damage in the Oakland subdivision.

UPDATE, 12:47 p.m.: 

A tornado touched down in a field near Oakland subdivision just after 11:30 a.m. and while there were no injuries reported, there were several reports of wind damage from residents on nearby streets, according to the National Weather Service and Jefferson Parish Emergency officials.

Kenner emergency preparedness coordinantor Doug Dodt said a funnel cloud was spotted by city workers and the airport tower near the airport at 11:21 a.m., though the cloud moved to the Oakland area south of Airline Drive before touching down as a tornado.

Dodt said it appears that the damage reported by residents in the 500 blocks of Salvadore Lane and Centanni Road at 11:28 was from straight-line wind and that the city has seen no photographs of the kind of twisted debris that comes from tornado damage.

Weather service officials will be out to the site to examine the damage and make a determination in the next day or so.

A large tree was also reported down in the 700 block of Pollock Road and Entergy officials have been notified, Kenner said.

Acting Mayor Michael Sigur has ordered the activation of the Kenner Emergency Action Team and the Kenner Help Line – (504) 468-HELP also has been activated for residents to report any damage related to the weather.

 Power outages can be reported by calling Entergy at 1-800-9OUTAGE.

Following the lead of Jefferson Parish, Kenner, Gretna, Harahan and Westwego closed their non-emergency offices at 2 p.m. because of the severe weather.

The storms, some of which could be severe, are forecast to arrive during the afternoon hours and continue into the early evening, according to the National Weather Service.

Weather forecasters said Tuesday that high winds, hail, lightning and the chance of tornadoes are possible during the day as the system moves through the area, which is under a tornado watch until 10 p.m.

 Jefferson Parish Drainage Pump Stations staff and Public Works crews are available for the duration of the storm.

Citizens are asked to help reduce the chance of street flooding by clearing debris from their streets and drains around their property when it is safe to do so.

Jefferson Parish schools are still open for regularly scheduled hours, but all after-school activities including athletics, after-school care and all adult education classes are canceled.

The 24th Judicial District Court in Gretna will close at 2 p.m., as will parish and juvenile court.

In Kenner, Acting Mayor Michael Sigur said tonight’s meeting for Kenner residents living near the construction area for the Louis Armstrong International Airport’s new North Terminal has been rescheduled for 6 p.m. on March 1 at Susan Park Gym, 502 Veterans Blvd.

 District 1 Councilman Gregory Carroll and Sigur said public safety is the overriding concern for postponing the airport meeting and closing city offices early.

Airport spokeswoman Michelle Wilcut said at 11:45 a.m. that the airport is functioning normally and planes are still taking off and landing.

As of 3 p.m., there have been 18 delays and three cancellations, according to the website FlightAware.com.

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Three Disney World Employees Among 17 Arrested in Florida Child Sex Sting

Three Disney World employees were among the 17 people arrested in a child sex sting operation in Florida, law enforcement officials announced on Wednesday.

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Three Disney World Employees Among 17 Arrested in Florida Child Sex Sting

Three Disney World employees were among the 17 people arrested in a child sex sting operation in Florida, law enforcement officials announced on Wednesday.

In the operation, dubbed “Operation Child Protector,” undercover officers posed as 13- and 14-year-old children on social media and online dating apps between July 27 and Aug. 1.

The undercovers made contact with each of the suspects before proposing they meet at a location in Polk County, where they were busted.

In total, the arrests led to 49 felony and two misdemeanor charges. Those arrested were aged 26 to 47. All were from Central Florida except for one 33-year-old man from California.

“What you see on this board … are deviants. Incredible deviants,” Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd said at a press conference on Tuesday, motioning to photos of the alleged pervs. “They travel from as far away as Clewiston, Florida. One even came from Los Angeles.”

“Much to their chagrin, instead of meeting with young children, they were met by law enforcement officers who were online undercover posing as children.”

Kenneth Javier Aquino, 26, a lifeguard at Animal Kingdom Lodge at Disney World, was arrested while still wearing his Disney polo shirt and swimsuit, according to the sheriff’s office.

Aquino engaged in an online conversation on social media with an officer, posing as a 13-year-old girl, authorities said. He then asked the “girl” to send photos, and sent her an explicit video of himself, police said.

Aquino told officers he is a Navy veteran and has a pregnant girlfriend.

Jonathan McGrew, a 34-year-old custodian at Disney World, was nabbed by an undercover officer posing as a 13-year-old girl.

disney-world

McGrew allegedly told the “girl” that he wanted her to come over and have sex with him and his girlfriend, 29-year-old Savannah Lawrence, who also works as a custodian at tourist mecca.

McGrew sent her explicit videos of him and Lawrence performing sexual acts on each other, authorities said.

A rep for Disney World didn’t immediately return a message.

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China Reports First Human Death from Monkey B Virus

China has reported the first human infection and death in the country caused by a rare infectious disease found in primates known as the Monkey B virus.

The Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention said a 53-year-old veterinary surgeon who worked in a research institute specializing in nonhuman primate breeding in Beijing dissected two monkeys in March and became ill about a month later.

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China Reports First Human Death from Monkey B Virus

China has reported the first human infection and death in the country caused by a rare infectious disease found in primates known as the Monkey B virus.

The Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention said a 53-year-old veterinary surgeon who worked in a research institute specializing in nonhuman primate breeding in Beijing dissected two monkeys in March and became ill about a month later.

He began experiencing nausea, vomiting, fever and neurological issues, and died in May.

Blood and saliva samples were tested and researchers in April found evidence of the Monkey B virus, also known as the herpes B virus.

Researchers said a male doctor and female nurse who were in close contact with the victim tested negative for the virus.

The Monkey B virus is prevalent among macaque monkeys but infection among humans is extremely rare. Since the virus was identified in 1932, just 50 cases have been reported, with the majority of those in North America. Untreated B virus infections in humans are serious, however, with a fatality rate of about 80 percent.

Symptoms include fever, shortness of breath, and progress to more serious complications such as swelling of the brain and spinal cord.

Laboratory workers and veterinarians in close contact with the animals are most at risk as people typically get infected with the virus if they are bitten or scratched by an infected macaque, or have contact with the monkey’s eyes, nose or mouth.

But the virus is unlikely to mutate in a way that poses a problem to the general population. Just one case of human-to-human transmission of the virus has ever been documented.

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U.S. Remembers 9/11 Terrorist Attacks as The Pandemic Changes Tribute Traditions

Americans are commemorating 9/11 with tributes that have been altered by coronavirus precautions and woven into the presidential campaign, drawing both President Donald Trump and Democratic challenger Joe Biden to pay respects at the same memorial without crossing paths.

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U.S. Remembers 9/11 Terrorist Attacks as The Pandemic Changes Tribute Traditions

Americans are commemorating 9/11 with tributes that have been altered by coronavirus precautions and woven into the presidential campaign, drawing both President Donald Trump and Democratic challenger Joe Biden to pay respects at the same memorial without crossing paths.

In New York, a dispute over coronavirus-safety precautions is leading to split-screen remembrances Friday, one at the Sept. 11 memorial plaza at the World Trade Center and another on a nearby corner. The Pentagon’s observance will be so restricted that not even victims’ families can attend, though small groups can visit the memorial there later in the day.

Trump and Biden are both headed — at different times — to the Flight 93 National Memorial near Shanksville, Pennsylvania.

Trump is speaking at the morning ceremony, the White House said. Biden plans to pay respects there in the afternoon after attending the observance at the 9/11 memorial in New York.

Meanwhile, Vice President Mike Pence is also due at ground zero — and then at the alternate ceremony a few blocks away.

In short, the anniversary of 9/11 is a complicated occasion in a maelstrom of a year, as the U.S. grapples with a health crisis, searches its soul over racial injustice and prepares to choose a leader to chart a path forward.

Still, 9/11 families say it’s important for the nation to pause and remember the hijacked-plane attacks that killed nearly 3,000 people at the trade center, at the Pentagon and near Shanksville on Sept. 11, 2001, shaping American policy, perceptions of safety and daily life in places from airports to office buildings.

“I know that the heart of America beats on 9/11 and, of course, thinks about that tragic day. I don’t think that people forget,” says Anthoula Katsimatides, who lost her brother John and is now on the board of the National Sept. 11 Memorial & Museum.

Friday will mark Trump’s second time observing the 9/11 anniversary at the Flight 93 memorial, where he made remarks in 2018. Biden spoke at the memorial’s dedication in 2011, when he was vice president.

The ground zero ceremony in New York has a longstanding custom of not allowing politicians to speak, though they can attend. Biden did so as vice president in 2010, and Trump as a candidate in 2016.

Though the candidates will be focused on the commemorations, the political significance of their focus on Shanksville is hard to ignore: Pennsylvania is a must-win state for both. Trump won it by less than a percentage point in 2016.

Around the country, some communities have canceled 9/11 commemorations because of the pandemic, while others are going ahead, sometimes with modifications.

The New York memorial is changing one of its ceremony’s central traditions: having relatives read the names of the dead, often adding poignant tributes.

Thousands of family members are still invited. But they’ll hear a recording of the names from speakers spread around the vast plaza, a plan that memorial leaders felt would avoid close contact at a stage but still allow families to remember their loved ones at the place where they died.

But some victims’ relatives felt the change robbed the observance of its emotional impact. A different 9/11-related group, the Stephen Siller Tunnel to Towers Foundation, set up its own, simultaneous ceremony a few blocks away, saying there’s no reason that people can’t recite names while keeping a safe distance.

The two organizations also tussled over the Tribute in Light, a pair of powerful beams that shine into the night sky near the trade center and evoke its fallen twin towers. The 9/11 memorial initially canceled the display, citing virus-safety concerns for the installation crew. After the Tunnel to Towers Foundation vowed to put up the lights instead, the memorial changed course with help from its chairman, former Mayor Mike Bloomberg, and Gov. Andrew Cuomo.

Tunnel to Towers, meanwhile, arranged to display single beams for the first time at the Shanksville memorial and the Pentagon.

Over the years, the anniversary also has become a day for volunteering. Because of the pandemic, the 9/11 National Day of Service and Remembrance organization is encouraging people this year to make donations or take other actions that can be accomplished at home.

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