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Wildfire Smoke Travels Hundreds of Miles

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Screen Shot 2016-03-24 at 1.54.35 PMThe National Weather Service says that the smoke from the wildfires burning in Oklahoma and Kansas has spread throughout the nation–at an alarmingly fast rate. Smoke has been detected in Springfield, Missouri, about 290 miles to the east, and in St. Louis, about 460 miles to the northeast of the fires. These fires have consumed more than 600 square miles of largely rural land along the Kansas-Oklahoma border since Wednesday. Springfield meteorologist Mark Burchfield commented on the overwhelming nature of the smell, saying that it was “pretty strong” as he was leaving for work Thursday morning. The winds are also perpetuating the fight against this fire, spreading the smoke across areas adjacent to the Kansas-Oklahoma border since Wednesday.

A TIMELINE OF EVENTS

At 10:45 a.m, authorities announced that the wildfire has destroyed 85 square miles of grassland in the Texas Panhandle. However, no one has been gravely injured in the fire that began Wednesday. The Texas A&M Forest Service said Thursday that the largest wildfire has burned about 70 square miles in rural areas in Carson, Hutchinson, Roberts and Gray counties. Agency spokeswoman Linda Moon said that many homes were evacuated in Skellytown, about 45 miles northeast of Amarillo, but the families were allowed to return after a few hours. A smaller fire has started about 15 square miles of grassland in Wheeler County.

At 10:20 a.m, another grass fire started in Kansas, a couple states over from Oklahoma blaze–the two fires spanning over several miles. A shelter for evacuated residents has been established at a high school. At this time, several small structures have been damaged but no injuries have been reported. A sheriff’s department official wasn’t able to confidently describe the size of the fire. “The National Weather Service says wind gusts of up to 50 mph were reported early Thursday in nearby Wichita. Winds had died down to 30 mph around daybreak and were expected to continue losing strength,” Reports ABCNews.

At 8:50 a.m., authorities gave a rough estimate of the damage inflicted: 625 square miles in Oklahoma and Kansas. The worst damage in Kansas is in Barber and Comanche counties, where the fScreen Shot 2016-03-24 at 1.54.41 PMire continues to burn Thursday. Forestry Services spokeswoman Michelle Finch-Walker says crews are surveying the damage from a birds-eye view to get a concrete value of acres burned.  An emergency management official said earlier Thursday that the fire had burned approximately 300 acres of land in total.

At 8:35 a.m., fourteen patients were evacuated from a local Kansas hospital due to the fire. Medicine Lodge Memorial Hospital sent 12 patients to a nursing home Wednesday night and the other two to a hospital close-by. Authorities say the blaze went around the Barber County town of about 2,000 residents, and plans are being made to return the patients to the facility Thursday. Hospital CEO Kevin White says that the evacuation was merely precautionary. He also described the smoke as very dense, so thick that it “completely obliterated the sun” at 5 p.m. Wednesday, an hour before the patients left. He said that the fire was “pretty scary.”

At 8:20 a.m., the wildfire restarted in Kansas county–where it was momentarily contained. Comanche County Emergency Management coordinator John Lehman says crews have been dispelled to combat the fire on Thursday. The blaze had been under control Wednesday night. Lehman says the blaze reignited when the strong winds blew the embers into the dry grass. He says that once embers hit dry grass, “away it goes.”

“The fire has burned about 37miles in the county after starting Tuesday near the Kansas border in Oklahoma, and has burned a further 280 square miles in neighboring Barber County.” Reports the Associated Press.

At 6:45 a.m., hundreds of firefighters battled the 30 to 40 mile line of fire in a rural Barber County in southern Kansas that has already lost 280 square miles of land to the wildfire. Kansas Incident Management Team spokeswoman Darcy Golliher said Thursday that it is unclear exactly how much land the fire has claimed. She says the Kansas State Highway Patrol will fly over Thursday afternoon to evaluate the damage. No one has been injured, but one home has been destroyed.

At 1:20 a.m., authorities reported a wildfire in south-central Kansas but has been contained. However, the fire still poses a substantial threat. Ben Bauman, director of public affairs for the Kansas Department of the Adjutant General, said in a statement early Thursday that “the fires in Comanche County are under control. Fires in adjacent Barber County have improved but are still being monitored.” Bauman says the fire encircled the town of Medicine Lodge, where authorities had said earlier that up to 1,000 structures were threatened. One home and outbuilding were destroyed in the far end of town. The fire started in an Oklahoma border county Tuesday and moved into Kansas. It has burned nearly 110 square miles. Gov. Sam Brownback declared a state of emergency for certain states, but said that many states should not follow suit.

Jesse Anderson has written extensively about legal matters and current events. She offers fresh perspectives on controversial issues and consistently reports objectively on notable political cases. Anderson grew up in Baltimore, Maryland and frequently volunteers for organizations like Civic Works, RAINN and Kids Against Hunger. She hopes to change the face of politics and make a positive impact on the world around her.

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80 Million Stimulus Check Direct Deposits Have Been Processed. When Will They Arrive?

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80 Million Stimulus Check Direct Deposits Have Been Processed. When Will They Arrive?

Americans will start to see their stimulus payments this week, a centerpiece of the $2.2 trillion rescue package meant to provide a buffer against the coronavirus pandemic that’s shuttered much of the U.S. economy.

The Internal Revenue Service has begun sending $1,200 payments to middle and lower income adults, plus $500 for their minor children, though it could take until September for every eligible person to get the money.
The first payments “should be deposited directly into individuals’ bank accounts; the precise date you will see payments in your account depends on how long individual banks typically take to process direct deposits,” according to a press release from House Ways and Means Committee Republicans.

The IRS will first send the money to individuals for whom the agency has direct deposit information. The remainder will be mailed as checks. That process is expected to begin April 20 but could take until the fall to complete.

The IRS processed more than 80 million payments on Friday that should be available in bank accounts early this week, Sunita Lough, the IRS deputy commissioner for services and enforcement, said in a video conference Monday.

Payments will be made first to those earning the least.

The IRS has launched a tool for non-tax filers, such as those who had income under $12,200 last year and weren’t required to file a federal return, to enter direct deposit information to get their payments.

The agency plans to have a second website up by April 17 that will show people the status of their payments, including the date the money is scheduled to be deposited or mailed. That tool will also let people who’ve typically gotten their tax refund in the mail to provide their bank account details to get their stimulus payment more quickly.

The IRS is using information from 2018 and 2019 tax returns to process the payments. It says taxpayers who’ve yet to file a return this year should do so as soon as possible, and elect to receive the refund via a direct deposit. The information can then be used to distribute the stimulus payments. Social Security and disability recipients will receive their payments automatically.

The tax deadline was extended to July 15 from April 15 to give people more time to file and pay during the pandemic.

Taxpayers who don’t need extra time and who expect to get a stimulus payment should file as soon as possible so the agency has their most up-to-date details on file, said Christina Taylor, head of operations for Credit Karma Tax.

“The quicker, the better,” she said.

Americans earning $75,000 or less, or $150,000 and below as a couple, are eligible for the full $1,200 payout per adult, plus $500 for each child under 17. Those amounts are reduced for people with higher incomes, and people who make $99,000 or more in earnings (or $198,000 for a couple) get nothing, even if they have children. Individuals must have a Social Security number to receive a payment.

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A Case of Hantavirus Has Been Reported in China. Here’s Why You Shouldn’t Worry.

A man who died in China Monday reportedly tested positive for a hantavirus, but that doesn’t necessarily mean you should worry another pandemic is coming…

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A Case of Hantavirus Has Been Reported in China. Here's Why You Shouldn't Worry.

A man who died in China Monday reportedly tested positive for a hantavirus, but that doesn’t necessarily mean you should worry another pandemic is coming.

Hantaviruses are a family of virus that spread through rodents, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

In Yunnan Province, a man died on his way back to Shandong Province, according to Global Times, an English-language Chinese news outlet.

“He was tested positive for #hantavirus. Other 32 people on bus were tested,” the news outlet tweeted.

The tweet, sent amid a pandemic caused by a new coronavirus, has been shared more than 15,000 times.

Though countries across the globe are on high alert due to uncertainty around the coronavirus, there is no indication that the hantavirus poses a global public health threat.

According to the CDC, hantavirus cases are rare, and they spread as a result of close contact with rodent urine, droppings or saliva.

Certain kinds of rats and mice in the United States can carry the virus, which is transmitted when someone breathes in contaminated air.

“The hantaviruses that cause human illness in the United States cannot be transmitted from one person to another,” the CDC says on its website. Rare cases in Chile and Argentina have seen person-to-person transmission when a person is in close contact with someone sickened by a type of hantavirus called Andes virus, the CDC says.

In the U.S., the virus can cause hantavirus pulmonary syndrome, a severe respiratory disease that can be fatal. Symptoms include fatigue, fever, muscle aches, headaches, dizziness, chills, and abdominal problems. Coughing and shortness of breath can occur later in the disease as the lungs fill with liquid, the CDC says,

Hemorrhagic fever with renal syndrome, found mostly in Europe and Asia, can also occur, which causes pain, fever, chills, nausea, and blurred vision, the CDC says. More serious symptoms include acute kidney failure.

Cases in the United States have typically been concentrated in the western and southwestern states.

From 1993 to 2017, there were only 728 confirmed hantavirus cases in the United States, with most being non-fatal, according to CDC data. In comparison, since late January, when the first known coronavirus case was identified in the U.S., there have been 46,805 confirmed coronavirus cases nationwide, according to a Johns Hopkins University tracker.

In May 1993, a hantavirus outbreak occurred in an area between Arizona, New Mexico, Colorado and Utah. A 2012 outbreak in Yosemite sickened 10 people. In seven states, 17 people were infected in a 2017 outbreak.

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Syria al-Qaeda Leader Attacked, Unsure of His Survival

An air strike struck Abu al-Khayr al-Masri in the Syrian province of Idlib on Sunday, based on unconfirmed reports.

The Egyptian is second-in-command to overall al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri, according to BBC News.

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An air strike struck Abu al-Khayr al-Masri in the Syrian province of Idlib on Sunday, based on unconfirmed reports.

The Egyptian is second-in-command to overall al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri, according to BBC News.

Syrian opposition forces, the Local Co-ordination Committees, posted a photo of the car which was targeted for the attack, as stated by them.

Car with roof shattered is shown in photo taken from Syrian opposition activists

The car, in the town of al-Mastuma, was targeted by “international coalition aircraft”, the group said.

Additionally, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported that an al-Qaeda official was killed in a strike, but did not confirm it was Abu al-Khayr al-Masri.

The Egyptian, whose real name is Abdullah Muhammad Rajab Abd al-Rahman, was reportedly released from custody by Iran in 2015 as part of a prisoner swap.

Last year, Abu al-Khayr al-Masri was reported to have given his blessing to a decision by al-Qaeda’s affiliate in Syria, al-Nusra Front, to cut formal ties with the global jihadist network.

The Syrian jihadist with ties broken with al-Qaeda had renamed its name to Jabhat Fateh Al-Sham, as reported by CNN.

According to Ahmad Hasan Abu al Khayr al-Masri, al-Qaeda has embraced the split. The man Masri would replace as an upranking to No. 2 of the leadership position in the terror group, is al Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri. Zawahiri expressed his opinion on the split in a supportive manner and called for infighting between jihadist groups to end.

Although Jabhat Fateh al-Sham was no longer linked to an external entity, the U.S. still kept it on its list of foreign terrorist groups and continued to target air strikes.

Therefore, in January, Jabhat Fateh al-Sham dissolved itself and formed an alliance with four smaller Syrian jihadist groups called Hayat Tahrir al-Sham. The move seemed to deem an attempt by the group to distance itself from al-Qaeda.

Tahrir al-Sham as since then fought rebel groups for control of the Idlib province in Syria, implying that it was them who had instigated suicide bombs on Saturday against the military in the government-controlled city of Homs.

Although the death of Abu al-Khayr al-Masri is uncertain, the Guardian has stated that he has been killed based off of what jihadists are stating.

The immediate circumstances of Masri’s death were unclear. Video online showed a tan four-door Kia sedan destroyed at a roadside with a large hole in its canopy but its windscreen mostly intact. The location of the attack was unusually far west for a US drone strike.

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