WQAD News

2020 fundraising: Top takeaways from the first quarter

(CNN) — President Donald Trump’s massive fundraising operation makes him a formidable candidate in the 2020 race for the presidency, and new campaign-finance reports out this week from the Democrats hoping to oust him underscore their grueling task ahead.

Some key takeaways from the first-quarter fundraising reports:

An early start pays dividends for Trump

Trump’s fundraising underscores a key point: He’s a candidate like no other.

Trump’s decision to kick off his re-election early — he filed the paperwork the day he was sworn in — means he has raised far more money than his predecessors at this point in their presidencies.

And he shows no sign of slowing down.

The $30.3 million his campaign brought in during the first three months of the year, marks the strongest fundraising quarter for Trump since he entered the White House. Add in the money available to the Republican National Committee and an affiliated fundraising operation, and Team Trump said it began April with more than $80 million available cash in the bank — months before Iowa Democrats kick off their party’s nominating process in February.

A protracted battle for Democrats

The crowded, and growing field, of Democratic candidates faces a long slog to the nomination.

There’s an early top tier in fundraising — Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, California Sen. Kamala Harris, former Texas congressman Beto O’Rourke and South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg — but no one came close to Trump’s haul.

Many of the early contenders are struggling to compete for dollars.

Of the 16 Democratic candidates who filed first-quarter reports with the Federal Election Commission, half raised $3 million or less from donors in the first three months of the year. That includes New York Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, former Colorado governor John Hickenlooper, Washington Gov. Jay Inslee, and former Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Julian Castro.

It’s a sign that Democratic donors haven’t yet coalesced behind the contenders, said Anthony Corrado, a campaign-finance expert who teaches at Colby College in Maine. “It’s a huge field of not very well-known candidates.”

Hey, big spenders

A slew of candidates relied on leftover Senate funds to sustain their early operations, but it could be a fast-diminishing source of money.

Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren, for instance, raised $6 million from donors during the January-to-March fundraising quarter and spent almost all of it, more than $5.2 million. But her massive Senate war chest allowed her to transfer $10.4 million to her presidential campaign.

She needs that cushion.The two-term senator famed for her consumer advocacy has sworn off high-dollar fundraising. But Warren also has built a big campaign operation in the early states and already employs 170 people. Her top expense during the first quarter: staff at $1.2 million, or nearly $1 out every $4 she spent.

Gillibrand also transferred a big sum, moving $9.6 million from her Senate coffers.

She also spent heavily, burning through $2.4 million during the first quarter after raising just $3 million from donors.

Small-dollar test

Sanders, who built a massive progressive following during his 2016 presidential campaign, leads the field not just in overall fundraising but in the proportion of his money that came from small-donors. The latest figures show that 84% of Sanders’ individual contributions came from donors who gave $200 or less to his campaign, providing him key grassroots support for the long haul.

In second place, businessman Andrew Yang at 81%. Yang has relied on the “Yang Gang,” an enthusiastic group of online supporters who like his idea of giving Americans a universal basic income of a $1,000 a month. And those small donors helped Yang met the 65,000-donor threshold for early Democratic debates.

The Democratic National Committee’s new debate criteria — meet polling thresholds or show small-donor support — has inverted traditional fundraising, Corrado said. In previous campaigns, candidates raced to line up big donors and influential fundraisers who could tap their relatives, friends and associates for cash.

In the 2020 contest, he said, “the first hurdle isn’t necessarily raising the most money, but reaching the donors you need to qualify for the debate.”

Money in the bank

Heading into the second quarter of 2019, Sanders is in a commanding financial position with about $26.6 million in cash on hand available across his 2020 committee, his Senate campaign committee, and leftover funds from his 2016 presidential campaign. Over $15.6 million of that is parked in his presidential campaign.

Warren has the second most cash on hand with $11.2 million in her presidential campaign account, largely the result of a $10.4 million transfer from her Senate campaign account, and leaving just under $300,000 available there. Gillibrand also benefited from a large transfer of Senate funds, entering Q2 with just under $10.2 million in her presidential campaign account and about $650,000 left in her senate account.

Sanders, Warren, and Gillibrand had by far the most available in their Senate accounts to transfer to their presidential campaigns, but other candidates built up sizable cash on hand reserves on the strength of strong first quarter fundraising. Buttigieg, who raised just under $7.1 million, only spent a little over $685,000 in the quarter and has $6.4 million entering Q2; Harris ended the quarter with just under $9 million in cash on hand, a little under $55,000 left in her Senate account; and O’Rourke ended with a little over $6.8 million in cash on hand. John Delaney ended the quarter with nearly $10.6 million in cash on hand, almost entirely the result of contributions and loans he made to his campaign from his personal fortune. And Julian Castro ended the quarter with just over $625,000 in cash on hand, raising questions about the long-term viability of his White House bid.

Police: Maryland man knowingly transferred HIV to women he met online

FREDERICK, Md. – A Maryland man was arrested after police said he knowingly transferred HIV to multiple women he met through online dating, WUSA reported.

Police arrested Randolph Smith after almost two years of collecting evidence to prove he was knowingly exposing women to HIV.

Smith is now facing four counts each of first-degree assault, reckless endangerment and knowing transfer of HIV.

Frederick County police are also asking people who had sex with Smith during or after July 2017 to contact them.

Aretha Franklin earns posthumous Pulitzer Prize

(CNN) — The Queen of Soul is now a Pulitzer Prize winner.

Aretha Franklin on Monday was awarded a special citation prize “for her indelible contribution to American music and culture for more than five decades,” according to a release.

She is the first individual woman to receive a special citation prize, which was first awarded in 1930. Past winners have included Bob Dylan, Hank Williams and John Coltrane.

Franklin died in August at age 76 of pancreatic cancer.

During her career, which spanned more than half a century, Franklin became the first woman admitted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and had 73 songs crack the Billboard Top 100.

The staff of the Capital Gazette newspaper was also given a citation prize “for their courageous response to the largest killing of journalists in U.S. history in their newsroom on June 28, 2018,” the Pulitzer judges said.

She collected $400,000 in a GoFundMe scam. Now she faces 4 years in prison

A New Jersey woman faces four years in state prison for her role in scamming more than $400,000 from GoFundMe donors, claiming to be collecting money for a homeless man in Philadelphia.

Katelyn McClure, 29, pleaded guilty to one count of theft by deception in the second degree Monday in Burlington County, New Jersey.

In the viral story from 2017 that made national headlines, New Jersey resident McClure ran out of gas and was stranded on Interstate 95 in Philadelphia. The homeless man, Johnny Bobbitt Jr., supposedly saw her and gave her his last $20 for gas.

McClure and her then-boyfriend, Mark D’Amico, posted about the “good deed” on social media, including a picture of her with Bobbitt on a highway ramp. They also started a GoFundMe campaign to raise money for the homeless man, saying they wanted to pay it forward to the good Samaritan and get him off the streets.

Bobbitt pleaded guilty at the local level to one count of conspiracy to commit theft by deception last Friday. He faces a five-year special probation period that requires him to enter the state Superior Court drug court program, in which he’ll be expected to get a job and adhere to a structured regimen of treatment and recovery services. Any infractions could bring him a five-year prison sentence, according to Joel Bewley, a spokesman for the Burlington County Prosecutor’s Office.

Both Bobbitt and McClure agreed to testify against D’Amico, who has yet to enter a plea in Burlington County court on charges of theft by deception and conspiracy to commit theft by deception in the second degree. His case is scheduled to be presented next month to a Burlington County grand jury for a possible indictment.

Both McClure and Bobbitt also pleaded guilty to federal charges in early March.

D’Amico is not currently facing federal charges.

McClure’s lawyer said she had tried to stop the GoFundMe page and D’Amico wouldn’t let her.

“We’ve indicated throughout it’s my view that Mr. D’Amico is the real agent provocateur in this matter.

Kate’s role from the beginning was to help Mr. Bobbitt,” said McClure’s attorney, Jim Gerrow.

“Kate has been strong. She’s devastated by this and has been, but we look to the sentencings in federal and state courts and hopefully we can find sufficient evidence to convince both judges of her role and the fact that throughout this she started out with benign motive, her hope to help Johnny Bobbitt and not to enrich herself or anyone else,” Gerrow said.

The couple transferred the funds to their bank account and bought a BMW, expensive handbags and went on trips, including to casinos in Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Nevada, according to court documents.

McClure transferred $25,000 from her bank account to Bobbitt’s in December 2017, federal prosecutors said. He received a total of $75,000 in the campaign, according to Burlington County Prosecutor Scott Coffina.

GoFundMe has since made refunds to thousands of people who donated thinking they were giving to Bobbitt. Both Bobbitt and McClure must pay back the money in restitution, per their state court plea deals.

The story began to fall apart after Bobbitt sued McClure and D’Amico, accusing them of withholding the money raised on his behalf.

“In reality, McClure never ran out of gas and Bobbitt never spent his last $20 for her,” according to a US Attorney’s Office press release. “D’Amico and McClure allegedly conspired to create the false story to obtain money from donors.”

The federal cases have not been settled. McClure could face up to 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine after pleading guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud. She will be sentenced on June 19.

Bobbitt could face up to 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine on the federal charge after pleading guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit money laundering. He will be sentenced at a later date.

Man threw iguana at manager inside Ohio restaurant, police say

PAINESVILLE, Ohio – A man is facing charges after a bizarre incident inside a Painesville restaurant involving an iguana.

Officers were called to the Perkins on Mentor Avenue just before noon Tuesday.

Police said the 49-year-old man removed an iguana from his shirt and swung it around his head by its tail, according to WJW. The suspect then reportedly threw the lizard at the manager.

Officers found the suspect a few blocks away and charged him with disorderly conduct, resisting arrest and animal cruelty.

The Painesville Police Department said officers have been calling the iguana “Copper.” The animal was taken to the Lake County Humane Society where it will be checked for injuries.

WQAD News 8 earns 4 Illinois Associated Press Awards

NORMAL, Illinois — The Illinois Associated Press recognized television and radio stations for excellence in various categories.

WQAD was recognized for the following categories in 2018:

Related: WQAD News 8 earns 5 Illinois Associated Press awards 

A 71-year-old Louisiana man has been arrested on 100 counts of child rape

PINEVILLE, La. – A 71-year-old central Louisiana man has been arrested on 100 preliminary counts of first-degree rape, accused of sexually assaulting children in and around his hometown decades ago, authorities said.

Harvey Joseph Fountain, of Pineville, was arrested April 9, eight days after a now-adult accuser told authorities Fountain raped him or her when the accuser was a child, the Rapides Parish Sheriff’s Office said.

Investigators gathered evidence supporting that allegation, along with accusations that Fountain raped other children, the sheriff’s office said.

The rapes are alleged to have happened from around the early 1970s until the early 1980s, and in each case, the child was under 13, Sheriff’s Lt. Stephen Phillips said.

Phillips said he cannot yet disclose how many children are alleged to have been raped. The investigation “is still ongoing, and more arrests are possible,” the sheriff’s office said in a news release.

The rapes are alleged to have happened in places where Fountain lived and frequented in the area of Pineville, a city roughly a 115-mile drive northwest of Baton Rouge, Phillips said.

Fountain was being held Tuesday morning in the Rapides Parish Detention Center with bail set at $1 million, the county clerk’s office said. It wasn’t immediately clear whether Fountain has a lawyer.

A grand jury is expected to consider the case

The first accuser had given detectives names of other possible victims. Detectives also contacted them, and gathered evidence supporting the allegations, Phillips said.

Fountain initially was held on 50 preliminary counts of first-degree rape, relating to more than one alleged victim. But by Friday, detectives identified other apparent victims while Fountain was in jail, and authorities re-arrested him on 50 more counts of first-degree rape.

Fountain hadn’t been formally charged as of early Tuesday, the county clerk of courts’ office said.

A grand jury is expected to consider the case and decide whether, and on which charges, to indict him, Phillips said.

In Louisiana, first-degree rape includes rape of children under the age of 13.

First-degree rape in that state is punishable either by death or life imprisonment. There is no statute of limitation for the charge.

Police: 7-year-old Georgia boy was shot in stomach as he and 8-year-old played with a handgun

GRIFFIN, Ga. – A 7-year-old Georgia boy was shot in the stomach Monday as he and an 8-year-old played with a handgun, police said.

The two children found a .45-caliber handgun while they were alone in an apartment, Griffin police said. The accidental shooting happened as the children mishandled the weapon, authorities said.

The 7-year-old victim was rushed to a hospital, where he was undergoing surgery, police said.

Police in Griffin, about 38 miles south of Atlanta, did not say if the two children are related.

Monday’s shooting follows another child-involved shooting in Georgia last week.

A 6-year-old girl died two days after her 4-year-old brother accidentally shot her in the head in Paulding County, about 40 miles northwest of downtown Atlanta, according to the Paulding County Sheriff’s Office.

Some Iowans may soon find voting difficult without “affirmative response”

IOWA- Iowans are getting some unexpected news in the mail about voting and without action, they might find voting again difficult.

Secretary of State Paul Pate is mailing notices to voters who have not voted in an election in the past four years. These notices require an "affirmative response" to the state to prevent their registration from becoming "inactive".

In a press release, Secretary Pate says the "no activity in 4 years" notice is a federal law intended to clean up the voting polls in Iowa.

The Scott County auditor says her office is already updates voting lists and this notification shouldn't stop people from casting a ballot.

If you've received the letter, the Iowa secretary of state's office says you should fill out the form and return it as soon as possible. Those who receive the mailing need to fill out and return the card if their address has changed.

“This mailing is part of the routine process we undertake to ensure our voter rolls are as accurate as possible," Pate said. "It’s a crucial component for having clean and fair elections across the state.”

If your registration does become inactive, reactivate it by registering to vote again, requesting an absentee ballot, making a change to the information on your registration, or bring an identification document with a proof-of-address, next time you vote.

A California mother listens to her son’s heart beating inside the woman whose life it saved

SAN DIEGO - The family of an organ donor had the opportunity to meet the woman who received his heart.

When David Rivera died at age 30 from a brain bleed caused by a rare clotting disorder in 2017, his heart was used to save the life of a San Diego mother of two named Sandra. Sandra had struggled with heart disease for many years and was near death when she received Rivera's heart, which she calls "a miraculous gift provided by God."

On Monday, Rivera's mother Susan Amador, his fiancée Kimmy Hoang and their toddler son Josiah used a stethoscope to listen to Rivera's heartbeat during a meeting arranged by the nonprofit organization Lifesharing.

"They're pretty much gonna be like our family because we're connected," Amador said. "I mean, after all, Sandra - her heart is, you know, part of me. I just met her today, but I know her - part of her - from 33 years ago almost."

Because he was a registered organ donor, Rivera's lung, liver, kidneys and tissue were used to save four other lives after he died.

Click here to learn more about organ donation

Report: South Carolina middle school student drinks nine mini bottles of whiskey, passes out in nurse’s office

UNION COUNTY, S.C. – A 13-year-old middle school student is facing charges – and likely a major hangover – after he reportedly got drunk at school on mini bottles of whiskey, according to KOCO.

Deputies said they were called to Sims Middle School for a student who appeared to be extremely drunk. When they arrived, he was vomiting and losing consciousness, so they had him transported to the Union Medical Center.

According to KOCO, the school’s principal searched the student’s backpack and found nine empty Fireball Cinnamon Whiskey mini bottles, as well as a half-empty bottle and two unopened bottles. School officials also retrieved four unopened bottles from other students, as the teen had been passing them out.

Deputies said the teen had taken the bottles from his grandfather’s home; the grandfather didn’t know they were missing.

The boy is facing charges of public drunkenness and possessing liquor at school.

‘I was on my way to work.’ Ohio woman arrested for hitting three police vehicles during chase

NEWBURGH HEIGHTS, Ohio - The woman accused of hitting multiple police cruisers in Newburgh Heights because she was reportedly trying to get to work appeared in Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Court Tuesday.

Imani Edwards, 23, pleaded not guilty to six counts of felonious assault and one count of failure to comply with a police order. Her bond was set at $10,000, according to court records.

The incident happened on Interstate 77 in March. The Ohio State Highway Patrol said they tried to pull her over for window tint and a fictitious registration, but she refused to stop.

Newburgh Heights police attempted to help troopers by boxing in the car. Police said Edwards rammed into two cruisers and a highway patrol SUV. The chase ended near East 105th Street and St. Clair Avenue in Cleveland when a trooper forced the minivan off the road and into a pole.

"What are you doing?" a police officer asks Edwards after she was placed in handcuffs.

"I was on my way to work," she said.

According to police, Edwards claimed she was running late.

Voluntary recall of Chewy Chips Ahoy for ‘unexpected solidified ingredient’

EAST HANOVER, N.J. – Mondelēz Global LLC announced a voluntary recall of certain Chewy Chips Ahoy 13 oz. cookies, according to a release.

The recall stems from the discovery of an “unexpected solidified ingredient” found in some of the product and “potential adverse health effects” that have resulted.

Consumers should not eat products from packaging with the UPC code 0 44000 03223 4 or any of the following “best by” dates:

  • 07SEP2019
  • 08SEP2019
  • 14SEP2019
  • 15SEP2019

This recall is reportedly limited to the United States, and customers with questions are encouraged to reach out to Mondelēz Global LLC.

 

Men arrested for carrying meth and a pipe bomb after one fails to use turn signal

SAVANNA, Illinois — Two men are in custody after police caught them with more than 900 grams of meth, several guns and a pipe bomb.

Police initially pulled Andrew Westphal and Dustin Partin over for a traffic violation on April 14, according to a press release from the Savanna Police Department. Westphal, the driver, was cited for failure to signal. With them, police found 455 grams of meth, several guns and a homemade pipe bomb.

The find led officers to execute a search warrant on Partin’s home at 316 Oak St. in Savanna early in the morning on April 15, the release states. Police found 465 grams of meth, a rifle, surveillance equipment and several types of ammunition.

Both men are charged with possessing meth with intent to deliver. Partin was also charged with unlawful possession of a firearm by a felon.

More charges are pending.

Both are held at the Carroll County jail on $75,000 bond.

Canadian police search for suspect who posed as deliveryman, shot woman with crossbow

ONTARIO – A woman will be in recovery for the rest of her life after someone posing as a delivery person shot her point-blank with a crossbow.

The attack, which is being investigated as an attempted murder, occurred in November in Mississauga, Ontario, Canada. This week, police released video footage of the suspect at the victim’s door in the hope that the person could be identified.

Emergency services responding to a Mississauga residence Nov. 7, found a 44-year-old woman suffering from life-threatening injuries and transported her to a hospital, police said in a news release Monday.

Investigators have since determined the victim answered her front door and was met with a person holding a large box. After a brief conversation, the suspect shot the woman in the chest using a crossbow concealed in the box. The suspect then fled to a dark-colored pickup truck, authorities said.

Investigators believe the attack was premeditated and isolated. Comments made to the victim at her door also indicate the attack was targeted, Division Superintendent Heather Ramore said during a news conference Monday.

“The victim suffered massive trauma that was both life-threatening and life-altering,” Ramore said. “The attack was meant to end the victim’s life.”

It’s possible the suspect carried out the attack at the request of someone else, Ramore said.

The weapon used in the attack, Ramore said, is “commonly used by hunters to kill large game, such as moose and deer.”

The suspect’s right hand was in the box and investigators believe that arm was used to trigger the crossbow and fire, Peel Regional Police Detective Sergeant Jim Kettles said.

The victim was home alone, but managed to close the door and call 911 after the attack.

The woman spent several months in the hospital and will be in a “recovery phase for the rest of her life,” Kettles said.

In the surveillance video, the suspect’s face is not covered, but the person is wearing a hat and possibly another head cover, as well as a glove. Kettles said the suspect’s hat and shoes are distinctive and may also help provide clues that lead to his identity.

Search For ‘Father and Daughter’ in Notre Dame cathedral photo goes viral

PARIS — A photo taken on the same day as a fire that destroyed part of the Notre Dame cathedral is captivating the world, according to a report from WNEP.

The photographer, who inadvertently captured an adorable moment between an unidentified “father and daughter,” turned to Twitter to find them – and the internet has not disappointed.

Brooke Windsor, who originally shared the image of a man twirling a smiling young girl in front of the cathedral, says it was taken around 6:00 p.m. Paris time, about an hour before the iconic building caught fire.

“Twitter if you have any magic, help him find this,” Windsor says in her tweet.

I took this photo as we were leaving #NotreDame about an hour before it caught on fire. I almost went up to the dad… twitter.com/i/web/status/1…
Brooke Windsor (@brookeawindsor) April 16, 2019

“It may be an uncle, brother, friend, who knows until we find them,” Windsor said in another tweet. “I do not know for sure if it was a dad and daughter, it’s simply the dynamic I observed from them while debating on interrupting this moment.”

At the time of this post, the pair have not been identified and the tweet has been shared more than 125,000 times.

One stray shower or thunderstorm late… Better chances later Wednesday

Flood warnings continue along several area rivers including the Mississippi and Rock. Crests are occurring now and will continue for the rest of the month. Be prepared for road closures and detours in these areas. For more information on river levels go to https://water.weather.gov/ahps2/index.php?wfo=DVN

Things that make you go ‘Hmmmm’.  Good way to describe our weather so far across the area as we have been enjoying plenty of sunshine and temperatures already in the lower 70s!  We’ll inch up those temperatures a bit more with mid to upper 70s by this afternoon.

Tonight a boundary to our south will slowly track its way through the area resulting in a few showers and thunderstorms.  The better coverage will be focused for areas well north of the I80 corridor.

During the day on Thursday the coverage appears isolated before another boundary, a cold front slowly pulls in from the west.  This will set off a broken line of showers and thunderstorms by evening and overnight.  The potential for one of two of these storms to become severe is still in the cards with the main threat being small hail a a good rush of wind from the thunderstorm.  This threat is still expected to take place more west and south of the river.  We’ll be tracking it.

After some leftover showers Thursday comes some slightly cooler air to spill across the area for the rest of the work week.  Temperatures both Thursday and Friday will be around the 60 degree mark with skies clearing quickly on Friday.

That takes us to Easter Weekend and what a weekend it will be!  After seeing highs in the upper 60s on Saturday comes mid to upper 70s on Easter Sunday!  I still expect to see an increase in cloud that day with rain returning but not until later that evening.

Chief meteorologist James Zahara

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French billionaires, companies pledge $450 million to rebuild Notre Dame

PARIS, France - French billionaires and companies have pledged over $450 million to help rebuild Paris' Notre Dame after the cathedral was severely damaged in a fire.

The largest donation announced Tuesday was from LVMH Group, which owns Louis Vuitton, Christian Dior and Givenchy. The company and the family of CEO Bernard Arnault promised €200 million ($226 million).

The company said in a statement the donation showed "solidarity with this national tragedy" and that funds would be used to rebuild this "extraordinary cathedral" and symbol of French heritage and unity.

LVMH will also make its creative and financial teams available to help with rebuilding and soliciting donations.

The Pinault family, which controls French luxury conglomerate Kering, pledged an additional €100 million ($113 million). Kering brands include Gucci and Yves Saint Laurent.

"This tragedy is striking all the French people, and beyond that, all those attached to spiritual values," François-Henri Pinault, the CEO of Kering, said in a statement.

"Faced with this tragedy, everyone wishes to give life back to this jewel of our heritage as soon as possible," added Pinault, who is the son of the billionaire businessman François Pinault.

Total, a major French oil and gas company, on Tuesday pledged €100 million ($113 million) for Notre Dame's reconstruction. Tech and consulting firm Capgemini has promised €1 million ($1.1 million).

The blaze at Notre Dame Monday devastated large parts of the 850-year-old church, including its iconic spire. The fire was extinguished after nine hours.

French President Emmanuel Macron has promised to rebuild the site, saying Monday France will launch an international fundraising campaign to assist with the effort.

Early pledges from some of the richest families in the world could help.

Arnault is the third richest person in the world, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index. His net worth comes in at $90.4 billion, more than that of Warren Buffett or Mark Zuckerberg.

The Pinault family is worth an estimated $37.3 billion, per Bloomberg. François-Henri Pinault, who manages the family's businesses, is married to actress Salma Hayek.

— CNN's Saskya Vandoorne contributed reporting.

‘Suspicious item’ closes down portion of S. Central Ave in Burlington Monday afternoon

BURLINGTON, Iowa — Part of South Central Avenue in Burlington was blocked off for several hours as emergency responders looked into an “unusual item” found near a women’s health clinic.

According to a statement from Fire Marshal Mark Crooks from the Burlington Fire Department, a “suspicious item” was found around 1:15 p.m., Monday, April 15 in front of Abria Medical Clinic in the 1000 block of S. Central Avenue.

Investigators called the Iowa State Fire Marshal’s office to determine if it was explosive, said Crooks.  As a precaution, two special agents/bomb techs assisted.

Using x-ray equipment, the bomb techs were able to determine that the item was safe, according to Crooks.  The item was then disposed of.  It was not clear what the item wound up being.

As emergency responders were on scene, the area was closed to all traffic for nearly four hours.

There were no injuries.

NASA’s TESS mission spots Earth-size exoplanet

NASA’s planet-hunting TESS mission has found its first Earth-size exoplanet in a star system only 53 light-years from Earth. Another exoplanet, a warm mini-Neptune, was found in the same system.

“It’s so exciting that TESS, which launched just about a year ago, is already a game-changer in the planet-hunting business,” Johanna Teske, author of a study describing the planets and Hubble Postdoctoral Fellow at the Carnegie Institution for Science, said in a statement. “The spacecraft surveys the sky and we collaborate with the TESS follow-up community to flag potentially interesting targets for additional observations using ground-based telescopes and instruments.”

The Earth-size planet, dubbed HD 21749c, completes an orbit of its host star every eight days. Its planetary sibling, HD 21749b, is about 23 times Earth’s mass and has a radius about 2.7 times that of Earth. This puts the exoplanet in the category of a sub-Neptune or mini-Neptune.

The study was published in The Astrophysical Journal Letters Monday.

Researchers determined that the density suggests the mini-Neptune has a substantial atmosphere. But it’s not a rocky planet, like Earth, which could make for insightful followup observations about how the atmosphere is composed and its evolution.

The star both planets orbit has the equivalent of 80% of our sun’s mass.

Most of the exoplanets TESS, or Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite, will find are expected to have orbital periods of 10 days or less. The mini-Neptune was an exciting find for researchers because of its orbital period of 36 days.

This made the discovery more challenging. The researchers used the Planet Finder Spectrograph on the Magellan II telescope at Las Campanas Observatory in Chile to confirm the signals picked up by TESS were planets. This device also measured the mass of the mini-Neptune.

Mass is key for exoplanet discovery because it enables the determination of density or even chemical composition.

“There was quite some detective work involved, and the right people were there at the right time,” said Diana Dragomir, lead study author and Hubble Fellow at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Kavli Institute for Astrophysics and Space Research, in a statement. “But we were lucky, and we caught the signals, and they were really clear.”

The researchers hope to learn more about the Earth-size planet, as well.

“Measuring the exact mass and composition of such a small planet will be challenging, but important for comparing HD 21749c to Earth,” said Sharon Wang, study author and Carnegie Institution for Science postdoctoral fellow, in a statement. “Carnegie’s [Planet Finder Spectrograph] team is continuing to collect data on this object with this goal in mind.”

TESS will look for exoplanets using the transit method, observing slight dips in stars’ brightness as planets pass in front of them. Bright stars allow for easier followup study through ground- and space-based telescopes.

NASA expects TESS to allow for the cataloging of more than 1,500 exoplanets, but it has the potential to find thousands. Of these, officials anticipate, 300 will be Earth-size exoplanets or double-Earth-size super Earths. Those planets could be the best candidates for supporting life outside our solar system. Like Earth, they are small, rocky and usually within the habitable zones of their stars, meaning liquid water can exist on the surface.

TESS is considered a “bridge to the future,” finding exoplanet candidates to study in more detail.

These exoplanets will be studied so NASA can determine the best targets for missions like the James Webb Space Telescope. That telescope, launching in 2021, would be able to characterize the details and atmospheres of exoplanets in ways scientists have not been able to do.

But TESS will also help researchers measure mass and maybe even the composition of planetary atmospheres.

“For stars that are very close by and very bright, we expected to find up to a couple dozen Earth-sized planets,” Dragomir said. “And here we are — this would be our first one, and it’s a milestone for TESS. It sets the path for finding smaller planets around even smaller stars, and those planets may potentially be habitable.”

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