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Moran talks healthcare and education with voters

Wed, 04/12/2017 - 18:35

GARDEN CITY, Kan. (KSNW) — Congress is currently in recess, so Senator Jerry Moran went out west to speak with Garden City constituents.

“You want to fully fund education, not have any cuts,” said James Burnfin, “but you also voted yes for DeVos.”

About 100 constituents gathered at the Clarion Inn in Garden City, bringing concerns to the senator.

“People have very strong feelings particularly about education and taxes and those two things are front and center,” said Moran. “Healthcare is important to so many communities.”

Zach Worf with the Finney County Democrats asked Moran about comments from then-candidate Donald Trump to provide healthcare for all, with the government paying if necessary.

“What I would tell you is I’m willing to work with people to try to find ways that more people, all people, have access to healthcare,” said Moran, “but I don’t think it’s guaranteed by the federal government.”

That answer didn’t sit well with Worf.

“The top 11 other countries in the world,” said Worf, “10 of them have universal healthcare. It’s a part of a successful country that you care about your people, you care about their health, and you care about their education.”

Education was also a big topic at the town hall with some residents concerned about Education Secretary DeVos’s support of school vouchers.

“President Trump has touted — and his budget recommendations suggest — that we shift money out of public education for vouchers and charter schools, said Moran. “Congress, in my view, will not agree to that, and it will not happen.”

For some, that answer just led to more questions.

“That could hurt public education here in Kansas where you don’t have charter schools,” said James Burnfin, a constituent, “and so I don’t understand how he can reconcile how he’s for public education, wants to fully fund public education but voted yes on DeVos.”

Other areas of concern included access to VA clinics and preserving nutrition programs for low-income children.

Moran also visited Ulysses today for a groundbreaking of new housing. He’ll also stop by four area hospitals to discuss healthcare and the needs of rural hospitals.

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Experts say police who dragged passenger had other options

Wed, 04/12/2017 - 17:34

CHICAGO (AP) — Airport police officers called to remove a passenger who refused to leave a United Express flight essentially walked into what law enforcement experts say was a no-win situation: enforcing a business decision by a private company.

But if the passenger posed no threat and was not being disruptive, officers almost certainly could have tried an approach other than dragging him out of his seat and down the aisle, including simply telling the airline to resolve the situation itself, experts said.

Cellphone video of the bloodied passenger, 69-year-old David Dao of Elizabethtown, Kentucky, has become a public-relations nightmare for United and led to the suspension of three police officers who worked for the Chicago Department of Aviation.

The video also underscores a growing dilemma: From airlines to schools, police are called to deal with situations that in the past might have been handled without them, sometimes leading officers to respond with force far beyond the provocation.

“Police have an innate bias for action, but there are times that it’s not in their best interest or that of their agency to get involved in an issue that requires you to use a high level of force,” said Jim Bueermann, president of the Police Foundation, a Washington D.C.-based research group, and former police chief in Redlands, California. “You have to ask whether … you really needed to use force when doing the airline’s bidding.”

In an interview with ABC’s “Good Morning America” aired Wednesday, the chief executive of United Airlines said the carrier will no longer ask police to remove passengers from full flights.

After passengers were already seated on the full flight, United announced that four people needed to get off to make room for employees of a partner airline. When nobody accepted the airline’s offer of $800 to relinquish a seat, the airline chose four passengers at random. All but Dao agreed to leave.

It’s unclear what police were told by the airline about the situation. Screaming can be heard on the videos as Dao is dragged from his window seat and across the armrest, but he is not seen fighting with the officers. He appears relatively passive while being dragged. Later he’s seen standing in the aisle saying quietly, “I want to go home, I want to go home.”

But once police were aboard the plane, it would have been difficult to walk away, especially if they did not know why the passenger was asked to leave, said Kevin Murphy, executive director of the Airport Law Enforcement Agencies Network.

“Once you’re there, it becomes tough to disengage. You have an obligation,” Murphy said. “If someone is saying they’re staying no matter what the property owner says, you have to wonder why they want to try so hard,” to stay … “Is there something else going on?”

But police officers should try to find out what they are going into and to defuse the situation, if possible, experts said.

Officers with the Los Angeles Airport Police do not get involved in civil matters such as business disputes between airlines and passengers. They have sometimes refused airlines’ requests to board planes, said spokesman and police officer Rob Pedregon.

“We don’t just fly into action when someone calls us,” he said. Officers will “basically find out the whole situation, why we’re here, get the background and then decide if it’s within our legal authority. We wouldn’t get (someone) off just because the airline wants them off. If a law is broken, then we will take action.”

The Chicago Department of Aviation swiftly put the officer who removed Dao on leave, saying he had violated standard procedures and that the agency would not “tolerate that kind of action.” Two more officers were suspended Wednesday. Officials have refused to say what procedures should have been followed.

The agency also said that its officers, who are not part of the Chicago Police Department, have “limited authority to make an arrest.”

Officers could have asked themselves whether the airline had an option to reconsider its actions, said Chuck Wexler, executive director of the Police Executive Research Forum, a group that has called for greater restraint from police officers. But the bottom line, he said, is that the airline put the police officers in a difficult situation by expecting them “to solve an issue that they had created.”

“It was within their decision-making power to try someone else,” Wexler said. “The real question is, at what point did the airline think this is no longer their problem and turns this over to the police? He could not solve this issue the way the airline could.”

At the same time, police frequently overreact when someone defies an order, Bueermann said.

“They take the bait … and you dig yourself in a deeper hole,” Bueermann said, comparing the United situation to that of a South Carolina police officer seen on cellphone video in 2015 flipping a high school student backward in her desk-chair then dragging her across the classroom after she refused to leave.

“Everybody reaches a limit … but police officers are paid in part to use their common sense to resolve a situation.”

___

Associated Press writer Don Babwin contributed to this story.

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Follow Tammy Webber at https://twitter.com/twebber02 .

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Kobach announces first non-citizen voter fraud conviction

Wed, 04/12/2017 - 16:44

TOPEKA, Kan. (KSNW) – Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach announced Wednesday that he has secured his eighth voter fraud conviction and his first non-citizen conviction.

According to the secretary, Victor David Garcia Bebek voted on three separate occasions, a 2012 special election, the 2012 general election, and the 2014 general election, without being qualified to vote.

Bebek plead guilty on April 7 in Sedgwick County Court to three counts of voting without being qualified, a class A misdemeanor. Under the plea agreement, Bebek was placed on unsupervised probation for a period of up to three years and must pay a $5,000 fine. Probation will terminate upon payment of the fine.

Kobach gained the authority to prosecute voter fraud back in the July 2015. He has secured $29,000 in fines for election related crimes.

KSN News continues to follow this story. Look for more developments on KSN.com and KSN News.

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Republicans’ narrow win for Kansas seat emboldens Democrats

Wed, 04/12/2017 - 16:23

WASHINGTON (AP) — Republicans escaped a special House election in Kansas with a single-digit victory in a district where they have romped in the past, an early warning sign for the GOP at the start of Donald Trump’s presidency.

The narrow win in Kansas, where CIA Director Mike Pompeo prevailed by 31 percentage points last fall, emboldened Democrats ahead of a more competitive special congressional election in Georgia next week that could serve as a test of their ability to marshal anti-Trump forces.

“Democrats are showing up and Republicans have to energize their base,” said Tom Davis, a former Virginia congressman who once led the GOP’s House campaign arm. “A win is a win but this should have been relatively simple and it wasn’t.”

The special election was the first major contest since Trump’s inauguration and could be an early indicator of Democrats’ ability to mobilize against the president’s policies and whether Republican failure to overhaul health care policy might sap party enthusiasm. Trump’s job approval ratings have hovered around 40 percent, creating unease among Republicans looking to maintain their congressional majorities.

Republicans have had a difficult stretch, with the health care debacle, federal and congressional probes into Trump campaign contacts with Russian officials and contentious town halls in congressional districts. On Monday, Republican Rep. Joe Wilson of South Carolina, who shouted “You Lie!” at President Barack Obama during a 2009 health care speech, heard chants of the same phrase at a town hall from constituents angry about health care and his voting record on violence against women.

In a tweet, Trump praised Republican Ron Estes’ “great win” and for “easily winning the Congressional race against the Dems, who spent heavily & predicted victory!”

But that was hardly the case. The seven-percentage point margin was closer than initially expected in a district that Trump won handily last November and Republicans have held since 1994. The Democratic candidate, James Thompson, was a political novice who couldn’t attract big-dollar donations from Democrats around the nation.

In a sign of concern for Republicans, Thompson edged Estes in the district’s most populous county surrounding Wichita, a county Trump won by 18 points last November. Wichita is home to Koch Industries, the company led by conservative billionaire political donors Charles and David Koch.

Fearing potential fallout, Republicans injected last-minute money to help Estes while Trump and Vice President Mike Pence recorded get-out-the-vote phone calls on the candidate’s behalf. Texas Sen. Ted Cruz campaigned with Estes on Monday, warning of complacency.

In Kansas, one factor was Republican Gov. Sam Brownback, who remains unpopular because the state has faced serious budget problems since the governor and GOP lawmakers slashed personal income taxes in 2012 and 2013. Thompson portrayed Estes, the state’s treasurer, as a close Brownback ally even though the governor never publicly endorsed Estes.

Republicans, who hold a 237-193 majority, will be defending seats in special elections in Georgia, South Carolina and Montana, where Donald Trump Jr. is planning to campaign for a GOP candidate next week. Democrats are expected to maintain a California seat vacated by former Rep. Xavier Becerra, now the state’s attorney general. Races for governor in Virginia and New Jersey next fall could also provide a window into Trump’s popularity.

Georgia’s April 18 contest to replace former Rep. Tom Price, who is serving as Trump’s Health and Human Services secretary, is expected to be more competitive than Kansas. Trump barely edged out Democrat Hillary Clinton in the district last year.

Democrat Jon Ossoff, a 30-year-old former congressional aide and investigative filmmaker, has raised more than $8 million, a massive amount for a special election, and has tried to galvanize Democrats who hope to turn it into a referendum on Trump’s performance.

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee put few resources into the Kansas race, but claims a significant field operation in the Georgia campaign, with more than 70 paid staffers and a volunteer force of 2,000 or so.

Next week’s outcome could be significant in a field of 18 candidates from both parties on the primary ballot. Polls have shown Ossoff leading in the first round of balloting but Republicans are hoping to keep him below the majority needed to win outright, which would create a two-person runoff on June 20.

Rep. Steve Stivers, R-Ohio, who leads the House Republicans’ campaign arm, said Ossoff’s best chance of claiming the seat is to win outright next week, “and he knows that. That’s why he’s raising expectations on himself.”

Karen Handel, Georgia’s former secretary of state, has led the Republican field but the race has turned nasty, with GOP rivals accusing her of being a political opportunist and the conservative Club for Growth spending six figures on ads to defeat her.

The suburban Atlanta district is the type of place where Democrats are pinning their hopes on recapturing the House next year.

“Republicans in the era of Trump have a problem even with Trump voters in the suburbs,” said Jesse Ferguson, a former strategist for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. “That doesn’t predict or guarantee victory for Democrats in 2018 but it’s a road map.”

__

Associated Press writers John Hanna in Topeka, Kansas, and Bill Barrow in Atlanta contributed

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AP Exclusive: Manafort firm received Ukraine ledger payout

Wed, 04/12/2017 - 16:22

WASHINGTON (AP) — Last August, a handwritten ledger surfaced in Ukraine with dollar amounts and dates next to the name of Paul Manafort, who was then Donald Trump’s campaign chairman.

Ukrainian investigators called it evidence of off-the-books payments from a pro-Russian political party — and part of a larger pattern of corruption under the country’s former president. Manafort, who worked for the party as an international political consultant, has publicly questioned the ledger’s authenticity.

Now, financial records newly obtained by The Associated Press confirm that at least $1.2 million in payments listed in the ledger next to Manafort’s name were actually received by his consulting firm in the United States. They include payments in 2007 and 2009, providing the first evidence that Manafort’s firm received at least some money listed in the so-called Black Ledger.

The two payments came years before Manafort became involved in Trump’s campaign, but for the first time bolster the credibility of the ledger. They also put the ledger in a new light, as federal prosecutors in the U.S. have been investigating Manafort’s work in Eastern Europe as part of a larger anti-corruption probe.

Separately, Manafort is also under scrutiny as part of congressional and FBI investigations into possible contacts between Trump associates and Russia’s government under President Vladimir Putin during the 2016 U.S. presidential campaign. The payments detailed in the ledger and confirmed by the documents obtained by the AP are unrelated to the 2016 presidential campaign and came years before Manafort worked as Trump’s unpaid campaign chairman.

In a statement to the AP on Tuesday, Manafort did not deny that his firm received the money but said “any wire transactions received by my company are legitimate payments for political consulting work that was provided. I invoiced my clients and they paid via wire transfer, which I received through a U.S. bank.”

Manafort noted that he agreed to be paid according to his “clients’ preferred financial institutions and instructions.”

On Wednesday, Manafort’s spokesman Jason Maloni provided an additional statement to the AP, saying that Manafort received all of his payments via wire transfers conducted through the international banking system.

“Mr. Manafort’s work in Ukraine was totally open and appropriate, and wire transfers for international work are perfectly legal,” Maloni said.

He noted that Manafort had never been paid in cash. Instead, he said Manafort’s exclusive use of wire transfers for payment undermines the descriptions of the ledger last year given by Ukrainian anti-corruption authorities and a lawmaker that the ledger detailed cash payments.

Previously, Manafort and Maloni have maintained the ledger was fabricated and said no public evidence existed that Manafort or others received payments recorded in it.

The AP, however, identified in the records two payments received by Manafort that aligned with the ledger: one for $750,000 that a Ukrainian lawmaker said last month was part of a money-laundering effort that should be investigated by U.S. authorities. The other was $455,249 and also matched a ledger entry.

The newly obtained records also expand the global scope of Manafort’s financial activities related to his Ukrainian political consulting, because both payments came from companies once registered in the Central American country of Belize. Last month, the AP reported that the U.S. government has examined Manafort’s financial transactions in the Mediterranean country of Cyprus as part of its probe.

Federal prosecutors have been looking into Manafort’s work for years as part of an effort to recover Ukrainian assets stolen after the 2014 ouster of Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych, who fled to Russia. No charges have been filed as part of the investigation.

Manafort, a longtime Republican political operative, led the presidential campaign from March until August last year when Trump asked him to resign. The resignation came after a tumultuous week in which The New York Times revealed that Manafort’s name appeared in the Ukraine ledger — although the newspaper said at the time that officials were unsure whether Manafort actually received the money — and after the AP separately reported that he had orchestrated a covert Washington lobbying operation until 2014 on behalf of Ukraine’s pro-Russian Party of Regions.

Also Wednesday, one of the Washington lobbying firms involved in that covert campaign, the Podesta Group Inc., formally registered with the Justice Department under the U.S. Foreign Agents Registration Act. In doing so, it acknowledged that its work at the time could have principally benefited the Ukrainian government. The firm, run by the brother of Hillary Clinton presidential campaign chairman John Podesta, reported being paid more than $1.2 million for its efforts. It cited unspecified “information brought to light in recent months” and conversations with Justice Department employees as the reason for its decision.

Officials with the Ukrainian National Anti-Corruption Bureau, which is investigating corruption under Yanukovych, have said they believe the ledger is genuine. But they have previously noted that they have no way of knowing whether Manafort received the money listed next to his name. The bureau said it is not investigating Manafort because he is not a Ukrainian citizen.

Still, Manafort’s work continues to draw attention in Ukrainian politics.

Last month, Ukrainian lawmaker Serhiy Leshchenko revealed an invoice bearing the letterhead of Manafort’s namesake company, Davis Manafort, that Leshchenko said was crafted to conceal a payment to Manafort as a purchase of 501 computers.

The AP provided to Manafort the amounts of the payments, dates and number of the bank account where they were received. Manafort told the AP that he was unable to review his own banking records showing receipt of the payments because his bank destroyed the records after a standard 7-year retention period. He said Tuesday the “computer sales contract is a fraud.”

“The signature is not mine, and I didn’t sell computers,” he said in a statement. “What is clear, however, is individuals with political motivations are taking disparate pieces of information and distorting their significance through a campaign of smear and innuendo.”

Leshchenko said last month the 2009 invoice was one of about 50 pages of documents, including private paperwork and copies of employee-issued debit cards, that were found in Manafort’s former Kiev office by a new tenant.

The amount of the invoice — $750,000— and the payment date of Oct. 14, 2009, matches one entry on the ledger indicating payments to Manafort from the Party of Regions. The invoice was addressed to Neocom Systems Ltd., a company formerly registered in Belize, and included the account and routing numbers and postal address for Manafort’s account at a branch of Wachovia National Bank in Alexandria, Virginia.

The AP had previously been unable to independently verify the $750,000 payment went to a Manafort company, but the newly obtained financial records reflect Manafort’s receipt of that payment. The records show that Davis Manafort received the amount from Neocom Systems the day after the date of the invoice.

A $455,249 payment in November 2007 also matches the amount in the ledger. It came from Graten Alliance Ltd., a company that had also been registered in Belize. It is now inactive.

In an interview with the AP, Leshchenko contended that Yanukovych, as Ukraine’s leader, paid Manafort money that came from his government’s budget and was “stolen from Ukrainian citizens.” He said: “Money received by Manafort has to be returned to the Ukrainian people.”

Leshchenko said U.S. authorities should investigate what he described as corrupt deals between Manafort and Yanukovych. “It’s about a U.S. citizen and money was transferred to a U.S. bank account,” he said.

On Wednesday, Maloni accused Leshchenko of changing his story, saying Leshchenko had previously said the ledger detailed cash payments but now said that wire transfers support his allegations.

Maloni said Leshchenko’s allegations were politically motivated because Manafort once supported an opposing political party.

“There is absolutely nothing improper with this method of payment and there is no basis to give any credibility to the current Leshchenko allegations to the contrary,” Maloni said.

As the AP reported last month, U.S. authorities have been looking into Manafort’s financial transactions in Cyprus. The records of Manafort’s Cypriot transactions were requested by the U.S. Treasury Department Financial Crimes Enforcement Network, which works internationally with agencies to track money laundering and the movement of illicit funds around the globe.

Dozens of Ukrainian political figures mentioned in the Black Ledger are under investigation in Ukraine. The anti-corruption bureau, which has been looking into the Black Ledger, publicly confirmed the authenticity of the signature of one top official mentioned there. In December, the bureau accused Mykhaylo Okhendovsky of receiving more than $160,000 from Party of Regions officials in 2012, when he was Ukraine’s main election official.

The bureau said it would identify more suspects in the coming months.

___

Associated Press writers Nataliya Vasilyeva contributed reporting from Kiev and Moscow, and Lynn Berry from Washington.

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Reach the AP’s Washington investigative team at https://www.ap.org/tips.

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Newborn’s body found in trash bin in north-central Oklahoma

Wed, 04/12/2017 - 16:12

ENID, Okla. (AP) – Police say the body of a newborn has been found in a trash bin in north-central Oklahoma.

Police in Enid told reporters the body was found Sunday by officers investigating reports of an odor coming from a container in southeast Enid.

Capt. Jack Morris said the body was taken by the state medical examiner’s office and police are trying to determine who the mother of the infant is.

Morris said there have been no arrests in the case.

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Suspect charged with first-degree murder in grandmother’s decapitation

Wed, 04/12/2017 - 16:02

WICHITA, Kan. (KSNW) – The woman accused of decapitating 63-year-old Micki Davis on Sunday made her first court appearance in Sedgwick County court.

On Sunday, Wichita police arrested 35-year-old Rachel Hilyard in connection. In court, Hilyard was charged with one count of first-degree murder. Her bond has been set at $200,000.

Lt Todd Ojile said Micki was attacked after she took her grandson to a home to collect property that belonged to the victim’s son. Ojile says that during the assault, the boy grabbed his grandmother’s phone and ran away.

Responding officers called for backup after finding the victim’s body in the garage. Police say the suspect was found hiding in the home.

Hilyard’s next court appearance is set for April 26 at 9 a.m.  She was assigned a court appointed attorney.

A GoFundMe page has been set up for Micki Davis. For more, click here.

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Fire reported at west Wichita apartment

Wed, 04/12/2017 - 13:57

WICHITA, Kan. (KSNW) – Wichita fire crews are on the scene of an apartment fire in the 3800 block of West 13th. The fire was reported around 12:30 p.m. at Morgans Landing.

Fire crews arrived to find fire in an electrical box. The department said the box was melting.

Westar was called to turn off the power.  Fire officials said the fire is under control.

Apartment fire 3800 blk W 13th St N. Fire in an electrical panel. Crews awaiting Westar arrival to disconnect power to the bldg.

— WichitaFireDept (@WichitaFireDept) April 12, 2017

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Pharmacies asked to look out for missing teen and accused kidnapper

Wed, 04/12/2017 - 13:51

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) – New details have been released in the more than month-long investigation into the disappearance of 15-year-old Tennessee girl Elizabeth Thomas and her teacher Tad Cummins.

District Attorney Brent Cooper said Cummins left a note for his wife, Jill, on the morning of his disappearance.

Complete details of the note have not been made public but Cooper said the note was a diversion to buy Cummins time and mislead the investigation.

Cooper also said Cummins is on medication to control his blood pressure and should be in need of a refill.

He asks that pharmacy employees be on the lookout for Cummins and Thomas.

Thomas is a 15-year-old white female, with hazel eyes, stands 5 feet tall and weighs 120 pounds. She was last seen wearing a flannel shirt and black leggings.

Cummins is a white male, who stands 6 feet tall, weighs approximately 200 pounds, and has brown hair and eyes. He’s believed to be armed with two handguns and was last seen driving a Silver Nissan Rogue with TN license plate 976ZPT. Anyone who spots the SUV and can verify the license plate should call 911.

Cummins faces kidnapping in the AMBER Alert case and is also charged with sexual contact with a minor after he allegedly kissed Thomas at school earlier this year.

If you have information on Thomas or Cummins, call the Maury County Sheriff’s Office at 931-388-5151 or the TBI at 1-800-TBI-FIND.

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Sisters hurt on Kansas waterslide that killed boy reach deal

Wed, 04/12/2017 - 13:25

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) – Two sisters injured in a Kansas waterslide accident that killed a state lawmaker’s 10-year-old son have reached a settlement with the water park’s owner.

Attorney Lynn Johnson on Wednesday confirmed the out-of-court deal with the Schlitterbahn park over the “Verruckt” slide accident last summer.

Johnson wouldn’t reveal details of the settlement. The sisters’ names haven’t been publicly released.

Authorities said Caleb Schwab was killed and the sisters injured last Aug. 7 while riding the Verruckt, which was billed as the world’s tallest waterslide. That ride has since been closed, and a Schlitterbahn spokeswoman says it will be demolished as soon as a court rules it’s no longer needed for evidentiary purposes.

Schwab’s family reached a settlement in January with Schlitterbahn and the raft’s manufacturer.

Caleb was Rep. Scott Schwab’s son..

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Spicer says Hitler comment ‘inexcusable and reprehensible’

Wed, 04/12/2017 - 13:16

WASHINGTON (AP) — White House press secretary Sean Spicer said Wednesday that his attempt to compare the Holocaust and Syrian President Bashar Assad’s use of chemical weapons was “inexcusable and reprehensible” and was made all the worse by this being a holy week for Christians and Jews.

He said the comment, made Tuesday at the White House briefing, was personally and professionally disappointing, and he asked for “folks’ forgiveness.”

“To make a gaffe and a mistake like this is inexcusable and reprehensible,” Spicer said during a previously scheduled appearance at a forum on the presidency and the press sponsored by the Newseum. Christians are preparing for Easter on Sunday, and Jews are celebrating Passover.

“It really is painful to myself to know that I did something like that,” Spicer said. “That obviously was not my intention. To know when you screw up that you possibly offended a lot of people … I would ask obviously for folks’ forgiveness to understand that I should not have tried to make a comparison.”

It was Spicer’s second apology in as many days, following an initial mea culpa Tuesday during an interview with CNN.

Earlier Tuesday during the daily White House briefing, Spicer told reporters that Adolf Hitler “didn’t even sink to using chemical weapons.” The comment drew an instant rebuke from critics, who noted the remark ignored Hitler’s use of gas chambers to exterminate Jews during the Holocaust.

Reaction to Spicer’s initial comment continued Wednesday, with Jerusalem’s Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial inviting him to visit its website.

In the CNN interview, Spicer said his comments did not reflect Trump’s views but “were a distraction from him and frankly were misstated, insensitive and wrong.” He added, “Obviously it was my blunder.” Spicer reiterated that sentiment at Wednesday’s forum.

After making the initial comment, Spicer was asked about it again during the briefing but offered a garbled defense in which he tried to differentiate between Hitler’s actions and the gas attack on Syrian civilians last week. The attack in northern Syria left nearly 90 people dead. Turkey said sarin gas was used.

“I think when you come to sarin gas, there was no, he (Hitler) was not using the gas on his own people the same way that Assad is doing,” Spicer said. “There was clearly … I understand your point, thank you. There was not … He brought them into the Holocaust center I understand that.”

After the briefing, Spicer emailed reporters a statement that said: “In no way was I trying to lessen the horrendous nature of the Holocaust. I was trying to draw a distinction of the tactic of using airplanes to drop chemical weapons on population centers. Any attack on innocent people is reprehensible and inexcusable.”

Reaction from around the world continued Wednesday. A spokesman for German Chancellor Angela Merkel said comparing Nazi war crimes to present-day situations “leads to nothing good.”

Robert Rozett, director of libraries at Yad Vashem, said Spicer’s comment implied a “profound lack of knowledge of the events of the second World War, including the Holocaust” and “are liable to strengthen the hands of those who seek to destroy history.”

In the U.S., Democrats and Jewish organizations condemned the comments.

House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi of California said in a statement that Spicer was “downplaying the horror of the Holocaust” and should be fired. Sen. Ben Cardin, D-Md., said on Twitter, “Someone get @PressSec a refresher history course on Hitler stat (hashtag)#Icantbelievehereallysaidthat.”

The New York-based Anne Frank Center for Mutual Respect also called on Trump to fire Spicer, saying he denied that Hitler gassed Jews during the Holocaust.

Rep. Lee Zeldin, a Jewish Republican from New York, said in a statement that the comparison could be made “a little differently and it would be accurate, but it’s important to clear up that Hitler did in fact use chemical warfare to murder innocent people.”

But Matt Brooks, executive director of the Republican Jewish Coalition, said that while “using the issue of the Holocaust or Hitler is problematic on many levels,” he believed Spicer had “genuinely and sincerely apologized.”

Spicer’s comments came on the first day of Passover and a day after the White House held a Seder dinner marking the emancipation of the Jewish people, a tradition started during the Obama administration. Earlier in the year, the White House generated criticism by issuing a statement on international Holocaust Remembrance Day that did not mention Jews.

Tuesday was the second consecutive day in which Trump’s principal spokesman appeared to struggle to articulate Trump’s foreign policy at a critical time.

On Monday, the White House clarified remarks Spicer made from the podium that the use of barrel bombs by Assad’s government might lead to further military action by the United States. Until Monday the administration had maintained that last week’s missile strikes were in response to the Syrian government’s use of chemical weapons against its citizens.

A White House spokesman said later that “nothing has changed in our posture” and the president retains the option to act if it’s in the national interest.

___

Associated Press writers Ian Deitch in Jerusalem and Julie Bykowicz and Darlene Superville in Washington contributed to this report.

___

Follow Thomas and Colvin on Twitter at https://twitter.com/KThomasDC and https://twitter.com/colvinj

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Feds: Design problems, human error led to Atchison spill

Wed, 04/12/2017 - 13:03

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) – Federal investigators say mistakes by a delivery driver and an employee of a northeast Kansas distilling plant led to the mixing of incompatible chemicals, causing a noxious cloud to spread over Atchison last year.

The U.S. Chemical Safety Board said in a preliminary report issued Wednesday that design and labeling deficiencies at the loading station at MGP Ingredients also contributed to the toxic chemical release of a huge cloud of chlorine gas in October 2016. The release sent about 140 people to hospitals and caused residents in the area to stay indoors or evacuate for several hours.

The agency said the release occurred when a delivery driver mistakenly unloaded sulfuric acid into a tank that contained sodium hypochlorite, releasing thousands of gallons of the gas across the region.

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Bond at issue for Kansas doctor accused in drug scheme

Wed, 04/12/2017 - 12:31

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) – Federal prosecutors are seeking to revoke the bond of a Kansas doctor accused of over-prescribing pain medication, insisting he illegally continued to write prescriptions with a suspended state medical license.

Steven Henson’s attorney counters that the Wichita doctor’s use of his Oklahoma medical license to write prescriptions to his wife and a longstanding patient for non-controlled substances was appropriate. Kurt Kerns adds that prosecutors filed for the bond revocation a day after a deadline for Henson to accept their plea offer.

A 31-count indictment against Henson in January 2016 accuses him of writing prescriptions for cash, when there wasn’t a medical need and for people other than the ones who came to see him. Prosecutors say the scheme resulted in a patient’s 2015 death.

Henson has pleaded not guilty.

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Flint Hills burning causes ozone levels to spike in Wichita Tuesday night

Wed, 04/12/2017 - 12:20

WICHITA, Kan. (KSNW) – Ozone levels spiked Tuesday evening in Wichita after prescribed burns in the Flint Hills. Easterly wind sent smoke into the Wichita area between 5 and 7 p.m.

“Ozone levels were at 93 parts billion at 6 p.m. and 94 parts billion at 7 p.m.,” said Baylee Cunningham, Air Quality Specialist for the City of Wichita. “But because ozone levels were reasonably low earlier in the day, the reported eight-hour average for April 11 was 70 parts per billion.”

This photo shows haze over Wichita. (KSN File Photo)

Cunningham said the city maintained compliance for the set standard. According to EPA, the National Ambient Air Quality Standard for ozone is 70 parts per billion.

“The standard is based on an eight-hour average because health effects are based on an eight-hour average,” added Cunningham. “Those one hour spikes contribute to that eight-hour average and are moderately higher than what we would normally see.”

Typically, ozone in Wichita on an average April day is 40s or 50s.

“If we would have had an average of 71, we would have exceeded the standard for the day,” Cunningham said.

On Monday, the city informed citizens that high ozone levels were expected.

“When we called the alert on Monday, we looked at all the precursors sort of the ingredients that would cause a high ozone day,” added Cunningham. “We believe advising the community of the Ozone Alert Day on Monday and residents’ participation, collectively made the difference in avoiding an exceedance day.”

The city said citizens made a difference during the day by cutting down on mowing and fueling up at later times. The city asked people to bike or walk to avoid emissions from driving.

The community will be advised of ozone conditions daily through the City of Wichita Facebook page, the City’s website or on Twitter @BeAirAwareKS.

TIPS TO REDUCE OZONE LEVELS

  • Refuel when it’s cool (after 6 p.m. or after dark)
  • Walk or ride your bike to work
  • Delay mowing
  • Stop fueling at the sound of the click
  • Take your lunch to work to avoid driving during the hottest part of the day
  • Turn off your car or don’t idle more than 30 seconds
  • Postpone errands
  • Delay painting projects

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Small plane makes emergency landing near Emporia

Wed, 04/12/2017 - 10:08

EMPORIA, Kan. (AP) – Authorities say no one was hurt when a small plane made an emergency landing in a pasture near Emporia because of engine problems.

The Emporia Gazette reports that the plane landed Tuesday night about three miles west and one mile north of the Emporia Municipal Airport.

The Lyon County Sheriff’s Office says the pilot was unharmed, and there were no injuries to people on the ground. The sheriff’s office didn’t say if that is where the plane was headed or from where it had taken off.

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Governor signs WATC, Wichita State affiliation bill

Wed, 04/12/2017 - 09:47

WICHITA, Kan. (KSNW) – Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback was in Wichita to sign a bill authorizing the affiliation of Wichita Area Technical College with Wichita State University.

The bill signing was heldat the Wichita State University Experiential Engineering Building.

Governor Sam Brownback, Wichita State University President Dr. John Bardo, Wichita Area Technical College President Sheree Utash, and Chair of Wichita Area Technical College Governing Board Lyndy Wells were in attendance.

The WATC facility will maintain its designation as a technical college and be known as the WSU Campus of Applied Sciences and Technology.

To read more about the bill approved by the legislature, click here.

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United pledges to review policies on removal of passengers

Wed, 04/12/2017 - 08:53

CHICAGO (AP) — After people were horrified by video of a passenger getting dragged off a full United Express flight by airport police, the head of United’s parent company said the airline was reaching out to the man to “resolve this situation.”

Hours later on Monday, his tone turned defensive. He described the man as “disruptive and belligerent.”

By Tuesday afternoon, almost two days after the Sunday evening confrontation in Chicago, CEO Oscar Munoz issued his most contrite apology yet as details emerged about the man seen on cellphone videos recorded by other passengers at O’Hare Airport.

“No one should ever be mistreated this way,” said Munoz, who also pledged to conduct a wide-ranging review of company policies.

The passenger was identified as physician David Dao, 69, of Elizabethtown, Kentucky, who was convicted more than a decade ago of felony charges involving his prescribing of drugs and spent years trying to regain his medical license.

But while Dao’s history quickly became a focus of attention, there’s no indication that his past influenced how he was treated or that the airline or police were aware of his background or would have known anything about him other than basic information such as his name and address, if that.

Screaming can be heard on the videos, but nowhere is Dao seen attacking the officers. In fact, he appears relatively passive both when he was dragged down the aisle of the jet and when he is seen standing in the aisle later saying quietly, “I want to go home, I want to go home.”

Munoz’s latest statement described the removal as “truly horrific.” He said the company would reassess policies for seeking volunteers to give up their seats, for handling oversold situations and for partnering with airport authorities and local law enforcement.

An attorney who represents Dao said his client was being treated at a Chicago hospital for injuries he sustained on the plane and that the family would not comment.

According to records from the Kentucky Board of Medical Licensure, Dao went to medical school at the University of Medicine of Ho Chi Minh City in Vietnam, graduating in 1974. He was licensed in Kentucky with a specialty in pulmonary disease.

His legal troubles started in 2003, when his medical license was suspended after an undercover sting operation at a Louisville motel for allegedly writing fraudulent prescriptions.

According to the documents, the licensing board had learned that Dao had become sexually interested in a patient and hired the patient as his office manager. That man later said he quit his job because Dao “pursued him aggressively” and arranged to provide him with prescription drugs in exchange for sex.

Dao was ultimately convicted in late 2004 of several counts of obtaining drugs by fraud or deceit and was placed on five years of supervised probation and surrendered his medical license.

His longtime effort to get his license back finally succeeded in 2015, when the licensing board allowed him to practice medicine again.

About a year after his medical license was suspended, Dao joined the professional poker circuit, according to his World Series of Poker profile. His biggest competitive win came in 2009 when he took home more than $117,000 from a tournament in Mississippi.

Airport officials have said little about Sunday’s events and nothing about Dao’s behavior before he was pulled from the jet that was bound for Louisville, Kentucky. Likewise, the Chicago Aviation Department has said only that one of its employees who removed Dao did not follow proper procedures and has been placed on leave.

No passengers on the plane have mentioned that Dao did anything but refuse to leave the plane when he was ordered to do so.

Also Tuesday, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel called the way Dao was treated “completely unacceptable” and praised Aviation Commissioner Ginger Evans for taking “swift action.” He promised that a city investigation would “ensure nothing like this ever happens again.”

The event stemmed from a common air travel issue — a full flight. United was trying to make room for four employees of a partner airline, meaning four people had to get off.

At first, the airline asked for volunteers, offering $400 and then when that did not work, $800 per passenger to relinquish a seat. When no one voluntarily came forward, United selected four passengers at random.

Three people got off the flight, but the fourth said he was a doctor and needed to get home to treat patients on Monday. He refused to leave.

Three Aviation Department police officers got on the plane. Two officers tried to reason with the man before a third came aboard and pointed at the man “basically saying, ‘Sir, you have to get off the plane,'” said Tyler Bridges, a passenger whose wife, Audra D. Bridges, posted a video on Facebook.

One of the officers could be seen grabbing the screaming man from his window seat, across the armrest and dragging him down the aisle by his arms.

Other passengers on Flight 3411 are heard saying, “Please, my God,” ”What are you doing?” ”This is wrong,” ”Look at what you did to him” and “Busted his lip.”

The U.S. Department of Transportation announced Tuesday that it is reviewing Sunday’s events to see if United violated rules on overselling flights.

Dao’s relatives are focused only on his medical care, attorney Stephen L. Golan said. The family “wants the world to know that they are very appreciative of the outpouring of prayers, concern and support they have received.”

___

Associated Press Writer David Koenig in Dallas and AP researcher Rhonda Shafner in New York contributed to this report.

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Russia accuses US of unlawful Syria raid as Tillerson visits

Wed, 04/12/2017 - 08:51

MOSCOW (AP) — Russia’s top diplomat accused the United States on Wednesday of carrying out an unlawful attack against Syrian President Bashar Assad’s forces as he opened a fraught meeting with visiting U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson.

Giving Tillerson a chilly reception, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said Russia was trying to understand the “real intentions” of the Trump administration. He said Moscow has lots of questions about the “very ambiguous” and “contradictory” ideas emanating from Washington.

“We have seen very alarming actions recently with an unlawful attack against Syria,” Lavrov said, referring to the cruise missiles President Donald Trump ordered to punish Assad for using chemical weapons. “We consider it of utmost importance to prevent the risks of replay of similar action in the future.”

It was an ominous start to Tillerson’s visit — the first to Russia by a Trump Cabinet official. Tillerson conceded the two world powers had “sharp differences” that have obstructed cooperation but voiced optimism that their talks could narrow those differences.

“We both have agreed our lines of communication shall always remain open,” Tillerson said.

Trump, meanwhile, told Fox Business News that the U.S. had no plans to become more deeply involved in Syria and only did so because of last week’s deadly chemical weapons attack that killed dozens. Turkey has said tests showed sarin gas was used.

“Are we going to get involved with Syria? No,” Trump said in the interview, which aired Wednesday in the U.S. “But if I see them using gas…we have to do something.”

The palpable tension hanging over Tillerson’s trip spoke to a widening chasm between the former Cold War foes.

Only weeks ago, it appeared that Trump, who lavishly praised Russian President Vladimir Putin throughout the campaign, was poised for a potentially historic rapprochement with Russia. But any expectations of an easy rapport have crashed into reality as the two countries trade escalating accusations over what happened last week in rebel-held territory in northern Syria.

“Frankly, Putin is backing a person that’s truly an evil person,” Trump aid in the Fox Business Network interview, referring to Assad. “I think it’s very bad for Russia. I think it’s very bad for mankind.”

Of Assad, Trump added: “This is an animal.”

And Putin, who U.S. intelligence agencies say tried to help Trump get elected, insisted that relations with the U.S. had only gone downhill since Trump took office in January.

“The level of trust at the working level, especially at the military level, has not become better but most likely has degraded,” Putin said in an interview broadcast Wednesday by state television channel Mir.

It was unclear whether Putin, who once gave Tillerson an “Order of Friendship” award, would grant the visiting American an audience. Though the Kremlin had declined to say whether the leaders would meet, Putin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Wednesday: “There is a certain likelihood.”

Moscow has strenuously objected to Trump’s decision to launch 59 U.S. Tomahawk missiles at a Syrian air base that the U.S. says was used to pummel civilians with nerve gas, resulting in 87 deaths. Russia, Assad’s staunchest ally, has insisted that Assad is blameless and that it was actually the rebels responsible for the disbursed chemical weapons.

Intelligence services from several Western countries dispute that claim. The health minister in Turkey, which treated many of the attack’s victims and conducted autopsies on others, said Tuesday that test results conducted on victims confirmed sarin gas was used.

Adding further fuel to rising tensions: the White House’s move to circulate declassified U.S. intelligence accusing Moscow of aiding Assad’s government in covering up the chemical attack. The U.S. also accused Russia of mounting a disinformation campaign aimed at exonerating Assad.

Tillerson, on a mission to persuade Russia to abandon Assad, issued an ultimatum to Putin before flying to Moscow: Either side with the U.S. and likeminded countries, or with Assad, Iran and the militant group Hezbollah.

But Russia made clear it had no intention to acquiesce. Putin quickly invited the Syrian and Iranian foreign ministers to Moscow on Friday, the day after Tillerson departs.

“Our policy is consistent and it’s formulated exclusively on the basis of international law and not under the impact of current opportunistic motives or false choice: ‘You are with us or against us,'” Lavrov told Tillerson.

The Trump administration’s growing willingness to confront Russia directly is serving another purpose: defanging the perception of coziness between Trump and Moscow. As the FBI and multiple congressional committees investigate potential collusion between Russia and Trump’s campaign in last year’s U.S. election, Trump can point to his hard-line stance as fresh evidence that he’s far from beholden to the Russian leader.

Subtly mocking his guest, Lavrov said their talks were especially important because “not all key positions in the State Department have been filled yet.” He was referring to widespread vacancies throughout the top State Department leadership that has fueled a perception in the U.S. that Tillerson and his agency are being sidelined by Trump.

“It’s not easy to get clarifications on the current as well as prospective issues because of that,” Lavrov said.

___

Associated Press writers Vladimir Isachenkov, Nataliya Vasilyeva and Jim Heintz contributed to this report.

___

Reach Josh Lederman on Twitter at http://twitter.com/joshledermanAP

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Wal-Mart to discount online-only items delivered to stores

Wed, 04/12/2017 - 08:49

NEW YORK (AP) — Starting next week, Wal-Mart will offer discounts on thousands of online-only items when customers elect to have them shipped to one of the company’s stores for pickup.

The move is part of the retailer’s efforts to better compete with online leader Amazon.

Initially, the discount will be available on about 10,000 items. But the Bentonville, Arkansas-based retailer says it will then expand the price cuts to more than one million items by the end of June.

Among some of the offers starting April 19: An infant car seat that was priced at $148.05 will have an additional discount of $7.40. A Lego Great Vehicles Ferry priced at $23.99 will have an additional pickup discount of $2.55.

Wal-Mart is able offer the discounts by delivering the products directly to its 4,700 stores, saving on costs by avoiding shipping to individual shoppers’ homes.

The offer builds on Wal-Mart’s move in late January that replaced a pilot program offering free shipping but that came with an annual fee of $49, with one with a lower free-shipping threshold, faster delivery and no membership fee.

The retailer said it will reduce free shipping time to two days on 2 million of its most popular items including essentials like diapers and pet food as well as hot toys and electronics. Wal-Mart’s average time has been three to five days. Also, at the time, it reduced the spending necessary for free shipping to $35 from $50.

These moves are being spearheaded by Walmart.com’s CEO Mark Lore, who joined the company when Wal-Mart bought Jet.com, which he founded last year.

It’s also another illustration of how Wal-Mart is trying to figure out a way to compete with Amazon and its dominant Prime plan. Amazon’s membership program costs $99 a year, but includes services like streaming music and video that have created fierce loyalty. Analysts say that Amazon Prime members buy frequently and spend more money.

“We’re creating price transparency to empower customers to shop smarter and choose what’s best for them,” Lore wrote in a company blog post. He noted now they can either pick up an item and save even more money, or get two-day shipping for free without paying for a membership. He noted that he believes that the business is gaining momentum. Wal-Mart’s online sales increased 29 percent in the fiscal fourth quarter, up from 20.6 percent in the previous period. That marked the third straight quarter of gains.

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Orlando Bloom talks split with Katy Perry, paddleboard pics

Wed, 04/12/2017 - 08:48

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Orlando Bloom says he remains friends with ex-girlfriend Katy Perry and says he and Perry are setting an example by showing that breakups “don’t have to be about hate.”

The British actor’s conciliatory tone in an interview with Elle U.K. matches Perry’s take on the relationship. The singer tweeted last month that “no one’s a victim or a villain” and “u can still b friends & love ur former partners!”

Bloom also opened up about infamous paparazzi photos taken last year of him paddle boarding in the nude with a clothed Perry. He says he and Perry had been completely alone and he “had a moment of feeling free.” He says he wouldn’t have put himself in that position if he had known photographers were around.

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