2013年12月31日星期二

Kansas to add voters to rolls by comparing birth certificates


More than 19,000 of the Kansans who signed up to vote to last year saw their registrations set aside because they didn’t prove their U.S. citizenship to the state.




Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach has a plan to make more of those voters eligible. His solution might cause even more legal problems.


Kobach wants to match the list of suspended registrations with records kept at the state health department to determine who has Kansas birth certificates, one of the documents accepted for proving citizenship.


The state’s vital statistics office will compare lists of would-be voters to its records. Kobach’s office would be notified when matches are confirmed. The procedure will be followed in the future as Kansans register to vote.


“This, in my view, is good government,” Kobach said.


But critics were quick to point out that Kobach’s idea could pose constitutional problems because it treats voters born in Kansas differently from voters born elsewhere.


It also raises questions about how women might be treated. Many change their names after getting married and might not be matched with birth records kept by the state.


“That is not actually going to work,” said Doug Bonney, legal director for the American Civil Liberties Union of Kansas and Western Missouri.


Kobach said provisions will be made for women. He said the state health department tracks name changes and those records will be matched against the voting records.


Kobach, however, conceded that prospective voters born in Kansas will benefit more than voters born in another state.


He said there are many examples throughout government where people might have an advantage because of their age, marital status or residence.


“It’s an extra service but it’s not something that would amount to a violation of equal protection of law,” he said.


Vanderbilt University voting rights expert James F. Blumstein said the issue could turn in favor of Kobach if courts saw it as a benign way to help voters.


“I am not sure anyone is being deprived of anything,” he said. “The question is whether the failure to give a benefit to someone who is born outside the state … is a problem.”


Even lawmakers who supported the law as way of keeping undocumented immigrants from swaying elections say they never thought it would keep thousands of people from registering to vote.


As of Tuesday, 19,348 registrations had been set aside statewide because would-be voters didn’t prove citizenship. About 4,000 were in Johnson County, 1,000 in Wyandotte County and 500 in Leavenworth County.


State Rep. Scott Schwab, a Republican from Olathe and chairman of the House elections committee, said “this problem is going to be solved before the Legislature is done, and it’s going to happen rather swiftly.”


One possible change might mean requiring state motor vehicle office staff to ask for citizenship papers when signing up voters renewing their driver’s licenses.


The law also has set up the possibility that Kansas might have a two-tiered election system after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that states could not require proof of citizenship for prospective voters using the federal registration form.


The ACLU and other groups have gone to court to stop the two-tiered system. Meanwhile, Kobach is suing the federal government to modify the federal form to allow for proof of citizenship and avoid the tiered system.



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Britain's aid millions help the most corrupt regimes in the world it is revealed as Cameron's target is finally hit



  • Study carried out by respected organisation Transparency International

  • Virtually all the countries with the most serious corruption problems receive lavish aid from Britain


By Jason Groves


|


Britain has finally hit David Cameron's controversial foreign aid target, spending more than £11.2billion in a year.


But the news came at the same time that it was revealed that millions of taxpayers' money is helping to prop up the most corrupt regimes in the world.


A study by the respected organisation Transparency International (TI) reveals that virtually all of the countries with the most serious corruption problems receive lavish aid from Britain.


North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un. Britain sends £756,000 a year to the country

North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un. Britain sends £756,000 a year to the country



Detailed figures show that we sent funding to all ten of the worst offending nations in 2012. Between them they received almost £500million from the British taxpayer.


The Prime Minister's goal of devoting 0.7 per cent of Britain's income to foreign aid was reached yesterday. The target required a 30 per cent increase in the foreign aid budget last year – making it more than the amount set aside for the entire Home Office.


But the revelations about corruption will fuel concern that much of the aid never reaches those it is intended for.


Tory MP Peter Bone said: 'I am sure ministers take what precautions they can, but the situation in many of these countries is so bad that there is no way of knowing where the money ends up.


'It all comes down to this ridiculous artificial target which means we have to send more and more money every time the economy improves, rather than having a real assessment of need.


'It is a really dangerous system … it just plays into the hands of corrupt politicians and officials.'


TI identifies the Somalian regime as the most corrupt and the World Bank rates the country as one of the worst governed in the world. But in 2012 Britain gave the impoverished African nation £86.8million.


Where our money is going


Somalia is one of a number of countries where aid is channelled through charities and agencies rather than central government in a bid to sidestep corruption.


But a report in December found many of these organisations were forced to hand over large sums of cash to terrorist group Al-Shabaab in return for protection.


Britain also sent more than £200million to Afghanistan – rated as the world's third most corrupt regime. The money was given despite a report from the Independent Commission for Aid Impact two years ago which warned British aid was at risk of theft, corruption and fraud.


The watchdog said 'significant improvements' were needed to protect taxpayers' money.


Newly formed South Sudan received £107million in British aid, but also has a dismal record for corruption.


TI ranks the troubled state as the fourth most corrupt. In 2012 South Sudan's parliament suspended 75 officials in a scandal involving the theft of £2.6billion from the fledgling country.


Syria, one of the fastest risers in TI's annual corruption index, received £38.5million in 2012 – a figure thought to have increased dramatically in the past year as the humanitarian crisis worsened. Earlier this month the Government suspended non-lethal military aid to northern Syria because of evidence it was falling into the hands of rebel groups linked to Al Qaeda.


Other corrupt nations enjoying British funding include Zimbabwe and the Democratic Republic of the Congo – 19th and 23rd in the index – which were both handed £139million. Pakistan, was given £197million despite being the 31st most corrupt.


The Department for International Development (DfID) said it has a zero tolerance approach to corruption and that there were 'rigorous checks to protect taxpayers' money'.


A DfID spokesman said: 'Stopping terrorism, money laundering and tax evasion in the world's most dangerous places is firmly in our own national interest. Fighting poverty and corruption will help to end aid dependency more quickly.'


Around £750,000 of taxpayers' money is given to North Korea through the Foreign Office but this goes to aid agencies, not the autocratic regime.


A FCO spokesman said the British Embassy in Pyongyang provides 'a very small amount of funding to individual community projects' for 'vulnerable groups'.


The huge rise in British aid is in stark contrast to other developed countries, most of which are slashing their aid programmes.


United Nations figures reveal that average aid spending is 0.29 per cent of income – less than half what Britain has budgeted.











What we can expect in KC in 2014


The ball dropped at midnight. Kathy Griffin is done punking Anderson Cooper until the next New Year’s eve rolls around.




No escaping it, folks, we have arrived in 2014.


Which is very good news for some of you. Especially Kansas City’s action junkies, for whom the year ahead promises to be positively Verrückt!


Which is German for “insane!” as in “woo-hoo!” It also happens to be the name of that 17-story water slide set to open next May at Schlitterbahn in Kansas City, Kan.


But of course, 2014 has much more in store for us locally than the installation of the world’s tallest and crazy-fast slide.


Already the year ahead promises a number of big anniversaries to mark, progress on the economic front locally and new things to anticipate with worry and dread.


You thought that mess downtown was bad in 2013? Behold the Johnson County Gateway project, a $285 million headache of potentially migraine proportions set to begin later this year at and around the junction of interstates 35 and 435, with work on the K-10 and I-435 split and the 95th Street overpass thrown in to make things even more interesting.


We use the wiggle word “potentially” because you just never know about the future. As former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld once famously observed, “there are known knowns, … there are known unknowns … but there are also unknown unknowns –– the ones we don't know we don’t know.”


So get out your calendars and let’s stick to what we do know lies ahead.


Celebrations aplenty


Every year is chock-a-block with notable anniversaries, but 2014 has several big, round-number ones worthy of commemoration hereabouts.


Let’s start with centennials. This summer marks the 100th anniversary of the start of the first world war. To mark it, the National World War I Museum is scheduling conferences, new exhibits and a bugler will play “Taps” at the base of the Liberty Memorial each evening during one week in June.


This fall also marks the centennial of Union Station, which will play host to a long weekend of celebration Oct. 30 to Nov. 2. It’s set to begin with a gala fundraising event and end with a two-day open house during which visitors can get in free to the planetarium, science museum and other attractions.


A permanent exhibit focusing on the history of the station is also in the works.


Of course, we’ll also be hearing a lot about the 50th anniversary of Beatlemania, as Kansas City clambers aboard that nostalgia train with recollections of the Sept. 17, 1964, concert that John, Paul, George and Ringo put on at old Municipal Stadium.


Other anniversaries: It’s the 150th for the Battle of Westport, for which a Civil War re-enactment is planned.


Local baseball fans will surely note twin anniversaries for Hall-of-Famer George Brett. It was 40 years ago, in 1974, that Brett played his first full season in the Major Leagues and perfected his swing under the tutelage of the legendary Royals hitting coach Charley Lau. Twenty years later, in 1994, the Royals retired Brett’s number.


Drink up, because it’s also the 25th birthday of Boulevard Brewing Co., which plans on staging a new festival, Boulevardia, in the West Bottoms this June.


And it’s been 20 years since the “Shuttlecocks” took root at the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art and that the “Sky Stations” were installed atop Bartle Hall.


You know, the hair curlers.


Sports stuff


In 2014, we’ll learn whether Sporting Kansas City can hang onto the Major League Soccer title the team won in 2013, and whether the Chiefs’ comeback this football season and the Royals’ first pennant run in a generation were flukes or the sign of things to come.


KU, K-State, Mizzou? Your guess is as good as anybody’s.


But at least the Kansas City sports calendar is locked in. And sorry, after two straight years of hosting major-league all-star games for baseball and then soccer, KC isn’t guaranteed the national sports spotlight in 2014.


Likewise, NCAA will skip us for March Madness this year. But the Big 12, Division I Basketball Tournament will be back March 12-15 at Sprint Center.


For the first time, the NCAA Division II football championship will be played at Sporting Park next December and continuing through 2017.


Sporting Park will also host the Division III men’s and women’s soccer semifinals and final in 2014 and 2015.


Can’t escape politics


With 2014 being an even-numbered year, it won’t be long before the bombardment of campaign commercials, robo calls and candidate mailers starts again — if it hasn’t already.


None of those occupying the three area congressional seats is in much danger of being unseated. Races for statewide offices in Missouri are, with the exception of state auditor two years away, and Jackson County Executive Mike Sanders is a lock for re-election as he seeks a third term.


That means, absent a hot referendum fight in Missouri, most of the hot political action will be on the Kansas side. Will Gov. Sam Brownback get a second term? Can the controversial Secretary of State Kris Kobach keep his job? Might U.S. Sen. Pat Roberts lose a primary challenge from a well-funded Tea Partier?


Big doings Downtown


Rails are being laid down Main Street for the downtown streetcar line, but the trains won’t be running until 2015.


However, there’s no shortage of projects getting underway or scheduled for completion in the Kansas City’s central business district.


This year the feds plan to move 900 jobs to the Two Pershing Square office building next to Union Station after vacating the federal complex on Bannister Road.


Some of those workers might choose to live downtown. Problem is, most of the rental properties are full up. But luckily, several new projects on the horizon aim to help fill that demand.


Cordish Co. said it will begin construction in 2014 of a 25-story, 311-unit apartment complex on the site of the former Jones Store at 13th and Walnut streets.


VanTrust Real Estate is teaming with Swope Community Builders to finally complete the long-delayed East Village project, just northeast of City Hall, starting with construction this year of a 180-unit apartment building at 10th and Holmes streets.


Also, work is to begin on building 45 to 50 new units next to the Rieger Hotel Grill & Exchange at 1914 Main St. The Colorado developer picked the location because it’s along the streetcar line, and city officials say that’s just the start of what they hope will be a raft of development inspired by the two-mile starter line.


Awaiting word


We won’t know until February whether Kansas City will get to host the 2016 Republican National Convention.


If successful, it’d be the third time in the city’s history that the GOP came here to nominate its candidates for president and vice president. The last time was in 1976, when President Gerald Ford and Sen. Bob Dole were chosen to top the ticket and later lost. The time before was in 1928, when Herbert Hoover was chosen to top the ticket and another Kansas senator, Charles Curtis, went on, unlike Dole, to become vice president.


The last and only time the Democrats were in town to nominate their standard bearer was in 1900, when William Jennings Bryan got the pick.


Also in 2014, we should find out the routes for the first extensions to the downtown streetcar line. Three top the list: south to the Plaza and two routes to the east, one on Independence Avenue and the other on Linwood Boulevard or 31st Street toward the sports complex.


Will Jackson County’s commuter rail project finally — wait for it — pick up steam?


Or how about Kansas City International Airport? Will city officials dump the current three-terminal configuration and go with a single terminal, or maybe something less ambitious?


A citizens advisory group is examining all of the options for KCI and will submit recommendations after public hearings in February and March, including one in Johnson County.


We might or might not get answers to those questions in 2014, but we should begin to get a better idea how Google Fiber’s high-speed Internet project is starting to play out.


Big thrills?


We do know that in 2014 that Justin Timberlake is set to perform at back-to-back concerts, July 30 and 31, at the Sprint Center. Tickets sold out fast, but you know how it is. They’re available on the “secondary market” at a price.


This year also marks the arrival of the world’s largest home furniture retailer to the Kansas City market. Ikea plans to open a 359,000 square foot store in Merriam at I-35 and Johnson Drive next fall.


Your answer to the question “which of those twin big events in 2014 excites you the most?” probably says a lot about you.


However, if the answer is that neither floats your boat then we’ll see you on the stairs of that big water slide.


Seventeen stories? Already Verrückt gets our vote for word of the year.



The Kansas City Star is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere on the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.


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Pret A Manger customer shocked to find DEAD FROG in her salad



  • Journalist discovered creature in Tuna Nicoise Salad in Manhattan branch of fast food chain


By Nick Enoch


|



A customer who popped out for a lunchtime snack got more greens than she bargained for after finding a dead frog in her salad.


The Wall Street Journal employee had visited the Pret a Manger on Sixth Avenue/47 Street in Manhattan yesterday to get what she assumed would be a regular Albacore Tuna Nicoise Salad.


But in addition to the tomatoes, tuna, egg and olives, there was an extra ingredient: the small amphibian, almost camouflaged among the salad leaves.


A Wall Street Journal employee found a dead frog in a Tuna Nicoise Salad she bought from a branch of Pret A Manger on Sixth Avenue/47 Street

A Wall Street Journal employee found a dead frog in a Tuna Nicoise Salad she bought from a branch of Pret A Manger on Sixth Avenue/47 Street



Kathryn Lurie, digital features editor at the WSJ, posted a photo of the novel salad on behalf of her startled co-worker who bought the meal and did not wish to be identified.


Lurie told Gothamist that her colleague had started the meal at her desk and was 'pretty shaken' to discover the two-inch long green-brown creature.


A spokesman for Pret said: 'At Pret A Manger, we take issues like this very seriously.


'Our lettuce is sourced from farms that do not use any pesticides on its produce, therefore organic matter does very rarely manage to pass through our production process.


'We are currently looking into this issue to make every effort that this does not happen again.'


Ellen Roggemann, vice president of brand marketing for the company in the U.S., told the WSJ that the 'handmade natural food' sold by the chain is often made from organic ingredients.


The manager of the Pret branch in Manhattan (above) has since apologised and given the customer a refund, plus a voucher for a free lunch

The manager of the Pret branch in Manhattan (above) has since apologised and given the customer a refund, plus a voucher for a free lunch



She added that this could be partially to blame for the frog in the salad.


Ms Roggemann said: 'We don’t use any pesticides with our greens and they go through multiple washing cycles. An unfortunate piece of organic matter has made its way through.'


The manager of the branch has since apologised and given the customer a refund, plus a voucher for a free lunch.


And as for the frog: it lives on, as it were, in meme form - including one showing the poor little critter wearing a festive woolly hat.


... and here's a live one in a bag


Last September, a woman discovered a live frog in a bag of washed salad she bought from a high-end supermarket.


Christina Carrington, 50, had already eaten some of the salad leaves before her youngest daughter, Daniela Toale, noticed the amphibian lurking in the bag.


The frog was found in a bag of mixed leaf salad bought from a branch of Waitrose in Southampton

The frog was found in a bag of mixed leaf salad bought from a branch of Waitrose in Southampton



The frog had survived despite being trapped in the plastic packaging for more than 24 hours.


Mrs Carrington, a health care manager from Chandler’s Ford near Southampton, Hampshire, bought the mixed leaf bag from her local branch of Waitrose.


She ate some of the leaves for her lunch, but the green and brown frog was only spotted when Miss Toale, a 20-year-old university student, prepared dinner that evening.