2014年3月31日星期一

Former KCK woman killed; daughter uses lawsuit to complicate murder suspect's defense


Two days before her mother was shot and killed, Tanna Paterno received a text from her.




“God put in my heart today that he wants me to find peace in the midst of the storm, and I will have peace,” RaDonna Holman’s message read.


On Dec. 10, authorities in Lawrence County in southwest Missouri arrested the husband of Paterno’s mother, David Holman. They charged him with first-degree murder and armed criminal action in his wife’s death.


On Dec. 12, Paterno filed a wrongful-death lawsuit against Holman. Much of it was about cattle.


It was the first in a flurry of swift civil court motions, initiated almost immediately after the shooting, in which Paterno tried to freeze the assets of the accused killer.


Paterno wanted Holman to have as little money as possible available to hire a defense lawyer or bond out of jail. She argued that her mother may have owned some of those assets.


It represented an approach some area lawyers find novel, and one that could tempt the survivors of other murder victims to follow. Still, such an approach has limits, such as when a defendant doesn’t have many assets to start with.


But Paterno felt compelled to fight the possibility of Holman bonding out.


“I didn’t want him getting out,” Paterno said.


On Dec. 13 Holman applied for a public defender but learned he was not eligible. Bond later was set at $500,000, and a Springfield lawyer soon helped him post it.


“The Constitution guarantees a man the to right to bond,” said Roger Jones of Springfield, Holman’s defense attorney, adding that he has empathy for Paterno.


RaDonna Holman had a challenging life as a young woman, her daughter said.


“She grew up on the streets, she moved around a lot and took care of herself.”


But in recent years RaDonna Holman had earned a degree in computer programming and had served as a substitute teacher in the Piper School District.


About four years ago, she met David Holman online. Eventually she sold her home in Kansas City, Kan., and moved to southwest Missouri to marry him. Paterno was happy for her mother.


“She saw a chance to do what she wanted, to have cows and chickens, to have a garden and do some canning,” Paterno said. “For the first two years, she was happy.”


But the marriage began to go bad.


“He flattened her tires,” said Dave Bankston, Paterno’s fiance. “He was reading her diaries and notebooks. She was scared to leave.”


After learning of the shooting, Bankston and Paterno drove to Lawrence County. Through their lawyer, they filed a wrongful-death suit that included an affidavit regarding the cattle, submitting it only three days after Holman’s arrest.


There was no time to wait with the cattle, according to Bankston.


“I grew up on a farm,” Bankston said. “It was December. Some of the cows were calving in the snow. It was a bad situation.”


While removing personal items from the home, they recovered a logbook in which RaDonna Holman had recorded details regarding the cattle, they say. The 33 animals had been owned and tagged separately.


“Most of David’s cows here were older, mush-mouth cows,” Bankston said.


In January, a court ordered the cattle sold and the proceeds divided evenly between the surviving daughter and David Holman, with payments arranged for a neighbor who had been caring for the livestock.


Paterno and Bankston still wanted to freeze other assets. That included the about 65 acres that Holman insists had been given to him by his mother and to which RaDonna Holman, Jones said, had no claim.


A Lawrence County judge ordered Paterno and Bankston to post a $200,000 bond if they wanted to freeze Holman’s property assets. Paterno and Bankston believed the land had been appraised too high.


In January, a local real estate broker submitted a letter describing the Holman property as in need of repair and worth perhaps $135,000.


Jones said he made an offer to Paterno and Bankston through which he would sell the property and use some proceeds toward obtaining bond as well as putting $50,000 aside for Paterno as partial satisfaction toward any future wrongful-death settlement. Both Paterno and Bankston contest that version of events.


A judge ultimately set Holman’s bond at $500,000. Holman retained Jones, who helped him post bond, using deeds of trust on Holman’s property to secure a bonding agency’s involvement.


As part of the bond agreement, sheriff’s deputies removed all guns and ammunition from the Holman home.


Free on bond


Jake Jacoby, an Independence criminal lawyer, considers the efforts by Paterno and Bankston unusual for two reasons: First, many times those accused of murder do not have substantial amounts of assets. Secondly, often they are accused of killing somebody they are not related to.


But here both assets and family are in play.


“When you have a husband and wife, that’s an unusual situation,” he said.


Yet Kansas City criminal attorney John P. O’Connor didn’t consider the story that unusual.


“Just about every criminal case,” he said, “has a civil aspect.”


That is more true, O’Connor added, “if there are assets that the accused person could move, transfer, conceal or take off with. These people appear to be trying to prevent that.”


O’Connor said he’s surprised that such civil actions are not pursued more often.


None of Paterno and Bankston’s legal efforts directly affect the criminal case.


According to court documents, authorities received a 911 call just after midnight on Dec. 10 from David Holman about a shooting at his residence.


Deputies found RaDonna Holman on a bed in the house with a single gunshot wound in the chest.


David Holman told deputies that his wife shot him with a .40-caliber gun, and then he shot her with a .357-caliber Magnum.


Authorities found that David Holman had been shot in the left arm. Court documents say he told authorities he was in the kitchen when he was shot and that he shot his wife while she was standing by the bed.


“The statement that David gave was inconsistent with the trajectory evidence of the crime scene,” the probable cause statement read. An autopsy determined that RaDonna Holman died from “a gunshot through her back.”


Now Holman is free on bond, and Paterno finds that unsettling.


On some occasions when her mother and Holman had argued, Paterno said, she drove to a sister’s home in Oklahoma rather than to Paterno’s home in Parkville.


“She didn’t want him to follow her up here,” Paterno said.


“Now this guy is out on the street and the trial isn’t scheduled until June 2015,” Bankston said.


Holman’s release was made on conditions of electronic monitoring and drug testing. He can’t leave the state and can’t travel more than 100 miles from his home. Lawrence County is more than 150 miles south of the Kansas City area.


That’s little comfort to Paterno.


“It’s never been about money,” Bankston added. “It was always about keeping him in jail.”


Paterno also said she has lost a fundamental feeling of safety and security that her mother represented to her.


“My mother grew up on the streets, she moved around a lot and often didn’t have a home to go to at night,” she said.


“So she took care of herself. And that was the one thing she always saw to, that our home and our bed was our safe spot. It has taken away my security and peace of mind.”



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Love and Hip Hop NY Star -- Mendeecees Harris' GF Drops $200k to Bail Him Out of Jail


Exclusive Details


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A "Love & Hip Hop New York" star got sprung from the pokey tonight -- after more than a year -- thanks to his fiancée, who anted up $200,000 for his bond.


Mendeecees Harris got busted back in January 2013 for his alleged involvement in a heroin and cocaine drug ring. He's been in Federal custody -- most recently in a Rochester, NY jail -- ever since his arrest.


Today, a judge agreed to release him on a $600k bond ... and his fiancée Yandy Smith came through with $200k of that.


Mendeecees tells TMZ the first thing he did after getting out of jail was to score some Chinese food and some candy. He and Yandy are currently driving from Rochester back to NYC.


BTW ... Yandy is a true ride or die chick because she's on the hook for that $200,000 if Mendeecees doesn't show for trial.






Former Defense Secretary Robert Gates discusses current world crises with Wichita audience


Robert Gates, the former secretary of defense for two presidents, took the stage Monday in his hometown of Wichita.







It has been three years since he left the world stage, but problems and people he considers dangerous or disappointing still persist, he said.


Gates discussed several recent and current world crises for about an hour with a capacity crowd Monday at Duerksen Fine Arts Center at Wichita State University. A graduate of Wichita East High School, he later signed copies of his book “Duty: Memoirs of a Secretary at War.”


Among those crises he commented on is the current situation in Ukraine, where Russian President Vladimir Putin has moved troops into Crimea.


“President (George W.) Bush once famously said he’d looked into Putin’s eyes and read his soul,” Gates said.


But Gates, who met Putin a number of times, told Bush later that when he looked into Putin’s eyes, he saw “nothing but a cold-blooded killer.”


Putin conned President Obama into backing down on the Syria crisis, he said, a development Gates regards with dismay. And now Putin is playing a long game to build a wall of adversaries against the West, starting with Crimea, Gates said.


He said the U.S. must press economic sanctions against Russia to make it hurt and put troops in places like Poland to set up a trip wire to deter Putin from going farther.


In Syria, which is embroiled in a deadly civil war, had Obama done what he should have done, Gates said, the U.S. would have pushed much harder to overthrow the Syrian government early in that country’s conflict.


“Now we have to look at that in the rearview mirror,” he said.


Obama decided not to attack after Syria slaughtered its own people with chemical weapons. Gates said he had told Obama and other presidents that if you ever cock a pistol, be prepared to fire it; “backing away from a red line was a real mistake.”


And for the sake of getting rid of those chemical weapons, Gates said, the U.S. let Syrian President Bashar Assad off for killing 140,000 Syrians with conventional weapons.


In Iran, Gates said, “the Persians” plan to drag out negotiations – with the help of the Russians and Chinese – while they continue to work on nuclear weapons. Gates said the U.S. should say a six-month deadline is six months and threaten sanctions far tougher than the sanctions that brought Iran to the negotiating table. We’re not doing that, he said.


Most of Gates’ hourlong talk concerned his years as defense secretary, from 2006 to 2011, serving Obama and Bush. And in that talk, as he did in his recently published book, Gates heaped scorn on Congress and bureaucrats at the Pentagon.


Our nation’s leaders squandered great initial victories in Iraq and Afghanistan, he said, and then got a lot of young people killed through disastrous mistakes.


Members of Congress treated anyone trying to solve those problems with rudeness and contempt, Gates said. Senators and congressmen fought for military installations in their states not because it was good for the country but because they were trying to get re-elected.


“Television cameras seem to have the same effect on members of Congress that a full moon has on werewolves,” Gates said, one of several scornful descriptions of Congress that drew applause from the audience.


The best reason Gates said he found for putting up with maddening work like his was that he fought hard to protect the lives of U.S. soldiers.


The people who usually push our country into war – “fire-breathers,” as he called them – are almost always civilians who have no idea what war is like. They nearly always mistakenly think that the war will be short and will be won with advanced technology, he said.


But predictions about war, Gates said, nearly always go wrong with the first shots, the first bombs. And they are usually fought not with technology or plans but “block by block, hilltop by hilltop, house by house.”


He didn’t say it in the speech, but in his book, he said he is entitled, as a former defense secretary, to be buried in Arlington National Cemetery.


He wrote that he can think of no greater honor.



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Kansas City school board balks at sale of Westport High


When it comes to selling historic Westport High School, it turns out too many Kansas City school board members don’t want to let it go.



Foutch Brothers Real Estate teamed up with Academie Lafayette charter school to create an International Baccalaureate high school, which it hoped to open at the former Westport High School.



The board — at least for now — has denied the administration’s recommendation to sell the building to Foutch Brothers Real Estate, which had teamed up with Academie Lafayette charter school to create an International Baccalaureate high school.


The board, according to sources in position to know, voted 4-3 against the proposal despite heavy support from neighborhood groups and some civic leaders who had cheered the idea of Westport reopening with the popular charter school.


“I’m confused and extremely disappointed,” said Southmoreland Neighborhood Association President Greg Corwin. “The community has always been crystal clear that the best re-use is a well-managed school … and now that got all blown up.”


The vote came during a closed session Wednesday night. The state’s Sunshine Law allows public boards to keep real estate matters behind closed doors until a sale is approved.


“We are not disclosing or confirming any details,” board president Airick Leonard West said Monday. “The matter remains under negotiation.”


Circumstances around the building at 315 E. 39th St. are in flux. In particular, a possible streetcar line near the school could change the dynamics around its reuse.


The board’s decision to at least delay a decision on Westport High School frustrated Steve Foutch and Academie Lafayette. The developers have spent close to $150,000 preparing the proposal, Foutch said.


“We have been working on this for so long … and now they want to pull it back,” Foutch said in an email to The Star. “Now Academie Lafayette’s plans to open their high school are in jeopardy for another year. Trying to help solve the inner city problems just got worse.”


This dance between the school district and Academie Lafayette has been going on more than three years — wrapped in the complicated politics between the school district and charter schools.


Both the district and the charter school have been eying an international-themed high school to build on their popular foreign language specialty schools. Two of the Kansas City school district’s most popular schools are Foreign Language Academy and Carver Dual Language Elementary School.


Academie Lafayette opened as a K-8 French language immersion school in 1999 and quickly filled and began expanding. It worked with the district and its repurposing process at the outset in 2011 when the district began a community program to seek preferred reuses for some 30 closed schools.


Academie Lafayette was the first buyer to secure a new building when it bought Longan Elementary School, 3421 Cherry St., to expand its K-8 program at 69th and Oak streets. The charter, which admits new children mostly only into kindergarten, uses a lottery selection that turns away three families for every one that gets in.


It currently serves 830 students. Its long-range plan envisions serving about 2,000 students, with a high school with 400 to 600 students and another elementary school, possibly a Spanish- or Mandarin-language immersion program, Academy Lafayette board president Dave Cozad said.


Academie Lafayette wants to open a high school by the fall of 2015.


“We are committed to launching an international high school,” Cozad said Monday. “We are actively looking at partnerships and facilities to make that happen. Our plans haven’t changed and we’re moving forward.”


Original conversations with former Superintendent John Covington about an international high school ran aground. Covington’s desire to maintain control over charter school collaborations surfaced in May 2011 when he opposed a proposed board policy that would have given the board the ability to enter into agreements with charter schools without the superintendent’s approval.


The repurposing office has since been placed under the control of the district administration. The recommendation to sell to Foutch Brothers came from the administration.


The vote against Westport’s sale was the first time in the three-year repurposing process that the board rejected an administration recommendation. Previously, seven buildings have been sold, including three for charter schools.


Superintendent Steve Green said previously that the district overall is taking a new approach to be more cooperative with charter schools.


“We have been and continue to be open to exploring designs featuring a collaborative partnership,” Green said.


Space for a high school makes up just part of the developer’s plans for Westport High School, Foutch said.


The plan includes 70 apartments, office spaces and performance art program space in the auditorium. Community fitness club spaces would be indoors and outdoors, using two gymnasiums, an indoor pool, athletic fields and tennis courts, even sand volleyball.


The school would rent the spaces as needed, and the amenities would be available to the community at other times.


“All of these ideas came from the community,” Foutch said.


Foutch Brothers also had hoped to redevelop Westport Middle School across the street. That building, however, was sold in August to green-design expert Bob Berkebile’s Kansas City Sustainable Partners. Both developers had sought both buildings.


Berkebile’s group is partnering with several nonprofit organizations in designing space on the middle school campus for healthy living programs and urban farming.


Sustainable Partners also was interested in creating school programs, but Berkebile said he was having conversations with multiple potential partners, public and private, to develop ideas for innovative approaches to education. Academie Lafayette was not interested in sharing space with another school, Berkebile said.


The prospect of adding Academy Lafayette expansion into the highly visible development plans at Westport had been an exciting prospect to City Councilman Jim Glover.


“It’s good for Midtown in so many different ways,” he said before the closed board meeting. “Our population is coming back. We’re bringing people back to the apartments on Union Hill, and we want them to buy houses.”


He would like to see both the middle and high school buildings and other Midtown district buildings preserved with space for schools. If the district wants to put a school back into the high school, that could also be good for the community, he said Monday.


“I’m excited to see what the district wants to do (with Westport), too,” Glover said. “They have to give some assurance it will be a well-managed school.”


If Academy Lafayette establishes an International Baccalaureate high school, it would be joining a global network of more than 3,700 schools in 147 countries in internationally focused college prep programming.


The school would not be a language immersion program, Cozad said, though foreign language classes would be an important part of its offerings.



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Missouri GOP quest for right-to-work law continues


— House Speaker Tim Jones has made it no secret he wants Missouri to become the next right-to-work state.




Arguably the state’s most powerful lawmaker, Jones has placed the idea — antidote to business, anathema to organized labor — atop his list of priorities.


And he’s done so in an age of dwindling union clout, not to mention a time when his party holds two-thirds of the seats in the state General Assembly.


But while the bill prohibiting the payment of fees for union representation as a condition of employment was the first to receive a committee hearing this year, it still sits on the legislative calendar four months later with no clear path to success.


The difficulty pushing the change through the legislature speaks to divisions within Jones’ Republican Party and lingering trepidation about taking on organized labor in Missouri.


Put a deal on Democratic Gov. Jay Nixon’s desk? You get a veto. Put something on a statewide ballot for voters to judge? It’s like sounding a bugle charge summoning Democratic-leaning union voters to the polls — with Republican election prospects sure to suffer collateral damage.


“A lot of Republicans don’t want anything to do with these bills, because they’re afraid the issue will come back to bite them in the end,” said House Minority Leader Jacob Hummel, a St. Louis Democrat and a member of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 1. “They’re right.”


Although Jones denies the slow progress of right-to-work legislation has anything to do with election year politics, several of his Republican colleagues said the decision was made early on to wait until after the March 25 deadline for filing for office had already passed before taking any action.


“A lot of the (Republican) caucus was nervous that voting one way or another would draw them an opponent,” said Republican Rep. Bill Lant, chairman of the Missouri House Workforce Development and Workplace Safety Committee and sponsor of several right-to-work bills. “So by waiting until after the filing deadline, it eliminates that worry.”


Rep. Eric Burlison, a Springfield Republican who’s also sponsoring a right-to-work bill, said progress was also slowed over whether to push a bill through to the governor’s desk or to place the question on the ballot for voters to decide.


With the governor vowing to veto any bill perceived as anti-labor, Burlison said going to the ballot became the only option.


But which ballot?


An August primary would traditionally be a more Republican electorate, Burlison said, but with low turnout “you run the risk that high turnout by union workers becomes the tail that wags the dog.”


Turnout is much higher in November, Burlison said, but “there are still a lot of people who worry high union turnout could cost some legislative seats.”


“There are still very big decisions and calculations to be made,” he said. “But in other states that have passed right-to-work, Republicans who supported it were not voted out of office. The potential for backlash is overstated.”


Labor unions negotiate on behalf of all employees in a bargaining unit — even those who are not in the union. Non-union employees don’t have to pay dues, but they must pay fees to cover the cost of representation.


A right-to-work law would allow those employees who choose not to join the union to opt out of paying any fees for representation.


Twenty-four states, including every state bordering Missouri except Illinois and Kentucky, have right-to-work laws. Unions argue that the laws drive down employee wages and negatively affect workplace safety.


Detractors of the idea dub it “right to work for less.” On average, wages are lower in right-to-work states. Yet those states also tend to have lower cost of living and lower unemployment rates.


Supporters contend right-to-work laws make states more attractive to business and ultimately increase employment in both union and non-union workplaces. They say employees shouldn’t be forced to pay fees to a union to get or keep a job.


“Around the country, you are seeing the states that have the greatest economic prosperity and creating the most jobs are those that are right-to-work states that allow worker freedom and choice,” said Jones, a Eureka Republican.


The last time Missouri seriously debated right to work was in 1978, when voters overwhelmingly rejected a proposed ballot measure.


Since then, however, manufacturing jobs and union membership have declined. The Bureau of Labor Statistics says union membership in Missouri has dropped from 15.5 percent in 1989 to 8.6 percent last year.


Missouri had 219,000 union members in 2013.


Despite their shrinking numbers, labor unions still have some powerful friends, none more so than Nixon. Last week, while speaking to a gathering of more than 1,000 union members at the Missouri Capitol, Nixon reiterated his opposition to right-to-work legislation.


“Everyone knows what would happen if they put this bill on my desk,” Nixon said. “But if (Republicans) try to go around me and put this wrongheaded idea up for a vote of the people, I will stand right beside you.”


Representing the bloc of Republicans in the House that oppose the push for right-to-work at last week’s rally was Rep. Anne Zerr. The GOP lawmaker from the St. Louis suburbs decried the measure and urged union members to help her educate and change the minds her fellow Republicans.


“There’s more and more of us on the Republican side who realize that labor is not the enemy,” Zerr said.


Whether there are enough votes to pass right-to-work in the House is still in question. And while putting the issue directly on the ballot may avoid Nixon’s veto, supporters would still have to overcome a promised filibuster by Democrats in the Senate, where GOP leaders have not expressed as much enthusiasm for the idea as their House counterparts.


The political and legislative hurdles have some Republicans turning their attention away from right-to-work and toward a bill that would focus on making it more difficult for public employee unions to collect dues.


Monday night, the House passed a bill that supporters call “paycheck protection” — and detractors call “paycheck deception” — which is considered by many to be a lot like right-to-work “light.” It requires members of public employee unions — teachers, state workers — to provide written permission annually in order for any dues or fees to be deducted from their paychecks.


Critics of the legislation point out that unlike private sector unions, membership in a public employee union is already voluntary.


A version of the legislation passed last year and was vetoed by Nixon. This year’s version would bypass the governor and go straight to the ballot.


The goals of right-to-work and paycheck protection are the same, said Jeff Mazur, executive director of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Council 72.


“These bills are outside-the-mainstream efforts to take away the voice of working Missourians and give the middle class less control over their own economic situation,” he said.


Burlison, the Springfield Republican, said the debate over right-to-work must get beyond emotional rhetoric. He’s hopeful 2014 will be the year the General Assembly will finally be able to do that.


“We come up here to do what we think is right,” Burlison said. “Sometimes that means taking bold steps. There are certain issues that are worth the political risks.”



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Missouri walnut industry could pay heavy price if pest makes it to Show-Me State


The Missouri walnut industry is looking at a potential no-win battle against a beetle with an insatiable lust for walnut trees.



The huge majority of lumber milled at Missouri- Pacific Lumber in Fayette, Mo., is walnut.



The walnut twig beetle, an insect sweeping east from its native Arizona, carries thousand cankers disease, a fungus that kills every black walnut tree it touches.


The beetle has already been found in nine states in the West and five in the East since 2008, including nearby Tennessee. When it comes in contact with a black walnut grove, it’s nothing short of a slow-action mass murder. A 100 percent fatality rate.


Missouri has a lot to lose. A U.S. Department of Agriculture inventory shows the nation’s biggest population of black walnut trees at 112 million. The Missouri Department of Conservation estimates the beetle would do almost $1 billion in damage over 20 years to the Missouri walnut industry, which also accounts for about 700 jobs in the state.


So it would be good to kill the beetle. One problem, though, is that it’s virtually undetectable. The beetle is the size of a grain of rice, and once it has infected a tree, the symptoms aren’t evident for about five years. By the time it’s recognized in an area, it probably has moved on to others, and the tree showing symptoms will be dead within a few years.


“It’s like trying to hold back an ocean,” said Hank Stelzer, the head of the Forestry Department at the University of Missouri.


Another problem is that uninfected trees can’t be protected — and infected ones can’t be saved. There’s no effective preventative, no insecticide that will either kill bugs on a walnut tree or keep them from getting on it.


To make matters worse, people are to blame for spreading the disease by transporting the beetles. It’s not a fast-spreading beetle by any means. On its own, it moves only a couple miles a year in the forest, said Ned Tisserat, professor of plant pathology at Colorado State University and the leading expert on thousand cankers disease.


But people in effect give the beetle wings by transporting infected firewood and shipping untreated hobby wood. The only real defense is to raise awareness to discourage the long-distance shipping of untreated wood.


All of that, from the lack of detection of the beetle to its spread by careless transport of wood, sets off alarms for anyone who cares about walnuts: arborists, foresters, walnut growers, sawmills, even plant nurseries.


In April 2010, Missouri enacted what’s called an external quarantine, meaning no hardwood from states known to have thousand cankers could come into Missouri.


But what happens if the disease is ever found inside the state?


“All bets are off,” said Tisserat.


Bucky Pescaglia is the president of Missouri-Pacific Lumber in Fayette, and his sawmill can produce 16,000 board feet of lumber daily and ship it out nationally and internationally. Depending on the year, 90-99 percent of his production is walnut wood.


If the Missouri Department of Conservation ever found the disease in the state and responded with an internal quarantine — barring or restricting shipments from Missouri to other states or countries — he can only speculate what that would mean for his business, as well as any other business reliant on walnut.


“We’re already competing with (other businesses) with all of our labor laws and environmental policy,” he said. “Now we’d be having the issue of the twig beetle.”


An outright ban on exporting walnut out of the state would be devastating — for growers and sawmill operators. Or standards for treating the wood before shipment might be developed that weren’t too onerous, at least for the mills.


Ash wood is similarly endangered by the emerald ash borer, but it can be shipped within the U.S. To do that, a company like Pescaglia’s just has to show that the wood reached a high enough core temperature in its kilns. Then again, there hasn’t been any research on what level of heat would be required to kill the walnut twig beetle.


And shipping internationally can be even tougher. Pescaglia remembers an order for ash wood last year from the United Kingdom, whose standards are more stringent. So Pescaglia and his son, Tony, and his cousin and business partner, Ryan Pescaglia, spent two days hand scraping 5,000 feet of lumber of any shred of bark to meet shipping requirements.


Since the walnut twig beetle is native to the southwest, the USDA doesn’t consider it a foreign invasive pest, and states are left to fend for themselves. Missouri’s Departments of Agriculture and Conservation are in the drafting stages of a plan for when thousand cankers is discovered in the state, said conservation entomologist Rob Lawrence, but they do not yet have a clear indication of what quarantines would look like.


A quarantine on shipping wood out of the state mainly would hit the growers, said Harlan Palm, former national president of the Walnut Council, a trade and research group, and a walnut grower himself.


Missouri-Pacific, however, ships internationally to Europe, east and Southeast Asia, and Mexico. Thousand cankers was discovered last month in Italy, and Stelzer is all but certain it came from wood shipped from the U.S. There’s no telling how foreign countries might react. They could set strict quarantines of their own, like the one Pescaglia confronted with his ash shipment to the U.K. Or foreign businesses could simply cut themselves off from thousand-canker-infected America and use walnut wood grown on other soils.


“In many cases, the companies that purchase walnut logs … will export a portion of their inventory on a regular basis,” said Brian Brookshire, executive director the Missouri Forest Products Association. “The quality of walnut leads the country as well. We have a lot at stake when it comes to walnut, the manufacturing of that species, and the jobs that it represents in the state.”



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KC family cheers mandate for rear-view auto cameras


Automakers must include life-saving rear-view cameras in most new vehicles by May 2018, a federal government agency announced Monday.




Katherine Thompson wishes such technology had been more widely available 18 months ago.


“If we’d had a backup camera, Benjamin would still be here,” said Thompson, whose Kansas City family has advocated for the cameras since her 2-year-old son, Benjamin Kyle Thompson, died in September 2012. He ran behind his father’s truck while his father was backing out of their driveway.


Thompson, as well as a Kansas City-based auto safety awareness group, applauded the news announced by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration: All new vehicles weighing less than 10,000 pounds, including buses and trucks, built on or after May 1, 2018, must be equipped with such rear-view technology.


“This is a proud day for Kansas City,” said Amber Rollins, director of KidsAndCars.org. The local group, which seeks to raise awareness of the dangers of backup accidents, long has advocated such measures.


The only disappointment, some advocates said, was that the announcement was so long in coming.


“By the time 2018 gets here, it’s probably going to take 10 or 15 years before the majority of cars are equipped with those,” said Debbie Aiman, Benjamin’s grandmother.


“So it’s going to take a long time before it really gets effective and, until then, there are still going to be an awful lot of people who will go through that.”


An average of 210 deaths and 15,000 injuries are caused by such backup accidents every year, according to the federal traffic safety agency. Children under 5 years old account for 31 percent of the deaths, while adults 70 years old or older account for 26 percent.


Once all vehicles on the road have this technology, federal transportation officials estimate it will save 58 to 69 lives a year.


In 2012, Benjamin was the 52nd child in the country to die that year by being backed over by a vehicle, Rollins said.


A children’s transportation safety act, signed by President George W. Bush in 2008, required the federal government to set rear-visibility standards for vehicles. The traffic safety administration originally was to finalize a rule by the end of 2012 to require backup cameras by 2014.


The agency, according to the Monday announcement, “took time on this regulation to ensure that the policy was right.”


Some vehicles already have such technology. When a driver puts the vehicle in reverse, a dashboard video display shows the image from a camera mounted in the rear of the car.


Adding the camera and a suitable visual display could cost $132 to $142 per vehicle, the agency estimated. The cost should be lower for vehicles already equipped with video displays.


Consumer demand likely would have prompted auto makers to equip 73 percent of vehicles by 2018, the agency said. Adding the equipment to the remaining 27 percent would cost an estimated $546 million to $620 million annually, it said.


The new regulations will not include motorcycles.


“Rear visibility requirements will save lives, and will save many families from the heartache suffered after these tragic incidents occur,” David Friedman, the agency’s acting administrator, said in a written statement.


Benjamin’s accident happened about 8 p.m. Sept. 10, 2012, at their home near 84th Street and Hillcrest Road in south Kansas City. Authorities ruled his death accidental, saying the toddler’s father had checked his rearview mirror before backing up but didn’t see Benjamin running toward a trampoline in the front yard.


“Literally, he was standing right next to me,” Thompson recalled Monday of her son.


“My husband didn’t see him and 45 seconds later (Benjamin) was gone. It doesn’t matter how good of a parent you are or if you read your child a Bible story every night, it can happen.”


A similar accident in 2006 left a 23-month-old Northland boy dead.


Not long after Benjamin’s death, KidsAndCars.org staff members organized a demonstration in an Overland Park shopping center parking lot illustrating how drivers often cannot account for blind spots while backing their vehicles. After a grieving period following their son’s death, Thompson and her husband, Billy, began working with the group to remind other parents of the need for care and to advocate for more cameras.


“This is a blessing,” Thompson said Monday.


“It is overdue, but it is going to save the lives of many children and I am very pleased.”



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Group marches to Capitol, calls for more funding for Kansas schools


Politics



Updated: 2014-04-01T00:36:15Z



By Dion Lefler


Eagle Topeka bureau


— A small group of parents and teachers completed a two-day, 65-mile march on the Capitol on Monday to dramatize their call for more and fairer funding for public schools.



From left, Amber Versola, Jeff Sykes, Heather Ousley and Josh Greaves lead marchers Monday to the Capitol to dramatize the demand of Game On for Kansas Schools for more and fairer funding of education.


Read more Politics


The five marchers from the group Game On for Kansas Schools were joined by about 50 supporters, who walked with them from the Kansas Supreme Court building to the Statehouse.


The activists hope to influence the ongoing debate in the Legislature about how to comply with a Supreme Court decision last month that found portions of the state’s school funding formula unconstitutional. The court said that the money is not being distributed fairly, which is harming the state’s smaller and poorer school districts.


About a dozen lawmakers attended the group’s Capitol news conference.


The Supreme Court ruling has directed lawmakers to fix the inequities by July 1. The Department of Education has estimated that would cost $129 million.


Factions in the Legislature are locked in a dispute over whether to add money for schools or shift existing funding.


Once the fairness issues are fixed, the case will go back to a trial court to determine whether the overall funding of schools is adequate.


Game On says it will take money to fix what’s wrong with the schools.


One of the marchers, Shawnee Mission teacher Josh Greaves, said his classes have gone from a maximum of about 20 students to 28 or 29.


“Something has got to change, because if you start adding any more students, it’s so difficult, there’s usually only one teacher in a room, and how can you expect one teacher to meet every single need?” he said.


The march that ended Monday retraced the steps of Heather Ousley, a Merriam mother who by herself walked from Johnson County to the Capitol last year to bring attention to the same issue.


“I did this for my kids and for everybody’s kids, and this for me was a big leap of hope, because my kids have their entire education ahead of them,” Ousley said. “My oldest is in third grade, and my youngest hasn’t even started kindergarten yet, and so I really feel like we need to do something now.”


Game On is hoping to generate interest through its activism and social media to encourage parents to contact lawmakers and demand more money for schools, said Judith Deedy, an organizer of the group.


“I had never contacted a legislator two years ago, so I understand very well … that encouragement they need that this is a normal thing to do,” Deedy said.


Two Goddard school board members, Gail Jamison and Kevin McWhorter, walked the final few hundred yards to the Capitol with the marchers.


“We’re here as school board members to basically support a voice for public education,” said Jamison, who carried a sign reading “Goddard advocates for public education.”


“We have been following Game On for Kansas and their advocacy efforts, and we are also advocating to help people (gain) better understanding of the issues in order to be more informed and make their voices heard,” she said.


Added McWhorter: “We believe every schoolchild has a birthright to a quality education, equally funded and adequately funded. And it’s not happening now.”




Reach Dion Lefler at 785-296-3006 or dlefler@wichitaeagle.com.









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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Cinderella Law could become a charter for whiny kids, claims Tory: Backbencher joins critics in warning proposals could see loving parents dragged to court on say so of estranged parties and nosy neighbours



  • 'Emotional cruelty' could be crime under proposed child neglect legislation

  • Parents found guilty could face 10 years in jail

  • But critics say it could be abused by children and 'nosy neighbours'

  • Raft of activities that harm a child's development could be new offences

  • Changes expected to be announced in June's Queen's Speech


By Jason Groves



Opponent: MP Philip Davies fears that loving parents could be dragged to court on the say-so of estranged partners, nosy neighbours and disaffected children

Opponent: MP Philip Davies fears that loving parents could be dragged to court on the say-so of estranged partners, nosy neighbours and disaffected children



A law to protect children from emotional abuse risks becoming a ‘charter for whining kids’, a Tory MP warned last night.


Government sources yesterday confirmed that a so-called Cinderella Law introducing jail terms for parents who starve their children of love and affection will be included in the Queen’s Speech in June.


Ministers said the move would ensure ‘emotional cruelty’ is treated with the same seriousness as physical abuse and children’s charities hailed it as a ‘monumental step forward’ for child protection.


But critics said the law would be difficult to enforce – and warned that loving parents could be dragged to court on the say-so of estranged partners, nosy neighbours and disaffected children.


The new offence would include doing anything that deliberately harms a child’s ‘physical intellectual, emotional, social or behavioural development’.


Parents found guilty could face up to ten years in prison, the maximum term in child neglect cases.


Tory MP Philip Davies said: ‘No-one is going to condone the extreme levels of abuse that some children suffer. But there is a real danger that this becomes a charter for every kid whining and complaining about a bit of tough love from their parents.


‘I am sure it’s well-meaning, but we have seen in the past how easily these things get completely out of control with the result that perfectly decent parents, who love their kids and are trying to do their best, get dragged through the courts.’


He added: ‘Being a parent is a tough job and most people do their best – I don’t want to see them caught up by this. If the Government is going to go down this route then they are going to have to find pretty robust measures to protect ordinary, decent parents or they are going to create a monster.’


Jack Hart, of the Freedom Association, urged ministers to focus on helping parents rather than finding more ways to criminalise them.


‘This so-called Cinderella Law is yet another example of the state stepping in to criminalise parents where in fact education would be a far more powerful tool for combating harmful behaviour,’ he said.


‘Simply introducing swathes of new and hard-to-police legislation does not guarantee the right results. There should be a focus on helping parents who are having serious problems, not a rush to criminalise them.’


Changes to child neglect legislation would make 'emotional cruelty' a crime for the first time under what is being dubbed a 'Cinderella Law'. File picture

Changes to child neglect legislation would make 'emotional cruelty' a crime for the first time under what is being dubbed a 'Cinderella Law'. File picture



Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg yesterday welcomed the proposals, saying current laws did not reflect the terrible impact on children of emotional abuse.


But he acknowledged the need for ministers to strike the right balance to prevent intrusion into normal family life. Mr Clegg said: ‘You can’t micro-manage what goes on in the living room, in the family home, in the kitchen, in law.


‘But what you can do is make sure that where the state has to step in to stop maltreatment of children … that they reflect emotional and mental abuse just as much as more visible physical abuse.’


Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg yesterday welcomed the proposals, saying current laws did not reflect the terrible impact on children of emotional abuse

Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg yesterday welcomed the proposals, saying current laws did not reflect the terrible impact on children of emotional abuse



Neglect is the most common reason for a child protection referral in the UK and emotional abuse is more common in these cases than physical abuse, according to the Department for Education.


Former Tory children’s minister Tim Loughton backed the change in law and insisted it would not affect normal parenting.


He said: ‘What we’re not talking about is somebody who shouts at their kid in the aisles at Tesco because they go off on one.


‘This has got to be sustained and deliberate emotional abuse and I think we need to be able to give the powers to social workers and others that we entrust with the protection of children in this country, so that when they see something they clearly think is systemic neglect of that child, ongoing neglect, they can intervene.’


A previous bid to change the law was blocked by ministers in February last year, with Justice Minister Damian Green arguing that it was not needed and that it was not clear ‘how a new offence would work in practice’.


But following a concerted campaign by children’s charities Mr Green launched a consultation on the issue in the autumn.


Sir Tony Hawkhead, chief executive of the charity Action for Children, said: ‘This is a monumental step forward for thousands of children who we know suffer from emotional abuse and countless others whose desperate situations have yet to come to light.


‘I’ve met children who have been scapegoated in their families, constantly humiliated and made to feel unloved. The impact is devastating and can lead to life-long mental health problems and, in some cases, suicide.’











'Children who watch less TV are slimmer and do better at school'



  • Parents who monitor screen time have less aggressive children

  • This is because their children are exposed to less violence on TV


By Emma Innes




Children who spend less time in front of a television or computer screen get more sleep, are slimmer, do better at school and are better behaved, a new study has revealed.


Researchers found parental monitoring of the time children spend watching television, playing video games and being online can be associated with more sleep, improved school performance and better behaviour in children.


The new study, published in JAMA Network Journals, included figures from more than 1,300 schoolchildren from two communities in Iowa and Minnesota, in the U.S., along with data about the students provided by primary caregivers and teachers.


Children who watch a lot of television are more likely to do badly at school, to be badly behaved and to be fat

Children who watch a lot of television are more likely to do badly at school, to be badly behaved and to be fat



The figures were collected as part of an obesity prevention programme.


Study lead author Dr Douglas Gentile, of Iowa State University, said: ‘The results suggest that increased monitoring by parents reduced children's total screen time which results in children getting more sleep, doing better in school and having less aggressive behaviour.


‘The results suggest more sleep is associated with a lower body mass index.


‘More parental monitoring also resulted in less exposure to violence on television and in video games, which was associated with increased positive behaviour and decreased aggressive behaviour.’


He added: ‘Paediatricians, family practitioners, nurses and other health care professionals who encourage parents to be more involved in their children's media may be much more effective at improving a wide range of healthy behaviours than they realise.’


The findings support those of another recent U.S. study that showed children who spend a lot of time in front of screens are more likely to be obese.


Children who watch too much TV are more prone to aggression as they are exposed to more TV violence

Children who watch too much TV are more prone to aggression as they are exposed to more TV violence



The study, by researchers at the Oregon Social Learning Center, Eugene, showed the children of parents who do not monitor screen time are more likely to be overweight.


Another study, by researchers in Australia, revealed children who watch a lot of television have more family problems.


Researchers at Deakin University, in Melbourne, found that for every hour of screen time, the risk of family life being disrupted may be doubled.


They also found that these children have poorer emotional wellbeing.