EPA gives Kansas pass based on fires
WICHITA (AP) — Federal environmental regulators gave Kansas a little more breathing room to comply with air quality regulations, agreeing that prescribed burns and drifting smoke from wildfires outside the state skewed the data, state officials said Thursday.
In a rare move, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency granted the state’s request to exclude four days from April 2011 when calculating air quality data for parts of central and easter...
More fiscal clashes loom ahead
WASHINGTON (AP) — A new Congress opened for business Thursday to confront long-festering national problems, deficits and immigration among them, in an intensely partisan and crisis-driven era of divided government.
“The American dream is in peril,” said House Speaker John Boehner, re-elected to his post despite a mini-revolt in Republican ranks.
Moments after grasping an oversized gavel that symbolizes his authority, Boehner implored the assem...
State tries to make sperm donor pay child support
TOPEKA (AP) — A Kansas man who donated sperm to a lesbian couple after answering an online ad is fighting the state's efforts to suddenly force him to pay child support for the now 3-year-old girl, arguing that he and the women signed an agreement waiving all of his parental rights.
The case hinges on the fact that no doctors were used for the artificial insemination. The state argues that because William Marotta didn't work through a clinic o...
Research lab takes step forward
TOPEKA (AP) — Department of Homeland Security officials have signed a land transfer agreement that allows for the construction of a new federal animal research lab near Kansas State University in Manhattan.
Gov. Sam Brownback and members of the state’s congressional delegation announced Wednesday that the move indicated the federal department is committed to building the $1.14 billion National Bio- and Agro-defense Facility.
Kansas was selecte...
KU to begin new curriculum
LAWRENCE (AP) — A new curriculum that begins in the fall at the University of Kansas will have some ramifications for academic departments and graduate students that will have to be considered as the process begins, university administrators said.
This fall’s freshman class will be the first to pursue degrees under a curriculum that applies to all undergraduates, regardless of their course of study. The university said the curriculum will prov...
Schools to test ‘open-source’ materials
LAWRENCE (AP) — Move over MP3s, Kindle and Wikipedia. The next digital revolution that will shake up the powerful publishing industry is about to take place.
Starting with the new semester in January, Lawrence public schools will begin pilot testing a new Web-based tool that, among other things, will allow teachers to dispense with traditional hardbound textbooks and replace them with “open-source” learning material. That is, digital media tha...
Chamber, conservatives relish clout
TOPEKA (AP) — Conservative Republicans are firmly in control of the Kansas Legislature, largely because candidates on the right received a big boost from the powerful Kansas Chamber of Commerce and other anti-tax, small government groups.
The chamber and other conservative allies are eager for legislators to tackle proposals to control the size of government, starting with further cuts to taxes, reductions in spending and limits on how much go...
Kansas tax cuts take effect
TOPEKA (AP) — Sweeping changes in the Kansas tax code take effect Tuesday, when new rates for individual income taxpayers take effect.
The laws were approved by the Legislature in May and signed by GOP Gov. Sam Brownback. They are part of the administration’s efforts to improve the state’s business climate and increase the amount of money residents keep in their paychecks.
The top individual income tax rate drops to 4.9 percent from 6.45 perce...
EPA Administrator Jackson announces resignation
WASHINGTON (AP) — EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson, the Obama administration's chief environmental watchdog, is stepping down after nearly four years marked by high-profile brawls over global warming pollution, the Keystone XL oil pipeline, new controls on coal-fired plants and several other hot-button issues that affect the nation's economy and people's health.
Jackson constantly found herself caught between administration pledges to solve tho...
Obama back from Hawaii, Congress bickers on cliff
WASHINGTON (AP) — President Barack Obama returned to the White House on Thursday from a vacation shortened by government gridlock while Democrats and Republicans snarled across a partisan divide and showed no sign of compromise to avoid year-end tax increases and spending cuts.
Adding to the woes confronting the middle class was a pending spike of $2-per-gallon or more in milk prices if lawmakers failed to pass farm legislation by year's end.
U.S. consumers lose confidence
WASHINGTON (AP) — U.S. consumers peering over the “fiscal cliff” don’t like what they see.
Fears of sharp tax increases and government spending cuts set to take effect next week sent consumer confidence tumbling in December to its lowest level since August.
The Conference Board said Thursday that its consumer confidence index fell for the second straight month in December to 65.1, down from 71.5 in November.
The survey showed consumers’ outloo...
Large, powerful storm heads east
By The Associated Press
A powerful winter storm system pounded the nation’s midsection Wednesday and headed toward the Northeast, where people braced for the high winds and heavy snow that disrupted holiday travel, knocked out power to thousands of homes and were blamed in at least six deaths.
Hundreds of flights were canceled or delayed, scores of motorists got stuck on icy roads or slid into drifts, and blizzard warnings were issued amid sn...
State laws on gay rights, child safety take effect
By The Associated Press
Measures on gay rights and child safety are among the top state laws taking effect at the start of 2013, along with attempts to prevent identity theft and perennial efforts to restrict abortion and illegal immigration.
In many states, new laws take effect on Jan. 1, while in others they do so 90 days after a governor’s signature.
Voter-approved laws allowing same-sex couples to marry take effect in Maryland in January ...
Stores hope for post-holiday push
By The Associated Press
Bargain-hungry Americans will need to go on a post-Christmas spending binge to salvage this holiday shopping season.
Despite the huge discounts and other incentives that stores offered leading up to Christmas, U.S. holiday sales so far this year have been the weakest since 2008, when the nation was in a deep recession.
So stores now are depending on the days after Christmas to make up lost ground: The final week of Dec...
Russia approves anti-U.S. adoption bill
MOSCOW (AP) — Defying a storm of domestic and international criticism, Russia moved toward finalizing a ban on Americans adopting Russian children, as Parliament’s upper house voted unanimously Wednesday in favor of a measure that President Vladimir Putin has indicated he will sign into law.
The bill is widely seen as the Kremlin’s retaliation against an American law that calls for sanctions against Russians deemed to be human rights violators...
Syrian minister leaves Beirut; MP chief changes sides
BEIRUT (AP) — Syria’s wounded interior minister cut short his treatment at a Beirut hospital Wednesday and returned home for fear of being arrested by Lebanese authorities, while Syria’s chief of military police defected to the opposition, becoming one of the highest-ranking officers to switch sides.
The twin developments reflected the deepening isolation of Syrian President Bashar Assad’s government, which has suffered a number of setbacks on...
Storm may delay Christmas presents
NEW YORK (AP) — Will Santa’s sleigh be late?
A record number of Americans took to the Web to order holiday gifts after retailers flooded their inboxes with offers of extra discounts, free shipping and easy returns. But a storm bringing heavy winds and snow to much of the Midwest on Thursday — the heaviest shipping day of the year — could mean that some packages might not make it under the tree in time for Christmas. That’s a headache for retai...
House GOP puts off ‘Plan B’ vote
WASHINGTON (AP) — Confronted with a revolt among the rank and file, House Republicans abruptly put off a vote Thursday night on legislation allowing tax rates to rise for households earning $1 million and up, complicating attempts to avoid a year-end “fiscal cliff” that threatens to send the economy into recession.
In a brief statement, House Speaker John Boehner said the bill “did not have sufficient support from our members to pass.” At the ...
Brownback wants mental health
TOPEKA (AP) — Gov. Sam Brownback said Thursday that he wants to examine whether Kansas is providing adequate mental health services but is wary of jumping into a contentious debate over gun control following last week’s mass elementary school shooting in Connecticut.
Brownback also said during an interview with The Associated Press that he believes responding to the shooting with proposals to rewrite gun laws is likely to prevent a serious exa...
New Agers in Mexico hope Dec. 21 brings new era
MERIDA, Mexico (AP) — The crystal skulls have spoken: The world is not going to end.
American seer Star Johnsen-Moser led a whooping, dancing, drum-beating ceremony Thursday in the heart of Mayan territory to consult several of the life-sized crystal skulls, which adherents claim were passed down by the ancient Maya.
The skulls weren’t the only inheritances left by the ancient civilization that have been making waves this week: The supposed en...