EPA hits Ash Grove with fine
BOISE, Idaho (AP) — The Environmental Protection Agency levied a $2.5 million penalty against a big cement maker and required the company to invest $30 million in pollution controls at plants in nine states alleged to have violated the federal Clean Air Act.
Ash Grove Cement Co.’s penalty was announced Wednesday by the EPA and U.S. Department of Justice, part of a deal in which the Overland Park, Kan.-based company also will spend $750,000 to ...
Regents approve tuition hikes
TOPEKA (AP) — Students at Kansas’ public universities will pay higher tuition this fall — some almost 9 percent more — under proposals unanimously approved Wednesday by the state Board of Regents in response to legislative cuts in higher education funding.
The tuition hikes are expected to raise $34 million during the fiscal year that begins July 1. The regents and university officials have complained repeatedly over the past decade that tight...
DA files complaint against KCC board
TOPEKA (AP) — Shawnee County’s district attorney filed a complaint Wednesday against Kansas’ utilities regulation agency over alleged violations of the state’s open meetings law, alleging its members approved a rate increase for water users in Salina during a process that wasn’t public.
WIBW radio reported that District Attorney Chad Taylor filed the complaint in Shawnee County District Court. It seeks an injunction against the Kansas Corporat...
Armed employees could cost Kansas schools insurance
TOPEKA (AP) — The company that insures most of Kansas’ school districts says it won’t provide coverage for districts that allow armed employees on school premises.
EMC Insurance Cos. has told its agents not to offer or renew policies for Kansas school districts that allow concealed weapons under a law that takes effect July 1.
The new law lets school boards designate employees who can bring guns to school provided they have a valid Kansas conc...
U.S., Taliban to start talks on ending Afghan war
KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) — The Taliban and the U.S. said Tuesday they will hold talks on finding a political solution to ending nearly 12 years of war in Afghanistan, as the international coalition formally handed over control of the country’s security to the Afghan army and police.
The Taliban met a key U.S. demand by pledging not to use Afghanistan as a base to threaten other countries, although the Americans said they must also denounce al-Q...
Summit focuses on unity on peace talks, tax evasion
ENNISKILLEN, Northern Ireland (AP) — President Barack Obama, Russian President Vladimir Putin and other G-8 leaders attempted to speak with one voice Tuesday on seeking a negotiated Syrian peace settlement — yet couldn’t publicly agree on whether this means President Bashar Assad must go.
Their declaration at the end of the two-day Group of Eight summit sought to narrow the diplomatic chasm between Assad’s key backer, Russia, and Western leade...
NSA chief says plot was foiled
WASHINGTON (AP) — The U.S. foiled a plot to bomb the New York Stock Exchange because of the sweeping surveillance programs at the heart of a debate over national security and personal privacy, officials said Tuesday at a rare open hearing on intelligence led by lawmakers sympathetic to the spying.
The House Intelligence Committee hearing provided a venue for officials to defend the once-secret programs and did little probing of claims that the...
Kobach requests investigation into protest at his home
KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) — Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach said Monday he has asked state officials to investigate an immigration reform rally that was held outside his Wyandotte County home.
Kobach and his family were not at his Piper home during Saturday’s protest held by advocates of a federal overhaul of immigration laws that includes a path to citizenship for millions of people who are in the U.S. illegally. Kobach, a former law profe...
Hunting plan worries conservationists
STAFFORD (AP) — Conservationists are raising concerns that a proposal to expand hunting at the Quivira National Wildlife Refuge in south-central Kansas could threaten whooping cranes that migrate through there, while refuge managers contend the federally endangered birds would be protected.
Currently, the refuge is closed when the whooping cranes stop on their annual migration. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has proposed changing that to c...
Trio of blazes burn out of control
COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (AP) — Three Colorado wildfires fueled by hot temperatures, gusty winds and thick, bone-dry forests have together burned dozens of homes and led to the evacuation of more than 7,000 residents and nearly 1,000 inmates at a medium-security prison.
Wildfires also were burning in New Mexico, Oregon and California, where a smokejumper was killed fighting one of dozens of lightning-sparked fires.
Crews were so busy battling w...
Feds build their case against mob leader
BOSTON (AP) — A federal prosecutor said in opening statements Wednesday at James “Whitey” Bulger’s racketeering trial that the reputed mobster was at the center of “murder and mayhem” in Boston for almost 30 years, while the defense attacked the credibility of the government’s star witnesses.
Prosecutor Brian Kelly told jurors that Bulger headed the violent Winter Hill Gang that “ran amok” in Boston for nearly three decades, killing 19 people,...
Girl wins challenge to get adult lungs
PHILADELPHIA (AP) — A 10-year-old girl whose efforts to qualify for an organ donation sparked debate over how organs are allocated was getting a double-lung transplant Wednesday after a match with an adult donor was made.
Sarah Murnaghan, who suffers from severe cystic fibrosis, was receiving her new lungs Wednesday at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, family spokeswoman Maureen Garrity said. Murnaghan’s relatives were “beyond excited” abou...
Challenges to phone records face legal obstacles
WASHINGTON (AP) — The government’s massive collection of Americans’ phone records is drawing protests and lawsuits from civil liberties groups, but major legal obstacles stand in the way. Among them are government claims that national security secrets will be revealed if the cases are allowed to proceed, and Supreme Court rulings that telephone records, as opposed to conversations, are not private to begin with.
Justices have written recently ...
Agency finds opting for overdrafts means higher fees from banks
WASHINGTON (AP) — A U.S. agency says consumers who opt for overdraft coverage on their checking accounts pay higher fees and are more likely to have their accounts closed than those who decline it.
A report by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau released Tuesday said it’s hard for consumers to anticipate and avoid overdraft charges. It found that the cost for “opting in” for overdraft coverage varies widely from one bank to the next.
Immigration bill clears Senate hurdle
WASHINGTON (AP) — In Spanish and English, the Senate pushed contentious immigration legislation over early procedural hurdles with deceptive ease on Tuesday as President Barack Obama insisted the “moment is now” to give 11 million immigrants in the United States illegally a chance at citizenship.
Despite the lopsided votes, Republicans served notice they will seek to toughen the bill’s border security provisions and impose tougher terms on tho...
Feds to lift morning-after pill restriction
NEW YORK (AP) — After setting off a storm of criticism from abortion rights groups upset that a Democratic president had sided with social conservatives, the Obama administration said it will comply with a judge’s order to allow girls of any age to buy emergency contraception without prescriptions.
But in doing so, at least one opponent of easy access to the contraception thinks the president is buckling to political pressure, rather than maki...
Manual suggests al-Qaida has feared weapon
TIMBUKTU, Mali (AP) — The photocopies of the manual lay in heaps on the floor, in stacks that scaled one wall, like Xeroxed, stapled handouts for a class.
Except that the students in this case were al-Qaida fighters in Mali. And the manual was a detailed guide, with diagrams and photographs, on how to use a weapon that particularly concerns the United States: A surface-to-air missile capable of taking down a commercial airplane.
The 26-page do...
Signs point to more economic growth
WASHINGTON (AP) — More Americans hunted for jobs in May, and more companies filled them — signs of confidence and resilience for the slow-healing U.S. economy.
The 175,000 jobs employers added last month were the latest evidence that the economy could be poised for stronger growth in coming months despite tax increases and government spending cuts.
The unemployment rate rose to 7.6 percent from 7.5 percent in April, the Labor Department said F...
Obama backs spy programs
WASHINGTON (AP) — President Barack Obama declared Friday that America is “going to have to make some choices” balancing privacy and security, launching a vigorous defense of formerly secret programs that sweep up an estimated 3 billion phone calls a day and amass Internet data from U.S. providers in an attempt to thwart terror attacks.
He warned that it will be harder to detect threats against the U.S. now that the two top-secret tools to targ...
Professors find math papers that belonged to Lincoln
CHAMPAIGN, Ill. (AP) — Two math-notebook pages recently authenticated as belonging to Abraham Lincoln suggest the 16th president, who was known to downplay his formal education, may have spent more time in school than usually thought.
And the Illinois State University math professors behind the discovery say the work shows Lincoln was no slouch, either.
Math professors Nerida Ellerton and Ken Clements said Friday at the university in Normal th...