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ST. LOUIS (AP) — Cellphone video that shows a witness raising his hands in the air immediately after the fatal shooting of a black 18-year-old by a white police officer in Ferguson appears to support previous accounts and could bolster arguments that Michael Brown was surrendering when he was shot, legal experts said Friday.
The video obtained by The Associated Press and first aired by CNN shows two landscapers who were working near the street where Brown was shot by officer Darren Wilson on Aug. 9. In the video, a man can be heard saying, “He had his (expletive) hands in the air,” while one of the workers raises his own hands up.
The man who took the cellphone video, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he feared for his safety, said the voice is that of the worker raising his hands, but that isn’t clear on the video.
The workers are not from Ferguson and were employed by a business from Jefferson County, south of St. Louis. They have not come forward publicly and the AP has been unable to reach them.
The comment on the video largely matches those of residents of the apartment complex where the shooting occurred, who said Brown was surrendering when he was killed. The shooting spurred several days of sometimes violent protests in Ferguson. A state grand jury and the Justice Department are investigating, but no decision on whether Wilson will face charges is expected until next month.
Benjamin Crump, the attorney for Brown’s family, said both workers came forward and told the family their account of the shooting. He described the video as “of paramount significance.”
“Not because they were not residents of Ferguson, and not because the construction workers were Caucasian, but because it is a contemporaneous recording of their immediate actions of what they had just witnessed,” Crump said. “It’s the best evidence you can have other than a video of the actual shooting itself.”
Ed Magee, spokesman for St. Louis County prosecutor Bob McCulloch, said the workers are among witnesses who have been interviewed by authorities and are “part of the investigation.”
The video likely would be admissible evidence before the grand jury along with the workers’ testimony, said Peter Joy, a professor at Washington University School of Law in St. Louis.
“The thing that strikes me is we actually have a film of what’s going on and while it’s hard to hear the construction workers say what they’re saying, you have one construction worker putting his hands up in the air, which appears to be him demonstrating what he’s seeing,” Joy said.
Lori Lightfoot, an attorney who previously worked as chief administrator for the Chicago Police division that oversaw officer-involved shootings, said the video could be significant but many questions remain: What was the vantage point of the workers? How far away were they from the shooting?
“Given the stakes, it’s essential that all of these issues be tied down,” she said.
(St. Louis) (AP) – Farmers markets are a new target for promoting healthy eating in low-income communities. While fewer than 1 percent of federal food stamp dollars go to farmers markets, the numbers are rising.
Last year, nearly 15,000 St. Louis County families used food stamps at farmers markets, more than anywhere else except the New York and Detroit areas, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which oversees the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported.
The St. Louis area has a comparatively high number of farmers markets that accept food stamps, with 16, said Aaron McMullin, who researches food access and nutrition at St. Louis University. Farmers markets add to the benefits of food stamps by offering cooking demonstrations, a greater variety of fruits and vegetables, and a social aspect, she said.
“So many of the farmers markets already have that goal of working with lower-income communities to make healthy food more accessible,” McMullin said.
Still, the movement has a long way to go. Most places that accept food stamps are convenience stores, pharmacies and gas stations. And about half of the food stamps used nationwide are spent at super stores including Wal-Mart, according to the USDA.
The produce is usually more expensive at a farmers market compared to a grocery. To address that issue, the St. Louis Farmers Market Association raised more than $3,000 this summer to double the value of food stamps used at six area farmers markets. Each week, a food stamp recipient can get a match of $10 for spending $10. The group is working on grant applications to increase their funding.
“We’d like to make it affordable for all people to go to the farmers market,” said Brian De-Smet, manager of the Schlafly farmers market in Maplewood. “Most corner stores and convenience stores do not have a lot of healthy foods there.”
Last year, more than 900,000 eligible people spent $1.4 billion in food stamps in Missouri. The number of retailers accepting food stamps in the 15-county St. Louis region grew by 56 percent in the past 10 years, to more than 2,000 locations. Many of those were in St. Louis County, where the number of retailers in the program rose by 85 percent, according to a Post-Dispatch analysis of USDA data.
A majority of retailers added over the years are convenience stores or what USDA describes as “combination/grocery other,” a broad category mostly composed of convenience stores, dollar stores and Walgreens and CVS locations. Those categories account for 69 percent of all food stamp retailers.
The 63136 ZIP code in north St. Louis County and a sliver of north St. Louis city, where 66 stores accept food stamps, has seen the greatest increase in participants in the area. But just one farmers market in North County accepts food stamps at all booths, the St. Louis Vendors, Farmers and Merchants Market in Velda City.
The USDA does not release the amount of money individual retailers receive from food stamps. A lawsuit filed by a South Dakota newspaper to get that information was ultimately successful. The USDA is taking public comments through Monday on a proposal to release some of the data on retailers.
Advocates for transparency say taxpayers should know how much stores take in from the nearly $80 billion food stamp budget, just as private hospitals must report the government dollars they receive through Medicare and Medicaid. The food stamp program’s budget has doubled in cost and number of recipients – now 47 million – in the last 10 years. Hunger organizations such as the Bread for the World Institute in Washington also support the release of data, to identify high-volume vendors such as gas stations and work with them on offering healthy food choices.
Information on stores that commit food stamp fraud is also lacking. Last year, the USDA permanently disqualified 1,215 stores and temporarily disqualified an additional 662 for program violations including exchanging food stamps for cash, but did not identify the stores.
The public also doesn’t know whether food stamps are being spent on fruits and vegetables or soda and chips, because Congress hasn’t given the USDA the authority to track that information. The stamps can be used on most any food and drinks except alcohol and tobacco products. The American Medical Association has called for a ban on using food stamps to buy sugar-sweetened beverages including soda, which are considered a main contributor to obesity.
EarthDance Farms offers fresh produce weekly at the Ferguson Farmers Market and accepts food stamps for its variety of greens, heirloom beans, five types of tomatoes, okra, cucumbers, zucchini and other vegetables. The pumpkin and winter squash season will start soon, said program director Rachel Levi.
Levi said accepting food stamps “helps local farmers and it helps the recipients provide really good food for their families, something they might not be able to do if they’re spending most of their dollars at a gas station or convenience store.”
(St. Louis) (AP) – A group of riverboat enthusiasts is trying to get the 1920s era paddlewheeler Delta Queen back on the Mississippi River.
Former Delta Queen Steamboat Co. executive Cornel Martin was in St. Louis this week seeking support and investment for his company, DQSC LLC, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported.
Martin said he is concerned the riverboat won’t survive another winter in Chattanooga, Tennessee, where it served as a floating hotel until severe weather damaged it this past winter.
The riverboat’s supporters need nearly $10 million. They also need congressional approval for an exemption to a federal law that prohibits overnight cruises on wooden vessels.
If all goes as planned, the 258-foot boat with 88 cabins and room for 176 passengers would be available for cruises of between three and 10 days starting next summer. Prices would average about $350 a night for trips including various cities in the Mississippi River and Ohio River waterways. It would compete with the Memphis, Tennessee-based American Queen, which has 222 rooms and can carry more than 400 passengers.
The Delta Queen had been exempt from the Safety Life at Sea Act for 40 years, but in 2008 a House transportation committee blocked the exemption, calling the Delta Queen a fire hazard. That’s when it became a hotel.
Martin says he hopeful the group can get the exemption back. A bill allowing it through 2028 passed the House last year and is being considered in the Senate.
But first the group needs to get its financing in order. Martin would not say how close the group is to the $9.6 million it needs. The money will come from a combination of private investment and Small Business Administration loans.
The company is considering St. Louis for its home port and headquarters, which would reverse a trend of passenger steamers abandoning the city’s riverfront.
(Little Rock) (AP) – The Arkansas Department of Education has launched a campaign to help student’s achieve academic success by encouraging communication between parents and teachers.
The My Child/My Student campaign encourages productive conversations between a student’s parents and his teacher.
The campaign gives parents and teachers the tools and resources they need to have meaningful conversations about a child’s academic progress.
Each month, the campaign will highlight a specific topic. Along with the topic, a group of questions for parents and teachers will be posted on ADE’s website, Facebook and Twitter sites. The questions are designed to encourage conversations throughout the year.
Education Commissioner Tony Wood says research shows that when parents and teachers work together, the chance for academic success increases.
(Washington) (AP) – On the cusp of intensified airstrikes in Iraq and Syria, President Barack Obama is using the legal grounding of the congressional authorizations President George W. Bush relied on more than a decade ago to go to war. But Obama has made no effort to ask Congress to explicitly authorize his own conflict.
The White House said again Friday that Bush-era congressional authorizations for the war on al-Qaida and the Iraq invasion give Obama authority to act without new approval by Congress under the 1973 War Powers Act. That law, passed during the Vietnam War, serves as a constitutional check on presidential power to declare war without congressional consent. It requires presidents to notify Congress within 48 hours of military action and limits the use of military forces to no more than 60 days unless Congress authorizes force or declares war.
“It is the view of this administration and the president’s national security team specifically that additional authorization from Congress is not required, that he has the authority that he needs to order the military actions,” White House spokesman Josh Earnest said. He said there were no plans to seek consent from Congress. “At this point we have not, and I don’t know of any plan to do so at this point,” he said.
The administration’s tightly crafted legal strategy has short-circuited the congressional oversight that Obama once championed. The White House’s use of post-9/11 congressional force authorizations for the broadening air war has generated a chorus of criticism that the justifications are, at best, a legal stretch.
“Committing American lives to war is such a serious question, it should not be left to one person to decide, even if it’s the president,” said former Illinois Rep. Paul Findley, 92, who helped write the War Powers Act.
As a U.S. senator from Illinois running for president in 2007, Obama tried to prevent Bush’s administration from taking any military action against Iran unless it was explicitly authorized by Congress. A Senate resolution Obama sponsored died in committee.
Nearly seven years later, U.S. fighter jets and unmanned drones armed with missiles have flown 150 airstrikes against the Islamic State group over the past five weeks in Iraq under Obama’s orders – even though he has yet to formally ask Congress to authorize the expanding war. Obama told the nation Wednesday he would unleash U.S. strikes inside Syria for the first time, along with intensified bombing in Iraq, as part of “a steady, relentless effort” to root out Islamic State extremists. Obama has not said how long the air campaign will last.
The White House has cited the 2001 military authorization Congress gave Bush to attack any countries, groups or people who planned, authorized, committed or aided the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. Earnest on Thursday described the 2001 Authorization for Use of Military Force, generally known as the AUMF, as one that Obama “believes continues to apply to this terrorist organization that is operating in Iraq and Syria.”
The Islamic State group, which was founded in 2004, has not been linked to the 9/11 attacks, although its founders later pledged allegiance to Osama bin Laden. In February, al-Qaida declared that the Islamic State group was no longer formally part of the terror organization. And in recent weeks, senior U.S. officials, including Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson and Matthew Olsen, head of the National Counterterrorism Center, have drawn significant distinctions between al-Qaida and the Islamic State group.
Earnest said Thursday that Obama welcomes support from Congress but that it isn’t necessary. “The president has the authority, the statutory authority that he needs,” Earnest said.
“I actually think the 2001 AUMF argument is pretty tortured,” said Rep. Jim Himes, D-Conn., who serves on the House Intelligence Committee. “They are essentially saying that ISIL is associated with al-Qaida, and that’s not obvious,” Himes said, using an alternate acronym for the Islamic State group. “Stretching it like this has dangerous implications.”
Himes supports a new congressional vote for a specific IS group authorization, as does another Democrat on the Intelligence Committee, Rep. Adam Schiff of California.
There is wariness even from some former Bush administration officials. Jack Goldsmith, head of the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel under Bush, said in the Lawfare blog that “it seems a stretch” to connect the Islamic State group to al-Qaida, considering recent rivalry between the two groups.
The White House also finds authorization under the 2002 resolution that approved the invasion of Iraq to identify and destroy weapons of mass destruction. That resolution also cited the threat from al-Qaida, which Congress said then was operating inside Iraq. But the U.S. later concluded there were no ties between al-Qaida and Iraqi President Saddam Hussein or his government, and the group formally known as al-Qaida in Iraq – which later evolved into the Islamic State group – didn’t form until 2004, after the U.S.-led invasion.
Obama is using both authorizations as authority to act even though he publicly sought their repeal last year. In a key national security address at the National Defense University in May 2013, Obama said he wanted to scrap the 2001 order because “we may be drawn into more wars we don’t need to fight.” Two months later, Obama’s national security adviser, Susan Rice, asked House Speaker John Boehner to consider repealing the 2002 Iraq resolution, calling the document “outdated.”
Obama has asked only for congressional backing to pay for the buildup of American advisers and equipment to aid Syrian opposition forces. House Republicans spurned a vote on that separate request earlier this week, but Boehner is now siding with the administration. The White House acknowledged it could not overtly train Syrian rebels without Congress approving the cost of about $500 million.
Since U.S. military advisers went into Iraq in June, the administration has maneuvered repeatedly to avoid coming into conflict with the War Powers provision that imposes a 60-day time limit on unapproved military action. Seven times, before each 60-day limit has expired, Obama has sent new notification letters to Congress restarting the clock and providing new extensions without invoking congressional approval. The most recent four notifications have covered the airstrikes against the Islamic State group that began Aug. 8.
An international law expert at Temple University’s Beasley School of Law, Peter J. Spiro, described the letters as workarounds that amount to “killing the War Powers Act with 1,000 tiny cuts.”
Former Sen. Richard Lugar, R-Ind., who now heads the Lugar Center for foreign affairs in Washington, said Obama could ask for congressional approval in a way that would be less formal than a specific war resolution – perhaps either as an appropriations request or a simple resolution.
“It may not be the most satisfactory way to declare war,” Lugar said. “But it may be a pragmatic compromise for the moment.”
Associated Press writer Ken Dilanian contributed to this report.
Kayla Helton figured the “5X Crossword” Scratchers ticket would keep her busy for a while on a Friday night. It turns out; the ticket kept her mind racing for a whole week.
25-year-old Helton scratched the ticket at home and couldn’t believe the results. She said she took the ticket to her dad for confirmation, who wanted to drive to a store to check it again.
Once the shock wore off, Helton and her husband, Steven, began making plans for the windfall.
“We’re going to pay off our house and our car and be debt-free!” declared Helton. “If I have some left over, I don’t know; maybe go on a vacation somewhere. Somewhere tropical.”
“5X Crossword” is a $3 game that officially began May 19. Helton claimed the fifth of eight top prizes in the game, with more than $5 million in prizes remaining. The winning ticket was purchased at Snappy Mart, 3675 U.S. Highway 63 North, in West Plains.
(Bolivar)- The Polk County Sheriff’s Office has cancelled an Endangered Person Advisory for a missing person incident that occurred in Bolivar, MO at 11AM on September 11, 2014.
Four-year-old Benjamin K. Adams was located in Springfield, MO and is now back with family.
Anyone further questions can be directed to the Polk County Sheriff’s Office at 417-777-9020.
BOLIVAR, Mo. (AP) — Authorities have issued an endangered person advisory for a 4-year-old boy who was taken from a courthouse during a custody dispute.
The Polk County Sheriff’s office says the boy was taken from the courthouse in Bolivar Thursday by his father. The boy’s grandmother had been awarded custody after she alleged the father was abusing the boy.
The boy is white, 3-feet-1-inch and weighs 44 pounds. He has blonde hair and blue eyes with a fair complexion.
His 36-year-old father, Timothy Lormand, is 6-foot-1-inch and 165 pounds with brown hair and brown eyes.
The sheriff says Lormand may be driving a silver 1993 Buick Le Sabre or 2014 Ford Explorer. A license plate number wasn’t available.
Authorities believe Lormand and his son could be headed to Steamboat Springs, Colorado.
JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) — Electric customers of Ameren Missouri will see a small increase on their bills starting later this month.
The Missouri Public Service Commission says a typical residential customer will pay an additional $1.54 a month to Ameren to offset increases in the utility’s costs to purchase fuel or power.
Ameren Missouri is the state’s largest electricity provider, with about 1.2 million customers. The cost increase will take effect Sept. 24.
State utility regulators approved a similar fuel-based cost increase earlier this month for customers of Kansas City Power & Light Co.
(West Plains) – The annual Howell County Relay for Life will be held on Saturday in West Plains, and Ashley Walker with the Relay for Life committee says they are ready to get things started Saturday:
The event will be Saturday from noon to midnight at the West Plains Elementary School. For more information visit www.relayforlife.org/howellcomo or you can call 417-447-1478 or 417-293-9507.
(Little Rock) (AP) – The Arkansas Supreme Court has scheduled oral arguments next month in the lawsuit challenging a proposal to legalize alcohol sales in all 75 of the state’s counties.
Justices on Thursday set oral arguments for Oct. 9 in the lawsuit filed by a group opposed to the proposed constitutional amendment. Citizens for Local Rights asked the court to remove the proposal from the November ballot, arguing the state used the wrong deadline to accept petitions for the measure. It also argued that the ballot title is insufficient.
At present, 37 of Arkansas’ 75 counties are dry, meaning the sale of alcoholic beverages is prohibited, except under certain laws, such as those allowing for private clubs.