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by Andrew DeMillo, AP

(Little Rock) (AP) – With the nation’s highest court set to hear arguments next month over the constitutionality of same-sex marriage bans, legislation is advancing in several states that critics say gives businesses license to deny services to gays and lesbians on religious grounds.

More than a dozen states this year are considering measures aimed at preventing government from infringing on people’s religious beliefs. Supporters say the proposals mirror decades-old protections in federal law, while opponents say they’re a license for state-endorsed discrimination against the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community.

Here are some answers about the national movement for these laws:

Q: WHAT DO THESE PROPOSALS CALL FOR?

Sixteen states have introduced legislation this year calling for, or altering, a state religious freedom law, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. Most of these proposals prohibit or restrict laws, regulations or other actions that burden someone’s religious practices unless a “compelling” interest is proven. Examples of practices conservative groups have said they’re trying to prohibit include the government compelling people to provide such things as catering or photography for same-sex weddings or other activities they find objectionable on religious grounds. They’ve also said the measures would help churches that want to feed the homeless but are barred doing so by local ordinances. Opponents, however, say it would lead to widespread discrimination against the LGBT community and have compared it to the way religion was used to justify slavery and racial segregation.

Q: IS THIS A NEW IDEA?

A: No. The legislation is patterned after the federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993, and 20 states now have similar laws on the books.

Q: WHY ARE THEY GAINING SUPPORT NOW?

A: The climate has changed since this legislation first surfaced. Judges across the country ruled against state laws and amendments defining marriage as between a man and a woman since the U.S. Supreme Court struck part of a federal anti-gay marriage law in June 2013, and gay marriage is legal in more than half of the U.S. Justices will hear arguments April 28 in a case over the constitutionality of such bans in a case that could legalize gay marriage nationwide. The push for the laws also has been buoyed by the Supreme Court’s ruling last year that Hobby Lobby and other closely held private businesses with religious objections could opt out of providing the free contraceptive coverage required by the Affordable Care Act.

Q: WILL THERE BE A BROAD EXPANSION OF THESE LAWS?

A: Mississippi approved a religious protection law last year, and Indiana became the first state to adopt one this year with a measure Gov. Mike Pence signed into law Thursday. Arkansas is poised to follow suit, with a final vote expected next week in the House on legislation that Republican Gov. Asa Hutchinson has said he’ll sign. The future is murkier for proposals in several other states, such as Georgia, where a religious protection bill has stalled before a House committee.

Q: WHAT’S THE FALLOUT?

A: Opponents of the measures are hoping that to halt these measures with the same type of backlash from businesses that prompted former Gov. Jan Brewer to veto similar legislation last year in Arizona. In Arkansas, retail giant Wal-Mart has said the religious protection proposal sends the wrong message about its home state, and the Human Rights Campaign has launched an ad campaign in Silicon Valley targeting technology firms Hutchinson is trying to lure to the state. The NCAA, whose offices are located in Indianapolis, has expressed concerns about Indiana’s law and suggested it could move future events elsewhere.

(Fairland) (AP) – The Oklahoma Highway Patrol says a Missouri man was killed when he was run over by a train that he apparently had fallen off of near Fairland.

The OHP said Saturday that 33-year-old Jesse Lloyd Bingaman of Springfield, Missouri, was found lying between two sets of tracks after being spotted by the crew of a train headed east.

The patrol says it appears Bingaman had been riding on a westbound train that had passed through the area earlier and that he apparently fell off and underneath the westbound train.

Bingaman’s body was found shortly before 10 p.m. Thursday.

(Columbia) (AP) – Dresses, uniforms and other examples of women’s wartime clothing are on display through D-Day in Columbia to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the end of World War II.

The exhibit at the State Historical Society in Ellis Library on the University of Missouri campus shows what happened when women’s changing lives combined with limitations on the use of fabrics such as wool, silk and nylon, the Columbia Missourian reports.

Women, who were increasingly spending their time working in factories and raising money for war bonds, looked for ways to conserve by shortening hemlines, using more synthetic fabrics and altering old clothes. Women also compensated for the regulations by personalizing their clothing with buttons, accessories and other embellishments. A set of plain jackets with cinched waists and exaggerated shoulders, for example, were made to have ruffles, lapel details and fabric-covered buttons.

Hats were another way to express glamour. The exhibit shows how plain turbans and felted wool hats could be enhanced with feathers and rhinestones.

Until the 1960s, women wore hats as a part of their everyday outfits, said Jean Parsons, a curator with the Missouri Historic Costume and Textile Collection and an associate professor in the Textile and Apparel Management Department at MU. So when federal restrictions during the war called for less fabric and less frequent bathing, women wore hats to add style, as well as to hide unruly or unwashed hair.

“So, it didn’t matter that you hadn’t gotten to your hairdresser,” said Parsons, whose research concentrates on the American apparel industry in the mid-20th century.

When war restrictions were finally lifted, women celebrated with longer, fuller skirts and softer styles.

Nicole Johnston, the costume collection’s manager and archivist, hopes viewers will see not only the changes in fashion, but also the effect both world wars had on women.

“Women won’t ever be the same,” she said.

(Jefferson City) – Pedestrian casualties while trespassing on railroad tracks rose in Missouri in 2014.

There were 20 pedestrian casualties last year, which is up 25 percent from 2013. Collisions with vehicles at highway-rail grade crossings in Missouri remained the same in 2014 with 48 collisions and two fatalities.

“We are glad to see a low number of highway-rail grade crossing fatalities for a second consecutive year, but are concerned with the increase in trespassing casualties on railroad tracks and property in Missouri,” said Missouri Operation Lifesaver State Coordinator Rick Mooney. “Educating the public to reduce trespassing injuries and fatalities continues to be a challenge. The tracks are not a place to walk or play.”

Across the U.S., vehicle-train collisions and deaths at highway-rail grade crossings and from pedestrians trespassing on railroad tracks rose in 2014, while crossing-related injuries and rail trespass injuries were lower compared to 2013.

“These preliminary 2014 statistics show the continuing need to raise public awareness through our national ‘See Tracks? Think Train!’ campaign,” Mooney stated. “Operation Lifesaver, in partnership with the Missouri Department of Transportation, the Missouri State Highway Patrol, local law enforcement agencies, major freight railroads, and commuter and light rail systems, will be expanding the campaign and developing new educational materials to encourage Americans to make safe decisions around tracks and trains.”

(Mountain Home) – A Medicare presentation will be held at ASU-Mountain Home in April.

“Navigating the Medicare Maze” will be held Friday, April 3 from 1-2 PM at McMullin Lecture Hall in Dryer Hall. This presentation will review many of the commonly asked Medicare questions, including Medicare Enrollment, the various parts of Medicare, including Original Medicare (A&B), Medicare Advantage (Part C), Medicare Drug Plans (Part D) and Medicare Supplement Insurance (Medigap). The program will also cover Medicare Fraud, Premiums & Costs, and programs that help pay Medicare costs.

For more information, visit www.asumh.edu.

by Dmitry Lovetsky and Jim Heintz

The Soyuz-FG rocket booster with Soyuz TMA-16M space ship carrying a new crew to the International Space Station, ISS, blasts off at the Russian leased Baikonur cosmodrome, Kazakhstan, Saturday, March 28, 2015. The Russian rocket carries U.S. astronaut Scott Kelly, Russian cosmonauts Gennady Padalka, and Mikhail Korniyenko,. (AP Photo/Dmitry Lovetsky)

The Soyuz-FG rocket booster with Soyuz TMA-16M space ship carrying a new crew to the International Space Station, ISS, blasts off at the Russian leased Baikonur cosmodrome, Kazakhstan, Saturday, March 28, 2015. The Russian rocket carries U.S. astronaut Scott Kelly, Russian cosmonauts Gennady Padalka, and Mikhail Korniyenko,. (AP Photo/Dmitry Lovetsky)

(Baikonur, Kazakhstan) (AP) – Two Russians and an American floated into the International Space Station on Saturday, beginning what is to be a year away from Earth for two of them.

Mikhail Kornienko and Scott Kelly are to spend 342 days aboard the orbiting laboratory, about twice as long as a standard mission on the station. Russia’s Gennady Padalka is beginning a six-month stay.

The three astronauts entered the station about eight hours after launching from Russia’s manned space facility in Kazakhstan. They were embraced by American Terry Virts and Russia’s Anton Shkaplerov who along with Italian Samantha Cristoforetti have been aboard since late November.

The trip is NASA’s first attempt at a one-year spaceflight; four Russians have spent a year or more in space, all on the Soviet-built Mir space station.

The stay is aimed at measuring the effects of a prolonged period of weightlessness on the human body, a step toward possible missions to Mars or beyond.

Kelly’s identical twin Mark, a retired astronaut, agreed to take part in many of the same medical experiments as his orbiting sibling to help scientists see how a body in space compares with its genetic double on Earth. They are 51.

Kelly and Kornienko, 54, will remain on board until next March. During that time, they will undergo extensive medical experiments, and prepare the station for the anticipated 2017 arrival of new U.S. commercial crew capsules. That means a series of spacewalks for Kelly, which will be his first.

The two men also will oversee the comings and goings of numerous cargo ships, as well as other Russian-launched space crews and an expected September visit from singer Sarah Brightman on a “space tourist” trip.

Doctors are eager to learn what happens to Kelly and Kornienko once they surpass the usual six-month stay for space station residents.

Bones and muscles weaken in weightlessness, as does the immune system. Body fluids also shift into the head when gravity is absent, putting pressure on the brain and the eyes, impairing vision for some astronauts in space.

The yearlong stint will allow doctors to assess whether such conditions are aggravated by a long spell in space or whether they reach a point of stasis or even taper off.

As space officials look to longer missions, the International Space Station’s future appears ensured until at least 2024.

Last year, as tensions between Russia and the United States grew amid the dispute over Russia’s role in Ukraine, Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin had said Moscow aimed to exit the project in 2020.

But Russian space agency director Igor Komarov told a post-launch news conference in Baikonur that his agency and NASA have agreed to continue using the station until 2024.

In addition, “Roscosmos and NASA will work on a program for a future orbiting station. We will think about discuss joint projects,” he said. Just last month, Roscosmos said it foresaw creating a Russian station for use after 2024.

NASA has never flown anyone longer than seven consecutive months. The Russians hold the world record of 14 months in space, set by Valery Polyakov aboard the former Mir space station in 1994-95. Several other Russians spent between eight and 12 months at Mir. All but one of those long-timers are still alive.

A year in space will carry not only physical challenges, but emotional ones as well.

A day before the launch, Kornienko said he would long for the sights of nature. Even on his mission in 2010, which was half as long, he said he had asked to be sent a calendar with photos of rivers and woods.

Kelly said he thought one of the biggest challenges would be to pace himself mentally so he could remain energetic during the year aboard the laboratory.

But he joked that he wouldn’t miss his sibling.

“I’ve gone longer without seeing him, and it was great,” he said.

by Rick Callahan, AP

A window sticker on a downtown Indianapolis business, Wednesday, March 25, 2015, shows its objection to the Religious Freedom bill passed by the Indiana legislature. Organizers of a major gamers' convention and a large church gathering say they're considering moving events from Indianapolis over a bill that critics say could legalize discrimination against gays. (AP Photo/Michael Conroy)

A window sticker on a downtown Indianapolis business, Wednesday, March 25, 2015, shows its objection to the Religious Freedom bill passed by the Indiana legislature. Organizers of a major gamers’ convention and a large church gathering say they’re considering moving events from Indianapolis over a bill that critics say could legalize discrimination against gays. (AP Photo/Michael Conroy)

(Indianapolis) (AP) – Hundreds of people are gathered outside of Indiana Statehouse to rally against the state’s new law that opponents say could sanction discrimination against gay people.

Republican Gov. Mike Pence signed a bill Thursday prohibiting state laws that “substantially burden” a person’s ability to follow his or her religious beliefs. The definition of “person” includes religious institutions, businesses and associations.

The law’s supporters say it will keep the government from compelling people to provide services they find objectionable on religious grounds.

Saturday’s crowd chanted “Pence must go” and held signs reading “I’m pretty sure God doesn’t hate anyone” and “No hate in our state.”

Indiana’s law has been widely criticized by businesses and organizations around the country.

Sixteen states have introduced similar legislation, which is patterned after a federal act.

by Steve Karnowski, AP

(Minneapolis) (AP) – A second Minnesota turkey farm has been struck by a form of bird flu that’s deadly to poultry and will lose 66,000 birds, state and federal officials said Friday.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture said the virus hit a flock of 22,000 turkeys at a commercial farm in Lac qui Parle County of western Minnesota. It was the state’s second confirmation of the highly pathogenic H5N2 avian influenza strain, which was confirmed at a Pope County turkey farm about three weeks ago.

That was the first detection of H5N2 in the Mississippi Flyway, a major bird migration route, and the same strain also has been confirmed in commercial and backyard flocks in Arkansas, Missouri and Kansas in the past three weeks. The same strain also has turned up in several western states in the Pacific Flyway.

State Veterinarian Bill Hartmann said there’s no apparent connection between the two Minnesota farms, which he said are far apart and owned by different companies. While officials don’t know how either operation became infected, he said they don’t think it spread farm-to-farm.

State Health Commissioner Ed Ehlinger said no humans are known to have been infected with H5N2 in the U.S. While people who handle infected birds can be at risk, he said none who had contact with the Pope County turkeys became sick. Ten workers at the Lac qui Parle County farm will be monitored for the next 10 days.

“Our food system is safe, food is safe, and there’s no public health risk,” Ehlinger said.

But state Agriculture Commissioner Dave Frederickson said the new outbreak is another blow to poultry exports from Minnesota, the nation’s top turkey producing state. More than 40 countries banned poultry imports from Minnesota after the first outbreak. Frederickson said Mexico had relaxed its controls in recent days but is now expected to fully re-impose them.

The new outbreak quickly killed all 22,000 of the 12-week-old turkeys in the affected barn, Hartman said. The 44,000 birds in the other two barns on the farm appear healthy but will be killed as a precaution and kept out of the food supply, he said.

Following standard protocols, the farm was quarantined and a surveillance zone was declared for a 10-kilometer radius around the farm. That zone extends into South Dakota, so Minnesota officials are working with their counterparts there on the response, Hartman said. He also said it’s fortunate that there are no other commercial poultry operations within that zone, only backyard flocks.

Scientists consider wild migratory waterfowl to be a natural reservoir for avian influenza. While they don’t generally get sick from flu viruses, they can spread them through their droppings. But there’s disagreement over whether to blame them for the virus’ arrival in Minnesota.

Lou Cornicelli, wildlife research manager for the state Department of Natural Resources, said that there was little open water near the Pope County farm and only a handful of resident wild ducks. He said his researchers took 148 environmental samples but found no H5N2.

“The direct waterfowl link in Minnesota doesn’t add up,” Cornicelli said.

But Hartman wasn’t ready to discount waterfowl as the source.

“What we have agreed on is the source of this is unknown,” he said.

by Summer Ballentine, AP

In this photo made Friday, March 27, 2015, an employee demonstrates for a photograph the pouring of a growler of beer at Schlafly Tap Room in St. Louis. A bill is moving through the Missouri Legislature that would allow the sale of jugs of beer, known as growlers, at convenience and grocery stores.  Currently the jugs, which are usually filled with craft brews so beer lovers can drink the fresh beverages at home, are only found at breweries and some bars. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson)

In this photo made Friday, March 27, 2015, an employee demonstrates for a photograph the pouring of a growler of beer at Schlafly Tap Room in St. Louis. A bill is moving through the Missouri Legislature that would allow the sale of jugs of beer, known as growlers, at convenience and grocery stores. Currently the jugs, which are usually filled with craft brews so beer lovers can drink the fresh beverages at home, are only found at breweries and some bars. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson)

(Jefferson City) (AP) – Missouri beer lovers could get their fill of rich milk stouts and hoppy pale ales on draft at convenience and grocery stores under proposals brewing in the state Legislature.

The two measures, one that stalled in the Senate and another that passed the House earlier this month, would allow stores that sell packaged beer to add to their wares growlers – take-home jugs of draft beer. Currently, growlers are only available at breweries and some bars.

The perk, House bill sponsor and home brewer Republican Rep. Robert Cornejo says, is for drinkers who want to enjoy their favorite beer at home instead of journeying to a brewery. Growlers also could give people easier access to special beers that aren’t bottled or canned by smaller brewing operations, he said.

Stores in the 35 states that allow retailers other than breweries or restaurants to sell growlers typically opt for the 64-ounce size, which fills about 4-5 glasses. The Missouri bills would allow growlers up to 128 ounces, though Ronald Leone, the executive director of Missouri Petroleum Marketers and Convenience Store Association, predicts a “fairly limited” number of convenience stores would take advantage of that option.

Craft beer sales rose roughly 18 percent in 2014 in the U.S., while overall beer sales increased only .5 percent, according to chief economist Bart Watson of the Brewers Association, a Colorado-based trade group that represents most of the nation’s 3,200 breweries.

An alternative to the large-scale brewery that started in St. Louis, craft brews have become increasingly popular and often have unique flavors, from fruits to hot peppers.

“You have considerable interest in both non-American light lager beer styles and the idea of locally brewed beer,” said St. Louis-based Schlafly Beer co-founder Dan Kopman, who also is president of the Missouri Small Brewers Guild. “It’s a significant growth area for the national economy, and that has trickled down to our state.”

Missouri had 49 breweries that produced almost 300,000 barrels of beer a year in 2013.

Similar measures to expand use of growlers in Missouri have failed in past sessions, in part due to quality concerns from brewers. But Cornejo, a Republican from St. Peters, said new regulations on how to clean filling equipment and a requirement that stores only fill growlers as requested have garnered support from some hesitant brewers.

Stu Burkemper, the “chief beer guy” for Columbia’s Rockbridge Brewing Co., also said requiring a tamper-proof seal on the growlers could prevent buyers from drinking them on the way home.

No one spoke against the House measure during a February public hearing, and Cornejo said chances of the bill passing are “better than 50/50″ this year.

(Cape Girardeau) (AP) – Several churches in Missouri have received threatening letters after the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) voted to approve same-sex marriage.

The Southeast Missourian reports that Westminster and First Presbyterian churches in Cape Girardeau and First Presbyterian in Jackson and Perryville received letters warning that any church that accepts same-sex marriage “should be burned to the ground.”

Cpt. Darin Hickey of the Cape Girardeau Police Department said they would increase patrols of any church or major building that could face a threat.

The Rev. Kim L. Nelson, pastor of First Presbyterian Church in Cape Girardeau, said that the church’s constitution was changed after much debate throughout the church hierarchy.

“This wasn’t pushed down from above. We have a very representative form of government” in which clergy and lay people have equal representation when voting, Nelson said.

Nelson informed his congregation about the letter, but “did not want to make a big deal about” it.

“I would love — if this person wanted to have a conversation and be reasonable and not threatening — I would love to have a conversation with them,” Nelson said.

The Rev. Grant F.C. Gillard, pastor of First Presbyterian Church in Jackson, is not making a big deal out of the threat, and will not be taking any extra precautions. However, he will address the letter with his congregation.

The new Presbyterian policy on same-sex marriage will go into effect next June.