Issue XCVI

21 OCT 2016

Local

10/21/2016

Judge Blocks Planned Parenthood Medicaid Reimbursements Law

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JACKSON — A federal judge has blocked a Mississippi state law that prevented the Division of Medicaid from reimbursing both the state’s Planned Parenthood clinic and the only abortion clinic for birth control and cancer screenings for women in the state.

The law, passed in the 2016 legislative session, prevented any entity that performs nontherapeutic abortions (or is associated with such an organization) in the state from receiving reimbursements from Medicaid—even though federal funding cannot be used to pay for abortions.

With the law in effect, Mississippi's Planned Parenthood clinic, which doesn't offer abortion services, could not receive Medicaid reimbursements for the family-planning services it offers such as birth control, cancer screenings and screenings for sexually transmitted infections.

The law not only affects payments to Mississippi’s Planned Parenthood clinic in Hattiesburg but also affects the only abortion clinic, the Jackson Women’s Health Organization, which began offering birth control back in November.

The state's Division of Medicaid has paid the Hattiesburg clinic a total of $384 since fiscal-year 2014 in fee-for-service claims and $53 in encounter claims. In total, the state's Division of Medicaid has reimbursed its one Planned Parenthood clinic less than $500 in the past three years, division data show.

Planned Parenthood Southeast sued the state over the new law back in late June, and today U.S. District Judge Daniel Jordan permanently enjoined the state law, writing that “essentially every court to consider similar laws has found that they violate…the so-called ‘Free-Choice-of-Provider Provision.”

On Sept. 14, the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals reached the same conclusion that Judge Jordan did.

In a brief on Wednesday, the State (represented by the attorney general’s office) wrote that it disagreed with the 5th Circuit’s decision.

The division of Medicaid respectfully disagrees with the panel decision in Gee and expressly reserves the right to ask that it be overruled by the Fifth Circuit en banc or the U.S. Supreme Court,” the Oct. 19 response says.

Advocates spoke out against Senate Bill 2858 at several rallies, including state public policy director of Planned Parenthood, Felicia Brown-Williams.

Last spring, Brown-Williams called on Gov. Phil Bryant to veto Senate Bill 2238.

"We're here because we advocate for...


Planned Parenthood gets huge abortion victory in Mississippi

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Planned Parenthood has just won a major battle in Mississippi for a woman’s right to get an abortion. A federal judge has blocked a law that would ban the state’s Medicaid program from spending money on any health care provider that would be willing to perform abortions, according to news reports.

U.S. District Judge Daniel P. Jordan III decided on Thursday that Planned Parenthood’s lawsuit back in June over the law, which took effect July 1, was correct and the law was unconstitutional. The federal law has a “free choice of provider” provision, and the judge said that this law violated that. Medicaid is a federal program that states contribute to.

A similar Louisiana law was shot down by the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on Sept. 14, which Jordan references in his decision. Mississippi is also covered by the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

The president of Planned Parenthood Federation of America, Cecile Richards, hailed the ruling in a statement: “Yet another court has said it is unacceptable for politicians to dictate where women can go for their health care.”

Republican Gov. Phil Bryant said he was “disappointed” with the ruling, and still believes the law that he signed is good. He is an outspoken opponent of abortion and wants to end the constitutionally protected right.

“I will continue to stand with the Legislature and the people of Mississippi who do not want their hard-earned money going to the largest abortion provider in the nation,” the governor said in a statement.



07/19/2016

Mid-Missouri Community Looks for Economic Boost from Gun Plant

Boonville is hoping a gun-making plant can boost its economy after a decade of manufacturing job losses. CMMG is seeking a $200,000 forgivable loan from Boonville so it can move its operations from rural Fayette, about a half an hour to the north. 

Boonville economic development director Jim Gann says most people in town support bringing in the plant and its 52 high-paying jobs.

Opponents say having a factory that makes AR-15 semi-automatic rifles goes against the town's long-cultivated tourism image. City Councilmember Susan Meadows says she's opposed morally because she doesn't think the weapons should be available to the public.

Gann says CMMG would have an annual economic impact on the community of nearly $5 million.


AR-15 maker's move is a boom to Boonville, Missouri

An assault rifle factory is something new for Boonville, Missouri, a small town that's more used to tourists and Civil War buffs.

AR-15 manufacturer CMMG is moving its factory and all its jobs to Boonville, a town of about 8,000 that has lost more than 1,000 manufacturing jobs.

CMMG is buying a factory building left vacant by one of the town's departed manufacturers, the electric heating company Indeeco. Mayor Julie Thacher said the company plans to invest $2.5 million into that building, and the city council is supporting their investment with a $200,000 forgivable loan.

"I support the new factory, and the feedback I have been receiving from the community is that the majority supports the new factory," Thacher told CNNMoney. "Our community wants jobs."

CMMG did not respond to messages from CNNMoney to say why it's moving its factory to a town less than 20 miles away from its current location.

Jim Gann, the town's economic development director, said CMMG will be bringing all of its 52 jobs to Boonville from nearby Fayette. He said the company plans to add 10 jobs in the near future and will add an annual economic impact of about $5 million to the town.

He said this is a welcome reversal to the town's downward trend in manufacturing. He said the town lost 60 factory jobs at Indeeco, 700 jobs at Nordyne, 300 jobs at Fuqua Homes and 60 atHostess Brands.

Not everyone is happy about CMMG coming to Boonville. City Councilor Susan Meadow says the factory won't create many jobs, and "On a personal and moral level, I am opposed to the AR-15 being sold for recreational use."

In addition, she said Boonville is known as a town that attracts tourists because of its rich history. "To become the world headquarters of the AR-15 semi-automatic rifle goes against this image," she said.

Boonville is named after the sons of Daniel Boone, who were among its earliest residents. The town's strategic location on the Missouri River made it a hotly contested battleground during the Civil War. Before then, the site was a stopping point for Lewis and Clark on their journey west. Now, it's a stopping point for history loving tourists.

Now that the booming industry for guns is coming to Boonville, it's bringing along the controversy associated with AR-15s, or AR-15 style rifles, were used in the recent murder of police officers in Dallas and Baton Rouge, Louisiana. They were...



06/03/2016

4 fugitives wanted for transgender man's murder in Vermont arrested in San Diego

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SAN DIEGO -- Four suspects wanted in connection with the beating death of a transgender man in Vermont were arrested Thursday in Ocean Beach.

Police in Burlington, Vermont contacted San Diego police "to follow-up on information they obtained about the location of four homicide suspects wanted from their jurisdiction," according to San Diego Police Department Sgt. Michael Tansey.

The homicide occurred on May 22, Tansey said.

The suspects were located in the area of Dog Beach, near the 5100 block of Voltaire Street, and arrested without incident, Tansey said. They are identified as Jordan Paul, Allison Gee, Erik Averill and Myia Barber.

The victim was Amos Beede, 38. Beede was a transgender man who was born female and transitioned to male. Beede was known to help the homeless. He was found brutally beaten and unconscious in a homeless camp in Burlington Vermont on May 23. Beede died in the hospital six days later.

“It was devastating to see him in that condition. We've all been taking it very, very hard,” Beede's mother, Barbara Beede, told 10News by phone Thursday night.

Beede’s four accused killers are all in their early 20s and transient, police told Vermont media. They were on the run for 10 days. 

Burlington police told media in Vermont they are investigating if Beede was attacked because he was transgender.

“He would mentor the homeless people down there," Beede said. "Buy food for them, try to get them shampoo, stuff like that, to help them out. So why these people did this? I don’t know, because he had the biggest heart there was.”

The four were interviewed by detectives and then booked into jail, pending extradition on the murder warrants issued in Vermont. They face charges of second degree murder.

“I always told him when he was little, there's no such thing as monsters. But there is. They proved that,” Beede said.


Burlington murder suspects caught in San Diego

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Four people accused of murder in the beating death of a man in Burlington were arrested late Thursday in San Diego following a nationwide manhunt, police in California confirmed.

The four suspects, whom Burlington police identified publicly Thursday afternoon, were wanted on suspicion of second-degree murder in the May 23 assault on Amos Beede, 38, of Milton. Beede died at the hospital six days after the attack at a homeless camp near the Pine Street Barge Canal.

San Diego authorities were following leads and tips that Burlington police provided when detectives found the fugitives — two men and two women in their 20s from Vermont — near a park in a part of the Southern California city known as Ocean City, Sgt. Michael Tansey told the Burlington Free Press less than two hours after the arrests were made at about 10 p.m. ET.

“They’ll be held, and then Vermont authorities will be bringing charges and seeking extradition from San Diego to Vermont,” Tansey said.

The suspects were being booked late Thursday and had yet to have lawyers assigned or to appear in court, the sergeant said.

The arrests came two days after one member of the group was arrested on accusations of assaulting another in Roswell, New Mexico — but he was released before the authorities there knew the individuals were wanted for murder.

Police identified the four as Erik Averill, 21, Myia Barber, 22, Allison Gee, 25, and Jordan Paul, 21.

Burlington police last week called Averill and Barber persons of interest in the case.

Chief Brandon del Pozo did not immediately respond to a question late Thursday night about the arrests, but in an email to Vermont media, he said a news conference would take place at 10 a.m. Friday "to discuss the Amos Beede homicide, take questions, and relate any recent developments."

Early Friday morning, he tweeted that the four suspects had been apprehended without incident.

A motive for the attack on Beede was not disclosed. Police said the four "acted in concert" to assault the victim.

Burlington police said after the assault they were investigating if any connection existed between Beede's transgender status and the attack. Police initially called the beating a "possible bias incident" but later backed off that assessment.

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05/05/2016

Alvarez requests special prosecutor in Laquan McDonald shooting by police

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In a surprise move, Cook County State's Attorney Anita Alvarez's office said Thursday it was withdrawing from prosecuting Chicago police Officer Jason Van Dyke on charges of killing Laquan McDonald, clearing the way for a special prosecutor to be appointed.

Prosecutors said that Alvarez saw no valid conflict of interest on the part of her or her office but still opted to recuse herself from a case that has created a firestorm and played a part in her re-election defeat in March. She asked that a special prosecutor be appointed.

Alvarez issued a statement after court in which she said the interests of justice after she lost the election would best be served by having an independent prosecutor appointed.

"While it has not been an easy decision, I believe that it is the right one because it will help to avoid unnecessary legal delays and provide continuity in the handling of this very important and complicated case," the statement said. "It would also ensure that one designated prosecutor will handle this case as it proceeds to trial.

"While there is no legal conflict of interest that would prevent the state's attorney's office from continuing the prosecution of this case, I believe that the results of the recent election and the impending transition of this office make this the best and most responsible decision.

"More than anything else, our role as prosecutors is to seek justice and do all that we can to promote confidence in our criminal justice system. It is my greatest hope that the citizens of Chicago who have been shocked and polarized by this crime and this tragedy will understand and welcome this decision and respectfully support the efforts of all elements of the criminal justice system as the prosecution of Jason Van Dyke moves forward."

Locke Bowman, an attorney who represented a coalition seeking a special prosecutor, asked Judge Vincent Gaughan for the opportunity to suggest a lawyer to be appointed to the post. The judge said he would hear such proposals June 2.

A coalition of some 25 community groups, prominent attorneys, a member of McDonald's family and some of Alvarez's biggest critics had filed the petition seeking a special prosecutor.

Their filing alleged that Alvarez's close relationship with the Chicago police union has created a conflict of interest that discourages her from pursuing officers suspected of wrongdoing and that her office has...


Alvarez flip-flops, asks for special prosecutor in McDonald case

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In a stunning move, Cook County State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez, Thursday recused herself from prosecuting Chicago Police Officer Jason Van Dyke and asked Judge Vincent Gaughan to appoint a special prosecutor to handle the infamous murder case.

The lawyer for Van Dyke, who is accused of gunning down 17-year-old Laquan McDonald in October 2014, said he wasn’t surprised by the top prosecutor’s decision given her recent re-election defeat.

But civil rights attorneys Locke Bowman and G. Flint Taylor who filed a petition seeking a special prosecutor for the Van Dyke matter and possibly other unindicted officers connected to the incident, were pleasantly taken aback.

“We were quite frankly surprised and also very gratified that to learn this morning that Anita Alvarez is seeking to recuse herself from the prosecution of Jason Van Dyke,” Bowman said flanked by Taylor and lawyers for the Rev. Jesse Jackson, who filed a similar petition.

It was the right thing to do in the fairness and interest of justice, said Bowman.

Gaughan has not made a decision on request for a special prosecutor but may rule on the matter on June 2.

Both petitions criticized Alvarez’s handling of Van Dyke’s case and argued that she cannot prosecute the 38-year-old officer because of her close ties to the police union and her failure to police officers accountable for shooting citizens.

In February, when Bowman and Taylor announced their court filing seeking a special prosecutor, Alvarez put out a statement, that read, in part: If any party with standing wants to make that request and legal arguments that would merit the appointment of a special state’s attorney, they should do so in a court of law, not a press conference. But it is clear that there is no legal conflict in this case, and prosecution will proceed to hold Jason Van Dyke accountable for the murder of Laquan McDonald.”

A spokeswoman for Alvarez’s office denied that Alvarez was reversing her position, despite Alvarez saying repeatedly during her campaign that a special prosecutor was not needed and her office fighting the motions in court.

In her motion filed Thursday, Alvarez held firm that her office did not have a conflict of interest in the case as critics have charged. But she noted she would still recuse herself from the case and ask for a special prosecutor “to obtain justice for Laquan McDonald, and to ensure continuity in the handling of this important...



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