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Supreme Court strikes down Texas abortion regulations

A sharply divided U.S. Supreme Court on Monday tossed out Texas abortion restrictions that would have closed more than half of the clinics in the state.

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The ruling overturned the heart of the law known as House Bill 2, passed during the second of two tense special legislative sessions in 2013, leaving 19 abortion clinics operating in the state, with the possibility that more could open in the coming months or years.

Ten of those clinics would have closed if the court had upheld the Texas law, including the Austin Women’s Health Center.

The Supreme Court said the Texas rules -- requiring abortions to be performed in hospital-like settings and doctors to have admitting privileges in nearby hospitals -- combined to erect an improper barrier for women seeking abortions.

The ruling, 4½ months before the presidential election, is sure to have an impact on the race for the White House, with the winner being able to fill the vacancy left by the death of Justice Antonin Scalia, the court’s leading conservative voice.

SEE: An interactive timeline of the Texas abortion law’s twists and turns

Abortion providers sued to overturn two parts of HB 2, arguing that the rules were medically unnecessary and were instead intended to close clinics in an unconstitutional attempt to make it more difficult, if not impossible, for many women to get abortions.

Many doctors had difficulty gaining admitting privileges, abortion providers testified, because nearby hospitals opposed abortion, did not want to get involved in a controversial issue or required a certain number of annual admissions that abortion doctors could not meet.

Providers also said abortion, a relatively safe procedure, was not made safer by the surgical-center rules, adding that it was prohibitively expensive, in some cases several million dollars, to renovate existing clinics or build new facilities to create hospital-like settings that call for fully equipped operating rooms, sterile ventilation systems, wide hallways, emergency power and other requirements found in 117 pages of state regulations.

Led by Republican Attorney General Ken Paxton, state officials argued that HB 2 was intended to protect the health and safety of women.

Paxton told the court that requiring all abortions to be performed in accredited surgical centers, would guarantee that women received high-quality treatment while ensuring that Texas would not see a repeat of Kermit Gosnell, a Pennsylvania abortion doctor who is serving life in prison in the murder of three infants born alive after late-term abortions and in the death of a patient. Investigators found bloodstained furniture, unsterilized instruments and bags of remains stored in Gosnell’s clinic.

Paxton also said the admitting privileges rule ensured that abortion doctors would continue caring for patients who experience complications after an abortion -- a claim that professional groups disputed, saying that most complications occur hours or days after the procedure, and women typically seek help from a hospital closest to their home, not the clinic.

The Texas case set the stage for the most significant decision on abortion rights since the 1990s by offering better direction to lower courts as well as state legislators on the increasingly thorny question of how much regulation is too much when it comes to laws that could shut down clinics.

The high court has said since 1992 that state regulations cannot pose an “undue burden,” a nebulous standard that left a lot of room for interpretation on which laws placed a substantial obstacle in the paths of women seeking abortions.

Ten states have enacted admitting privileges rules, for example, but courts have blocked enforcement in six of those states.

 

Florida man called hero after he saves falling ducklings

A man sprang into action Saturday and saved ducklings that were falling off a steep ledge at Busch Gardens in Tampa, Florida.

Eric Pelno was startled when a small duckling fell and hit his shoulder while he was walking with Channing Deren, WFLA reported.

Pelno saw more ducklings about to fall, so he began to catch and bring the animals to safety while Deren videotaped.

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“Eric is today’s hero. There were 15-20 baby ducklings literally falling from a nest at least 30 feet high as we walked by. At first one hit my shoulder and we didn’t know what was going on. Then Eric just went into beast mode and started catching ducklings from the sky” Deren said in a Facebook post.

Deren told WTVT that she and Pelno had been startled by seeing the ducks falling. "There were like 20 duck faces just looking down at us!" she said. "He'd catch it in one hand, and then he'll catch another one. I was just watching him thinking, 'How are you doing that?'"

Deren said the mother duck was nearby and reunited with her babies. One had a broken leg from the fall. WTVT reported that the injured duck was taken by Busch Garden staffers to get treatment, while Pelno became a Father’s Day hero to his daughter.

"She was, just, the whole rest of the day, 'My dad's a hero.' She was so excited." Deren said.

Eric is today's HERO!  There were 15-20 baby ducklings literally falling from a nest at least 30 ft high as we walked by. At first one hit my shoulder and we didn't know what was going on... then eric just went into beast mode and started catching ducklings from the sky! They all joined up with mama duck after this and one has a broken leg... but ALL DUCKLINGS WERE SAFE!!! SO PROUD OF THESE TWO FOR SAVING THE DUCK POPULATION!!!!Posted by Channing Deren on Sunday, June 19, 2016

Florida man threatens churchgoers days after decapitating 875-year-old statue, police say

A man stormed a South Florida church and threatened to shoot the people inside just days after decapitating an 875-year-old statue, authorities said.

According to the Miami Herald, Jorge Arizamendoza, 33, entered North Miami Beach’s Ancient Spanish Monastery, the meeting place of St. Bernard de Clairvaux Episcopal Church, on Sunday during a Mass to remember the victims of the Orlando shooting, police said.

Arizamendoza started ranting and making threats toward church members, authorities said.

“He said he was going to shoot me and anyone who stayed in the church,” the Rev. Gregory Mansfield told the Herald. “The fact that this man came in right on the heels of Orlando was scary.”

Arizamendoza bought a ticket Thursday for a tour of the monastery and screamed at groups conducting Masses on the grounds, police said. He also threw a rock at an electric sign, causing $2,000 in damage before driving off, according to authorities.

Police said he returned around 2 a.m. the next and decapitated an 875-year-old statue of Spanish King Alphonso VII, according to the Herald.

When Arizamendoza returned Sunday, several church members recognized him, and he ran off.

Arizamendoza was arrested and charged with aggravated assault at a religious institution, two counts of criminal mischief at a place of worship, disturbing religious assembly and burglary of an unoccupied dwelling.

He is being held on a $75,000 bond.

Read more at the Miami Herald.

Rainbow appears over Lake Eola right before start of Pulse vigil

Rainbow appears over Lake Eola right before start of Pulse vigil

Billions of cicadas to ascend in Ohio, New York, Pennsylvania

Video includes clips from Brandon Baker / CC BY 3.0, The BBC and Rich4098 / CC BY 3.0 and images from Natalia Wilson / CC BY SA 2.0, Nick Harris / CC BY ND 2.0, Gramody / CC BY SA 2.0 and Meredith Harris / CC BY ND 2.0.

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Next month, parts of the U.S. can expect to see and hear lots of 17-year-old cicadas, which will rise from the ground to mate.

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The insects, which have spent the rest of their lives underground, only live above ground for about six weeks. The adults, the ones that make all the noise, only ascend above ground to reproduce.

Males use the harsh sound to look for females so they can mate in that brief time. The sound can reach over 90 decibels in some instances; that's about the same volume as a lawn mower.

The female cicadas will lay eggs in a tree, and after the eggs hatch, the newborn cicadas -- called nymphs -- will bury themselves in the ground, where they'll develop for 17 years. 

According to The Washington Post, female cicadas can lay up to 400 eggs each, across 40 to 50 sites.

During the upcoming mating season, there could be as many as 1.5 million cicadas per acre in some places.

The noise, which is mostly a daytime phenomenon, will probably last until mid- to late June, by which time most of the cicadas will probably die, according to Gaye Williams, a Maryland Department of Agriculture entomologist. Williams said predicting exactly when the emergence will end is tough because it depends on many variables, including temperature, moisture and humidity. 

The good news is that cicadas can’t chew, so they don’t devour plants and trees. Plus, they don’t bite or sting.

But if you live in Ohio, New York, Pennsylvania and other neighboring states, now might be the time to invest in some ear plugs.

Read more here.

People post political comments on Facebook for 'self-affirmation,' study says

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Growing tired of the endless Bernie memes or Trump posts on your Facebook feed?

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A set of studies have found the reason why your social media connections feel the need to post their views.

The Huffington Post reports that a Harvard study found that sharing personal beliefs or feelings on social media works as a release for people because it rewards them for letting something out rather than keeping it in. “Expressing beliefs that are important to you functions as a self-affirmation,” psychology professor Joshua Hart of Union College told The Huffington Post. “It reminds you of the values that are central to your identity, and this gives you a psychological boost.”

A study by the Pew Research Center found that the people posting their opinions on social media are “less likely to share their opinions in face-to-face settings” because people are more likely to feel safer giving out their retorts when behind a computer screen rather than in person. “They’re expressing themselves in a forum where they’re likely to get a reaction, whether it’s the one they want or not,” Hart told The Huffington Post.

Hart said most people who post are also looking for the approval of others and “become more confident in their beliefs” when more people like, retweet or comment on the post. The Huffington Post said that there is not very much difference between Republicans, Democrats and independents regarding the number of posts with the leading posts on your own feed most likely factoring in based on your location.

Read more at The Huffington Post.

California lawmaker proposes parents get paid time off for kids' school activities

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Assemblyman Mike Gatto, D- Los Angeles, proposed a bill last week that would give parents paid time off from work to attend school activities for their children, according to KTLA.

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The bill, AB 2405, would allow parents three paid days off a year, or 24 hours.

“Being involved in your child’s education shouldn’t be limited by your family’s income, and it shouldn’t come down to a choice between meeting with a teacher or volunteering in the classroom, versus paying the bills," Gatto said in a news release Thursday.

"You shouldn’t have to be a cast member of the ‘Real Housewives of Beverly Hills’ to be involved in your child’s education," he said.

The release cites a 2013 EdSource survey in which 24 percent of parents with incomes of $30,000 or less described themselves as "very involved" in their children's education.

The bill would update California's existing Family-School and Partnership Act.

Passed in 1995, the act currently allows parents, grandparents and guardians to take up to 40 hours of unpaid time off for school activities and related emergencies. The time off is protected.

AB 2405 would require 24 or those hours be paid time off.

"Too many parents are prevented from participating in their children's education due to economic barriers," Gatto said. "Parents shouldn't have to choose between paying the bills and being involved in their child's education."

According to Gatto's spokesman, the legislation should be referred to a committee hearing  next month, followed by a vote on it by the Assembly.

It will go to the state Senate if it passes.

CNN Money reported that, according to the spokesman, small businesses with 25 employees or less would not be required to follow this law, if passed.

Selma to Montgomery: John Lewis live-tweets his memories

Civil rights icon John Lewis took to Twitter Monday to remember the historic Selma to Montgomery marches.

March 7 marked the 51st anniversary of the marches, which the congressman remembers as the “highest point” in the civil rights movement.

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In an interview with the Atlanta Journal Constitution ahead of the 50th anniversary of Selma, Lewis recalled filling his backpack that day with an apple, an orange, two books, a toothbrush and toothpaste. It was preparation for a cell, not a fractured skull.

Lewis, a Georgia Democrat, tweeted a series of photos and personal memories from the march.

“I was hit in the head by a State Trooper. I thought I saw death. I thought I was going to die,” Lewis tweeted with the hashtag #Selma51.

<iframe src="//storify.com/ajc/rep-john-lewis-remembers-selma/embed?border=false" width="100%" height="750" frameborder="no" allowtransparency="true"></iframe><script src="//storify.com/ajc/rep-john-lewis-remembers-selma.js?border=false"></script>[View the story "Rep. John Lewis remembers Selma" on Storify]

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