TOPEKA, Kan. — The American Civil Liberties Union won an early victory today in its federal lawsuit arguing that a Kansas law requiring a public school educator to certify that she won’t boycott Israel violates her First Amendment rights.

A federal judge issued a preliminary injunction blocking enforcement of the law while the case filed in October proceeds. It is the first ruling addressing a recent wave of laws nationwide aiming to punish people who boycott Israel.

The law, which took effect on July 1, requires that any person or company that contracts with the state submit a written certification that they are “not currently engaged in a boycott of Israel.” The ACLU is also currently fighting a case filed in December against a similar law in Arizona.

“The court has rightly recognized the serious First Amendment harms being inflicted by this misguided law, which imposes an unconstitutional ideological litmus test,” said ACLU attorney Brian Hauss, who argued the issue in court. “This ruling should serve as a warning to government officials around the country that the First Amendment prohibits the government from suppressing participation in political boycotts.”

In his opinion, U.S. District Judge Daniel Crabtree wrote, “[T]he Supreme Court has held that the First Amendment protects the right to participate in a boycott like the one punished by the Kansas law.”

Other Supreme Court decisions have established that the government may not require individuals to sign a certification regarding their political expression in order to obtain employment, contracts, or other benefits.

The ACLU represents Esther Koontz, who belongs to the Mennonite Church USA. In accordance with calls for boycott made by members of her congregation and her church, Koontz decided not to buy consumer products made by Israeli companies and international companies operating in Israeli settlements in the occupied Palestinian territories. Koontz participates in this boycott in order to protest the Israeli government’s treatment of Palestinians and to pressure the country to change its policies.

Having served as a public school math teacher for nine years, Koontz now develops her school’s math curriculum and trains teachers on how to implement it. She is also qualified to train teachers statewide as a contractor with the Kansas Department of Education’s Math and Science Partnerships program. When Koontz was asked to certify that she does not participate in a boycott of Israel, she said that she could not sign the form in good conscience. As a result, the state refuses to contract with her, and she is unable to participate as a trainer in the state’s program.

Judge Crabtree wrote in his opinion, “She and others participating in this boycott of Israel seek to amplify their voices to influence change.”

The lawsuit argues that the Kansas law violates the First Amendment for several reasons: it compels speech regarding protected political beliefs, associations, and expression; restricts the political expression and association of government contractors; and discriminates against protected expression based on its content and viewpoint. The lawsuit asks the court to strike down the law and bar the Kansas Department of Education from requiring contractors to certify that they are not participating in boycotts of Israel.

The Kansas law is similar to legislation that has been passed in other states. The ACLU does not take a position on boycotts of foreign countries, but the organization has long supported the right to participate in political boycotts and has voiced opposition to bills that infringe on this important First Amendment right. In the lawsuit challenging the Arizona law, the ACLU represents an attorney and his one-person law office, which contracts with the government to provide legal services to incarcerated individuals.

In July, the ACLU sent a letter to members of Congress opposing a bill that would make it a felony to support certain boycotts of companies doing business in Israel and its settlements in the occupied Palestinian territories. As a result, Senate sponsors of the bill are considering changes.

Today’s ruling is here:

Also documents filed in the case are here:

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LA Man Arrested For 'Swatting' Call That Led To Innocent Kansas Man's Death

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Authorities arrested a 25-year-old man in California for a “swatting” prank emergency call that led to the death of an innocent 28-year-old Kansas man who was shot by police responders on Thursday evening as he stood on his front doorstep. 

Tyler Barriss was taken into custody Friday in Los Angeles on suspicion of making up a story about a shooting and hostage situation at a Wichita address halfway across the country. A man by the same name was arrested in 2015 for making a fake bomb threat to an ABC affiliate news station in Los Angeles.

Relatives identified the deceased as Andrew Finch, who was unarmed, Wichita police confirmed.

Deputy Wichita Police Chief Troy Livingston said the incident was the result of “swatting,” a type of hoaxassociated with online video gamers, where someone makes up a story in a fake emergency call designed to draw large numbers of police to a specific address.

Based on the emergency call, placed at 6:18 p.m. CST, officers dispatched to the scene believed someone at the address had an argument with his mother, shot his father in the head, and was then holding his mother and two siblings hostage as he considered setting the house on fire. Swatters often use techniques to shield themselves from call tracing that might give them away, but it is unclear what method, if any, was used here.

Finch opened the door to a swarm of police shortly after they arrived. Livingston said officers repeatedly gave him verbal commands to raise his hands and walk towards them, but Finch lowered his hands to his waist several times. When Finch moved his hands suddenly upwards, one of the officers believed he had brandished a weapon and fired one shot, the deputy chief added.

The Kansas incident is believed to be the result of a dispute between two “Call of Duty” gamers that originated on Twitter and escalated when one gamer posted an address that was not his own.

Finch had no part in the dispute. Relatives told the Wichita Eagle that he did not even play video games.

A Twitter user who claimed to have initiated the hoax reportedly denied responsibility for Finch’s death, writing, “I DIDN’T GET ANYONE KILLED BECAUSE I DIDN’T DISCHARGE A WEAPON AND BEING A SWAT MEMBER ISNT MY PROFESSION.” 

Family members told the Wichita Eagle they were handcuffed following the gunshot and taken to a station where they were interviewed by police. They are calling for the authorities to hold the officer who shot him accountable.

“What gives the cops the right to open fire?” Finch’s mother, Lisa, asked Friday morning. “Why didn’t they give him the same warning they gave us? That cop murdered my son over a false report.”

Livingston called it “a nightmare for everyone involved” at a press conference on Friday.

“Due to the actions of a prankster, we have an innocent victim,” he said.

The officer who fired the deadly shot was placed on administrative leave, per department policy. 

  • This article originally appeared on HuffPost.

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Holiday and Christmas concerts in Kansas City 2017

Christmas in Kansas City is truly special.

Not only will the city be wrapped in the festive spirit of family and lights, but there will be numerous concerts in the region that will bring a holiday-worthy soundtrack to your eardrums. So get your tickets now to these hot concerts coming to the Kansas City area in December.

Kodak Black: The Project Baby Tour
Dec. 4 @ 8 pm
Arvest Bank Theatre at The Midland — 1228 Main St., Kansas City, MO 64105
(816) 283-9921

Kodak Black is an up-and-comer in the hip-hop world, and just in time for the holidays, he’ll bring his Project Baby Tour to Kansas City. Taking place at Arvest Bank Theatre at The Midland, the Kodak Black show will be hype and full of life, which is all the more reason why you should get your tickets to this fun show. ‘

Christmas with Amy Grant and Michael W. Smith
Dec. 8 @ 7:30 pm
Sprint Center—  107 Grand Blvd., Kansas City, MO 64106
(816) 949-7100

Christmas won’t be the same without seeing two legends in action. Amy Grant and Michael W. Smith will team up to bring their Christmas show to the Kansas City area, and the set will be filled with Christmas songs that will warm your heart. So if you’re in the mood for Christmas songs, it won’t get any better than Amy Grant and Michael W. Smith.

The Hip Hop Nutcracker
Dec. 10 & 6 pm
Arvest Bank Theatre at The Midland — 1228 Main St., Kansas City, MO 64105
(816) 283-9921

The Nutcracker is a holiday class all on its own, but for the holidays in Kansas City, this historic play will take on a more modern twist. The Hip Hop Nutcracker will feature the one-and-only Kurtis Blow, hip-hop’s original superstar, and this is a show that will have you bopping your head to the beat from the street and reliving one of the most legendary productions in theater, all at the same time.

Kid Rock — The Greatest New Year’s Eve Bash on Earth!
Dec. 31 @ 9 pm
Sprint Center — 107 Grand Blvd., Kansas City, MO 64106
(816) 949-7100

You don’t have to go to New York City or Los Angeles to have the time of your life on New Year’s Eve. You can do that with Kid Rock right in the heartland of America. Kid Rock will bring his explosive show to Kansas City on New Year’s Eve when he throw’s the Greatest New Year’s Eve Bash on Earth at the Sprint Center. This show will be on fire, and you’ll leave the Sprint Center on Jan. 1 with a memory that you won’t soon forget, so make sure you comp your tickets for this amazing concert.

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Family holiday and Christmas events in Kansas City 2017

There will be several family-friendly holiday events in Kansas City in 2017. Take the family to enjoy this most joyful season of the year at the fun-filled festivities at Union Station, Crown Plaza, downtown Kansas City and the surrounding area for a season that will be merry and bright. 

Holidays Come Alive at Union Station
Nov. 18 – Dec. 31 Various days
Union Station, 30 West Pershing Rd., Kansas City, MO 64108

Union Station will kick off the holidays with an opening ceremony on Nov. 18 with a tree lighting and family-friendly activities, which will be free to attend and open to the public. The will be live entertainment on the Grand Plaza Stage from 10 a.m. -7:30 p.m.  Have fun with the kid-friendly activities and enjoy the music at this festive event. The large indoor Christmas tree will be illuminated at 6:30 p.m. Check the Union Station website for holiday entertainment schedule, which will include music, crafts, dance performances, Science City, and more. The Kansas City Culinary Arts School’s Gingerbread House Display will be there from Dec. 14-Jan. 1. The gigantic Astro Botanicals Sculptures will be on display in the yard from Nov. 18-Dec. 31.

Classic Holiday Movies @ Union Station
Nov. 17 – Dec. 14 (closed 11/23)
Union Station, 30 West Pershing Rd., Kansas City, MO 64108

Union Station will be showing classic movies on the biggest screen in the region. Tickets will be $3/person, so bring the family for a memorable holiday event. The movies will include: National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation on Nov. 17-22; Elf on Nov. 24-30; Home Alone on Dec. 1-7; and the Polar Express Pajama Party on Dec. 8-14. Check the Union Station website for the schedule.

The Ice at Park Place
Nov. 17 – Feb. 19
11549 Ash St., Leawood, KS 66211

The outdoor ice rink will be open daily, including holidays, so take the family ice skating for fun and invigorating exercise. Santa will be at The Ice at Park Place on the first three Saturdays in December for Skate with Santa. Admission $8. Bring your own skates or you can rent skates for $3.

Mayor’s Christmas Tree Lighting and Santa at Crown Plaza
Nov. 24  – Dec. 31 @ Various Times
Crown Plaza, Kansas City, MO 64108

Crown Plaza will be festive as the holidays are kicked off on the day after Thanksgiving. Santa Claus will ride a horse-drawn carriage to Santa’s Gingerbread Station, where the Jolly Old Elf will reside until Dec. 24. Take the family to the Mayor’s Christmas Tree Lighting on the day following Thanksgiving for holiday fun.  Mayor Sly James and Jake Reid,  the President of Sporting Kansas City, will flip the switch at 5:30 p.m. to illuminate the Christmas Tree and fill Crown Plaza with dazzling holiday sparkle. The halls will be filled with music throughout the holidays, as more than 130 holiday choirs will perform at Crown Plaza between Nov. 27-Dec. 19. Check the Crown Plaza Event Schedule for the latest information about holiday events. The family-friendly holiday events will be free and open to the public. 

Christmas on the River
Dec. 1 @ 6 p.m.
Main Street Parkville, Parkville, MO 64152

Historic Downtown Parkville will host a festive evening of fun for the family, featuring hayrides through English Landing Park, music, a dazzling show of fireworks, visits with Santa Claus, and more. Admission will be free and open to the public. 

Whoville Holidays
Dec. 9 – 10 & 16-17
The City Market – Kansas City, City Market Square, 5th & Walnut, Kansas City, MO 64106

The family will have a blast at Whoville Holidays, a whimsical free event at The City Market. Dress up as a Whoville character and visit with The Grinch and Cindy Lou Who in their Whoville home. Bring a camera to take pictures of the fun. Whoville Holidays will be free to attend, but they suggest a donation of three cans of food for Harvester’s or a new toy for the Salvation Army. 

Kansas City Southern’s Holiday Express Train
Dec. 15 – 19 @ Various Times
Grand Plaza, Union Station, 30 West Pershing Rd., Kansas City, MO 64108

Take the family to see the colorfully lighted and decorated Holiday Express Train as it rolls into Union Station with Santa and Mrs. Claus and their elves to deliver holiday cheer and magical memories. The Holiday Express Train, led by the Kansas City Southern Belle business train, will include Rudy, the smiling tank car.  A flat car will carry Santa’s sleigh, reindeer, and a charming miniature village. A gingerbread boxcar will carry the elves’ workshop, the reindeer stable and a little red caboose. The family will be able to tour the train and visit with Santa at this free holiday event.

Trombone Christmas Kansas City
Dec.. 16 @ 11 a.m.
Union Station,  30 West Pershing Rd., Kansas City, MO 64108

The entire family will love the Christmas music played by up to 150 trombone players at Trombone Christmas Kansas City at Union Station. The holiday concert will be free to attend and open to the public. 


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Where to see Christmas lights in Kansas City 2017

Kansas City will be festive and bright as the Christmas lights are illuminated for the holiday season. The entire family will enjoy the shows of dazzling lights, colorful decorations, and imaginative Christmas themes around Kansas City in 2017.

Zona Rosa Holiday Lights
Nov. 18-Holiday Season
8640 N. Dixson Ave., Kansas City, MO 64153

The beautiful Zona Rosa Holiday Lights will be illuminated with a festive ceremony on Nov. 18, featuring the lighting of the 50-foot tall 
Christmas tree in Town Square and the gigantic lighted crowns hung over the streets. The opening evening will feature music, entertainment, Santa’s reindeer, refreshments, and visits with the legendary Fairy Princess. There will be several fun-filled events at Zona Rosa through the holiday season, including the KC PD Care Team Holiday Market, visits with Santa Claus (Dec. 1-24), Santa Paws for NAWS, and visits with the beautiful Fairy Princess at The Grove. Take the family to Zona Rosa during the holiday season to enjoy the lights and decorations, along with all the festivities. 

Christmas in the Park
Nov. 22-Dec. 31 @ 5 p.m.
 Frank White Jr., Softball Complex, 3901 SW Longview Park Drive, Lee’s Summit, MO 64081

Christmas in the Park will be a festive holiday drive-through light show in Lee’s Summit. The park will be festooned with over 300,000 sparkling lights to delight the entire family. Admission will be free, but they will accept donations upon exiting the park. 

88th Annual KCP&L Plaza Lighting Ceremony
Nov. 23 – Jan. 14. @ 5 p.m.
Country Club Plaza, Nichols Rd. & Pennsylvania, Kansas City, MO 64112

The KCP&L Plaza will be illuminated during the Plaza Lighting Ceremony on Thanksgiving, with the Flip of the Switch by Derrick Johnson and Alex Smith of the Kansas City Chiefs at 6:54 p.m. The illumination of the plaza will be followed by a show of fireworks. The sparkling lights will add cheer to Country Club Plaza through mid-January. 

Holiday Lights on Farmstead Land
Nov. 23-Jan. 7 @ 5 p.m.
Deanna Rose Children’s Farmstead, 13800 Switzer Rd., Overland Park, KS 66221

The entire family will enjoy this drive-through holiday light show from the warmth of your car. Bring some hot cocoa and cookies and bundle up to enjoy the show. Please turn off your car lights so everyone can enjoy the dazzling holiday lights.

Plaza Lights Helicopter Tours
Nov. 23-Jan. 19
River’s Edge Aviation, 500 NW Richards Rd. Kansas City, Mo 64116

Splurge on a helicopter tour to see an aerial view of the holiday lights in Kansas City. Tours will range from 10-30 minutes and prices start at $130. Check the Plaza Lights Helicopter Tours website for details and information on pricing. 

Kansas City Winterfest
Nov. 24-Dec. 30
Worlds of Fun, 4545 Worlds of Fun Ave., Kansas City MO 64161

Winterfest will be a new holiday attraction, featuring dazzling lights, live shows, holiday characters, and festive winter activities like ice skating. Tickets to Winterfest will be as low as $25 if you purchase tickets online. See the Winterfest website for details and pricing information. 

Liberty Light Show
Dec. 1-3 & 8-10 @ 6 p.m.
Pleasant Valley Baptist Church, Liberty, MO 64068

The Liberty Light Show will be a unique experience featuring a festive light show synchronized to music by live musicians. There will be five 15-minute shows per night. Bundle up the family of light from the comfort of your car.  Liberty Light Show will be free and open to the public. 


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Kansas Prison Medical Staff Sued After Ignoring Pleas for Help from Inmate who Died of Brain-Eating Fungus

A lawsuit was filed Monday against three doctors and 11 nurses who work at a prison in Kansas as well as the company contracted to provide medical services for inmates throughout the state’s prison system after medical staff ignored an inmate who told them, “it feels like something is eating my brain.”

Even after Marques Davis, 27, became so confused he drank his own urine, employees for Corizon Correctional Healthcare neglected his cries for help at Hutchinson Correctional Facility in Kansas.

Corizon Correctional Healthcare, has been sued 660 times over a 5-year period, according to the ACLU.

The lawsuit, filed by Kansas City attorney Leland Dempsy on behalf of Davis’ family, alleges he was denied “meaningful medical treatment” for eight months after he began complaining of symptoms.

According to the lawsuit, a CT scan taken after Davis suffered a heart attack in April revealed “dramatic swelling of the brain sufficient to force the upper part of the brain down into the lower brain.”

After his heart attack, Davis was finally hospitalized.

But he died the next day.

Attorneys representing Shermaine Walker, Davis’s mother, say Davis’s condition was “readily diagnosable” and treatable.

But Walker says all they would do is take blood, give her son Ibuprofen then send him back.

“I was calling the jail every day,” she said, according to the New York Daily News.

“He’s telling me, they haven’t done anything. They would give him ibuprofen and send him back.”

Walker said when Davis made complaints to medical staff about something being wrong with his head, he was ignored.
“He says, ‘mom, whatever is going on with me, it’s messing with my mind.’ He would tell me this on a daily basis,” she said.

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