Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Michael Brooks announces resignation of his Kansas City Council seat (updated, with documents)

Posted By on Wed, Dec 17, 2014 at 1:25 PM

The tumultuous political career of Kansas City's 5th District Councilman is coming to an end. Michael Brooks informed the Kansas City Council and Mayor Sly James that he will resign his seat, effective on January 2.

Brooks sent the notice on Wednesday, one day after Kansas City's legal department sent the council a memo outlining the procedures for disciplining and/or removing a sitting councilman from office. Bill Geary, Kansas City's attorney, wrote on Tuesday that he planned to put the Brooks matter on the council docket for a first reading on Thursday.

Brooks says an "ongoing media circus" and "concern for his family, loved ones, colleagues, church members, and citizens of Kansas City, as well as myself" prompted his decision to leave office before his first term is over. 

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Luke Wade, co-founder of SocialHeart, talks problem solving, the Truce Tournament and more in The Pitch's questionnaire

Posted By on Wed, Dec 17, 2014 at 7:33 AM

  • Sabrina Staires
  • Luke Wade

: Luke Wade

Hometown: Cape Girardeau, Missouri

Current neighborhood: Coleman Highlands

Occupation: Creator and operator of KC Crew; co-founder of SocialHeart; owner of Liquid Knowledge Consulting and Tasteful Touch

What I do (in 140 characters): I like to say I solve problems through multiple ventures, but I also create fun through recreational leagues, pub crawls, happy hours, charity events and parties, and more.

What’s your addiction? Meeting new people and creative problem solving. I love hearing stories of how people came to where they are in life. The story of how they got there intrigues and motivates me. Also what problems they have and seeing how I can solve them.

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Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Charles Johnson, 'most hated man on the Internet,' a former Kauffman Foundation intern

Posted By on Tue, Dec 16, 2014 at 4:00 PM

The World Wide Web can be a loathsome place full of nasty things — it would take no small amount of hard work to earn consideration as the "most hated man on the Internet."

But Charles Johnson may have achieved this distinction, at least as far as Beltway media like Politico is concerned (Gawker called Johnson "the web's worst journalist").

Johnson might relish these descriptions, at least as far as they will garner him some notoriety. Johnson is the proprietor of, an upstart news site that aspires for sordid news scoops that may even be too salacious or risqué for The Drudge Report.

Lately, Johnson is in the news for his follow-up reporting on Rolling Stone's disastrous story about rape on the campus of the University of Virginia. The magazine's story imploded when its central anecdote of a woman named "Jackie," who says she was gang-raped by members of a UVA fraternity in 2012, didn't withstand post-publication scrutiny. Rolling Stone has since apologized and walked back portions of its story after discovering that some of its details of Jackie's account didn't add up.

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Report: Sprint to be fined $105 million by the FCC for false billing

Posted By on Tue, Dec 16, 2014 at 1:47 PM

A hefty fine for "cramming" may be on the horizon.
  • A hefty fine for "cramming" may be on the horizon.
More bad news out of the Sprint camp: Bloomberg reports this afternoon that the embattled Overland Park-based wireless carrier may face fines of $105 million from the Federal Communications Commission.

The allegations stem from what's known in the industry as "cramming." Re/Code explains cramming as what happens when "a third-party company places a charge on a subscriber’s mobile phone bill without authorization. These so-called “Premium SMS” charges are often for things like subscriptions to online horoscopes or celebrity gossip. A wireless carrier gets a cut of the take." AT&T has paid $105 million in fines for cramming, and T-Mobile is currently in negotiations with the FCC over similar claims. 

The news comes at a critical juncture for Sprint, which has been undergoing massive layoffs (including 1,400 local positions) as new CEO Marcelo Claure tries to turn the company around with new offers, like its "Cut your bill in half" promotion

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Monday, December 15, 2014

Guilty pleas in Olathe-based synthetic drugs conspiracy case

Posted By on Mon, Dec 15, 2014 at 2:32 PM

A local bath salts manufacturer comes down off its high.
  • A local bath salts manufacturer comes down off its high.
Earlier this year, Olathe residents Tracy Picanso and Roy Ehrett were indicted for running a business that federal authorities allege produced and sold a variety of synthetic drugs (bath salts, K2 and the like) to the tune of $16 million in sales over two years. Retailing Specialists, as the company called itself, "sold products under exotic names including Pump It, Head Trip, Black Arts, Grave Digger, Voodoo Doll and Lights Out," according to the indictment. "Some of the drugs were manufactured in buckets with drill-powered immersion mixers and tried out on 'testers' who helped tweak the recipes by reporting on the drugs’ effects."

Nice work if you can get it!

Feds have alleged that their operation branched out across the continental U.S., and included conspirators in Missouri, Texas, California, Georgia and Colorado. These individuals "marketed their products at trade shows held throughout the country that cater to the smoke shop industry. In addition, conspirators are alleged to have sold misbranded and counterfeit drugs including substances called 'Swing Her,' and 'Swing Him,' which they claimed had effects similar to Viagra. They are alleged to also have sold counterfeit Viagra and Cialis." 

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Platte County prosecutor Eric Zahnd files murder charges against Letti Strait and her husband for 2007 death of Charles Cammisano

Posted By on Mon, Dec 15, 2014 at 11:36 AM

Because a relative found Charles Cammisano dead in a pool of blood from several gunshot wounds on September 1, 2007, authorities suspected that his former wife, Letti Strait, and her current husband, Terry Strait, may have had something to do with the crime.

Now, a Platte County grand jury believes that there's enough evidence to charge both Straits with first-degree murder. Platte County prosecutor Eric Zahnd announced on Monday that a grand jury issued the charges on December 12. Letti Strait is in custody in Platte County, held on a $1 million cash-only bond; Terry Strait awaits extradition from Kansas. A conviction on first-degree murder charges would have the Straits facing life in prison without parole; the charges against them are accusations that have not been tested in open court.

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Friday, December 12, 2014

Kevin Yoder carried the water for big banks in the spending bill

Posted By on Fri, Dec 12, 2014 at 3:03 PM

It was little wonder that waiting until the 11th hour to pass a $1.1 trillion spending bill to keep the federal government running — as Congress did on Thursday — would be larded with lousy ideas.

The lousiest of those ideas came from language buried into the 1,600-page bill that stripped out regulations meant to keep taxpayer support out of the banking industry's most notorious financial instruments.

The House managed to pass a spending bill that included a provision to roll back part of a 2010 Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform Act that said the country's largest banks couldn't count on protection from the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation or the Federal Reserve Bank if their bets on risky deals like credit default swaps went sour.

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Raygun creates Roadrunner T-shirt in honor of blinded dog, donates profits to KC Pet Project

Posted By on Fri, Dec 12, 2014 at 7:03 AM


Crossroads T-shirt shop Raygun has created a shirt in honor of Roadrunner, the dog whose eyes were surgically removed after allegedly suffering abuse by his owner.

Raygun is releasing the shirt online and in the store (1803 Baltimore) today, with the profits going to KC Pet Project to help pay for Roadrunners' medical care.

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Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Kansas needs $280 million very badly; here's where Gov. Sam Brownback wants it to come from

Posted By on Tue, Dec 9, 2014 at 1:54 PM

Kansas highways will be short on cash for the foreseeable future.
  • Kansas highways will be short on cash for the foreseeable future.
As everybody knows by now, the wild, sweeping tax cuts implemented in Kansas by Gov. Sam Brownback have turned the state into an economic powerhouse, the envy of the country. People from all across the United States are pouring into the Sunflower State, drawn by all the high-paying jobs, cultural amenities and excellent public education. It's a great time to be a Kansan!

Hold on, I'm getting a note here…stand moment...

So, a few quick revisions to that first paragraph. Other states are not jealous of Kansas' economic situation; in fact, the ones whose leaders were considering such dramatic tax cuts have shied off, having seen their effects on the Kansas economy. Moody's and Standard & Poor have both downgraded Kansas' credit rating. The Kansas Supreme Court found that the state has not been adequately funding its public schools. And job growth in Kansas is lagging behind both the nation and surrounding states. 

There's also the matter of the $280 million state budget shortfall projected for fiscal year 2015. Where's that money going to come from? It should probably come from Charles and David Koch. They're the ones pushing hardest for these disastrous, discredited economic policies, and their parting with $280 million (they're worth about $100 billion combined) is roughly equivalent to you or me purchasing a breakfast burrito at Burger King.

Instead, the money will come from cuts to various state agencies and the Kansas highway fund, according to Brownback's plan, released today. Here are some of the big losers: 

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Missouri plans a midnight execution of Paul Goodwin while his attorneys argue he is mentally disabled

Posted By on Tue, Dec 9, 2014 at 10:21 AM

In 1996, Joan Crotts got a new neighbor, and not a particularly neighborly one. Crotts, a widow in her 60s at the time, lived next to a boardinghouse in St. Louis.

Paul Goodwin, an imposing 6-foot-7-inch man who took up residence in the boardinghouse that summer, made a habit of lobbing vulgar insults toward Crotts. Later, Goodwin intensified his harassment of Crotts by throwing chicken bones and beer cans into her yard and threatening her when she complained.

Goodwin later earned himself an eviction from the boardinghouse; on his way out, he promised retribution upon Crotts. A year and a half later, he exacted his grisly revenge during the early morning hours of March 1, 1998, when he returned to Crotts' residence, tried to sexually assault her and threw her down her basement stairs. He struck her several times in the head with a hammer, inflicting injuries that would later kill her when surgeons tried to save her life.

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