Kansas Supreme Court Rejects Lawmakers' Bid To Fix Education Funding

The Kansas Supreme Court has rejected lawmakers’ attempt to fix the state’s education-funding problem. The court has said that schools will have to close if the Legislature does not correct inequity in the system by the end of June.

After reviewing the lawmakers’ changes, the justices concluded, “Disparities among the districts remain inequitable and unconstitutional.”

As U.S. News & World Report has explained, the justices ruled in February “that a 2015 finance law denied poor districts their fair share of more than $4 billion in annual aid to the 286 local districts.”

In his dissent, Justice Lee A. Johnson agreed that the funding plan was inadequate. But he did not agree about giving the Legislature another chance to correct the law. He argued that the court should provide a remedy instead:

“In my view, maintaining the integrity of our state constitution and providing equitable educational opportunities for our children are too important for this court to be constrained by any concern that the legislature will be offended that we told it how to do its job. After all, this court has its own job to do, as well.”

But lawmakers do get another chance. The next time they’re scheduled to meet is Wednesday, the AP notes, “to formally adjourn their annual session.”

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Family of Kate Steinle File Wrongful Death Lawsuit

The family of Kate Steinle is suing San Francisco and two federal agencies over her killing last year. In this 2015 photo are Brad Steinle, Liz Sullivan and Jim Steinle, her brother, mother and father.

The family of Kate Steinle is suing San Francisco and two federal agencies over her killing last year. In this 2015 photo are Brad Steinle, Liz Sullivan and Jim Steinle, her brother, mother and father. Eric Risberg/AP hide caption

toggle caption Eric Risberg/AP

The family of Kate Steinle, the 32-year-old woman who was killed in San Francisco last year allegedly by a man in the U.S. illegally, has filed a federal wrongful death lawsuit against the city and two federal agencies, blaming them for her death.

The lawsuit was filed just before the anniversary of Steinle’s death. The killing reignited an angry debate over so-called “sanctuary city” policies which limit local law enforcement cooperation with federal immigration authorities.

The suit alleges that then-San Francisco Sheriff Ross Mirkarimi had eliminated all communications between his staff and agents of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement regarding undocumented immigrants in the San Francisco County jail. As a result, Juan Francisco Lopez-Sanchez, a Mexican immigrant felon who had been deported five times, was released from jail in spite of the fact that ICE had issued a request to be notified of Lopez-Sanchez’s release.

A few days later, Lopez-Sanchez allegedly killed Steinle as she walked along the San Francisco pier with her father.

The suit alleges the ICE failed to detain or deport Lopez-Sanchez upon his release. It also blames the Bureau of Land Management. The gun that killed Steinle belonged to a BLM agent who had reported it stolen from his car in San Francisco just a few days before the shooting.

Steinle’s death prompted calls for the revocation of sanctuary city policies across the country, especially from conservative critics and politicians who demanded that such cities risk losing all federal aid. More than 300 jurisdictions restrict cooperation with federal immigration authorities in the belief that residents in the country illegally are more likely to cooperate with local law enforcement if they don’t fear being targeted for deportation.

The incident also contributed to the end of Mirkarimi’s career as Sheriff. He ran for re-election last year and lost to Vicki Hennessy, who pledged that she would expand communications with ICE. This week, the county Board of Supervisors unanimously approved a measure to preserve its sanctuary city policies. But it allows the new Sheriff to share information with the feds if a detained immigrant is charged with a felony and was convicted of a serious or violent felony in the past seven years.

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AI? More Like Aieeee!! For The First Time, A Robot Can Feel Pain

"Danger, Will Robinson!" The danger-sensing abilities of the newly developed robot system far exceed those of the Robot in the classic TV series Lost in Space.

“Danger, Will Robinson!” The danger-sensing abilities of the newly developed robot system far exceed those of the Robot in the classic TV series Lost in Space. Bettmann/Bettmann Archive hide caption

toggle caption Bettmann/Bettmann Archive

Researchers are developing a system to teach robots how to feel pain.

That might seem counterintuitive, as IEEE Spectrum points out. After all, “One of the most useful things about robots is that they don’t feel pain.” That means “we have no problem putting them to work in dangerous environments or having them perform task that range between slightly unpleasant and definitely fatal to a human.”

But the researchers from Leibniz University of Hanover argue that the “artificial robot nervous system” actually makes the robots safer. They say humans working alongside them — using heavy machinery, for example — will also likely be safer. Here’s more from IEEE Spectrum:

“Why is it a good idea for robots to feel pain? The same reason why it’s a good idea for humans to feel pain, said Johannes Kuehn, one of the researchers. ‘Pain is a system that protects us,’ he told us. ‘When we evade from the source of pain, it helps us not get hurt.'”

As the journal notes, the phenomenon is clear in individuals with congenital analgesia, the genetic disorder where individuals don’t feel pain. This first-person story from the BBC describes just how difficult it is to prevent injuries when you don’t know something is hurting you.

Kuehn and his colleague Sami Haddadin presented their research at the IEEE International Conference on Robotics and Automation last week in Stockholm, Sweden. Here’s a video demonstrating their prototype, inspired by human skin, which is equipped to sense both pressure and temperature:


The machine appears to wince and reflexively moves away when hit with light, moderate and severe pain, as well as the heat of a cup of boiling water – all while wearing a jaunty yellow rubber duckie.

As The Washington Post explains, “Depending on the threat, such as a harsh movement or intense heat, the robot is programmed to retract from the danger.” It adds: “The more dangerous it registers the threat to be, the faster the robot will retract and the longer it will avoid the hazardous force.”

As IEEE Spectrum notes, researchers from Stanford and University of Rome-La Sapienza have already built a bot that avoids collision with humans. But this research inspired by the way humans react to pain goes a step further, as the Post notes:

“[T]o equip these robots with a nervous system forces them to prioritize avoidance of their own pain, thus programming them to avoid destroying themselves as well as avoiding collision with humans, according to Keuhn. This will trigger different reactions in the robot than just crash avoidance.”

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Long-Acting Opioid Treatment Could Be Available In A Month

The Probuphine implant delivers medication for six months. It helps reduce cravings for people with opioid use disorder.

The Probuphine implant delivers medication for six months. It helps reduce cravings for people with opioid use disorder. Courtesy of Braeburn Pharmaceuticals hide caption

toggle caption Courtesy of Braeburn Pharmaceuticals

Labels for the first long-acting opioid addiction treatment device are rolling off printing machines Friday. Trainings begin Saturday for doctors who want to learn to insert four matchstick-size rods under the skin. They contain the drug buprenorphine, which staves off opioid cravings.

The implant, called Probuphine, was approved by the Food and Drug Administration on Thursday, and is expected to be available to patients by the end of June.

“This is just the starting point for us to continue to fight for the cause of patients with opioid addiction,” said Behshad Sheldon, CEO of Braeburn Pharmaceuticals, which manufactures Probuphine.

But debate continues about how effective the implant will be and whether insurers will cover it.

Nora Volkow, head of the National Institute on Drug Abuse, calls Probuphine a game changer, saying it will help addiction patients stay on their meds while their brain circuits recover from the ravages of drug use.

And addiction experts say it will be much harder for patients prescribed the implant to sell their medication on the street, which can be a problem with addiction patients prescribed pills.

“I think it’s fantastic news,” said Dr. Sarah Wakeman, medical director of the Substance Use Disorder Initiative at Massachusetts General Hospital. “We need as many tools in the toolbox as possible to deal with the opioid epidemic.”

Still, Wakeman is concerned that the implant only delivers one dose of 8mg of buprenorphine daily. She prescribes between 4 and 24mg, depending on how much a patient needs to fight opioid cravings.

“This is wonderful tool for someone who doesn’t want to take a daily medication” or someone who can’t manage doing so, Wakeman said. “If you need to add daily medication on top of Probuphine, you lose the added benefit that would come without needing that daily pill.”

Sheldon says Braeburn is testing weekly and monthly injections of buprenorphine that would be available in many doses.

Wakeman plans to sign up for a four-hour Probuphine training session, which includes a lecture, a demonstration and practice inserting the implant. The company does not know yet if it will be safe to insert implants repeatedly into the same spot in the upper arm. A study is underway.

In the meantime, some doctors say they will hold off on using the implant. Dr. Indra Cidami, who treats addiction patients in New Jersey, says she’s worried patients will assume it’s enough, that they don’t need the check-ups or the counseling that are part of most recovery programs.

“Probuphine is set up for failure in that way,” said Cidami, “because the patient will be seen after six months and in the meantime, they’re not going to be following up with therapy. And that means it’s not going to be medication assisted therapy — it is medication maintenance only.”

Braeburn Pharmaceuticals and the FDA say they expect patients to be in counseling while prescribed the implant.

In Massachusetts, the state’s largest health insurer says it will cover the device, which will cost $4,950, or about $825 a month. But some other insurers say they aren’t sure yet if the implant is worth the price compared to pills, which cost $130 to $190 a month.

Braeburn CEO Sheldon says that Probuphine will be cheaper than Vivitrol, a form of naltrexone that is injected once a month and costs about $1,000 a month.

“Certainly the drug holds great promise for individuals struggling with opioid addiction. However, there’s still a lot we don’t know about its effectiveness,” said Eric Linzer, senior vice president for the Massachusetts Association of Health plans.

Braeburn says it may refund money to insurers if the Probuphine implant doesn’t work to keep patients from relapsing and offer rebates for patients who have to buy it on their own.

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No Sanders Vs. Trump Debate? Sad!

Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper shows off his socks--one with Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders and the other with Republican candidate Donald Trump--before entering his former brewpub for a book signing event to mark the release of his autobiography.

Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper shows off his socks–one with Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders and the other with Republican candidate Donald Trump–before entering his former brewpub for a book signing event to mark the release of his autobiography. David Zalubowski/AP hide caption

toggle caption David Zalubowski/AP

The would-be Bernie Sanders vs. Donald Trump throwdown will only live on in the minds of comedy writers.

The presumptive GOP presidential nominee now says he won’t debate the Democratic White House candidate — something Trump had initially seemed open to on ABC’s “Jimmy Kimmel Live!” earlier this week.

But on Friday, Trump released a statement saying he wouldn’t be facing off with Sanders since he will probably lose the Democratic nomination to Hillary Clinton.

“Based on the fact that the Democratic nominating process is totally rigged and Crooked Hillary Clinton and Deborah Wasserman Schultz will not allow Bernie Sanders to win, and now that I am the presumptive Republican nominee, it seems inappropriate that I would debate the second place finisher,” Trump said.

On Wednesday, Trump responded to a question Sanders had sent via Kimmel on whether the Republican would debate him since Clinton wouldn’t agree to another Democratic debate before the June 7 primaries in California and five other states.

“Are you prepared to debate the major issues facing our largest state and the country before the California primary? Yes or no?” Kimmel asked on Sanders’s behalf.

“Yes I am,” Trump responded. “How much is he going to pay me?”

He said he’d only agree to the debate if the money networks raised from it went to charity. On Thursday, he elaborated, saying that “if we can raise $10 million or $15 million for charity” which would go to “maybe women’s health issues or something” he would be game.

Sanders also appeared on Kimmel Thursday night and sounded hopeful about the ability to debate a man who is his political polar opposite.

“You made it possible for us to have a very interesting debate about two guys who look at the world very, very differently,” he told the late night host.

On Friday afternoon, the Sanders campaign said they have received two offers from major broadcast networks to televise such a debate and that both included “a major contribution to charity.”

“We are prepared to accept one of those offers and look forward to working with the Trump campaign to develop a time, place and format that is mutually agreeable,” Sanders campaign manager Jeff Weaver said in a statement. “Given that the California primary is on June 7, it is imperative that this all comes together as soon as possible. We look forward to a substantive debate that will contrast the very different visions that Sen. Sanders and Mr. Trump have for the future of our country.”

But about 30 minutes later, a statement from the Republican’s campaign shot down that possibility, arguing that the networks wouldn’t really give a significant amount to charity.

“Likewise, the networks want to make a killing on these events and are not proving to be too generous to charitable causes, in this case, women’s health issues,” Trump continued. “Therefore, as much as I want to debate Bernie Sanders — and it would be an easy payday — I will wait to debate the first place finisher in the Democratic Party, probably Crooked Hillary Clinton, or whoever it may be.”

Back in January, Trump refused to participate in a Fox News debate after previously clashing with moderator Megyn Kelly and instead held a counter-program he said raised $6 million for veterans groups. But a Washington Post investigation found that much of that money still hadn’t been allocated for, and Trump only donated the $1 million of his own money he promised after the Post pressed him on his claim.

For those still dreaming about a Trump/Sanders debate, there is a comedy duo who’s been touring the country and putting on such a show. Back in March, they brought their impressions to Comedy Central’s “@midnight with Chris Hardwick.”


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Ship That Breast Milk For You? Companies Add Parent-Friendly Perks

Some companies are offering compensation beyond paid parental leave, covering surrogacy and adoption, or even shipping breast milk home to baby for traveling moms.

Gary Waters/Ikon Images/Getty Images

A handful of companies are offering parental benefits that go way beyond just paid leave, to include things like surrogacy reimbursement, egg freezing or breast milk shipping for traveling moms.

As competition for talent heats up, companies see it as a relatively cheap way to recruit, retain and motivate their employee base.

This month, Johnson & Johnson extended fertility treatment benefits to same-sex couples and increased coverage to $35,000 for full- and part-time U.S. employees. It upped reimbursements for surrogacy and adoption to $20,000 — and it also ships breast milk.

“We wanted to be a leader in this space,” says Peter Fasolo, Johnson & Johnson chief human resources officer. Taking care of employees in this way costs far less than, say, health insurance, in part because the benefits are used by a minority of workers, and generally on a one-time or short-term basis. “They’re really not that expensive, to be frank with you.”

It may not be a lot of money for the company, but it can be for an individual employee.

Bruce Elliott, manager of benefits for the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM), says the amount Johnson & Johnson offers is unusually high. “We don’t see a lot of that. You know, will see adoption support typically capped at about $5,000,” he says.

Elliott says rich benefits are more common in tech and finance. Ernst & Young has offered breast milk shipping for years, and last year, IBM, Accenture and Twitter added it. Apple and Facebook started covering egg-freezing two years ago.

Clif Bar, the energy food company, instituted a breast milk shipping benefit recently that has made a huge difference for Marin Vaughn, a customer manager. Instead of schlepping pumped milk home in suitcases packed with ice when she came home from work travel, she now just requests supplies that allow her to refrigerate and ship the milk back home.

“So it just goes FedEx overnight; it’s super easy. I wish it had been around earlier,” when she had her first child three years ago, she says.

But the companies bolstering their family friendly benefits are largely ones where talent is in short supply. Outside of those rarified places, it’s still uncommon.

According to SHRM, fewer than a third of employers, 27 percent, cover in vitro fertilization treatment. Adoption and surrogacy benefits are rarer still, and usually take the form of paid leave, not reimbursement. Seventeen percent offer adoption leave; 5 percent offer paid leave for parents having a child through a surrogate, SHRM says.

Ellen Bravo, executive director of advocacy group Family Values@Work, says 60 percent of women work in places without lactation rooms.

“For them it means squeezing into a bathroom stall, the most unsanitary place to pump milk,” Bravo says. And some employers won’t even allow pumping in bathrooms. She cites a discrimination suit filed with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission this month by four female Frontier Airlines pilots alleging, in part, insufficient support for breastfeeding moms.

A Frontier Airlines spokesman says accommodations are made where possible, but allowing pilots to pump in flight could disrupt service, embarrass crew members or pose a security risk.

Though there are exceptions, most employment experts say there’s a big generational and cultural shift toward parent-friendly policies.

Kate Torgersen founded Milk Stork, a company that handles the logistics of breast milk shipping, and says she thinks young parents are demanding more of employers.

“They’re ambitious about their parenting,” she says. “They know about the value of breast-feeding, they’re incredibly informed and they’re vocal about what their needs are.”

Milk Stork launched less than a year ago. Since then, Torgersen says, the company has signed on a dozen corporate clients and is talking to many more.

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North Korea Linked To $81 Million Bangladesh Bank Heist

People walk past a TV screen showing a poster of Sony Picture’s “The Interview” in a news report, at the Seoul Railway Station in Seoul, South Korea. The FBI says North Korea hacked into Sony Pictures computer systems as retribution for the film. Ahn Young-joon/AP hide caption

toggle caption Ahn Young-joon/AP

As if an $81-million-dollar bank heist wasn’t spectacular enough, it now appears that the crime may mark the first time one country has used malicious code to steal money from another country.

The link to North Korea was made by security researchers at the firm Symantec. In looking into the attack on the bank in Bangladesh, the researchers found a rare piece of code that has only ever been found in two other hacker attacks: Sony Pictures in December 2014, and media companies in South Korea in 2013. The FBI has said North Korea was responsible for the Sony Pictures attack.

In a blog post, the Symantec researchers write about the hacker code that was common to the bank heists and the Sony Pictures hack:

Backdoor.Contopee has been previously used by attackers associated with a broad threat group known as Lazarus. Lazarus has been linked to a string of aggressive attacks since 2009, largely focused on targets in the US and South Korea. The group was linked to Backdoor.Destover, a highly destructive Trojan that was the subject of an FBI warning after it was used in an attack against Sony Pictures Entertainment. The FBI concluded that the North Korean government was responsible for this attack.

The New York Times quotes Eric Chien with Symantec: “If you believe North Korea was behind those attacks, then the bank attacks were also the work of North Korea.”

Researchers with Symantec and the British defense contractor BAE Systems both now say they see links between the Bangladesh bank heist and cyber-attacks on banks in Vietnam and Ecuador. In all 3 attacks on those banks, the hackers were able to compromise the security of what’s known as the SWIFT messaging system – what was thought to be the world’s most secure system for sending orders for financial transactions.

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