Thousands rally in Virginia in support of gun rights

RICHMOND, Va. (AP) — Gun-rights activists — some making deliberate displays of their military-style rifles — began to descend on Virginia’s capital city this morning to protest plans by the state’s Democratic leadership to pass gun-control legislation.

Several thousand activists — mostly white and male, many clothed in camouflage and waving flags with messages of support for President Donald Trump — appeared hours before the 11 a.m. rally was set to begin.

Gov. Ralph Northam declared a temporary state of emergency days ahead of the rally, banning all weapons, including guns, from the event on Capitol Square. The expected arrival of thousands of gun-rights activists — along with members of militia groups and white supremacists — raised fears the state could again see the type of violence that exploded in Charlottesville in 2017.

The Virginia State Police, the Virginia Capitol Police and the Richmond Police planned a huge police presence with both uniformed and plainclothes officers. Police limited access to Capitol Square to only one entrance and have warned rally-goers they may have to wait hours to get past security screening. Authorities started letting people in at the sole public entrance just before 7:30 a.m.

Authorities will be looking to avoid a repeat of the violence that erupted in 2017 in Charlottesville during one of the largest gatherings of white supremacists and other far-right groups in a decade. Attendees brawled with counterprotesters, and an avowed white supremacist drove his car into a crowd, killing a woman and injuring dozens more. Law enforcement officials faced scathing criticism for what both the white supremacist groups and anti-racism protesters said was a passive response.

An RV festooned with Trump material and selling Trump merchandise parked in front of the line to the square, but was booted by a police officer shortly after it parked today: “You got two minutes before it’s towed. Clock’s ticking.”

Today’s rally is being organized by an influential grassroots gun-rights group, the Virginia Citizens Defense League. The group holds a yearly rally at the Capitol, typically a low-key event with a few hundred gun enthusiasts listening to speeches from a handful of ambitious Republican lawmakers. But this year, many more are expected to attend. Second Amendment groups have identified the state as a rallying point for the fight against what they see as a national erosion of gun rights.

Virginia Beach carpenter Andy Kincaid, 59, got up at 2 a.m. to come to Richmond, but said he thinks the number of attendees was probably overstated, as the cold weather and rumors of anti-fascist infiltrators may have kept some away.

The pushback against proposed new gun restrictions began immediately after Democrats won majorities in both the state Senate and House of Delegates in November. Much of the opposition has focused on a proposed assault weapons ban.

Virginia Democrats are also backing bills limiting handgun purchases to once a month, implementing universal background checks on gun purchases, allowing localities to ban guns in public buildings, parks and other areas, and a red flag bill that would allow authorities to temporarily take guns away from anyone deemed to be dangerous to themselves or others.

Kem Regik, a 20-year-old private security officer from northern Virginia, brought a white flag with a picture of a rifle captioned, “Come and take it.”

“I don’t like what the legislature is doing and I’m here to let them know that,” he said.

Jesse Lambert was dressed in mix of colonial era minute-man garb and cargo pants, with an colt rifle strapped across his back. He said he traveled from Louisiana to show opposition to the gun control bills. He said their efforts would unfairly punish law-abiding gun owners, particularly those who own AR-Style rifles.

“These are your average common people carrying firearms that are in common use,” he said.

The rally coincides with the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday, which is typically a chance for everyday citizens to use a day off work to lobby their legislators. However, the threat of violence largely kept other groups away from the Capitol on Monday, including gun control groups that hold an annual vigil for victims of gun violence.

When that event was canceled, a group of students from March for Our Lives, the movement launched after 17 were killed at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in 2018, decided they had to do something.

A group of about 15 college students and one high schooler came to Richmond on Sunday and slept overnight in the offices of two Democratic lawmakers to ensure they could make it into the Capitol area safely. Del. Dan Helmer, who’s sponsoring a bill that would block the National Rifle Association from operating an indoor gun range at its headquarters, and Del. Chris Hurst, a gun control advocate whose TV journalist girlfriend was killed in an on-air shooting in 2015, camped out alongside them.

The students planned to spend the day lobbying.

Michael McCabe, a 17-year-old high school senior from northern Virginia, said he started lobbying at the General Assembly after the Sandy Hook mass shooting, when he was 11 years old.

In an interview in Helmer’s office, McCabe said the students wanted to be a voice for other gun-control advocates.

“Our main goal is not to engage with gun extremists today,” McCabe said. “We are really here to be present in the legislature to make our voices heard.”

Humboldt girl donates toys, clothes for CASA

It started as an effort to downsize her toy collection.

By the time Tessa Lou Francis finished, she had more than $350 to give away to a local charity.

Francis, daughter of Tim and Kelly Francis of Humboldt, celebrated the holidays with a gift to the Court Appointed Special Advocates.

The impetus, according to a CASA news release, was a suggestion by Tessa Lou’s parents to have her “downsize” her toy collection before Christmas and get rid of toys she had outgrown.

Tessa Lou decided to go one step further. She hoped to sell many of her toys and clothes to benefit youngsters less fortunate.

A garage sale was successful, but still the family wanted to do more, so Kelly began selling toys and items via Facebook and other social media outlets.

Tessa Lou also knew where she wanted her money to go.

Her parents, Joe and Mary Francis are CASA volunteers who advocate on behalf of foster kids.

So in December, Tessa Lou took with her $354.44 in cash plus bags of candy to the CASA office.

The money was used to buy additional gifts for foster kids, CASA officials noted.

Conor McGregor earns first win in over three years

LAS VEGAS (AP) — After three years without a victory, Conor McGregor needed only 40 seconds to reclaim his place at the center of the mixed martial arts world.

McGregor’s dynamic stoppage of Donald Cerrone in UFC 246 on Saturday night put the Irish superstar firmly in control of the future of two UFC divisions.

Every elite lightweight and welterweight will practically beg for his shot against a fighter who still commands the world’s attention like nobody else. A refocused McGregor seems eager to make up for lost time after three years of inactivity and outside-the-cage misbehavior, suggesting he could fight three more times this year.

“The whole world lights up when I fight,” McGregor said. “So I want to get back out there again.”

He hadn’t made a decision by the time he left T-Mobile Arena late Saturday night with a broad smile on his face and a bottle of his own branded whiskey in hand. McGregor plans to speak with UFC President Dana White and billionaire ex-UFC owner Lorenzo Fertitta before he decides whether to pursue a championship belt, a revenge fight, an absurdly lucrative boxing match or any combination of the three.

The contenders already are lining up.

Popular welterweight brawler Jorge Masvidal would welcome a showdown, while welterweight champion Kamaru Usman would love to defend his title against McGregor. Both fighters watched McGregor’s victory from cageside, and Masvidal even tried to goad McGregor in curious fashion by wearing the same Versace robe that McGregor famously wore a few years ago to an open workout.

Lightweight contender Justin Gaethje fights in a reckless, crowd-pleasing style guaranteed to make a compelling matchup for the similarly aggressive McGregor. Another must-see bout would be a third fight with imperious veteran Nate Diaz, who fought twice in 2019 after his own three-year break.

But White wants McGregor to wait for a fight against lightweight champion Khabib Nurmagomedov, who beat McGregor in October 2018 and subsequently sparked an ugly brawl outside the cage. The bad feelings from that promotion haven’t healed, and White believes the rematch could rival the profitability of McGregor’s boxing match with Floyd Mayweather.

“With how Khabib won the first time and how famous Khabib has become, we’re looking at Hagler-Hearns,” White said. “We’re looking at like Ali-Foreman, Ali-Frazier. This is a massive fight with global appeal. This is the fight that you make. This is the fight that makes sense.”

But Nurmagomedov is booked to face Tony Ferguson at UFC 249 in April, and McGregor would prefer not to wait until late summer for his next bout. Instead, he half-seriously predicted the Nurmagomedov-Ferguson bout will be scrapped and he’ll be forced to step in.

McGregor also could bide his time with another absurdly lucrative boxing match. While most fight fans scoff at this entire venture, the wider world still appears to be fascinated by these spectacles, as evidenced by the money made by McGregor and Mayweather in 2017 in one of the richest pay-per-view bouts in boxing history.

Mayweather turns 43 next month and has fought once since 2015, but he immediately posted a mocked-up advertisement for the rematch on his Instagram page Saturday night. McGregor ripped it because the graphic artist didn’t include the logo for McGregor’s promotional company. He jokingly suggested that slight means he’ll instead fight Manny Pacquiao, who has also declared his interest in the payday that comes with giving a boxing lesson to McGregor.

“I certainly would love the rematch with Floyd,” McGregor said. “It very well could happen this year. The one with Manny will also be there whenever. … Floyd is going through money fast. He is far from retired. That rematch will happen.”

Before he beat Cerrone, McGregor suggested he could fight again at UFC 248 on March 7 if he didn’t take too much punishment. Cerrone failed to land a single strike, so McGregor came out totally unscathed — but it could still take a bit longer than seven weeks to sort out his next step.

At least the first simultaneous two-division champion in UFC history appears to be taking that next step with sure footing. The spotlight never left McGregor, but he didn’t seem capable of meeting its demands in recent years.

“I’d achieved it all, right?” McGregor said. “I broke the game before I was 30 years of age. One belt became not enough. I achieved it all. (Coach) John (Kavanagh) says it’s the worst nightmare for a coach if a student achieves it all. I probably had to go through all that and then just come back for the love.”

McGregor was still the biggest star in the game even while he lost both of his UFC belts, dabbled in boxing and focused on whiskey, both as a successful distiller and an eager consumer.

McGregor and Nurmagomedov then engaged in a dark, ugly promotion of their first bout. Away from the cameras, McGregor was training erratically and enjoying too much of the good life created by his stardom.

He says he escaped that cloud late last year, and McGregor believes his performance against Cerrone showed the way to even brighter days if he can stay on this path.

“I love that whiskey, but you’ve got to respect it,” McGregor said. “You’ve got to respect that liquid, because if you don’t, it will come and get you.”

Grief support group returns

Weekly grief share support group sessions will return at 4 p.m., Sunday at Iola’s First Baptist Church, 801 N. Cottonwood St..

The seminars will cover a wide range of topics over the next 13 weeks, from the journey and lessons of grief, guilt and anger and, complicating factors and more.

For more information, call David and Laura Tidd at (620) 380-1259.

Survey finds rising inequality eroding trust in capitalism

DAVOS, Switzerland (AP) — Rising income inequality is undermining confidence in capitalism around the world, according to a survey conducted by public relations firm Edelman ahead of the gathering of the elites in the Swiss ski resort of Davos.

Among those surveyed in the report published Monday, 56% thought that capitalism was doing more harm than good despite another year of solid economic growth and near-full employment in many developed countries.

The stark finding could cause a stir among the business executives and political leaders as they make their way to the annual meeting of the World Economic Forum.

“We are living in a trust paradox,” said Richard Edelman, the CEO of Edelman, which has been conducting its survey of trust for 20 years. “Since we began measuring trust, economic growth has fostered rising trust.”

Though that relationship between economic growth and faith in the system remains in developing areas such as Middle East and Asia, the survey found that rising inequality in many rich countries has contributed to a weakening in trust in capitalism.

“Fears are stifling hope, and long-held assumptions about hard work leading to upward mobility are now invalid,” Edelman said.

Corruption, corporate misbehavior and fake news are eroding trust, Edelman said, as are fears over automation in the workplace, a lack of training, immigration and the gig economy. According to the survey, 83% of employees globally are concerned about their jobs.

Business and NGOs are the institutions that people most trust to deal with global issues, a blow to governments riven by populist and partisan politics.

Climate issues are among the most important, and business leaders can no longer brush aside consumer concerns as brands can be quickly tarnished if they are deemed to be unethical.

“There is a growing risk of brands getting sucked in and CEOs have a mandate from customers and employees to act,” Edelman said.

Just recently, BlackRock CEO Laurence Fink said his firm, which manages some $7 trillion for investors, will put climate change and sustainability at the heart of its investing approach. And Credit Suisse, following a protest of its activities at a branch in Switzerland, has said it would stop investing in new coal-fired power plants.

Consumer goods giant Unilever, the maker of Sure deoderants or Comfort fabric conditioners, promised to halve its use of virgin plastic by 2025.

“Business is a catalyst for change,” said Edelman.

The survey involved 30-minute online interviews in 28 countries between Oct. 19 and Nov. 18 with more than 34,000 people worldwide.

Mathieu, Clark become great investments

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Tyrann Mathieu and Frank Clark were watching the AFC championship game on television a year ago, their teams knocked out of the playoffs, never thinking for a moment what the following 12 months might bring them.

Or more accurately, where it might bring them.

But after the Chiefs watched their defense fold in overtime against the Patriots, costing them a chance to reach the Super Bowl for the first time in nearly five decades, coach Andy Reid embarked on a massive overhaul of the unit. He replaced longtime coordinator Bob Sutton with Steve Spagnuolo, jettisoned aging and unproductive players, then asked general manager Brett Veach to bring in some legitimate playmakers to better fit their new scheme.

That’s how Mathieu and Clark wound up in Kansas City.

The Chiefs signed the ball-hawking safety to a $42 million, three-year deal to bring his talent and swagger to the back end of their defense. A month later, they traded a package of draft picks to the Seahawks for Clark, then signed him to a $105.5 million, five-year contract before the bruising pass rusher had even played a down for them.

Now, the pair not only reside in Kansas City, they’re playing for an AFC championship there.

“A great opportunity to play in Kansas City and in front of the world,” Mathieu said Wednesday, before their first practice to prepare for Sunday’s game against Tennessee. “To be on this stage is everything you work for, especially myself, being in my seventh year, going through what I’ve gone through in my career. To be in this position is a blessing.”

Mathieu is making more money per year than in any other season of his career, and Clark is now among the highest-paid defensive players in the league, yet they both seem like wise investments for a club with a lousy history of big contracts.

Eric Berry never lived up to the $78 million, six-year deal the safety signed in 2017, playing three games total over the next two seasons due to injuries. Justin Houston appeared in only 32 games over three seasons after signing a $101 million, six-year contract in 2015, at the time the second richest for a defensive player in NFL history. Wide receiver Dwayne Bowe had 117 catches but just five touchdowns in two seasons after his $56 million, five-year contract in 2013, and quarterback Matt Cassel went a mere 19-28 in four years as the starter after his $63 million, six-year deal in 2009.

No wonder the Chiefs are so happy with the production Mathieu and Clark have provided.

Yet their road to Kansas City — and all those riches — was fraught with obstacles.

Mathieu was a standout safety at LSU before a series of drug arrests torpedoed his college career. At one point, after an arrest in 2012, he told an Arizona television station that he contemplated suicide. And when Mathieu got his life in order, and the Cardinals had taken a chance on him, injuries threatened his professional career.

He turned that around, too. Mathieu helped the Texans reach the playoffs last season, then landed his contract in Kansas City, where he immediately became the go-to leader not only of the secondary but the entire Chiefs defense.

“That’s who he is,” quarterback Patrick Mahomes said. “He doesn’t have to be anything other than himself. He goes out there every single day and just by his attitude, his mindset, he’s leading other guys. His play speaks for itself, but the way he’s every single day able to be great, it spreads through the team.”

Clark has a remarkably similar story in finding his way to Kansas City.

He also was kicked off his college team, though Michigan did so following a domestic violence incident. And when Seattle gave him a chance, Clark avoided drama until an ugly social media incident involving a female TV reporter.

The Chiefs insist they did their due diligence before trading for him, though, and Clark has steered clear of trouble while helping Mathieu steer their revamped defense deep into the postseason. Clark had three sacks of Deshaun Watson in their comeback win over Houston last week, including one in which he whiffed twice and ran about 40 yards before he finally brought down the Texans quarterback from behind.

“He’s relentless. That one sack kind of tells you the whole story,” Chiefs coach Andy Reid said. “He was running around chasing him, missed him twice, got back up and sacked him. That’s how he is wired.”

That’s how Mathieu and Clark are both wired. It’s a big reason they have bucked the NFL trend — so far — by living up to their massive contracts, and in doing so, helping the Chiefs return to the AFC championship game.

This time, they won’t be watching it on TV.

“It’s awesome,” Clark said, “but our goal isn’t just to make it there, it’s to win it all. It’s one game at a time. But it would feel good to go ahead and bring home that trophy, the AFC championship trophy — that would mean the world to us.”

NOTES: Pro Bowl DT Chris Jones (calf) did not practice Wednesday, though Reid said he was improving. Jones missed last week’s game against Houston and is likely to be questionable Sunday. “He’s a tough kid,” Reid said. “It’s not a pain thing. It’s however he can play to the best of his ability. That’s what we’re looking at.” … RB LeSean McCoy and QB Matt Moore also did not practice Wednesday because of illnesses.

State Supreme Court finalists announced

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A Kansas Court of Appeals judge, a Lawrence attorney and a veteran prosecutor now working for the attorney general’s office are finalists for a state Supreme Court seat.

A lawyer-led state nominating commission on Friday sent the candidates’ names to Democratic Gov. Laura Kelly. She has until March 17 to pick one, and her selection will sit on the high court with no oversight from the Republican-controlled Legislature.

The finalists are Court of Appeals Judge Thomas Malone, Lawrence attorney Keynen Wall and Steven Obermeier, who worked three decades as a Johnson County prosecutor before becoming assistant state solicitor general in 2017.

A place on the seven-member Supreme Court is open because former Chief Justice Lawton Nuss retired in December.

It will be Kelly’s second appointment to the court after she picked District Judge Evelyn Wilson of Shawnee County in December to fill another vacancy. Wilson plans to take her seat Jan. 24.

Obermeier was a finalist for the first vacancy.

Malone has served on the Court of Appeals since 2003 and was a Sedgwick County district judge for 12 years before that.

Wall has been with a Kansas City-area law firm since 2015 and previously managed the Supreme Court’s office for appeals in death penalty cases.

Grandpa forgot something — $43K stashed in footstool

OWOSSO, Mich. (AP) — The footstool didn’t feel right. That’s what happens when someone stashes $43,170 inside and apparently forgets about it.

Indeed, the money was discovered inside a footstool that was donated to a Michigan resale shop in Owosso Township.

Howard Kirby bought the piece and other furniture for $70 after Christmas. He was stunned Sunday when his daughter-in-law unzipped the cushion and shouted. After the shock wore off, he began the extraordinary step of returning the money to the former owners.

“I do what I can to be as much like Christ as I can, and this is the moral thing to do,” Kirby, 54, said. “This is going to help them. I’m so happy for them.”

The footstool was part of a living room set donated to a Habitat For Humanity store by Kim Fauth-Newberry and her husband. The furniture had belonged to her grandfather, Phillip Fauth, who died in July.

Fauth-Newberry said Fauth was a frugal man who always paid in cash, even $9,000 for a new roof. The newly discovered money was separated with paper clips and topped with handwritten notes.

“This is crazy,” Fauth-Newberry said Thursday, staring at stacks of hundred dollar bills.

Legislative forum Monday

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A Kansas Court of Appeals judge, a Lawrence attorney and a veteran prosecutor now working for the attorney general’s office are finalists for a state Supreme Court seat.

A lawyer-led state nominating commission on Friday sent the candidates’ names to Democratic Gov. Laura Kelly. She has until March 17 to pick one, and her selection will sit on the high court with no oversight from the Republican-controlled Legislature.

The finalists are Court of Appeals Judge Thomas Malone, Lawrence attorney Keynen Wall and Steven Obermeier, who worked three decades as a Johnson County prosecutor before becoming assistant state solicitor general in 2017.

A place on the seven-member Supreme Court is open because former Chief Justice Lawton Nuss retired in December.

It will be Kelly’s second appointment to the court after she picked District Judge Evelyn Wilson of Shawnee County in December to fill another vacancy. Wilson plans to take her seat Jan. 24.

Obermeier was a finalist for the first vacancy.

Malone has served on the Court of Appeals since 2003 and was a Sedgwick County district judge for 12 years before that.

Wall has been with a Kansas City-area law firm since 2015 and previously managed the Supreme Court’s office for appeals in death penalty cases.