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Mark Cuban resumes playing national anthem after NBA reiterates policy

DALLAS (AP) — Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban relented Wednesday and the national anthem will be played before home games this season after the NBA reiterated its “longstanding league policy” to include the song.

The league’s initial reaction to Cuban’s decision was to say teams were free to conduct pregame activities as they wished with the unusual circumstances created by the coronavirus pandemic. Most teams don’t have fans at home games.

But the NBA abruptly reversed course with Cuban’s decision reverberating around the country, including a question put to White House press secretary Jen Psaki during her daily briefing. Athlete protests of social and racial injustice during the “The Star-Spangled Banner” became a flashpoint between then-President Donald Trump and various leagues during his administration.

“With NBA teams now in the process of welcoming fans back into their arenas, all teams will play the national anthem in keeping with longstanding league policy,” the league said.

The Mavericks played a prerecorded anthem with both teams standing along the free throw lines, as spelled out in NBA guidelines, before Wednesday night’s game against Atlanta. In the past, Cuban always had live performances of the anthem, although that practice has changed across all sports because of the pandemic.

Less than half of the roughly 1,500 vaccinated essential workers were at their seats during the anthem. All players and coaches stood, including Dallas coach Rick Carlisle with his right hand over his heart.

“It’s an animated discussion, which is certainly not surprising,” Carlisle said before the game. “This was Mark’s decision. He was steadfast about it. It’s been quite a day.”

The Mavericks released a statement from Cuban while acknowledging the club would return to playing the anthem.

“We respect and always have respected the passion people have for the anthem and our country,” Cuban said. “But we also loudly hear the voices of those who feel that the anthem does not represent them. We feel that their voices need to be respected and heard, because they have not been.

“Our hope is that going forward people will take the same passion they have for this issue and apply the same amount of energy to listen to those who feel differently from them,” he said. “Then we can move forward and have courageous conversations that move this country forward and find what unites us.”

The Mavericks played their first 10 regular-season games without fans before allowing the essential workers in for free for the first time Monday against Minnesota.

Rich Patterson, a 29-year-old who works in health care and attended the Atlanta game with a colleague, said the anthem was important to him, but that he wasn’t hung up on whether it was played before sporting events.

“This is a sporting event and I’m here to have fun,” Patterson said from seats a few rows from the front of a platform about a dozen feet above the playing area. “I’m not here to worry about politics on either side.”

Cuban at that point declined to elaborate on his decision to not play the anthem, other than to say nobody noticed until after 11 regular-season home games.

The move wasn’t without support among NBA coaches.

“This should happen everywhere,” New Orleans coach Stan Van Gundy tweeted Wednesday. “If you think the anthem needs to be played before sporting events, then play it before every movie, concert, church service and the start of every work day at every business. What good reason is there to play the anthem before a game?”

The question Van Gundy raises has been debated for some time.

The NBA rule book does not specifically say that the anthem — or anthems, in games involving the Toronto Raptors, the lone Canadian team in the league — must be played before games. The only rule regarding the songs states this: “Players, coaches and trainers must stand and line up in a dignified posture along the foul lines during the playing of the American and/or Canadian national anthems.”

That rule was relaxed last year in the NBA’s restart bubble at Walt Disney World, when the league took no objection to players kneeling for the anthem to show their desire for an end to racial injustice and police brutality.

Players were criticized for kneeling; some of those who stood, such as Miami’s Meyers Leonard and Orlando’s Jonathan Isaac, also faced backlash on social media for choosing to stand. San Antonio coach Gregg Popovich, a graduate of the Air Force Academy and coach of the U.S. men’s national team, also stood for anthems in the bubble.

In an interview with ESPN, Cuban said it was never his intent to quit playing the anthem for good. The outspoken billionaire said the issue was part of an ongoing conversation with people in the community and the league, particularly as fans begin returning to arenas.

“We have no problem playing the national anthem at all,” Cuban said. “I stand for the national anthem. My hand is always over my heart. The real issue is how do you represent the voices of those who feel the anthem doesn’t represent them or causes them consternation.”

Backlash to not playing the anthem was swift in the Texas Capitol, where Republican Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick urged Cuban to “sell the franchise & some Texas Patriots will buy it.” Other GOP lawmakers suggested the tax breaks the American Airlines Center receives should come under new scrutiny.

Patrick said he intends to introduce a bill in the Texas Senate that will ensure the national anthem is played at all events that receive public funding. He said the bill has broad support.

“It is hard to believe this could happen in Texas, but Mark Cuban’s actions of yesterday made it clear that we must specify that in Texas we play the national anthem before all major events,” Patrick said. “In this time when so many things divide us, sports are one thing that bring us together — right, left, Black, white and brown.”

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BBB warns of romance scam

SOUTHWEST MISSOURI — The Better Business Bureau is warning of a new money laundering romance scam.

They say victims meet scammers online through dating websites. The scammer will ask the victim to receive money for them that is wired overseas. The BBB says scammers may say the money is for a loved one battling covid-19 or a charity — but that’s a lie.

Stephanie Garland, Regional Director of Springfield BBB, said, “it turns out the money they want you to get is actually stolen CARES Act funds and after stealing it scammers send the money to someone through the United States to make it harder for authorities to trace. Its called a money mule and the victim may still face prosecution.”

Garland says to never send personal information to someone you’ve never met and to beware of certain dating websites.

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Webb City generates nearly half a million in revenue with use tax

WEBB CITY, Mo. — Hundreds of thousands of dollars in new revenue – it’s helped the city of Webb City tackle big construction projects that would still be on the waiting list. And it all comes from the online use tax, something that’s still pretty rare in Missouri.

Webb City gets a sales tax both for things sold in town, and online.

Carl Francis, Webb City, City Administrator, said, “I would love to see Gov. Parson get the use tax passed statewide. I think it needs to be a national thing.”

City voters approved the change locally more than three years ago. At first, it only netted about $5,000 a month, but that changed quickly.

“More than $25,000 in December 2020.”

Last year totaled more than $400,000. And that is helping to pay the bills.

“Every community has the same issues we have to pay for our streets, everything. We have to pay for sidewalks, curbs, the water lines, the sewer lines, everything that comes with a municipality. Police and fire, public safety is a huge drain on revenue necessary but can be assisted by the use tax.”

Gov. Mike Parson is throwing his support behind a bill state lawmakers are considering.

Parson said, “I am a strong supporter of lower taxes –in fact, I have signed several tax cuts into law. However, our small businesses, especially in smaller communities, are getting crushed right now because they cannot compete with huge online retailers. We must level that playing field and consider ways to responsibly invest those revenues and provide new opportunities for our state.”

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IRS extends deadline to invest in Opportunity Zones

JOPLIN, Mo. — The IRS is extending the deadline for Opportunity Zone investment funds.

This means investors have more time to put money into opportunity zones. Parts of Joplin are in an Opportunity Zone, which means there’s an incentive for people to buy properties and bring businesses to Joplin.

Derek Smith, Partner With BKD LLP, said, “The whole key behind Opportunity Zones was to incentivize investments in certain areas that congress and the government felt like were underserved or under invested in so this was a way that they can incentivize folks that have money to invest.”

Joplin has one Opportunity Zone that runs from Turkey Creek to Seventh Street and Main Street to Range Line. The Chamber of Commerce says they are seeing a jump in investments.

Toby Teeter, President of Joplin Area Chamber Of Commerce, said, “What has changed in the last couple of years is that people are starting to respond to them. Realtors are understanding them better and are encouraging investors to acquire these properties and make improvements to the properties and put more properties back into service.”

He says investing in opportunity zones creates a ripple effect.

“When a property is improved inside an Opportunity Zone obviously, one, it creates tax revenue. That value of the property is enhanced so there’s more property taxes so there’s more investment that cycles through. And it reaches all of us we get better streets, better law enforcement and so on.”

Because of the pandemic congress and the IRS extended key Opportunity Zone investment dates from December 2020 to march 31, 2021. This gives investors more time to meet the criteria of opportunity zones and helps inject money back into cities.

“Its giving businesses more time to execute on their plan of investment and its also giving them more time to get their business plan off the ground and running,” said Smith

The Joplin Area Chamber of Commerce says Joplin is doing well during the pandemic nearing the three percent unemployment range. The chamber say the city is adding 500 to 600 new jobs from expansions and business attraction efforts.

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Kansas lawmakers hold final hearings on rework of unemployment system

KANSAS — Lawmakers in Topeka held their final day of hearings on a bill to revamp the state’s unemployment system.

Lawmakers heard from the Kansas Department of Labor, sharing their thoughts on the bill. But, amid the hearing, concerns of fraudulent activity in the state’s unemployment system took center stage.

The Kansas Department of Labor fielding questions from lawmakers hungry for answers on fraud and identity theft concerns that states are experiencing nationwide, and here in Kansas.

Rep. Kristey Williams, (R) Augusta, said, “We don’t understand how the mistake could have gotten that big.”

Rep. Stephanie Clayton, (D) Overland Park, said, “I really for one would be curious to see a lot of these workings, and to see it first-hand.”

Lawmakers held a hearing for a bill to make changes to the state’s unemployment system, like updating the state labor department’s computer system, and helping aid employers that are expecting increasing tax rates from jobless and fraudulent claims.

Brett Flaschbarth, KDOL Deputy Secretary, said, “Every time there is a sharp increase in unemployment claims, there is a sharp increase in fraud.”

A communication spokesperson for the department says they have not been breached, but the deputy secretary addressed concerns lawmakers mentioned about past fraud and identity theft in the hearing today.

Rep. Sean Tarwater, (R) Stilwell, said, “There’s been news reports with visual evidence of being able to type in social security numbers, and download self-populated information. Have you looked at getting the word out, or getting warning out?”

“The preliminary information we have from all of our security officials is that there was not an actual breach, such that would trigger broad reporting requirements,” said Flaschbarth.

While, the department says the issue’s been resolved, and there should be no impact to unemployment claimants going forward, some lawmakers fear for those that may have had their information accessed.

So, cracking down on fraud is one of the focal points for lawmakers as they work the bill. But, the fiscal note has been a concern. With some lawmakers receiving quotes of $700 million in estimates for how many fraudulent claims have been paid out.

“We are taking our time with the bill, we are involving all stakeholders, and I’m sure we will have a more solid fiscal note when it comes to that,” said Clayton.

Lawmakers say this bill is a long-term fix to these issues. Lawmakers plan to work the bill in committee next week. In the meantime, they’re asking for Kansans to reach out to them for help to get in contact with the department.

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Shortage of microchips causing delivery delays for many products

JOPLIN, Mo. — If you want to buy a car, microwave, refrigerator, or anything else that contains a particular type of electronic component, don’t be surprised if you have to wait a while before it gets delivered.

Because of their diminutive dimensions, it’s not hard to figure out why they’re called microchips, and they’re found in thousands of products like computer towers, microwaves, washing machines, refrigerators as well as cars.

And they’re in very short supply thanks to the global pandemic. John Motazedi, CEO of SNC Squared, says it started with the initial shutdown of microchip manufacturing facilities around the world from the first wave of covid-19 last year. Then he says the demand for them jumped.

John Motazedi, CEO, SNC Squared, said, “Everybody started working from home, so now everybody needed computers because they typically didn’t have computers that were adequate at home, and even phones, you know cell solutions etc. to work from home.”

Then, he says something unexpected happened, the sale of new cars jumped, creating an even greater demand.

“Along with that the release of new 5G technology, so high speed chips, high speed technology, high speed transmission, so manufacturers of those chips said well, why don’t we get into the high revenue market and actually start generating high revenue chips as opposed to the basic stuff we were regularly doing.”

As a result, depending upon where you by appliances, you may have to wait months for them to get delivered. But that’s not the case at one retailer in the area. Greg Freeman happened to buy many appliances before the microchip shortage started.

Greg Freeman, Freeman Liquidators, said, “Our inventory and the way that we buy is about the opportunity to buy from a loss by an insurance company, so that we, when we buy, we have the product here you come in, you shop, you see it, you buy it, you go home with it.”

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Walmarts in Missouri among other pharmacies to offer COVID vaccinations

MISSOURI — Starting Friday, February 12, 102 pharmacies in Missouri will join the effort to administer COVID vaccines to eligible residents. However, no local Walmarts or Sam’s Clubs currently have any on hand.

Eighty-one Walmart and Sam’s Club locations will begin receiving vaccines from the federal allocation. Appointments can be made once vaccines are available.

This is part of the White House plan to launch the Federal Retail Pharmacy Program for the COVID vaccine.

You can find a complete list of the Missouri locations here.

Vaccines also will be heading to 21 Health Mart independent pharmacies across Missouri in the near future.

The pharmacies will receive 18,000 doses a week in addition to the amount the state receives.

The CDC says the federal program is being implemented incrementally based on the availability of vaccine. As vaccine availability increases over time, the program will expand to ultimately include all 40,000+ pharmacies across the nation.

You can schedule an appointment through Walmart or Sam’s Club when they become available.

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Area church reaches fundraising goal to aid in adoption of 3 sisters

NEWTON COUNTY, Mo. — A follow up now to a story we first brought you a few weeks ago.

Parishioners with the Gospel Lighthouse Church in Newton County wanted to raise enough money to pay travel expenses for 3 sisters from an orphanage in Manilla to their new home in Neosho. The goal was to raise $7,500.

A church spokesperson says they’re planning on handing over what they’ve raised to Aaron and Stephanie Jones who are adopting the girls. They’ll do that at a fundraising event this weekend. The couple hopes to get the girls later this month or early next month.

We’ll introduce you to them once they’ve made it to their new home.

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Parking during Winter storms cause extra issue for those with disabilities

SOUTHWEST MISSOURI — Many people are often critiqued about their parking. But it isn’t necessarily parking in between the lines people should be focused on, it’s where they park.

We met up with a disability advocate and spoke with him on able bodied people parking in handicap spots. What did he have to say about the issue?

Kyle Daniels says unauthorized people parking in designated handicap spots, especially in harsher weather, brings extra challenges to an already difficult issue for the handicapped.

Kyle Daniels – Disability Advocate, said, “I had a gun shot wound to the C-67 level of the spinal cord that put me in a electric wheelchair for a long time, and obviously able to get back up to my feet. I’ve gotten my left side of my body doesn’t, is still paralyzed, so if it’s slick or snowy out, the legs can slide out from underneath me just as soon as I stand up.”

Like everyone, Daniels realizes that people want to get where they need to be as soon as possible. But he says what some people don’t recognize is, the problems a disabled person can endure if people illegally park in handicap parking.

“Most the time if they have a reason to want to park up close, they might have an issue with the way the walk. and their feet aren’t as sure as a person with an able body would be, and they can slip out from underneath themselves just as fast, I actually fell in the parking lot last night.”

Lieutenant Mike Whitehead of the Neosho Police Department says if you park in these spots and aren’t handicap, not only are you putting people like Daniels at risk of injury, but you may come back with a surprise on your windshield.

Mike Whitehead – Neosho Police Department Lieutenant, said, “If you’re parked in a handicap spot without a placard, the penalties can be as high as $135.”

While $135 dollars might not be a lot to everyone, it could come at a higher cost for someone who is handicap.

“We understand that people are just wanting to get inside, but if we can’t use those spots, we can fall down in the parking lot, we can be just one day away from, or one fall away from an accident, or going back to the hospital, or back into a wheelchair again,” said Daniels.

Lieutenant Whitehead says it’s usually a laziness factor when people illegally park in handicap parking and they need to be more considerate. Daniels says they just want to be as safe as they can and not get injured. He adds it would be nice if people are aware of their surroundings and give people who are handicap a chance to park up front.

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Kansas lawmakers pass income tax bill, adopt parts of Gov. Kelly’s proposal after hours of debate

TOPEKA, Kan. (KSNT)— After hours of debate on Tuesday, Kansas senators voted to pass an income tax bill adopting some of Governor Laura Kelly’s prior tax proposal.

This comes after the governor proposed her plan that she claims would give tax cuts to more than 90% of Kansans. 

“I think this bill was well thought out. We’ve debated it many times in committee,” said Sen. Larry Alley, R-Winfield, Vice Chair of the Senate Committee on Assessment and Taxation, which sponsored the bill. 

Kansas senators voted to pass Senate Bill 22, including amendments made by top state Democrats. 

The bill aims to give $423 million in relief over three years to businesses and individuals paying higher state tax bills because of federal changes to tax laws in 2017.

It would also provide tax cuts for businesses expecting to see a spike in taxes due to a high volume of unemployment fraud. 

The bill would also encourage people to claim itemized deductions. Current laws don’t allow people to itemize on their state returns if they don’t on their federal returns, creating bigger tax bills.  

But the governor and other top state Democrats said the bill is bad tax policy, focusing more on wealthy individuals and businesses, and less on people struggling through the coronavirus pandemic. 

“We should be helping working Kansas families and providing them with the needed tax relief they need without blowing a hole in the budget,” said House Minority Leader, Rep. Tom Sawyer, during the governor’s press conference Tuesday morning. 

The governor released her new proposal hours before the Senate vote. Under her plan, the state would raise the standard income tax deduction by 35% over two years and tax online music, movies and streaming services to pay for its relief. According to the governor, this would provide tax cuts for 94% of Kansans in the state. 

“Kansas has suffered because of bad tax policy in the past. I don’t think Kansans want to go back there,” Gov. Kelly said. 

The governor’s proposal is also aimed at increasing compliance from out of state retailers, which are able to dodge taxes on sales to Kansas customers. Top Democrats said this creates an unfair advantage for local businesses unable to compete.  

“Kansas is one of only three states left in which in-state businesses are required to pay sales tax, and we don’t require the same of out of state businesses,” said Senate Minority Leader Rep. Dinah Sykes. 

Sykes offered the governor’s plan as an amendment during the hearing. 

While Senate Republicans voted in favor of the governor’s tax deduction proposal to help Kansas families facing an economic crisis, parts of the amendment were struck down by some Senate Republicans who don’t agree with how the governor would pay for relief, which would place a 6.5% sales tax on digital products, like online music and streaming services. 

“Bringing it to the floor, the last day we’re working on it, probably doesn’t give it time to be worked on in committee,” Sen. Winfield told Kansas’ Capitol Bureau. 

The bill now moves to the House. The governor says she’s taking it “day-by-day” on what her next steps will be.