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Missouri Sen. Josh Hawley believes the federal government has taken seriously the lessons of 2016 and the threats to election security next year.
Interference three years ago came from Russia, but the Missouri Republican thinks another nation has nefarious, and broader, plans of its own: China.
“I’m worried about how they might try to interfere with the workings of the country,” Hawley said in an interview with News-Press NOW.
Election security became a topic in Washington following the 2016 general elections, crystallized more recently by the release of the Mueller report on Russian interference.
On Tuesday, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell announced that the full chamber would have a briefing about the state of election security.
Hawley said he has been involved in such briefings as a member of the Armed Services and Homeland Security committees.
“I think the Department of Defense and other agencies are taking this really seriously,” the Missourian said. “We do need to protect the integrity of our elections as well as the integrity of our technology and our information and our data.”
He added then, “I’m most concerned about China, across the board, on these issues.”
China, the senator said, has stolen American jobs and technology, and it has built its military “on the backs of our middle class.” Hawley said the United States needs to stand up to these acts.
“I’m worried about what they’re doing with their military and worried about how they’re trying to steal our technology and trying to get our own personal information to find ways into that,” he said.
On the personal data front, Hawley detailed his recently introduced legislation aimed at preventing video-hosting websites from recommending content that features children.
His Protecting Children from Online Predators Act came in the aftermath of a report by The New York Times that indicated YouTube algorithms could direct videos of young people to pedophiles.
“That’s what this algorithm is doing. It tracks people who view videos of children, and it recommends more videos featuring children to those same people,” Hawley said. “YouTube says that it has the technology just to take those child videos out of its auto-recommendation process. ... The only reason they’re not doing it is they want to make money on it.”
A man was sentenced to 130 years in prison on sex charges in a Buchanan County courtroom Thursday afternoon.
Joseph Sousley received the sentence from Circuit Judge Dan Kellogg. The sentence, which Kellogg ordered to be served consecutively, contained three 40-year terms for three counts of sodomy in the first degree and one 10-year sentence for a count of sexual abuse in the first degree.
During Sousley’s sentencing, the court heard impact statements from both Sousley’s victim and her mother. The victim’s mother said she would have to live with feelings that she failed to protect her child for the rest of her life.
“Never in one million years would I have thought the real monster was sitting at my own table,” the victim’s mother said.
During the impact statements, Sousley could be seen making comments to his defense attorney, Andrew Parmenter, something prosecutor Kristina Ziet pointed out to Kellogg prior to the sentence being delivered.
“It’s clear that he had no remorse for what he did,” Ziet said.
Sousley maintained his innocence throughout the sentencing, taking aim at his defense lawyer in the process, saying Parameter failed to properly represent him. Sousley did file for a new trial, which Kellogg overruled.
Sousley would be required to serve at least 85 percent of each of his three sodomy sentences (34 out of 40 years), with a total minimum of 102 years needing to be served, before he would be eligible for parole.
The suspect in a fatal stabbing Wednesday night was released pending further investigation, according to the Buchanan County Prosecutor’s office.
Chad Gaddie, assistant prosecutor for Buchanan County, told News-Press NOW the 24-hour hold ended at 8 p.m. Thursday. Charges are currently not being filed pending the investigation.
An investigation into a stabbing Wednesday night is being treated as a homicide.
According to Captain Jeff Wilson with the St. Joseph Police Department, neither the suspect nor victim’s names have been released.
“Last night shortly before 8 p.m. we responded to the 2500 block of Mitchell Avenue,” Wilson said. “The initial call was a report of a disturbance.”
Things changed while officers were en route.
“We received more information that this had, in fact, been reported as a stabbing,” Wilson said. “It was obvious a disturbance had taken place.”
According to a neighbor, two males were arguing in the vicinity and then made their way south on 26th Street just before the stabbing.
“It was clear to the officers that the victim had sustained a puncture wound to the chest,” Wilson said.
Under Missouri law, the police and prosecutors have 24 hours after a suspect is arrested to file charges. Wilson said he didn’t know whether or not charges would be filed Thursday. He said the case would first be submitted to the Buchanan County Prosecutor’s office for review.
Wilson said the police were not ready to release the victim’s name as there are still other notifications to be made to the victim’s family members. That process usually takes 24 to 48 hours, according to Wilson. The victim was transported to Mosaic Life Care following the incident, but he was pronounced dead at the hospital.
As many as 10 or more officers could be involved in homicide investigations like this one, Wilson said.
“This investigation will continue,” he said. “It’s labor intensive.”
Lobbying by Missouri lawmakers, including Congressman Sam Graves, may have been instrumental in the U.S. Agriculture Department’s decision to relocate two agencies to Kansas City.
Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue made the announcement Thursday morning that the National Institute of Food and Agriculture and the Economic Research Service would move from the nation’s capital to western Missouri.
Graves said Thursday that the relocation will bring 500 jobs to the region.
“It just makes sense to move these USDA agencies out of Washington, D.C., to the Midwest, the heart of farm country,” said the North Missouri Republican, whose district includes part of the Kansas City metropolitan area.
In a letter to the “USDA Family” and signed by “Secretary Sonny,” Perdue said the move of the two agencies will generate $300 million in savings over a 15-year period, allowing for more direct funding for department programs.
He said the Kansas City region has been “a hub for all things agriculture” and already has a significant presence of USDA workers and other federal employees.
“Our belief is that this relocation will give USDA the opportunity to attract a staff with training and interest in agriculture,” Perdue said in the letter.
Perdue said last year that the agencies would be moving out of Washington, citing costs and workforce considerations as reasons. Graves joined fellow Reps. Vicky Hartzler and Emanuel Cleaver in advocating for a Kansas City relocation.
In May, Kansas City got selected as one of three finalists from 139 locations expressing interest. At that time, 11 lawmakers from Missouri and Kansas, including the U.S. senators from the two states, again appealed to the agriculture secretary.
Other finalists were the Indiana area around Purdue University and the Research Triangle in North Carolina, the area of Raleigh, Durham and Chapel Hill.
“This move underscores the quality of life that we have here and the economic value that the Midwest brings to the table,” Graves said Thursday. “This will be a great boost for our economy and help bring USDA research closer to the people it serves while saving the taxpayers an incredible amount of money in the process.”
Missouri Sen. Roy Blunt praised the decision as timely in addressing global food needs.
“The challenges and opportunities have never been greater than they will be in the next 25 years,” the Missouri Republican said. “These research agencies do great work and will be at the cutting edge of agriculture and well located for assistance and examples as they do their job.”
Kansas Sen. Jerry Moran said Thursday morning that the relocation of the agencies makes good sense.
“The animal health corridor, stretching from Manhattan, Kansas, to Columbia, Missouri, is the largest concentration of animal health companies in the world, and Kansas also is the home of the National Bio and Agro-Defense Facility,” the Republican senator said.
“Today’s decision further bolsters Kansas City’s status as a national leader in the ag industry.”
At the state level, Missouri Gov. Mike Parson said the USDA chose well in picking a state of agricultural diversity with access to cutting-edge research at land-grant universities.
“By choosing a location close to their farmer-constituent base, these offices will remain rooted in agriculture and, as a result, will be better able to make decisions that serve American agriculture well,” the governor said.
The agencies involve USDA functions that do not require location in the nation’s capital, which has considerably higher operational costs.
As its mission, the Economic Research Service crunches numbers to spot trends in agriculture, food and rural life. The National Institute of Food and Agriculture looks into initiatives that ensure the long-term viability of farming and food production.