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Headlines for Friday, April 11, 2014


Obama Announces Sebelius Resignation, Successor

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Barack Obama says he's nominating his budget director, Sylvia Mathews Burwell, to succeed Kathleen Sebelius as Health and Human Services secretary The Cabinet shuffle lets Obama put a new face on his new health care law. The move comes more than a week after the close of sign-ups for insurance coverage on the law. After a rocky start that Sebelius was blamed for, the administration rebounded strongly to exceed expectations by enrolling 7.1 million people by the March 31 deadline. Burwell's nomination requires Senate confirmation.


Republicans Glad to See Sebelius Go

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Senate's top Republican is welcoming the resignation of Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius. Mitch McConnell says he hopes it marks the start of a "candid conversation" about what he calls "Obamacare's shortcomings and the need to protect Medicare." McConnell's statement appears to indicate an openness to a dialogue with the person chosen by President Barack Obama to succeed Sebelius at HHS -- Sylvia Mathews Burwell, who is Obama's budget director. But at the same time, McConnell declared that "Obamacare has to go." A spokeswoman for Senator Pat Roberts, a Republican from Sebelius's home state of Kansas, calls the resignation a "prudent decision," given what the spokeswoman described as a total failure in implementing the new health care law. The opening weeks of the enrollment period were marred by problems with the website, straining ties between Sebelius and officials in the West Wing. The administration rebounded, and exceeded expectations by enrolling more than 7 million people by the March 31st deadline. But that didn't end Republican criticism of Sebelius or boost the public's perception of the federal health care overhaul. A staunch supporter of the health care law, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, is praising Sebelius, saying she "was a leader in the long effort to make history for our country with passage of the Affordable Care Act."


Kansas Supreme Court Sets Aside 'Hard 50' Sentence

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The Kansas Supreme Court has reversed the "Hard 50" murder sentence of a Wichita man but refused to rule whether changes made by legislators to the law in 2013 can be applied. Justices ruled Friday that the sentence for Rogelio Soto in a 2009 stabbing must be vacated because his rights were violated when a judge, rather than a jury, sentenced him to 50 years in prison with no possibility of parole. The case is the first to be decided after a June 2013 U.S. Supreme Court ruling that found juries, not judges, must impose a mandatory minimum sentence such as the "Hard 50." Kansas legislators who rewrote the law argued those changes should be applied only on pending "Hard 50" cases and those on appeal.


Police Link 12 Kansas City-Area Highway Shootings

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Police have connected 12 shootings targeting vehicles on Kansas City-area roads and highways since early March. Three drivers have been wounded by gunfire, though none of the wounds was considered life-threatening. Police have said they were looking into as many as 20 reported highway shootings, but that number has fluctuated as investigators address new reports and rule out others. Most of the shootings were reported in an area in the southern part of Kansas City, Missouri known as the Grandview Triangle, where three interstate highways and U.S. 50 intersect. In all cases someone fired shots just before reaching a highway exit ramp or road split, then veered off in a different direction from the victim's vehicle. A reward for information leading to an arrest has been increased to $10,000.


KS Officials Developing 50-Year Water Plan

MANHATTAN, Kan. (AP) — Kansas officials working on a 50-year water plan say regional conservation efforts and the Missouri River are likely to be included. A six-member team developing the plan discussed the work Friday with reporters after a daylong meeting with about 150 state and local officials and members of the general public in Manhattan. Governor Sam Brownback called in October for a 50-year water plan. Team members said the plan is likely to suggest regional management of conservation efforts because there's a desire to maintain local control. They also said there's a sense that Kansas is not fully utilizing the Missouri River on its northeast border. Officials have had more than 140 meetings with 8,000 people around the state since October. The team expects to finish a first draft its plan in May.


Seven Chimpanzees Returned to Enclosure at KC Zoo

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Seven chimpanzees are back inside their enclosure at the Kansas City Zoo after climbing a fallen log to the top of a wall. Zoo director Randy Wisthoff says visitors were never in danger during the incident Thursday afternoon because the chimps did not reach any public areas. Keepers used food to entice them back into their building. Wisthoff said a ringleader was the first to climb the fallen tree. A half-dozen others followed, and two or three dropped over the wall into a surrounding enclosure. The last of the chimps was seen strolling the top of the inner wall for several minutes before heading back inside. Wisthoff said the chimps won't be on exhibit Friday while crews inspect trees around their enclosure.

Bob Dole to Visit Lawrence

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — Former U.S. Senator Bob Dole is coming home to Kansas to visit the Dole Institute of Politics at the University of Kansas later this month. The 90-year-old former Senate majority leader will take part in a one-hour open house April 22 at the institute on the Lawrence campus. Doors will open to the public at 10 am. The event will also be simulcast online via the Dole Institute's website. The Russell native was the Republican nominee for president against Democratic incumbent Bill Clinton in 1996. He now works part-time as a special counsel for the law firm of Alston & Bird in Washington, D.C. In a statement issued by the firm Thursday, Dole said he's "not running for anything" and planned the visit to see old friends and meet new ones.


Report: Sales of Combines Down in March

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — An industry report shows U.S. sales of combines were down in March compared to the same month a year ago, even as farmers purchased more tractors during the same period. The Association of Equipment Manufacturers reported Thursday a more than 21 percent drop last month in sales of combines nationwide. The group said 772 combines were sold, compared to 983 for the same month last year. But sales of all farm tractors were up more than 13 percent compared to a year ago, with 17,566 of tractors sold in March. For the first three months of the year, combine sales have been down 10 percent. During that same three-month period, tractor sales have gone up 5 percent.


Murder Charge Filed in Girl's Death During Chase

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) — A Kansas City, Kansas man has been charged with first-degree murder in connection with the death of an 8-year-old girl who was in a minivan the man crashed into while fleeing from police. Wyandotte County District Attorney Jerome Gorman on Friday charged 27-year-old Tyrone Murphy Jr. in the death of Jasmine Rodriguez. She was killed Wednesday when Murphy's car collided with a minivan her mother was driving. Murphy also was charged with possession of cocaine, eluding a police officer and three counts of aggravated battery for injuries to Jasmine's mom and two of Jasmine's siblings, ages 9 and 6. Murphy was being held on $1 million bond in the Wyandotte County jail. Gorman's office says he did not have an attorney as of Friday afternoon.


KC Chiefs Player's Attorney Seeks to Suppress Evidence in Bust

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — An attorney for Kansas City Chiefs receiver Dwayne Bowe has filed a motion to suppress evidence related to his arrest for possessing marijuana. Bowe is scheduled to appear Wednesday on a misdemeanor drug charge in the Kansas City suburb of Riverside, where he was pulled over November 10 for speeding. During the stop, an officer detected a strong marijuana odor in the car. Bowe was arrested after an officer found a black bag with his wallet, driver's license and two containers of what the officer suspected to be pot. Bowe told a local radio station he thought he had been racially profiled, but he took that back Friday in a statement to The Kansas City Star and said he said he was treated with respect during the stop.


Pratt Mom Charged in Fire That Killed 2 Sons

PRATT, Kan. (AP) — A south-central Kansas woman faces two felony counts after a house fire killed her 23-month-old twin sons. Pratt County Attorney Ken Van Blaricum said Friday that Destry Ibarra is charged with two counts of aggravated endangering a child for the December 23, 2013, fire that killed her sons, Jayce and Jasper. He says Ibarra was arrested Thursday and released on $15,000 bond. The Wichita Eagle reports that fire investigators have determined the fire resulted from careless cooking methods that caused a grease fire in the kitchen. A phone listing under Ibarra's name rang unanswered Friday, and Van Blaricum said it was unclear if she has a lawyer. He said her first court appearance is scheduled for May 7.


2 KS Teachers Fired After Marijuana Found on School Campus

HUGOTON, Kan. (AP) — Two Hugoton High School teachers have been fired after district officials said marijuana was discovered on the school campus. Superintendent Mark Crawford says social studies teacher and wrestling coach Brent Mahan and art teacher Doug Waters were notified April 1 that the school intended to fire them. Crawford says the board accepted Mahan's resignation on Tuesday. Waters is currently pursuing his appeal. Mahan and Waters had been suspended since the first week of March. The Garden City Telegram reports Mahan says he was surprised to be fired but had no further comment. Waters declined to comment. Crawford said Morton County Attorney Eric Witcher is leading an investigation to determine if any charges will be filed.

Fort Riley Leaders to Detail Future of Army Post

FORT RILEY, Kan. (AP) — Leaders at Fort Riley are preparing to outline what residents can expect at the northeast Kansas Army post as the military looks to downsize. Major General Paul Funk, commanding general of Fort Riley and the 1st Infantry Division, will outline a plan Friday that looks through the year 2020. Nearly 18,000 soldiers are currently assigned to the post, although the Army has announced plans to eliminate one of the 1st Infantry Division's brigades. Because of reassignment and attrition, actual losses on post are expected to be fewer than 2,000 soldiers. But officials say Fort Riley will seem crowded because nearly all remaining soldiers will be home from war deployments for the first time in a decade.

3rd Brother Sentenced in Wichita Slayings

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A 20-year-old Wichita man has been sentenced to two life terms plus 228 months in prison for his role in the drug-related shooting deaths of two people early last year. Jerone Brown was sentenced Friday in the January 2013 shooting deaths of Shawn Rhone and Adji Tampone. He also was convicted of aggravated robbery, attempted aggravated robbery and criminal discharge of a firearm. He is the third Brown brother sentenced in the killings. The Wichita Eagle reports that 21-year-old Shawn Brown received the same sentence in the deaths of Rhone and Tampone, while 22-year-old Milo Brown was sentenced to life for his role in Rhone's murder. Police say Rhone was shot during an attempted robbery and Tampone was killed because he owed Shawn Brown $1,000 for crack cocaine.


Borgata Casino: Gambler Cheated, Won $9.6M 

ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. (AP) — An Atlantic City casino is suing a big-time gambler, claiming he won $9.6 million in a card-cheating scheme. The Borgata filed a federal lawsuit Tuesday against Phillip Ivey Jr. The suit alleges Ivey and an associate exploited a defect in cards made by a Kansas City manufacturer that enabled them to sort and arrange so-called "good cards" that gave him an unfair advantage in baccarat. The casino claims the technique, called "edge sorting," violates New Jersey casino gambling regulations. The Borgata also notes Ivey is suing a British casino that withheld $12 million he won there, allegedly using the same tactic. Ivey didn't immediately respond to a message sent to his Twitter account on Friday. A message left with a lawyer who previously represented Ivey was not immediately returned. Ivey's website did not include a contact e-mail or phone number. Ivey is renowned for his poker playing and calls himself "the greatest of all time."


Hutchinson Police: Thieves Target Air Conditioners

HUTCHINSON, Kan. (AP) — Copper thieves in Hutchinson have been targeting air conditioners, with seven thefts reported since March. Sergeant Tyson Meyers says the thefts have caused more than $100,000 in damage. He says the thieves break the units to get to the copper coils. Copper is currently sold for about $1.16 a pound. Meyers says the recent thefts are likely the work of one or two people. The Hutchinson News reports that four of the seven thefts occurred on or right off of Main Street, including at the Salvation Army, New Smoke and Old Mission Heritage Funeral Home. Other thefts occurred at homes.

Cowley College President Resigns After Just 9 Months

ARKANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) — After less than a year on the job, Cowley College President Clark Williams has abruptly resigned. Williams resigned from the college in Arkansas City Thursday amid complaints about his decision to eliminate the college's soccer programs. The Arkansas City Traveler reports that more than 200 people attended a special meeting of the Cowley College Board of Trustees Wednesday to express concern about the college's direction. The trustees met in closed session and no action was taken at the meeting. Williams's tenure also included the firing of men's basketball coach Tommy DeSalme, the resignation of veteran administrator Charles McKown and the impending retirement of longtime softball coach Ed Hargrove. Tony Crouch, executive vice president of business services for the college, will serve as interim president, effective Friday.

Quapaw Tribe Leads Cleanup of Federal Hazmat Site

QUAPAW, Okla. (AP) — A Native American tribe in Oklahoma is poised to become the first tribe in the country to lead and manage the cleanup of a federal hazardous waste site. The Quapaw Tribe is cleaning up a site where a Catholic church and boarding school that tribal members attended once stood. The land was later leased to various companies and mined for lead and zinc. When mining stopped, large piles of leftover mining waste were left behind. This caused health problems for residents. The site is part of the Tar Creek Superfund Site, a 40-square-mile area that includes portions of Kansas and Missouri. Tribal Chairman John Berrey says the cleanup means a lot to tribal members because it's their home and they want to make beneficial use out of the property.

Ex-Employee of Wichita Bank Pleads to Embezzlement

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A former employee has pleaded guilty to stealing at least $289,000 from a Wichita bank. U.S. Attorney Barry Grissom said in a news release Friday that 43-year-old Lisa Marie Evans pleaded guilty to one count of embezzlement. She admitted that she took the money from the Southwest National Bank in Wichita from 2011 to 2013. Evans was responsible for balancing the bank vault every day. The missing money was discovered by auditors in April 2013. The U.S. Attorney's Office says security footage of the vault showed Evans taking money and hiding it on her person. Evans will be sentenced June 30. She faces a maximum penalty of 30 years in federal prison and a fine up to $250,000.


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