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Headlines for Friday, December 23, 2016

Here's a look at area headlines from the Associated Press

Kansas Educators Seek Return to Former School Funding Formula

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Governor Sam Brownback is considering a new approach to funding Kansas public schools and educators say they are hoping lawmakers will return to a familiar per-student formula. Brownback has told reporters he wants a new formula to focus on student performance. But superintendents and local school boards expressed their desire for something more traditional in emails to the governor's office. They're looking to have the state's $4.1 billion a year in annual aid distributed per student, giving extra "weightings" to each student with special needs. With Brownback's support, the Kansas Legislature threw out a similar funding formula in 2015 in favor of block grants for each district. But the change always was meant to be temporary, and lawmakers expect to consider a new formula during their session next month.

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Kansas Governor to Give State of the State Address January 10th

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) - Governor Sam Brownback plans to give the annual State of the State address January 10. Brownback says that he has accepted an invitation from incoming House Speaker Ron Ryckman Jr. to address a joint session of the Legislature the day after lawmakers open their 2017 session. The speaker traditionally issues such an invitation because the address is in the House chamber. The 2017 speech is set for 5 p.m. Governors use the address to outline an agenda for the Legislature's annual session and tout past policies. Fiscal issues are likely to dominate the 2017 session. The state faces projected budget shortfalls totaling $1.1 billion through June 2019.

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Kansas Environmental Group Wants Feds to Control Flint Hills Grass Burning 

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A Kansas environmental group is urging the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to order the state to impose tighter controls on grass burning in the Flint Hills region. The Lawrence Journal-World reports the Kansas chapter of the Sierra Club wants the agency to order the Kansas Department of Health and Environment to adopt a mitigation plan to protect air quality in the region. Ranchers in the Flint Hills burn grasslands in the spring to kill off invasive weeds and shrubs, creating thick smoke that some officials say is a concern for people with respiratory issues.

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New Trafficway May Threaten Kansas Turnpike Revenue 

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas Turnpike Authority officials say they are keeping a close eye on traffic between Kansas City and Lawrence out of concern that the recently completed South Lawrence Trafficway could take revenue away from the Turnpike Authority spokeswoman Jeri Biehler tells the Lawrence Journal-World that increases and decreases in traffic have been observed at toll plazas in that area. Biehler says the section of the Turnpike between Kansas City and Topeka is the busiest stretch of the entire roadway. The completion of the South Lawrence Trafficway allows motorists to shave off several miles of their trips and pay a minimal amount in tolls or pay no toll at all.

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Heritage Trail Planned to Highlight Topeka Landmarks 

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A trail linking significant landmarks in Topeka's history and combining public art and education is in the planning stages. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports the Freedom's Frontier group will partner with local students from elementary through high school to design interpretive sidewalk murals depicting the stories of at least 10 local sites for the Topeka Heritage Trail. Locations being considered for the trail include the Brown v. Board of Education National Historic Site and Constitution Hall. The National Parks Foundation has given a $25,000 grant for the project. Freedom's Frontier executive director Jim Ogle says the project will hopefully lead to a better understanding and appreciation of the city's culture. The group will seek input about the trail from the community, and more details will be revealed during the summer.

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2 Western Kansas Wind Farms Now Online

KINGMAN, Kan. (AP) — Two wind farms in west-central Kansas are now online and supplying electricity to Westar Energy. The Hutchinson News reports the wind farms have come online within the last two weeks, even though a civil suit seeking an injunction against one of them is still pending. Westar Energy says the wind farms, owned and operated by NextEra Energy Resources, are supplying the state's largest electric utility with about 400 megawatts of new power. The company says the two facilities are bringing about $800 million in investment and local payments to the area, as well as 23 jobs to Kingman and Pratt counties. The wind farm is located about 45 miles west of Wichita.

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Wichita Police Hand Out Gift Cards Instead of Citations

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Lucky motorists are being pulled over by Wichita police officers and handed $50 gift cards instead of citations. The gift giving is part of a community-relations project launched by the police department. So far, 29 traffic violators have been given a gift card and a warning to drive safely, instead of a fine and court date. The special community-relations initiative is expected to last for several days. The gift cards are being given to drivers with minor violations because it is illegal for police to randomly stop a motorist without probable cause that a violation has occurred.

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Wichita Man Gets More Than 6 Years for Killing Friend 

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A Wichita man has been sentenced to six years and five months in prison for killing a friend during a drug-fueled argument. The Wichita Eagle reports that 27-year-old Joshua Thomas was sentenced Wednesday on one count of voluntary manslaughter in the death of 35-year-old Brandon Walters. He was shot March 3 inside his home but staggered outdoors before dying in his front yard. An affidavit says a witness told authorities Thomas and Walters fought over clothing and laundry. Thomas was captured in April after an hours-long standoff. In court, Walters' mother, Marcia Walters-Hardeman, described the killing as a "willful and brutal act." Defense attorney Quentin Pittman says Thomas "feels horrible" but that Thomas and Walters both were using narcotics and that Walters had attacked Thomas with a knife.

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Appeals Panel Dismisses Wichita Substitute Teacher's Suit

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The Kansas Court of Appeals has dismissed a defamation lawsuit by a former substitute teacher who resigned after a teacher complained about her telling students about her personal life, including that she had two abortions. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that Elizabeth Herrman filled in at a Wichita high school in 2015. Court documents show Herrman admitted telling students several personal details, including that she had two abortions. Herrman defended her actions, saying many of the statements listed had been taken out of context, and that the students started the conversations. The school said it was her seventh negative evaluation in eight years, and accepted her resignation two weeks later. Herrman sued the teacher who reported her comments, accusing him of defamation. A Sedgwick County judge dismissed the lawsuit, and the appeals panel upheld that ruling.

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4 Suspended KU Cheerleaders No Longer with Program 

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — A University of Kansas official says four KU cheerleaders who were suspended from the team after the discovery of a Snapchat photo that mentioned the KKK are no longer with the program. The Kansas City Star reports that athletic department officials originally became aware of the social media post last month. The photo depicted three men in sweaters, each with a "K'' representing "Kansas" on their chests. White letters across the photo read "Kkk go trump." The university suspended the three male cheerleaders and the cheerleader whose Snapchat account the photo was posted on. Jim Marchiony, University of Kansas associate athletic director, said Thursday that three of the cheerleaders resigned their positions, and the fourth cheerleader graduated this semester.

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Suspect in Kansas Deputy's Rape Charged in Missouri Assault 

OLATHE, Kan. (AP) — One of two men charged with kidnapping and raping a Kansas sheriff's deputy has been charged with sexual assaulting a Missouri woman in February while the woman's 2-year-old daughter was in the same bed. Prosecutors say Brady Newman-Caddell was charged Friday in Jackson County, Missouri, with first-degree rape, two counts of sodomy and first-degree child endangerment. DNA evidence from the October assault of a non-uniformed Johnson County, Kansas, sheriff's deputy linked him to the February attack in Independence, Missouri. The deputy was abducted from the parking lot of the detention center in Olathe, Kansas, as she was headed to work and released about two hours later. The second suspect in the deputy's rape has not been charged in the Missouri assault. Newman-Caddell's Kansas attorney, Michael McCulloch, declined to comment.

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Trucker in Standoff at Missouri Rest Stop 

DEARBORN, Mo. (AP) — The Latest on a standoff at a Missouri freeway rest stop north of Kansas City (all times local):

12:45 p.m.

Missouri authorities say an armed trucker isn't communicating with law enforcers during an unfolding standoff at a rest stop on Interstate 29 near Kansas City. The Missouri State Highway Patrol says the standoff began shortly before 9 a.m. Friday following reports of a man pointing a rifle at traffic. Authorities evacuated the rest area, leaving only the unidentified trucker and law enforcers. Patrol Sergeant Bill Lowe says no shots have been fired. He says the trucker is refusing to talk and that authorities are reaching out to the trucking company, hoping to identify him. Lowe says it's unclear what kind of rifle the man has or whether he has other weapons. Televised aerial footage shows traffic in both directions of I-29 backed up for miles. Affected traffic is being rerouted.

12:07 p.m.

A man with a rifle is in a standoff with law enforcement at a rest stop on Interstate 29 near Kansas City, forcing the highway's closure in both directions on the eve of the holiday weekend. The Missouri State Highway Patrol said in a tweet Friday morning that "an armed individual pointing a rifle at traffic" was forcing the diversion on I-29. A patrol spokesman told reporters the only people at the Dearborn rest stop are "law enforcement and the individual in the truck." Local media are reporting that authorities fielded calls about an armed person at the rest stop around 8:45 a.m. Televised aerial footage shows traffic in both directions of I-29 backed up for miles. Affected traffic is being rerouted and authorities are urging drivers to avoid the area.

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Kansas Man Who Died of Hypothermia Identified 

JOHNSON CITY, Kan. (AP) — Authorities have identified a 52-year-old man as the person who died of hypothermia over the weekend in western Kansas as temperatures dropped well below zero. The Hutchinson News reports that funeral officials at Dykes Memorial Chapel in Walsh, Colorado, identified the man as Kyle Edward Christiansen. The coroner, Dr. Hubert Peterson, said Christiansen died from hypothermia. The temperature was minus 11 to minus 16 degrees outside where his body was found, and the wind chill was minus 30. Peterson believes Christiansen died between midnight and noon on Sunday after being outside for several hours. He says the precise time of death was difficult to determine because Christiansen's body was frozen solid. The Stanton County Sheriff's Office didn't immediately release any information.

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Teen Charged in Independence Carjacking

INDEPENDENCE, Mo. (AP) - A Kansas City teenager has been charged with shooting a woman in the chest and wounding her while attempting to steal her car from outside a Burlington Coat Factory store in Independence. Seventeen-year-old Drevon Davis was charged Thursday with four felonies, including first-degree assault. Bond is set at $300,000. Court records say Davis told police that he and a juvenile approached a woman Wednesday and demanded her Audi. He said he fired a shot when she said "No" because he feared she was reaching for a gun. The woman is hospitalized. Police records say show that Davis and two others stole another vehicle about 20 minutes later.

 

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