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Headlines for Friday, July 18, 2014


Kansas Unemployment Up Slightly in June

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas saw its unemployment rate inch up to 4.9 percent in June but also experience modest, over-the-year growth in private-sector jobs. The state Department of Labor reported Thursday that the seasonally adjusted jobless rate rose from 4.8 percent in May. However, June's figure still was significantly better than the 5.6 percent recorded in June 2013. The department also said the number of nonfarm, private-sector jobs grew by about 1.3 percent in June, compared with June 2013. Nearly 1.13 million Kansans held such jobs, up 15,000 from June 2013. Government employment also grew 1.3 percent, to about 255,000. State, local and federal agencies added 3,400 jobs over the year. The most robust over-the-year job growth occurred in construction. Employment in the industry grew by 6.9 percent, or 3,900 jobs.


Death Sentence Overturned in 2004 Kansas Murder Case

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The Kansas Supreme Court has overturned the death sentence for a man convicted of capital murder in the 2004 killings of a Great Bend woman and her boyfriend. The court Friday ordered a new sentencing hearing in Barton County District Court for Sidney Gleason. He faced lethal injection for the February 2004 killings of Miki Martinez and Darren Wornkey. Prosecutors said Martinez witnessed Gleason's participation in the robbery of a 76-year-old man and Gleason and another participant worried about what she might tell police. Authorities also said they also planned to kill her boyfriend if he got in the way. A 5-2 high court majority said the presiding judge gave improper instructions to the jury considering whether Gleason should be sentenced to death.


Wolf Launches Kansas Bus Tour

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) - Tea party challenger Milton Wolf is planning a 45-stop bus tour of Kansas to boost his campaign for the U.S. Senate ahead of the state's Republican primary. Wolf's campaign says he will launch the bus tour with a Saturday morning send-off from his campaign headquarters in Overland Park. It plans an afternoon event at Chisholm Creek Park in Wichita, followed by an evening rally there. Wolf doesn't plan to take a break from the tour until it ends August 2 at his campaign headquarters. Wolf is a 43-year-old Leawood radiologist trying to unseat three-term Republican U.S. Sen. Pat Roberts in the Aug. 5 primary. Two lesser-known candidates are also on the GOP ballot. Shawnee County District Attorney Chad Taylor and Lawrence attorney Patrick Wiesner, are seeking the Democratic nomination.


Kansas Revenue Department Planning Move

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The Kansas Department of Revenue is studying its options for moving out of the Docking State Office Building but has not determined when or where the relocation will happen. Revenue Secretary Nick Jordan told employees earlier this month that the department will stay in Topeka. He said he wants the department to stay in one building but that might not be possible because of limited office space in Topeka. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports Jordan told employees that the Department of Administration had closed a request for public bids to lease office space for the revenue department. He says his department currently is reviewing potential sites. The Brownback administration wants to demolish the Docking building, which is almost $100 million behind on maintenance, and sell several other state office buildings.


K-State Researchers Tout Bedbug Breakthrough

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Researchers at Kansas State University say their research and a recent change in bedbug fumigation will make it cheaper to get rid of the pests. The Wichita Eagle reports a prepared statement from the university says bedbug infestations in the U.S. have grown and the bugs have developed a resistance to many insecticides. Entomology professor Tom Phillips specializes in fumigant gases. He recently tested a sulfuryl fluoride known as Vikanea and found that it could be effective even at one-third of the rate of other products. Phillips says his discovery means consumers will pay less money to get rid of bedbugs because less chemical is being used.


Kansas Approves Emergency Haying and Grazing

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — The Agriculture Department is allowing emergency haying and grazing on Conservation Reserve Program acreage in 44 Kansas counties. Adrian Polansky is state executive director of the Kansas Farm Service Agency. He said Thursday the authorization provides relief for livestock producers who have suffered through severe drought. The drought has depleted hay supplies and affected the growth of hay and pasture in parts of Kansas. He says many producers cannot maintain their current herds without it. The agency used its authority to allow the emergency measure once the primary nesting and rearing season ended in July 15 in counties designated on the U.S. Drought Monitor Map as being in a severe drought.

Man Dies While Working on Historic Lawrence Building

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — A Westar spokeswoman says a 54-year-old Lawrence man was likely electrocuted while working on a historic building in Lawrence. The Lawrence Journal-World reports that the man, who hasn't been identified, was repairing guttering at the historic Turnhalle building Friday morning when a co-worker found him on the ground. Police say the man was pronounced dead at the scene. Gina Penzig, spokeswoman for Westar Energy in Topeka, says the victim came in contact with an overhead power line and was likely electrocuted. But she says the coroner won't be able to verify the cause of death until Monday. The Turnhalle building is one of the Lawrence Preservation Alliance's projects. Construction on the building was nearing completion at the time of the man's death.


Junction City Starts Voluntary Water Restrictions

JUNCTION CITY, Kan. (AP) — Junction City is asking residents to cut back on water usage after a continuous increase in water over the last week. The city said in a release Friday that the voluntary use restrictions are effective immediately because recent usage has exceeded the limits set by the city's conservation plan. The city's asking residents to wash full loads of laundry rather than partial loads, keep faucets from running unnecessarily, look for leaks and curtail lawn watering. The city says the voluntary restrictions are intended to heighten public awareness, maintain the integrity of the water supply system and delay or avoid implementing mandatory restrictions. Junction City has about 24,000 resident and is located in northeast Kansas.


Brown v. Board Site Superintendent Leaving for California

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The superintendent at the Brown v. Board of Education National Historic Site in Topeka has been named to lead a national park in California. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that David Smith will be leaving Topeka to become superintendent of the 800,000-acre Joshua Tree National Park in California, where he'll oversee a staff of 150. Smith has been superintendent at the Brown v. Board site for more than three years and takes over at the Joshua Tree National Park in September. Stephanie Kyriazis, chief of interpretations at the Brown v. Board site, will be acting superintendent until the National Park Service names an interim superintendent. Smith says he's proud of the visit by first lady Michelle Obama in May and the educational outreach by the site's staff during his tenure.


Small Plane Crash in NW Kansas Kills Pilot

ELLIS, Kan. (AP) — The Kansas Highway Patrol says a pilot died when his crop dusting plane crashed in northwest Kansas. The patrol says the fixed-wing single-engine plane went down Friday morning in a field northeast of Ellis. The pilot was 23-year-old Garrett Moore of Oakley. The aircraft was an Air Tractor AT-401B spray plane owned by Frontier AG of Oakley.


Winfield Man Sentenced in Child Sex Case

ARKANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) — A Winfield man guilty of a committing a child sex crime in Arkansas City will spend the rest of his life in prison. Loarn Earl Fitzgerald II was sentenced Thursday to life with no chance of parole for aggravated criminal sodomy against a child. He committed the crime while living in Arkansas City but then moved to Winfield. The Arkansas City Traveler reports the victim was a 9-year-old girl who was part of a family staying with Fitzgerald, but she was not related to him. Fitzgerald was sentenced under the state's Jessica's Law, which requires maximum sentences for serial sex offenders. He was sentenced in 1993 for a sex offense in Cherokee County and in 2002 in Labette County for two counts of aggravated indecent liberties involving two children.


Kansas City Firm Adds 100 Jobs

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — A consulting firm that announced plans for a more than $1 million expansion of its Kansas City headquarters could have access to about $2.2 million in state incentives. Gov. Jay Nixon announced Thursday that ECCO Select will invest more than $1 million to expand its Kansas City headquarters, adding 96 new information technology jobs. ECCO Select is an information technology and management consulting firm founded in Kansas City in 1995. The state Department of Economic Development says ECCO could access up to $2.2 million in incentives through the Missouri Works program if it meets job creation and investment criteria.


Saline County Voters to Decide Jail Bond Issue

SALINA, Kan. (AP) — Saline County officials have approved a plan to let voters decide the fate of a $46.5 million bond issue to improve the county jail. Saline County commissioners voted 2-1 Wednesday to put the bond issue on the November ballot. The renovations would also include combining the county jail with court services and the county attorney's office. The Salina Journal reports the justice complex work would include renovating the jail and increasing capacity to 344 beds; renovating the jail booking and medical offices; and new court, community corrections and county attorney facilities. The proposed three-story building would be constructed at the location of the current jail. The proposal also calls for a $3 million parking garage about a block away.


KDHE Cites Possible Measles Exposure Points

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas health officials have identified other recent points of potential measles exposure in Wichita. The Kansas Department of Health and Environment says a cook at the restaurant, Sumo by Nambara, was reported as a new measles case on Thursday. The employee has been off since Sunday. The health department says anyone who dined at the restaurant on July 11 or 12 is at risk for developing measles. Measles is a highly contagious respiratory illness that spreads through coughing and sneezing. Kansas officials said this week that so far this year they've seen 11 cases.


Measles Alert Issued in TX Following Kansas Tournament

AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — Texas health officials say more than 30 people who traveled to a softball tournament in Kansas over the Fourth of July weekend may have been exposed to the measles virus. The Texas Department of State Health Services said in a statement Thursday it wants to alert Texans who traveled to Wichita for the tournament. Kansas health officials said eight softball teams from Kansas, Nebraska, Missouri and Texas participated in the tournament. Officials say at least three recreational softball teams from Texas played in Wichita. No measles cases had been confirmed by Thursday. 


Brownback Gets Endorsement of Kansas Gun Group

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The Kansas State Rifle Association has endorsed Governor Sam Brownback's re-election and is calling the Republican a strong champion of gun-ownership rights. The association cited Brownback's support for multiple measures since taking office in 2011. He's signed legislation nullifying local gun restrictions and allowing people with concealed carry permits to bring their weapons into more public buildings. He also signed legislation declaring that the federal government has no authority to regulate guns manufactured, sold and kept only in Kansas. Association President Patricia Stoneking posted an announcement Wednesday evening on her Facebook page. Brownback campaign spokesman John Milburn said he's pleased. Democratic challenger Paul Davis'a campaign did not immediately respond. Brownback faces Wichita business owner Jennifer Winn in the August 5 GOP primary, and she said she strongly supports gun rights.


Meyers Denies Endorsing Davis for Kansas Governor

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Former Republican Congresswoman Jan Meyers says she never endorsed Democratic challenger Paul Davis in the Kansas governor's race despite being included on a list of GOP endorsements for him. The Kansas City Star reports that Meyers said that she would never publicly endorse a Democratic challenger over a sitting Republican governor. Davis announced earlier this week that more than 100 former and current GOP officials had endorsed him through a new group called Republicans for Kansas Values. Meyers's name was one of the most prominent on the list. Meyers said she joined the group because she's a GOP moderate, but she said she didn't endorse Davis. She said there must have been some miscommunication. Meyers represented the Kansas City-area 3rd District from 1985 to 1997.


Group Seeks Apology over KS Rep's Tweet

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A Republican group wants a Kansas state representative to apologize for characterizing GOP politicians supporting a Democratic candidate as "nursing home" residents. Democratic gubernatorial candidate Paul Davis announced earlier through Republicans for Kansas Values that dozens of former and current GOP officials endorsed him rather than likely GOP nominee Gov. Sam Brownback in the 2014 election. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports Republicans for Kansas Values wants an apology from Republican State Rep. J.R. Claeys, who posted a comment on Twitter saying the organization had "really raided the nursing home" to find Republican Davis supporters. Claeys said Thursday, however, the Davis campaign owes "Kansans an apology" for listing Brownback supporters who didn't actually support Davis. On Thursday, former Congresswoman Jan Meyers, who was listed as supporting Davis, said she supports Brownback.


7 Kansas Lakes Under Warning for Toxic Algae

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas health officials have issued warnings for seven lakes around the state because of toxic algae. The Kansas Department of Health and Environment said in a release Thursday that high levels of toxic blue-green algae have been found at Chisolm Creek Park Lake in Sedgwick County, Marion Reservoir, Memorial Park Lake in Barton County, Milford Reservoir in Clay, Geary and Dickinson counties, Jewell State Fishing Lake, Lake Warnock in Atchison County and South Park Lake in Johnson County. Warnings mean water conditions aren't safe for direct contact and that wading, skiing and swimming should be prohibited.


Blast Reported at Northwest Iowa Ethanol Plant

ARTHUR, Iowa (AP) — No injuries have been reported after an explosion at an ethanol plant in northwest Iowa. The blast occurred Thursday night at the Flint Hills Resources plant in Arthur. Flint Hills spokesman Jake Reint says the explosion occurred in a grain dryer. The plant will remain out of operation until the explosion is investigated and damage is repaired. Reint says it's unclear how long that will take. The plant employs about 50 people and operates 24 hours a day. A company website says Wichita-based Flint Hills Resources bought the plant in September 2013. The plant began operating in 2008 and produces 110 million gallons of ethanol a year.


Kansas City to Pay $500K in Lawsuit

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — The Kansas City Council has agreed to settle the seventh of eight discrimination lawsuits stemming from the reorganization of the city prosecutor's office. The council on Thursday approved a $500,000 settlement with Cynthia Holmes, a former assistant city prosecutor. The settlement brings the total taxpayer outlay to nearly $2 million for the seven lawsuits. The remaining case is set for a September trial. The Kansas City Star reports the eight related lawsuits stem from converting the Kansas City municipal prosecutor's office in 2011 from 16 part-time prosecutors to eight full-time prosecutors. Eight attorneys who had worked for years as part-time prosecutors who filed lawsuits applied for the new full-time jobs but were not selected. They alleged age, gender and/or race discrimination because several younger, less experienced lawyers were hired


Group's Ads Praise Brownback for Coal-Fired Power Plant

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A Washington-area group with ties to veteran Republican operatives is spending at least $246,000 on radio and television advertisements in Kansas praising Governor Sam Brownback in the final weeks before the state's primary election. The Alliance for Freedom ads are scheduled to run statewide on radio and cable and broadcast television through the August 5 primary. They support a proposed coal-fired power plant in southwest Kansas and criticize the federal Environmental Protection Agency. But the ads also praise Brownback for supporting the coal plant and fighting the EPA. Tax records available online show the alliance formed in 2010, and it lists GOP consultant Barry Bennett as president and an Alexandria, Virginia, address. He has a consulting firm with Mary Cheney, a daughter of former Vice President Dick Cheney.


NTSB Report Released on OK Plane Crash

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — A National Transportation Safety Board report on an Oklahoma plane crash that killed two Kansas men says a part of the aircraft was found more than a mile from the crash site. The April 7, 2013, crash killed retired gynecologist Ronald Marshall of Manhattan, Kansas, and Chris Gruber, the development director for the college of veterinary medicine at Kansas State University in Manhattan. The NTSB factual report released Wednesday says the fiberglass belly skin panel of the plane was found about 1.4 miles from the site. It does not offer a suspected cause of the crash. The report says the single-engine Mooney M20J piloted by Marshall took off from Tulsa International Airport at 5:47 pm and crashed about 13 minutes later in the back yard of a vacant home near Collinsville.


KCP&L Gets $11M Increase

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) -- Kansas City Power & Light has been granted an $11.5 million revenue increase that will boost an average residential customer's bill by more than $2 a month. The Kansas Corporation Commission said in a release Thursday that KCC approved the settlement agreement reached between KCP&L, KCC staff and the Citizens' Utility Ratepayer Board that grants KCP&L the $11,535,857 increase. The KCC, which regulates public utilities including electric and water companies, says the hike will mean about $2.24 more per month on an average residential customer's bill after July 24. KCP&L had sought a $12.1 million increase, which the utility said was to meet federal Environmental Protection Agency requirements.


Man Pleads to Scott County Lightning Rod Scam

SCOTT CITY, Kan. (AP) — A 52-year-old Missouri man has been sentenced to probation in a lightning rod insurance scam that targeted elderly residents. Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt said Thursday in a release that Donald Anthony Moses of Neosho, Missouri, was sentenced to two years of probation with an underlying sentence of 18 months in prison. Moses pleaded guilty in June to conspiracy to commit theft. Prosecutors accused Moses of going door-to-door to sell two Scott County senior citizens fake lightning rod insurance. Moses also has to repay the residents $75,000. Two other defendants have been charged in connection with the case.


Prison Cook Sentenced to 2 Years for Inmate Escape

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) — A former cook at an eastern Kansas detention facility has been sentenced to two years in federal prison for not reporting that an inmate with whom she had an intimate relationship had escaped. U.S. Attorney Barry Grissom's office says 34-year-old Jessica Wilmer-Davis pleaded guilty in April and was sentenced Thursday on one count of misprision, or failing to report a federal crime. In her plea agreement Wilmer-Davis acknowledged getting involved in a romantic relationship with inmate Joshua Spurgeon in November at Grossman Center in Leavenworth, where she was a contract cook. She also admitted knowing that he left the detention center without permission on December 9 to avoid an upcoming drug test, and that she saw him on December 11 after he had escaped.


Lesbian Sues Kansas City Diocese After Dismissal

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — A parish food pantry worker who was fired over her marriage to another woman is suing the Roman Catholic Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph. Colleen Simon says the diocese and parish knew before Simon was hired that she was married and her wife was a well-known community leader. She was fired when the couple was mentioned last April in a newspaper article. The diocese plans to release a statement later Thursday. The Missouri lawsuit is among a growing number of clashes over gay rights between Catholic leaders and their employees. Dioceses in Cincinnati and Columbus, Ohio; Honolulu, Hawaii; Oakland, California, and elsewhere have added morals clauses to their teacher contracts barring public support for gay rights. As a result, more than 15 employees have lost their jobs or resigned since 2010.


Arrest Made in 2 Shooting Deaths in Lenexa

LENEXA, Kan. (AP) — A 27-year-old man is charged with the shooting deaths of a man and his stepson in a suburban Kansas City home. Johnson County officials said Alexander W. Brune of Lenexa was charged Thursday with two counts of first-degree murder in the July 9 deaths of 47-year-old Brian Baskind and 79-year-old Clifford Preston. The men were found dead inside a home in Lenexa. At the time of the shooting, authorities said a third person had called police to report the shooting and was found outside the house with a gunshot wound. Johnson County prosecutors said Brune was the person who called. The charges allege that Brune killed the men during a burglary and attempted robbery. It was not clear if he knew the victims. Brune is jailed on $2 million bond.


Lawrence Highway Shooting Involved Debt, Romance Troubles

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — A man and woman will go on trial September 15 on charges of attempted first-degree murder charges in the shooting of another man as he drove on a highway near Lawrence. Brittany Smith and Edward Parker of Lawrence are charged in the May 26 shooting of Skylar Workman on Highway 59. Workman is recovering from severe injuries. At the end of a two-day preliminary hearing Thursday, Parker was arraigned and pleaded not guilty. Smith will be arraigned and enter a plea August 15. The Lawrence Journal-World reports that testimony during the hearing indicated Parker was angry that Workman was texting his girlfriend, and that Workman owed money to two of Parker's friends. Workman had once dated Smith, who allegedly told investigators she was still in love with him.


Chelsea Manning to Begin Gender Treatment

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Bureau of Prisons has rejected the Army's request to accept the transfer of national security leaker Private Chelsea Manning from a military prison. So the military will begin treatment for her gender-identity condition. A defense official said Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel has approved the Army's recommendation to keep Manning in military custody and start a rudimentary level of gender treatment. The Army tried to get Manning transferred to the federal prison system, but officials said those discussions have ended. Manning has been diagnosed with gender dysphoria, the sense of being a woman in a man's body. Civilian prisons can provide treatment, but the Defense Department doesn't have the medical expertise needed. Officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the matter publicly by name.


Judge Wants Proof Ex-NFL Player Completed Sentence

LAS VEGAS (AP) — A Las Vegas judge gave a lawyer until July 30 to produce proof that former NFL running back Larry Johnson met terms of his sentence following his conviction in a domestic violence case involving an ex-girlfriend at a Las Vegas Strip resort. Attorney Gregory Knapp appeared in court for Johnson on Thursday, and said later that he'll provide paperwork showing the 34-year-old former Kansas City Chiefs and Miami Dolphins star has completed required community service and counseling. Johnson was sentenced to probation, 48 hours of community service and six months of counseling after pleading no contest in July 2013 to misdemeanor battery and assault. Knapp says Johnson lives in Florida. He was arrested in October 2012 at the Bellagio after he was accused of beating and choking the 32-year-old woman.



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