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Headlines for Friday, November 21, 2014


ACLU to Amend Gay-Marriage Lawsuit Against Kansas

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — The lawyer who sued to overturn the Kansas ban on same-sex marriages says he will amend the lawsuit to try and force state agencies to provide benefits to married same-sex couples. The U.S. Supreme Court ruled last week that the state can't enforce its ban on same-sex marriages. But Gov. Sam Brownback's administration said this week it will not make any policy changes to recognize the marriages while it defends the ban against the federal lawsuit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union. Some counties are issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples but others are not. The Wichita Eagle reports Doug Bonney, who represented the couples suing the state, said Thursday the lawsuit will be amended to force state agencies to grant full legal rights to the newly married couples.


Kansas Secretary of State to Seek Expanded Powers

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach says that next year he'll revive a proposal to give his office the power to prosecute election fraud cases. Kobach pushed the idea after taking office in 2011, but his efforts to win legislative approval of the idea fell just short of passage two years later, even though fellow Republicans control the Legislature. Kobach won re-election this month with 59 percent of the vote. He persuaded legislators to enact a 2012 law requiring all votes to show photo identification at the polls, and a 2013 statute requiring new voters to provide proof of their U.S. citizenship to register. But the secretary of state's office can't initiate election fraud prosecutions on its own. Such decisions are left to county or federal prosecutors.


Petition Seeks House Speaker's Ouster

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas Democrats are pushing a petition calling for the ouster of the Republican House speaker for saying government employees produce nothing, but they acknowledge the effort is mainly to draw attention to the Stilwell representative's remarks. Ray Merrick told The Wichita Eagle last weekend that government workers are net consumers whose employment amounts to a Democratic jobs plan that doesn't stimulate the economy. Merrick later issued a statement praising state employees. Teachers, law enforcement officers, social service workers and court officials all are government workers. Overland Park Republican House member Stephanie Clayton told The Topeka Capital-Journal that she had heard from some constituents who are upset by the speaker's comment. Assistant House minority leader Tom Burroughs of Kansas City acknowledges that Democrats don't have any influence on the choice of House speaker.


Kansas Could Tap Highway Funds to Fill Budget Gaps

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) _ Kansas legislators are likely to consider diverting funds earmarked for highway projects to general government programs to help solve the state's budget problems. The chairmen of the House and Senate budget committee say such a step is an option as legislators work to close combined shortfalls of more than $714 million in the current and next state budgets. Executive Vice President Bob Totten of the Kansas Contractors Association said Thursday that the group is concerned about the possibility but believes there's bipartisan support for transportation projects. Kansas started a 10-year and $8 billion transportation program in 2010. The program is financed outside the state's main bank account with bonds, motor fuels taxes, vehicle registration fees and some sales tax revenues. The state has diverted highway funds in the past.


UPDATE: Man Charged with Attempted Capital Murder in Wichita Park Attack

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Prosecutors have filed attempted capital murder charges against a Wichita man accused of raping a woman and setting her on fire at a public park. Bond was set Friday at $250,000 for Cornell A. McNeal during his first court appearance on charges stemming from the Nov. 14 attack. The 26-year-old Wichita man also was charged with rape and arson after allegedly setting fires at the park and at a garage on that same day. The Sedgwick County Public Defender's Office says it has not yet assigned him a lawyer, and a woman who answered the phone at his house declined to comment. Firefighters were responding to a late-night grass fire at Fairmount Park when they found the 36-year-old victim with severe burns on more than half her body.


Cardinal Discusses KC Bishop and Other Alleged Abusers

VATICAN CITY (AP) - The head of Pope Francis' commission to fight sex abuse is tempering his remarks about accountability for bishops accused of covering up for abusive priests, saying they deserve a fair hearing, too. Cardinal Sean O'Malley, archbishop of Boston, told the "60 Minutes" news program last week that the Vatican must "urgently" address the situation of Kansas City Bishop Robert Finn, the highest-ranking church official in the U.S. to be convicted of failing to take action in response to abuse allegations. In a comment posted Wednesday on, the website of the archdiocesan newspaper of Boston, O'Malley stood by his remarks but said bishops deserve due process even as they are held accountable for protecting abusers.


Alco Stores to Close Following Bankruptcy Order

DALLAS (AP) — Small-town discount retailer Alco Stores will close after a U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Dallas approved an order by the company's creditors to shutter its stores. The court order Thursday follows the company's announcement last month that it had filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection. Alco, based in the Dallas suburb of Coppell (kuh-PEHL'), said at the time that it intended to stay in business while reorganizing. The company was established in 1901 and grew to operate 198 stores in 23 states in the central U.S. It sells home furnishings, outdoor products, electronics, sporting goods and clothing. Alco had $474 million in net sales in its latest fiscal year. That was a 2 percent decline from the year before. The company last year moved its headquarters to Texas from Abilene, Kansas.


KU to Offer Military Mental Health Training

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) - The University of Kansas is offering a military mental health first aid course. The course is designed to help active military members, veterans, their families and people who work with them recognize and respond to signs of mental illness. The free class is planned for Saturday at the Lawrence campus. Participants will receive certification as a Mental Health First Aider. Organizers say the Mental Health First Aid program has trained more than 300,000 persons since its origin in 2008. A military-specific program began in April 2014 and works to help people recognize issues common to many veterans, such as post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety, depression and substance abuse.


Settlement Reached in National Beef Lawsuit

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A deal has been reached in the lawsuit against National Beef by workers at its Liberal, Kansas, slaughterhouse. A joint filing Friday seeks court approval of the settlement affecting some 480 production employees who joined the class action litigation. National Beef has agreed to pay up to $350,000 to settle all claims without admitting any wrongdoing. Workers at the southwest Kansas plant are seeking unpaid wages and overtime. At issue is paying meat-processing workers based on what is known as gang time, which counts only the time the production line runs. Each worker's settlement payment is based on a formula that factors in the number of weeks worked, among other things. The two named plaintiffs would receive $3,500 each. Their attorneys would get $100,320 in fees plus $46,000 in costs.


Kansas Factory Owner Changes Pollution Pleas

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) - Kansas metal finishing business and its owner are planning to change their pleas to charges accusing them of dumping untreated wastewater into a city sewer system. A notation filed Thursday shows C & R Plating and its owner, Kevin L. Cline, both of Minneapolis, Kan., have a change-of-plea hearing on December 8 before U.S. District Judge Daniel Crabtree. They are accused in a 24-count indictment with submitting fraudulent samples and reports of analysis to conceal the pollution from state environmental regulators. The indictment alleges the company and its owner violated the Clean Water Act between August and October of last year. Charges include making a false statement to the Kansas Department of Health and Environment and illegally dumping pollutants into the Minneapolis sewer system.


New Baker President Lynne Murray Sworn In

BALDWIN CITY, Kan. (AP) — A top administrator at the nation's leading university for the deaf and hard of hearing has been sworn in as the new president of Baker University in northeast Kansas. The Lawrence-Journal World reports that Lynne Murray was inaugurated Friday as the school's 29th president at a small, invitation-only ceremony on the Baldwin City campus. Murray has been leading Baker since July 1. Plans to inaugurate her October 30 were delayed after the death of a Baker student the day before. Murray previously worked at Gallaudet University in Washington, D.C., serving as vice president of development and international and alumni relations. She replaces Pat Long, who retired in June. Baker will hold an open inaugural event for Murray on April 16, 2015.


Atchison Man Pleads Not Guilty in Girl's Death During Chase

LEAVENWORTH, Kan. (AP) - A northeast Kansas man has pleaded not guilty to six charges, including felony murder, in the death of a 5-year-old girl during a police chase. Thirty-year-old Marcas McGowan of Atchison entered the plea Thursday after waiving his preliminary hearing in Leavenworth County District Court. However, County Attorney Todd Thompson said the case could be moved to federal court, which would make the state case moot. Authorities allege McGowan abducted Cadence Harris in July from a home they shared with the girl's mother in Atchison. Cadence died from a gunshot in McGowan's car during a police chase. McGowan was shot after he allegedly pointed a gun at officers. Thompson said a federal indictment could be handed down against McGowan within a month.


Los Angeles Phone Scam Targets People Nationwide

LOS ANGELES (AP) — A months-old phone scam that originated in Los Angeles is now targeting people across the country. Los Angeles County sheriff's Deputy Ryan Rouzan says deputies fielded up to 100 calls Friday morning from people reporting scam calls in Florida, Ohio, Texas, North Carolina, South Carolina, Maryland, New York, Kansas, New Jersey, Illinois and Indiana. The callers often spoof the Sheriff's Department number, telling victims they have a warrant in the system or missed jury service and must pay $150 to $25,000 to remedy the situation. They're told to purchase a Green Dot pre-paid card at a store for payment. Rouzan says people can't recover the money once it's spent. Rouzan says call recipients should inform local authorities, the LA County Sheriff's Department and monitor their accounts for identity theft.


Man Guilty in Central Kansas Shooting Death

LINCOLN, Kan. (AP) — The son of a Kansas sheriff was convicted of unintentional second-degree murder in the death of a man he considered his best friend. A Lincoln County jury convicted 34-year-old Scott Weigel Thursday in the September 2013 shooting death of 21-year-old Keith Ancell. The Salina Journal reports the shooting occurred in downtown Lincoln after a night of drinking and socializing. Prosecutors argued that Ancell was shot when he refused to get into a vehicle with friends because Weigel was pointing a gun at him. Weigel is the son of Lincoln County Sheriff Mike Weigel. He has been in jail since the shooting.


Former Bank Employee Sentenced in $2.5 Million Theft

GIRARD, Kan. (AP) — A former employee of a southeast Kansas bank was sentenced to nearly six years in prison for stealing more than $2.5 million from her employer. The U.S. Attorney announced 54-year-old Cynthia Bright, of Girard, was sentenced Thursday to five years and 10 months in prison. She pleaded guilty in June to one count of bank fraud. Bright admitted she took the money over 10 years while she was operations supervisor at Girard National Bank. Prosecutors say Bright used several methods to steal the money. She wrote checks on her own accounts but altered records so the money wasn't taken from her account. She also altered records to post checks to other accounts and diverted funds from the bank's accounts to her own.


Carjacking Suspects Crash into Kansas Duplex

OVERLAND PARK, Kan. (AP) _ Two carjacking suspects have crashed into an Overland Park duplex while fleeing from police. Police reports say a man was attempting to pick up a prostitute around 1 am Thursday in Kansas City, Missouri, when his pickup truck was stolen. The Kansas City Star reports that officers pursued the stolen truck into Kansas. The chase ended when the driver lost control of the truck. One of the suspects ran into the bedroom of a home. Kansas City police say residents pointed out where the 21-year-old man was hiding in the bedroom. Police said a 33-year-old woman was found hiding between houses outside. The man and woman were arrested and taken to the Johnson County Jail.


Kansas City Students Stage Walkout During Nixon Speech

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) _ Missouri Governor Jay Nixon says he understands the concerns of Kansas City students who walked out a speech he was giving in an apparent protest of the police shooting in Ferguson. Nixon was talking Thursday at Lincoln College Preparatory Academy when a handful of students raised their hands over their heads in a gesture associated with the Ferguson protests. The Kansas City Star reports that the students then left through an auditorium door without disrupting the speech. Nixon was at Lincoln to recognize its status as a National Blue Ribbon School, one of the nation's top awards for academic excellence. Nixon says the students "are going to be - and need to be - a force, so that we can be a better state and better society after this." 


Mostly Abandoned Kansas City Building Collapses

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) _ A vehicle involved in a police chase slammed into a mostly abandoned building in downtown Kansas City, causing a partial collapse. Local media reports the accident occurred Thursday morning and the female driver of the car was able to get out. The building reportedly was being used to store cars or as a parking garage and police don't believe anyone was inside. The northwest corner of the building collapsed after the vehicle rammed into it. Further information on what prompted the chase was not immediately available. Public Works employees were to treat water that was causing some ice due to a damaged nearby fire hydrant.


Survey Suggests Economy Still Slow in Rural Areas

OMAHA, Neb. (AP) _ The economic outlook for rural areas of 10 states in the Plains and the West improved in November, but the monthly survey of bankers doesn't suggest much growth. Creighton University economist Ernie Goss says low grain and energy prices continue to limit the economy in rural areas. The overall economic index for the region improved for the first time since May, but it only reached the neutral score of 50. That's up from 43.4 in October. The survey indexes range from 0 to 100. Any score below 50 suggests decline in that factor in the months ahead. Bankers from rural areas of Colorado, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, South Dakota and Wyoming were surveyed.


Higher Attendance Numbers Reported for 2014 Kansas State Fair

HUTCHINSON, Kan. (AP) - While more people attended the 2014 Kansas State Fair than in previous years, officials say fewer people are buying tickets to watch events in the 90-year-old grandstand. According to numbers released at the fair's board meeting Thursday, The Hutchinson News reports grandstand attendance reached a low of about 23,200. Fewer people have bought tickets for concerts and activities at the grandstand since 1993, when more than 57,000 took to the seats. Last year, about 30,500 people attended grandstand events. The previous low was in 2001 with about 23,400 people. However, the Kansas State Fair this year saw its best attendance in 16 years, with more than 355,000 fairgoers


Kansas Nurse Returns to Jail After Bond Hike

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) _ A former nurse who is charged with sexually assaulting four Kansas City, Kansas, hospital patients has returned to jail. The Kansas City Star reports that deputies took Dennis Clark into custody after a Wyandotte County judge increased his bond from $10,000 to $75,000. Prosecutors had requested the increase after the charges filed against the 47-year-old were amended. Clark now is charged with raping two patients at Providence Medical Center. He also faces charges of aggravated sexual battery involving two other patients. He's no longer employed at the hospital, and the Kansas Board of Nursing has revoked his nursing license. Meanwhile, police in two Johnson County cities are investigating similar allegations at hospitals where Clark formerly worked. 


Woman Killed in Blaze Near Downtown Topeka

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) _ A woman has been killed in a house fire in a neighborhood just west of downtown Topeka. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that the fire was reported around 8:20 am Thursday in the two-story home. Topeka Fire Marshal Mike Martin says crews likely will be on the scene "for most of the day.'' One person was able to escape, but a woman died inside the home. The fire sent smoke drifting above the downtown skyline for more than two miles away. The flames were so intense that an SUV that had been parked near the front porch also caught fire. At one point, firefighters and police officers restrained a man after he sprinted toward the still-burning house, apparently trying to get inside.


Republican River States Pledge to Cooperate More

OMAHA, Neb. (AP) — The three states crossed by the Republican River have agreed on a new approach to managing water in the disputed basin. Officials in Colorado, Nebraska and Kansas say the agreements on how the river's water will be managed this year and next year show they are taking a more cooperative approach. In the past, disputes over the 1943 compact that spells out how much water each state is entitled to have wound up in the U.S. Supreme Court numerous times. The new agreements will allow some of the water owed to Kansas farmers this year to be kept in the Harlan County Reservoir in Nebraska until Kansas officials request it. Previously, the water would have been released this fall when farmers couldn't use it.


Raiders Snap 16-Game Skid Beating KC Chiefs 24-20

OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) — Derek Carr threw a 9-yard touchdown pass with 1:42 remaining and the Oakland Raiders snapped a 16-game losing streak with a 24-20 victory over the Kansas City Chiefs on Thursday night. Oakland's Latavius Murray ran for two touchdowns on four carries before leaving the game with a concussion. It was the Raider's first win since beating Houston on Nov. 17, 2013. Kansas City's Alex Smith threw two TD passes for the Chiefs who had won five in a row. They fell a half-game behind Denver in the AFC West.


Manfred Given 5-Year Term as Baseball Commissioner

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Rob Manfred has been given a five-year term as baseball commissioner when he succeeds Bud Selig in two months. Baseball owners voted the term Thursday at their first meeting since electing Manfred over Boston Red Sox Chairman Tom Werner on August 14. Manfred, who has worked for Major League Baseball since 1998, will take over from the 80-year-old Selig on Jan. 25. Selig said Manfred's term was approved "unanimously, quietly and quickly," and the transition of power to baseball's longtime executive has been orderly. "That's the way it's supposed to be," Selig said after two days of meetings. Manfred said that improving pace of play will remain a priority. He also said replay will be similar to this past season, and changes will stem from technology and "how long it takes to get replay going."


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