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Headlines for Friday, November 3, 2017

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

Kansas Children and Families Chief Retiring December 1

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Secretary Phyllis Gilmore plans to retire December 1 as the Kansas Department for Children and Families' top administrator amid ongoing scrutiny of the state's foster care system. Republican Governor Sam Brownback's office announced Gilmore's retirement Friday and said her nearly six-year tenure had "transformed" the department to combat childhood poverty and help poor and disabled adults. But the department has faced criticism from legislators for months over issues related to the state's oversight of services for abused and neglected children. Problems include several high-profile cases of children who were not removed from homes and later died and reports of foster children sleeping in contractors' offices because there were not homes for them. The 72-year-old Gilmore has been the department's secretary since February 2012 and is a former Kansas House member. 

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New Kansas Fiscal Forecast Boosts Projected Tax Collections

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) _ Kansas has seen its budget picture improve after officials and university economists issued a new fiscal forecast that was a little more optimistic than the previous one. The state's forecasting group increased projections for tax collections by a total of almost $225 million for the current and next budget years, through June 2019. Tax collections have been better than expected for the past five months. The new projections are an average of 1.8 percent higher than those in the previous forecast issued in April. The new forecast was issued a month after the Kansas Supreme Court ruled that legislators did not increase spending on public schools enough this year to finance a suitable education for every child. The new forecast would allow for some new spending but many lawmakers say it's not likely to be enough to satisfy the court's mandate.

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Protesters Demand Answers About Police Shooting of Topeka Man

TOPEKA, Kan. - A group of about 100 protesters gathered last night in front of the Law Enforcement Center in Topeka to accompany the family of Dominique White. The 30 year old man was shot and killed by two Topeka police officers on September 28.  The group of peaceful protesters carried signs and chanted slogans calling for more police transparency. The Topeka Capital Journal reports that supporters chanted “No justice, no peace,” and “We want answers.” The group also called for police to release body camera footage of the incident and for the department to release the names of the officers who fired at Dominique White. Police responded to a report of a disturbance involving shots being fired near Ripley Park on the city’s northeast side. A statement from police says that two officers confronted White. After seeing that he was armed, the statement says, two officers fired at White, killing him. White’s family, however, says that police have not provided them with enough information about what transpired. The Lawrence Police Department is investigating the incident.

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Kansas State Increases Patrols After Racist Incident 

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas State University is stepping up police patrols and taking other safety measures following a spate of racial incidents that culminated this week when a black man's car parked near campus was scrawled with racist graffiti. The president of the Black Student Union says minority students generally don't feel safe on campus. But he says the school is taking steps toward more inclusion. Kansas State says it is reviewing the need for additional cameras across campus. The school is also making progress on a multicultural student center and hiring two top leadership positions tasked with diversity issues on its campus in Manhattan. The FBI has opened a civil rights investigation into Wednesday's graffiti incident as a possible hate crime.

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FBI Notified of Fire at Middle Eastern Family's Restaurant

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Federal investigators have been called in following a fire at a Kansas restaurant run by a Middle Eastern family. The Petra Mediterranean Restaurant in Wichita was destroyed Wednesday. The words "Go back" were painted on a nearby storage unit. The Wichita Eagle reports the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives is investigating, and the FBI, which investigates hate crimes, has been notified. The ATF says it is trying to determine if the FBI should be more involved in the investigation. The restaurant's owners, Ranya Taha and Bashar Mahanweh, say the fire might have been a hate crime. They also say they're comforted by how the community has rallied around them. They say they've lived in Wichita for years and have always found the community to be loving and supportive.

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Topeka Names New Interim Police Chief 

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A Topeka police major is taking over as interim chief. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that Bill Cochran on Friday was announced as interim chief. He takes over for the previous interim police chief, Kris Kramer, who is retiring. Cochran says he is interested in being permanent chief. It isn't clear when the position will be filled. Chief James Brown resigned in November 2016 to become the Kansas National Guard's command senior enlisted leader.

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Man Removed from Johnson County Court After Angry Rant

LENEXA, Kan. (AP) _ A man whose wife's remains were found in a storage unit where he was staying with his two small children was removed from a Kansas courthouse after a screaming rant against authorities. Justin Rey, a 35-year-old from Flagstaff, Arizona, was in court Thursday for a hearing on child endangerment charges. The Kansas City Star reports an irate Rey yelled that Johnson County authorities were trying to take his children after his wife killed herself. A judge ordered him removed from the courtroom. Rey was arrested after he and his children _ and human remains stuffed in a cooler _ were found at a Lenexa storage unit. The remains haven't been publicly identified, but court records indicate Rey said they belonged to his wife, Jessica Monteiro Rey. He has not been charged in her death.  

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Kansas to Get Little Back from Sale of Non-Profit Hospital

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt will not require a for-profit partnership to set up a charitable foundation as part of its purchase of the non-profit St. Francis Health Center in Topeka. The Lawrence Journal-World reports Schmidt's decision means Kansas taxpayers will not receive compensation from the sale of a hospital that has been tax exempt for more than a century. The University of Kansas Health System and Ardent Health Services completed acquisition of St. Francis on Wednesday. The partnership paid $1, plus any working capital the hospital had when the sale closed. In the past, foundations were established when charitable hospitals in Kansas were converted to for-profit businesses. Schmidt said the value for the public is a guarantee that the hospital will provide charitable care for three more years.

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Kansas Man Seeks to Withdraw Guilty Plea in Death of Son 

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) — A Kansas man who pleaded guilty to killing his 7-year-old son, whose remains were fed to pigs, says his lawyer pressured him to into the plea. Michael Jones of Kansas City, Kansas, is serving a life sentence after the 2015 murder plea. The Kansas City Star reports that Jones was in court Friday seeking to withdraw the plea. Deputy District Attorney Crystalyn Oswald argued there is "no manifest injustice," as required by Kansas law to withdraw a guilty plea. Judge Mike Grosko says he hopes to issue a decision within 60 days. Adrian Jones's remains were found in a pigsty outside the family home in November 2015. Jones's wife and Adrian's stepmother, 31-year-old Heather Jones, is also serving a life sentence after pleading guilty to first-degree murder and child abuse.

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Former Pizza Hut Magnate Sues Kansas over Tax Bill

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) - Former Pittsburg entrepreneur Gene Bicknell is suing Kansas over a $42 million tax bill stemming from the sale of hundreds of Pizza Hut franchises. The lawsuit is the latest twist in a long-running dispute between the state and Bicknell, who once owned the most Pizza Hut franchises in the country. The Kansas Department of Revenue audited his tax returns from 2005 to 2008 and ordered him to pay $42 million in taxes on the sale of the franchises. The state contends Bicknell's primary home was Kansas at the time of the sale, but he argues he lived in Florida and doesn't owe Kansas any sales tax money. The State Board of Tax Appeals on October 2 sustained the tax assessment, prompting Bicknell to file the lawsuit.

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Former Fort Hays University Official to Be New FHSU President

HAYS, Kan. (AP) — The Kansas Board of Regents is bringing back a former Fort Hays State official to be the university's new president. The board on Friday unanimously approved hiring Tisa Mason as 10th president of the school in Hays. Mason was the vice president for student affairs at Fort Hays until 2014, when she became president of Valley City State University in Valley City, North Dakota. She will replace Andy Tompkins, who has been interim president at Fort Hays since December, after Mirta Martin abruptly left the position.

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Ex-Leavenworth V-A Hospital Worker Sentenced for Sex Crimes

LEAVENWORTH, Kan. (AP) — A former physician assistant at a Veterans Affairs hospital in Leavenworth has been sentenced for sexual crimes against patients. The Kansas City Star reports 66-year-old Mark Wisner was sentenced Friday to 15 years and seven months in prison. Wisner was convicted in August of sex crimes involving four patients at the Eisenhower Veterans Administration Medical Center in Leavenworth Prosecutors said Wisner performed improper and medically unnecessary genital examinations on patients from 2012 to 2014. He resigned and had his license to practice revoked in 2015. Dozens of other former patients have filed civil lawsuits claiming they were subjected to similar behavior by Wisner.

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Kansas Man Sentenced for Setting Supervisor on Fire

LEAVENWORTH, Kan. (AP) _ A former civilian employee at the Fort Leavenworth hospital has been sentenced to 20 years in federal prison for setting a female supervisor on fire and attacking her with a razor and scissors. Federal prosecutors say 55-year-old Clifford Currie, of Leavenworth, was sentenced Thursday for assault with intent to commit murder. He was also ordered to pay $3.4 million in restitution to the victim of the September 2016 attack, Lieutenant Katie Ann Blanchard. Prosecutors say that Currie threw a flammable liquid on Blanchard at the Munson Army Health Center, and assaulted her with a straight edge razor and scissors before he was pulled away. Blanchard told the judge she has recurring nightmares and has undergone numerous surgeries and skin grafts. Testimony indicated Blanchard had difficulties supervising Currie before the attack. 

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Reno County Authorities Investigate Fatal Fire

HUTCHINSON, Kan. (AP) - Reno County authorities are trying to determine the cause of a fire that killed a man in a rural part of the county. Captain Steve Lutz says firefighters were called to the house fire Thursday west of Hutchinson. The cause of the fire is under investigation. The man's name was not released. The Hutchinson News reports a landlord said the man rented the home for six years and was not in good health. He said the man lived alone.

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24 Pit Bull Dogs Rescued from Kansas City Breeding Operation

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) - Kansas City animal control officers rescued 24 dogs from squalid conditions at a suspected Kansas City breeding operation. The underweight and filth-encrusted dogs were taken Thursday from a home in eastern Kansas City. The 12 adult pit bull mixes and 12 puppies were taken to the KC Pet Project for evaluation and treatment. Animal control officers found raw sewage and other unsanitary conditions at the home and are treating the situation as a cruelty case. The property owner was not located on Thursday. None of the rescued dogs will be ready for adoption soon. Shelter spokeswoman Tori Fugate said KC Pet Project is documenting the dogs' conditions for authorities if they decide to prosecute the case.

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Illinois's First Fracking Permit Returned by Kansas Company 

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (AP) — The company that obtained the first fracking permit in Illinois has announced it won't use it, citing market conditions and the state's "burdensome and costly" regulations. Wichita, Kansas-based Woolsey Companies Inc. was given permission in September by the Illinois Department of Natural Resources to drill near the southeast Illinois community of Enfield. In announcing Friday it is giving up the permit, Woolsey vice president Mark Sooter said the effort to receive the permit was difficult due to Illinois's rules and regulations. Sooter went on to say that it appears the difficult process to obtain permits will continue into the future. The Illinois Legislature in 2013 passed a law regulating fracking. At the time, the law was considered one of the most stringent in the nation. But oil prices soon dropped, and companies that secured leases to frack put their plans on hold.

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Long-Sought Restoration Delayed for Lawrence Train Depot 

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — The approximately $1.4 million restoration of a 1950s-era train depot in Lawrence is facing another delay. The Lawrence Journal-World reports that the Kansas Department of Transportation recently solicited bids for the restoration of the Santa Fe Station, but no contractors submitted a bid. City officials say the project will be re-bid after the bid proposal is reworked. Assistant City Manager Diane Stoddard says potential contractors expressed concerns that some of the proposed specifications posed challenges, especially given the historic preservation requirements. The one-story brick station is an example of mid-century modern architecture. The preservation group, Depot Redux, helped lead the restoration effort. Renovations to the station will include a new roof, structural repairs, heating and cooling system improvements and upgrades required by the Americans with Disabilities Act.

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Oklahoma Homebuilder Pleads Guilty in Interstate Theft Case

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — An Oklahoma custom home builder and a co-defendant have pleaded guilty to charges related to an interstate theft ring. Court documents show that 44-year-old Richardson Homes owner Dennis Lee entered the plea Friday on charges of possessing stolen property and being a felon in possession of firearms. As part of a plea agreement, additional charges of possessing stolen property were dismissed. Prosecutors say vehicles and other items were stolen in Oklahoma, Texas, Kansas, Missouri and Nebraska. Some of the goods were found at Lee's Oklahoma City business. Court documents also show that 53-year-old Kenneth Dale Smith pleaded guilty to a charge related to his attempt to hide how he came to own the stolen property. Four other co-defendants previously pleaded guilty to charges in the case.

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After Long Debate, Work to Begin on Eisenhower Memorial

WASHINGTON (AP) — After years of public controversy and debate, work is finally set to begin on a massive memorial to President Dwight Eisenhower. A groundbreaking ceremony Thursday marked the start of the project, which has been plagued for years by a bitter fight over the memorial's design and aesthetics. Speakers at the ceremony included members of the Eisenhower family, architect Frank Gehry and Kansas Senator Pat Roberts. Gehry, who designed the Walt Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles and the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao, Spain, was commissioned to design the memorial. But Gehry's original plan was strongly opposed by three of Eisenhower's grandchildren and the organizing commission was hit by multiple resignations. Gehry's reworked design will transform a four-acre space on Independence Avenue directly in front of the Lyndon B. Johnson Department of Education Building. Plans call for a series of columns and multiple statues depicting the 34th president and World War II military commander at various stages of his life and career. Eisenhower was elected president in 1952 and served two terms. He died in 1969. The project is estimated to cost up to $150 million, the majority of that from federal funding. 

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