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Headlines for Monday, April 17, 2017

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

New Kansas Congressman Estes Plans to Take Office April 25

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Republican Ron Estes plans to take his seat April 25 as the congressman representing south-central Kansas. Estes is state treasurer and won a special election for the 4th Congressional District seat previously held by CIA Director Mike Pompeo. Estes plans to step down as state treasurer when he's sworn in as congressman. He submitted his resignation to GOP Governor Sam Brownback that the governor's office made public Monday. A state board plans to convene April 24 to certify the special election results. Brownback will name the next treasurer. Spokeswoman Melika Willoughby said Brownback is still looking at potential candidates. Estes defeated Democrat James Thompson for the congressional seat by 7 percentage points. The race drew national attention because Pompeo won his last three elections by more than 30 percentage points.


Kansas Officials Hope For New, More Optimistic, Fiscal Forecast  

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) - Kansas is preparing for a new fiscal forecast for state government this week that officials hope is more optimistic and makes fixing serious budget problems easier. The forecasting group plans to meet Thursday to revise a pessimistic forecast issued last November. The previous forecast left the state with projected budget shortfalls totaling more than $1 billion through June 2019. Since that forecast, the state's tax collections have exceeded expectations by $57 million and given the state a 1.4 percent revenue surplus for its current fiscal year. Governor Sam Brownback and legislators will use the new numbers in budgeting. If the forecast is more optimistic about tax collections, the budget gaps will shrink. The forecasting group includes legislative researchers, university economists, Department of Revenue officials and Brownback budget staffers.


Judge Orders Kansas Official to Produce Plan Taken to Trump 

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A federal judge has ordered Kansas's top elections official to turn over proposed changes to federal voting rights laws that he took to a meeting with President Donald Trump. After privately examining the documents, U.S. Magistrate James O'Hara ruled Monday that parts of documents from Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach are "unquestionably relevant" to a lawsuit challenging a state law requiring voters provide proof of their U.S. citizenship when registering. The order also instructs Kobach to produce a related internal document about proposed changes to the National Voter Registration Act. The ruling allowed him to redact parts of the plan that did not involve the voting rights issues. An Associated Press photo of that November meeting showed Kobach holding a paper outlining homeland security issues.


Presidential Budget Proposal Would End Amtrak Service in Kansas Cities 

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A budget proposal that puts a passenger train route that passes through Kansas at risk is raising concerns. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that President Donald Trump's budget calls for the elimination of federal subsidies for some money-losing long-distance train routes. Amtrak spokesman Marc Magliari said in an email that the final and full budget plan for Amtrak's federal aid hasn't been released. But he confirmed that among "several services targeted" would be the Southwest Chief, which spans from Chicago to Los Angeles. It has stops in several Kansas towns, including Topeka, Lawrence, Garden City and Hutchinson. Congresswoman Lynn Jenkins has voiced concern, saying that "infrastructure is vital to Kansas and rural America." Kansas generates just shy of 50,000 passengers per year for Amtrak.


Kansas Chemical Company Plans to Rebuild After Fire

STERLING, Kan. (AP) — A Kansas chemical plant reopened for business after a fire damaged one building in the complex. The fire broke out Thursday at the JACAM chemical plant complex near Sterling. No injuries were reported. Spokeswoman Laura Snyder told The Hutchinson News the rest of the plant was ready to resume operations Monday. The cause of the fire has not been determined. The massive building that burned was for manufacturing and storing a type of clay that helps create "drilling mud" used in oil and gas production. The six employees who worked in the building evacuated safely when the fire started. Snyder says company officials plan to rebuild the structure at the Sterling site. The building that burned was one of 18 on the site north of Sterling.


Kansas VA Official Fired for Inappropriate Conduct 

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A high-level, Topeka-based Veterans Affairs official has been fired following an investigation into inappropriate conduct regarding sexually charged communication. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that former Health Resource Center director Robert Downs received the VA's decision to terminate his employment April 12. The investigation alleges Downs and a female VA employee exchanged hundreds of salacious chat messages, most made during business hours, for over two years. The woman was based out of the Asheville, North Carolina, VA Medical Center. In addition to sexually provocative messages, the two allegedly discussed travel plans to see each other, visiting a strip club together, open marriage and the woman's job prospects at Kansas VA offices. Downs says the relationship was consensual and no one benefited professionally. But he adds he takes full responsibility and is ready to move on.


Kansas Sampler Festival to End Nearly 3 Decade Run in May

WINFIELD, Kan. (AP) — A spring festival that gives people ideas for Kansas day trips will end its nearly three decade run next month. The Wichita Eagle reports that the Kansas Sampler Festival is planned for May 6 and 7 at Winfield's Island Park. It began in 1990 as a book-signing party for the "Kansas Weekend Guide" book. The second version of the book will make its debut at this year's festival. The festival features representatives from 130 Kansas towns. It includes crafts, food, musicians, artists and dancers. A shift in focus is planned starting next year. That's when the foundation that promotes the festival plans to create an annual Kansas Road Trip that will encourage exploration of specific regions of the state.


Former Kansas Corrections Officer Sentenced 

OLATHE, Kan. (AP) — A former Johnson County corrections employee was sentenced to six months in prison for lewd behavior and trafficking in contraband. The Kansas City Star reports 25-year-old Alyssa Jo Staats was sentenced Monday six months of "shock time" in jail as a condition for a two-year probation sentence. Staats was originally charged last year with having unlawful sexual relations with an adult offender in the county's Therapeutic Community, an intensive drug treatment program. She pleaded no contest and was found guilty in December on amended charges of trafficking contraband in a correctional facility, obstructing a law enforcement officer and lewd and lascivious behavior.


Fundraiser Planned to Replace Slain Wichita Police Dog

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A Wichita animal hospital is helping to raise money to replace a police dog that was fatally shot by a suspect who later was killed by officers. The Wichita Eagle reports that the 6-year-old Belgian Malinois named Rooster was killed March 18 while officers were responding to a domestic disturbance at a mobile home park. Police say officers surrounded a residence before 25-year-old Kevin Perry walked out with a gun in his waistband. Rooster was sent after the suspect to stop him from re-entering the home. That's when gunfire was exchanged, striking both the dog and Perry. The fundraiser is planned for Saturday at the Animal Hospital at Auburn Hills. During an open house, a police dog cared for at the hospital and its handler will give a demonstration.


3 Killed in 4-Vehicle Southwest Kansas Crash 

FOWLER, Kan. (AP) — Authorities say three people were killed in a fiery four-vehicle crash that involved a camper-trailer becoming unhooked on a southwestern Kansas highway. The Kansas Highway Patrol tells KAKE-TV  that a pickup truck driver was exiting a bridge on U.S. 54 Friday evening near Fowler when his trailer somehow came loose and went across the highway. A tractor-trailer driven by 43-year-old Zachery Duncan of Watertown, South Dakota, drove over the trailer, flattening a tire and causing his brakes to lock. The patrol says that the semi then went across the highway and hit another tractor-trailer driven by 56-year-old John Kemp Jr. of Brandon, Mississippi. Troopers say both big rigs caught fire. Both truckers were killed along with a passenger in Duncan's truck — 35-year-old Manda Price of Watertown.


Inmate Attacks Kansas Corrections Officer 

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — An inmate at a Topeka jail attacked a corrections officer Saturday, giving the officer lacerations and facial injuries. Shawnee County Department of Corrections Major Tim Phelps tells The Topeka Capital-Journal that officer Lacy Noll was attacked while on duty Saturday. She was treated then released. Phelps says the inmate is 26-year-old Allen Thomas Schroeder Jr. of Topeka. Phelps says the Shawnee County Jail was placed on lockdown during the incident. The lockdown was lifted Sunday, except for the housing unit where the attack occurred. Schroeder was booked into jail in November in connection to aggravated battery, domestic battery and a parole violation. The jail is investigating the attack. Phelps says the county sheriff's office will investigate for the district attorney's office, which will decide charges.


Lawrence Church to Break Ground on New Building

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — A Lawrence church is breaking ground next month on a new multi-million dollar building. Lawrence television station 6 News reports that the groundbreaking for the new Lawrence Wesleyan church is planned for May 7. Lead Pastor Nate Rovenstine says the new facility will feature a 400-seat sanctuary and a larger youth area. He says the church has outgrown the former school building where the congregation has been meeting. The new building is expected to be complete next year. When the congregation moves into the new church, it will also usher in a new name, Connect Church. Rovenstine says the name "reflects who we are, who we want to be and who we're going to be in the future."


Man Charged in McPherson Homicide

MCPHERSON, Kan. (AP) — Police say a 25-year-old man is charged in connection with a McPherson homicide. Travis Belt is charged with first-degree murder in the Friday shooting of 58-year-old Steven Carlson, whose body was found in a house. Investigators say Belt was arrested early Sunday. Police said that Carlson was "specifically targeted," but they did not elaborate about a possible motive for the shooting. The Kansas Bureau of Investigation is assisting McPherson police.


Mild Kansas Winter Draws Oak Mites Out of Hibernation Early

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — A mild winter has drawn oak mites out of hibernation earlier than expected. Extension agent Dennis Patton tells KSHB-TV that the mites never did go fully dormant. He says there have been lots of reports of people getting bit while raking leaves and cleanup for spring. The fear is that the problem will get worse this fall. But he says other summer factors such temperatures and rainfall affect the pest's reproduction so it's difficult to say whether there will be another severe outbreak like last winter. He recommends people wear long sleeves and spray bug repellant to avoid being bit. Patton says there is no way to spray for the bugs because they can hide within the tree ridges.


Rains Help Winter Wheat, Delay Corn Planting in Kansas 

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Rainfall in central and eastern Kansas is greening pastures and helping winter wheat, but is delaying corn planting. Most western counties remain dry. That is the latest assessment Monday from The National Agricultural Statistics Service of crop progress in Kansas. The agency rated the state's winter wheat crop as 6 percent excellent, 45 percent good and 33 percent fair. About 16 percent is in poor to very poor condition. About 9 percent of the wheat has now headed. Kansas farmers have planted just 9 percent of their corn crop. That is well behind the 32 percent that was in the ground by this time a year ago. It is also behind the 18 percent average. Livestock producers are now 91 percent finished with calving and 96 percent done with lambing.


Kansas City Woman Pleads Guilty in Sham Marriage Scam 

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — A Kansas City woman pleaded guilty to entering a sham marriage with a man she thought was an African immigrant. The Kansas City Star reports that 22-year-old Stephanie Harris entered the plea Monday. She is the fifth person charged in the case to plead guilty to the conspiracy to circumvent U.S. immigration laws. The African citizens involved in the scheme were charged a total of $2,000 before and after the wedding. They then paid the spouses, who were U.S. citizens, $250 each month until the immigration process was completed. Federal court documents show Harris married a man in November 2015 who was an informant working for federal agents. The marriage was staged but Harris believed it was a valid marriage.


Kansas City-Area Teacher Accused of Sexual Misconduct

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) - A suburban Kansas City teacher is accused of sexual misconduct a dozen years ago with a male who was a teenager at the time. The Kansas City Star reports that Jackson County prosecutors charged 52-year-old James R. Green Jr. of Blue Springs with six felony counts of second-degree statutory sodomy. Green is a teacher and coach at Northgate Middle School in the North Kansas City School District. Court documents allege that the victim, now 27, was a Smithville High School student when he was sexually assaulted by Green starting in 2005. At the time, Green was a Blue Springs South High School teacher and swim coach. The North Kansas City School District says Green is on administrative leave.


Police Say 1 Dead in Wichita Shooting 

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Police say one person has died in a shooting in west Wichita. Wichita police identified the victim of Sunday's shooting as 56-year-old Stanislaus Saiz. Lieutenant Jeff Gilmore says police were called after a report of gunshots and a vehicle crashing into a building. He says emergency responders at first thought they were responding to a traffic accident but then realized the victim had been shot several times. Gilmore says Saiz was sitting in front of his vehicle when someone on foot fired shots into the car. Saiz tried to drive away but crashed into a building. He died at the scene. No arrests have been made. It was Wichita's 12th homicide this year and fourth in eight days.


Kansas Man Thrown from Motorcycle, Falls 90 Feet to Death 

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) — A 37-year-old Kansas City, Kansas, man fell about 90 feet to his death after he was thrown from his motorcycle and went over a bridge rail. The Kansas Highway Patrol says Casey Bezdek died in the crash Sunday afternoon near an exit on Interstate 70 in Kansas City, Kansas. The patrol says Bezdek was headed west on Interstate 70 when the rear tire of his 2014 Harley Davidson started to drift. He lost control and hit a concrete bridge rail, throwing him from the motorcycle and over the rail. l. Bezdeck was wearing a helmet and eye protection.


Children's Hospital in Kansas City Gets More 3-D Printers 

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — A children's hospital in Kansas City, Missouri, has approved the $300,000 purchase of a third, deluxe 3-D printer to crank out more models faster. Children's Mercy Hospital radiologist Neil Mardis said at a presentation Thursday that he thinks 3-D printing will be a routine tool in medicine within five years. The Kansas City Star reports that the hospital's journey in using the printers began two years ago when orthopedic surgeons told Mardis they wished they had a 3-D model of a patient's hip rather than 2-D scans. Mardis now oversees a lab with two 3-D printers with requests for models coming from a new surgeon almost every week. He says when the hospital gets the new printer he will be able to print organs like hearts and livers.


Missouri Lawmakers Consider More Protections for Student Journalists 

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Missouri lawmakers are working on legislation that would place stricter limits on what administrators are allowed to restrict in student publications. The Kansas City Star reports that the bill passed out of the House in March and now awaits debate in the Senate. The current law allows administrators to censor anything considered to be "sensitive." It was established by a landmark Missouri case that made it up to the U.S. Supreme Court. The 1988 Hazelwood decision determined that public school students do not have full First Amendment rights in school-sponsored publications. Republican Representative Kevin Corlew, of Kansas City, says the additional protections show student journalists that their rights matter. So far, at least 11 states, including Kansas, have adopted some form of additional protection for student journalists.


K-State Discussing Contract Extension for Hoops Coach Weber 

MANHATTAN, Kan. (AP) — Kansas State is discussing a contract extension for basketball coach Bruce Weber, who was thought to be on the hot seat last season before guiding the Wildcats back to the NCAA Tournament. University President Richard Myers said during a news conference Monday to introduce new athletic director Gene Taylor that he thought Weber was deserving of an extension. Weber has two years left on a deal that will pay him $2.15 million next season. Weber is 100-68 in five seasons with the Wildcats. Taylor was hired last week to replace John Currie, who departed for a similar role at Tennessee. It was Currie who hired Weber to replace Frank Martin and subsequently signed him to two contract extensions. Myers declined to discuss parameters of a contract extension.


Royals Top Angels 1-0 to Sweep Series

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — The Kansas City Royals' Alcides Escobar hit an RBI single in the ninth inning as the Royals edged the Los Angeles Angels 1-0 Sunday for their fourth straight win. Royals' starter Ian Kennedy pitched two-hit ball and struck out 10 over eight innings as Kansas City sent the Angels to their fifth loss in a row. Salvador Perez led off the ninth with a single against Blake Parker (0-1), and pinch runner Raul Mondesi stole second and went to third on a wild pitch. After pinch hitter Mike Moustakas walked, Escobar followed with his game-winner. Kansas City releif pitcher Kelvin Herrera (1-0) threw an eight-pitch flawless ninth. Cliff Pennington singled with two outs in the eighth for the Angels while L.A. left-hander Tyler Skaggs threw seven shutout innings, giving up four hits and striking out nine.


KU Freshman Josh Jackson Says He Is Entering NBA Draft 

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — University of Kansas freshman Josh Jackson has announced he will enter the NBA draft. Jackson, who released a statement on Monday, was the Big 12 Newcomer of the Year after averaging 16.3 points and 7.4 rebounds per game. He helped the Jayhawks to a 31-5 record and a berth in the NCAA Tournament's Elite Eight. The 6-foot-8 Jackson has signed with former NBA player B.J. Armstrong of Wasserman Media Group. Jackson arrived at KU after a stellar prep career in Detroit and Napa, California. He says in the statement that after "consulting with my family, I have decided to enter the 2017 NBA Draft and pursue my dream of playing professional basketball." He added that he was thankful for "all of the support I have received from my coaches and teammates at Kansas."


AAC-Bound Wichita St Aligns with Apparel Maker Under Armour 

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Wichita State has announced an eight-year deal with Under Armour for players to wear its apparel and use its equipment, a contract that coincides with the Shockers' move to the American Athletic Conference. The Shockers' high-profile basketball program had been aligned with Nike, but other programs had worn uniforms from other companies. The volleyball program, for example, wore Adidas last season. One of the benefits of the contract is to establish uniformity throughout the department. All teams will honor the terms of existing agreements, which means the basketball team will continue to wear Nike next season. It will begin wearing Under Armour gear for the 2018-19 season. Other AAC schools that wear Under Armour include South Florida, Cincinnati and Temple.


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