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Headlines for Monday, August 14, 2017

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

Roberts Defends Keeping Senate Filibuster to Constituents 

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — U.S. Senator Pat Roberts is defending the Senate filibuster rule amid some unusual backlash from his Republican House colleagues and constituents at a conference of independent oil and gas producers. But Roberts concedes Republicans may have to do away with it in order to pass their agenda. The sometimes testy exchanges Monday came at the convention of the Kansas Independent Oil and Gas Association. Representative Lynn Jenkins won scattered applause when she called for getting rid of the filibuster, saying Congress is "crippled" right now. Roberts says Republican control of the Senate can easily flip, noting he has been in the minority more often than he has been in the majority. Representative Kevin Yoder reminded people that health care repeal failed even though it only needed 51 votes to pass.

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Kansas Governor's Spokeswoman Resigns Ahead of His Departure 

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas Governor Sam Brownback's spokeswoman is stepping down within days, ahead of his anticipated departure. The Republican governor on Monday announced Melika Willoughby's resignation as communications director, effective Friday. She'll become vice president of communications and strategic development for Forge Leadership Network, which identifies and mentors young conservatives. Willoughby joined Brownback's office in 2014 as deputy communications chief. She's been part of his senior staff since November. Brownback is serving his second term and couldn't run again. But President Donald Trump has nominated to serve as U.S. ambassador-at-large for international religious freedom. Brownback hasn't set a date for his departure and the timing of a U.S. Senate vote on his nomination is uncertain. Rachel Whitten will step in for Willoughby while remaining the state Department of Revenue's public relations chief.

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Horn Selected to Fill Unexpired Kansas House Term 

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A northeast Kansas county's top environmental advocate has been chosen to complete the 13 months left of a state House term of a lawmaker who has resigned. The Lawrence Journal-World reports that Eileen Horn was elected to the House's 10th District seat during a special convention of the district's committee members Saturday at the Baldwin City library. The Lawrence-Douglas County sustainability coordinator was selected by an 8-2 vote over Brandon Holland, a 28-year-old University of Kansas student. Horn will complete the unexpired term of John Wilson, who resigned last month. Wilson announced his support for Horn before the convention and officially nominated her Saturday. The 10th District includes precincts in southeast Lawrence and southeast Douglas County, including Baldwin City.

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Cost of Jackson County Sexual Assault Prosecution Grows to $80K 

HOLTON, Kan. (AP) — The cost of prosecuting a Kansas man accused of sexually assaulting several women has grown to $80,000. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that Jackson County attorney Shawna Miller decided early this year to seek a special prosecutor because charges against Jacob Ewing continued to grow, exceeding her resources. Ewing has been convicted of raping two women and acquitted in the sexual assault of a 13-year-old girl. He's also awaiting trial on charges that include attempted rape and sexual exploitation of a child. The allegations have divided his hometown of Holton. Former Shawnee County chief deputy district attorney Jacqie Spradling originally contracted for $20,000. Records the newspaper obtained through a records request show that fee was increased by $60,000 in March. Three commissioners said in a statement that the fee was a "concern."

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Kansas Serial Killer Grissom Loses Disciplinary Appeal

EL DORADO, Kan. (AP) — A man imprisoned for killing three suburban Kansas City women nearly three decades ago has lost his disciplinary appeal. The Kansas City Star reports that Kansas Department of Corrections officials disciplined Richard Grissom Jr. for passing a sexually explicit note to a female corrections officer. Grissom is imprisoned at the El Dorado Correctional Facility for killing three young women who disappeared in June 1989.The bodies of Joan Butler, Christine Rusch and Theresa Brown have never been found. The now 56-year-old admitted to writing the note. But he said the officer had asked him to write it — something she denied. Grissom was sentenced to serve 30 days in segregation and fined $20. On Friday, a three-judge panel of the Kansas Court of Appeals denied Grissom's appeal of the disciplinary action.

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Judge Dismisses Gun Charge Against Man in Kansas Bomb Plot 

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A federal judge has thrown out one of the charges against a Kansas man accused of plotting to attack Somali immigrants in the meatpacking town of Garden City. U.S. District Judge Eric Melgren granted a defense motion to dismiss a firearms charge against Curtis Allen. The decision comes in the wake of a 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeal panel's ruling in May in an unrelated case that found that a person convicted of misdemeanor domestic battery under a city ordinance can legally carry a gun. Allen and co-defendants Patrick Stein and Gavin Wright still face charges of conspiring to detonate truck bombs at an apartment complex where Somali immigrants live. All three men have pleaded not guilty. Their trial is set for February 20.

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Authorities Probe Kansas Deaths of 3-Year-Old, Her Parents 

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — Authorities say they believe a man fatally shot a woman outside a Kansas home before killing their 3-year-old daughter and himself near wetlands roughly 10 miles away. The Douglas County Sheriff's Office said in a statement Monday the body of the woman, from Missouri, was discovered first about 1:30 p.m. Sunday on the driveway of a residence she had a connection to southwest of Lawrence. Law enforcement officers later found the girl and her 41-year-old father dead near the woman's vehicle at the Baker Wetlands. Authorities said without elaborating that the man and woman had previously been in a relationship. Investigators haven't determined how the man and the girl died, saying autopsies were pending. Identities of the girl or her parents were not immediately released.

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Kansas to Air-Condition Next Prison as Heat Becomes Concern

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas corrections officials expect the next prison built by the state to be fully air-conditioned, including the cells for inmates. They view climate control as a way to lessen problems with inmates and to help combat high employee turnover. Some lawmakers who don't want to coddle criminals also see a need to make corrections officers less miserable in the summer heat. Plans to air-condition the new prison in Lansing also come as a federal judge is forcing Texas to move hundreds of inmates sensitive to the heat to cooler areas. The union representing Kansas corrections officers considers the lack of air conditioning in parts of a maximum-security prison in El Dorado, east of Wichita, a contributing factor in inmate unrest there.

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Changes in Drone Business Take Off in Kansas 

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A group of young military veterans with background in unmanned aircraft thought their services would be in demand when they formed a company in Kansas in 2014 to operate commercial drones. The company, Blue Chip UAS, was the first company in the area to receive an exemption from the Federal Aviation Administration to legally operate commercial drones while waiting for the federal agency to develop regulations for the new industry. But three years later, changes in the drone industry led the group to put its activities on hold and those involved in the company have taken other jobs, The Wichita Eagle reported. Jim Ballard, a key investor in Blue Chip UAS, Ballard said he initially thought the FAA would have stricter rules for commercial drone operations that would require someone with experience in operating unmanned aircraft to help companies provide imaging, three-dimensional mapping and other aerial services to the agriculture, oil and gas, construction and filmmaking industries. Most of the contracts the company hoped to get didn't pan out, and companies that might have hired the group bought their own drones and trained their employees to fly them. 

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Irrigation Projects Aimed at Saving Water Supply in Kansas 

HUTCHINSON, Kan. (AP) — Irrigation projects that aim to improve Kansas's diminishing underground water supply will be showcased across the state this month. The Hutchinson News reports that the state's more than 15 Water Technology Farms will show farmers in western Kansas how to use less irrigation water on their crops. One technology is a precision mobile drip irrigation system that aims to increase efficiency. The first technology farms were implemented in 2016. They test the latest irrigation equipment on a large level. Governor Sam Brownback began working on a plan to preserve the state's water resources shortly after taking office. Irrigation wells are drawing water from the Ogallala Aquifer at a rate that could leave the aquifer 70 percent depleted by 2064. More than 95 percent of that water is used for irrigation.

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Kansas Authorities Look for Truck Linked to Rural Death

TESCOTT, Kan. (AP) — Kansas authorities look for a pickup truck that may be connected to a 35-year-old man's death. The Kansas Bureau of Investigation says it is trying to locate a silver 2006 Ford F-F150 truck that could be linked to the death of Matthew Schoshke in Ottawa County. Schoshke was found dead in in his home in Tescott on Saturday evening. Few details were released initially about the circumstances of his death. Investigators said Sunday they were looking for the truck with a license plate of 892-DZO.

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Powerball Jackpot Expected to Be $430 Million on Wednesday

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — The Powerball jackpot will continue to grow above $400 million this week because no one matched all the numbers in Saturday's drawing. Lottery officials estimate that the jackpot for the next Powerball drawing on Wednesday will be $430 million. The Powerball prize will be the only big lottery jackpot this week because someone who bought a ticket in Palos Heights, Illinois, won Saturday's $393 million Mega Millions jackpot. But remember that the odds of winning Powerball remain long at one in 292.2 million.

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Kansas Man, 19, Gets 13 Years in Sexual Attack on Woman

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A Wichita, Kansas, man has been ordered to spend more than 13 years in prison in connection with the sexual attack on a woman last year. Nineteen-year-old Amahri Huston was sentenced Friday in Sedgwick County, where he pleaded guilty in June. District Attorney Marc Bennett says Huston was armed with a knife last November 20 when he forced his way in to a 37-year-old woman's apartment in Maize and attacked her. Huston was arrested two days later, and the knife used to threaten the victim was found in his car.

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Appeals Court Upholds Nebraska Funeral Picketing Law

OMAHA, Neb. (AP) — A federal appeals court has agreed with a lower court's ruling upholding Nebraska's law requiring picketers to stay at least 500 feet from funerals. The U.S. 8th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that all speakers, including members of Topeka-based Westboro Baptist Church, have a constitutionally-protected right to express their beliefs at funerals. But the appeals court also said that those rights "are not absolute and some time, place or manner, restrictions are allowed."  Shirley Phelps-Roper, a prominent member of the church, sued in 2009, arguing that the Nebraska law is selectively enforced. The church protests at funerals throughout the country using anti-gay chants and signs because it believes God is punishing U.S. military members and others for defending a nation that tolerates homosexuality.

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Sex Offender Law Prompts Lawsuit Against KC-Area Sheriff's Office

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — A federal lawsuit filed against the Jackson County Missouri Sheriff's Office alleges that an initiative to arrest sex offenders near a Kansas City homeless shelter violates the organization's constitutionally protected rights of religious freedom. The suit, filed by the City Union Mission in downtown Kansas City, contends that the Jackson County Sheriff's Office is misinterpreting state law. The law prohibits some offenders from "loitering" within 500 feet of a public park that contains a pool or playground equipment. The suit argues that the law doesn't sufficiently define the term "loiter" and is too vague. The sheriff's office now says that the law applies to the charity's kitchens and shelters even though those buildings are being used for religious ministry.

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16-Year-Old is Running for Kansas Governor 

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A Kansas teenager who won't even be old enough to vote is running for governor. Jack Bergerson has officially filed to run as a Democrat for governor of Kansas in the 2018 election. The Wichita teen says he wants to give Kansas voters a chance to try something that's never been tried before. The Kansas City Star reports that Bryan Caskey, director of elections for the secretary of state's office, says Kansas doesn't set any qualifications to run for governor such as age, residency or experience. One of Bergerson's 17-year-old classmates, Alexander Cline, will run to be his lieutenant governor. 

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Royals Power Past White Sox, 14-6 

CHICAGO (AP) —  Royals' slugger Whit Merrifield hit a three-run homer and drove in a career-high five runs Sunday as the Kansas City Royals pounded the Chicago White Sox 14-6. Drew Butera had four of Kansas City's 16 hits, helping the Royals climb back over .500 at 59-58. Jorge Bonifacio hit his 15th homer, and Lorenzo Cain had two hits and two RBIs. Royals' starting pitcher Jason Vargas (14-6) worked six innings to match his career high for wins. The left-hander allowed three runs and six hits, struck out seven and walked two. The White Sox' Tim Anderson hit a two-run homer for Chicago, and Avisail Garcia added a two-run double.
 

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