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Headlines for Monday, August 22, 2016

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

Kansas Labor Department Says State Lost 5,600 Jobs in July

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The July employment report is raising concerns in Topeka after the state Department of Labor reported the state shed 5,600 jobs last month. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports private-sector jobs fell by 4,600 jobs in July, with the biggest drop in professional and business services. For the year, Kansas has lost 700 private-sector jobs, despite assurances from Governor Sam Brownback that his tax cuts are working to improve the state's economy. The Department of Labor report says the state's unemployment rate rose to 4.1 percent in July, up from 3.8 percent a month earlier. The jobless rate is still better than the national mark of 4.9 percent, but the U.S. gained 255,000 jobs last month as a whole. A Labor Department economist says positive strides in the Kansas City area didn't offset statewide declines.


Kansas Officials Working to Change State Layoff Policy 

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Governor Sam Brownback's administration is working to overhaul Kansas employee layoff and rehiring protocol. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that the administration is working on adjustments that would restrict worker options for appealing regular job performance ratings and impose a cap on how much sick leave new retirees may donate to colleagues who are ill. Kansas Department of Administration officials say the proposed adjustments are necessary for the maintenance of a modern and efficient workforce in state government. A department spokesman says the changes have been in development since 2014. Rebecca Proctor, executive director of the Kansas Organization of State Employees, says the timing of the proposed adjustments appears to indicate the government is preparing for layoffs. The proposed changes will be open to public comment on September 27.


Thrill-Ride Accidents Spark New Demands for Regulation 

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — In some parts of the U.S., the thrill rides that whirl kids around are checked by state inspectors before customers climb on. But in other places, they aren't required to get the once-over. A boy's death on a Kansas water slide and a Ferris wheel accident that injured three girls in Tennessee have focused attention on what experts call an alarming truth: Regulation varies greatly by state. The industry has lobbied against federal oversight for decades. The Consumer Product Safety Commission doesn't regulate rides at permanent parks. It oversees only traveling carnival rides. Even then, federal investigators respond only after accidents. Whether a ride has to be inspected before thrill-seekers hop on depends on what state it's in. Mississippi, Alabama, Nevada, South Dakota, Wyoming and Utah have no laws at all requiring inspections.


Lesbian Methodist Pastor Agrees to Leave Kansas Church Post

EDGERTON, Kan. (AP) — A lesbian pastor will leave her post at the United Methodist Church in Edgerton at the end of August to avoid a church trial. Methodist officials and pastor Cynthia Meyer agreed in early August that she would give up her duties and go on involuntary leave beginning September 1st. Meyer came out as a lesbian to her congregation in January. At the time, she said she hoped the denomination was close to changing its ban on gay clergy. That didn't happen and a church trial was scheduled for August 24th to determine if she should be ousted. Under the agreement, Meyer can't be appointed as a pastor at any church but could be hired to perform functions similar to a lay staff person.


Volunteers Pitch In To Fix Kansas Town's Water Supply

CULVER, Kan. (AP) — After dealing with dirty tap water for years, residents of a tiny town in north-central Kansas have a new water treatment system thanks to some state and federal grants and thousands of hours of volunteer labor. Residents of Culver, a town of about 120 residents in Ottawa County, have long had to deal with murky water that didn't taste good. Tests revealed there was no health issue, just too much manganese and iron in Culver's two city wells. The Salina Journal reports Culver now has a new water treatment plant and a delivery system after residents put in more than a mile of water line and also helped with other related projects. City officials say volunteers put in about $157,000 in labor hours.


KCMO Chief Changes Community Policing Initiative

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) - The police chief in Kansas City, Missouri, says he's having all of his officers actively involved in the city's communities rather than just six designated officers. KMBC-TV reports that Chief Daryl Forte wrote in an internal letter accidentally given to some community leaders that it's time to reform the 25-year-old program under which a handful of officers make key connections in the community. Forte says he hopes the change reduces crime and the number of police calls by getting to what he calls the "root causes of some of these problems." But some leaders of neighborhood associations, while hoping the change works, worry that police department turnover and burdened officers could cut into the time police spend in the communities.


Kansas Seeking Federal Wine Label Designation 

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — This season's grapes from Kansas vineyards will soon be pressed, fermented and aged, but the bottles they'll be poured into won't have a key designation on the label that other wines in the country boast. The Lawrence Journal-World reports that wine producing regions are granted a government designation known as an American Viticultural Area designation. The wine industry in Kansas is still seeking its first designation. The Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau of the U.S. Treasury Department awards the AVA designations to applicants, recognizing wines made from grapes grown in a particular soil, climate, elevation and other factors. In the spring, Democratic state Senator Tom Holland co-sponsored a resolution in the Legislature, encouraging the state's Congressional delegation work with Kansas grape growers and winemakers petitioning for AVAs. Holland says there are no active applications at this time.


Kansas Man Gets Unusual Scholarship After Father's Death

JOPLIN, Mo. (AP) - A young Kansas man whose father was slain in 2008 is getting a help from an unusual source in paying tuition for his freshman year at a Missouri college. Colby Leeper of Wichita has received $1,500 from an organization run by death row inmates called Compassion, which distributes funds from donations and artwork sold by the prisoners. Leeper's father, 33-year-old Edward "Brian" Leeper Jr., was shot and killed in November 2008 in the parking lot of the Stratford House Inn in Wichita, where he had been staying. The Joplin Globe reports Josh Matchett was convicted of voluntary manslaughter and is serving a 20-year sentence. In addition to the Compassion scholarship, Leeper also is getting track-and-field and academic scholarships to attend Missouri Southern State University in Joplin, Missouri.


3 Dead, 1 Injured in Topeka Apartment Fire 

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Authorities say three people have died and another person has been hurt in a Topeka apartment fire. Topeka Fire Department Fire Marshal Mike Martin says the fire was reported around 8:20 am Monday at the three-story apartment building in the central part of the city. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that the fire was under control by around 9:30 a.m. Fire officials didn't immediately confirm any additional details. Most of the damage is on the backside of the building.


Kansas Town's Administrator, Ex-Chief Arrested 

HALSTEAD, Kan. (AP) — Authorities say an investigation of the 2,100-resident southern Kansas town of Halstead has resulted in the arrests of the city administrator and former police chief. City administrator James Hatfield is charged with one count of felony perjury. Former police chief Steven Lewis is charged with a felony count of misuse of public funds and two misdemeanor theft counts. Authorities say the arrests resulted from investigations by Harvey County's prosecutor and the Kansas Bureau of Investigation. No additional details were immediately available. Hatfield and Lewis do not have listed home telephone numbers and could not be reached Monday for comment.


Wrong-Way Driver Killed in Kansas I-70 Crash

PAXICO, Kan. (AP) — Authorities say a man driving the wrong-way in a freeway construction zone was killed when his pickup truck collided with a tractor-trailer. 33-year-old Christopher Frank of McFarland died after the crash early Sunday on Interstate 70 near Paxico. The Kansas Highway Patrol says Frank drove eastbound in the westbound lane, with construction in that area having reduced traffic to one lane. The trucker was treated a Topeka hospital, and a passenger in his semi rig wasn't hurt.


1 Dies in Crash on Turnpike in Southern Kansas

HAYSVILLE, Kan. (AP) — Authorities say one person has died in a crash on the Kansas Turnpike in the southern part of the state. KSNW-TV reports that a vehicle and pedestrian collided early Monday. The Kansas Turnpike Authority says the crash happened in the southbound lanes of Interstate 35 at a Haysville exit. No other information was immediately available.


Kansas Mom, Toddler Rescued from Tree After Flash Flood Hits 

ROSE HILL, Kan. (AP) — A Kansas mother who was caught in flash flooding says she is "blessed" after she and her 3-year-old son were rescued from a tree. The Wichita Eagle reports that 32-year-old Cassandra Phillips of Burlington pulled her toddler, Ethan, from his car seat Friday night after floodwaters rose around her minivan in rural Rose Hill, 10 miles southeast of Wichita. She spent an hour clinging to the tree limb with one leg while holding her son in the crook of her arm and talking to emergency dispatchers on her cellphone. The National Guard soldier and mother of three says she didn't mean to drive into a flood. She says the light was dim and that she was focusing on the "white lines of the road" when the van began floating.


Kansas Man's Body Found 3 Days After Being Swept Away by Flooding 

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Authorities say they've found the body of a man three days after he went missing after being swept away by floodwaters near Wichita. Butler County Sheriff Kelly Herzet says the body of 62-year-old Richard Lowery was found Monday in a field near a pond downstream from where he vanished after torrential storms dropped up to 7 inches of rain. Herzet has said Lowery and his son were in their pickup truck near a creek south of Rose Hill when they drove into water over the road and tried to back out. That's when Herzet says the truck got swept away. The son, 38-year-old Samuel Lowery, managed to escape the truck and floated to safety downstream. Lowery's pickup truck and some of his clothing already were found last weekend.


Kansas Man Drowns in Canoeing Accident 

ARKANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) — Officials in southern Kansas's Cowley County say a man drowned while canoeing in the Arkansas River Saturday. KAKE-TV reports that the name of victim near Arkansas City hasn't been released. Arkansas City's emergency medical services director says a group of at least 10 people was kayaking and canoeing when one boat overturned. Others in the capsized boat managed to swim to safety, but the victim did not survive.


Search Continues in Wichita for Suspected Drowning Victim

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — The search continues for a Wichita man whose pickup truck was swept away by floodwaters. Sixty-two-year-old Richard Lowery was swept away by strong currents after torrential storms dropped 7 inches of rain in southern Kansas on Friday night. Butler County Sheriff Kelly Herzet says Lowery and his son were in their truck when they drove into water on the road and tried to back out. That's when the truck got swept away into the creek. The son, 38-year-old Samuel Lowery, managed to escape the truck and floated to safety downstream. Lowery's pickup truck and some of his clothing have been found.


Trial Begins for Kansas Teen Charged in Deadly Fire

HUTCHINSON, Kan. (AP) - The trial is getting underway this (MON) morning for a Hutchinson teenager charged as an adult with setting a fire that killed his mother and sister. Attorneys will begin selecting jurors who will hear the case against 17-year-old Samuel Vonachen. He was 14 in September 2013 when he is accused of using gasoline to ignite his family's Hutchinson home, killing 11-year-old sister Audrey Vonachen and their mother, 47-year-old Karla Jo Vonachen. His father escaped. His defense attorneys say that he suffers from a "mental disease or defect" that prevented him from forming the intent or premeditation necessary for conviction. Opening statements and testimony are expected to begin Tuesday. Ten days have been set aside for the trial.


Police Release Names of 3 Kansas City Homicide Victims 

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Authorities have released the names of three men who were killed over the past week in Kansas City. Police said in a news release Monday that 54-year-old John Palmer, of Kansas City, was found dead Friday in a wooded area. Police also released the names of two Kansas City men who were killed Thursday in separate shootings as 18-year-old Tevin McCray and 19-year-old Davyon Coates. Coates was found dead in a parking lot after a shooting that left two other adults and a child wounded. McCray was found dead in a park after another man told police he shot the victim during an altercation. Authorities are urging anyone with information to come forward.


Live Grenade Found Before Car Towed in Kansas City 

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Authorities have found a live hand grenade while preparing an illegally parked car for towing. Police said in a news release that an explosive ordinance team was called Sunday after the grenade was found protruding from a velvet bag. The release said the explosive was removed from the scene, and the unregistered vehicle was towed. Police are urging anyone with information to come forward.


Body of Topeka Man Recovered in Lake Perry

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Authorities have recovered the body of a Topeka man who drowned while sailing alone on an eastern Kansas lake. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports the body of 46-year-old Jeff Miller was found Saturday morning in the northeast part of Lake Perry, west of Longview Park. Jefferson County Sheriff Jeff Herrig says Miller was last seen on his 26-foot sailboat. The Sheriff's Department and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers searched until about midnight Friday, then resumed the search Saturday. Herrig says his department was working with the Wildlife Department to investigate Miller's death.


Topeka Motorcyclist Arrested After High-Speed Chase

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A motorcyclist who fled from law enforcement at speeds over 130 mph has been taken into custody after a pursuit that ended at the man's home. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports the man was taken into custody Saturday after he went into his home as troopers in a helicopter watched from above. Kansas Highway Patrol Sergeant Mark Christesen says the chase began on Interstate 70 west of the Kansas Turnpike's east Topeka interchange, where the rider was clocked at 95 mph in a 55 mph zone. Officers on the ground backed off while the helicopter continued to watch as the Suzuki hit speeds in excess of 130 mph.


Kaine to Address Ironworkers Union, with Help from Dad

LAS VEGAS (AP) — Democratic vice presidential candidate Tim Kaine is set to try and shore up labor support with a little help from his dad. Tim Kaine will address the ironworkers' union annual convention in Las Vegas on Monday. He'll be accompanied by his father, Al Kaine, who owned a union-organized ironwork and welding shop in the Kansas City, Missouri, area where Tim Kaine grew up. Al Kaine held Iron Crafters for more than 20 years, and his three sons, including the Democratic candidate, often worked at the shop. Major unions have endorsed Tim Kaine's running mate, Hillary Clinton, but Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump hopes to win support from rank-and-file members. Trump has said Clinton is beholden to Wall Street, while his policies on trade and immigration would help the working class.


Royals Beat Twins 2-1 for Series Sweep

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Kansas City Royals' starting pitcher Danny Duffy won his 10th straight  game allowing one run and eight hits while walking two and striking out four in 6 2/3 innings. The Royals' Eric Hosmer doubled in the go-ahead run as the Royals beat the Minnesota Twins 2-1 Sunday for their eighth consecutive win. The Royals swept a four-game series from the Twins for the first time since 1999 and have their longest winning streak since August 11th, 2014. Duffy (11-1) improved to 5-0. His .917 winning percentage tops the majors. Duffy outpitched Twins right-hander Ervin Santana (6-10), who allowed two runs and five hits while striking out 10 and walking one over seven innings.


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