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Headlines for Monday, August 25, 2014



Brownback Blasts Davis on Education Funding Vote

MERRIAM, Kan. (AP) _ Incumbent Republican Kansas Governor Sam Brownback says his Democratic challenger's opposition to a school funding bill this year shows that Paul Davis isn't the right person to lead the state. Davis responded on Monday that he voted against the education bill, which included an additional $129 million in school funding, because it also tied the new money to a measure eliminating some job protection rights for teachers. The Kansas City Star reports Brownback's comments came after an event in Merriam where he announced new educational goals for his second term. Davis pointed out that many moderate Republican lawmakers also opposed the bill because of the job protection issue. Brownback says local school districts are free to implement their own appeals process for teachers to replace the one the state eliminated.


Appeals Court Questions Proof-of-Citizenship Rules

DENVER (AP) -- A federal appeals panel in Denver has suggested that a partisan stalemate in Congress may mean that Republicans in Kansas and Arizona will be unable to force federal election officials to impose proof-of-citizenship requirements on voter registration forms. Those two states sued the Elections Assistance Commission after the agency refused to adjust the federal voting registration forms to reflect those states' requirements that voters prove they are citizens. A lower court found the commission needed to include the more stringent state language. But a three-judge panel of the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals noted today (MON) that Congress has not approved a single commissioner to sit on the commission in three years. The judges were skeptical the agency could decide whether to change the federal form, one way or the other, without any commissioners. That would leave Kansas and Arizona without a formal decision to challenge in court.



Wichita Woman Shot in Home Invasion

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) - Wichita police are searching for two men who they say are responsible for breaking into a woman's home and shooting her. Sgt. Ed Brower says the men entered the 25-year-old woman's Wichita home Saturday night. He says she was transported to the Wesley Medical Center in critical condition. Police say they're looking for a silver four-door car they suspect was a getaway vehicle. Nothing was reported stolen. Her condition was unclear early Monday.


2 Killed in Separate Kansas City-Area Shootings

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) - Police say two people were found dead within an hour in separate weekend shootings in the Kansas City metropolitan area. The first shooting happened at 1:18 a.m. on the Missouri side of the state line. Kansas City police identified the victim as 30-year-old Darrell Fennell but released few other details. Around 2:30 a.m. in Kansas City, Kansas, officers found the second victim while checking on the welfare of a person lying outside. Police said the male victim was in his late teens and had died from an apparent gunshot wound. His name was not immediately released. Police have no suspects in either case.


3.0 Earthquake Reported in Southern Kansas

AUGUSTA, Kan. (AP) - The U.S. Geological Survey says a 3.0 magnitude earthquake shook parts of southern Kansas. The quake was recorded Sunday evening about eight miles northwest of Harper. It had a depth of 8.7 kilometers. There were no reports of damage or injuries.


Father of Slain Ottawa Man Describes Police Shooting

OTTAWA, Kan. (AP) - The foster father of an 18-year-old man killed by Kansas officers says his son was approaching authorities when he was fatally shot. William Bruton tells KAKE-TV that Joseph Jennings was shot in his chest and legs Saturday night. Witness Houston Harris says officers had their weapons drawn and told Jennings to "get down." Ottawa police say officers and deputies with the Franklin County Sheriff's Office responded to reports of someone with a gun in a hardware store parking lot. It's unclear if Jennings was armed. Jennings's aunt previously said he suffered from depression and likely antagonized police in an effort to get them to shoot him. The Kansas Bureau of Investigation is reviewing the shooting. The officers have been placed on administrative leave.


Douglas County and Delaware Tribe Discuss Options for Vacant Land

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) - Douglas County officials and leaders with the Delaware Tribe of Indians will meet twice this week to consider what to do with 90 acres the tribe owns in northern Lawrence. The two sides aren't saying exactly what they'll discuss. However, Nancy Thellman, chairwoman of the Douglas County Commission, says they will not discuss putting an Indian casino on the land, which is near the North Lawrence interchange. The Lawrence Journal-World reports Thellman previously has said she favors putting an agricultural project on the property, which used to house the Pine Sod Farm. She said that could include a demonstration farm, living history farm or a vegetable farm. Tribal officials have said they prefer a project that includes housing, medical and educational services for American Indians.


Gang Targets Kansas City in Counterfeit Check Scheme

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) - Kansas City plays a central role in a gang scheme that hires homeless people to cash counterfeit checks. An Olathe, Kansas, convenience store manager was cleaning up his trash bins in October 2011 when he noticed a large amount of what appeared to be stolen mail. The Kansas City Star reports that the resulting inquiry into mail thefts at 20 Johnson County, Kansas, businesses led to a national bank fraud investigation. About half of the 60 people prosecuted nationwide for hiring homeless people to pass counterfeit business checks have been charged in Kansas City and Springfield. Assistant U.S. Attorney John Cowles says the scheme has cost Kansas City area banks about $1 million in recent years. He calculated the loss nationwide at more than $10 million

Kansas Considers Easing Protection of Snake Species

GREAT BEND, Kan. (AP) - State officials are considering easing regulatory protection of a nonvenomous snake. The redbelly snake is a short, reclusive snake found in northeast Kansas. Some Johnson County officials have complained that its designation as a threatened species has held up developments. When a species is listed as threatened, developers must obtain permits and take steps to reduce the harm caused by their projects. A task force that included the endangered species program coordinator for the Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism recommended that the snake remain listed as threatened. But the department's secretary, Robin Jennison, is recommending downgrading it to a "species in need of conservation," which would provide the snake less protection. A department commission is expected to take action in October.


Kansas Town Loses Bid for New Trial over Pollution

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) - A southeast Kansas town has lost its latest bid to retry a class-action lawsuit claiming BP of North America should do more to clean up industrial pollution from a refinery that closed in 1970. The Kansas Court of Appeals on Friday rejected the request from residents and officials of Neodesha, who sued in 2004 for more than $478 million in cleanup costs plus damages. A jury ruled for BP in 2007, but the trial judge later set the verdict aside, concluding he gave jurors improper instructions. The Kansas Supreme Court reinstated the jury's verdict in 2012, prompting the plaintiffs to file for a retrial. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports the Court of Appeals acknowledged problems with the first trial but said it found no reason for a new one.


Kansas Man Killed by Falling Tree Branch

EMPORIA, Kan. (AP) — An eastern Kansas man has died after being hit by a tree branch while putting out a small fire caused by lightning. Radio station KVOE reports that the accident happened in rural Emporia around 9:30 am Monday. Lyon County Sheriff Jeff Cope says 49-year-old Gary Fuller and 86-year-old Kenny Fuller were both hit by a large branch that fell from about 30 feet up. Gary Fuller suffered critical injuries and was pronounced dead at Newman Regional Hospital. The sheriff says lightning had set fire to grass around the tree. The men were pouring water on the grass when a gust of wind sent the branch crashing down.


Refinery Expansion Boosts McPherson's Economy

MCPHERSON, Kan. (AP) - An oil refinery's $555 million expansion project is proving to be a boost to McPherson's economy. The National Cooperative Refinery Association oil refinery is replacing its coker, which converts some residual oil into higher-value products. The project has brought cranes, one as high as 530 feet tall, to the city's skyline. NCRA spokesman Vince Bengston says the project should conclude by late September. McPherson Chamber of Commerce executive director Jennifer Burch says the project brought more than 1,000 people to McPherson, which is also benefiting surrounding communities because there isn't enough housing in McPherson. The Hutchinson News reports that later this year, NCRA plans to shut down the refinery to clean it, which Burch said will bring another 2,500 people to the area.


Emporia State Modernizing Engraving Program

EMPORIA, Kan. (AP) - A fine-arts degree program that Emporia State University says is unique in the country is being enhanced with a gift from the company that helped start the program. The university partnered with Emporia-based Glendo Corp. in 2005 to establish a four-year degree program in engraving arts. Glendo produces a range of engraving tools that are sold in more than 100 countries. Glendo is now donating $100,000 to equip a new classroom at Emporia State with a high-powered microscope, a custom bench and state-of-the-art pneumatic engraving tools. The gift will be celebrated Sept. 2 at the university's King Hall. Emporia State said in a news release that eight students have graduated from the engraving program since it was launched in 2006, and six are currently enrolled


Kansas Democrats Rally to Gain Voters

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Democrat Paul Davis says his party in Kansas needs not just Democratic voters but also independent and Republican supporters in order to win in the November elections. Davis tells The Associated Press that his campaign to unseat Republican Governor Sam Brownback is focusing its resources on identifying those voters and getting them out to the polls for the general election. He says Democrats running for other statewide races are also seeing some significant Republican support in their campaigns. Davis made his comments ahead of his speech at the Kansas Democratic Party's annual Demofest convention in Wichita. Republicans enjoy a nearly 20-percentage point advantage in voter registration in Kansas, and Democrats are trying to tap into grass-roots opposition to the Brownback administration to retake the governor's mansion and other statewide offices.


Probation Decision Coming for KC Bishop Finn

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — A judge is expected to decide soon whether to dismiss probation for the highest-ranking U.S. church official convicted of a crime related to the child sexual abuse scandal. The Kansas City Star reports that Jackson County Prosecutor Jean Peters Baker filed a probation status report for Bishop Robert Finn on Friday. Finn leads the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph. He was convicted in September 2012 of one misdemeanor for failing to report child abuse suspicions. While offering no opinion on whether probation should be dismissed, Baker did praise two diocese employees' efforts to keep the diocese in compliance with the terms of the probation. Jackson County Circuit Judge John Torrence in Missouri will review the report before ruling on Finn's probation. It's set to expire September 5th.


Man Found Dead Under Mower in Hutchinson

HUTCHINSON, Kan. (AP) — An 86-year-old man has died in a mowing accident in Hutchinson. The Hutchinson News reports that Harold E. Swanson of Hutchinson died Friday. Patrol Captain Darrian Campbell said Swanson had been using a mower pulled behind a tractor to cut grass when he took a "not normal" path that ended in the middle of the yard. Campbell says there were cuts on Swanson's body from the mower blades, and it appeared he was dragged under it somehow. He said it would take a few weeks until autopsy reports confirm or narrow down the possibilities of the cause of death. Swanson's relatives were early settlers in Reno County, and he was a well-known farmer in the Hutchinson area.


Murder Charge Dropped in Wichita-Area Killing

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Prosecutors have dropped a second-degree murder charge in the shooting death of a man whose body was found in a ditch north of Wichita. The Wichita Eagle reports that 23-year-old Antonio Bell remains jailed in Sedgwick County on an unrelated drug case. It isn't immediately clear who is representing him. He was charged with killing Deandre Freeman Jr., whose body was discovered near Kechi last September. Sedgwick County District Attorney's Office spokesman Dan Dillon said in a written statement that the murder case was "dismissed without prejudice" but he would not give further details. A case that is dismissed without prejudice can be filed again at a later date. The Sedgwick County Sheriff's Office has said that Freeman and Bell were documented gang members and knew one another.


Tests Requested on Trailer Involved in Fatal Crash

GREAT BEND, Kan. (AP) _ Police in Great Bend want to know why a trailer that killed a Hutchinson couple on a motorcycle came loose from the truck that was pulling it. The Wichita Eagle reports that the ball and hitch being used in pulling the trailer will be sent to a lab for special testing. Reno County jail deputy Shawn Schellenger and his wife, Danielle, died August 16 when the 6-by-12-foot trailer detached from the pickup truck and hit their motorcycle just outside Great Bend. The trailer was hauling a lawn mower. Great Bend police Lieutenant Bill Browne told The Eagle investigators want to see the wear and tear on the ball and hitch. Browne says the Barton County prosecutor requested more follow-up in a meeting last week.


New App Helps Addicts Stay in Recovery

SALINA, Kan. (AP) — A new phone app is helping some central Kansas addicts stay sober and away from drugs. The technology is from the Addiction Center of Health Enhancement System Studies at the University of Wisconsin in Madison. It allows people to quickly contact support when they are facing a crisis or considering falling off the wagon. One user, 28-year-old Jerry Hassler, says the app is like having an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting on your phone. The Salina Journal reports the nonprofit Central Kansas Foundation used a $23,800 grant from the Kansas Health Foundation to subscribe to the program. It can sign up to 100 clients. Currently, 54 of group's 197 clients from Salina, McPherson, Abilene and Junction City are using the app, and another dozen are about to join.


Colorado Marshal Can't Adjust to High Altitude


NEDERLAND, Colo. (AP) — Nederland, Colorado's town marshal says he is resigning after just six months because he can't adjust to the altitude. The Daily Camera reports Monday that Jim Matheney wanted to dispel rumors, including one claiming he left the job in the quirky town just west of Boulder because of a space alien attack. Matheney, a former police captain in suburban Detroit, says he left because he could not acclimate to the 8,400-foot altitude. Paul Carrill, a former Kansas City, Missouri, sheriff's commander, is interim marshal. The town, which has five officers and a sergeant, is also known for its Frozen Dead Guy Days festival, celebrating the corpse of a man who hoped to one day be revived.



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