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Headlines for Monday, August 28, 2017

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

Federal Officials Investigating Death of Kansas Inmate

LANSING, Kan. (AP) — Federal officials are investigating the death of an inmate at the Lansing Correctional Facility. A Kansas Department of Corrections spokesman says that 56-year-old James Beeson died March 26th under circumstances that were "out of the ordinary." No further details, including how Beeson died, were provided. Beeson had eight convictions since December of 1998 for a variety of child sex crimes in Osage County. Leavenworth County Attorney Todd Thompson says the U.S. Attorney's Office is investigating Beeson's death. An autopsy is being conducted by the Leavenworth County coroner. The federal investigation into Beeson's death comes amid reports of several violent disturbances and staffing shortages at Lansing and other Kansas prisons.

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Pay Hike at Kansas Prisons Builds Pressure for Other Raises

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A move in Kansas to increase pay for corrections officers in prisons is building as state legislators consider raises for all state government workers. But lawmakers would have to figure out how to pay for the raises even after a significant tax increase this year. Budget director Shawn Sullivan told lawmakers that revenues must grow more quickly to sustain the spending lawmakers already have approved. Earlier this month, Governor Sam Brownback announced raises for uniformed officers following inmate disturbances at the prison in El Dorado. A state employees union had said that low pay made prison jobs hard to fill. Lawmakers in both parties say many state employees remain underpaid and they expect legislators to consider broad pay raises during their next session in January.

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New Kansas Casino Generates Less Revenue than Expected

PITTSBURG, Kan. (AP) — A new, state-owned casino in southeast Kansas is trimming the hours it runs table games and cutting staff after failing to generate as much revenue as expected. The Joplin Globe reports  that Kansas Crossing in Pittsburg was expected to rake in about $3 million monthly. In its first four months of operation, the casino has generated between $2 million and $2.4 million monthly. General Manager Doug Fisher says the casino has reduced hours to reflect customer interest and has laid off 10 employees out of about 400 staff members. Keith Kocher is the director of gaming facilities with the Kansas Lottery. He says casinos typically see revenue drop in the summer because regular customers are on vacation. Kocher says the state receives just over 20 percent of the casino's revenue.

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Westar and Great Plains Seek Merger Approval

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Westar Energy and Great Plains Energy have formally asked the Kansas Corporation Commission to approve a new merger proposal between the two utility companies. The companies submitted a new filing to the KCC seeking formal approval of a $14 billion merger. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports the merger request comes after the commission earlier this year rejected a proposal to allow Great Plains to buy Westar for $12.2 billion. The commission said the proposed sale price was too high and would leave the combined utility financially weaker than the separate companies. The new transaction would require no cash exchange and no debt for the companies. Great Plains Energy, the parent company of Kansas City Power & Light, is based in Kansas City, Missouri. Westar is the largest utility in Kansas.

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Kansas Congresswoman Jenkins Vents Frustration with Partisan Gridlock 

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) - U.S. Representative Lynn Jenkins says her frustration with partisan gridlock in Washington was one of the main reasons she decided not to seek re-election. Jenkins, a Republican, surprised many political observers when she announced in January that she would not seek any office in 2018. She was viewed as a potential candidate for governor after serving five terms in Congress. Jenkins told an audience in Lawrence that although Donald Trump was not her first choice for president, she believes he has a right to move forward with his agenda because he won. She says President Trump is capable of doing some good things for the country. She says she wishes the president would stop using Twitter but she doesn't expect him to change.

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Brownback Signs Disaster Declaration for 8 Counties

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Governor Sam Brownback has signed an emergency disaster declaration in response to strong storms that have hit the state this month. The declaration covers thunderstorms, hail and flooding that hit Kansas beginning August 3rd. Counties included in the declaration include Barber, Douglas, Franklin, Greenwood, Johnson, Miami, Seward, and Trego. Additional counties may be added after damage assessments are completed. The Kansas Division of Emergency Management is working with county emergency managers to gather more damage information to determine if federal disaster assistance can be sought.

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Suspect in Kansas Man's Murder Arrested in California 

TESCOTT, Kan. (AP) — The Kansas Bureau of Investigation says a suspect in the shooting death of a Kansas man was arrested in California after he reportedly stabbed a person on an Amtrak train. The KBI said in a news release Monday that 34-year-old Robert Colson, of Bucksport, Maine, was arrested Saturday in Martinez, California. He was being sought in the August 12 shooting death of Matthew Schoshke in Tescott, about 25 miles northwest of Salina. The KBI said Kansas authorities went to California last week after Schoshke's missing pickup was found in Los Angeles. A first-degree murder warrant was issued Friday for Colson. Colson was injured while trying to escape from an Amtrak train after a person was stabbed. The Ottawa County Attorney will pursue extradition once Colson is released from the hospital.

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Some Kansas City Area Neighborhoods Recover from Flooding 

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) — Some Kansas City area neighborhoods are recovering after weekend storms flooded some streets. The Kansas City Star reports that the Kansas City, Kansas, Fire Department responded to multiple vehicles caught in high water after downpours moved through the area late Sunday morning, dumping up to 3 inches in some areas. Mike Wilson was among the people wading through knee-deep water in one Kansas City, Kansas, neighborhood after he was told that his trailer had been inundated. Wilson said, "I didn't think it was going to be this bad." Police in nearby Merriam reported that there was a lot of water across the city's streets. Police urged drivers on Twitter to "Be safe, turn around and don't drown."

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Girl Drowns at Church Party for Middle-Schoolers 

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Wichita police say an 11-year-old girl's drowning during a church party for middle-schoolers was an accident. Police Lieutenant Jason Stephens identified the girl Monday as Shelby Cramb. She was with about 100 children and several adults Sunday attending a Pathway Church function at a private home. When the girl's parents arrived to pick her up, she couldn't be found. Her body was discovered in a nearby lake nearly three hours later. Shelby was a 6th-grade student at Maize Middle School. Counselors will be available for Maize school district students.

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Scientists Study Causes of Toxic Algae Blooms in Kansas

LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) — Scientists are working to get a better understanding of what causes toxic algae to flourish in some Kansas and Nebraska lakes. The federal Environmental Protection Agency says it will work with state officials to identify sources of water pollution and assess the toxic algae blooms. When algae flares up in lakes, health officials restrict access because contact with the water can cause illness. The EPA says it can be challenging for environmental managers to monitor sources of E. coli and algae blooms. The research will use an advanced monitoring technology to find sources of fecal contamination and  identify the species of bacteria that produce toxins and promote algae blooms in rivers and streams.

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Mental Competency Issue for Alleged Killer of Kansas Officer 

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) — A man suspected of killing a Kansas City, Kansas, police captain will undergo a third evaluation to determine if he is competent to stand trial. Defense attorneys for 21-year-old Jamaal Lewis sought the evaluation by a defense expert. Lewis already has been evaluated locally and at Larned State Hospital. The Kansas City Star reports District Judge Wes Griffin granted the defense request Monday. A status hearing is scheduled for October 5. Lewis is charged with capital murder in the July 2016 shooting death of Police Capt. Robert David Melton in Kansas City, Kansas. Melton was investigating a shooting when a man fired shots into Melton's patrol car, killing him.

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Ranger Finds Skeletal Remains at Melvern Lake Near Emporia

EMPORIA, Kan. (AP) — Authorities are working to identify skeletal remains that were found this weekend at Melvern Lake in eastern Kansas. A park ranger with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers found the remains on Friday night at the lake, which is northeast of Emporia, Kansas. The Osage County Sheriff's office and the Kansas Bureau of Investigation are working to identify the remains and determine how they arrived at the lake. Forensic experts from Washburn University are helping identify the remains.

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Man Killed, Suspect Arrested in South Wichita Stabbing
 
WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Wichita police say a 26-year-old man is in custody after a fatal stabbing. Lieutenant Jason Stephens says police were called to a home on the city's south side Sunday night. He says a 35-year-old man suffered several stab wounds and later died at a Wichita hospital. Witnesses told investigators the victim and suspect had a physical confrontation and at some point the suspect pulled out a knife and stabbed the man. The suspect was booked into jail on a possible second-degree murder charge. Stephens says the victim and the suspect did not know each other. The death was the 23rd homicide in Wichita this year.

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Farmers in Wheat Country Not Growing as Much Wheat

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — Many wheat farmers facing low prices have turned this year to other crops, including chickpeas and lentils, in hopes of turning a profit. This year's wheat crop of 45.7 million acres is the smallest since 1919 and it comes after a 2016 crop that was the least profitable in 30 years. Kansas and Nebraska are among the states with significantly fewer acres of wheat. The U.S. Department of Agriculture says acres planted in chickpeas, also known as garbanzo beans, are up nearly 86 percent from last year. Lentils reached a U.S.-record 1.02 million acres planted this year. Chickpeas are the main ingredient in hummus. Lentils are increasingly used in cereal and pasta as a way to boost protein and fiber.

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Kansas Farmer Prepares for Sunflower Field to Bloom 

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — An eastern Kansas farmer is hoping to attract visitors to his sunflower plot over Labor Day weekend. The Lawrence Journal-World reports that George Hunsinger has a 6-acre plot of sunflowers near Lawrence. The field attracted about 200 visitors in its first season last year. The field has gray mammoth sunflowers growing up to 12 feet tall, and Peredovik sunflowers growing up to 6 feet tall.Hunsinger says the mammoth sunflowers should be in full bloom by Labor Day weekend. Visitors are welcome to photograph the flowers for free and can take home a bloom for a suggested donation of $1 per flower. Hunsinger says the sunflower plot is mostly a hobby and that he focuses on rotating corn and soybean crops on his more than 300-acres of land. (To see a map of where the field is located, click here.)

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Indians Finish Series Sweep of Royals With 3rd Shutout 

CLEVELAND (AP) - Yan Gomes hit a grand slam to highlight Cleveland's nine-run second inning against two Kansas City rookie left-handers as the Indians completed a three-game shutout sweep over the Royals with a 12-0 win on Sunday. Cleveland's Carlos Carrasco (13-6) allowed six hits in seven innings as the Indians, who haven't given up a run in 28 innings, outscored the Royals 20-0 in the series. It's the first time Cleveland has posted three straight shutouts since 1956. Kansas City hasn't scored a run in 34 consecutive innings, a team record and the longest drought in the majors this season.
 

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