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Headlines for Monday, July 14, 2014


Santorum Joins Brownback for Kansas Rallies

OLATHE, Kan. (AP) — Kansas Governor Sam Brownback is working to energize his conservative Republican political base with events featuring former GOP presidential candidate Rick Santorum. Santorum called Brownback a warrior for conservative social and fiscal ideas during a rally Monday in Olathe. Santorum, a former Pennsylvania senator, says the governor's race in Kansas shouldn't be close because of Brownback's small government, low-tax philosophy and his opposition to abortion and gay marriage. Santorum ran unsuccessfully for the Republican presidential nomination in 2012. Brownback casts the race between him and Democrat Paul Davis as a choice between Ronald Reagan-style conservatism and Barack Obama-style liberalism. The Davis campaign issued a statement saying it's looking for moderate, common sense policies. Brownback also faces Wichita landscaping business owner Jennifer Winn in the August 5 Republican primary.


Hispanic Population Behind Boom in Kansas School Enrollment

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A new report says increased enrollment in Kansas schools is being driven by births in the Hispanic population. The report by the Kansas Association of School Boards predicts that within five years, Kansas public school enrollment will reach 500,000 for the first time since 1970. The report's author, Ted Carter, says most of the increase is because of births among Hispanics, not migration into the state. The Lawrence Journal-World reports total student enrollment has been growing steadily since the 2006-2007 school year. But without the growth among Hispanics, total enrollment would have been declining since the late 1990s. Carter estimates that in five years, Hispanics will make up 22 percent of the total student body in Kansas, an increase from less than 5 percent in the early 1990s.


Kansas Begins Distributing Withheld Tax Refunds

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The state is now distributing about 20,000 tax refunds that were frozen for two weeks at the end of the last fiscal year. With the new fiscal year beginning July 1, the Kansas Department Revenue sent 19,091 refunds to the Kansas Department of Administration for payment. Jeannine Koranda, spokeswoman for the revenue department, says most Kansans who didn't get their refunds should have received them by now or will receive them soon. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that the 20,000 returns were put on a "work list" because of edits or errors. Koranda stressed that the number of returns on the list changes because her department receives tax returns well after the April 15 deadline. She says the department received more than 130,000 returns since May 15.


4 Measles Cases Traced to Wichita Restaurant

WICHITA, Kan. — State and local health officials in Kansas are trying to contain a measles outbreak that started in May in the Kansas City area, and has since spread to Wichita. Health officials say there have been nine case in Kansas, so far. Six of them in the Wichita area. The four newest cases are all linked to Sal's Japanese Steakhouse, in Wichita. The Kansas Department of Health and Environment says an employee of the restaurant was connected to the outbreak in Kansas City. Two other employees also became infected later. The fourth case is in an unvaccinated baby whose only known exposure was through the restaurant. Health officials say anyone who was at the restaurant on any of seven days from mid-June through the first week of July could have been exposed. Tell-tale symptoms of measles are fever and a blotchy rash. The Sedgwick County Health Department is advising anyone with these symptoms to call ahead before seeking health care. That will give the provider a chance to take precautions to prevent the spread of the highly-contagious respiratory disease. Measles cases have been rare in the U.S. since indigenous measles were declared eliminated in the country in 2000. KDHE says there has been a resurgence in cases this year, with 554 confirmed in 20 states through July 3.


Kansas Board of Pharmacy Seeks to Track Cough Syrup Ingredient

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The Kansas Board of Pharmacy wants an ingredient used in prescription cough syrup to be tracked by the state because it's being abused. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that Debra Billingsley, executive secretary of the board of pharmacy, told lawmakers Monday that promethazine with codeine syrup is being increasingly abused as a recreational drug, particularly by high school students. She says when it's mixed with soda or candy the mixture is often called by several slang names, including purple drank and sizzurp.If it's added to the Kansas Tracking and Reporting of Controlled Substances program, promethazine with codeine would join dozens of substances that pharmacists track and law enforcement can access with a search warrant. Billingsley says officials recommended tracking the substance because of how quickly the mixture is selling.


Wrong Way Crash Kills 3 Near Wichita

BENTON, Kan. (AP) — A south-central teenager and two adults have died after collision involving a driver going the wrong way on a state highway. The Kansas Highway Patrol identified the victims of Sunday's accident as 16-year-old Dominic Stolfi of Benton, 27-year-old Lisa Hardy and 52-year-old Nancy Ross, both of Potwin. The patrol says a car driven by Stolfi was traveling west in the eastbound lanes of Kansas 254 near the Butler/Sedgwick County line. A car driven by Hardy tried to swerve out of the way but was hit by Stolfi's car. Ross was a passenger in Hardy's car.


2 Kansans Infected with Chikungunya Virus

MANHATTAN, Kan. (AP) — A mosquito-borne illness that a top Kansas State University researcher says can knock people down for weeks or months at a time has come to Kansas but usually isn't fatal. Stephen Higgs, director of the university's Biosecurity Research Institute, is a world expert on the chikungunya virus. The Wichita Eagle reports the name is an African Makonde word that means "to bend up," with intense joint and body pain. About 100 people in the United States have contracted the illness, most while traveling. Kansas Department of Health and Environment officials say they include two people from Sedgwick County who recently traveled separately to the Caribbean. The danger here will be if infected travelers come home, get bitten, and infect local mosquitoes that could then spread the illness widely.


Analysis: Kansas Gun Suit Recalls Brown Aftermath

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A national gun control group is trying to bolster its legal and public case against a Kansas law challenging federal firearms regulations by arguing that it revives an old, discredited states-rights doctrine. The Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence's linking of Kansas' gun-rights policy to the rhetoric of Southern segregationists is particularly striking because Topeka is home to a national historic site commemorating the 1954 U.S. Supreme Court decision declaring segregated schools unconstitutional. The Brady Campaign filed a federal lawsuit last week against a 2013 state law declaring that the federal government has no authority to regulate guns manufactured, sold and kept only in Kansas. Brady officials argue that it is an unconstitutional attempt to nullify federal laws. Supporters of the law accuse the Brady group of political grandstanding.


Swiss Chocolate Company Buying KC's Russell Stover

GENEVA (AP) — Swiss chocolate maker Lindt & Spruengli says it is buying U.S. manufacturer Russell Stover Candies, Inc., for an undisclosed sum. Lindt CEO Ernst Tanner said Monday that the purchase provides "a unique opportunity for us to expand our North American chocolate business." The company says the deal will make it the No. 3 chocolate manufacturer in North America. Russell Stover, which also owns the Whitman's brand, is based in Kansas City, Missouri, and has four factories — in Kansas, Texas and Colorado. It has about 2,700 employees and annual sales of around $500 million.

Former Bank Employee Sentenced for Embezzlement

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A 42-year-old Neosho County woman has been sentenced to about a year in federal prison for embezzling more than $278,000 from a bank branch and two customers. The office of U.S. Attorney for Kansas said in a release Monday that Sherrie Landell of Erie, Kansas pleaded guilty to one count of embezzlement by a bank employee and admitted that from September 2007 to May 2013 she embezzled from Exchange State Bank. She worked at the bank's branch in St. Paul, Kansas. Landell's also accused of fraudulently altering the bank's records to conceal the crime. The prosecutor's office says the shortage was discovered during a bank regulatory exam and subsequent audit in 2013.

Minnesota Investigating Foodborne Illness Outbreak, Possibly Linked to Applebee's

ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) — Minnesota health officials are investigating an outbreak of E. coli infection, with some of the cases traced to eating at Applebee's restaurants. The Minnesota Department of Health said Monday it is investigating 13 cases of the foodborne illness. Seven of the people infected reported eating at Applebee's restaurants in Minnesota between June 24 and 27. But health officials say there are multiple cases with no apparent connection to the restaurant. Applebee's is cooperating with the investigation and has voluntarily temporarily removed its Oriental chicken salad from menus at all of its Minnesota restaurants. Symptoms of E. coli infection include stomach cramps and diarrhea. Four of the 13 people who became ill were hospitalized, and all have recovered or are recovering. Kansas City-based Applebee's has 58 restaurants in Minnesota.


Feds to States: Find Way to Clear Medicaid Backlog

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — A half-dozen states with Medicaid backlogs are facing a federal deadline to create a plan for getting those low-income residents enrolled in health coverage. The request comes months after the first national sign-up drive under President Barack Obama's health reform law. The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services sent letters last month to Alaska, California, Kansas, Michigan, Missouri and Tennessee asking those states to address gaps in their eligibility and enrollment systems that have delayed access to coverage for the poor and disabled people. The letters said the states had until Monday to respond. Officials from California, Alaska and Michigan say they are working on their plans. In California, health care advocates say the backlog is preventing some people from accessing the treatment they need.


Victim Identified in KCK Fire

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) — Police in Kansas City, Kansas have identified a 53-year-old woman who died in a recent house fire. Police on Monday said Carole Young died at a hospital after firefighters found her Thursday night inside the burning home. The Kansas City Star reports that fire officials haven't said how the fire started. The blaze caused about $35,000 in damage to the house and its contents.


Wichita Tops Abandoned Homes List

ST. LOUIS (AP) — Wichita tops a list of of cities with the most abandoned homes in foreclosure. The top 10 was compiled by RealtyTrac, a real estate information company. The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports that Wichita had the highest rate in the nation at 49 percent, with 146 abandoned homes in foreclosure. The Kansas City metropolitan area qualified for fourth place in the RealtyTrac list with 305 vacated foreclosures, or 36 percent of its foreclosed properties.


Kansas Couple Seeking to Resolve Theft Charges

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — One Kansas parent has reached a deal to avoid trial for stealing thousands of dollars from a Topeka elementary school's parent-teacher organization, and her husband is working to land a similar agreement. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports Ben and Jamie Chestnut face a total of five felony charges accusing them of stealing $5,000 from the Avondale West Parent-Teacher Organization. Jamie Chestnut has agreed to pay restitution and follow a number of other stipulations for two counts of forgery and one count of theft by deception. Ben Chestnut, the group's former treasurer, is seeking a similar agreement on charges of theft by deception and making false information. The revelation in April 2013 that the money was missing from the PTO's bank account nearly derailed year-end plans for a carnival.


Documents Detail KC Effort to Land GOP Convention

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Site selection officials for the 2016 Republican National Convention were impressed with Kansas City's ability to raise nearly $20 million in cash commitments, but documents show a lack of luxury suites at the Sprint Center for high-dollar donors played a big role in the decision to go elsewhere. Kansas City pledged up to $7 million to add a dozen suites to the downtown venue and provide millions of dollars in other incentives, but Republicans chose Cleveland to host their convention. The Kansas City Star examined more than 5,000 pages of convention-related documents providing details of the effort to bring the GOP convention to the city. Among its findings were that taxpayers put up more than $250,000 for the recruitment effort, while Kansas pledged $3.3 million toward the event.


Police: Kansas City Homicide Rate Down in 2014

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Kansas City is on track for its lowest annual homicide rate in more than 40 years. The Kansas City Star reports that there have been 34 homicides in the first six months of the year. Police say killings are down 31 percent from last year and the city is on pace for its lowest annual homicide total since 1967. Police Chief Darryl Forté says he is satisfied with the progress but the death count is still too high. The drop follows sweeping reorganization within the department and new community efforts to deter violence. Kansas City, Kansas has the same number of homicides as it did at this point last year. There have been 16 reported.


4th District Primary Draws Koch Interest

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A bitterly contested Republican congressional race unfolding in south-central Kansas is testing the political influence of big corporate money in the backyard of two billionaire brothers who have poured millions into races across the nation. The 4th District GOP primary August 5 pits U.S. Representative Mike Pompeo of Wichita against the popular conservative Republican who previously held that position. Former congressman Todd Tiahrt, also from Wichita, gave up the House seat in 2010 in an unsuccessful primary run for the U.S. Senate. Tiahrt's primary challenge comes in the home district of Charles and David Koch, who have sent much of their personal fortunes to a network of conservative organizations nationwide. Koch Industries' employee political action committee, KochPAC, supports Pompeo and has given him the maximum allowable amount.


K-State Sets Record with $211 Million in Donations

MANHATTAN, Kan. (AP) — Kansas State University says it received $212 million in gifts and commitments for the fiscal year that ended June 30. The university said in a news release Monday that the total broke last year's record of $152 million. It also was the first time in the 70-year history of the Kansas State University Foundation that giving surpassed $200 million. The donations include $89 million in endowed funds, which are primarily used for student scholarships, faculty chairs and professorships. University president Kirk Schulz said in the statement the record amount of endowed funds would help the school become a Top 50 public research university by 2025. The statement says 63 percent of the $211 million is available for immediate use, with the rest in pledges and deferred gifts.


Kansas Man Accused of Killing Girlfriend's Fetus

WAKEENEY, Kan. (AP) — A 30-year-old northwest Kansas man is accused of killing his girlfriend's unborn child by crushing an abortion-causing medication over a pancake she ate. The Salina Journal reports 30-year-old Scott Bollig of WaKeeney was bound over for trial after a two-day preliminary hearing this week on charges of first-degree murder and aggravated battery. Prosecutors say that after Naomi Abbott lost her baby on January 31, doctors found traces of mifepristone in the woman's blood. WaKeeney Police Chief Terry Eberle testified on Thursday that Bollig admitted lacing food he served to Abbott with an abortion-inducing drug he bought over the Internet. Bollig's attorney questioned whether investigators had coerced Bollig into making those statements, or if they had properly read him his rights.


New Joplin High School Ready to Open

JOPLIN, Mo. (AP) — Joplin school superintendent C.J. Huff says he expects the district's new high school to be ready to open for the school year on August 25. Construction is on the fast track to replace the high school destroyed by the May 2011 tornado. Mike Johnson, the district's construction director, says the four, three-story wings that hold most of the classrooms are finished. Furniture has been delivered and crews are working hard to finish hallways that connect the four wings. Johnson says most of the Franklin Technology Center is finished, and some of the programs' large equipment will be moved in next week. The Joplin Globe reports the auditorium will not be completed when school begins, but that had been expected all along.


Cliff Pushing Trial Starts for Retired Kansas Teacher

CAMDEN, Maine (AP) — A retired Kansas schoolteacher accused of pushing his wife off a cliff in Maine is going on trial on attempted murder charges. Jury selection begins Monday in Rockland in the case of 71-year-old Charles Black, who now lives in Salt Lake City. Both Black and his wife were former Johnson County teachers. He is also charged with two counts of elevated aggravated assault and three counts of aggravated assault. Prosecutors say Charles Black tried to kill Lisa Black by hitting her on the head with a rock before pushing her off Maiden Cliff in Camden Hills State Park in April 2011. Law enforcement officials say there was a dispute over a $4 million inheritance from Lisa's father. Lisa Black survived after falling a short distance and sought help. Black is banned from staying in town during the trial.


2 Die While Fleeing on Stolen Motorcycle

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Wichita police say two people died when the stolen motorcycle they were riding collided with a vehicle. Police identified the dead on Monday as Matthew K. Tanges and Angela M. Watson, both 26. Wichita police Lieutenant Todd Ojile said a Sedgwick County sheriff's deputy was following the motorcycle late Sunday but was not actively pursuing it. The speeding motorcycle ran a stop sign and a light before hitting the vehicle. Tanges and Watson were thrown off the motorcycle and later died at a Wichita hospital. The driver of the car was not injured. Ojile says the motorcycle was stolen last week. The Wichita Eagle reports that Department of Corrections records indicate Tanges was convicted of fleeing/attempting to elude law enforcement three times since 2006.


Developer Seeks Tenants for Vacant Halstead Hospital

HALSTEAD, Kan. (AP) — A developer who has owned the vacant Halstead Hospital and Hertzler Clinic for eight years says he's still determined to find a use for it. The 265,000-square-foot complex has sat nearly empty in the center of Halstead since it closed in 2002. Since he bought it 2006, Azzy Reckess has been working to find a tenant. Currently, only a call center employing 70 people uses the building. Reckess, president of PAZ Health Care Management in Poughkeepsie, New York, says changes in state and federal health care system regulations hurt his efforts to find more tenants. The Wichita Eagle reports that another obstacle is the $440,000 in back taxes Reckess owes. Reckess recently brought in medical real estate redeveloper Cindy Ogden to find a way to reopen the building.

Roundup-Resistant Weeds Trouble Midwestern Farmers

ELSBERRY, Mo. (AP) — The emergence of weeds resistant to a popular herbicide is causing headaches for Midwestern farmers, forcing them to change how they manage weeds after years of spray-it-and-forget-it simplicity. Weed experts say half the nation's farmland is dealing with the problem in some form or other. That includes farmers in Kansas and Missouri who have encountered half a dozen different species immune to glyphosate, the generic name for Monsanto's wildly popular herbicide Roundup. Farmers are increasingly coming across aggressive varieties of superweeds that can't be killed by the herbicide that revolutionized modern farming. The problem comes from using the same herbicide over and over on the same field with the same crop.


Work Begins on Salina Research Center

SALINA, Kan. (AP) — Construction is underway in Salina on a new research center devoted to the science of moving and mixing bulk solids such as pellets, granules, powder and grain.The Salina Journal reports the Kansas State University Bulk Solids Innovation Center will be among only a few in the world. It's a partnership of the city, the university and two Salina-based companies that design and make equipment for handling bulk materials. Speakers at Thursday's groundbreaking for the 17,000-square-foot building said they've already heard interest from some of the nation's largest manufacturers in having their problems researched at the center. Such problems could occur at a bread factory that mixes flour, yeast, salt and sugar but is having trouble with the flow of sugar from a hopper.


Rare Corpse Flower Set to Bloom on Winfield Campus

WINFIELD, Kan. (AP) - With only a few days remaining before the state's first-ever bloom of the rare, stinky corpse flower, a Kansas college has set up a 24-hour webcam for those who want don't want to miss the big event. Max Thompson, biology professor and greenhouse supervisor at Southwestern College in Windfield, said a corpse flower - otherwise known as the Amorphophallus titanum - bloomed last fall in Omaha, Nebraska, and another bloomed in Oklahoma City a few years ago. But so far, Thompson tells The Wichita Eagle that he knows of no other blooms occurring in Kansas. People flock to the corpse flower because it is huge and rare - and because they are drawn to the odor of rotten meat. The webcam link is at .

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