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Headlines for Monday, November 17, 2014


Group Questions Brownback's Claims on Poverty Rates

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) - A state agency acknowledges it sent out a news release shortly before November's election that incorrectly claimed poverty in Kansas had declined under Governor Sam Brownback's administration. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that when the Kansas Department of Children and Families was made aware of the inaccurate information, it did not issue a revised statement to the media. The news release issued October 20 said the state's poverty rate fell 2.3 percent between 2011 and 2013. When the Kansas Health Institute notified the agency the rate was not accurate, the state issued a correction to the KHI but not to any other media. DCF spokeswoman Theresa Freed says the agency misread a report on poverty. She says there has been only a slight decrease in poverty during the Brownback administration.


Voter ID Fight Heads to State Courts, Legislature

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) - The fight over a voter proof-of-citizenship law that prevented about 22,000 Kansas residents from casting ballots on Election Day has shifted back to state courts and lawmakers. The U.S. 10th Circuit Court of Appeals recently overturned a judge's order adding citizenship documentation requirements on national voter registration forms used by Kansas and Arizona voters. Republican Secretary of State Kris Kobach has championed the state law as a way to limit fraud, opponents planned to argue that it wrongfully disenfranchise voters. Democratic State Representative Jim Ward says any law that denies the right to vote to over 20,000 Kansas citizens is a bad law. Kobach has vowed to defend it, saying his re-election proved it was the will of the people. He also plans to challenge the appeals court ruling.


Kansas Guard Soldiers to Deploy to West Africa

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) - About 170 Kansas National Guard from a battalion based in Iola will deploy next year to west Africa to help fight Ebola. The state announced Sunday that soldiers from the 891st Engineer Battalion Headquarters will help build medical facilities in west Africa. They will leave next spring and be deployed for about six months, with the possibility of serving up to a year. It's part of a national effort called Operation United Assistance. Kansas Adjutant General Major General Lee Tafanell says the state will do all it can to ensure the soldiers' safety. That will include training in protocols and preventative measures against the deadly disease. The soldiers will begin training next month in Kansas and will receive more training at their mobilization station before they go to west Africa.


Peck to Challenge Merrick for KS House Speaker

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) - A southeast Kansas lawmaker plans to challenge Ray Merrick as speaker of the Kansas House. After the November 4 election, Representative Virgil Peck sent letters to victorious Republican House candidates. The Tyro Republican informed them of his intention to stand for speaker when lawmakers come to Topeka on December 1 to hold leadership elections. He says lawmakers have a responsibility to choose leaders "whom we feel are best equipped to represent the core beliefs of Kansas citizens and our party's philosophy of limited government." Merrick's spokeswoman, Rachel Whitten, said, "Any legislator is welcome to run for whatever leadership office they choose." Peck has served in the Legislature since 2005 and currently serves as chair of the Transportation and Public Safety Budget Committee


4 More Earthquakes Rattle South-Central Kansas

ANTHONY, Kan. (AP) - Four more earthquakes were reported in south-central Kansas during the weekend. No serious injuries or damage was reported. The U.S. Geological Survey says the largest was a 3.8-magnitude earthquake that was centered northwest of Anthony in Harper County early Saturday. Two 3.1-magnitude quakes hit just northeast of Antony on Sunday, one about 3 a.m. and the other about 8:30 p.m. A 2.4-magnitude earthquake was reported early Sunday near Bluff City, also in Harper County. The state has recorded more than 90 earthquakes this year, most in the south-central region. The most severe, with a 4.8-magnitude, was centered near Conway Springs last week.


Demand for Quake Insurance Grows in Kansas

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — People have been flooding insurance agencies with calls about adding earthquake coverage after a 4.8 magnitude temblor rocked part of Kansas on Wednesday. The Wichita Eagle reported that because Kansas doesn't have a history of earthquake losses, the price and deductibles are low compared to more quake-prone places like California. Traditionally, earthquakes have been relatively infrequent in Kansas. But after dozens of them rocked the state this year, more equipment is being brought in to explore what is happening. Studies have shown earthquakes can be caused when fluid, which is byproduct of various methods of oil and gas production, is injected into disposal wells. But a panel commissioned by Kansas Governor Sam Brownback has found there isn't enough evidence to link the Kansas quakes to oil and gas exploration.


Assaulted Woman in Critical Condition

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Police say a woman who was sexually assaulted and set on fire in a Wichita park is in critical condition. Lieutenant James Espinoza said Monday that police have been unable to interview her at the hospital due to her medication and condition. Firefighters responding to a grass fire at the park Friday night found the 36-year-old woman with severe burns to 55 percent of her body and cuts on her head. Espinoza calls it a heinous and cruel act. No one has been arrested. Espinoza says the woman gave a brief description of her assailant at the scene. The attack occurred near Wichita State University, but the victim was not a student. Police have been contacting area residents and are asking for witnesses to contact authorities. 


14 Couples Wed in Courthouse Ceremony in Wichita

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A Wichita church has married 14 gay and lesbian couples on the steps of a historic courthouse building downtown. About 100 people attended the ceremony Monday evening by the First Metropolitan Community Church outside the old Sedgwick County courthouse. Among the couples were Scott and Raymond Tholl of Wichita, who've been together 12 years. Scott Tholl said they wanted to be part of something historic. The ceremony was briefly interrupted by a heckler who shouted, "God said, 'No.'" Several men removed the heckler and the crowd shouted, "God said, 'Yes." The ceremony came less than a week after the U.S. Supreme Court rejected a request from the state to continue enforcing its ban on gay marriage while a lawsuit challenging it is reviewed by the federal courts.


Kansas Court Has 2 Substitutes for Marriage Case

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The Kansas Supreme Court has two substitutes participating in its discussions about allowing gay marriage in the state. Court spokeswoman Lisa Taylor said Monday that retired Douglas County District Judge Michael Malone and retiring Linn County District Judge Richard Smith are sitting with the court. The court is reviewing a petition from Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt seeking to block counties from issuing gay marriage licenses until a final U.S. Supreme Court decision on the constitutionality of state gay-marriage bans. The Kansas Supreme Court has seven members, but one spot is vacant because the new Justice Caleb Stegall doesn't take his seat until December 5. Malone is taking his spot. Justice Lee Johnson removed himself from the case, without stating a reason. Smith is filling in for him.


3 Kansas Counties Denying Same-Sex Marriage Licenses

EL DORADO, Kan. (AP) — Three south-central Kansas counties are denying applications for marriage licenses from same-sex couples. Chief District Court Judge David Ricke said in a statement Monday that Butler, Elk and Greenwood counties will keep complying with a ban on gay marriage in Kansas law and the state constitution. The counties make up the 13th Judicial District. Ricke says the district will continue to deny marriage licenses to same-sex couples until he is convinced it falls under a binding court order that "clearly and unequivocally" requires its district court clerks to issue them. The U.S. Supreme Court refused last week to allow the state to keep enforcing its ban while a federal lawsuit proceeds. The lawsuit was filed over the refusal of Douglas and Sedgwick counties to issue same-sex marriage licenses.


Judge Orders Clerks to Issue Marriage Licenses in Southeast KS  

PITTSBURG, Kan. (AP) — The chief state district judge for three southeast Kansas counties has directed court clerks to issue marriage licenses to gay couples. Chief Judge A.J. Wachter issued an order Monday covering the 11th Judicial District of Cherokee, Crawford and Labette counties. Wachter said in his order that two same-sex couples have applied for licenses in the district. His order is a response to the U.S. Supreme Court's decision last week allowing same-sex marriages while the federal courst consider a lawsuit challenging the state's gay-marriage ban. Wachter said the U.S. Supreme Court's decision is binding. He acknowledged that the Kansas Supreme Court has not yet ruled on the state's ban, but said he doesn't expect a conflicting decision. Wachter also said there's no reason the gay couples should wait for a license. 


Defense Seeks Disclosures in Suicide Bomb Case

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Attorneys for a Kansas man accused with plotting a suicide bombing at a Wichita airport are asking a judge to order the government to disclose whether mass surveillance first led authorities to the avionics technician. The U.S. attorney's office declined to comment Monday on the latest court filing in the case of Terry Loewen, an avionics technician facing terrorism-related charges. Loewen has been jailed since his December arrest for allegedly trying to bring a van filled with inert explosives onto the tarmac at Mid-Continent Airport. His attorneys argued in a court filing Friday that prosecutors have given them no evidence indicating how Loewen first came to the attention of the FBI. The dispute is important because the defense wants to suppress evidence obtained or derived from any unlawful electronic surveillance.


Judge: Expelled KU Student Must Be Re-Admitted

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — A Douglas County judge has ruled that a University of Kansas student who was expelled over tweets to an ex-girlfriend must be allowed to re-enroll. But Judge Robert Fairchild issued a stay of his ruling Monday to allow the university to appeal. The university says it expelled Navid Yeasin last November because he violated an order not to contact the ex-girlfriend by sending the tweets. Fairchild ruled in September that the university had not followed its own rules of student conduct because it did not show that Yeasin posted the tweets while he was on campus. The Lawrence Journal-World reports that Yeasin, a senior in petroleum engineering, said no other school in the state offers the program he needs to graduate and he does not want to pay out-of-state tuition.


Man, 79, Charged in Pot Bust Challenges Search

BOSTON (AP) — A 2013 traffic stop in Junction City, Kansas, led police to Massachusetts and Arizona, where they found $15 million in cash, nearly 400 pounds of marijuana and ledgers they say detail drug deals going back to 1992. The driver, Marshall Dion, is now facing federal marijuana trafficking charges in Boston. The 79-year-old has had trouble with the law for decades. In 1985, Dion crashed a single-engine plane in Kenosha County, Wisconsin. The government seized nearly $112,000 in cash seized from the crash site after a judge found the money was likely drug proceeds. In 1989, he was convicted of trafficking charges after Boston police found more than 100 pounds of marijuana in his car. Dion's lawyer is arguing that the 2013 traffic stop was illegal and all the evidence seized should be thrown out.


Shelter in Kansas City Won't House Gay Couples

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) - The City Union Mission in Kansas City says it will not allow legally married same-sex couples who are homeless to stay at the shelter. Executive director Dan Doty says shelter officials believe that the Bible prohibits same-sex marriage. He says married same-sex couples will be referred to other shelters. The Kansas City Star reports the mission is a private nonprofit that receives no governmental funding, meaning it is not bound by anti-discrimination rules. Officials at the Topeka Rescue Mission say they haven't decided if the couples will be allowed to stay. But other Kansas City-area shelters say same-sex married couples already are welcome to stay. That includes Salvation Army shelters in Kansas and Missouri, Catholic Charities of Kansas City-St. Joseph shelters and the Lawrence Community Shelter.


Kansas Trying New Software for Mental Health Care

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) - Kansas is trying a new software program that's led to better health for Missouri residents with mental illnesses. The Association of Community Mental Health Centers of Kansas received a $40,000 grant to begin using the software program with Medicaid-eligible patients who receive mental health care. Eight community mental health centers are participating in the pilot. The Missouri Coalition for Community Behavioral Healthcare says most people with mental illnesses don't die by suicide, but from conditions like diabetes or heart disease. The group has worked with Care Management Technologies for almost three years now, using their software for a systemwide view of how well health care workers are serving clients and determining which patients need help managing chronic conditions.


Kansas Parents Frustrated in 1988 Disappearance Case

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) - Two northeast Kansas parents are increasingly frustrated with the investigation into their son's disappearance 26 years ago. The Lawrence Journal-World reports that Randy Leach was a teenager when he mysteriously disappeared in 1988 from a graduation party. He would now be 44. Earlier this year, his parents, Harold and Alberta Leach, learned that law enforcement, including the KBI and the FBI, had targetted a suspect in the 1990s. That suspect, Eric Montgomery, died in prison four years ago. Montgomery also had been a suspect in two 1990 homicides that occurred seven miles from the Leaches' home in rural Linwood. Harold Leach, now 73, said he was saddened when he found out law enforcement had withheld information from him and his wife.


2 Arrested in Haskell University Sexual Assault

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — Two people have been arrested in an alleged sexual assault on the Haskell Indian Nations University campus. Lawrence police said in a news release that a woman told police early Saturday that that two men whom she knew raped her at one of the dormitories on campus. The woman was taken for medical treatment while officers tracked down the two suspects. The release says officers interviewed the suspects before taking them to the Douglas County Jail. Police plan to turn over their investigative reports to prosecutors so a decision on whether to file charges against the suspects can be made.


Police Find Vehicle Tied to Shooting Death of KCK Girl

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) — Kansas City, Kansas police say officers have recovered a vehicle that they think was involved in a drive-by shooting that killed a 10-year-old girl. Major Vince Davenport says police are "making progress" investigating last month's killing of Machole J. Stewart. The Kansas City Star reported that detectives investigating Machole's death are being aided by agents from the FBI and Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. Davenport says the outside agencies are providing "technical services." Machole was inside her family's home when the occupants of a passing vehicle fired shots into the dwelling. Her death came a little more than a week after a 6-year-old Angel Marie Hooper was shot to death at a convenience store in Kansas City, Missouri. Two men have been charged in Angel's killing.


Joplin School Administration Looking for Home

JOPLIN, Mo. (AP) — Joplin school officials are looking for a new home for the district's administrative offices, which were displaced by the May 2011 tornado. The administration offices have been housed in a former Missouri Department of Transportation office since the district's building was severely damaged by the tornado. The Joplin Globe reports the lease on that building ends next May. Immediately after the tornado, the state leased the closed building for $1 a year. But the lease was increased to $1,000 a month in recent months, and Huff says the district can't afford that rate. The state says it will honor the lease until next May but will be marketing the building. Superintendent C.J Huff says a committee looking for places for the administrative offices has not found any possibilities yet.


Washburn Plans New Residence Hall to Meet Demand

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Washburn University's capital improvement plans now include a new $30 million residence hall and dining area. The hall will offer 350 beds in apartment-like settings on the Topeka campus. It will also include a dining area for about 300 people. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports 9 percent of undergraduate and graduate students live on campus and the university wants to increase that number. The residence hall is expected to be ready for students in the 2016-17 academic year. It is the latest in several capital improvement projects included in a new master plan, such as law school, recital hall, Welcome Center and indoor sports facility. And a new Kansas Bureau of Investigation lab on the campus is expected to open next year.


KC to Host Regional NCAA Games in 2017

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Brooklyn, New York, and Des Moines, Iowa, will host NCAA men's basketball tournament games for the first time in 2016. The NCAA announced Monday that the other 2016 preliminary round sites are Providence, St. Louis, Raleigh, North Carolina, Oklahoma City, Denver and Spokane, Washington. Regionals will be played in Philadelphia, Chicago, Louisville, Kentucky, and Anaheim, California. The 2017 tourney games will be played in Buffalo, New York; Indianapolis; New York; Greensboro, North Carolina; Milwaukee; Orlando, Florida; Salt Lake City; Tulsa, Oklahoma; and Sacramento, California. Regionals will be in Kansas City; San Jose, California; Memphis, Tennessee; and New York. The 2018 early round games will be hosted by Boise, Idaho; Charlotte, North Carolina; Dallas; Detroit; Nashville, Tennessee; Pittsburgh; San Diego; and Wichita, Kansas. Regionals will be in Boston; Omaha, Nebraska; Los Angeles and Atlanta. Dayton, Ohio will host the First Four all three years.


Chiefs Defeat Super Bowl Champion Seahawks 24-20

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — The Kansas City Chiefs stopped the Seattle Seahawks on fourth down three times late in the fourth quarter Sunday, holding on for a tense 24-20 victory in a matchup of playoff contenders. Jamaal Charles ran for 159 yards and two touchdowns, and Knile Davis also ran for a score, as the Chiefs (7-3) won their fifth straight game and moved into a tie for first in the AFC West. Seattle's Russell Wilson threw for 178 yards and two touchdowns, and Marshawn Lynch had 124 yards rushing for the Seahawks (6-4). But Seattles' last-chance drive ended when Wilson threw incomplete on fourth-and-18 at their 20-yard line with 1:13 left in the game.



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