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Headlines for Sunday, July 3, 2016

Documents: Kansas Officials' Travel Mixes Family, Politics

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Documents show Kansas taxpayers have been picking up the tab for state officials and legislators to fly in the state-owned executive aircraft to attend out-of-state sports events and take trips with family and friends. The Associated Press used open records requests to document who was traveling in the state's nine-passenger plane. It found state officials often mixed political, religious and family interests with state business while traveling on government business. Kansas has a statute that specifically allows the governor to use the plane for personal or political travel as long as he reimburses the state, but it mentions no other state agencies. The Kansas Highway Patrol oversees executive aircraft operations, but it leaves it up to each state agency to decide who gets to travel and where they go.


Kobach Uses State Plane to Speak at GOP Events

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Documents show Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach frequently flies in the state-owned executive aircraft to promote voter ID efforts outside of Kansas and to speak at Republican political events across the state. All of that is done at state expense. The Associated Press used open record requests to document thousands of dollars Kobach spent to fly more than 4,350 miles during a 15-month period. Several flights appeared to either offer no benefit to Kansas or have little connection to Kobach's official duties. On some trips, the state business coincided with Republican Party functions where he spoke, and his family often flew with him. Kobach says he visited county election officials and his public appearances did not cost extra. Kansas has no written guidelines for state agencies traveling on the state plane.


Upgrades Started on Kansas Turnpike Stretch Where 7 Died

EMPORIA, Kan. (AP) — A 2-mile stretch of the Kansas Turnpike where seven people have died in flooding will soon offer better protection for drivers. Workers are about halfway through a project to improve drainage on a stretch about 10 miles south of Emporia. Six people, including five members of a Missouri family, died there in 2003. A Texas man drowned last year. All of the deaths were caused by vehicles getting caught in floodwaters. The Wichita Eagle reports that the $2.7 million project between mile markers 116 and 118 will install massive box culverts that run beneath the highway. The goal is to keep rising water from flash flooding off the turnpike. Turnpike officials said Wednesday that beginning in November, the design should keep water off the road in a 100-year storm.


Lawrence Teen Accused of Online Harassment

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) - A New Zealand woman is pursuing charges against a Kansas teenager she believes harassed her online. Rachel Gronback of Auckland, New Zealand, says she received inappropriate online sexual messages and identified the suspect as a Lawrence student, so she filed a police report. Douglas County prosecutors say they're prepared to file a harassment charge, but Gronback has to be willing to appear in court. A Lawrence man has offered to pay much of the costs of her travel, but she's still a bit short of the funding needed to make the journey.  


Jayhawk Bookstore, Varney's Book Store Going Out of Business

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — Bookstores serving students at the two largest universities in Kansas are closing, largely because of dwindling textbook sales. The Levin family owns the Jayhawk Bookstore in Lawrence near the University of Kansas and Varney's Book Store in Manhattan, where Kansas State is located. The family has announced the closure of both bookstores. Jeff Levin says Jayhawk Bookstore's "bread and butter" was textbooks. He says the owners had predicted a significant loss for January, but it was even deeper than anticipated. He cites a rise in online open-access material and more students ordering books online. And he says if people aren't coming in the door to buy books, they don't buy many supplies either. The Lawrence Journal-World reports the Jayhawk Bookstore closed last week. Varney's closed last month.


Body of Missing Kansas Man Found in Missouri

SIKESTON, Mo. (AP) — Southeast Missouri authorities say they have found the body of a missing 66-year-old Kansas man, whose death appears suspicious. Larry Weaver of Pittsburg was reported missing earlier this week after he failed to check out of a Sikeston motel. Authorities discovered his motorcycle was also missing, but his wallet and other belongings were left in his motel room.The New Madrid County Sheriff's Department told the Sikeston Standard-Democrat Weaver's body was found Saturday in a cotton field.The department says two people were taken into custody Friday and are being held on charges of tampering with a stolen vehicle and receiving stolen property. Capt. Jim McMillen says another suspect is being sought. McMillen says Weaver's death appears suspicious and an autopsy is scheduled to determine how he died.


Lawrence Woman Sentenced to 25 Years for 2014 Killing

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — A 40-year-old woman has been sentenced to about 25 years in prison for killing a Lawrence woman in 2014. Angelica Kulp pleaded guilty last month to second-degree murder and aggravated burglary in the stabbing death of 56-year-old Christine Kaplan. Kulp was sentenced Friday in Douglas County court.Kaplan, who was known to take in people in need of help, allowed Kulp to stay in her home. She later asked Kulp to leave because Kulp was running up the water bill and was being disrespectful.The Lawrence Journal World reports that before she was sentenced, Kulp addressed Kaplan's family and apologized. Prosecutors say when she's released from prison Kulp will have to register as a violent offender for 15 years.


Lake Afton Observatory Comes Out of the 'Dark Ages'

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A southern Kansas stargazing landmark is expected to reopen on Labor Day weekend after its closure prompted a public outcry. The Wichita Eagle reports that Sedgwick County commissioners will vote Wednesday on whether to lease the Lake Afton Public Observatory to an enthusiast club called the Kansas Astronomical Observers. Plans call for a technological upgrade for the observatory, located west of Wichita. The observatory also will boast a new logo, with a social media and online presence as well as interactive screens and tablets in the observatory. After 35 years of showing people the stars, the observatory closed in August because Wichita State University could no longer afford the annual costs when it switched from being a moneymaker to an expense of roughly $50,000 to $70,000 per year.


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