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Headlines for Thursday, April 24, 2014


Teacher Protest Greets Brownback in Western Kansas

HAYS, Kan. (AP) — Governor Sam Brownback has been met on a trip to western Kansas by public school teachers and retired teachers protesting a new state law eliminating tenure. The Lawrence Journal-World reports that Brownback traveled Wednesday to the Sternberg Museum of Natural History in Hays to re-enact his previous signing of a bill naming two official state fossils. Outside the museum, about 25 teachers and retired teachers protested the anti-tenure law taking effect in July. The tenure repeal was part of a school funding bill Brownback signed Monday to meet a Kansas Supreme Court mandate to boost aid to poor districts. Brownback has said that eliminating the state law on tenure simply leaves employment issues to local school boards. Teachers say it strips them of protections against arbitrary firings.


New Kansas Gun Law Deals with Drunken Possession

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Backers of a new Kansas gun-rights law taking effect in July are describing provisions dealing with the drunken possession of firearms as a significant improvement for public safety. But an official with the Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence sees the language as problematic because it contains a self-defense exception. The new law strips cities and counties of their power to regulate guns and ensures that the open carrying of firearms is legal across the state. It also makes it clear that carrying a loaded firearm while drunk or under the influence of drugs is a misdemeanor. The state has a law criminalizing possession under the influence for holders of state concealed carry permits, but state law didn't have an explicit rule for other gun owners.


New Date Set for First Lady's Kansas Graduation Speech

TOKYO (AP) — The White House says Michelle Obama is rearranging her plans to address high school students in Topeka to address concerns by some students and parents. She had planned to speak May 17 at a combined graduation ceremony for five high schools. That had raised complaints there wouldn't be room for all the guests. Under the new plan, the first lady will speak at a "senior recognition day" ceremony on May 16 that presumably wouldn't be as crowded. With the combined ceremony scrapped, the five schools will each hold its own graduation exercises.


Topeka Parents, Students React to Logistics Changes for First Lady's Speech

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Topeka students and parents are pleased with news that first lady Michelle Obama has changed her plans to speak to high school graduates in northeast Kansas. The first lady says Thursday that she will be speak to the 800 graduates on May 16 during a "senior recognition day," leaving the following day to the students and their families. Abbey Rubottom says the changes were welcomed and would keep the focus of graduation on the students and not deny families a place in the 8,000-seat arena. One mother, Tina Hernandez, says she's excited about the new schedule and that Obama will be able to speak to the students without disrupting the traditional practice of separate graduation ceremonies. Hernandez says the change shows Obama is a mom, too, and understands.


2 Men End Federal Lawsuit over Kansas Voter ID Law

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Two elderly northeast Kansas men have dropped a federal lawsuit challenging a state law requiring voters to show photo identification at the polls. Attorney Jim Lawing said Thursday that Arthur Spry and Charles Hamner asked to have the case dismissed because a trial wasn't set until next year and they found requests for personal information intrusive. The two men live in a retirement home in Overbrook. U.S. District Judge Kathryn Vratil in Kansas City, Kansas granted their request Wednesday for a dismissal. Spry and Hamner sued Secretary of State Kris Kobach after their votes in the November 2012 election weren't counted because they couldn't produce valid photo ID. Kobach said Thursday it's unlikely the men would have prevailed because a photo ID requirement doesn't violate the state or U.S. constitutions.


Lightning Hits Tree, Breaks Windows at School

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Crews are cleaning up at a Wichita elementary school where a lightning strike left windows shattered in several classrooms. KFDI-FM reports that no children were injured following the strike around 9 am Thursday at Woodman Elementary School. But second-grade teacher Julie Nelson says children were frightened as glass flew. The lightning bolt hit a tree just outside the building. Principal Jana Epperly says branches and other debris broke windows in at least eight classrooms. Students had just arrived for the day but were not yet in their classrooms when the lightning hit. Several second- and third-grade classes were moved to other rooms. A student's grandfather was outside the school and was hit by flying bark. His injuries were described as minor.


Manufacturing Plant to Expand in Manhattan

MANHATTAN, Kan. (AP) — A manufacturing company is planning a $7 million capital investment in its Manhattan plant, which is expected to create 100 new jobs. Florence Manufacturing Company, a division of Gibraltar Industries, announced the planned expansion Thursday in a news release. The company manufactures and distributes centralized mailboxes and parcel locker products. After the expansion, Florence will employ more than 400 people in Manhattan. Florence officials say in the news release that the company in recent years has developed new delivery equipment technology including electronic, software-enabled products and services. To support those efforts, Florence has added electrical, mechanical, industrial and software engineers and says it will continue to need new employees in all facets of its operation as its business expands.

Auto Parts Supplier Opening Plant Near Kansas City

RIVERSIDE, Mo. (AP) — A subsidiary of a Canadian automotive supplier is building a new manufacturing plant in the Kansas City area. Martinrea Riverside LLC held a groundbreaking ceremony Thursday for an automotive parts facility near Interstate 635 in the community of Riverside. About 290 people are expected to be employed at the plant. They will make engine cradles and automotive assemblies for General Motors' Fairfax assembly plant in nearby Kansas City, Kan. The Missouri Department of Economic Development has offered the company more than $3.2 million of incentives through a tax credit and job training program. The company is a subsidiary of Martinrea International Inc., based in Ontario, Canada. Matrinrea employs more than 12,000 people at 38 facilities in eight countries. This is its first plant in Missouri.


Cross Appears in Court, Hearing Delayed Until May

OLATHE, Kan. (AP) — A 73-year-old white supremacist from Missouri accused of fatally shooting three people at Jewish sites in Kansas appeared in court long enough for his attorney to request a scheduling conference be pushed back a month. Frazier Glenn Cross was wheeled into a Johnson County courtroom Thursday for the brief hearing. Cross, wearing an orange jail jumpsuit with his hands shackled in front of him, looked around the courtroom and spoke with his attorney but did not address the judge. Cross is charged with killing 69-year-old William Lewis Corporon and his 14-year-old grandson, Reat Griffin Underwood, outside the Jewish Community Center of Greater Kansas City on April 13, then killing 53-year-old Terri LaManno at a nearby Jewish retirement complex. His next hearing is set for May 29.


Recycling Plant Fire Burns Nearly 7 Tons of Trash

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) — Firefighters spent hours trying to contain a blaze at a recycling facility in Kansas City, Kansas. Fire deputy chief Craig Duke says the fire Wednesday at a Deffenbaugh Recycling plant burned most of the 7 tons of material kept there. No injuries were reported. Duke says the fire caused heavy damage to an open-air structure that housed some of the recyclables. The Kansas City Star reports that a vehicle in a nearby parking lot also caught fire, and firefighters had to put out a small grass fire. The cause of the fire is still under investigation.

Douglas County Approves Program for Farmers' Market

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — The Douglas County Commission and the city of Lawrence are supporting a pilot project to allow food stamp recipients to double their funds while shopping at farmers' markets. The county commission on Wednesday agreed to invest $10,600 in the project, one day after Lawrence city commissioners did the same. The Lawrence Journal-World reports the program will give food stamp users more money to spend at the Lawrence Farmers' Market and Cottin's Hardware Farmers' Market. For example, if a food stamp recipient spends $40 at one of the markets, half the money would be from food stamps and other half from the program. The project was proposed by LiveWell Lawrence, which is contributing $3,800. The program will run from June through September or until the funds run out.


Donor Pledges $25 Million to University of Kansas

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — The University of Kansas says one of its graduates has pledged a $25 million donation for scholarships and other purposes. Officials announced the commitment Thursday in a news release that also said the donor has asked to remain anonymous. The university says the donor appreciated the education he received as well as the scholarship support that helped him attend KU. He said he had been thinking for years about helping KU in his estate plans. Eighty percent of the $25 million gift will benefit the KU Alumni Association's outreach programs. The rest will be divided equally between support for alumni scholarships and the Greater KU Fund, which supports priority needs.


Topeka Man Pleads Guilty to 2013 Homicide

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A Kansas man already sentenced to more than 80 years in prison in Nebraska has admitted killing one person and wounding another in Topeka. Thirty-four-year-old Michael Dean Engstrom and his wife, Jamie Engstrom, were captured in southeast Nebraska in February 2013, one day after the Topeka shootings. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports Michael Engstrom pleaded guilty Wednesday to felony first-degree murder and attempted second-degree murder. The charges stemmed from the fatal shooting of Ricky Mitchell and the wounding of his fiancee, Bridget Gakle. Engstrom admitted opening fire while trying to rob the pair of money and methamphetamine. The Engstroms then drove into Nebraska, where Michael Engstrom robbed a Pawnee City convenience store. He pleaded no contest last year to firing at law enforcement officers during the chase that followed.


Police Chase in Western Kansas Ends in Shooting

COLBY, Kan. (AP) — The Kansas Bureau of Investigation says it is investigating after a trooper shot a man during a vehicle chase. The man was flown to a Wichita hospital with unknown injuries after the shooting Wednesday night in Sherman County. The patrol says in a news release that the incident began when a tipster called to say a man and woman were trying to sell sex at the Pilot Truck Stop in Colby. A license plate check indicated their truck was stolen in Texas. The patrol trooper joined the chase when it entered Sherman County. The vehicle eventually went into a ditch along Interstate 70. The patrol says the man had a weapon and was shot when he got out of the vehicle. The female was arrested pending charges.


Strong Winds Cause Minor Damage in Saline County

SALINA, Kan. (AP) — High winds that roared through central Kansas caused minor damage and power outages and prompted officials to extend a burn ban for at least three more days. Winds gusting up to 67 mph late Wednesday blew down a large tree at Kansas Wesleyan University and overturned a semi-trailer truck on Interstate 70 about 10 miles east of Salina. Salina South High School started the day Thursday without power but electricity was restored in time for classes to begin. The storm dropped more than a half-inch of rain to parts of the area but high winds and a forecast for hot, dry conditions prompted the county to extend a burn ban through the weekend. The Salina Journal reports that firefighters battled several fires for 12 hours, ending around 4 am Thursday.


Aerospace Firm Chooses Site for New Kansas Plant

NEWTON, Kan. (AP) — A Wichita-based aerospace company has chosen the suburb of Newton as the new home of its chemical subsidiary. The Newton Kansan reports Aviation Business International will house its ABI Chemicals division in a 20,000-square-foot facility. The plant will be built at the Newton City-County Airport, near the Kansas Logistics Park. The ABI Group of Companies supplies products to airlines worldwide, including Delta, Air France and British Airways. The new plant will produce next-generation coatings used in aerospace manufacturing processes, being developed in conjunction with Wichita State University's National Institute for Aviation Research. Operations are expected to begin in October, with 14 employees by the end of the year. The city of Newton will build the plant and lease it to ABI Chemicals.


Moving Day for Animals at Pittsburg State

PITTSBURG, Kan. (AP) — Organizing a move is always stressful but imagine if it involved relocating dozens of animals of all shapes and sizes. That was the challenge facing Pittsburg State students, staff and volunteers Wednesday who were moving everything out of the school's biology and chemistry building before it undergoes a $4.4 million renovation. The movers handled animals ranging from prairies dogs to a macaw to snakes. The animals were moved to a temporary Nature Reach space in Hartman Hall. The Joplin Globe reports that the renovation of Heckert-Wells Hall is expected to take five months, with work beginning Monday. The building also includes labs for microbiology, chemistry, genetics, general biology, as well as a herbarium and numerous faculty offices. The project is being paid for bonds from the Kansas Educational Building Fund.


3 International Officers Join Army College Hall

FORT LEAVENWORTH, Kan. (AP) — Three military officers have been chosen for induction into the U.S. Army Command and General Staff College International Hall of Fame at Fort Leavenworth. The officers were selected for their career accomplishments following completion of the advanced military studies program at the northeast Kansas post. They will be inducted during a ceremony May 1. The honorees are General Gaurav S.J.B. Rana, of Nepal; General Werner Freers, of Germany; and Brigadier General Indrek Sirel, of Estonia. The hall of fame recognizes graduates of the Command and General Staff College who go on to serve as the senior officer in one of their nation's military branches or as a senior officer in their nation's defense establishment.

Kansas Man Lost Following WWII Finally Laid to Rest

LEAVENWORTH, Kan. (AP) — A Topeka man whose plane went down during a post-World War II operation has finally been laid to rest in his native state. Hundreds of people lined the streets Wednesday in Leavenworth to honor 2nd Lieutenant Verne L. Gibb. He was a pilot in World War II when his cargo plane was lost on a flight between Burma and India, likely because of bad weather. Five other people on the plane also were lost. Despite several searches, the crash site was never found and the six men were declared dead. Gibb's remains were later found and were positively identified in October 2013. The Leavenworth Times reports that several of Gibb's family members attended Wednesday's service, including his daughter. None of them were available for comment after the service.

Cancer Camp for Children Finds Summer Home

GREAT BEND, Kan. (AP) — A camp for children with cancer will be held this summer, even after a fire closed the site where it had been held for more than 30 years. Camp Hope will take place at Barton Community College in Great Bend. Supporters scrambled to find a new site after a fire April 12 caused enough damage to close Camp Aldrich near Great Bend through the fall. Barton Community College owns Camp Aldrich and had vowed after the fire to help keep Camp Hope going. A cause of the fire has not been determined. Investigators said the damage made Camp Aldrich unsafe for human use. The Hutchinson News reports that the Camp Hope Committee has raised funds to provide a camp for the children, with Kans For Kids as a sponsor.

Kansas Man Gets 5 Years for Trying to Rob Bank

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — A Kansas man whose attempt to rob a northwest Missouri bank was thwarted when a bank employee shot him in the face has been sentenced to five years without parole. The U.S. Attorney's office for western Missouri says 36-year-old Michael Oliva was sentenced Wednesday. He pleaded guilty in November to attempted bank robbery. Oliva admitted going into First Security Bank in Trimble on March 1, 2013, pointing plastic replica handgun at an employee and ordering her to give him money. Instead, the employee dropped to the floor and shouted for help. Another bank employee who was in an office heard her shouts, pulled out a .357 revolver and fired two rounds at Oliva, one of which hit him in the jaw. Court documents don't say where in Kansas Oliva lives.


MO Couple Sentenced for Embezzlement, Tax Fraud

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — A northwest Missouri husband and wife are going to prison for an embezzlement scheme and tax fraud that financed a lavish lifestyle. The U.S. Attorney's office says 55-year-old Laura Dejong and 56-year-old Craig Dejong, of Liberty, were sentenced Thursday in federal court in Kansas City. Laura Dejong received 10 years without parole, and her husband two years and six months. A judge also ordered them to repay nearly $2.7 million to Laura Dejong's former employer, Kansas City Screw Products, from which she embezzled funds. They must also repay $482,000 to the Internal Revenue Service, and $139,000 to two financial institutions. Prosecutors said the couple gambled heavily, mostly on slot machines. They also spent money for vehicles, a house, sporting events and travel.



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