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Headlines for Thursday, April 9, 2015

AP Study: Kansas Vets Have Shorter Wait Times for VA Care 

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — An Associated Press analysis shows that fewer Kansas veterans are experiencing long waits for care at VA hospitals and clinics than their counterparts in many other states. At the state's 19 U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs facilities, 1.8 percent of appointments were delayed longer than 30 days from September to February. The national average was 2.8 percent. But problems persist after a scandal led to a $16 billion law overhauling veterans' health care. There were 221 Kansas appointments that were delayed longer than 90 days, including 102 at the Eastern Kansas VA-Colmery-O'Neil in Topeka and 93 at Robert J. Dole VA Medical Center.

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Uber Intensifying Campaign Seeking Taxi Bill Veto

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Ride-hailing company Uber is increasing its lobbying efforts to persuade Republican Governor Sam Brownback to veto a bill Uber says will force it to leave the state. The bill would increase the insurance requirements for Uber drivers and force them to undergo background checks through the Kansas Bureau of Investigation. Uber connects drivers and riders through a mobile app. The company has arranged for a truck with a sign saying, "SB 117 Destroys Kansas Jobs" to circle downtown Topeka since the bill passed the Legislature. Uber's Kansas general manager Will McCollum said the company also is working to schedule a meeting with the governor. But legislators say Uber's threat to leave the state is a bluff, and that it wants changes to the bill that would push out its competition.

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Jury Finds Martin Miller Guilty in Retrial for 2004 Killing 

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — A 56-year-old Lawrence man has again been found guilty of first-degree murder for the death of his wife in their home in July 2004. The Lawrence Journal-World reports it took jurors five hours Wednesday to convict Martin K. Miller in the death of 46-year-old Mary Miller. He was convicted of the same charge in 2005, but the Kansas Supreme Court overturned the verdict because of an erroneous jury instruction. Miller's lawyer argued there was no evidence Mary Miller's death was a homicide. Testimony from investigators, Miller's children and Miller's former mistress last week indicated Miller denied being in the room the morning of the death. The couple's children testified that they heard their father's voice in their parents' bedroom the night their mother died, and she was under duress.

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Kansas Legislators Moving Toward Changing Local Elections

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) _ Kansas is moving toward shifting city and local school board elections to the fall in even-numbered years in what Republican legislators say is a push to boost voter turnout. House and Senate negotiators have drafted a plan to scrap the traditional scheduling of local elections in the spring of odd-numbered years. Local elections would be on the same schedule as contests for county, state and congressional offices. Under the plan, city and school board races would be listed first on the ballot. Supporters say the bill will increase turnout. Critics say administrative problems would arise and believe city and local education issues would get lost in the din of other campaigns. 

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Week of Healing Marks Anniversary of Kansas Shootings 

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — The families of three people gunned down at Jewish sites in a Kansas City suburb are urging people to join in a week of activities designed to promote harmony, understanding and diversity. The event, called SevenDays-Make A Ripple, Change the World, began Tuesday and will culminate Monday, the anniversary of the day William Corporon, and his 14-year-old grandson, Reat Underwood, were shot to death at the Jewish Community Center in Overland Park, Kansas, and 53-year-old Terri LaManno, was killed at the Village Shalom retirement home. Frazier Glenn Miller of Missouri is charged with capital murder in their deaths. Mindy Corporon, whose father and son died, says organizers were determined to honor their loved ones with positive events designed to draw people together.

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UPDATE: Kansas AG Asks Top State Court to Void Wichita Pot Ordinance

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt is asking the state's highest court to invalidate a new, voter-approved ordinance in Wichita lessening criminal penalties for possessing small amounts of marijuana. Schmidt filed a petition Thursday with the Kansas Supreme Court. He warned city officials last month that the ordinance would conflict with state law and said it could not be enforced. His action came a day after the city filed a lawsuit in Sedgwick County District Court, asking for a ruling on whether the ordinance is valid. Voters approved the measure Tuesday. The ordinance imposes no more than a $50 fine for first-time possession of a small amount of pot. State law deems it a misdemeanor punishable by up to a year in jail and a $2,500 fine.

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Judge Blocks Appeal in Wichita Age Discrimination Suit

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) - A federal judge has blocked former aerospace workers from appealing the dismissal of their long-running age discrimination lawsuit against the Boeing Co. and Spirit AeroSystems. U.S. District Judge Eric Melgren said Wednesday that the plaintiffs' attorneys have not shown "excusable neglect" for failing to file their notice of appeal on time. He also says the court has lost confidence in the reliability of anything plaintiffs' counsel tells it. The attorneys had sought to appeal Melgren's decision in January that tossed out the claims of the remaining 26 plaintiffs as a sanction for their refusal to obey a court order to give their tax returns to the companies. The case has spanned nine years. When the courts rejected the collective action claims, the former workers filed individual age discrimination complaints.

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Kansas Spent Nearly $7,800 on Pest Control for Docking Office Building

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) - Kansas spent nearly $7,800 on ridding a state office building near the Capitol of pests in December and January.  The Topeka Capital-Journal reported Wednesday that the costs of eradicating bedbugs and fleas from the Docking State Office building were detailed in documents obtained through an open records request. Schendel Pest Services billed the state $5,510 for eradicating bedbugs in December. Department of Administration spokesman John Milburn said the company used trained beagles to inspect three floors that were treated with chemicals. The company treated the building again in January at a cost of $2,250 after fleas were thought to be living in two areas. The state plans to demolish the 1950s-era building by March 2016 after moving state workers to different locations.

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Ice Cream-Linked Listeriosis Outbreak Expands

DALLAS (AP) — Federal health authorities say three additional people have become ill from a foodborne illness linked to some Blue Bell ice cream products. Carol Crawford, a spokeswoman for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, confirmed Thursday that the number of people sickened by listeriosis has increased. The CDC says three people in Texas have the same strain of listeria previously found in five others at a Wichita, Kansas, hospital. Three of the five in Kansas died. The CDC did not indicate when the people in Texas became ill or where they are. Brenham, Texas-based Blue Bell has temporarily closed a production plant in Broken Arrow, Oklahoma, after traces of the pathogen were found there. Blue Bell on Tuesday announced a third product recall as a result of the contamination.

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Topeka Woman Indicted on Federal Theft Charge

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A U.S. attorney says a Topeka woman has been indicted following accusations she stole five televisions owned by the U.S. Postal Service. U.S. Attorney Barry Grissom says 35-year-old Debra A. Samford has been charged with two counts of theft of Postal Service property. The indictment claims that between January 15 and January 26, Samford stole four 60-inch LED televisions. It says Samford stole a 65-inch LED TV on January 27. The televisions were taken from the National Distribution Center in Kansas City, Kansas. Samford faces a maximum penalty of three years in federal prison on each count and a fine of up to $250,000 if she's found guilty.

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Kansas Supreme Court to Hold Hearing at Fort Hays State University

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) - The Kansas Supreme Court will hold oral arguments Monday on the campus of Fort Hays State University. The Office of Judicial Administration announced Wednesday that the justices would meet with the public after the hearing ends at about 8:30 p.m. in Sheridan Hall. The court will hear appeals in the cases of Kansas v. Hilton, Atwood v. Pianalto and Kansas v. Moyer. In Kansas v. Hilton, the court will consider whether a lower court erred in revoking two consecutive probation terms after a parole violation. The Atwood v. Pianalto argument will concern whether police had probable cause to stop a man later charged with DUI. The court will also consider whether Steve Kelly Moyer received a fair trial, receiving a nearly 35-year prison term for five sex offenses.

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Foundation to Pay for Kansas City Museum Renovation 

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — A foundation set up by the H&R Block co-founder and his wife will pay for a two-year, $11.7 million renovation at the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art in Kansas City. The Kansas City Star reports that the Marion and Henry Bloch Family Foundation will include 29 impressionist and post-impressionist works from the couple's personal collection. As part of the museums 75th anniversary in 2010, the family promised to donate the paintings from artists such as Manet, Monet, Gaugin, Cézanne, Degas and van Gogh. Work will begin this summer to reconfigure the museum's impressionism and post-impressionism galleries in the original Nelson-Atkins building. When renovations wrap up in spring 2017, the new works will be integrated into the museum's existing collection on the main floor.

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Wichita School to Establish Space Discovery Program

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) - Officials say a Wichita elementary school will be the first in the nation to launch a NASA-inspired space program. The Wichita Eagle reports the Space Discovery Institute program will give students a hands-on experience with aerospace technology at the Mueller Aerospace and Engineering Discovery Magnet Elementary school. Plans call for the school to receive a NASA-grade lunar rover, Mars rover and a space plane. The school's principal says the program will be a great opportunity for students, who begin learning basic science, technology, engineering and math concepts in kindergarten. The school four years ago received a $2.1 million federal grant to provide more enhanced science and engineering lessons. That grant funded a flight simulator, weather lab, broadcast studio, teacher training programs, kid-sized lab coats and other equipment.

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Wells Fargo Announces Grants to Help KC Neighborhoods 

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Eight Kansas City charities will share in $500,000 in grants from Wells Fargo. The company announced Thursday that the money will go to programs that provide workforce training and help homeless and at-risk families find homes. The nonprofits benefiting are Catholic Charities of Kansas City-St. Joseph, Guadalupe Centers Inc., Kansas Children's Service League, ReEngage, ReStart, Sheffield Place, the Women's Employment Network and the Greater Kansas City Housing Information Center. The donations are part of a Wells Fargo program that has invested $242 million nationally to communities that were hit hard by the housing crisis. Of the 32 communities that have benefited, $6.65 million has gone to Kansas City.

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Sunflower Bank Donates $1M to Kansas Wesleyan

SALINA, Kan. (AP) - Kansas Wesleyan University says it will use a $1 million donation from Sunflower Bank for a much-needed upgrade to its technology. University President Matt Thompson says the donation will cover most of a $1.2 million contract to install a one-gigabit fiber network across the campus in Salina, including in residence halls. It will also provide infrastructure for the university to provide online courses. Mollie Hale Carter, president and CEO of Sunflower Bank, said the technology upgrades will help students on campus and beyond Salina. The campus upgrades are expected to be completed by December. 

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Federal Banking Official Meets with Marijuana Business Owners 

DENVER (AP) — A federal banking official took the unprecedented step Thursday of meeting with marijuana business owners. But Kansas City Federal Reserve President Esther George gave no indication that the industry is any closer to getting more access to banking services. The Denver meeting was arranged by two Colorado congressmen who have tried unsuccessfully to pass laws expanding banking access for the pot industry. Also joining the closed-door meeting were Colorado bankers. It was thought to be the first meeting of a Federal Reserve president with pot businesses. George listened to tales of pot-shop owners losing bank account after bank account because marijuana remains illegal under federal law. Federal authorities last year released banking guidelines for the pot business. But many banks consider the guidelines inadequate and still refuse pot clients.

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Midwest Prepares for Possible Tornadoes as Storms Move East 

ST. LOUIS (AP) — A broad swath of the Midwest is girding for hail, damaging winds and possibly tornadoes as a strong storm front continues to rumble east. The National Weather Service's "enhanced risk" area Thursday stretches from northeast Texas to the upper Midwest. Forecasters say Philadelphia, Washington and other parts of the Atlantic coast could see the same weather patterns Friday. In Milwaukee, an interstate was closed for several hours Thursday morning after several vehicles became partially submerged in flood water due to heavy rain. Tornadoes were reported Wednesday and early Thursday in Kansas, Missouri and Oklahoma, but those areas saw minimal damage from the year's first widespread bout of severe weather. In central Indiana, a 75-year-old woman died Wednesday night after being swept into a rain-swollen creek near Indianapolis.

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Kansas Man Sentenced in Crash that Killed Former Cheerleader

OLATHE, Kan. (AP) _ A 33-year-old Kansas man has been sentenced to more than 15 years in prison for killing a former Kansas City Chiefs cheerleader in a traffic crash while fleeing from police. The Kansas City Star reports Roy Lee Maney was sentenced Wednesday in Johnson County District Court to 154 months for reckless second-degree murder and 34 months for leaving the scene of an accident. Maney pleaded guilty to the charges in February stemming from an October 2013 incident that killed 30-year-old Tiffany Mogenson, a Blue Springs, Missouri, dance studio owner. Maney was driving an estimated 90 mph when his car crashed into the rear of Mogenson's car, which was stopped at a red light. The sentence was the result of a plea deal between prosecutors and Maney's attorney.

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Guilty Plea in Death of Man Waiting with Disabled Vehicle 

PLATTE CITY, Mo. (AP) — A Kansas City man who was under the influence of several prescription drugs and driving nearly 80 mph when he hit another man's car has pleaded guilty to involuntary manslaughter. Platte County Prosecutor Eric Zahnd said 30-year-old Anthony Battaglia also pleaded guilty Thursday to possession of a controlled substance. Zahnd says he will recommend a 10-year prison sentence for Battaglia. Investigators say Battaglia's vehicle went off Missouri 152 in Parkville on February 10 and hit a car belonging to Donald Rippy, who was waiting alongside the highway with his grandson, whose vehicle had overheated. The grandson was treated for minor injuries. An analysis of Battaglia's blood showed it contained several prescription drugs. His sentencing is scheduled for June 11.

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Man Sentenced to Life in Prison for Great Bend Homicide 

GREAT BEND, Kan. (AP) — A central Kansas man will serve at least 25 years in prison for the shooting death of a Great Bend man. A Barton County judge on Thursday sentenced 33-year-old Jeffrey Wade Chapman of Pawnee Rock to life in prison with no parole for 25 years in the November 2011 death of 25-year-old Damon Galyardt. Chapman was found guilty in February of first-degree murder. Prosecutors argued that Chapman killed Galyardt because of the way he was treating a mutual friend. Chapman claimed he shot Galyardt in self-defense. Chapman's case drew attention in 2013 when he asked for permission to cover or remove a tattoo of the mirrored image of the word "murder" on his neck. He was allowed to wear a turtleneck during the trial.

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Cain Homers in 8th Inning as Royals Beat White Sox, 7-to-5

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Lorenzo Cain hit a two-run homer in the eighth inning as the Kansas City Royals beat the Chicago White Sox 7-5 Wednesday night at Kauffman Stadium. Royals relievers Jason Frasor, Kelvin Herrera, Wade Davis and Greg Holland combined to pitch four scoreless innings after Danny Duffy exited after the fifth. Eric Hosmer hit a three-run homer in the third inning for the Royals. 

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Phone Systems Hamper White Sox-Royals Game in KC 

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — The White Sox and Royals were delayed for nearly 5 minutes in the first inning Thursday when the phone system that allows the managers to call from their dugouts went down. Royals spokesman Mike Swanson said both teams were affected by the outage, which prevented the managers from contacting their bullpens or their replay officials. Chief umpire Jerry Layne signaled for the game to continue after the delay of 4 minutes, 31 seconds, even though the phone system at Kauffman Stadium was still down. White Sox manager Robin Ventura and Royals manager Ned Yost agreed that they would challenge any call based only on what they saw, or if a courier can run quickly enough between their instant replay stations up the tunnel and their respective dugout. The phones were finally restored near the end of the third inning.

 

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