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Headlines for Thursday, August 22, 2019

Indictment: U.S. Researcher Working for Chinese College

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) - A federal indictment alleges an associate professor at the University of Kansas was secretly working full time for a Chinese university while doing research in Kansas on projects funded by the U.S. government.  Feng "Franklin" Tao was charged yesterday (WED) with one count of wire fraud and three counts of program fraud. The 47-year-old Lawrence man has been employed since August 2014 at the university's Center for Environmentally Beneficial Catalysis. The center researches sustainable technology to conserve natural resources and energy.  The indictment accuses Tao of falsely claiming to have no conflicts of interest. It alleges he fraudulently received more than $37,000 in salary funded by the Department of Energy and the National Science Foundation.  And he's accused of hiding his employment with a Chinese university.  Court records do not list an attorney for Tao, who was arrested yesterday (WED) at his home.

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Kobach Had Law Enforcement Officer Investigate Voter Fraud

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A law enforcement officer says former Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach asked him to investigate possible double voting and non-citizen voting. His role came to light on Thursday after current Secretary of State Scott Schwab issued a news release saying he had asked the FBI to find out what happened to 1,000 rounds of missing ammunition purchased during Kobach's tenure. The FBI says it investigated and referred the matter to federal prosecutors. The U.S. attorney's office says it declined to prosecute. Craig McCullah says he was working in the secretary of state's office as communications director when Kobach asked him to take on law enforcement duties in order to conduct interviews with people suspected of voter fraud. He says the ammunition was used to keep his certification current.

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Kansas Launches Prison Book Policy, Strikes Banned Book List

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The Kansas state prisons chief has abolished a list of 7,000 banned books and adopted a policy that allows for the review and appeal of confiscated publications. Jeff Zmuda became the Department of Corrections acting secretary last month. Under Zmuda's policy adopted July 30, mailroom employees flag questionable publications for a manager's review. Inmates can appeal if a manager confiscates their publications. Corrections spokesman Randy Bowman says of 13 appeals so far, six decisions to censor materials have been upheld and seven reversed. The Human Rights Defense Center revealed the mass censorship in May. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that the banned books included cooking, health and tattoo magazines, self-help books and Margaret Atwood's "The Handmaid's Tale." Zmuda has yet to be confirmed in the Senate for his role in Corrections.

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Man Arrested in Deadly Shooting in Western Kansas

GARDEN CITY, Kan. (AP) — Authorities have arrested a suspect in a deadly shooting in western Kansas.  The Finney County Sheriff's Office said in a Facebook post that the suspect is jailed on suspicion of first-degree murder, possession of a stimulant, hallucinogens and paraphernalia and a parole violation.  The release says deputies responded Tuesday morning to a call about a suicidal person and found 25-year-old Gerado Ramirez, of Garden City, dead of a gunshot wound. The investigation led authorities to determine that he died by homicide, not suicide. The investigation is ongoing.

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Kansas Fights Claim of Man Wrongly Imprisoned

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) - Kansas is fighting the compensation claim of a man who spent 23 years in prison for a double homicide before a judge vacated his convictions, which were secured despite a complete lack of physical evidence and motive tying him to the crimes.  Lamonte McIntyre's case was one of three that helped prompt the state last year to allow the wrongfully convicted to seek compensation. When signing that bill into law, then-Gov. Jeff Colyer publicly apologized to McIntyre and the other men.  The state attorney general's office supported the other two men's petitions for compensation and a declaration of innocence, but it issued a statement saying it couldn't do so for McIntyre because it found "the record of prior judicial proceedings" in his case to be "insufficient." It said it will be up to the court to decide and recommended that the court deny McIntyre's claim.  McIntyre's lawyer blasted the move, saying the attorney general's office could conduct its own investigation into McIntyre's case.

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Kansas Regulators Investigate Increased Earthquake Activity

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) - Kansas regulators are investigating the cause of a cluster of 11 earthquakes that hit Reno County in the last five days.   The Kansas Corporation Commission announced Wednesday that it is analyzing injection well activity in the county. It will work with other state agencies to examine such factors as well construction, depths, injection volumes and maintenance procedures.  The study centers on Arbuckle Formation depth wells, which include oil and gas injection wells regulated by the commission and wastewater wells regulated by the Kansas Department of Health and Environment.  Spokeswoman Linda Barry said the commission will evaluate whether additional action is needed to safeguard Kansans.  The commission previously ordered reduced injection rates in Barber, Harper, Kingman, Sedgwick and Sumner counties when earthquake activity rose in those areas in 2015 and 2016.

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KC Police: Teen Killed, Younger Girl Wounded in Shooting

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) - Authorities say a teenager has been killed and a younger girl wounded in a Kansas City shooting. Police say the shooting happened around 7:30 last (WED) night after a disturbance outside a home. The teen victim was taken to a hospital, where he died. His name wasn't immediately released. Police say a girl who apparently was in the yard with the teen also was wounded.

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24 Cattle Killed When Tractor-Trailer Overturns Near Emporia

EMPORIA, Kan. (AP) — Authorities say a tractor-trailer hauling cattle overturned south of Emporia, killing two dozen of the animals.  Kansas Highway Patrol Trooper Justin Wallace says the driver was transporting the cattle to Arkansas City to be slaughtered when he fell asleep just after midnight Wednesday and went off the side of Interstate 35. Besides the 24 cattle that died when the rig overturned, 13 were pulled from the wreckage alive. Wallace says the surviving cattle are in a pen waiting to resume their journey.  Wallace says the driver was taken to a hospital with minor injuries. No one else was hurt.  The crash disrupted southbound traffic as crews worked to get the rig upright and repair damaged asphalt.

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Lawrence Teen on Probation After Bringing Gun to School

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) - A teenager who brought a gun to Lawrence High School has been sentenced to nine months of probation.  The boy was sentenced yesterday (WED) after pleading no contest in June in juvenile court to misdemeanor criminal use of a weapon.  The Lawrence Journal-World reports the charges stem from an incident on February 6, when the boy was called to an assistant principal's office when he threw his school-issued laptop at a door.  Prosecutors say the assistant principal found a loaded handgun in the boy's bag.  The district says no students or staff were threatened with the gun.  Another teenager who brought a loaded gun to the school a week after this incident pleaded no contest to the same misdemeanor charge and was sentenced in July to six months of probation.

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Sedgwick County Bans Wind Farms, Restricts Commercial Solar

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) - Commissioners in Kansas' second most populous county have banned large-scale wind power development because of concerns that it could harm aviation.  The Wichita Eagle reports that the Sedgwick County Commissioner also approved restrictions Wednesday on commercial solar power installations.  Planner Dave Yearout told the commission that large windmills can affect airport operations for a 5-mile radius.  Commissioner Jim Howell says the county supports wind and solar. But he says "aviation is so important to the community that I think this is a good balance." The county's largest city is Wichita, which is a major aircraft production hub.  The new limitations don't generally prohibit home or business installations of small-scale solar energy systems, or privately owned windmills up to 45 feet tall, provided that regular zoning standards are met.

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Warden of Topeka Women's Prison Transferring to Lansing

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) - The warden of the state-run women's prison in Topeka has been reassigned to Lansing Correctional Facility, where she will become the state's first female warden of a men's correctional facility.   Shannon Meyer, who has been warden at Topeka Correctional Facility for three years, will become warden in Lansing next week. She will replace retiring warden Ron Baker. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that Meyer previously was the deputy warden at Lansing before going to Topeka.  While at the Topeka prison, Meyer recommended the firing of dental lab instructor Tomas Co after an internal report substantiated claims of sexual harassment and unprofessional behavior with inmates.  Her recommendation was overruled. Co has since been fired and charged with having unlawful sexual relations with inmates.  Corrections spokesman Randy Bowman said Meyer's relocation to Lansing is unrelated to Co. >>

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Family of Slain Kansas Inmate Files Federal Lawsuit

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) - The family of a slain Kansas inmate has filed a federal lawsuit alleging a systemic disregard for the health and safety of prisoners housed at the Meade County jail.  A complaint filed Tuesday in U.S. District Court in Kansas stems from the August 2017 death of Joshua DeVilbiss after he was attacked by another inmate. The prisoners were among those transferred to the Meade County facility to alleviate overcrowding in the Sedgwick County jail.  The lawsuit filed against various county officials alleges DeVilbiss died "a horrible and preventable death." The inmate who attacked him was later charged with involuntary manslaughter.  The Sedgwick County Sheriff's Office declined to comment on the pending lawsuit, and the Meade County sheriff also had no immediate comment.
    
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Court: Attorney Can't Claim Immunity in Floyd Bledsoe Case

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The U.S. Court of Appeals has ruled that a former Kansas county prosecutor cannot claim absolute immunity from lawsuits filed by a man who spent nearly 16 years in prison for a murder he did not commit. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports a three-judge panel of the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a lower court ruling in a lawsuit filed by Floyd Bledsoe against former Jefferson County prosecutor Jim Vanderbilt. Bledsoe claims Vanderbilt and others fabricated evidence to convict him in the 1999 murder of 14-year-old Camille Arfmann near Oskaloosa. Bledsoe was released from prison in 2015 after his brother, Tom, confessed in a suicide note that he killed the girl. In May, Bledsoe received a $1 million settlement from the state of Kansas for his wrongful conviction.

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Kansas College Known for Auto Restoration Gets $1 Million Donation

MCPHERSON, Kan. (AP) — A California couple has donated $1 million to a Kansas college that offers an auto restoration program that has trained several people who worked on a classic car they own. The Hays Post reports that real-estate developers Richard and Melanie Lundquist recognized the work of Paul Russell with the donation to McPherson College. Russell serves as president of the school's national advisory board for automotive restoration. McPherson College touts itself as the only school in the country to offer a bachelor's degree in restoration technology. Russell's business, Paul Russell and Company, restored a 1938 Talbot-Lago T150-C SS Figoni and Falaschi Teardrop Cabriolet owned by the Lundquists that has won several awards. The Lundquists also have donated more than $200 million to education, healthcare and other initiatives in Los Angeles County.

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Court: Electoral College Members Not Bound by Popular Vote

DENVER (AP) - A federal appeals court in Denver says Electoral College members can vote for the presidential candidate of their choice and aren't bound by the popular vote in their states.  The court said this week that the Colorado secretary of state violated the Constitution in 2016 when he removed an elector who refused to cast his ballot for Democrat Hillary Clinton, who won the popular vote.  Colorado's current secretary of state, Jena Griswold, said the ruling takes power away from voters and sets a dangerous precedent. She didn't say if she would appeal.  The elector's attorneys say the U.S. Supreme Court will likely hear the case because it conflicts with a decision from Washington state's Supreme Court. That court said electors could be fined for not casting ballots for the popular vote winner.
 
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Water Releases into Missouri River Will Remain High

OMAHA, Neb. (AP) — The amount of water being released into the lower Missouri River will remain high at least into September. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers said Thursday that water releases from Gavins Point Dam on the Nebraska-South Dakota border will remain at current levels of 70,000 cubic feet per second. The Corps says it is still clearing out floodwater that accumulated in the reservoirs during the spring. The large amount of water flowing into the river may exacerbate flooding in Nebraska, Iowa, Kansas and Missouri because many levees are still damaged from spring flooding.

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