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Headlines for Thursday, August 27, 2014

Kansas Governor Schedules Town Hall Meeting in Leavenworth

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) - Kansas Governor Sam Brownback plans to hold a town hall meeting next week to discuss concerns about the potential transfer of prisoners from Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, to Fort Leavenworth. Brownback is a vocal opponent of any effort to move prisoners from Guantanamo Bay to the federal prison in Kansas. The Pentagon has confirmed that a team surveyed Fort Leavenworth's prison last week and planned a similar assessment of the U.S. Navy's brig in Charleston, South Carolina. Closing Guantanamo's detention center is a top priority for President Obama, but Brownback and South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley are threatening to sue if its prisoners are moved to their states.  Brownback's office announced that the public meeting will be held next Thursday at the Riverfront Community Center.


Kobach: Trump Correct on Immigration Proposals 

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach says Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump is correct on his immigration proposals. Kobach was an adviser on immigration policy for 2012 GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney, and says he had urged Romney to adopt the "self-deportation" concept in his campaign. Immigration enforcement is "a huge issue" for independents, and Kobach believes its focus in the primary will not hurt Republican chances in the general election. He is not working now advising any of the presidential campaigns, but says he may do so in the future. He declined to specify which one. But Kobach says other contenders in addition to Trump who have made statements on immigration enforcement in line with his own thinking are Texas Sen. Ted Cruz and Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker.


Slide in Kansas Oil Industry Continues to Stress Producers

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — The Kansas oil industry continues to face pressure because of falling prices. The Wichita Eagle reports the cash price of Kansas Common crude oil fell below $30 a barrel this week at the NCRA refinery in McPherson for the first time since the recession. And 13 oil rigs running in Kansas last week was fewer than half the number a year ago. Industry experts say the oil price is falling to a point approaching producers' cost of pumping it out of existing wells, which his called the lifting price. The lifting cost is between $20 and $30 a barrel in Kansas, depending on the well. Jim Williams, owner of WTRG Economics, an oil industry consultant, said it's too early for most oil producers to pull out of Kansas.


Advocacy Group's CEO Sees New Issues with Kansas Welfare Law 

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A child advocacy group's leader says parts of a new Kansas welfare law appear to conflict with federal child care policies, potentially jeopardizing more than $40 million a year in federal funds. Kansas Action for Children CEO Shannon Cotsoradis raised additional issues Thursday about the welfare law approved by legislators this year. Her comments came weeks after the state dropped a $25-per-day limit on ATM withdrawals with cash assistance cards following questions from federal officials. Congress last year reauthorized a program providing federal grants for child care. Cotsoradis said penalties in the new Kansas law for parents who don't comply with regulations appear to run afoul of a policy in the federal reauthorization. A spokeswoman for the state Department for Children and Families didn't immediately return telephone messages seeking comment.


Gunshot Hits Parked Lenexa Police Car 

LENEXA, Kan. (AP) — Authorities are investigating after a parked Lenexa patrol car was struck by a bullet. The Kansas City Star reports that no one was injured in the shooting, which occurred Thursday morning on Kansas Highway 7. The patrol car was parked on the side of the road when the gunshot broke one of its windows. Police were investigating to determine if the shot came from a passing vehicle or from a nearby wooded area.


Accomplice in Kansas Couple's Death Sentenced to Life 

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — An accomplice in the killings of a Kansas couple has been sentenced to prison. Twenty-year-old Andrew Ellington was sentenced Thursday to life plus nearly 13 years for first-degree murder and second-degree murder in the deaths of Roger and Melissa Bluml. The Blumls, the adoptive parents of Ellington's friend, Anthony Bluml, were shot outside their Valley Center home in November 2013. Prosecutors say Ellington drove Anthony Bluml's birth mother, Kisha Schaberg, to the Blumls' home, where she shot the victims. The Wichita Eagle reports Schaberg and Anthony Bluml wanted to rob and kill the couple, who adopted Anthony and his brother. Schaberg and Anthony Bluml are serving life in prison with no parole for capital murder and aggravated robbery. A fourth suspect is scheduled for trial in September.


Judge Orders Man Charged in Jewish Site Deaths to Begin Defense

OLATHE, Kan. (AP) — A man accused of killing three people at two Kansas Jewish sites has been ordered to begin his defense this week, but it's unclear how much evidence he will be allowed to submit. Frazier Glenn Miller Jr. is facing a possible death sentence if convicted of capital murder in the 2014 shootings at two sites in Overland Park, Kansas. Johnson County prosecutors rested their case on Thursday morning. Miller is representing himself. He told Johnson County judge Thomas Kelly Ryan he wasn't prepared to start his defense and needed the case postponed until Monday. Ryan instead set Miller's defense for Friday morning. Ryan warned Miller that he would not be allowed to present evidence about his motives for the shootings. Miller accused the judge of violating his constitutional rights.


University of Kansas Reaches Agreement with Lecturer over Documents 

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — The University of Kansas says it's reached a settlement agreement over the release of documents to a student group looking for ties between an economic research center and Charles and David Koch. Art Hall, a lecturer and executive director of the Center for Applied Economics in the University of Kansas School of Business, sued the university to prevent the release of emails, correspondence and notes to Students for a Sustainable Future. Hall previously was chief economist for the Public Sector Group of Koch Industries Inc. The case was set for trial in November. Under the agreement announced Thursday, the university and Hall released several pages of documents, including correspondence between Hall and the Kochs' foundations discussing funding. The student group's president, Schuyler Kraus, didn't immediately return a call seeking comment.


Wichita Man Pleads Guilty in Killing After Pit Bull Dispute 

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A 32-year-old Wichita man has pleaded guilty in the killing of a man after a dispute over which of them owned a pit bull. The Wichita Eagle reports Justin Rourke pleaded guilty Wednesday to involuntary manslaughter for the death of 41-year-old Roman Padilla. He had been initially charged with second-degree murder. According to police, Rourke and others went to Padilla's home on June 11 to retrieve a pit bull he believed belonged to him. Authorities say that during an argument, Rourke pulled out a gun and shot Padilla in the chest. They say he also shot and killed the dog, which apparently charged. Rourke's sentencing hearing has been scheduled for October 16.


Kansas Judge Allows Suit Over Citizenship Rule to Continue

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) _ A Kansas judge is allowing two voters to continue pursuing a lawsuit challenging how Secretary of State Kris Kobach is enforcing a proof of citizenship requirement for registering. Shawnee County District Judge Franklin Theis also suggested in an order that Kobach exceeded his authority in declaring that voters who use a federal form to register can cast ballots only in federal races. The federal form does not require proof of citizenship. Theis issued an order last week rejecting Kobach's request to decide the case in his favor before a trial. But the judge also didn't block Kobach from enforcing the law as he has for more than a year. ACLU attorney Julie Ebenstein on Wednesday called the ruling encouraging. Kobach said it's still very early in the lawsuit. 


Clinton, Kobach Spar Over Kansas Voting Rights 

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach is trading barbs over social media with Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton on voting rights. The spat was sparked by Kobach's proposal to throw out after 90 days names of more than 34,000 potential voters who registered in the state, but didn't provide proof-of-citizenship documents like a birth certificate or naturalization papers. Clinton's campaign posted a comment on Twitter calling the plan a "targeted attack on voting rights." Kobach responded on Facebook that people who have incomplete registrations only have to fill out another registration form and prove citizenship. He says anyone who calls it a voter a purge is a "left-wing knucklehead."  He said Clinton is "getting her pantsuit in a twist over nothing."


Kansas ACT Scores Above National Average 

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas high school students taking the ACT college entrance exam are scoring better on average than their peers nationally and a higher percentage appear ready for college courses. But figures released Wednesday by ACT also show that average scores for Kansas students haven't changed much in recent years. The State Department of Education noted that 32 percent of the 2015 high school graduates in Kansas met all benchmarks for college readiness on the ACT test. That's higher than the national figure of 28 percent and also up from the state's figure of 28 percent for 2011 graduates. The average composite score for 2015 graduates in Kansas was 21.9 on a 36-point scale, compared to the national average of 21. 


Slain Kansas State Student Remembered at Memorial Service

MANHATTAN, Kan. (AP) - Friends and relatives mourned a 22-year-old Kansas State student who died in a shooting earlier this month. Briona White was shot to death in Chicago while she was home over the summer. The Manhattan Mercury reports White's mother, Monica White, spoke to the crowd at the memorial service Tuesday night on the Kansas State campus. She described her daughter as a shining star. Briona, a biology major, was set to return to Kansas State for her senior year this fall. Her father, Kenneth White, said she had already her bags ready for the trip back to campus. The Whites encouraged students to take advantage of the opportunities surrounding them and joined others at the service calling for peace.


Body of Minor Found Near Haysville School 

HAYSVILLE, Kan. (AP) — Authorities are investigating after the body of a minor was found near a south-central Kansas school playground. Sedgwick County sheriff's Lieutenant Lin Dehning told The Wichita Eagle that the juvenile's death appears to be a suicide. The body was discovered Thursday morning near an elementary school in Haysville. The sheriff says the death had nothing to do with the school, and the juvenile, who was not identified, did not attend school in the Haysville school district.

Jury: Cable Company Largely Responsible in Fatal Restaurant Blast 

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) -- A jury says Time Warner Cable is largely responsible for a fatal natural gas explosion that leveled an upscale Kansas City restaurant. Jurors returned the verdict Thursday in lawsuit stemming from the February 2013 blast at JJ's restaurant near the city's Country Club Plaza shopping and entertainment district. The brothers who operated the restaurant, David and Jimmy Frantze, wanted more than $9 million in damages from Time Warner and USIC Locating Services, which contracts with utility companies. Jurors ordered Time Warner to pay $5.78 million, but found USIC wasn't liable. The explosion occurred after a crew for cable company subcontractor Heartland Midwest breached a natural-gas supply line with an underground borer. Fumes from that leak filled the building and ignited, killing restaurant worker Megan Cramer and injuring dozens of others.


Kansas Plans First Public Summit on Drones

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) - Kansas officials are planning a public summit on drones this fall. The Kansas USA Summit is set for October 15 in Wichita. Tiffany Brown, aviation director for the Kansas Department of Transportation says the meeting's main objective is to show legislators and the public the resources the state has invested in the budding industry. The Wichita Eagle reports a 2013 study by a trade group said Kansas is one of the top 10 states in a position to gain economic benefit from the unmanned aerial craft. The report projected the industry could have a $2.9 billion economic impact and create more than 3,700 jobs in the next 10 years in Kansas. Brown says the summit will also address the safe operation of the drones.


KU Med Center Breaks Ground on New $75M Building

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) — The University of Kansas Medical Center is beginning work on a new $75 million building. Governor Sam Brownback is among the dignitaries attending a groundbreaking ceremony this morning (THUR) for the new Health Education Building. It will serve as the primary teaching facility for the KU schools of Medicine, Nursing and Health Professions. Funding comes from $25 million in state bonds, $15 million from the University of Kansas Medical Center and $37.3 million in private gifts. The Hall Family Foundation was the largest donor, chipping in $25 million. Fundraising is expected to continue to help pay for technology and equipment for the building.


Pittsburg State Completes Campus Housing Renovation

PITTSBURG, Kan. (AP) - Pittsburg State University has completed a 15-year, $30 million effort to remodel all residential housing on its campus. On Wednesday, the university rededicated the final project - a $3.1 million renovation of Nation Hall East. The Joplin Globe reports most of the residence halls on campus are more than 50 years old. The renovations included enlarged bathrooms, new windows, renovated laundry rooms and improved mechanical systems. University officials decided in the late 1990s that the school either had to upgrade the residential halls or stop offering on-campus housing. The school's on-campus residential population increased from 778 in 1998 to 1,293 in 2014.


Kansas City Police Searching for Woman, 2-Year-Old 

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Kansas City police are searching for a woman and her 2-year-old daughter. Police say in a news release that 27-year-old Nicole Nelson and her daughter, Dajahnay Nelson, have not been seen since Wednesday afternoon. Authorities say Nicole Nelson has a traumatic brain injury and the mental capacity of a teenager. They believe she and her daughter are in danger. Nicole is 5-foot-7 and about 165 pounds. She has corn rows in her hair and was wearing a cream-colored shirt and black leggings when she was last seen. Dajahnay was wearing a pink shirt, jeans and pink sandals.


Dozens of Cats Removed from Kansas City Home 

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Animal control officers have been removing nearly 80 cats, and a few dogs, from a Kansas City house. The Kansas City Star reports that several officers worked to remove the animals from the home Wednesday, transferring nearly 50 of them to the KC Pet Project animal shelter. Shelter spokeswoman Tori Fugate says the cats are being kept together in a temporary space the shelter uses for emergencies. She says the cats appear to be in pretty good shape, but the additions are straining the facility. City spokesman Chris Hernandez says animal control officials have been to the house 16 times since 2009 for complaints. He says the homeowner had a permit to keep more animals than city ordinances typically allow, but the dozens of animals seized Wednesday exceeded those limits.


Orioles Overpower Royals for 8-5 Win

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — The Baltimore Orioles powered their way to an 8-5 victory over the Kansas City Royals Wednesday night to snap a six-game losing skid. Wei-Yin Chen (8-6) allowed the Royals only three runs over six innings. Chen has now gone seven straight starts without a defeat. Royals' starter Johnny Cueto (9-9) struggled through five innings allowing 10 hits and a walk. The Royals still have a lead of 2 games to one in the series and will face the Orioles again in Kansas City this afternoon.


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