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Headlines for Thursday, December 22, 2016

Here's some of what's going on in our area.

Kansas Governor Not Rethinking Support for Campus Guns Law

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Governor Sam Brownback says he's not rethinking his support for a Kansas law that will allow concealed guns on state college campuses starting in July. Brownback told reporters Wednesday that he's "not inclined to think about" revising the law enacted in 2013. The law expanded the rights of gun owners to carry concealed weapons into public buildings, but allowed campuses to exempt themselves for four years. The state Board of Regents last week approved policies for how the state's six public universities will implement the law. The law has been criticized by students, faculty and administrators. Legislators are expected to debate changing it after convening their 2017 session next month. Brownback is a conservative Republican and strong supporter of gun rights, and he reiterated that position Wednesday.

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Kansas Educators Seek Return to Familiar School Aid Formula 

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) -- While Republican Governor Sam Brownback talks about taking a new approach to funding Kansas public schools, educators are hoping lawmakers will return to a familiar per-student formula. Brownback has told reporters he wants a new formula to focus on student performance. But superintendents and local school boards expressed their desire for something more traditional in emails to the governor's office this fall. They're looking to have the state's $4.1 billion a year in annual aid distributed per student, giving extra "weightings" to each student with special needs. With Brownback's support, the GOP-dominated Legislature junked such a formula in 2015 in favor of stable grants of aid for each district. But the change always was meant to be temporary, and lawmakers expect to consider a new formula next year.

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Kansas Group Wants Grass Burning Limits for Flint Hills 

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A Kansas environmental group is urging the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to order the state to impose tighter controls on grass burning in the Flint Hills region. The Lawrence Journal-World reports the Kansas chapter of the Sierra Club wants the agency to order the Kansas Department of Health and Environment to adopt a mitigation plan to protect air quality in the region. Ranchers in the Flint Hills burn grasslands in the spring to kill off invasive weeds and shrubs, creating thick smoke that some officials say is a concern for people with respiratory issues.

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4 Suspended KU Cheerleaders No Longer with Program 

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — A University of Kansas official says four KU cheerleaders who were suspended from the team after the discovery of a Snapchat photo that mentioned the KKK are no longer with the program. The Kansas City Star reports that athletic department officials originally became aware of the social media post last month. The photo depicted three men in sweaters, each with a "K'' representing "Kansas" on their chests. White letters across the photo read "Kkk go trump." The university suspended the three male cheerleaders and the cheerleader whose Snapchat account the photo was posted on. Jim Marchiony, University of Kansas associate athletic director, said Thursday that three of the cheerleaders resigned their positions, and the fourth cheerleader graduated this semester.

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Wichita Police Distribute Gift Cards to Motorists 

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Lucky motorists are being pulled over by Wichita police officers and handed $50 gift cards instead of citations. The Wichita Eagle reports the gift giving is part of a community-relations project launched by the police department. The giveaway started Wednesday and 29 traffic violators will be given a gift card and a warning to drive safely, instead of a fine and court date, over the next couple of days. The gift cards are being given to drivers with minor violations because it is illegal for police to randomly stop a motorist without probable cause that a violation has occurred. Officer Eric Piotrowski says he's never done anything like the giveaway in his 29 years of on the force, but that it was fun to give people something they wanted for a change.

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2 Kansas Wind Farms Are Now Operating 

KINGMAN, Kan. (AP) — Two wind farms in central Kansas are now online and supplying electricity to Westar Energy. The Hutchinson News reports the wind farms have come online within the last two weeks, even though a civil suit seeking an injunction against one of them is still pending. Westar Energy says the wind farms, owned and operated by NextEra Energy Resources, are supplying the state's largest electric utility with about 400 megawatts of new power. The company says the two facilities are bringing about $800 million in investment and local payments to the area, as well as 23 jobs to Kingman and Pratt counties.

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Overland Park Police: Man Rams Police Car, Flees

OVERLAND PARK, Kan. (AP) — Police in Overland Park say they're searching for a driver who rammed an officer's patrol car during a traffic stop, then fled as the officer fired at him. Police say the officer escaped injury during the confrontation about Wednesday morning in the Kansas City suburb. It wasn't clear if the suspect was wounded. Police spokesman Officer John Lacy said the officer stopped a pickup truck after a computer check showed the license plate was stolen. Lacy said that as the officer stepped from his cruiser, the pickup truck's driver intentionally backed into the patrol car and turned toward the officer, who then opened fire. The driver sped away. Lacy says a passenger in the truck told police he only got a ride from the suspect he called a stranger.

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Charges Filed in Police Chase Through Kansas City 

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — A 29-year-old man faces several charges accusing him of leading police on a lengthy chase through the Kansas City area. The Kansas City Star reports that charges filed Wednesday against Justin M. Sherman include second-degree robbery and resisting arrest. It's unclear if he has a lawyer. Police say Tuesday's chase lasted for more than an hour and reached speeds of 100 mph. No injuries were reported. Authorities say the pursuit began when a pickup truck reported stolen sideswiped a Kansas City police patrol vehicle. Police say Sherman's accused of fleeing, driving the wrong way into oncoming traffic and across yards before abandoning that truck and taking another truck. Sherman was taken into custody after police used a device to flatten the truck's tires.

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Former Kansas Bank Worker Gets Four Months for Embezzlement

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) — An eastern Kansas woman was sentenced to four months in federal prison for embezzling more than $500,000 from the bank where she worked. A federal judge in Kansas City, Kansas, also sentenced 29-year-old Ashley Blacketer of Leavenworth to four months of home confinement under electronic monitoring after her prison release. She also must repay the stolen funds. Blacketer already had pleaded guilty to one count of embezzlement by a bank employee. She admitted that during a six-year period while working at Exchange National Bank & Trust in Leavenworth, she covered up the crime by falsifying a ledger showing the amount of cash in the bank's vault. Authorities say the embezzlement was discovered during an audit after she left the bank for another job.

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Some Child Care Providers Object to New State Rules

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) - Child-care providers in Kansas say a state proposal to increase by several hours the training they must receive could mean parents they serve will have to pay more.  The providers made that argument this week during a hearing over the proposed Kansas Department of Health and Environment regulations.  The department's plan would raise to 16 the number of hours of annual in-service training for primary care providers, who directly supervise and interact with children. Administrators of preschools and child care centers would have to complete 24 hours of training annually.  The department says it is working to ensure that various training opportunities are available at little or no cost.  Lawrence Child Development Center director Kenneth Prost says the move could drive some parents to home day care he called under-regulated. 

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City of Lawrence Tightening Tax Incentives Rules

The city of Lawrence is tightening its economic incentives policy. The city commission voted unanimously to overhaul the policies. Now, companies asking for tax incentives will have to spell out how the project would offer a public benefit to the community. Those benefits could include things like job creation, tax base growth and the creation of affordable housing.

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Kansas Governor to Give State of the State Address January 10th

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback plans to give the annual State of the State address January 10. Brownback said Tuesday that he has accepted an invitation from incoming House Speaker Ron Ryckman Jr. to address a joint session of the Legislature the day after lawmakers open their 2017 session. The speaker traditionally issues such an invitation because the address is in the House chamber. The 2017 speech is set for 5 p.m. Governors use the address to outline an agenda for the Legislature's annual session and tout past policies. Brownback is a Republican and used part of his 2016 speech to criticize Democratic President Barack Obama on national security issues. Fiscal issues are likely to dominate the 2017 session. The state faces projected budget shortfalls totaling $1.1 billion through June 2019.

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Judge Orders Arbitration over Kansas Military School Assault 

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A federal judge sided with a Kansas military school in compelling arbitration of a Tennessee father's allegations involving the sexual assault of his 12-year-old son by another student. U.S. District Judge Carlos Murguia ruled Wednesday the arbitration clause in St. John's Military School enrollment contract is valid and enforceable. The judge retained jurisdiction over claims against the student accused of the assault. The father sued St. John's in April alleging its failure to adequately supervise cadets led to the assault. The lawsuit stems from an accusation that in spring 2014 a grade-school boy sexually assaulted a fellow student in a dorm room. The Salina boarding school has been dogged by litigation. But in earlier federal cases, the arbitration language in the enrollment contract did not cover claims by minor students.

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Regulators: AMC Can Buy Carmike

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Federal regulators say movie-theater chain AMC Entertainment Holdings Incorporated can buy smaller rival Carmike Cinemas Inc. for $1.2 billion if it sells some theaters. The deal will make AMC the biggest U.S. movie theater operator. The U.S. Department of Justice says its approval hinges on AMC selling theaters in 15 markets where it competes with Carmike.  Leawood-based AMC also has to sell most of its holdings in National Cinemedia, a cinema advertising company, and transfer 24 theaters to a rival theater ad company, Screenvision. The Justice Department says the deal would lead to higher prices for moviegoers without those conditions.

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Appeals Panel Dismisses Wichita Sub's Lawsuit 

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The Kansas Court of Appeals has dismissed a defamation lawsuit by a former substitute teacher who resigned after a teacher complained about her telling students about her personal life, including that she had two abortions. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that Elizabeth Herrman filled in at a Wichita high school in 2015. Court documents show Herrman admitted telling students several personal details, including that she had two abortions. Herrman defended her actions, saying many of the statements listed had been taken out of context, and that the students started the conversations. The school said it was her seventh negative evaluation in eight years, and accepted her resignation two weeks later. Herrman sued the teacher who reported her comments, accusing him of defamation. A Sedgwick County judge dismissed the lawsuit, and the appeals panel upheld that ruling

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Johnson County DA:  Police Didn't Violate Law in Fatal Shooting 

OLATHE, Kan. (AP) — Johnson County authorities have determined police officers did not violate Kansas law when they shot and killed a man outside a suburban Kansas City retail store. Police said 50-year-old Walter R. Echols of Cypress, Texas, was shot last month outside a Wal-Mart after he hit an officer with a long wooden rod during a disturbance outside the store. Police also say officers tried to subdue him by non-lethal means before he was shot. The Kansas City Star reports that Johnson County District Attorney Steve Howe said that after reviewing reports about the shooting that the use of deadly force by officers was justified under Kansas law.

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Spirit AeroSystems Files $20 Million Construction Permit in Wichita

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Spirit AeroSystems has filed a $20 million construction permit for the building where it manufactures a part of the Boeing 787 Dreamliner in Sedgwick County. The Wichita Eagle reports the permit was filed last week. A Spirit spokesman says the permit is not specifically for a defense program but for current and future growth opportunities. No other details about the project were available. The building is Spirit's Composite Manufacturing Facility, where is makes composite forward fuselages. Earlier this year, Boeing raised Spirit's monthly 787 production rate from 10 fuselages a month to 12.

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Kansas Looks at Converting Juvenile Center to Predator Unit

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas officials are looking at converting a soon-to-close juvenile corrections center into a new unit for holding sex offenders indefinitely for treatment after they leave prison. Acting Department for Aging and Disability Services Secretary Tim Keck says the department is working with the state fire marshal's office to determine how the state's juvenile facility in Larned would have to be renovated. The Department of Corrections plans to close the juvenile facility in March. The state operates both an adult prison and a state mental hospital in Larned in western Kansas. The hospital includes the Sexual Predator Treatment Program. The number of patients in the sexual predator program continues to grow. Keck told a legislative committee that two dozen of them might be better served in a new medical facility. 

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Man Sentenced to 18 Years in 2015 Killing of Wichita Man 

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — One of five people charged in the stabbing death of a Wichita man has been sentenced to 18 years in prison. KAKE-TV reports that Diego Olivas was sentenced Wednesday for second-degree murder and kidnapping in the death of 42-year-old Moises Arias-Aranda. His body was found near Park City in a vehicle on Christmas Eve of 2015. Court documents show Olivas targeted Arias-Aranda because a friend claimed he had raped someone. A defense attorney said at Wednesday's hearing the rape never happened and that the woman who claimed rape was responsible for the death. But Judge Bruce Brown said "no one is responsible for making you do anything."

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Sheriff: Suspects in Mississippi Slayings Arrested in Kansas

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Authorities say two suspects in a deadly pawn shop robbery in Mississippi have been arrested in Kansas. Authorities say 35-year-old Jamison Townsend and 37-year-old Joshua Garcia were arrested Wednesday in Geary County after a chase. Both suspects are charged in arrest warrants in Mississippi with three counts of capital murder in a triple homicide Saturday at a pawn shop in Jackson. Geary County Sheriff Tony Wolf says when deputies on Interstate 70 tried to stop a Dodge Charger with no displayed registration, the car sped away and crashed. Wolf says the woman was arrested in the car and the man was found hours later hiding in a vehicle a mile from the crash site. It's not immediately clear whether Townsend and Garcia have attorneys who could comment on the allegations.

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Kansas Amputee Gets Surprise Holiday Gift: Electronic Hands

DERBY, Kan. (AP) — A southern Kansas woman who lost her hands and feet during a robbery got an early Christmas gift — new electronic hands worth $260,000, courtesy of a businessman and his wife. Julie Dombo of Derby showed off her new hands publicly Tuesday with her husband, a day after receiving them as a present from Koch Industries' general counsel Mark Holden and his wife. Dombo met Holden in October at a Wichita Crime Commission awards banquet. That's where Dombo told Holden about how insurance wouldn't pay for the electronic hands she said would give her a chance at a relatively ordinary life. Holden said he secretly wrote a personal check for them. On Tuesday, Holden called Dombo "inspiring, funny, lighthearted," with no signs of resentment.

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Staffing Vacancy Rates High But Improving at Kansas State Hospitals

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Staffing vacancy rates at Kansas state hospitals have improved amid efforts to boost morale and pay, although a top official acknowledges they remain too high. The Kansas Department for Aging and Disability Services Secretary Tim Keck discussed the issue with lawmakers this week. The hospitals have fewer openings for mental health technicians than in January, when Keck took over. The rate dropped to 24 percent from 40 percent at Larned State Hospital. The rate at Osawatomie is even lower — 10 percent. Larned has a physician vacancy rate of 60 percent currently, and a 28 percent vacancy rate for registered nurses. The figures are better at Osawatomie: 33 percent for physicians, 17 percent for registered nurses. Keck says overtime pay also has been trending downward.

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Analysts Raise Concerns About $12 Billion Westar Sale to KCP&L

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — State analysts say Westar Energy is putting shareholder enrichment ahead of reasonable electric rates for customers with its proposed sale to Kansas City Power & Light.  Analysts representing the staff of the Kansas Corporation Commission and the Citizens' Utility Ratepayer Board raised the concerns in hundreds of pages of testimony filed late last week. Also expressing concerns were several consumer intervenors in the case. A Westar spokeswoman says the company remains confident of completing the merger next spring. KCP&L's parent company, Missouri-based Great Plains Energy, is seeking to buy Westar. The $12.2 billion transaction would involve taking on $3.6 billion in Westar debt. If the merger's approved, Westar and KCP&L will become a single electric company straddling the Kansas/Missouri border, with 1.5 million customers.

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Two Atchison Snowplows Involved in Separate Accidents

ATCHISON, Kan. (AP) — Police say two city snowplows in Atchison were involved in separate accidents due to icy conditions. Police reports show the first incident happened Friday. Deputy public works director Clinton McNemee says the snowplow hit icy conditions as it traveled down the road, slid sideways, hit a shoulder and fell on its side. McNemee says the driver was taken to the hospital with minor injuries. A police report says the second accident happened Sunday, when a snowplow struck a vehicle parked along the road. There was damage to the vehicle.
 
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Iowa Couple Killed in Southwestern Kansas Crash 

LIBERAL, Kan. (AP) — An Iowa couple has died in a two-vehicle crash in southwestern Kansas. The Kansas Highway Patrol reports that 73-year-old Jerry D. Slykhuis and 70-year-old Jacqueline J. Slykhuis, of Cedar Falls, Iowa, died Monday evening after the SUV they were in collided with a semi tractor-trailer at a U.S. 54 intersection in Seward County. The patrol said the semi driver failed to stop at a stop sign before the accident occurred. The patrol said the victims were wearing seatbelts.

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Toddler Dies in Fire in Southeast Kansas
 

SCAMMON, Kan. (AP) — A child has been reported killed in a house fire in southeast Kansas. The Joplin Globe reports that the fire occurred early Monday in a home near the town of Scammon, which is located about 140 miles south of Kansas City. The Cherokee County sheriff's office says 3-year-old Jesse Walker died in the fire, and the child's mother and a younger child escaped. The cause of the fire is under investigation.

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Man Freezes to Death in Southwest Kansas

MANTER, Kan. - Extreme cold temperatures have claimed the life of a southwest Kansas man. Authorities say the 52-year-old man froze to death Sunday in the town of Manter in Stanton County.  The man was discovered by a family member.  In 2015, the National Weather Service said 53 people died due to cold weather.  Forty five people were killed due to heat.

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Game of Basketball Turns 125 Years Old This Week

And it was 125 years ago this week that James A. Naismith first published his original rules of basketball - the game he invented.  It was on December 21, 1891 that Naismith posted his original 13 rules to the wall of the YMCA in Springfield, Massachusetts.  Now, those same original rules are on display at the DeBruce Center, next to Allen Field House, on the University of Kansas campus.  Naismith was KU's first basketball coach and the only basketball coach in school history with a losing record.  Naismith died in 1939.  He's buried in Lawrence.

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Man Sentenced to 25 Years in 2014 Killing of Another Man 

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — A Kansas City man has been sentenced to 25 years in prison in the 2014 killing of a man whose body was found in the early morning hours of Halloween in the driver's seat of a running vehicle. The Kansas City Star reports that 22-year-old Antonio Golston was sentenced Wednesday for voluntary manslaughter, first-degree robbery and two counts of armed criminal action. Prosecutors say 24-year-old Dionte Greene was fatally shot after contacting people on Facebook about meeting. Court records say he had exchange messages with co-defendant Travone Shaw, who has been sentenced to 17 years in prison in the killing.

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Kansas City Teen Charged in Fatal Shooting During Drug Deal 

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Prosecutors say a teenager fatally shot one man and wounded another during a Kansas City drug deal. The Kansas City Star reports that 17-year-old Jewell Jones Jr., of Kansas City, was charged Wednesday with second-degree murder in the death of Warren Banks. Jones also faces one count each of first-degree robbery and first-degree assault and three counts of armed criminal action. No attorney is listed for Jones in online court records. Court records say Jones agreed to purchase marijuana from Banks last week. The victim who survived the shooting told police that gunfire erupted after Jones got into a vehicle with him and Banks and announced a robbery. Court records say Jones fled and later told a witness he had shot at two men in a vehicle.

 

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