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Headlines for Thursday, January 22, 2015

Obama Highlights Child Care in KU Speech 

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — President Barack Obama is pitching a plan for universal child care at a liberal stronghold deep in Republican territory, promoting his Democratic party agenda while calling for less partisanship in Washington. He says that with two working parents in many U.S. households, high-quality child care programs "are not just nice-to-haves, these are must-haves." Obama told a crowd at the University of Kansas: "I don't want anybody being daycare poor." He acknowledged losing Kansas twice during his presidential campaigns, though he added cheerily that he probably won some sectors of the university town of Lawrence. Obama was on the second day of a two-day trip to conservative states where he was making the case for initiatives that he outlined in his State of the Union speech Tuesday.

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Kansas Governor Pledges to Sign New Anti-Abortion Proposal 

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Governor Sam Brownback has promised to sign legislation to ban a procedure used to terminate hundreds of pregnancies in Kansas every year. Brownback made his pledge Thursday during a Statehouse rally with hundreds of abortion opponents. The event was sponsored by Kansans for Life and marked the 42nd anniversary of the U.S. Supreme Court decision legalizing abortion across the nation. The Republican governor has signed several anti-abortion bills since taking office in January 2011. The latest proposal targets a method in which a doctor uses a forceps, tongs or other medical instruments to dismember a living fetus in the womb. The procedure is used in about 8 percent of abortions in Kansas. Planned Parenthood issued a statement saying state lawmakers should stop interfering in women's health care decisions.

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State Senate Considers Allowing Concealed Carry Without Permits

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) - Kansas legislators are likely to consider allowing people to carry concealed firearms without requiring a state permit. Twenty-six of the Kansas Senate's forty members introduced a bill Wednesday to end the permitting requirement. The lead sponsor is Senate Majority Leader, Nickerson Republican Terry Bruce. Bruce said it makes sense to allow people to carry concealed guns without a permit because they already can carry firearms openly. He said the measure advances gun rights. The state has issued concealed carry permits since 2007. Under the proposed bill, people could still seek concealed-carry permits if they wanted to be able to carry their weapons in other states that recognize Kansas permits.

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Kansas Lawmakers Consider Hate Crime Bill 

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas lawmakers are considering a bill that would toughen punishments for hate crimes. Democratic Senator David Haley spoke in favor of the bill, which would double sentences for offenses determined to be hate crimes. Haley said the bill would help protect potential victims from crimes motivated by prejudice. But Republican Senator Forrest Knox expressed skepticism of the bill's effectiveness in the hearing. He said it was unclear whether tougher sentences would deter potential criminals. Knox also said it would be difficult to prove that those accused were motivated by prejudice. Currently there is no Kansas statute that requires stiffer punishment for hate crimes. However, Kansas courts may transfer cases of alleged hate crimes to federal courts, where penalties are increased.

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Shortage of Kansas Troopers Means Fewer Tickets, DUI Arrests 

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) — With fewer Kansas Highway Patrol troopers patrolling the state's highways, the number of tickets and traffic stops also has dropped. That might seem like good news for drivers but safety advocates say the decline in troopers is putting motorists at risk. The Kansas City Star reports that the number of troopers has dropped 16 percent since 2008, leaving 409 officers responsible for more than 10,000 miles of state highways. During those same years, the number of drunken-driving arrests declined 51 percent, and troopers wrote 31 percent fewer tickets. Highway patrol officials say the agency is struggling to replace officers because of low pay, long hours and the resulting morale problems. Highway Patrol Major John Eichkorn says the positions are not being left open to save the state money.

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Kansas Children's Activists Object to Budget Transfers 

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Children's advocates are pushing back against a move to transfer funds out of the Kansas Endowment for Youth Fund to fill state budget shortfalls. Kansas Governor Sam Brownback's proposed budget would transfer $31.8 million from the fund into the general state budget over the next three fiscal years. Kansas Budget Director Shawn Sullivan told the House Appropriation Committee Wednesday that the transfers would not cause cuts to programs and would tap only into excess funds. But Shannon Cotsoradis, CEO of the Kansas Action for Children, testified that because of the fund's fluctuating revenue stream, early education programs could be cut at short notice if the funds were transferred. She said the transfers would also deplete the fund at a time its revenues are projected to drop overall.

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Opponents of Medical Marijuana Bill Testify to Kansas Senate Committee  

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Opponents of a medical marijuana bill are making their case to the Kansas Senate. The Kansas Senate Public Health and Welfare Committee heard testimony Thursday from opponents of a proposal that would legalize marijuana for medical use. Speakers argued that the bill would lead to dangerous increases in drug use in the state and strain treatment resources. Institute on Global Drug Policy chairman Eric Voth said marijuana is harmful and legalization measures would threaten public health. He said other states that passed such legislation skirted medical research processes and set bad precedents. Kansas Association of Chiefs of Police legislative committee chair Ed Klumpp said states that have passed marijuana laws have faced problems. He says more information is needed before Kansas follows suit.

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Kobach Discusses Proposed Change to Kansas Supreme Court Selections 

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Secretary of State Kris Kobach says Kansas Supreme Court decisions in school funding and death penalty cases show the justices aren't as competent as federal judges. Kobach was among the witnesses testifying Thursday during a House Judiciary Committee hearing in favor of changing how state Supreme Court justices are chosen. He says the state's current system has produced what he called "mediocre results." Kobach said he believes federal judges are better qualified for their jobs. Defenders of the current system say it's worked well for decades. An attorney-led nominating commission currently screens applicants for Kansas Supreme Court vacancies and picks three finalists for each. The governor picks one of the finalists, with no role for legislators. Kobach favors having the governor appoint justices directly, subject to Senate confirmation.

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Police Say Kansas Officer, 43, Dead After Heart Attack

OLATHE, Kan. (AP) — Police say an Olathe officer set to be a part of a motorcade escorting President Barack Obama in Kansas died of a heart attack while cleaning his motorcycle. The Olathe Police Department says 43-year-old Michael Kern died at his home Tuesday while detailing his motorcycle in preparation for Obama's visit to Lawrence. Kern was a 13-year veteran of the Olathe Police Department. He also had worked for three years with the Cass County Sheriff's Department in Missouri. Kern had a wife, two daughters and a son.

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New Kansas Education Commissioner Meets with Public

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Incoming Kansas Education Commissioner Randy Watson is beginning a 15-stop tour this week to meet with parents, lawmakers and others about what they want from the state's public schools. The tour starts Thursday night at the Maner Conference Center in Topeka. Watson also will attend events in Arkansas City, Wichita, Salina, Hutchinson, Hays, Oakley, Garden Center, Sublette, Parsons, Girard, Emporia, Topeka, Olathe, Hiawatha and Kansas City. Watson was selected for the commissioner job in November. He replaces Diane DeBacker, who left in May to become an adviser to the director general of the Abu Dhabi Education Council in the United Arab Emirates. Watson previously was superintendent of the 2,400-student McPherson school district. He also was chairman of the Kansas Coalition of Innovative School Districts.

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Regulators Cite Company over Deadly Fireworks Explosion 

PITTSBURG, Kan. (AP) — Federal regulators have cited a company for workplace safety violations stemming from a deadly southeast Kansas fireworks explosion. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration has proposed $55,000 in fines against Lone Star Management LLC after finding nine serious safety violations. The blast happened August 12 as employees were moving pallets of fireworks and cardboard out of an explosives storage facility in Pittsburg. OSHA said employees were directed to use a gas-powered forklift that wasn't approved for a flammable environment, and gas ignited. One worker, 28-year-year-old Kenny Clark, died several hours later at a hospital in Joplin, Missouri. OSHA said another employee suffered burns over 80 percent of his body. OSHA also accused the company of storing cardboard in the explosives' containers. Lone Star general counsel Mike Baker said the company has served notice that it is contesting the citations. He said he could not comment further. 

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Hearing Set for 3 Suspects in Deadly Kansas Gun Shop Robbery 

OLATHE, Kan. (AP) — A hearing has been scheduled to determine whether there is enough evidence to try three Missouri men in a deadly robbery attempt at a Kansas gun shop. A Johnson County judge on Thursday set the April 21 preliminary hearing date for 18-year-old Hakeem Malik, 19-year-old Nicquan Midgyett, and 20-year-old Londro Patterson III. The Kansas City Star reports that the three Kansas City, Missouri, men are charged with felony first-degree murder in the shooting death of Jon Bieker. The 44-year-old was killed January 9 at his Shawnee store, called She's a Pistol. Midgyett and Patterson were wounded in the shooting, along with 19-year-old Deanthony Wiley, of Kansas City, Missouri. Wiley also has been charged but remains hospitalized.

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Man Charged with Capital Murder in Wichita Double Homicide

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A 24-year-old Wichita man is charged with capital murder in the deaths of his twin brother and sister-in-law. Sedgwick County prosecutors charged Luis Alvarado-Meraz Wednesday with capital murder and two alternative counts of first-degree murder. He is suspected in the deaths of 24-year-old Manuel Alvarado-Meraz and Manuel's 22-year-old wife, Lucero Rodriguez. The suspect lived with the couple, who were found dead by a relative on January 14. Alvarado-Meraz made his first court appearance Wednesday and will be represented by a court-appointed attorney. His bond was set at $1 million. Police and court records do not indicate a motive for the deaths.

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Judge Bars Defense from Seeing Evidence in Airport Bomb Case 

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Attorneys for a man accused of plotting a suicide bomb attack at a Wichita airport are not being allowed to view some classified evidence in the case. U.S. District Judge Monti Belot issued a protective order Wednesday after examining the materials. Avionics technician Terry Loewen is accused of trying to drive a van filled with inert explosives onto the tarmac at Mid-Continent Airport in December 2013. The judge says disclosure could seriously damage national security. Belot also found none of the information was favorable to the defendant.  Loewen has pleaded not guilty to attempting to use a weapon of mass destruction, attempting to use an explosive device to damage property and attempting to give material support to al-Qaida.

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OSHA Fines Contractors in Kansas City Workers Death  

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — The Occupational Safety and Health Administration fined two construction companies a total of $535,000 related to the death of a 22-year-old apprentice ironworker last summer. The worker, who has never been publicly identified, died July 25 after he fell more than 30 feet while standing on a 9-inch-wide girder. OSHA says the two companies did not provide fall protection for the worker. OSHA fined Fastrack Erectors Inc., a subcontractor based in St. Louis, $511,000 for seven willful and three serious safety violations. The general contractor, ARCO National Construction KC Inc., which has an office in Riverside, was fined $24,000 for four serious violations.

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Judge Denies Resentencing in Deadly Kansas Arson Fire 

OLATHE, Kan. (AP) — A former Johnson County physician has been denied a chance for a different sentence for killing two of her children in a 1995 arson fire. The Kansas City Star reports Johnson County District Judge Brenda Cameron ruled Thursday that Debora Green isn't entitled to a new sentencing hearing. Green had wanted her sentence of life in prison with no chance of parole for 40 years vacated and replaced. At issue are recent Kansas and U.S. Supreme Court rulings that certain sentences must be determined by a jury and not a judge. The ruling has led some inmates to successfully challenge their sentences. But Cameron found that Green's situation was different because she was sentenced based on a plea agreement that was well understood before she entered her pleas.

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Garden City Women's Team Escapes Injury After Bus Crash

LIBERAL, Kan. (AP) — Garden City Community College's women's basketball team escaped injury when the team bus was involved in an accident on the way to a game. The Kansas Highway Patrol says the bus was 11 miles north of Liberal on U.S. 83 Wednesday afternoon when cargo from a semi-trailer truck going the opposite way hit the driver's side of the bus. The bus was not drivable, prompting the school to cancel the women's game with Seward County Community College. The women's team returned to Garden City on another bus. The game has been rescheduled for 6 pm on February 2 in Liberal.

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Reward Increases to $8,500 in Independence Death 

INDEPENDENCE, Mo. (AP) — The reward for information in the July 2013 stabbing death of an Independence, Missouri man has grown to $8,500. Kansas City Crime Stoppers announced Thursday that the mother of 22-year-old Corey Laykovich has added another $500 to the reward. A sibling found him in his bedroom suffering from stab wounds. He died later at a hospital. Police ask anyone with information regarding Laykovich's death to call 816-474-TIPS (474-8477). A Corey Daniel Laykovich Burial and Memorial Fund has been established at Hawthorne Bank for additional donations.

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Woman Gets Probation for Operating Prostitution Service

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A Wichita woman has been spared from prison after admitting she ran an escort service as a front for a prostitution operation. The U.S. Attorney's Office said 60-year-old Saundra J. Lacy of Wichita was sentenced Wednesday to two years of probation, which was recommended by both prosecutors and her defense attorney. Lacy admitted in her plea deal that Jessie's Primetime Entertainment was a prostitution business that employed at least 20 female escorts. Prosecutors say customers would pay $160 for a half-hour date or $185 for an hour-long date that included sexual contact with the escort.

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Sedgwick County Rejects State Grant to Address Obesity

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) _ Sedgwick County commissioners have rejected a $580,000 state grant aimed at controlling obesity and diabetes because the majority said overweight people already know why they're fat. Commission Chairman Richard Ranzau says he's overweight because he eats too much and doesn't exercise enough. He says that's his fault, not the government's. Interim county health director Adrienne Byrne-Lutz says Sedgwick County has higher rates of diabetes and heart disease than the state average. She says the Kansas Department of Health and Environment grant would have been used to educate people about health risks and give them tools to make better decisions. The Wichita Eagle reports that Ranzau, a former physician assistant, doesn't understand why people think health problems like obesity are society's fault.

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Freight Plane Crashes in Northwest Kansas 

GOODLAND, Kan. (AP) — The Kansas Highway Patrol says a pilot escaped injury when a freight plane crashed in northwest Kansas. Emergency crews are on the scene of the twin-engine plane crash in Sherman County. It was reported about 9 am Wednesday. No passengers were on board Kansas Highway Patrol Trooper Tod Hileman says the plane was carrying UPS cargo. It was registered to Key Lime Air of Englewood, Colorado. The company said in a statement that the plane experienced and engine "anomaly" during the flight and went down safely in a rural area near Goodland. Hileman says the Federal Aviation Administration has been notified of the crash.

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Kansas City Firefighters Clear Smoke from JJ's Restaurant 

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Kansas City firefighters have extinguished a fire at a restaurant that recently reopened after the original location was leveled nearly two years ago in a deadly explosion. The Kansas City Star reports that the new JJ's restaurant near the upscale County Club Plaza shopping and entertainment district had to be evacuated Wednesday morning because of heavy smoke. Battalion Chief Jeff Johnson of the fire department said there weren't injuries and described the damage as "minimal." JJ's co-owner Jimmy Frantze said the restaurant opened for lunch after a visit from a city health official. JJ's re-opened in November. The business has been closed since February 2013, when the explosion caused by a natural gas leak killed server Megan Cramer, destroyed the restaurant and damaged two neighboring buildings.

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Kansas State President Named New NCAA Board Chairman

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) _ Kansas State President Kirk Schulz has been named the new chairman of the NCAA's board of governors. He will hold that job through the governing body's annual convention in January 2017. He replaces Michigan State President Lou Anna Simon, whose term ended last weekend. The restructured board is now comprised of 20 presidents and chancellors from all three divisions and will oversee decisions that apply to all NCAA members. Schulz has served on the Division I board of directors and the executive committee since 2012. He also helped create the restructured governance model that was adopted last year and implemented during last week's convention in Washington. Schulz has served as Kansas State president since 2009.

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Mexico to Play Ecuador and Paraguay in US in March 

NEW YORK (AP) — Mexico will play a pair of exhibition games in the U.S. in March. El Tri will meet Ecuador at the Los Angeles Coliseum in March 28, then play Paraguay three days later at Arrowhead Stadium in Kansas City, Missouri. The games are within the international fixture period on FIFA's calendar, which means most top players should be available. The matches were announced Thursday by Soccer United Marketing, an affiliate of Major League Soccer. Mexico also is scheduled to play the U.S. at San Antonio on April 15, which is not a FIFA date.

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