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Headlines for Thursday, July 27, 2017

Here's what's happening in our area, according to staff and AP wire reports.

Brownback Still Touts Tax Cuts as He Heads to Exit 

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Republican Governor Sam Brownback says he wishes Kansas had preserved part of an income tax break he championed as a boon for small businesses. Brownback cited the death of the exemption for more than 330,000 farmers and business owners as one of his regrets during his 6½ years as governor. He reflected on his tenure during a Statehouse news conference following his nomination by President Donald Trump to serve as U.S. ambassador-at-large for international religious freedom. His departure would elevate Lieutenant Governor Jeff Colyer, a fellow GOP conservative, to governor. Brownback said he doesn't know whether he'll wait until his ambassador's appointment is confirmed by the U.S. Senate before resigning as governor.

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Kansas Political Leaders Debate Brownback's Legacy

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) - Kansas Governor Sam Brownback is looking to take an ambassadorship in President Donald Trump's administration. The White House announced Wednesday that Trump will nominate the Republican governor to serve as ambassador-at-large for international religious freedom. If confirmed by the Senate, he'll run the State Department's office of International Religious Freedom. Brownback has scheduled a news conference Thursday afternoon to discuss plans for his expected departure from the governor's office. In a tweet Wednesday, Brownback said he was honored "to serve such an important cause." The chairman of Kansas's Republican Party says Brownback will be remembered as a governor who advanced conservative goals. But the state Senate Democratic leader says Brownback's legacy will be the budget problems caused by income tax cuts the governor championed.

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Next Kansas Governor Would Be a Surgeon, Brownback Loyalist

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) - Jeff Colyer has been a loyal lieutenant governor to GOP Governor Sam Brownback since 2011 and is preparing to become Kansas governor after nearly a decade of helping fellow conservative Republicans shape health care policy. Colyer is a plastic surgeon who's worked in international medical relief missions in disaster and war zones. Colyer would be elevated to governor once Brownback resigns to become President Donald Trump's ambassador-at-large for international religious freedom. The White House announced Wednesday that it would nominate Brownback. The 57-year-old Colyer already was seen as a potential Republican candidate for governor next year because Brownback was term-limited. Colyer often was the administration's spokesman on health issues and served in the state Legislature before first running on Brownback's ticket in 2010.  

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Heavy Rains Cause Flash Flooding in Kansas City

Much of the Kansas City metro area has been underwater today (THUR), as heavy rains overnight caused flash flooding, submerging vehicles and sweeping some of them off the road. A number of water rescues took place, with emergency workers responding to motorists trapped inside partially-submerged vehicles.Some vehicles were swept off roadways and into creeks or ditches overflowing with fast-moving flood waters. While the threat for additional rain has ended, widespread flooding continues from the heavy downpour. The National Weather Service and several media outlets report that some areas received more than 7 inches of rain, closing numerous roads and highways for hours at a time.

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No Serious Injuries After Amtrak Train Hits Cattle Truck 

READING, Kan. (AP) — An Amtrak passenger train is running again after a collision with a cattle truck in eastern Kansas. No serious injuries were reported when the livestock trailer was split in half in the Thursday morning collision near the small town of Reading, northeast of Emporia. Amtrak spokesman Marc Magliari says that after a four-hour delay, the train continued eastward. Magliari says at least two of the three crew members in the cab of the Southwest Chief sustained minor cuts and bruises, but none of the 211 passengers were hurt. Photos on the Emporia Gazette website show a mangled cattle truck. The Lyon County sheriff's department didn't immediately return a phone message from the AP.

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7 Charged with Felony Murder in Baldwin City Woman's Death

PAOLA, Kan. (AP) - Prosecutors have charged seven people with felony murder after they say a woman was intentionally hit by a car in a drug-related death. Authorities say 23-year-old Heather Briggs, of Baldwin City, died early Friday on a road 2 miles west of Paola. Police found her body underneath the vehicle. Prosecutors say Briggs was run over during a felony drug deal involving the distribution of methamphetamine. The suspected driver, 21-year-old Nichole Razo, of Parker, was charged Tuesday with first-degree felony murder. Six other people - two from Paola and four from Osawatomie - were charged Wednesday with the same crime. They are each being held in Miami County on $1 million bond.

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14th Case Linked to Serial Rapist; $10K Reward Offered 

MANHATTAN, Kan. (AP) — Authorities say a serial rapist who remains on the loose after attacking more than a dozen women in two Kansas college towns has been tied to another case. Police in Riley County and Lawrence announced during a joint news conference Thursday that a July 2015 attempted rape in Manhattan is the latest case linked to the unidentified suspect. The man also is suspected in 12 other rapes and one other attempted rape from 2000 to 2008. Authorities are urging other women who may have been victimized to come forward. Police say all but one of the attacks occurred during school breaks at Kansas State and the University of Kansas. Officials have said the suspect is usually armed. A $10,000 reward is being offered for information that leads to an arrest.

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Worsening Drought Conditions in Parts of US Stressing Crops

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — Drought conditions are getting worse in several states, and extreme heat and weeks with little rain have begun to stress corn, soybeans, wheat and livestock in some areas. The weekly U.S. Drought Monitor released Thursday by the University of Nebraska-Lincoln says nearly 11 percent of the continental United States is in moderate drought or worse. The most severe drought area is centered on portions of Montana, North Dakota and South Dakota. The United States Department of Agriculture has designated several counties in those states as areas of natural disaster, paving the way for emergency loans for producers. Iowa, Kansas, Nebraska, Oklahoma and Texas also are seeing stressed crops and farm animals. About half of U.S. spring wheat, 15 percent of corn and 14 percent of soybeans are in drought.

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Kansas Congressional Delegation Reacts to Trump's Transgender Ban
 
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) - Two members of Kansas's Congressional delegation say they disagree with President Donald Trump's proposal to ban transgender people from serving in the military, although they agree the government shouldn't pay for gender transition surgeries or hormone treatments. Kansas Congressman Kevin Yoder and Congresswoman Lynn Jenkins, both Republicans, said in statements Wednesday anyone who wants to serve in the military should be allowed to do so. Kansas Republican Congressman Roger Marshall said he supports Trump's proposal because the president made the decision after consulting with the country's generals.  And Senator Pat Roberts said only that he wants to hear more from the military. All of the state's Congressional members voted earlier in favor of an amendment prohibiting therapies or surgeries for transgender troops. The amendment failed.

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Kansas Lawmaker Wants 20% Pay Raises for Corrections Officers

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) - A Kansas lawmaker who heads a budget subcommittee says he'll push next year for a pay increase of as much as 20 percent for corrections officers at state prisons. Republican Representatve J.R. Claeys of Salina announced his proposal following an uprising last month at the state's maximum-security prison in El Dorado. His plan could cost as much as $20 million a year. Claeys is chairman of a House budget subcommittee on public safety. State employee union leader Robert Choromanski said Wednesday that the proposal is a good start but working conditions remain a problem. Claeys said the prison system's biggest issue is recruiting and retaining uniformed officers because the pay starts at $13.95 an hour. The state says 12 percent of those positions were vacant this week.

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Police in California, Kansas Probe Deaths of Couple's Babies 

BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (AP) — Authorities say they are investigating whether the death of a couple's baby in California is related to the death of their older child in Kansas in 2015. Gage and Debra Roberts were charged with second-degree murder Tuesday in the death of their infant in a Bakersfield
hotel in April 2016, the Bakersfield Californian reports. In Kansas, Shawnee County's District Attorney Michael Kagay then announced Wednesday there was an ongoing investigation into the death of the couple's six-month-old baby in Topeka in 2015. Kagay said his office is cooperating with the Topeka Police Department and authorities in California to determine to if the two deaths are connected. Court documents filed in California say police were called to a hotel in 2016 and found a maid performing CPR on a baby. The child was pronounced dead on the scene, according to the newspaper. Gage Roberts said he had slept in the same bed with the infant and they remained face up, the document said. Police reported they found evidence inconsistent with that statement. The couple told police they had another child die in Kansas from sudden infant death syndrome. Debra Roberts is represented by the Kern County public defender's office. Dominic Eyherabide, chief assistant public defender, warned the public against rushing to judgment. A court-appointed attorney for Gage Roberts could not be reached for comment on Thursday. The couple is scheduled to be arraigned August 1.

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Chinese Firm to Locate Small Manufacturing Plant in Lawrence

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) - A Chinese firm will locate a small manufacturing plant in Lawrence to build propellers.  The company, Sterna Composite Aircraft, will build the plant as part of a joint venture with Lawrence-Based DARcorporation. The propellers built at the plant will power everything from drones to airboats. The Lawrence Journal-World reports that the plant will create 10 new manufacturing jobs by the end of the year, with perhaps dozens more in future years. Sterna currently produces composite propellers in China but wants to target the U.S. market. DARcorporation president Willem Anemaat says his company has worked with Sterna previously and promoted Lawrence for the company's U.S. headquarters. Anemaat said the long range plan is to have the joint venture company certified by the Federal Aviation Administration to produce propellers for larger aircraft.

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Wichita Sees Declining Homeless Population 

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Closing homeless shelters and reports on homeless counts show that Wichita's homeless population is declining. The Wichita Eagle reports that data collected in the annual point-in-time homeless counts show chronic homeless in Wichita has dropped 42 percent from 2015 to 2017. Service providers for the homeless say the most significant drops are among veterans and the chronically homeless. Agencies providing services meet monthly to review cases. Catholic Charities Executive Director Wendy Glick says the nonprofit's The Mount shelter has closed because not enough homeless families were using it. But Glick says Wichita is also seeing an increase in the number of homeless teens and 20-somethings. United Way of the Plains Director of Community Impact Luella Sanders says groups plan to focus on helping that specific group next.

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War Plane Restored in Kansas Honors Deceased Veterans

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) - A decades-old bomber that was built and restored in Wichita is now being used to honor those who worked on B-29s during World War II. The Wichita Eagle  reports the Boeing B-29 Superfortress named Doc has a custom exhaust port on the rear of the plane can spread cremated remains. It took a trip Tuesday in Wisconsin with the cremated remains of one of the men who helped with its 16-year volunteer restoration. The plane was dubbed Doc after being assigned to a squadron of eight bombers named after Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs from 1945 to 1956. The plane was finished too late to fly bombing missions during WWII, but it served as a radar trainer during the Korean War.

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Hundreds Turn Out for Nonexistent Job Fair in Wichita
 
WICHITA, Kan. (AP) - Several hundred people in Wichita have shown up for a nonexistent job fair after a newspaper article about an event two years ago began circulating on social media. The Wichita Eagle  reports nearly 300 people showed up to Spirit AeroSystems last weekend after someone shared the newspaper's story about a job fair in 2015 as if it were a new event. The newspaper's data show the article has been clicked on nearly 30,000 times in the past couple of weeks. The newspaper and Spirit tried to get the word out that there's no job fair, but people still showed up. Spirit spokesman Jarrod Bartlett says the company used that opportunity to remind people that Spirit is always hiring.

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Royals Destroy Tigers, Win 8 Games in a Row!

DETROIT (AP) _ The Kansas City Royals crushed the Tigers 16-2 in Detroit yesterday (WED). Eric Hosmer matched his career high with five hits, including his first major league grand slam, as the Kansas City Royals extended their winning streak to a season-high eight games.

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