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Headlines for Thursday, May 25, 2017

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

Kansas House Okays School Funding Plan

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas legislators have advanced a bill that would phase in a $280 million increase in spending on the state's public schools over two years.  The House gave the measure first-round approval last (WED) night on an 81-40 vote. It plans to take another, final vote today (THUR) and is expected to approve it and send it to the Senate.  The state spends about $4 billion a year on aid to its 286 local school districts, but the Kansas Supreme Court ruled in March that education funding is inadequate. The court did not say specifically how much spending must increase in setting a June 30 deadline for lawmakers to pass a new school finance law.  Attorneys for four school districts suing the state have said the original plan is not sufficient. Many Republicans disagree.

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Surgeon, Med Center Chief Tapped as University of Kansas Chancellor 

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — A surgeon who has served as the University of Kansas Medical Center's executive vice chancellor is the new top overseer of the University of Kansas. The Kansas Board of Regents on Thursday named Dr. Douglas Girod as the successor to retiring Bernadette Gray-Little. Gray-Little has been chancellor since 2009 and announced last September she would retire this summer. As the medical center's executive vice chancellor since February 2013, Girod oversaw educational, research, patient care and community engagement efforts of the university's medicine, nursing and health professions schools. Those schools have more than 3,300 students, 2,100 faculty and 4,000 staffers. Girod also served as the medical school's interim executive dean until early 2014. He joined the University of Kansas Medical Center faculty in 1994 and has served in the Navy Reserve.

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Blue Cross / Blue Shield KC Pulls Out of Obamacare

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) - Blue Cross Blue Shield of Kansas City is pulling out of the federal health care exchanges in Kansas and Missouri next year because of mounting financial losses.  Blue KC officials say the company lost more than $100 million on the exchanges... and described those losses as "unsustainable."  The company's announcement yesterday (WED) makes it just the latest insurer to drop out of the government-backed marketplaces that were a pillar of the Obama-era federal health care overhaul.  The nation's third-largest insurer, Aetna, announced earlier this month that it will completely leave the exchanges for 2018.

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Kansas Lawmakers Close to Approving Abortion Disclosure Rule

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas legislators are close to approving a new requirement that abortion providers give women information about their doctors' histories and provide it in print in a specific type font on white paper. The House approved the bill on an 84-38 vote Thursday. It goes next to the Senate and approval there would send it to Republican Governor Sam Brownback. The bill would require that providers give women information about the physician performing the abortion at least 24 hours in advance.The information would include the doctor's credentials, malpractice insurance, hospital privileges, and disciplinary record and would have to be printed in 12-point Times New Roman type.The bill's supporters say women need the information to make informed decisions. Critics say the bill is meant to discourage women from having abortions.

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Kansas Distributor Recalls Precooked Sausage Due to Metal

JUNCTION CITY, Kan. (AP) — A Kansas food distributor has recalled nearly 100,000 pounds (45,360 kilograms) of precooked sausage products that might contain metal. The recall was announced Wednesday by Armour Eckrich Meats in Junction City. The Food Safety and Inspection Service says the recall includes more than 8,000 cases of 16.6-ounce (460-gram) packages of "Eckrich Smok-y Cheddar Breakfast sausage, Naturally Hardwood Smoked." The labels have the case or UPC code and a "27815 17984" with a use-by date of August 17. The products also have the number "EST. 3JC" inside the USDA mark of inspection. The products were distributed in Kansas, Arkansas, Indiana, Louisiana, Oklahoma and Texas. The fully-cooked pork, turkey and beef breakfast sausage were produced and packaged from April 26 to April 28. No injuries from consuming the meat have been reported.

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Charges Dropped Against Former City Administrator

NEWTON, Kan. (AP) — A central Kansas prosecutor has dropped charges against a former Halstead city administrator who'd been accused of perjury. Harvey County District Attorney David Yoder said Thursday in a news release without elaborating that there was insufficient evidence to continue pursuing the case involving J.R. Hatfield. Hatfield and the former police chief of 2,100-resident Halstead, Steven Lewis, were arrested last year after a Kansas Bureau of Investigation probe of Halstead's police department. Court documents alleged that Hatfield falsely reported the reasons for Lewis's retirement, leading to a felony perjury charge against him. Court records show Lewis was convicted in February of two misdemeanor theft counts, and a felony count of misuse of public funds was dismissed at that time. Hatfield resigned as city administrator last November.

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No Charges in Wichita State Altercation, Alleged Slur

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — No charges will be filed in an altercation that allegedly included a racial slur during a banquet at Wichita State University. Sedgwick County District Attorney Marc Bennett said Wednesday in a letter that his office couldn't determine beyond a reasonable doubt that the racial slur was made, or made with criminal intent. Former student president Joseph Shepard and his family alleged the parents of the current president, Paige Hungate, called Shepard a racial slur at the banquet May 4. They alleged her father charged Shepard, prompting other people to intervene. Bennett said witness accounts were inconsistent and there wasn't enough evidence to support assault or battery charges. The Wichita Eagle reports Hungate and other student leaders agreed to take diversity training and meet other demands from protesting students.

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House Fire Claims Life of Carbondale Man

CARBONDALE, Kan. (AP) - Fire officials have identified the victim of a deadly fire in Carbondale as an 89-year-old man. The Kansas Fire Marshal's Office has identified Roger Edgar as the man killed early Monday.  A dog was also killed.  The cause of the blaze is still undermined and remains under investigation.

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Warrant Issued in Manhattan Man's Shooting Death

MANHATTAN, Kan. (AP) - Riley County police say a missing 37-year-old Manhattan woman might be traveling with a homicide suspect.  Police say Cora Brown could be in danger if she is with 38-year-old Steven Harris.  A warrant accuses Harris of murder and attempted murder after the Sunday shooting death of 39-year-old German Gonzalez Garcia. A second man was shot and critically wounded.  Steven Harris is 5-feet-7-inches, weighing 145 pounds. He has short brown hair, brown eyes and distinctive tattoos on his head and neck.  The missing Manhattan woman -- Cora Brown -- is described as 5-feet-3-inches, weighing about 120 pounds. She has brown hair and blue eyes.  Police did not say why they believe Brown might be with Harris.  Police also are looking for a gold 2004 Buick Rendezvous in connection with the case.  

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Judge: Evidence of Violent Porn Use Allowed in Rape Case

HOLTON, Kan. (AP) - A judge says he will allow evidence that a Kansas man watched hours of violent pornography at his upcoming sexual assault trial.  Jacob Ewing sis scheduled for trial in June on charges of rape and aggravated criminal sodomy against two women.  Jackson County District Judge Norbert Marek ruled Monday portions of seven video showing acts Ewing "is said to have replicated" will be used as evidence at the trial.  Special prosecutor Jacqie Spradling said in May that evidence showed Ewing viewed an average of four hours of violent pornography per day.  Ewing's attorney, Kathleen Ambrosio, argued the porn would be highly prejudicial.  Ewing faces trials in August and October in other sexual assault cases. He was acquitted last month of sexually assaulting a 13-year-old girl.

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Court: U.S. Gun Ban Doesn't Apply to City Domestic Abuse Laws

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) - An appeals court says someone convicted of a misdemeanor domestic battery under a city ordinance can legally have a gun.  The ruling from the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver could have broader implications for gun sales. The court on Tuesday threw out the case of a Kansas man who was convicted of violating a federal law that prohibits someone who's been convicted of domestic violence "under federal, state or tribal law" from owning a gun.  Alexander Pauler had been convicted of misdemeanor domestic violence under a Wichita ordinance. The appeals court found that the federal gun law doesn't apply to such municipal ordinances.  Pauler's attorney, David Freund, says it's the first time an appeals court has directly addressed that argument.  Prosecutors haven't decided whether to appeal.

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Kansas Woman Fights to Keep State Fair Champion Lamb Title 

WASHINGTON, Kan. (AP) — A northern Kansas woman is fighting a decision by state fair officials to strip her champion lamb title and winnings because of alleged performance enhancement. The Hutchinson News reports Kansas State University student Gabryelle Gilliam had the grand champion market lamb at the 2016 Kansas State Fair, but she was disqualified in January for "unethical fitting." The Kansas Department of Agriculture's Dr. Paul Grosdidier says he concluded after a carcass exam that a natural substance was injected into the animal "within a few days" of inspection. State fair rules prohibit treating animals with a substance to alter its body in any way. Gilliam alleges in Reno County District Court documents that the fair's actions weren't supported by substantial evidence. She wants the disqualification overturned. The Kansas Attorney General's office is seeking more time to respond to her complaint.

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Kansas Woman Pleads Guilty to Grave Robbery

HUTCHINSON, Kan. (AP) _ A woman who tried to dig up a grave at a Hutchinson cemetery has pleaded guilty to two municipal charges.  Thirty-three-year-old Natasha Holmes pleaded guilty yesterday (WED) to criminal desecration of a grave and criminal damage to property.  According to The Hutch News, investigators have not disclosed the reason Holmes said she was trying to dig up the grave.  She was transferred to Larned State Hospital for evaluation after her arrest but was released on bond before yesterday's (WED) hearing.  

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Kansas Woman Convicted of Causing Deadly Crash 

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) — A Kansas woman accused of driving into a group of teenagers, killing one of them, has been convicted of involuntary manslaughter. A jury in Wyandotte County also convicted 41-year-old Tamika Pledger on Thursday of three counts of aggravated battery. Authorities alleged Pledger drove into Tierra Smith and three other high school students in January 2015. Smith died about a week after the crash. James Spies, a prosecutor, told jurors Tuesday that Pledger was driving at least 55 mph in a 20-mph zone when she crested a hill and hit the victims. Pledger's attorney, Michael Gunter, countered that his client was on her way to stop a fight from happening and couldn't see anyone in the street when she got to the hilltop.

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Man Sentenced in Drunken-Driving Wreck that Killed 2

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) _ A Missouri who admitted driving drunk has been sentenced to more than 16 years in prison for causing a wreck in Topeka that killed a man from Ohio and a woman from Texas.  Fernando De Jesus Osorino was sentenced Friday for two counts of involuntary manslaughter while driving under the influence of alcohol and one count of driving under the influence.  The Kansas Highway Patrol says Osorino was driving east in the westbound lanes of Interstate 70 on February 28 when his car collided with a vehicle driven by 27-year-old Corey Jackson, of Newark, Ohio.  The Topeka Capital-Journal reports a passenger in Jackson's car, 24-year-old Coral Lynn Clark, of Fort Worth, Texas, died. Jackson died March 8.  Osorino also was ordered to pay $23,788 in restitution.  

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Manning's Conditions of Confinement Lawsuit Dismissed

WASHINGTON (AP) - A lawsuit brought by Private Chelsea Manning over the conditions of her confinement has been dismissed. Manning, the Army soldier who was sentenced to 35 years in a military prison for giving classified materials to WikiLeaks, was released last week from Fort Leavenworth military prison.  President Obama commuted her sentence before he left office.  One of her attorneys wrote on Twitter that the case was dismissed because she is free.  Manning sued in federal court in the District of Columbia, asking a judge to order the Defense Department to provide hormone therapy and other treatment for her gender identity condition.  The Army ultimately allowed her to receive medical treatment for her gender dysphoria.

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KC Area Health System Signs Cancer Trial Agreement

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) - A health system based in Kansas City, Missouri, has signed an agreement with Washington University in St. Louis that gives patients access to clinical trials through the university's National Cancer Institute-supported research.  The Kansas City Star reports the agreement between St. Luke's Health System and the university's Alvin J. Siteman Cancer Center will take effect June 1. Patients should start having access to trials by late summer.  The partnership puts St. Luke's in competition with the University of Kansas Health System, which has a National Cancer Institute-designated cancer center. Siteman is considered a "comprehensive" cancer center, which is one step above Kansas's designation.  National Cancer Institute spokeswoman Shannon Hatch says it's pointless to compare the two because each will offer some treatments that the other doesn't provide.

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Rachel Robinson to Receive O'Neil Award from Baseball Hall of Fame 

NEW YORK (AP) — Rachel Robinson will receive the Buck O'Neil Lifetime Achievement Award from baseball's Hall of Fame on July 29, the day before this year's induction ceremony. She's the wife of late Hall of Famer Jackie Robinson, who broke the major league color barrier in 1947. Rachel Robinson created the Jackie Robinson Foundation in 1973, a year after he husband's death. Rachel Robinson, who turns 95 in July 19, headed the foundation's board until 1996. The O'Neil award was established in 2007 to honor individuals who broaden the game's appeal and whose character is comparable to that of O'Neil. He played in the Negro Leagues, was a scout for major league baseball teams and helped establish the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum in Kansas City, Missouri. The award was given to O'Neil in 2008, Roland Hemond in 2011 and Joe Garagiola in 2014.

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Yanks Beat Royals 3-0

NEW YORK (AP) — The Yankees beat the Royals 3-0 Wednesday.  Today's (THUR) scheduled game between Kansas City and New York has been postponed by rain.  The announcement was made earlier this (THUR) morning before the teams were supposed to play the finale of a four-game series. The local forecast called for inclement weather much of the day. Instead, the game will be made up on September 25 at Yankee Stadium at the start of New York's final regular-season homestand.
 

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