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Headlines for Thursday, November 6, 2014


Exit Polls: Brownback Lacks Tax Cut Mandate

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas Governor Sam Brownback has narrowly won re-election even though exit polling suggested a majority of voters were skeptical of the personal income tax cuts he championed. Exit polling conducted for The Associated Press and television networks showed Wednesday that 53 percent of the voters surveyed believed the cuts mostly hurt the state and 41 percent said they mostly helped. The survey of 2,027 voters was conducted by Edison Research and had a margin of error of 4 percent. Earlier, preliminary exit polling data — involving fewer voters — had suggested a more favorable opinion of the tax cuts. Legislators enacted the tax cuts at Brownback's urging. He argued during the campaign that they were boosting the economy. Democratic challenger Paul Davis said they wrecked the state's finances.


GOP Kansas House Majority Largest Since 1952

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Republicans have gained at least two Kansas House seats, and their total of 95 is the GOP's best showing for the 125-member chamber in 62 years. But results from Tuesday's elections showed that the GOP's majority could grow larger still. Republican candidates in three districts held leads of fewer than 60 votes apiece as of Wednesday night. If all three prevail, Republicans will outnumber House Democrats 98-27 when the legislative session opens in January. Records kept by the Kansas State Library say the last time the GOP won as many or more seats in the House was 1952. The tightest race this year was in the 79th District, which includes Winfield. Democratic Representative Ed Trimmer trailed Republican challenger Larry Alley by six votes out of nearly 6,600 cast.


Kansas GOP Constructs Another Anti-Obama Midterm Sweep

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas Republicans stuck together enough around their opposition to Democratic President Barack Obama to rescue U.S. Senator Pat Roberts and Governor Sam Brownback in tough re-election races. They also engineered another midterm sweep of all statewide and congressional races. Democrats remained stunned Wednesday over how a fall campaign season that began with so much hope ended so badly. Roberts, Brownback, conservative Secretary of State Kris Kobach and the entire U.S. House delegation will stay in office. Republicans even padded their supermajorities in the Legislature. It was the same result as in 2010. Exit polling from Tuesday's election conducted for The Associated Press and television networks showed four out of five Republicans stuck with Roberts over independent candidate Greg Orman and with Brownback over Democrat Paul Davis.


Kansas Supreme Court Delays Same-Sex Marriage Hearing

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The Kansas Supreme Court has indefinitely postponed a hearing on a gay-marriage case because of a federal judge's order in a separate lawsuit barring the state from enforcing its ban on same-sex marriage. The Kansas court issued an order Wednesday, a day before arguments from attorneys on a petition filed by Attorney General Derek Schmidt. The court told the parties it wants to hear from them by November 15th on whether it should continue to bar counties from issuing marriage licenses to gay couples and postpone Schmidt's case until a federal lawsuit is resolved. In the federal case, U.S. District Judge Daniel Crabtree ruled Tuesday that the state could not enforce its gay-marriage ban but stayed his decision to allow the state to appeal. The state did that Wednesday. The American Civil Liberties Union had sued to overturn Kansas's ban after the U.S. Supreme Court refused to hear appeals from five states seeking to save their gay marriage bans. Among them were Oklahoma and Utah, which are in the same appeals court circuit as Kansas.


Missouri AG Appeals Gay Marriage Ruling

ST. LOUIS (AP) - Missouri's top prosecutor has appealed a judge's ruling overturning the state's constitutional ban on gay marriage. Attorney General Chris Koster said in a news release Wednesday that the issue needed to be resolved by the Missouri Supreme Court. The announcement came after St. Louis Circuit Judge Rex Burlison said in a written ruling that Missouri's measure recognizing marriage as only between a man and woman violates the due process and equal protection rights of the U.S. Constitution. The decision mirrored ones handed down recently in numerous other states. The city of St. Louis issued four marriage licenses to same-sex couples in June and then quit doing so, intentionally setting up a legal challenge to the state's 2004 constitutional amendment banning gay marriage.


Missouri Counties Refuse to Issue Gay Marriage Licenses

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) - Many Missouri counties are declining to issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples a day after a judge in St. Louis ruled that the state's ban on gay marriage is unconstitutional. The president of the Recorders' Association of Missouri said the group was advising county officials Wednesday that the ruling by St. Louis Circuit Judge Rex Burlison applies only to that city and not the rest of the state. Association president Jan Jones said she was following that advice in Johnson County and not issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples. Officials in Boone, Cole, Greene, Miller, Osage and Jasper counties also said they weren't issuing the licenses. But a spokeswoman for the St. Louis County recorder of deeds said it already had issued marriage licenses to two same-sex couples Wednesday.


Sprint Announces More Job Cuts

OVERLAND PARK, Kan - The Sprint Corporation revealed the full extent of its job cuts Wednesday and says it plans to lay off about a thousand more employees than it had previously announced. The Kansas City Star reports that the Overland Park-based company will eliminate a total of 3,700 employees as part of cost-saving measures. The job cuts will affect 11 percent of the company's employees nationwide. The payroll cuts are part of an aggressive campaign to reduce overall spending by $1.5 billion. The wireless carrier says the difficult measures were necessary to compete against other wireless companies. A Sprint spokesman said the company was offering voluntary buyouts to reach at least part of the 2,000 jobs left to be cut and, he said, layoffs would follow if necessary.


Ex-Boeing Workers Appeal Ruling in Whistleblower Suit

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) - Three former workers at the Boeing plant in Wichita who filed a whistleblower lawsuit against the aircraft maker and one of its suppliers are challenging a judge's ruling against them. A filing Wednesday in U.S. District Court gave notice the former employees are taking the case to the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals. At issue is a federal judge's decision that they failed to show Boeing defrauded the U.S. government in a $1.6 billion contract. U.S. District Judge Monti Belot summarily ruled October 8 in favor of Boeing and California-based supplier Ducommun Inc., rejecting claims brought by former workers Taylor Smith, Jeannine Prewitt and James Ailes. Their 2005 lawsuit alleged that Boeing defrauded the government in a contract for two dozen 737 Next Generation aircraft by using "bogus parts."


NTSB: Landing Gear Down Before Wichita Crash

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) - Investigators say the pilot of a small plane that crashed into a flight training building at a Wichita airport last week declared an emergency about a minute after taking off, saying he had "lost the left engine." The National Transportation Safety Board said in a preliminary report Thursday that several witnesses reported the plane had its landing gear down before it hit the Flight Safety International building at Wichita Mid-Continent Airport. The pilot and three people in the building died. Six other people were injured, two of them seriously. The left wing separated after hitting the building just below the roof line. The nose struck the roof and the plane slid for about 20 to 30 feet before the tail section came over the top, followed by a large explosion.


Crash into Flight Simulator Company Stops Training

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — The crash of a small plane into a flight safety training center at the Wichita Airport has disrupted pilot training on some Cessna models but efforts are being made to provide alternatives. A twin-engine Beechcraft King Air crashed into the training center on Thursday, killing the pilot and three people inside flight simulators. The Wichita Eagle reports that pilots use the center to be rated to fly a particular airplane or to receive recurring training. The FlightSafety building at the airport was the company's only location to offer simulation training on Cessna's Citation M2, the CJ4, Citation VII and the three Caravan models. Training on other Cessna models at different simulation centers will continue on schedule. The company said it is working with other training sites to accommodate customers' needs.


Abortion Foes See Efforts Helping GOP in Kansas

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Abortion opponents are claiming some credit for victories in Kansas by Republican U.S. Senate Pat Roberts and GOP Gov. Sam Brownback. Leaders of the state Republican and Democratic parties said Thursday that their mailings, fliers and phone calls were a factor in the election's outcome. The anti-abortion group Kansans for Life says it sent about 640,000 mailings to households across during the general election campaign. Executive director Mary Kay Culp said the group also made about the same number of phone calls to get anti-abortion voters to the polls. Both independent Senate candidate Greg Orman and Democratic gubernatorial candidate Paul Davis support abortion rights. Their contests with Roberts and Brownback were close going into Tuesday's election. But abortion rights supporters said races did not turn on that issue.


Death Penalty Still an Option in Sedgwick County Murder Trial

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Prosecutors say they might seek the death penalty against a woman accused with three others of killing a Kansas couple last year. The Wichita Eagle reports 36-year-old Kisha Schaberg was arraigned Wednesday in Sedgwick County District Court, where District Attorney Marc Bennett announced he wanted the option of seeking her execution if she's convicted. Schaberg, her son, 19-year-old Anthony Bluml, and two of his friends are charged with capital murder in the November 15, 2013, deaths of Anthony Bluml's adoptive parents. Roger and Melissa Bluml were shot in the head as they sat in their car outside their rural Valley Center home. One of the suspects has testified the shootings were part of a plot to gain life insurance, and because of resentment for the couple.


Kansas Has High Rate of Vacant Foreclosed Homes

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) - A company says a report that Kansas has one of the highest rates of vacant foreclosures in the country reflects the small number of foreclosures in the state, not problems in the housing market. RealtyTrac says Kansas has the third-highest rate of vacancies, with 31 percent of its homes in the foreclosure process abandoned. But RealtyTrac executive Daren Bloomquist says Kansas' rate is so high because it has a small number of foreclosures, so its percentage of vacancies will be higher than a state with many foreclosures. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports 232 homes in Kansas were being foreclosed, with only about 72 homes statewide abandoned. In comparison, Florida has 35,913 abandoned homes but those account for only 22 percent of total foreclosures in that state.


Suspect in Kansas Killing Caught in Mexico

EMPORIA, Kan. (AP) — A 27-year-old suspect in a Kansas homicide has been detained in Mexico, where police say he fled after the killing. Police said efforts are underway to extradite Gabino Ruiz-Ascencio to the U.S. for questioning in the April 2013 death of 25-year-old Adrian Peralta in Emporia. Police said Wednesday that Ruiz-Ascencio was arrested in Zacapu, in the state of Michoacan, on minor charges and computer checks showed an arrest warrant from Emporia. Details of the arrest and when it occurred were not available. Peralta and 22-year-old Michael Koy were shot at their home April 13, 2013. Koy survived, while Peralta died five days later. Emporia police say the shootings apparently were drug and gang related. Ruiz-Ascencio does not yet have an attorney.


Oil Exploration Set for Arkansas City

ARKANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) — Officials in a south-central Kansas community expect a petroleum company to begin drilling for oil on city land sometime soon. The Arkansas City Traveler reports the City Commission approved a conditional-use permit this week for exploration and extraction of oil on two parcels zoned for agricultural use. The permit will allow Gulf Exploration LLC to conduct vertical drilling only, for a proposed single well. Any wastewater produced by the drilling will have to be hauled to a disposal facility. A representative of Gulf Exploration says the drilling will take six days. The company's trucks are expected to begin arriving Monday. Arkansas City will be paid for use of the land and receive about 25 percent of any profits derived from the drilling.


2 Questioned After Protest Disrupts KU Classes

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — University of Kansas police are trying to determine if two masked men who disrupted classes were playing a prank or were a serious safety problem. The men, wearing Guy Fawkes masks, walked into classes Wednesday at two buildings and threatened action against the Kappa Sigma fraternity, which is suspended after allegations of sexual assaults occurring at the frat house. Police spokesman Capt. James Anguiano said the men were questioned after the incidents. No weapons were found. Wednesday was Guy Fawkes Day, when the British commemorate a plot to blow up the English Parliament in 1605. The Fawkes mask has become a staple at modern protests. Anguiano says investigators don't want to violate free speech rights but disorderly conduct charges are possible.


Konza Research Gets Nearly $7 Million Grant

MANHATTAN, Kan. (AP) — A long-term research project at the Konza Prairie will continue for at least six more years. Kansas State University announced Thursday that the school's Konza Prairie Biological Station has received a $6.76 million grant renewal from the National Science Foundation. It is the seventh consecutive renewal of the grant since 1980, bringing the total funding for the research to $29 million. The Konza Prairie research station is jointly owned by Kansas State and The Nature Conservancy and managed by the university's Division of Biology. The university says the 8,600-acre native tallgrass prairie is one of the most endangered ecosystems in the world. Projects at Konza Prairie include research on grassland responses to fire and grazing, woody plant encroachment, climate change and nutrient enrichment.


Woman Finds Intruder Snacking on Cookie Dough

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A 28-year-old man has been arrested on suspicion of burglary after a Wichita woman found him eating cookie dough from her freezer in the early-morning hours. The Wichita Eagle reports the woman came out of her bedroom shortly before 3:30 am Thursday and found the stranger in her kitchen. Wichita police spokesman Lieutenant James Espinoza says the man told police he thought he was at his aunt's house and was hungry. Police say the man entered the home through an unlocked back door. The 52-year-old woman who lives there was not hurt. The intruder, who hasn't been formally charged, was arrested on suspicion of aggravated burglary.


Kansas City Tradition Will Feature New Lights

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) - Kansas City's traditional lighting ceremony on the Country Club Plaza will be brighter and more energy efficient this year. The owners of the shopping and entertainment district say 85 percent of the bulbs used in this year's Thanksgiving Day event will be LEDs rather than the colored lights used in the past. An LED, or light emitting diode bulb, uses 0.46 watts. The traditional holiday bulbs each use 10 watts. The Kansas City Star reports that Highwoods Properties, which owns the Plaza, began researching the LED bulbs a few years ago but had to wait to more fully use them until colors and sizes became available. Highwoods officials say the company hopes to be 100 percent LED for next year's ceremony.


Nurse Charged with Sex Crimes Faces Board Action

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) — The Kansas State Board of Nursing has approved disciplinary action against a fired nurse charged with sexually assaulting three patients. Board attorney Alma Heckler said Wednesday that no details would be provided about the type of discipline until paperwork was filed in the case against 47-year-old Dennis Clark of Gardner. That was expected to happen in the next few days. Clark was released from the Wyandotte County Jail on Tuesday night after posting bond. He faces three counts of aggravated sexual battery. Prosecutors are urging anyone with information about other possible victims to call police. Clark didn't have a listed number, and his attorney didn't return a phone message. Prosecutors say the alleged assaults occurred from December through May while Clark worked at Providence Medical Center in Kansas City, Kansas.


Police: Man Attacks Woman in Wichita Bathroom

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) - Wichita police are searching for a man who they say tried to sexually assault a woman at knifepoint in a department store bathroom. Police reported Wednesday that the attack happened at about 1 pm on October 28 at the Big Lots store in the Wichita Mall. They say the unidentified man was hiding in a bathroom stall before attacking the woman. The woman tells police the man held the knife to her throat but that she was able to escape unharmed. Police say the man was wearing an orange safety vest. They've asked for the public's help to identify and locate him.


Elephant Found Dead at Wichita Zoo

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) - One of two elephants at the Sedgwick County Zoo has died. Executive Director Mark Reed says workers found the 43-year-old African elephant named Cinda dead on Wednesday. He tells the Wichita Eagle that her longtime companion, Stephanie, was trying to wake her when workers arrived. Reed says Cinda's health had been in decline because of her age but she spent time on Tuesday stomping on pumpkins and painting. Her cause of death is unknown. A veterinary team will perform a necropsy. Reed says the elephant exhibit will be closed for a few days. The zoo has $900,000 left to raise in a $10.5 million project to build a larger elephant habitat. The zoo has said it will get more elephants for the exhibit that's set to open in 2016.


Man Convicted of Killing Kansas Exterminator

MANHATTAN, Kan. (AP) - A Kansas man has been found guilty in the death of a pest control worker more than six years ago. A Riley County jury on Wednesday found 58-year-old Howard Barrett guilty of reckless second-degree murder in the death of 48-year-old Thomas James of Clay Center. James was doing extermination work when he stabbed and beaten in Barrett's Leonardville apartment in February 2008. Barrett's trial was delayed when he was ruled incompetent to stand trial in 2009 after experts said he suffered from schizophrenia. A judge ruled in 2010 that Barrett could stand trial. Defense attorney Mark Dinkel said during closing arguments that Barrett was "not right in the head" when he attacked James. Prosecutors argued Barrett knew what he was doing when he attacked his victim.


Kansas City Zoo Prepares to Unveil Red Panda Cub

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — A red panda cub born at the Kansas City Zoo over the summer is about to make his public debut. The cub named Fei Jai (FAY JAY) will be unveiled to zoo attendee on Thursday. He was born in June and weights a little more than 4 pounds. The red pandas are a part of the zoo's Tiger Trail exhibit. Zoo officials will discuss red pandas with the public 30 minutes before the event. They say the cub has just begun to eat bamboo. The pandas are indigenous to east Asia. They have red and white markings and bushy tails. They grow to about the size of a house cat.


Investigators Rule Out Human Error in Train Derailment

MISSOULA, Mont. (AP) — Montana Rail Link says it has ruled out human error as the cause of a July train derailment in western Montana that spilled and destroyed six Boeing 737 fuselages. Rail spokesman Jim Lewis told the Missoulian in a story Thursday that simulations performed by a contractor hired by Montana Rail Link were inconclusive but suggested an issue with the tracks. The Federal Railroad Administration requires railroads to investigate derailments. Spokesman Mike Booth said the results are then used as part of the federal agency's investigation, which could take up to a year to complete. The 19-car derailment occurred on July 3 as the fuselages were being shipped from Spirit AeroSystems in Wichita, Kansas to Renton, Washington.


Chiefs Sign Contract Extension with Anthony Sherman

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — The Kansas City Chiefs have signed fullback Anthony Sherman, who has helped pave the way for one of the NFL's top rushing offenses, to a three-year contract extension. The Associated Press reports that Sherman can earn up to $7 million over the life of the contract. Sherman has started 21 of the 51 games he's played in over the past four seasons. The past two have been spent in Kansas City, where has been the lead blocker for Jamaal Charles. Sherman has also proven valuable as a short-yardage receiver out of the backfield, catching 36 passes for 315 yards and two touchdowns in his career.



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