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Headlines for Thursday, March 9, 2017

Here's a look at area headlines from the Associated Press

Report: Kansas Governor In Line for Agriculture Job in Rome

TOPEKA, Kan. -Kansas Governor Sam Brownback may be preparing to leave his job for a post in Rome. A former senior government official has told Kansas Public Radio that Brownback will become the next U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Agencies for Food and Agriculture in Rome. The governor's office would neither confirm nor deny the report, but sources have told KPR that the appointment is, quote, "a done deal." The appointment is subject to confirmation by the U.S. Senate. If Brownback leaves his post, Lieutenant Governor Jeff Colyer would become governor at a time when the state of Kansas is struggling to fill a huge budget gap and wrestling with a state Supreme Court ruling that Kansas schools aren't being adequately funded. There has been speculation for weeks that Brownback would be offered an appointment in the administration of President Donald Trump.

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Brownback Won't Commit to Staying Until End of Legislative Session

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas Governor Sam Brownback isn't committing to staying in that job through the end of the legislative session this spring. Brownback wouldn't comment Thursday on Kansas Public Radio reports that he will be named the U.S. ambassador for three food and agriculture organizations in Rome. He told reporters he's focused on fixing the state's budget problems and writing a new education funding formula. When asked whether he was committing to staying through the legislature's session, he declined to comment. Kansas is facing a budget crisis and Brownback is trying to stave off income tax increases supported by many fellow Republicans. The state Supreme Court also ruled that the state must spend more on schools. If Brownback steps down, Lieutenant Governor Jeff Colyer will become governor. Colyer also had no comment.

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Bill Would Strengthen Kansas Campus Carry Law 

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Gun rights advocates in the Kansas Legislature are pushing back against efforts to repeal a law that will allow concealed carry on college campuses starting July 1. A bill in a House committee would not only retain campus carry but also strip colleges of the right to make policies about how and where guns could be carried on campus. The Federal and State Affairs Committee heard the bill Thursday. It's not clear when the committee might vote on it. Gun rights advocates argue that university policies, such as requiring gun owners to carry their weapons on their person at all times and to carry with the chamber empty and the safety on are too restrictive. University officials argue they are in the best position to draft campus policy.

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2-County Kansas Wildfire Sets New State Record

HUTCHINSON, Kan. (AP) _ A massive grass fire raging in two Kansas counties has set a state record for the biggest involving a single blaze. Kansas Division of Emergency Management spokeswoman Katie Horner says an estimated 861 square miles of land have been blackened in Comanche and Clark counties as of Wednesday. The 625 square miles charred in Clark County is about 85 percent of that county's land. Horner says the previous record came last year, with the Anderson Creek fire consuming 488 square miles of land in Barber and Comanche counties. Horner says that since Saturday, large grassfires have been reported in 23 Kansas counties, consuming more than 1,000 square miles.  
   
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Slower Winds Could Help Crews Battling Kansas Wildfires

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) - Fire crews are expecting slower winds as they work to extinguish blazes that have scorched hundreds of square miles of land in four states and killed six people. Most of the burned land is in Kansas, where more than 1,000 square miles has been consumed in a series of fires. One that spans two counties along Kansas' southern border with Oklahoma is the largest in the state's recorded history. Emergency officials in the two counties said Thursday morning that the fire is largely contained, with crews working to monitor hot spots. Comanche County Emergency Manager John Lehman says the ground is "extremely dry," so it's possible the fire could re-ignite. In neighboring Clark County, emergency management spokeswoman Allison Kuhns says "frankly there not much left to burn."

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Kansas High School Basketball Playoff Game Turns Into Show of Support 

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) —  A high school basketball team in a Kansas county ravaged by wildfire will receive donations from its competitor while playing in a state championship game. Ashland High School is getting help from Wallace County High School. The teams are preparing for a Thursday night game. The winner will go on to the semifinals for the state's smallest schools. Ashland High is in Clark County, where 625 square miles have burned amid a series of wildfires in Kansas, Texas, Oklahoma and Colorado. Wallace County is looking to pay it forward after receiving support in 2015 while competing in a football playoff game days after athlete Luke Schemm collapsed on the sideline and later died. Ingalls High School held a fundraiser and joined the Wallace County team in wearing stickers on their helmets to honor Schemm. Clark County emergency management spokeswoman Allison Kuhns says, "This is what small towns are all about."

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Dozens Mark Birthday of Indian Engineer Killed in America

HYDERABAD, India (AP) — Dozens of people are holding a candlelight vigil in southern India to mark the birthday of an Indian engineer shot dead last month in Kansas in an attack the FBI is investigating as a possible hate crime. In addition to marking Srinivas Kuchibhotla's 33rd birthday Thursday, the gathering also protested what they say is a rising wave of hate crimes in America. According to witnesses, the gunman yelled "get out of my country" at Kuchibhotla and his colleague Alok Madasani before opening fire at a bar in Olathe, Kansas, a suburb of Kansas City. Madasani and another bar patron were wounded. Adam Purinton of Olathe was arrested at another bar after telling a bartender that he shot two people he described as Iranian. He remains jailed on murder and attempted murder charges.

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2 Killed, 1 Injured in Salina Crash

SALINA, Kan. (AP) - Two women have been killed and a man injured in a crash on Interstate 135 in Saline County. The Kansas Highway Patrol says the crash happened Wednesday afternoon when a tractor-trailer crossed the median and struck a car in the driver's side, causing it to hit a guardrail. The car's driver, 63-year-old Marilyn Mayo, of Salina, and her 96-year-old passenger, Emma Thomas, of Marquette, were taken to a hospital, where they died. The patrol says a Kansas Department of Transportation vehicle had been attempting to merge back onto the interstate and was struck on the side while the driver attempted to get out of the way. The driver of the KDOT vehicle was injured, but the driver of the tractor-trailer and his passenger were not.

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Late University of Kansas Professor Donates $1.1M to Museum 

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — The estate of a former University of Kansas faculty member has donated $1.1 million to the school's Spencer Museum of Art. Distinguished professor emerita of art history Marilyn Stokstad died last year. The latest gift brings her total donations to the university to more than $2.3 million. Chancellor Bernadette Gray-Little says Stokstad's gifts continue to make the university a leader in the art and art history fields. The newest donation will help improve and maintain the museum's building, publish scholarly exhibition catalogues for the museum or the Spencer Research Library, and acquire art history books at the Murphy Art & Architecture Library. The money will also fund the museum's Marilyn Stokstad Directorship position. Stokstad joined the school's faculty in 1958. She taught more than 20 different courses before retiring in 2002.

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Kansas Unlikely to Pass Hate Crimes Bill 

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) - Kansas lawmakers are unlikely to advance a bill to toughen the punishment for hate crimes two weeks after a gunman killed a man and wounded two more in an Olathe shooting that may have been racially-motivated. The Senate Judiciary Committee heard testimony Wednesday. The bill would double the sentences for hate crimes and require the state attorney general's office to collect data on them. The hearing comes two weeks after one man from India was killed and another injured in a shooting the FBI is investigating as a possible hate crime. The hearing was scheduled before the shooting happened. A third man was also injured when he intervened. The proposed hate crimes law isn't new but sponsor Sen. David Haley says Kansas is being portrayed as intolerant since the shooting.

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Judge Denies Release Request in Kansas Bomb Plot Case 

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A judge says a Kansas man accused of plotting to attack Somali immigrants poses "a grave danger" to the community if released. U.S. District Judge Eric Melgren on Thursday denied Patrick Stein's request for release. Prosecutors say Stein was the leader of a militia group called The Crusaders. Melgren says Stein is a flight risk and the evidence against him is significant. The judge also says Stein has expressed extreme hatred and threatened violence against Muslims, and sought to obtain weapons and explosives. Prosecutors allege Stein and co-defendants Gavin Wright and Curtis Allen conspired to detonate truck bombs at a 100-unit apartment complex where Somali immigrants live in Garden City. The three have pleaded not guilty to conspiring to use a weapon of mass destruction.

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Amusement Park Settles Suit over Pollution Claims 

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — A Missouri environmental group says and the owner of a Kansas City amusement park have reached a federal lawsuit settlement over claims that the park illegal dumped pollutants into the Missouri River. Online court records show that a judge signed off on the deal between the Missouri Coalition for the Environment, Cedar Fair LP and its subsidiary Worlds of Fun LLC. The lawsuit alleged that the Worlds of Fun park violated federal clean-water laws by discharging illegal levels of wastewater and stormwater that included chlorine, copper, oil and grease. The environmental group said in a statement Thursday that the deal requires Worlds of Fun to adopt a compliance plan that will include an educational kiosk about stormwater pollution, and to spend $100,000 on environmental projects in a local watershed.

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Commerce Encourages Satellite Companies to Move to Kansas 

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) - The Kansas Department of Commerce is creating a new initiative to entice satellite- and space object-manufacturing companies to move to the state. Commerce Secretary Antonio Soave tells The Wichita Eagle that the initiatives are meant to take advantage of "the natural synergies that exist in our state." Soave gives the examples of Wichita's aviation industry and Kansas State University's Polytechnic campus for why the state would be a good location. Democratic Representative Jim Ward says he would support the state going into the commercial space industry, but he thinks Governor Sam Brownback's administration wouldn't be able to commit necessary resources to the project. Soave spokeswoman Nicole Randall says the initiative is a marketing campaign and that the Commerce Department isn't pursuing economic incentives to lure companies to Kansas.

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2 Kansas City Residents Admit to Marriage Fraud Scheme

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) _ Federal prosecutors say two Kansas City residents admitted participating in a conspiracy that helped African nationals evade immigration laws by arranging fraudulent marriages. U.S. Attorney Tammy Dickinson said in a news release that 49-year-old Delmar Dixon and 37-year-old Shakeisha Harrison pleaded guilty Wednesday to conspiracy. Dixon also pleaded guilty to falsely swearing in an immigration matter. A Kansas City woman, 44-year-old Traci Porter, pleaded guilty in January to her role in the conspiracy. Dixon admitted he arranged 30 to 40 fraudulent marriages, including his own. He charged the African nationals $1,000 upfront and another $1,000 after the wedding was complete. The nationals were asked to pay their spouses $250 a month until the immigration process was complete. Harrison and Porter admitted they had fraudulent marriages arranged by Dixon. 

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Lawrence Votes to Be 'Welcoming' City for Immigrants 

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) - Lawrence will officially be a welcoming city for immigrants but the city commission stopped short of using the term sanctuary city. The commission approved a proclamation that Lawrence is an inclusive community that values immigrants. The proclamation also says the safety of all people should be protected. Commissioners said the term "sanctuary city" wasn't used because of executive orders from President Donald Trump and potential state legislation that could threaten millions of dollars of federal and state funding if Lawrence declared itself a sanctuary city. Commissioners also approved five other recommendations, including authorizing staff to write letters of opposition to the pending state legislation, discussing the city's position with interested agencies and co-sponsoring a presentation on immigration law with the University of Kansas.

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Wichita Car Dealer Must Pay Restitution for Defective Car
 
WICHITA, Kan. (AP) - A Wichita car dealer will pay restitution after the engine in a car he sold failed 25 miles from the dealership. The Sedgwick County District Attorney's office said in a news release Wednesday that Jones & Co. Auto Group entered a consent judgment with his office. Spokesman Dan Dillon says the auto dealer will pay about $6,300 in restitution to the customer, civil penalties, expenses and court costs. The office says the vehicle fell below legal standards and selling it was "unconscionable acts and practices" involving car sales. In Kansas, automobile suppliers are prohibited from selling cars "as is," and must disclose specific defects to consumers. Under the consent judgment filed March 1, Jones & Co. Auto Group agreed to refrain from the deceptive or unconscionable practices.

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Newest State-Owned Casino in Kansas to Open April 8 

PITTSBURG, Kan. (AP) _ The state's newest casino and hotel complex is getting closer to opening. Officials with the Kansas Crossing Casino + Hotel say the $80 million facility near Pittsburg will have its grand opening April 8. The first day will include opening the casino floor and two restaurants, as well as the first concert at The Corral, the indoor entertainment venue. The act for that concert has not yet been announced. The development that will feature more than 625 slot machines, 16 gaming tables, a 123-room Hampton Inn and Suites and entertainment complex. Kansas Crossing will join state-owned casinos Dodge City, Mulvane and Kansas City, Kansas. The state owns the casinos but they are built and managed by private companies. Native American tribes also own several casinos in the state.  

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Oklahoma Home Builder Charged in Alleged Theft Ring
 
OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — An Oklahoma custom-home builder has been indicted after accusations of involvement in an organized theft ring. The Oklahoman reports that 43-year-old Dennis Lee is among six defendants charged by a federal grand jury in Oklahoma City. Lee owns Richardson Homes LLC. An indictment filed February 22 but made public Wednesday alleges that the individuals involved would transport stolen vehicles and riding lawn mowers in Oklahoma, Texas, Kansas, Missouri and Nebraska. Grand jurors allege the stolen property was stored at Lee's business. Lee has been charged with conspiracy to transport stolen goods across state lines, possession of a stolen tractor and golf cart, and illegal possession of firearms. Lee had denied any wrongdoing. If convicted, Lee could be sentenced to years in prison and fined thousands of dollars.

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TCU Stuns No. 1 Seed Kansas 85-82 in Big 12 Quarterfinals 

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Desmond Bane had 16 points, hitting three free throws with 2.5 seconds left, to help TCU stun the top-ranked Kansas Jayhawks, 85-82, in the Big 12 quarterfinals Thursday. The eighth-seeded Horned Frogs (19-14) blew an 11-point halftime lead, and still trailed 80-76 with just over a minute remaining. But a parade of free throws knotted the game, and Alex Robinson's driving layup gave TCU the lead back with 31 seconds left. Frank Mason answered with a pair of free throws for Kansas (28-4), but the Horned Frogs got the ball to Bane in the corner and he was fouled by Svi Mykhailiuk while putting up a shot. He calmly drained all of them, and Devonte Graham's long 3 at the buzzer bounced harmlessly off the rim as the Horned Frogs leaped off their benched to celebrate a massive upset of the No. 1 seed. They'll play No. 23 Iowa State, which topped Oklahoma State earlier, in Friday's semifinals. Kenrich Williams had 13 points, Robinson had 13 and Brandon Parrish had 12 for the Horned Frogs, who caught a break when Jayhawks coach Bill Self suspended Josh Jackson for the game. Jackson was cited for traffic violations in the latest incident involving the star freshman.

 

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