Attorney General to Seek Harsher Penalties for Sex Buyers
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt wants to fight human trafficking with stronger penalties. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that Schmidt is planning to pursue legislation in the coming session. He said last week at a proclamation signing ceremony that it's not possible to destroy the "market for illicit trafficking" without dealing with "the demand piece." Schmidt also says there are some gaps where Kansas law is materially softer than federal law, usually when the victim is between age 14 and 18. Schmidt's coming push to crack down on demand echoes the goals of the Topeka Shawnee County Human Trafficking Coalition. Topeka Rescue Mission director Barry Feaker has said the coalition is examining ways to put more teeth into penalties. One idea is to strip convicted buyers of their driver's licenses.
Judge Lifts Execution Stay for Ex-Soldier in Military Prison
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — A Kansas federal judge has lifted a stay of execution for a former soldier who was sentenced to death for killing two women and three rapes. Ronald A. Gray has been held at Fort Leavenworth since a military court sentenced him to die in 1988. The U.S. military has not carried out an execution since 1961. Last week, U.S. District Judge J. Thomas Marten sided with the U.S. government in denying a bid by the former Fort Bragg, North Carolina, soldier to block the military from pressing ahead with the execution by lethal injection. No execution date has been set. A message left Tuesday with Gray's appellate attorney was not immediately returned. Civilian courts also sentenced Gray to eight life terms for two other killings and other rapes.
Congressional Budget Patch Averts National Farm Loan Crisis
WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — An unusual budget provision passed earlier this month by Congress means no one who qualifies for a government farm loan will be denied in the next four months. U.S. Senator Jerry Moran is a Kansas Republican who chairs an agricultural appropriations panel. He says the budget patch gives the Agriculture Department's Farm Service Agency authority to meet the spike in loan demand by using future funding. There is no limit to how much the USDA can lend through April 28. It is a victory for farm groups who pressed Washington to avert a looming loan crisis. There's been a widespread downturn in the agricultural economy. Farmers in Georgia, the Carolinas and Alabama have seen drought and flooding, and Midwestern states are reeling from a glut in global grain markets that's slashed crop prices
Kansas High School Students to Receive ACT Score Projections
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas high school students will now receive ACT college-entrance exam score projections with their state test results. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that the University of Kansas Center for Educational Testing and Evaluation studied the correlation between 10th grade assessments and ACT scores, and the state Board of Education evaluated the results of the analysis this month. Ten school districts participated in the study, including five of the state's six largest districts. Education commissioner Randy Watson says students who take 10th grade assessments in the future will now receive ACT projection information with their test scores. Education officials say they hope this information will be useful for parents and students to make decisions such as which courses to take in high school.
Wichita State Students Hold Impromptu Clothes Drive
WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A group of Wichita State University students bought scores of winter clothing sale items and distributed them to the homeless. The Wichita Eagle reports the students wiped out area Old Navy Stores that were offering micro fleece hats, gloves and scarves for $1. WSU junior Dane Laughlin said he got the idea after seeing an ad for the sale. He posted his plan on a Facebook group of Wichita State Greeks, set up an online account where Greek members could pledge money toward the drive. He soon had enough money to buy 300 $1 items. The Old Navy stores gave Laughlin an extra 10 percent off and loaded him up with leftover coats. He and other students handed out the gear on Christmas Eve, with leftovers they'll distribute later.
Judge Dismisses Lawsuit in Kansas Medical Marijuana Case
WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A federal judge has dismissed a lawsuit filed by a western Kansas woman against the state and several agencies after her son was removed from her home in 2015 when he told school officials she used marijuana. Shona Banda, of Garden City, alleged in the lawsuit filed in March that the defendants denied her civil rights by refusing to allow her to use medical marijuana to treat her Crohn's disease, interfered with her parenting and questioned her son without her permission. U.S. District Judge J. Thomas Marten dismissed the lawsuit Tuesday. He agreed with the defendants' contention that Banda had no right to use marijuana and the agencies had some immunity from such lawsuits. Banda said she intends to pursue the case after she recovers from a recent surgery.
Light Therapy Offered at Lawrence Library
LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — The Lawrence Public Library is offering light therapy for patrons who may want to try it to combat seasonal depression. The Lawrence Journal-World reports the special lights in the library auditorium effectively replicate effects of sunshine and could work to ease symptoms of seasonal depression — or Seasonal Affective Disorder. There are also comfortable chairs there and plenty of reading material. Kate Gramlich, a readers' services assistant at the library, first approached administrators with the idea earlier this year. Gramlich says she recognized a need for a welcoming outlet for people who may be struggling with negative feelings that can accompany the shorter, darker days of winter.
Man Fatally Shot in Topeka
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) - Authorities say a man has been fatally shot in a Topeka alley just west of downtown. Officers found 28-year-old Matthew Lamont Gladney, of Topeka, wounded late last (MON) night while responding to a report that two people were exchanging gunfire. Gladney was taken to a hospital, where he was pronounced dead.
3 Brief Tornadoes Touch Down on Christmas Day in Western Kansas
DODGE CITY, Kan. (AP) - Three tornadoes were reported in Kansas on Christmas Day, causing some damage but no injuries. The Dodge City office of the National Weather Service says the first tornado was reported six miles southeast of Bucklin Sunday morning, destroying a cattle building. KAKE reports that 20 minutes later, a horse shed was damaged three miles south of Greensburg. Another weak tornado touched down later in a farm field southwest of Rush Center in Rush County. No damage was reported from that tornado. Strong winds attached to thunderstorms caused damage to roofs, a grain bin and trees. No injuries were reported from the storms.
Group Wants Citizen Review Board to Work with Topeka Police
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A Topeka group is pushing for a citizen review board that it says would improve the relationship between the community and the police department. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that Topekans for Racial Justice believes the review board would give citizens more influence to hold police accountable to the community. Police spokeswoman Amy McCarter says the department is always willing to consider suggestions from the public. She noted that outgoing police chief James Brown had already established an advisory board to encourage discussions between police and the community. Sarah Oglesby-Dunegan, a member of Topekans for Racial Justice, says the advisory board isn't enough because the police chief appointed its members. Brown is leaving the department January 1, and Oglesby-Dunegan questions if citizens will have input into selecting his replacement.
Kansas City Airport Traffic Increases for 31st Consecutive Month
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — The number of passengers at Kansas City International Airport continues climbing. Airport officials say passenger traffic at the airport increased 6.6 percent in November from a year earlier. It was the 31st consecutive month traffic grew at the airport...and travel increased 5.4 percent through the first 11 months of 2016. The Kansas City Aviation Department's monthly report says 926,293 passengers used the airport last month. For the year through November, 10.14 million passengers used the airport.
Body Found in Trash Dumpster in Wichita
WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Wichita police are investigating after a body was found in a dumpster on Christmas Day. Police Sergeant Wendell Nicholson says the cause of death is not clear but investigators are treating the case as suspicious. Nicholson says people going through the dumpster found the body Sunday afternoon outside a bakery in southwest Wichita.