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Headlines for Tuesday, March 21, 2017

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

Fire Crews Mop Up After Massive Fire in Overland Park

OVERLAND PARK, Kan. (AP) - Firefighters are mopping up after a huge fire spread from an apartment complex that was under construction in Overland Park to more than a dozen homes. KCTV-TV reports that crews have put out the fire at the multimillion-dollar CityPlace development in Overland Park. The fire blew plumes of smoke and embers along rows of nearby homes. Overland Park Fire Department spokesman Jason Rhodes says the crews will focus today (TUE) on investigating each fire and making sure all flames have been extinguished. Firefighters battled at least 17 house fires after the first blaze started Monday. Rhodes says eight to ten of those homes were "significantly impacted." Three firefighters were transported to the hospital, but all are listed in fair condition. Rhodes says everyone has been accounted for and that it is "really fortunate" that there are no significant injuries. Some residents were evacuated Monday afternoon as a precaution. 

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Investigation of Massive Suburban Kansas City Fire Begins

OVERLAND PARK, Kan. (AP) — Firefighters are investigating the cause of a fire that spread from a suburban Kansas City apartment complex that was under construction to nearly two dozen homes. Overland Park Fire Department spokesman Jason Rhodes said investigators were interviewing witnesses Tuesday as crews monitored hot spots Tuesday at the multimillion-dollar CityPlace development. Rhodes says foul play is not suspected. More than 100 firefighters battled the blaze before it was brought under control late Monday. The fire leveled one apartment building and heavily damaged a second. Debris from the blaze rained down on a nearby neighborhood. Rhodes says at least 22 homes were damaged, with about a third of them sustaining significant damage. Three firefighters were treated for minor injuries. He said it was a "blessing" that none of the injuries were serious.

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Feds Designate $6M for Ranchers Affected by Wildfires 

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — The U.S. Department of Agriculture is designating more than $6 million to help farmers and ranchers affected by recent wildfires in Kansas, Oklahoma and Texas. The funding announced Tuesday will be distributed through the Environmental Quality Incentives Program to help restore grazing lands, rebuild fencing and protect damaged watersheds. U.S. Senator Pat Roberts of Kansas says he is pleased USDA acted swiftly to aid producers recovering from the largest wildfire in state history. He says the impacts are devastating for many Kansans because the fires not only consumed livestock, grazing lands and fencing but also in some cases homes, machinery and equipment. The program is administered by USDA's Natural Resource Conservation Services.

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Kansas Lawmakers Embrace Old Concepts in New School Formula 

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas legislators are moving back toward distributing state dollars to public schools through a complicated per-student formula like one they junked two years ago. A special House committee outlined an education funding plan Tuesday that uses basic concepts from the state's previous funding formula. The panel plans to have hearings Thursday and Friday. The Kansas Supreme Court ordered lawmakers to enact a school funding law by June 30 after ruling that the state isn't spending enough on its public schools. Republican legislators in 2015 junked the old formula in favor of "block grants" for districts. The committee's proposal would set an aid amount for each student, then add extra funding for students with special needs. School districts would be required to impose local property taxes to help finance their operations.

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Kansas Medicaid Expansion Push Continues Despite Uncertainty 

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Patients, doctors and advocates are pushing to expand Kansas' Medicaid system despite an ongoing effort in Washington to repeal and replace former President Obama's health care law. The Kansas Senate Public Health and Welfare committee heard testimony Monday on a bill that would expand Medicaid to between 100,000 and 200,000 low-income adults. The measure passed the House by a wide margin last month. Supporters argue expansion still makes sense for the state because the federal plan proposed by congressional Republicans would pay for at least 90 percent of the cost. They say it's an economic win for the state while expanding health care coverage. But the GOP plan would end new enrollment in 2020 and cut overall Medicaid spending. The committee will hear from opponents today (TUE) and could vote Thursday or Friday.

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Kansas Lawmakers Advance Pay Increase for Most State Workers 

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas legislators are advancing a proposal to give most state employees a 2 percent pay raise even as lawmakers wrestle with serious budget problems that could force a big tax increase. The state Senate Ways and Means Committee voted Monday to include the raise in its proposed spending blueprint for the fiscal year beginning in July. The committee opted for the broad pay increase instead of larger raises for judges and other workers in the court system. Kansas Supreme Court Chief Justice Lawton Nuss urged lawmakers to boost their pay in his State of the Judiciary address last week. Most state government workers have not seen a pay increase for almost a decade. But the state also faces projected budget shortfalls totaling more than $1 billion through June 2019. 

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Kansas Bomb Plot Suspect Wants to Boot Court-Appointed Attorneys 

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — The court-appointed attorneys for a Kansas man accused of plotting to bomb to an apartment complex that is home to about 120 Somali immigrants have asked a court to let them withdraw from the case. The filing Monday by attorneys for Patrick Stein comes in the wake of an arraignment last week on a superseding indictment. Stein told the magistrate judge he was unwilling to be represented by attorneys Edward Robinson and Kristen Wheeler. Stein told the court they were providing "ineffective assistance of counsel," and he wanted to hire his own attorney. Monday's written filing exposes rifts between Stein and his attorneys over how to defend the case. Stein wants to challenge the validity of a search warrant for his home and insists on bringing the case to trial as soon as possible.

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Kansas Grandmother of Slain Boy Seeks Homeschooling Reform

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) _ The death of a woman's 7-year-old grandson is propelling her to become an advocate for reform of home schooling. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports Judy Conway believes her grandson's father and stepmother used home schooling to prevent anyone from knowing how he was being treated. Police found Adrian Jones's remains in the pigsty at the family's home in Kansas City, Kansas, in November 2015. Prior to his death, the boy had been kept in a shower stall, routinely beaten and starved. His father is scheduled to go on trial next month. Conway wants Kansas to adopt home-schooling requirements, including background checks for those registering for home schooling and a flagging system for at-risk children. Home schools are considered unaccredited private schools in Kansas, which has 30,438 registered unaccredited private schools. 

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Naked Man Arrested After 2 Killed, 1 Wounded in Kansas City 

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Authorities have arrested a naked man seen running from where two people were fatally shot and a third person was wounded in southern Kansas City. The Kansas City Star reports that officers found a man and a woman dead Monday night in a vehicle that was in a ditch. The surviving gunshot victim walked into a hotel a couple blocks away and collapsed on the floor. Officer Darin Snapp says he is hospitalized in serious but stable condition. The naked man was taken into custody after he was seen running several blocks from the crash. Investigators said the man appeared to be high on drugs and is a person of interest in the shootings. A second female who also was in the vehicle sustained minor injuries.

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Topeka Man Sentenced for Sex Trafficking Teen 

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A Topeka man was sentenced to 47 months in federal prison for the sex trafficking of a 17-year-old girl. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports 30-year-old Reginald Eugene Newman pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit sex trafficking. U.S. Attorney Tom Beall said Monday that Newman admitted in his plea to taking a teenage girl in March 2015 from Topeka for the purpose of prostitution. Beall said Newman and his wife Tiara rented two rooms at a Junction City hotel, using one of the rooms for commercial sex acts. A Fort Riley soldier paid $250 to have sex with the 17-year-old and Tiara Newman. Reginald Newman is alleged to also have held a gun to the victim's head if she didn't participate in prostitution. Tiara Newman was sentenced earlier this month to 34 months in federal prison.

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Leavenworth Police Investigate Baby's Death 

LEAVENWORTH, Kan. (AP) — Police are investigating the death of a 10-month-old girl who was left alone in a bathtub in northeast Kansas. Leavenworth police identified the girl as Caydence Little-Curtis. She was unresponsive when officers responded Monday night to a report of a child not breathing. She was rushed to a hospital where she was pronounced dead. Two other children in the home were taken into protective custody while officers continue to investigate.

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Wind Energy Firm Trying Again for OK of Cross-Country Line 

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) — A renewable energy company is again facing opposition as it seeks one of the final pieces of regulatory approval needed to carry wind power from western Kansas to power grids in the east. Missouri utility regulators began hearing testimony Monday on a request from Clean Line Energy to build a high-voltage transmission line from western Kansas across Missouri and Illinois to an Indiana power grid that connects with eastern states. The Houston-based company already has won approval from other states, but the Missouri Public Service Commission rejected it in 2015. Clean Line Energy is trying again — this time by showing it has Missouri municipal power companies lined up as customers. Several landowner and farmer groups are questioning the true need for the project and the discounted rates provided to those cities.

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Dry Conditions Hurting Kansas Winter Wheat Crop

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) _ The latest snapshot of Kansas crop conditions shows the lack of rain is hurting the state's winter wheat crop. The National Agricultural Statistics Service reported Monday that remained dry with limited precipitation in a few eastern counties this past week. The agency says 24 percent of the wheat crop is in poor to very poor condition in the state. About 38 percent is rated as fair while 36 percent is in good and 2 percent is in excellent condition. About 10 percent of the state's wheat crop has now jointed. That is well behind the 18 percent at this time last year, but near the five-year average. Calving was 64 complete across the state, while lambing progress was at 78 percent finished. 

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3-Year-Old Twins Die in Missouri Pond Accident

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) - Authorities say the deaths of 3-year-old twins in a Missouri pond were apparently a "tragic accident." The Kansas City Star reports that Platte County Undersheriff Major Erik Holland says Arrabelle and Elijah Wagner were found Monday after their father awoke and realized they were missing. The pond was behind their home near Edgerton, about 30 miles north of Kansas City. Arrabelle was found alive in the pond, and responders searched the house for Elijah thinking he may have gone inside to get help. But divers eventually found him in the pond near a covered dock. He was pronounced dead at the scene. Arrabelle died later at a hospital. Holland says the deaths would be "thoroughly" investigated although there was nothing pointing to "anything other than a tragic accident."

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Wichita Police Identify 26-Year-Old Homicide Victim

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) _ Authorities have identified a homicide victim whose body was found in a south Wichita strip mall parking lot as a 26-year-old woman. The Wichita Eagle reports that the woman was identified Monday as Sandra Flores of Wichita. Police spokeswoman Nikki Woodrow said the victim was shot once and that there are no suspects. Flores was pronounced dead shortly after a passer-by found her lying unresponsive Friday night in the parking lot on the south side of Westway Plaza Shopping Center. Police said it appeared none of her belongings were missing, her identification was on her and there were no outward signs of trauma on her body or that a struggle had taken place.

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Ohio Farmers Sending Help to Kansas Ranches Hit by Wildfires

BUCYRUS, Ohio (AP) - Ohio farmers are sending hay, fencing materials and other supplies to Kansas ranches that were devastated by wildfires this month. Rose Hartschuh runs a dairy farm with her husband near Bucyrus, Ohio, and helped coordinate the assistance from farmers and agricultural businesses. She says though the fires were 1,000 miles away, the devastation hit home for the agricultural community and people have stepped up to help. They're hoping to head to Kansas on Friday with roughly 30 truckloads of supplies and dozens of volunteers. Some will stay in Kansas for a few days to help with clearing debris, rebuilding fences and other cleanup work. Hartschuh says that people from about half of Ohio's 88 counties have offered some sort of assistance in the effort.

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Man Admits Distributing Child Porn While Posing as Woman 

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) — A Kansas man has admitted to distributing child pornography while posing as a 46-year-old woman on the Internet. The U.S. attorney's office says 70-year-old Frank Joseph Kurtz of Overland Park pleaded guilty Monday to distribution of child pornography. The plea agreement includes joint recommendation for a 97-month prison sentence and $2,000 in restitution to one of the victims. The case stems from an investigation begun in 2013. The electronic trail was eventually traced to Kurtz's account in Kansas and his home was searched in 2014. Investigators found hundreds of images of child pornography on his computer. Court documents show Kurtz agreed after he created the email address two years earlier using photos found online as his profile photos to stay anonymous. Sentencing is set for July 10.

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Boston Pops to Showcase Gershwin on Tour of Midwest 

BOSTON (AP) — The Boston Pops is headed to the Heartland. The renowned orchestra, conducted by Keith Lockhart, kicks off a seven-city, seven-state tour around the Midwest this week. Organizers say the tour will showcase the music of George Gershwin. The tour gets underway Friday in Kansas City, Missouri, and moves to Iowa City, Iowa, on Saturday and Lincoln, Nebraska, on Sunday. Next week's stops include Sioux Falls, South Dakota, on March 27; Chicago on March 31; Van Wert, Ohio, on April 1; and Carmel, Indiana, on April 2. Actress and celebrated Broadway star Bernadette Peters will join the Pops at the Chicago and Ohio stops.

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K-State Women Fall to No. 2 Stanford 69-48

MANHATTAN, Kan. (AP) — Second-seeded Stanford routed No. 7 seed Kansas State 69-48 on Monday night to advance to the Cardinal's 10th straight Sweet 16. Stanford (30-5) had no problem dealing with the Wildcats (23-11) or their home crowd, which spent much of the game sitting in silence. Stanford roared to a 39-21 halftime lead and never looked back in advancing to face No. 3 seed Texas on Friday night in Lexington, Kentucky. Kindred Wesemann had 11 points and Breanna Lewis was held to nine in their final game for the Wildcats (23-11), who have not advanced past the NCAA Tournament's opening weekend since 2002. 

 

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