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Headlines for Wednesday, August 13, 2014


Brownback Sets Goal of 100K New Jobs in Kansas

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas Governor Sam Brownback says he'll work to create 100,000 new private-sector jobs over four years if he's re-elected. Brownback, a Republican, announced his goal Tuesday as part of a platform that his campaign calls "Road Map 2.0." It follows up on a set of goals he outlined in seeking his first, four-year term in 2010, called "The Road Map for Kansas." The governor attended rallies in Overland Park, Topeka and Wichita to unveil his platform. Brownback said four years ago that he wanted to increase private-sector employment. Since he took office in January 2011, the state has added nearly 55,000 private sector jobs. Critics note that the percentage of job growth is lower than the U.S. figure. Brownback faces a tougher-than-expected race against Democratic challenger Paul Davis.


Brownback: Growth Will Close Kansas Budget Gap

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Governor Sam Brownback says his plan to create 100,000 new private-sector jobs in Kansas over the next four years will also close a projected state budget shortfall. Brownback pledged Tuesday to work to create the new jobs if he's elected to a second, four-year term. The promise is a key part of his campaign platform. He said during a rally at a Topeka business that aggressive income tax cuts enacted at his urging are creating economic growth. But he's facing questions about whether the reductions are undermining the state's finances. The Legislature's nonpartisan research staff issued a new forecast last week predicting the state will have a $238 million budget shortfall by July 2016. But Brownback said economic growth will allow the state to avoid budget problems.


New Poll Shows Davis Ahead in Kansas Governor's Race

TOPEKA, Kan. — A new Rasmussen Reports Poll shows has Democratic nominee for governor Paul Davis up by 10 points over incumbent Governor Sam Brownback. Davis leads Brownback 51 percent to 41 percent in the statewide telephone survey of likely Kansas Voters. Five percent of voters polled said they were undecided, while three percent prefer a third-party candidate. The survey of 750 likely voters in Kansas was conducted on August 6 and 7 by Rasmussen Reports with a margin of error of plus or minus 4 percentage points.


Roberts, Orman on Tour in US Senate Race in Kansas

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) - Republican incumbent Pat Roberts and independent candidate Greg Orman are holding multiple events across Kansas as they run for U.S. Senate. Roberts launched what he called a listening tour this week, promising to visit all 105 counties. He stopped Wednesday in south-central Kansas for a Wichita forum on small-business issues and town hall meetings in Derby and Andover. Orman was on an 18-stop bus tour that took him Wednesday to Hays, Colby and Garden City. Roberts is seeking his fourth, six-year term in the Senate. Orman is an Olathe businessman and the co-founder of a business capital and management services firm. The Democratic nominee is Shawnee County District Attorney Chad Taylor.


None of State's KanCare Providers Hit Benchmarks

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas health officials say none of the state's KanCare providers met benchmarks for timeliness in claims processing during 2013. The Wichita Eagle reports the state set a goal to have all claims without mistakes processed in 20 days and all claims processed in 60 days. An August report from the Kansas Department of Health and Environment said the state's three KanCare providers — Amerigroup, Sunflower Health and United Healthcare — failed to meet that benchmark in any month last year. KDHE spokeswoman Sara Belfry says part of the companies' payments for the year were withheld, and the state continues to work with the providers. The companies did meet a goal of resolving 98 percent of all inquiries within two business days in each month of 2013.


Kansas Protesting Federal Domestic-Service Rule

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) - Kansas is protesting a planned federal labor rule applying to domestic service workers, arguing it would reduce the care available to the disabled and elderly in their homes. The state Department for Aging and Disability Services said Tuesday the new rule would increase the cost of services and force consumers to cut back. Secretary Kari Bruffett wrote this week to U.S. Labor Secretary Tom Perez, requesting an exemption from the rule for disabled and elderly Kansans who direct their own care. The rule is set to take effect next year. The federal agency says it's designed to ensure that domestic service workers are protected by federal wage and overtime rules. But Bruffett said the law will treat health care consumers as employers.


One Man Dies, Another Critical After Kansas Explosion

PITTSBURG, Kan. (AP) — One of two men injured in an explosion at a southeast Kansas fireworks manufacturer has died, while the second man remains in critical condition. The Crawford County Sheriff's office says in a news release that 28-year-old Kenny L. Clark died at a Joplin hospital hours after the explosion Tuesday afternoon. The Pittsburg Morning-Sun reports that a second man, 42-year-old Howard O. Harper, was in critical condition Wednesday at a Springfield hospital. The men were injured by an explosion and fire at the former headquarters of Jake's Fireworks in Pittsburg. They were moving materials that were to be taken to the company's new headquarters in a Pittsburg industrial park. No other employees were injured. The cause of the explosion and the fire are still under investigation.


Topeka Board Votes to Buy Heartland Park Race Track

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) - Topeka's governing board has voted to buy the Heartland Park racing facility and expand its redevelopment district. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports Tuesday's vote is only a preliminary step needed before the city can buy the financially struggling racetrack. The city council in 2006 issued $10.46 million in STAR bonds to finance improvements at the racing park, intending to use sales tax revenue to pay off the bonds. But Heartland Park's STAR bond revenue was not enough and the city used property tax revenue to make up the difference. City manager Jim Colson said the city will be able to break even on the STAR bond debt, partly by expanding the redevelopment district. The city plans to find a buyer for the track or contract with someone to manage it.


New Police Headquarters on the Ballot in Lawrence

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) - Lawrence voters will be asked to approve a sales tax increase to pay for a new police headquarters. The city commission voted Tuesday to put the request for a two-tenths of a 0.2 percent tax increase on the November 4 ballot. The Lawrence Journal-World reports  the vote gives the city less than 90 days to persuade voters to approve the nearly $28 million project. The ballot language says the tax increase will end nine years and could end sooner if revenue is higher than expected. City commissioners last week authorized a $2.25 million contract to buy land for the headquarters, if the sales tax question is approved.


Sister of Inmate Who Died in Western Kansas Jail Enters Plea

GOODLAND, Kan. (AP) - A Missouri woman whose sister died in a western Kansas county jail has pleaded guilty to a felony drug count. Joy Biggs, of Kansas City, pleaded Tuesday to not having a tax stamp on less than an ounce of marijuana found in the women's vehicle when a trooper stopped them near Goodland. Six other charges were dropped. The Salina Journal reports Biggs is expected to be placed on probation when she is sentenced in October. Biggs's sister, Brenda Sewell, died in the Sherman County jail in January, three days after the women were arrested. Biggs alleged jail guards refused to help her sister as she became ill. The Kansas Bureau of Investigation declined to investigate Sewell's death after an autopsy found she died of natural causes.


Virus Found in 14 Kansas City-Area Newborns

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) - Health authorities in Missouri and Kansas are investigating infections among 14 infants in the Kansas City area with a virus that can cause meningitis and other inflammation. The Kansas City Star reports the first cases of a strain of human parechovirus were discovered in June. Kansas Department of Health and Environment spokeswoman Aimee Rosenow says none of the infants has died from HPeV3 but all have been hospitalized. Shawnee Mission Medical Center and Children's Mercy Hospital have reported cases. She says it's unclear if the infections are connected. Nine of the children are from Kansas and the rest are Missouri residents. Rosenow says the department is working with the Missouri Health Department and the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to determine if there have been other infections.


Kansas Plant Reopening After 'Pink Slime' Controversy

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) - A shuttered Kansas processing plant that made a treated ground beef product critics dubbed "pink slime" plans to reopen next week with limited operations amid rebounding sales. Beef Products Inc. said Tuesday it plans to start collecting fresh beef trimmings at its Garden City facility on Monday to support its Dakota City, Nebraska, operations. The Kansas plant is the first to reopen since the South Dakota-based company closed three facilities over the 2012 controversy about the meat. Beef Products will rehire 40 to 45 workers at its Garden City location. Some 236 workers at the Garden City plant lost their jobs in 2012 amid the dustup over a meat product called lean, finely textured beef.



Homeless Man Wounded by Target Shooters

PRATT, Kan. (AP) — A homeless man has been shot and wounded near a central Kansas park where a pair of teens were practicing target shooting. The Pratt County sheriff's office says the incident happened around 11:30 am Wednesday. Authorities say two boys, ages 15 and 16, were target shooting at a trash barrel and apparently didn't see the man sleeping behind it. KSNW-TV reports that one of the rounds hit the man in the leg. The boys called for help, and the 42-year-old man was taken to a hospital for treatment. The severity of his injury wasn't immediately known.



Citing Errors, Reno County Cuts Treasurer's Pay

HUTCHINSON, Kan. (AP) - Citing several accounting errors that cost the county thousands of dollars, the Reno County Commission has cut the treasurer's salary by more than 24 percent. Treasurer Jan Hull defended her work and questioned if she was being singled out before the commission voted Tuesday to reduce her salary to $52,000 from $69,000 a year. The deputy treasurer's salary was reduced by $8,000. The Hutchinson News reports Hull's mistakes since she took office in October 2013 have cost the county an estimated $40,000. Hull acknowledged she had made errors, but said her predecessor made similar errors, and that most of the problems occurred during her first three months while she was still learning the job.


Kansas Woman Admits Stealing from Employers

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — A northeast Kansas woman whose criminal history barred her from jobs involving money has admitted stealing $731,000 from two employers who didn't know about her past. The U.S. Attorney's office says 45-year-old Susan Elise Prophet, of Bucyrus, pleaded guilty to bank fraud and identity theft Wednesday in federal court in Kansas City, Missouri. Prophet admitted embezzling $543,000 over eight months from Dorfman Plumbing Supply in Kansas City while working as a bookkeeper. After being fired in 2013 she was hired as a bookkeeper by North Point Skilled Nursing in Paola, Kansas, where she stole more than $188,000. Prophet spent the embezzled money on vehicles, travel, and other personal expenses. Prosecutors said Prophet had felony convictions in Tennessee that barred her from holding jobs where she would have access to cash and checks.


2 Arrested in Blowgun Attack on Kansas Girls

NEWTON, Kan. (AP) — Police investigating a blowgun attack on two children in central Kansas have made two arrests. The incident happened in late July as the girls, ages 12 and 14, were swimming in Sand Creek in Newton. The girls said two people who were fishing became annoyed when they swam too close to the fishing lines. The girls said the anglers followed them to a bike path, picked up blowguns and began firing long darts. The 14-year-old needed treatment after being wounded in the foot. KAKE-TV reports Newton police have arrested a 32-year-old man on suspicion of battery and assault. A 29-year-old woman was arrested on suspicion of obstructing an investigation. No charges had been filed as of Wednesday.


Former Soldier Sentenced for 2009 Crimes

MANHATTAN, Kan. (AP) - A former Fort Riley soldier whose five life sentences were vacated by the Kansas Supreme Court will instead serve 77 years in prison. Tony Tremayne Lewis was convicted in a series of crimes including rape, kidnapping and assault that occurred in Riley County in the spring of 2009. He was initially given five life sentences. The state's high court in June upheld the convictions but sent the case back for a new sentencing, finding that a judge misinterpreted Kansas law on punishment for habitual sexual offenders. Riley County District Judge Meryl Wilson imposed the 77-year sentence during a hearing Tuesday. Lewis will serve the time concurrent with sentences in Geary County for similar crimes.


Kansas Man Found Guilty in 2013 Motel Murder

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) - A Kansas man has been found guilty of strangling a 39-year-old woman to death and setting her car on fire. A Shawnee County District Court judge convicted 30-year-old Andrew Charles Redick on Tuesday. He was found guilty of premeditated first-degree murder and arson in the 2013 death of Lena Keithley. Maintenance workers found her body November 15 in a room at the Country Club Motel in Topeka. A coroner says she died due to strangulation causing a lack of blood flow to the brain. Redick elected for his case to be heard by the judge rather than a jury. He's scheduled to be sentenced in October. The Keithley family says the verdict is "sound and just."


Drawing Decides Southeast Kansas Election

IOLA, Kan. (AP) — A southeast Kansas man has won a seat on the Allen County Commission thanks to the luck of a draw. The Iola Register reports that Jerry Daniels and Jim Mueller were vying for the Republican nomination in last week's primary election. A recount by hand confirmed the initial electronic tabulation of a tie, with each candidate receiving 255 votes. So on Monday, County Commission Chairman Jim Talkington reached into a bowl and pulled out a slip of paper with Daniels's name. Mueller, of Moran, said he won't seek a second recount. Daniels, who lives in Humboldt, doesn't have a Democratic opponent in November's general election, meaning he'll fill a vacant seat on the commission in January.


DNA Leads to Charges in 1991 Kansas City Rape

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — A Kansas man is charged in Missouri with sexually assaulting a teenage girl in a Kansas City park 23 years ago. The Jackson County (Missouri) prosecutor says DNA testing led to the arrest of 42-year-old Maurice Parnell Webber, of Overland Park, Kansas. Webber was being held Wednesday on $250,000 bond on multiple charges of rape and sodomy, and did not have a lawyer. The victim was 17 years old when she was attacked in September 1991 after pulling her car into a Kansas City parking lot to sleep. She told police she awoke in the back seat of another vehicle occupied by four men who robbed her of jewelry and money. She told police she was then driven to Swope Park and sexually assaulted by three of the men.


Kansas Expected to Have Bountiful Harvest of Fall Crops

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A government report predicts bountiful fall crops in Kansas following a devastating winter wheat harvest. The National Agricultural Statistics Service forecast on Tuesday that Kansas farmers would bring in 544 million bushels of corn this year. That is 7 percent more than a year ago. The report also estimated the state's grain sorghum harvest at 187 million bushels. That is up 13 percent from last year. Kansas soybean production is forecast at 151 million bushels, up 18 percent from the previous year. All of the fall crops benefited from widespread rains throughout their growing season. But drought conditions earlier this spring decimated the state's winter wheat. Wheat production is estimated at 235 million bushels. That is down 26 percent from last year for the worst harvest in 25 years.


ACLU Says Offender Registry Unconstitutional

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — The American Civil Liberties Union of Kansas is urging the Kansas Supreme Court to uphold a judge's finding that the state's criminal offender registry is unconstitutional. The registry includes sex offenders as well as people convicted of certain violent crimes and drug offenses. The ACLU said in a filing Tuesday that instead of improving public safety, the registry laws impede offenders from reintegrating into a community. The arguments come in a lawsuit filed by a child molester seeking to have his name removed from the Kansas offender list. Shawnee County Judge Larry ruled a law extending his registration requirement was a punishment that couldn't be retroactively enforced under the U.S. Constitution. But the National Center for Victims of Crime says upholding the ruling would "profoundly affect" victims.


Attorney: Manning Not Receiving Approved Hormone Therapy

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — The American Civil Liberties Union and an attorney say convicted national security leaker Chelsea Manning isn't receiving medical treatment for her gender identity condition as previously approved by Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel. The ACLU and Manning's civilian attorney sent a letter Tuesday to the U.S. Department of Defense and the federal military prison in Fort Leavenworth, Kansas threatening to sue if Manning does not receive treatment for gender dysphoria, the sense of being a woman in a man's body. Manning, who changed her name from Bradley after her conviction, is serving a 35-year sentence at Fort Leavenworth for giving WikiLeaks classified documents. She has asked for hormone therapy and to be able to live as a woman. Messages seeking comment were left Tuesday for the U.S. Army and the prison.


2 Workers Severely Burned in Fireworks Explosion

PITTSBURG, Kan. (AP) - Authorities in southeast Kansas say two employees of a fireworks manufacturer were severely burned in an explosion outside the company's former headquarters in Pittsburg. Crawford County Undersheriff Steve Geier says the blast occurred at 2:35 p.m. Tuesday while the employees of Jake's Fireworks were moving materials from a shipping container. The materials were to be transported to the company's new headquarters in a Pittsburg industrial park. The Morning Sun newspaper reports both workers were flown to hospitals in Missouri. Crews extinguished a fire caused by the explosion but planned to remain at the scene overnight.


Wichita Man Says Ebola-Stricken Mother Improving

UNDATED (AP) — The son of a North Carolina-based missionary says his mother is doing well as she's being treated for the Ebola virus in an Atlanta hospital. Jeremy Writebol of Wichita told NBC's "Today" show in an interview broadcast Tuesday that Nancy Writenbol's eyes are getting brighter and she's even joking a little. Jeremy Writebol said he had been concerned his mother might not make it when she was taken out of an ambulance at Emory University's hospital last week after being flown from Liberia. A second American, Dr. Kent Brantly, had been able to walk from the ambulance into the hospital. Writebol said doctors have said they expect her to recover, though they haven't elaborated. He also said he wouldn't be surprised if his parents want to return to Liberia after she recovers.


Bystanders Halt Attempted Abduction of Child

GRANDVIEW, Mo. (AP) — Authorities in western Missouri are crediting a pair of bystanders with stopping the attempted abduction of a 4-year-old boy as his mother watched from her wheelchair. KSHB-TV reports that the incident took place around 6:30 pm Monday at an apartment complex in Grandview. Officers said the boy and his mother were outside when a woman grabbed the child and ran up the stairs in a nearby apartment building. Two men followed the abductor and confronted her, but the woman refused to release the boy and hung him over a railing. Police said one of the men was able to grab the child, who was returned to his mother unharmed. The suspect was taken into custody. Grandview police said they don't think she was related to the boy or his mother.


Growing Kansas Wine Industry Poised for Harvest

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — It's grape harvest time in Kansas, and the state's growing wine industry is expecting a big crop this year. The Kansas Grape Growers & Winemakers Association says the state has 35 registered wineries and vineyards. Most are small, with two to five acres of grapes, rather than large-scale farms. Nearly all of them are in eastern Kansas. The Wichita Eagle reports the state's climate doesn't allow wineries to grow well known grapes such as Cabernet or Merlot. Instead, they grow hybrids that include part of the heartier native American grapes. Winemakers produced 107,000 gallons of wine worth $6.9 million in 2010, the last official count. Wine experts say this year's production is likely to be much higher, thanks to a strong harvest of grapes.


Crash Suspect Pleads Guilty to Firearms Charge

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — A Kansas City man accused of killing a police technician in a motor vehicle crash has pleaded guilty to a federal weapons offense. The U.S. Attorney's office says 29-year-old Larneal Davis admitted having two semi-automatic pistols in his vehicle when he crashed into a car driven by Michael Chou while fleeing from police last July. Davis has previous convictions for drug offenses, making it illegal for him to possess firearms. He pleaded guilty Tuesday in federal court and agreed to request a 10-year sentence. Davis is also charged in state court with involuntary manslaughter in the death of Chou, who worked for the Kansas City Police Department as a crime scene technician. He's scheduled for trial on that charge next month.


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