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Headlines for Wednesday, December 21, 2016

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

Kansas Governor Not Rethinking Support for Campus Guns Law

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Governor Sam Brownback says he's not rethinking his support for a Kansas law that will allow concealed guns on state college campuses starting in July. Brownback told reporters Wednesday that he's "not inclined to think about" revising the law enacted in 2013. The law expanded the rights of gun owners to carry concealed weapons into public buildings, but allowed campuses to exempt themselves for four years. The state Board of Regents last week approved policies for how the state's six public universities will implement the law. The law has been criticized by students, faculty and administrators. Legislators are expected to debate changing it after convening their 2017 session next month. Brownback is a conservative Republican and strong supporter of gun rights, and he reiterated that position Wednesday.

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Police: Man Rams Police Car, Flees

OVERLAND PARK, Kan. (AP) — Police in Overland Park, Kansas, say they're searching for a driver who rammed an officer's patrol car during a traffic stop, then fled as the officer fired at him. Police say the officer escaped injury during the confrontation about Wednesday morning in the Kansas City suburb. It wasn't clear if the suspect was wounded. Police spokesman Officer John Lacy said the officer stopped a pickup truck after a computer check showed the license plate was stolen. Lacy said that as the officer stepped from his cruiser, the pickup truck's driver intentionally backed into the patrol car and turned toward the officer, who then opened fire. The driver sped away. Lacy says a passenger in the truck told police he only got a ride from the suspect he called a stranger.

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Charges Filed in Police Chase Through Kansas City 

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — A 29-year-old man faces several charges accusing him of leading police on a lengthy chase through the Kansas City area. The Kansas City Star reports that charges filed Wednesday against Justin M. Sherman include second-degree robbery and resisting arrest. It's unclear if he has a lawyer. Police say Tuesday's chase lasted for more than an hour and reached speeds of 100 mph. No injuries were reported. Authorities say the pursuit began when a pickup truck reported stolen sideswiped a Kansas City police patrol vehicle. Police say Sherman's accused of fleeing, driving the wrong way into oncoming traffic and across yards before abandoning that truck and taking another truck. Sherman was taken into custody after police used a device to flatten the truck's tires.

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Former Kansas Bank Worker Gets Four Months for Embezzlement

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) — An eastern Kansas woman was sentenced to four months in federal prison for embezzling more than $500,000 from the bank where she worked. A federal judge in Kansas City, Kansas, also sentenced 29-year-old Ashley Blacketer of Leavenworth to four months of home confinement under electronic monitoring after her prison release. She also must repay the stolen funds. Blacketer already had pleaded guilty to one count of embezzlement by a bank employee. She admitted that during a six-year period while working at Exchange National Bank & Trust in Leavenworth, she covered up the crime by falsifying a ledger showing the amount of cash in the bank's vault. Authorities say the embezzlement was discovered during an audit after she left the bank for another job.

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Some Child Care Providers Object to New State Rules

At a meeting in Topeka, child care poviders argued new state regulations could mean higher day care costs. The plan would required increased training requirements for some child care workers and  administrators. Some child care providers say the requirements are a burden. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that the state says the changes are needed to comply with federal rules. The advocacy group Kansas Action for children suports the changes, saying they would increase safety and learning for kids in day care.
 
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City of Lawrence Tightening Tax Incentives Rules

The city of Lawrence is tightening its economic incentives policy. The Lawrence Journal-World says the city commission voted unanimously to overhaul the policies. Now, companies asking for tax incentives will have to spell out how the project would offer a public benefit to the community. Those benefits could include things like job creation, tax base growth and the creation of affordable housing.

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Kansas Governor to Give State of the State Address January 10th

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback plans to give the annual State of the State address January 10. Brownback said Tuesday that he has accepted an invitation from incoming House Speaker Ron Ryckman Jr. to address a joint session of the Legislature the day after lawmakers open their 2017 session. The speaker traditionally issues such an invitation because the address is in the House chamber. The 2017 speech is set for 5 p.m. Governors use the address to outline an agenda for the Legislature's annual session and tout past policies. Brownback is a Republican and used part of his 2016 speech to criticize Democratic President Barack Obama on national security issues. Fiscal issues are likely to dominate the 2017 session. The state faces projected budget shortfalls totaling $1.1 billion through June 2019.

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Judge Orders Arbitration over Kansas Military School Assault 

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A federal judge sided with a Kansas military school in compelling arbitration of a Tennessee father's allegations involving the sexual assault of his 12-year-old son by another student. U.S. District Judge Carlos Murguia ruled Wednesday the arbitration clause in St. John's Military School enrollment contract is valid and enforceable. The judge retained jurisdiction over claims against the student accused of the assault. The father sued St. John's in April alleging its failure to adequately supervise cadets led to the assault. The lawsuit stems from an accusation that in spring 2014 a grade-school boy sexually assaulted a fellow student in a dorm room. The Salina boarding school has been dogged by litigation. But in earlier federal cases, the arbitration language in the enrollment contract did not cover claims by minor students.

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Regulators: AMC Can Buy Carmike

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Federal regulators say movie-theater chain AMC Entertainment Holdings Inc. can buy smaller rival Carmike Cinemas Inc. for $1.2 billion if it sells some theaters. The deal will make AMC the biggest U.S. movie theater operator. The U.S. Department of Justice says its approval hinges on AMC selling theaters in 15 markets where it competes with Carmike. The Leawood, Kansas, company also has to sell most of its holdings in National Cinemedia, a cinema advertising company, and transfer 24 theaters to a rival theater ad company, Screenvision LLC. The Justice Department says the deal would lead to higher prices for moviegoers without those conditions.

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Johnson County DA Says Police Didn't Violate Law in Shooting 

OLATHE, Kan. (AP) — Johnson County authorities have determined police officers did not violate Kansas law when they shot and killed a man outside a suburban Kansas City retail store. Police said 50-year-old Walter R. Echols of Cypress, Texas, was shot last month outside a Wal-Mart after he hit an officer with a long wooden rod during a disturbance outside the store. Police also say officers tried to subdue him by non-lethal means before he was shot. The Kansas City Star reports that Johnson County District Attorney Steve Howe said Wednesday that after reviewing reports about the shooting that the use of deadly force by officers was justified under Kansas law.

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Spirit AeroSystems Files $20M Construction Permit in Wichita

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Spirit AeroSystems has filed a $20 million construction permit for the building where it manufactures a part of the Boeing 787 Dreamliner in Sedgwick County. The Wichita Eagle reports the permit was filed last week. A Spirit spokesman says the permit is not specifically for a defense program but for current and future growth opportunities. No other details about the project were available. The building is Spirit's Composite Manufacturing Facility, where is makes composite forward fuselages. Earlier this year, Boeing raised Spirit's monthly 787 production rate from 10 fuselages a month to 12.

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Kansas Looks at Converting Juvenile Center to Predator Unit

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas officials are looking at converting a soon-to-close juvenile corrections center into a new unit for holding sex offenders indefinitely for treatment after they leave prison. Acting Department for Aging and Disability Services Secretary Tim Keck said Tuesday the department is working with the state fire marshal's office to determine how the state's juvenile facility in Larned would have to be renovated. The Department of Corrections plans to close the juvenile facility in March. The state operates both an adult prison and a state mental hospital in Larned in western Kansas. The hospital includes the Sexual Predator Treatment Program. The number of patients in the sexual predator program continues to grow. Keck told a legislative committee that two dozen of them might be better served in a new medical facility.

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Sheriff: Suspects in Mississippi Slayings Arrested in Kansas

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Authorities say two suspects in a deadly pawn shop robbery in Mississippi have been arrested in Kansas. Authorities say 35-year-old Jamison Townsend and 37-year-old Joshua Garcia were arrested Wednesday in Geary County, Kansas, after a chase. Both suspects are charged in arrest warrants in Mississippi with three counts of capital murder in a triple homicide Saturday at a pawn shop in Jackson. Geary County Sheriff Tony Wolf says when deputies on Interstate 70 tried to stop a Dodge Charger with no displayed registration, the car sped away and crashed. Wolf says the woman was arrested in the car and the man was found hours later hiding in a vehicle a mile from the crash site. It's not immediately clear whether Townsend and Garcia have attorneys who could comment on the allegations.

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Kansas Amputee Gets Surprise Holiday Gift: Electronic Hands

DERBY, Kan. (AP) — A southern Kansas woman who lost her hands and feet during a robbery got an early Christmas gift — new electronic hands worth $260,000, courtesy of a businessman and his wife. Julie Dombo of Derby showed off her new hands publicly Tuesday with her husband, a day after receiving them as a present from Koch Industries' general counsel Mark Holden and his wife. Dombo met Holden in October at a Wichita Crime Commission awards banquet. That's where Dombo told Holden about how insurance wouldn't pay for the electronic hands she said would give her a chance at a relatively ordinary life. Holden said he secretly wrote a personal check for them. On Tuesday, Holden called Dombo "inspiring, funny, lighthearted," with no signs of resentment.

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Staffing Vacancy Rates High But Improving at State Hospitals

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Staffing vacancy rates at Kansas state hospitals have improved amid efforts to boost morale and pay, although a top official acknowledges they remain too high. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that Kansas Department for Aging and Disability Services Secretary Tim Keck discussed the issue Monday with lawmakers. The hospitals have fewer openings for mental health technicians than in January, when Keck took over. The rate dropped to 24 percent from 40 percent at Larned State Hospital. The rate at Osawatomie is even lower — 10 percent. Larned has a physician vacancy rate of 60 percent currently, and a 28 percent vacancy rate for registered nurses. The figures are better at Osawatomie: 33 percent for physicians, 17 percent for registered nurses. Keck says overtime pay also has been trending downward.

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Analysts Raise Concerns About $12B Westar Sale to KCP&L

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — State analysts say Westar Energy is putting shareholder enrichment ahead of reasonable electric rates for customers with its proposed sale to Kansas City Power & Light. The Wichita Eagle reports that analysts representing the staff of the Kansas Corporation Commission and the Citizens' Utility Ratepayer Board raised the concerns in hundreds of pages of testimony filed late last week. Also expressing concerns were several consumer intervenors in the case. A Westar spokeswoman says the company remains confident of completing the merger next spring. KCP&L's parent company, Missouri-based Great Plains Energy, is seeking to buy Westar. The $12.2 billion transaction would involve taking on $3.6 billion in Westar debt. If the merger's approved, Westar and KCP&L will become a single electric company straddling the Kansas/Missouri border, with 1.5 million customers.

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Two Atchison Snowplows Involved in Separate Accidents

ATCHISON, Kan. (AP) — Police say two city snowplows in Atchison were involved in separate accidents due to icy conditions. The St. Joseph News-Press reports police reports show the first incident happened Friday. Deputy public works director Clinton McNemee says the snowplow hit icy conditions as it traveled down the road, slid sideways, hit a shoulder and fell on its side. McNemee says the driver was taken to the hospital with minor injuries. A police report says the second accident happened Sunday, when a snowplow struck a vehicle parked along the road. There was damage to the vehicle.
 
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Iowa Couple Killed in Southwestern Kansas Crash 

LIBERAL, Kan. (AP) — An Iowa couple has died in a two-vehicle crash in southwestern Kansas. The Kansas Highway Patrol reports that 73-year-old Jerry D. Slykhuis and 70-year-old Jacqueline J. Slykhuis, of Cedar Falls, Iowa, died Monday evening after the SUV they were in collided with a semi tractor-trailer at a U.S. 54 intersection in Seward County. The patrol said the semi driver failed to stop at a stop sign before the accident occurred. The patrol said the victims were wearing seatbelts.

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Toddler Dies in Fire in Southeast Kansas
 

SCAMMON, Kan. (AP) — A child has been reported killed in a house fire in southeast Kansas. The Joplin Globe reports that the fire occurred early Monday in a home near the town of Scammon, which is located about 140 miles south of Kansas City. The Cherokee County sheriff's office says 3-year-old Jesse Walker died in the fire, and the child's mother and a younger child escaped. The cause of the fire is under investigation.

 

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