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Headlines for Wednesday, February 26, 2014


Gay-rights Advocates Rally at KS Statehouse  

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) _ Dozens of Kansans have rallied at the Statehouse in favor of gay rights and to protest legislation that they argued would encourage discrimination against gays and lesbians.  Nearly 200 people gathered Tuesday afternoon for the event staged by the gay-rights group Equality Kansas and several other organizations. They also lobbied legislators.  They oppose a bill prohibiting government fines and anti-discrimination lawsuits when people, groups and businesses cite their religious beliefs in refusing to provide goods, services, accommodations or employment benefits to gay and lesbian couples.  Backers said the measure protects gay-marriage opponents from being punished for following their religious beliefs in refusing to be involved in same-sex ceremonies.  The House passed the bill earlier this month. The Senate Judiciary Committee is having hearings on religious freedom issues next week.   


** UPDATE: This Amber Alert has been cancelled.

Kansas athorities have canceled the Amber Alert for a missing Texas teenager - Nomei "Mimi" Velazquez -- because she is no longer believed to be in Kansas. They gave no other details.

KS Issues Amber Alert for Missing Texas Teen

LENEXA, Kan. (AP) _ Kansas authorities have issued an Amber Alert for a missing Texas teenager who might be in suburban Kansas City.  Law enforcement is searching for 15-year-old Nomei "Mimi'' Velazquez, who went missing from Nacogdoches, Texas, on Monday.  The teenager was last seen wearing a white shirt, blue jeans, black tennis shoes, carrying a brown purse and wearing glasses.  Authorities say she might be traveling with a man named Juan Fabian Arenas Delacruz.  The two are possibly in a silver 2004 Volkswagen Passat with a Texas license plate - DF7T507.  Investigators say a cellphone ping indicated they may have been on Interstate 35 in Lenexa Tuesday evening and might be traveling north.  


Funeral Service for 10-Year-Old Springfield Girl

SPRINGFIELD, Mo. (AP) _ A 10-year-old Springfield girl who was abducted and killed last week will be laid to rest today (WED) in her hometown.  The funeral for Hailey Owens is scheduled for 2 o'clock this (WED) afternoon at Ridgecrest Baptist Church.  The fourth-grader was killed February 18 after being abducted in her own neighborhood.  Her abduction prompted Amber Alerts in Missouri, Kansas and Oklahoma.  Forty-five-year-old Craig Michael Wood is charged with first-degree murder and kidnapping in her death. Hailey's family wants mourners to remember the girl as kindhearted and full of life.


Johnson County Man Gets 4 Years for Child Porn

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) _ A 46-year-old Johnson County man man has been sentenced to four years in prison for possessing child pornography.  Federal prosecutors say James Christmas of Olathe pleaded guilty to one count of possessing child pornography. In his plea, he admitted to having more than 12,000 images and 26 videos of child pornography.  Christmas was sentenced Tuesday and was also ordered to pay a $12,500 fine.  


KS Aquifers Declined at Slower Rate in 2013

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) _ The Kansas Geological Survey says groundwater levels in southwest Kansas declined at a slower pace in 2013 than in recent years.  The KGS also says increases in wells around south-central Kansas are largely attributed to above-average rainfall that reduced the demand for irrigation during the spring growing season.  Preliminary information shows that water tables in drought-stricken southwest Kansas dropped more than 2 feet last year. During each of the three previous years, water levels fell by more than 3 feet.  


Bill Gives Tax Breaks to SE KS Cement Plants

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) _ Two southeast Kansas cement plants would be in line for significant tax relief under a bill tentatively approved by the House to define what is property and what is machinery and equipment. The bill is a response to escalating property taxes that have been assessed to two cement plants since the state exempted certain commercial industrial machinery and equipment from property taxes.  


Car Repossession Leads to Chase, Shooting, Jail

ANTHONY, Kan. (AP) _ A south-central Kansas man is jailed after he allegedly chased people repossessing his car, then shot at the vehicle, forced it off the road and hit the man who was seizing the car.  Police say an employee of Xpress Recovery of Wichita repossessed the car from a home near Anthony Monday. The car's owner allegedly followed the vehicle, rammed it several times and forced it off the road. The man and a juvenile then allegedly shot at the car's windshield, pulled the driver out and hit him with a gun.  The driver suffered minor injuries.  The car's owner was booked into the Harper County jail on suspicion of aggravated battery, aggravated assault and criminal discharge of a firearm. The juvenile was taken to a juvenile facility in Reno County.  


Sumner County Jail Selling E-Cigarettes to Inmates  

WELLINGTON, Kan. (AP) _ The Sumner County jail has begun offering inmates e-cigarettes as a way to offset costs for supplies.  KAKE-TV reports inmates have been able to buy regular and menthol e-cigarettes through their commissary account since the first of January. The cigarettes sell for $12 each, and the jail makes about $4 profit on each one. The money is used to buy jail supplies like clothing, bedding and other items.  Sheriff Darren Chambers says jails that offer e-cigarettes have noticed they have a calming effect on inmates, with fewer fights breaking out.  E-cigarettes are battery-powered devices that resemble traditional cigarettes. They heat a liquid solution, creating vapor that users inhale to get nicotine without the smoke of regular cigarettes.  E-cigarettes for jails are made of soft plastic instead of metal.  


Wichita State Makes History at 30-and-0

PEORIA, Ill. (AP) _ No Division I college basketball team has ever won 30 games in a row during the regular season -- until now.  It happened last (TUE) night in Peoria, Illinois as the Wichita State Shockers defeated Bradley 69-to-49.  The Shockers -- ranked 2nd in the nation -- are now undefeated at 30-and-0 and 17-and-0 in the Missouri Valley Conference.  Wichita State is the 11th team to reach 30-0 but the previous 10 all hit the 30-win mark during postseason play.  The Shockers have one more regular-season game, at home Saturday against Missouri State.  It's expected to be another sold-out game.


Pitt State Breaks Ground on $13M Event Center  

PITTSBURG, Kan. (AP) _ Pittsburg State University has broken ground on a new $13 million event center.  The Joplin Globe reports officials from Pittsburg State, the city of Pittsburg, the Kansas Board of Regents and private donors attended the groundbreaking Tuesday.  The center, which is scheduled to be completed in the spring of 2015, will include a 100-yard turf field, a 300-meter track and seating for up to 1,500. It will also include locker rooms for football, men's and women's track, as well as offices and meeting rooms.  Officials say the construction of the indoor event center was key in the NCAA's recent decision to select Pittsburg State to host the 2016 and 2018 Men's and Women's Indoor Track Championships.  


Former KC Union President Accued of Stealing $185,000

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) _ The former president of the union representing Jackson County Department of Corrections employees is accused of embezzling more than $185,000 from the union. Thirty-eight-year-old Jesse Morgan of Kansas City is charged in a 29-count indictment returned by a federal grand jury. Morgan was president of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Local 1707 from 2008 to October 2012.  


Retired KC Bishop Suffers from Lung Cancer

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) _ Retired Kansas City Bishop Raymond James Boland is suffering from lung cancer and has returned to Ireland to enter hospice care. The Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph says Boland left Saturday for Ireland. Boland served as bishop of the diocese from June 1993 to May 2005.


KS Abortion-Rights Leader Steps Down March 31

OVERLAND PARK, Kan. (AP) _ A spokeswoman for Planned Parenthood of Kansas and Mid-Missouri says retiring CEO Peter Brownlie's last day will be March 31.  Planned Parenthood lobbyist Elise Higgins said Tuesday that Vice President of Finance Ron Ellefrits will take over as interim CEO until the organization names a more permanent replacement for Brownlie.  Brownlie announced in November that he would retire after serving as the Planned Parenthood chapter's top administrator since August 1999.  During his tenure, his organization has challenged anti-abortion laws enacted by Kansas legislators and been the subject of a lengthy but now-dismissed criminal case. Brownlie has been the public face of the organization and a key figure in the state's abortion rights movement.  Brownlie also has been an administrator with Planned Parenthood affiliates in Michigan, Indiana and Texas.




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