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Headlines for Wednesday, July 16, 2014


GOP Maintains Kansas Voter-Registration Advantage

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — New figures from the Kansas secretary of state's office show that Republicans have maintained their significant voter-registration advantage since March. But the preliminary numbers released Wednesday also show a small increase in the number of unaffiliated voters since March 1. The registration deadline was Tuesday for the Aug. 5 primary. The number of registered voters grew by about 6,600 since March 1, to more than 1.73 million. The number of registered Republicans grew slightly, to nearly 765,000. They represent 44.1 percent of registered voters. There are about 422,000 Democrats, slightly less than on March 1 and about 24.3 percent of the total. The number of unaffiliated voters grew by nearly 7,200, to about 535,000, up 1.4 percent. They're now nearly 31 percent of registered voters.


Earmarks Divide Candidates in Kansas 4th District House Race

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Republican Congressman Mike Pompeo's campaign is accusing his primary challenger of "cronyism" for taking a job after leaving Congress with a Colorado company to which he had funneled federal money. But his opponent notes the federal funds were used to develop an airborne laser defense system that would have been built at the now shuttered Boeing's defense plant in Wichita. Former Congressman Todd Tiahrt on Wednesday defended the funding he got for the project while in Congress. He says Pompeo has no accomplishments of his own. The dustup comes in a fight for the congressional seat in south-central Kansas. A key difference between the conservative Republican candidates is their philosophies about the appropriateness of bringing federal money to their home districts — even to create local jobs.


Moran Announces Support for VA Nominee

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas Senator Jerry Moran plans to support former corporate executive Robert McDonald's nomination as secretary of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. The Kansas Republican announced his backing for McDonald after meeting with him Wednesday in the senator's Washington office. Moran is a member of the Senate Veterans' Affairs Committee. McDonald is a former Army Ranger who was forced out as CEO of consumer products giant Proctor & Gamble last year. Democratic President Barack Obama nominated him to head the Department of Veterans Affairs after revelations of widespread treatment delays and falsified records to cover up months-long waits for appointments. Moran says he was impressed with McDonald's candor and commitment to veterans. The senator says he believes McDonald is ready to take on challenges that include dismantling the VA's bureaucracy.


Guard Suffers Concussion at Lansing Prison

LANSING, Kan. (AP) — There have been two more reports of violence among inmates at the Lansing Correctional Facility. Jeremy Barclay, a spokesman for the Kansas Department of Corrections, told The Topeka Capital-Journal that a Lansing guard suffered a concussion and two other guards suffered more minor injuries Tuesday while subduing an uncooperative inmate. Barclay also says an inmate fight last week resulted in no injuries. Barclay says staff at the facility are on edge after incidents of inmate-on-guard violence on three consecutive days last month. Those incidents led the Kansas Organization of State Employees to call for more corrections funding and staff, saying inmates were becoming rebellious. Barclay said Wednesday that "staffing patterns are fine" at Lansing.


Kansas Democrat Shrugs Off GOP 'Ring' Reference

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Democratic challenger Paul Davis is shrugging off a national Republican figure's suggestion that critics of Kansas Governor Sam Brownback are akin to the evil "Eye of Mordor." The Wichita Eagle reports that former Republican presidential candidate Rick Santorum made the reference to "The Lord of the Rings" Monday during a rally in Wichita for Brownback. Santorum said that like the ever-open evil eye in the fantasy saga, the conservative GOP governor's foes are constantly searching "to try to oppress and defeat." He also said that "the future of the free world is at stake" as Brownback seeks re-election. Davis said Tuesday after an event in Topeka that he and his supporters are simply responding to voters who are worried about Brownback's fiscal policies and the future of public schools.


Group of Kansas Republicans Backs Davis in Governor's Race

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas Insurance Commissioner Sandy Praeger and more than 100 other Republicans are endorsing the presumed Democratic nominee for governor. Democratic challenger Paul Davis had a news conference Tuesday to announce the formation of Republicans for Kansas Values. The list of participating Republicans was led by Praeger, who has clashed with Governor Sam Brownback on health care policy. But the list of founding members also includes three former Kansas Senate presidents and three former state House speakers, as well as former Congresswoman Jan Meyers. The Kansas Republican Party immediately responded with a tweet noting that Kansas has more than 700,000 Republicans.


Roberts Outraises Wolf in US Senate Race in Kansas

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas Senator Pat Roberts has maintained his big fundraising advantage over tea party challenger Milton Wolf in their Republican primary race. Roberts's re-election campaign disclosed Tuesday it had raised nearly $797,000 in cash contributions from April through June. Wolf's campaign reported raising almost $341,000. The three-term incumbent began the quarter with nearly $2.25 million in cash on hand, and his campaign spent more than $1.05 million during the period. Wolf spent a little less than $340,000. Summaries of their campaigns' most recent reports for federal regulators show Roberts had more than $2.05 million in cash on hand at the end of June, compared with $280,000 for Wolf. Roberts's re-election campaign has spent more than $2.13 million since the beginning of last year. Wolf has spent $649,000 total.


Tea Party Group Backs Wolf in Kansas Senate Race

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A national tea party group is backing challenger Milton Wolf's bid to unseat Kansas Senator Pat Roberts in the state's Republican primary. The Atlanta-based Tea Party Patriots Citizens Fund announced Tuesday that it has endorsed Wolf. The group described Wolf as the right conservative candidate to fight Democratic President Barack Obama's agenda in Washington. Spokesman Kevin Broughton said the group is looking for more than a solid vote against Obama's policies. Roberts is seeking his third, six-year term in the Senate. Wolf has made the senator's longevity in politics an issue, and Roberts began working as a congressional aide in 1967. Roberts's executive campaign manager Leroy Towns declined to respond to the group's endorsement of Wolf. Wolf also has the backing of another national group, the Tea Party Express.


Hospital Group Airing Ads in Kansas for Roberts

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The American Hospital Association has disclosed spending $212,000 on television advertisements praising Kansas Senator Pat Roberts as he faces tea party challenger Milton Wolf in the state's August 5 primary. The association disclosed the spending in a report filed last week with federal regulators, with the bulk of the money buying advertising time. An association spokeswoman did not immediately return telephone and email messages. Roberts's re-election campaign said the ads began airing statewide last week. The ads say Roberts is a leader on protecting rural health care. Wolf's campaign said the association is a special-interest group that is part of what it called "an incumbent-protection racket" in Washington. Roberts's campaign said the ads show Wolf doesn't have the backing of medical groups even though he is a Leawood radiologist.


Sedgwick County Reports 2 More Measles Cases

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Officials say two more cases of measles have been reported in Sedgwick County, bringing the total number of measles cases in Kansas this year to 11. The Kansas Department of Health and Environment said in a release Tuesday that one of the new Sedgwick County cases was in an infant too young to be vaccinated and one was an adult. Both cases are linked to other recently reported cases. KDHE says there have been eight cases reported in Sedgwick County and three in Johnson County this year. Measles cases have been rare in the U.S. since indigenous measles were declared eliminated in the country in 2000. KDHE says there has been a resurgence in cases this year, with more than 566 confirmed cases reported in 20 states through July 11.


Jet Veers Off KCI Runway

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — A jet undergoing a maintenance test veered off a runway at Kansas City International Airport. No injuries or flight disruptions were reported when the E170 Republic Airlines jet went off a runway at Kansas City International Airport early Wednesday. The two crew members on board were not hurt and there was no damage to the plane. Airport spokesman Joe McBride said crew was doing a high speed taxi when the plane went off the runway and ended up in some grass. The Federal Aviation Administration will determine the reason for the mishap. A portion of runway 19 was closed for maintenance but no flights were delayed.


Man with Concealed Gun Asked to Leave Salina Theater

SALINA, Kan. (AP) — A man with a legal concealed weapon was asked to leave a Salina movie theater after other customers complained. Salina police Capt. Mike Sweeney says officers went to the Central Mall movie theater Tuesday when the man became upset when he was asked to leave. The theater reports other customers asked for their money back before the man was asked to leave. Sweeney says the man had a concealed carry permit and was upset the theater had no signs banning guns. The man cooperated when officers explained that businesses are allowed to refuse service to anyone. The Salina Journal reports an officer saw the outline of a small handgun in a holster under the man's shirt. Sweeney says the man didn't threaten anyone and no charges are being pursued.


Kansas House Candidate Says Open Container Arrest a Mistake

BURLINGTON, Kan. (AP) — A Kansas House of Representatives candidate says his arrest on suspicion of having an open container of alcohol and traffic violations was a mistake. Burlington Police Chief Doug Jones said Jeff Freeman, a Republican running against incumbent state Rep. Peggy Mast of Emporia in the August 5 primary, was booked into the Coffey County jail Sunday. Freeman said Wednesday he was stopped after not signaling a turn at a stop sign. He contends he had no alcohol in his car. He says he had some alcohol at a memorial service in Neosho Falls earlier in the day but said he was sober when he was stopped. Freeman called the arrest a distraction from the important issues of the campaign and said he would stay in the race.


Victim's Family Questions Teen's Release Prior to Fatal Crash

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Family members of a woman killed by a teenager who drove the wrong way on a Kansas highway say more should have been done to keep him off the road after he told deputies he had taken LSD. Two women and 16-year-old Dominic Stolfi were killed in the collision Sunday morning on Kansas 254, hours after Stolfi said he had taken the hallucinogenic drug. Butler County Sheriff Kelly Herzet says deputies didn't have grounds to arrest the boy. His 16-year-old friend, who also allegedly took LSD, was taken by ambulance to a hospital, while Dominic's father took him home. The Wichita Eagle reports that Dominic later drove the family's Ford Explorer into a collision with a car driven by 27-year-old Lisa Hardy, killing her and her 52-year-old passenger, Nancy Ross.


Topeka Zoo Euthanizes Giraffe

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The Topeka Zoo has euthanized a 24-year-old giraffe that had been sick for a while. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that Jesse the giraffe was euthanized Wednesday. The zoo reported its failing health in late March. The zoo says the giraffe suffered from laminitis, a disease that causes tenderness and inflammation in the hooves. Zoo director Brendan Wiley said in a release the zoo carefully weighed its options and saw no opportunity for the giraffe's health to improve. Wiley says the animal, which stood higher than 16 feet and weighed 1,800 pounds, was a favorite at the zoo, where he was born in April 1990. The zoo says Jesse fathered seven giraffes.


Wichita Police Warn of Recall Scam

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Wichita police are warning residents of a scammer who's claiming to be retrieving recalled vehicles. Lieutenant Dan East told The Wichita Eagle reports that two of the recent incidents involved a suspect who may have been the same person. He says the man walked into a Wichita public schools office and said he was with a local car dealership and had come to pick up a vehicle for a safety recall service. The man provided a vehicle identification number and tag number but left after district employees questioned him further. A man also walked into the American Red Cross offices in Wichita the next day with a similar story. That time he left with a 2014 Dodge van with Red Cross decals. Police say manufacturers will contact vehicle owners directly about recalls.


Lee's Summit Man Bitten by Rabid Bat

LEE'S SUMMIT, Mo. (AP) — A bat that bit a suburban Kansas City man has tested positive for rabies. Police say the Lee's Summit man was bitten on the foot last week when he was standing outside on his deck. Animal control officers recovered the bat from the home and sent it to be tested for rabies. Results Tuesday showed the bat tested positive for rabies. It was the third rabid bat found in Lee's Summit since early June. The Kansas City Star reports that the man, who was not identified, has started a precautionary series of rabies shots.


Fundraising Advances for Hyatt Skywalk Disaster Memorial

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — The foundation trying to build a memorial to remember the 1981 collapse of the Hyatt Regency Hotel skywalk in Kansas City has raised 70 percent of its goal. Thursday is the 33nd anniversary of the July 17, 1981, disaster that killed 114 people and injured more than 200 others. The Kansas City Star reports that the Skywalk Memorial Foundation recently received $10,000 from The Builders Association and the Kansas City chapter of the Associated General Contractors of America. The foundation says several law firms also have made contributions. The memorial would honor the victims, survivors and rescue workers of the tragedy. Donations have reached about $383,000. The group's goal is $546,000, which includes a 25 percent maintenance endowment.


Pittsburg Project Receives Transportation Funds

PITTSBURG, Kan. (AP) — A mile-long walking and biking trail in Pittsburg is among 20 projects in Kansas that will share $11.5 million in federal transportation funding. The Joplin Globe reports the project, with an estimated cost of $900,000, will receive $656,000 from the federally funded Transportation Alternatives Program. Troy Graham, the city's director of Planning and Community Services, says the rest of the money will come from private donors. Last summer, a group of residents approached city officials about the possibility of a sidewalk or trail that would make the 24-foot wide, two-lane street safer for pedestrians and bicyclists. The area is in a section of Pittsburg that has seen significant growth in recent years. The grant was announced Tuesday.


Murder Trial for Central Kansas Man Delayed Pending Mental Evaluation

GREAT BEND, Kan. (AP) — The first-degree murder trial of a central Kansas man has been delayed until the suspect undergoes a mental health evaluation. No new date has been set for the trial of Jeffery Wade Chapman after a hearing Monday on the defense motion seeking the evaluation. Chapman's attorney said in a court motion that Chapman was experiencing hallucinations while jailed in Barton County. Chapman is charged with killing 25-year-old Damon Galyardt, whose body was discovered southwest of Great Bend in November 2011. A new trial date will be set after Chapman undergoes the evaluation at Larned State Hospital's forensic unit.


BNSF Contractor Dies in KCK Grain Car Mishap

Kansas City, Kansas, officials have released the nmae of a contractor for BNSF Railway who died after he fell into a train car full of grain. Fire department officials say 48-year-old James Breedlove died in the accident Monday at railroad yards in Kansas City, Kansas. The KCK Fire Department says Breedlove fell into the train car while grain was being transferred from the car to a semi-trailer truck. When firefighters arrived, rail crews were trying to remove the grain from the train car. They found Breedlove's body near the bottom of the car. No other injuries were reported.


Judge Sets Hearing in Kansas Insurance Fraud Case

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A federal judge will hear arguments on whether to dismiss the bulk of a wide-ranging indictment accusing a former Kansas insurance agent with stealing nearly $2 million from policyholders. U.S. District Judge J. Thomas Marten on Tuesday set a July 28 date for a hearing in the case of Jason Matthew Pennington. His attorney wants the court to throw out 38 counts related to one of the alleged victims, Marlene Brown, a Wichita teacher and philanthropist who died in 2009. Defense attorney Kari Schmidt argued in a court filing that her client was the actual owner of the property and money at issue in the indictment. Pennington's father, James L. Pennington, pleaded guilty to one count of filing a false tax return. The elder Pennington will be sentenced October 6.


Wichita State Forms Partnership with Engineering Firm

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Wichita State University says it has formed a partnership with an engineering services company from India that it hopes will eventually create new jobs and avoid big layoffs in the aerospace industry. John Tomblin is the director of the National Institute for Aviation Research at Wichita State. He told The Wichita Eagle that the agreement with global information technology firm Tech Mahindra is unusual. Under the agreement, the company will work with WSU and NIAR on projects and train new engineers for aerospace and the automotive industries. The engineers the company helps train at Wichita State University will live in Wichita and work for Tech Mahindra on projects for local companies in composite materials manufacturing, advanced materials, aircraft certification, and structural testing.


Former KS Police Chief Enters Alford Pleas

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The former police chief of a southeast Kansas city has entered Alford pleas to four felonies. Former Independence Police Chief Kenneth Parker entered Alford pleas Tuesday to perjury, official misconduct, misuse of public funds and theft of property valued at more than 25,000. An Alford plea means Parker doesn't admit to the crime but acknowledges prosecutors likely can prove the charge. He entered the pleas in Montgomery County court, but the case was handled by a Shawnee County deputy district attorney after the Montgomery County attorney and his staff recused themselves. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports Parker, who resigned as chief in 2011, was accused of stealing ammunition, firearms, cash and other property from the city. Parker was sentenced to two years' probation and ordered to pay $50,000 in restitution.


Woman Takes Stand in Attempted Murder Trial

ROCKLAND, Maine (AP) — A Maine woman who police say was pushed off a cliff by her then-husband says their marriage was happy at first, but took a dark turn after they moved from Kansas to Maine. WABI-TV reports Lisa Zahn, formerly Lisa Black, took the stand Wednesday in Rockland in the trial of Charles Black. He faces charges including attempted murder, two counts of elevated aggravated assault and three counts of aggravated assault. Prosecutors say Black hit Zahn on the head with a rock before pushing her off Maiden Cliff in Camden Hills State Park in 2011. Zahn and Black were married nine years and moved to Maine after retiring from teaching careers in Kansas four years ago. She accuses Black of having an online affair and spending her inheritance money without permission.



Google Appoints Ford Ex-CEO Mulally to Board

NEW YORK (AP) — Google says it has appointed Alan Mulally, the former CEO of Ford Motor Company, to its board. Mulally, 68, retired from Ford at the end of June. Over the winter, he was rumored to be in the running for the top job at Microsoft Corporation, but it went to an internal candidate. Google said Mulally's appointment was effective July 9. He will serve on the company's audit committee. Mulally, who also worked for Boeing, is the only director with a background in traditional manufacturing on Google's board. He graduated from the University of Kansas in 1968.


Accidentally-Released Inmate Back in Custody

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Authorities say an inmate who was mistakenly released from the Sedgwick County jail has been recaptured. The county sheriff's office says 33-year-old Chad Engel was arrested Friday at Kanopolis Lake. He was arrested by Ellsworth County authorities after a tip to the McPherson County Crime Stoppers. Further details about the arrest were not released. The Sedgwick County sheriff's office said Engel was released from its jail on traffic charges on Tuesday and was waiting to be taken to McPherson County. A detention official who thought Engel was being released escorted him out of the building. The deputy who made the mistake was reprimanded.


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