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Headlines for Wednesday, July 9, 2014


Group Says Kansas Gun-Rights Law Endangers Safety

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A national gun control group argues in a federal lawsuit that a Kansas law challenging federal authority to regulate guns is unconstitutional and endangers public safety. The Washington-based Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence filed the lawsuit Wednesday against a 2013 law declaring that the federal government has no authority to regulate guns manufactured, sold and kept only in Kansas. The law also makes it a felony for any U.S. government employee to attempt to enforce federal regulations for Kansas-only firearms, ammunition or accessories. The lawsuit says gun regulations fall under the power of Congress to regulate interstate commerce and the state is improperly trying to nullify federal law. It says the effects of not regulating some guns could be far-reaching. Governor Sam Brownback has promised to defend the law.


OIG Outlines Issues at Kansas VA Outreach Clinics

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — The Office of Inspector General for the Veterans Affairs Department has released its recommendations for improvements at the six community-based outpatient clinics across Kansas overseen by the Dole VA Medical Center in Wichita. The recommendations are based in part on a site visit to the Parsons clinic in May along with other data gathered for VA outpatient facilities in Hays, Salina, Hutchinson, Parsons, Dodge City and Liberal. Issues cited in the report include no panic alarm system, incomplete diagnostics, inadequate staff training and poor medication management. The report also compares how well the different clinics are able to meet wait-times of under seven days. U.S. Senator Jerry Moran has long criticized the VA for not having a primary care provider at its Liberal clinic for the past three years.


State Delays Rollout of System to Prevent Fraud

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The state has again delayed implementation of a new computer system designed to prevent fraud and improve efficiency in applications for social services. The state said Tuesday no firm date is set to take the $135 million computer system online. The program, called KEES, or Kansas Eligibility and Enforcement System, was originally to go live by October 1, 2013. Sara Belfry, spokeswoman for the state's health department, said a pilot program test last month persuaded the department to delay the rollout again. KEES is intended to bring together enrollments for all programs in the federal-state Medicaid programs. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports startup costs of the project were $85 million, with $60 million from the federal government, followed by an additional $10 million per year for five years for maintenance.


Police Investigate Body Found Near K-10 Highway


LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — Lawrence police say they don't suspect foul play in the death of a man whose body was found along Kansas Highway 10 in Douglas County. A commuter noticed the body about 6 am Wednesday near an industrial area called Venture Park. The man was later identified as 37-year-old Nathan Thurman. Police said Thurman had recently been staying at the nearby Lawrence Community Shelter, which serves the homeless and people at risk of losing their homes. An autopsy will be performed to determine the cause of death. Westbound traffic on the heavily traveled highway was reduced to one lane Wednesday morning while detectives examined the scene.


2nd Teen Dies After Kansas House Explosion

PLYMELL, Kan. (AP) — A second member of a western Kansas family has died after an explosion at their home last month. Garden City Fire Chief Allen Shelton says 14-year-old Riley Unruh died Tuesday at a Wichita hospital. His 17-year-old brother, Spencer Unruh, died in the explosion June 28 in Plymell, about 10 miles south of Garden City. The boys' mother, Kelly Unruh, remains in critical condition from injuries she suffered that day. Investigators say the explosion was caused by a concentration of natural gas. Chief Shelton says investigators have not determined why the natural gas concentrated at the home. Family members said in a statement that they were saddened by Riley's death but rejoice that he is "now in heaven with his Savior and his brother."


Dodge City Pastor Gets Probation in Sex Abuse Case

DODGE CITY, Kan. (AP) — A Dodge City pastor will serve three years of probation for sexual battery in a plea deal that dropped six other felony charges, including rape. Eighty-year-old Jerrold Wayne Ketner was sentenced Tuesday. He was arrested in March after a woman who went to him for counseling reported she had been raped and molested for several months. The woman told KWCH-TV that Ketner demanded sex when she could not pay him. She videotaped one of the visits and turned it over to police. Ford County Judge Leigh Hood cited Ketner's age, health and lack of prior convictions when announcing the sentence. Ketner will not have to pay restitution, do any community service or register as a sexual offender. He cannot have contact with the victim or her husband.


Judge Gives Wyandotte Nation Deadline for Court Pleading

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A federal judge has ordered an Oklahoma tribe to show cause why the court shouldn't dismiss the last remaining claim in their lawsuit seeking to build a casino on suburban Wichita land. U.S. District Judge Julie Robinson on Wednesday gave the Wyandotte Nation until July 19 to make its pleading. The Interior Department has notified the court that it rejected the tribe's application to take the land into trust so the tribe can build a casino there. Robinson refused last year to order the agency to accept the Park City land into trust, leaving the decision to the Interior Department. But she retained jurisdiction to ensure the agency processed the tribe's application in a timely manner. The government wants the court to dismiss the lawsuit's remaining claim of unreasonable delay.


Chemical Spill Blamed for Arkansas River Fish Kill

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Authorities say a chemical spill at Wichita's water treatment plant into the Arkansas River killed some fish but poses no risk to public health. The ferric sulfate spilled early Wednesday from a corroded drain pipe at the plant and into the river near downtown Wichita. The chemical is used to settle out particles in untreated water as it flows into the plant. Public works deputy director Joseph Pajor says between 1,700 and 2,000 gallons of the chemical spilled. He says that when a pipe linking two storage tanks broke, a pump continued to spill the chemical onto the floor of a building. The chemical then flowed through a storm drain into the river. A small number of small fish were killed. They were found downstream behind a sandbar in shallow water.


Sheriff: Suspect Identified in NW Kansas Fires 

HAYS, Kan. (AP) — A northwest Kansas sheriff says investigators have identified a "strong suspect" in a rash of arson fires that scorched grassland and outbuildings. KAYS-AM reports that Ellis County Sheriff Ed Harbin said Tuesday authorities are waiting for lab results that could connect the person to the fires. The 20 fires in rural Ellis County began March 6 and continued for 10 days. The largest burned nearly 1,200 acres in the northwestern part of the county. The arsonist apparently worked quickly, at one point setting 10 fires in less than three hours. Most of the damage was to grassland, but trees, sheds, an old granary and a horse trailer were also burned. Harbin says his office continues to receive and investigate tips from the public.


Moser Named Executive Editor of Manhattan Mercury

MANHATTAN, Kan. (AP) — The Manhattan Mercury has promoted Megan Moser to executive editor. Moser has been leading The Mercury's newsroom, including news reporters, editors, designers, photographers and the sports department on an interim basis since former executive editor Steve Cameron retired May 1. Moser began her career at the Mercury as an intern in 2008 and graduated that year with a journalism degree from Kansas State University. She was named lifestyle editor in 2008. The Mercury reported Tuesday that Moser, a native of Garden City, is the first woman named to its top editor's position in at least 100 years.


Kansas Won't Release Data from Reading, Math Tests

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas won't be issuing any report cards this year on how well its public school students performed on standardized reading and math tests after cyberattacks and other problems this spring. The State Board of Education decided Tuesday not to release any scores. The board's decision means there won't be a report on how students scored overall statewide or how students in each school district or individual schools scored. The University of Kansas center that designed the tests told the board last month that it should not release data for individual schools and districts because of cyberattacks and other problems from March 10 to April 10. The state Department of Education typically releases data from testing each fall.


Kansas Board of Education Approves Budget Proposals

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Most of the new dollars being sought for Kansas public schools by the State Board of Education over the next two years would go toward boosting their base aid and funding for special education programs. The board approved proposals Tuesday to phase in a $459 million increase in state funding, starting in July 2015. Base aid and special education account for $409 million. School districts' base state aid would rise to $4,200 per student for 2015-2016. The current figure is $3,852. The figure would jump to $4,300 for 2016-2017. Meanwhile, the state would cover 85 percent of the additional costs faced by schools in their special education programs for 2015-2016. The current figure is 80 percent. For 2016-17, the figure would rise to 92 percent.


Topeka-Based Bank Says Service Restored

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Officials at Topeka-based CoreFirst Bank say full service has been restored to its computer-based applications after an earlier outage. KSNT-TV reports a cut in an AT&T fiber-optic line late Tuesday morning affected ATM services, credit and debit card transactions, mobile applications and the bank's website. CoreFirst president Kurt Kuta tells the station that service was restored around 8:30 pm. Kuta said that the disruption had left the bank working off account balances as of Monday's close of business. Transactions made after the outage were recorded in part of the bank's computer server, but didn't show up for customers. The disruption affected all CoreFirst branches in the Topeka area and in Manhattan, Johnson County and Emporia, Kansas, as well as Denver, Colorado. Kuta says no customers have lost any money.


Riders Call Verruckt Water Attraction Scary, but Worth Riding Again

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) — Early riders on the world's tallest water slide say the Kansas City, Kansas, attraction is as scary as it looks, but they couldn't wait to go down it again. Among those getting a sneak peak at Verruckt at Schlitterbahn Waterpark on Wednesday was Kansas City Mayor Mark Holland, whose security detail anxiously waited while he took a second trip down the slide before being whisked away to another appointment. The 168-foot-tall water slide is scheduled to open to the public on Thursday, six weeks later than initially anticipated. The ride was reconfigured after early tests included sandbag-filled rafts flying off the slide and crashing to the ground. Verruckt, which means "insane" in German, was certified as the world's tallest water slide in April by Guinness World Records.


Topeka Air Service Increasing with United Flights

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Six months after United Airlines began flying to Chicago out of Topeka Regional Airport, ridership is increasing but airport officials say it needs to continue climbing. Airport authority president Eric Johnson says the twice-daily flights to Chicago were about 64 percent full in June. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that the numbers increased from 25 percent full in January to 65 percent in May. Government funds provided about $2 million in revenue guarantees if ticket sales fell short of a revenue goal. Johnson said most of the guarantee funds probably were used in the slow first quarter and the revenue shortfall for the second quarter hasn't been calculated. He says airport officials want the service to be profitable to ensure that United wants to continue to provide service from Topeka.


Judge: Lyft Service to Operate in Kansas City Until Trial

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — A federal judge says the Lyft ride-sharing service will be allowed to operate in Kansas City at least until September, when a trial is scheduled to consider city officials' complaints about the service. Lyft pairs passengers who use a smart phone app with drivers in their own vehicles. District Judge Brian Wimes on Wednesday denied the city's request for a temporary restraining order against the San Francisco-based company. The Kansas City Star reports that the city maintains Lyft should follow the same regulations as taxicabs and limousine services. At least 16 Lyft drivers have been ticketed since the service began in the city. A trial on the city's objections is scheduled to begin September 17.


Kidney Transplant Clinic to Open in Wichita

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A Missouri hospital will open a clinic in Wichita next month to serve kidney patients who need transplants. Saint Luke's Hospital, of Kansas City, announced plans Tuesday to open the clinic near Wichita's Via Christi hospital. Doctors at the clinic will evaluate potential transplant recipients. They will also provide pre- and post-surgery care for patients who receive new kidneys at Saint Luke's in Kansas City. KWCH-TV reports that more than 1,000 dialysis patients in Wichita are being evaluated for transplants. Wichita was left with a void when Via Christi announced in May it would not reopen its own program, which was halted in 2012 for the investigation of the deaths of four transplant patients in less than a month.


Amtrak CEO to Make Kansas Whistle-Stop Tour

NEWTON, Kan. (AP) — Top executives of Amtrak and Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway will make a whistle-stop trip on the passenger railroad's Southwest Chief in Kansas. Friday's event takes place amid efforts to preserve the current route between Newton, Kansas, and Albuquerque, New Mexico. The route is in jeopardy because the track, which is owned by BNSF, needs to be upgraded for passenger service, but BNSF doesn't require the upgrades for its freight operations. Discussions have been taking place about how the costs of improvements might be shared. Amtrak president and CEO Joe Boardman and BNSF executive Matt Rose plan to talk with local officials at each stop Friday about the funding issues. The train is scheduled to leave Topeka at 9 am and stop in Newton, Hutchinson, Dodge City and Garden City.


Dodge City Pastor Sentenced in Sex Abuse Case

DODGE CITY, Kan. (AP) — A Dodge City pastor will serve three years of probation for sexual battery in a plea deal that dropped six other felony charges, including rape. Eighty-year-old Jerrold Wayne Ketner was sentenced Tuesday. He was arrested in March after a woman who went to him for counseling reported she had been raped and molested for several months.The woman told KWCH-TV that Ketner demanded sex when she could not pay him. She videotaped one of the visits and turned it over to police. Ford County Judge Leigh Hood cited Ketner's age, health and lack of prior convictions when announcing the sentence. Ketner will not have to pay restitution, do any community service or register as a sexual offender. He cannot have contact with the victim or her husband.


Wichita Man Sentenced for Abuse of Infant

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A Wichita man is going to prison for more than three years for abusing and battering his 3-month-old son. The Wichita Eagle reports a Sedgwick County judge on Tuesday sentenced Aaron Piland to three years and five months for aggravated battery, plus 32 months for child abuse. The sentences will be served concurrently. Piland pleaded guilty in May. He and the baby's 28-year-old mother, Christina Schulte, were arrested after the mother took the baby to an emergency room in January claiming he became unresponsive after a bath. Doctors found internal injuries and alerted authorities. Schulte is also charged in the case, but court records show she failed to appear for her jury trial June 30. She's being sought on a warrant with a $275,000 bond.


Missing Missouri Boy Found Dead in Pond

HARRISONVILLE, Mo. (AP) — A massive search for a 5-year-old boy with autism has ended with the discovery of his body in a pond near his western Missouri home. Tony Eugene "Gene" Cory-Ferguson wandered from the rural Cass County home shortly before noon Tuesday — apparently, authorities said, after a repairman left a door open. KSHB-TV reports divers found his body around 6:30 pm Tuesday in an algae-covered farm pond about 100 feet from the hoThe house is located near an agricultural research center with several ponds and planted fields. Emergency personnel used dogs and aircraft in the search amid dense rows of tall corn. But the dogs never detected a scent, and authorities said that Gene was probably in the pond before the search began.


Lawrence Cracks Down on Fireworks Violations

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — In response to complaints from residents, Lawrence police cracked down on violators of the city's ban on fireworks this year. The Lawrence Journal-World reports police issued 34 citations for violating the citywide ban on fireworks in the week between June 30 and July 6. That's 10 times more than the average of three citations in previous years. Police spokesman Trent McKinley says officers responded to 226 calls about fireworks this year, up from the average of 204 calls between 2008 and 2013. The department assigned several officers to fireworks calls this year. McKinley says that and a slower-than-normal July 4 evening contributed to more citations. Lawrence banned fireworks within city limits in 2002 but has done little to enforce the ban in previous years.


Sporting KC Goalie Kronberg Fractures Left Hand

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) — Sporting Kansas City goalkeeper Eric Kronberg fractured a bone in his left hand during practice Wednesday and will miss about eight weeks for the defending MLS Cup champions. The club recalled goalkeeper Jon Kempin from his loan to USL PRO affiliate OKC Energy FC to provide depth during Kronberg's absence. Andy Gruenebaum is expected to become the team's primary goalkeeper after starting both of Sporting KC's matches in the U.S. Open Cup. Kronberg had started 17 matches for Sporting KC this season, and was leading Major League Soccer with seven shutouts and a 0.88 goals-against average. The reigning MLS player of the month also ranked third at his position in All-Star fan voting. Sporting KC plays at Montreal on Saturday.



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