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Headlines for Wednesday, June 12, 2019

Kansas Democrats Planning Presidential Primary in May 2020

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) - Kansas Democrats plan to hold a presidential primary in May 2020 with ranked-choice voting.  State Democratic Party Chairwoman Vicki Hiatt said Tuesday that the party believes a primary will attract more participants than caucuses. About 39,000 people participated in the party's presidential caucuses in 2016, which required participants to meet for several hours rather than simply submitting ballots.  The state party has submitted a plan to the Democratic National Committee for a May 2 primary to allocate the state's delegates to the party's national convention. The party plans to run the election itself and cover costs that could approach $200,000, depending on turnout.  Voters would rank all candidates. Candidates who receive fewer than 15 percent of the first-place votes would have their votes reallocated to voters' next preferred candidate.

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States Sue to Stop $26.5 Billion Sprint-T-Mobile Deal

NEW YORK (AP) - A group of state attorneys general led by New York and California are filing a lawsuit to block T-Mobile's $26.5 billion bid for Sprint, citing consumer harm.  The state AGs say the merger would hurt competition and drive up prices for cellphone service.  It's an unusual step ahead of a decision by federal antitrust authorities. The Justice Department's decision is pending. The Republican chairman of the Federal Communications Commission supports the deal.  The companies say they need to bulk up to upgrade to a fast, powerful "5G" mobile network that competes with Verizon and AT&T. The companies are appealing to President Donald Trump's desire for the U.S. to "win" a global 5G race. Consumer advocates and Democratic lawmakers worry about price increases and job cuts.  Other attorneys general joining Tuesday's lawsuit are from Connecticut, Colorado, the District of Columbia, Maryland, Michigan, Mississippi, Virginia and Wisconsin.

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Missouri Governor Signs "Border War" Truce; Awaits Kansas Action

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) - Missouri Governor Mike Parson has signed a bill aimed at stopping an economic border war with Kansas.  Whether the bill signed Tuesday has any impact depends on Kansas officials.  Both states have spent millions of dollars luring businesses across the state line in the last decade.  The Kansas City Star reports the bill would stop Missouri from offering tax incentives to companies moving into the state from Wyandotte, Miami and Johnson counties in Kansas. It it takes effect only if Kansas does the same thing before 2021 for companies in Jackson, Platte, Clay or Cass counties in Missouri.  Parson said he and Kansas Governor Laura Kelly have discussed the issue and he is optimistic an agreement will be reached.  Kelly said in a statement Tuesday the states need to work together to lure businesses to the region.

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Kansas Secretary of State Files Overdue Reports, Fixes Error

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) - Kansas Secretary of State Scott Schwab says his office has filed three overdue financial reports with the federal government and fixed a $400,000 accounting error in a fourth. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports the problems occurred under fellow Republican and former Secretary of State Kris Kobach. They involved reports detailing how the state used federal grants for upgrading voting systems.  Schwab said he disclosed his corrective actions "to ensure transparency."  The reports are supposed to be filed at the end of each year with the federal Election Assistance Commission.  Schwab took office in January and was notified last month that the 2015 report contained an accounting error. The commission also told Schwab that the secretary of state's office had not completed reports for 2016, 2017 and 2018.

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Kansas Officials Vote to Launch Anti-Vaping Campaign

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas officials want to put the brakes on vaping in public schools as usage soars.  The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that the Kansas State Board of Education voted unanimously Tuesday to launch an anti-vaping campaign.  Officials say local school boards need to amend student codes of conduct and district disciplinary policy to outline sanctions for those caught vaping. The state board also agreed to formalize and expand an ad-hoc task force that recommended swift action to dampen demand by youths for the sweet-flavored alternative to smoking. Kansas State Department of Education commissioner Randy Watson says estimates that half of students in Kansas high school were involved in vaping justified an aggressive statewide response. He described it as a public health epidemic.

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Hydroelectric Plant Operator Seeks Improved River Management

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) - A hydroelectric power plant operator is calling on the Army Corps of Engineers to better manage reservoirs along the Kansas River as the region sees flooding and high water levels.  Bowersock Mills & Power Company President Sarah Hill-Nelson tells the Lawrence Journal-World that the turbines at her family's hydroelectric power plant have sat dormant since mid-May due to the river's high water levels. Hill-Nelson and the Kansas Water Office's acting director, Earl Lewis, recently shared their concerns about river flow management with Kansas Congressman Steve Watkins.  Hill-Nelson says the Corps could improve the release of water from reservoirs and protect those along the Kansas River corridor. Lewis says the Corps of Engineers' rules are outdated and risk averse.  They both want the agency to update its flood-response rules.

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Kansas's Largest Private Solar Power System Opens at School

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — The largest privately-owned solar power system in Kansas is operational at a Wichita-area high school. Maize High School on Tuesday switched on a system with 720 solar panels that will generate enough energy in one day to power the school for a month. Physics and chemistry teacher Stan Bergkamp says the 240 kilowatt system is 400 feet long and 75 feet wide. It sits next to the high school. The Wichita Eagle reports Bergkamp said he promoted the project in response to the threat of climate change. He estimates once the system is paid for, it will save the school $3,200 a month and reduce annual carbon emissions by 240 tons. ICM Inc. bought the $400,000 system and will lease it to Maize High School for six years.

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Body Recovered of Fleeing Man Who Shot Himself in River

GREAT BEND, Kan. (AP) — Authorities have found the body of a Kansas parole absconder who fled from law enforcement and then waded into a river and shot himself to avoid being apprehended. The Great Bend Tribune reports that 36-year-old Nicholas Lee Curtice fled Monday night when deputies attempted to stop his vehicle in Great Bend. Barton County Sheriff Brian Bellendir said in a news release that the pursuit ended when the vehicle hit a ravine. The release says Curtice then shot himself in the Arkansas River in about 4 feet of water. The Great Bend Fire Department's swift water rescue team found his body Tuesday about 1,200 feet downstream. Records show he had an extensive criminal history that included an April 2018 pursuit in which he hit a deer before he was apprehended.

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Coroner IDs 80-Year-Old Man as Pilot Killed in Grain Bin Crash

BUTLER, Mo. (AP) — Authorities say a pilot killed when his small plane crashed into a western Missouri grain bin was an 80-year-old man who split his time between Florida and Kansas City. Bates County Coroner Greg Mullinax identified him as John McConnell Jr. He was the only person aboard the eight-seat Cessna 425 when it crashed around 10:30 a.m. Monday near the airport in Butler, which is about 55 miles north of Kansas City. The cause of the crash is under investigation. The flight tracking site FlightAware shows that the plane had left the airport in Vero Beach, Florida, where he had a home, several hours earlier. It was headed to New Century AirCenter in the Kansas City suburb of Olathe.

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Authorities: 135 Animals Rescued from Home of Alleged Hoarder Near Wichita

BEL AIRE, Kan. (AP) _ Authorities say 135 animals have been rescued from the home of an alleged hoarder near Wichita.  The Bel Aire Police Department says the animals rescued this week include 81 cats, 11 dogs, 14 Norwegian rats -- and other animals (two chickens, two guinea pigs, seven gerbils, one turtle dove, one red-eared slider, 15 ornate box turtles and one betta fish).  The rescue group Beauties and Beasts has taken in several animals.  The group says most of those animals had been fixed but some of the older dogs need medical care.  Forty other animals, including guinea pigs and turtles, went to a pet store, where they will be quarantined for two weeks before getting new homes.

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Groups Sue to Force Federal Protections for Prairie Chickens

WASHINGTON (AP) — Three conservation groups are suing the federal government to force it to protect the lesser prairie chicken and its habitats. The lawsuit was filed Wednesday in U.S. District Court in the District of Columbia by the Defenders of Wildlife, the Center for Biological Diversity and WildEarth Guardians. The lawsuit alleges that the U.S. Interior Department's Fish and Wildlife Service has not done enough to protect the bird. The groups want the agency to determine whether the lesser prairie chicken is a threatened or endangered species. The Interior Department said it cannot comment on pending litigation. The bird was listed as threatened in 2014 but a federal court overturned the designation. The bird roams parts of Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas, New Mexico and Colorado, but the groups said fewer than 38,000 remain.

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DNA Evidence Links Man to Sexual Assaults

MANHATTAN, Kan. (AP) - Prosecutors say DNA from a Manhattan man who is standing trial this week has connected him to the sexual assaults of four women. The Manhattan Mercury reports that 18-year-old Tommie Baggett is charged with rape, sodomy and aggravated robbery.

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Missouri Man on Probation Now Charged with Taking Secret Dressing Room Pics in Kansas

OLATHE, Kan. (AP) - Court records say a Missouri man secretly snapped pictures of a 15-year-old trying on swimsuits in a Kansas store as he began serving probation for photographing women in the dressing room of another store.  The Kansas City Star reports that Anthony DeLapp, of Joplin, is again charged with breach of privacy by photo or video in Johnson County District Court. Court records say the teen confronted DeLapp on May 31 when she noticed a phone being held over her changing room door at a Target store in Olathe, Kansas. Surveillance video showed him running out of the store.  He had been sentenced just one day earlier for photographing women in 2017 at a Forever 21 store at Oak Park Mall in Overland Park, Kansas. DeLapp has denied the latest allegations.

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Most Kansas Inmates Must Wait for Hepatitis C Treatment

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) - Although a recent legal settlement means Kansas can't delay care for Medicaid patients with hepatitis C, hundreds of the state's prison inmates will wait another year for the expensive treatment.  Kansas News Service reports state prison officials say more than 700 inmates currently have hepatitis C, which damages the liver. About half will receive treatment this year, starting with those who have liver cirrhosis from the virus.  Civil rights advocates say the delay in treating some inmates could constitute cruel and unusual punishment because inmates have the right to medical care.  Lawsuits have been filed in several states that limited hepatitis C treatment for their Medicaid and prison populations because new, effective drugs can cost up to nearly $100,000 per person.  Kansas settled the Medicaid lawsuit last fall.

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Report: Forecast More Optimistic for Kansas Wheat Harvest

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) - A new government report forecasts an even more bountiful winter wheat harvest in Kansas than had been expected.  The National Agricultural Statistics Service on Tuesday said the state's crop this year is forecast at 330 million bushels, up 19% from last year. The more optimistic forecast is based on crop conditions on June 1.  The agency is predicting average yields in Kansas of 50 bushels an acre, up 12 bushels from a year ago.  Those extra bushels per acre are bolstering the anticipated harvest in a year when fewer acres overall are anticipated to be harvested. The report says Kansas is expected to harvest 6.6 million acres, down 700,000 acres from last year.

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Big Brutus Attraction Adds Another Coal Mining Shovel

WEST MINERAL, Kan. (AP) — A historic coal mining shovel that was hidden under bramble for more than 70 years has gone on display in southeast Kansas alongside its more well-known successor, an 11-million pound (5 million kilogram) orange giant known as Big Brutus.  The Joplin Globe reports that a ceremony to dedicate the Markley shovel is slated for 1 pm Saturday at the Big Brutus Visitors Center, a nonprofit museum in West Mineral.  Coal mine operator Perry Markley designed and built the shovel in the early 1900s using junkyard parts. The machine was one of the first mining shovels to be equipped with a round dipper stick that allowed the bucket to swivel.  It later was used as a prototype to construct other machines like Big Brutus.

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New Future Planned for Long Abandoned Wichita Amusement Park

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — The new owners of a long abandoned Wichita amusement park want to transform it into an outdoor event center and paintball range.  The Wichita Eagle reports that the plan is set to go to the City Council next month after winning approval from planners and neighbors. Councilman James Clendenin says he's pleased to see some redevelopment finally occurring at the site.  He says the area has been a nuisance since Joyland shut down for good in 2006. After years of vandalism, a fire destroyed much of what remained in August 2018. Three months later, Gregory and Tina Dunnegan bought Joyland's 57 acres at auction for $198,000.  A consultant wrote in a site proposal that the owners envision temporary outdoor festivals and amusement rides to "capture the old flavor of Joyland."

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KU Lands Jalen Wilson, Last Remaining Top-50 Recruit

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — The University of Kansas has landed small forward Jalen Wilson, the last remaining top-50 prospect, to polish off a recruiting class that will finish among the top 20 in the country. The 6-foot-8 Wilson was a longtime commit to Michigan, but he reopened his recruitment when coach John Beilein left the Wolverines for the Cleveland Cavaliers. Wilson took visits to North Carolina and Kansas before making his pledge to the Jayhawks public on Wednesday. KU missed out on several elite prospects early in the recruiting cycle, but coach Bill Self finished strongly by landing a quartet of four-star prospects in Wilson, fellow forward Tristan Enaruna and top-150 guards Isaac McBride and Christian Braun. The Jayhawks also landed Iowa graduate transfer Isaiah Moss this week.

 

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