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Headlines for Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Judge to Consider Blocking Kansas Ban on Abortion Method 

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — An abortion rights group is asking a Kansas judge to block the state's first-in-the-nation ban on what it says is the most common method for terminating second-trimester pregnancies. Shawnee County District Judge Larry Hendricks has scheduled a hearing Thursday in a lawsuit filed earlier this month by the Center for Reproductive Rights. The law takes effect next week. The center contends it will force women to accept higher medical risks or forgo abortions. Lawyers for the state argue that abortion providers have safe alternatives to what anti-abortion activists describe as dismembering a fetus. The National Right to Life Committee drafted the ban as model legislation for states. Kansas was the first to enact it. The center represents father-daughter abortion providers and Drs. Herbert Hodes and Traci Nauser of Overland Park.


Kansas Gets Extension on No Child Left Behind Waiver 

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas will get a three-year extension on its waiver from the federal No Child Left Behind law. The Lawrence Journal-World reports that the Tuesday announcement by the U.S. Department of Education comes as Congress is considering bills to change No Child Left Behind that could make the waiver unnecessary. The department said Kansas has implemented sufficient measures aimed at improving students' performance to justify extending the waiver. Under No Child Left Behind, schools were supposed to demonstrate by 2014 that 100 percent of their students were proficient in reading and math based on their performance on yearly state assessments. The law was due for reauthorization in 2007. But after years of congressional gridlock on the issue, President Barack Obama's administration began offering waivers in 2012 to states if they agreed to implement other education reform measures.


White House Says U.S. House Budget Bill Would Hurt Kansas 

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The White House says a U.S. House budget bill would hurt Kansas, but Kansas Congressional members say the president's proposals are worse. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that a statement from President Obama's administration Wednesday details the effects federal spending legislation in the House could have on Kansas programs, parks and agencies. The White House says Republicans could jeopardize health care coverage for 85,000 Kansans enrolled in the Affordable Care Act marketplace and result in 6,000 fewer Kansas children receiving full-day, year-round education through Head Start. Reprsentative Lynn Jenkins says Obama's 2016 budget creates $2.1 trillion in new taxes and adds $8.5 trillion to the national debt. CJ Grover, spokesman for Representative Kevin Yoder, says the House budget prioritizes spending and "balances in less than 10 years."


State Hospital Halts New Admissions During Renovations 

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Osawatomie State Hospital has stopped accepting new admissions while the facility undergoes renovations. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that officials with the Kansas Department for Aging and Disability Services told the Kansas Mental Health Coalition on Wednesday the moratorium on new admissions began over the weekend. The renovations come after the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services found the hospital wa not in compliance with federal standards. Under the moratorium, the hospital's patient population is capped at 146, below its previous capacity of 206. The moratorium has raised concerns for people in need of the care that the hospital provides. But KDADS says there's a diversion process in place to provide care for patients who can't be admitted to the hospital immediately, and no one was on a wait list at noon Wednesday.


Advocates Allege Religious Discrimination at V-A Hospital 

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A religious liberty group says members of a Native American sweat lodge at a VA medical center in Wichita have been subjected to discrimination aimed at shutting down their religious services. The Liberty Institute sent a letter Wednesday to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs concerning the Robert J. Dole Veterans Affairs Medical Center. Among the group's concerns is the recent suspension of the sweat lodge's spiritual leader, who is a substance-abuse counselor at the center. The group alleges his suspension came in retaliation for his advocacy work for the sweat lodge, and that his absence has effectively shut down the religious services. The medical center released a statement that didn't address the specific allegations, but says the center prioritizes supporting the religious practices of its staff, volunteers and veterans.


Board Chooses Developer for New SE Kansas Casino

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A state board selected a development group last night to build and manage a new gambling casino in the state’s southeast corner. The panel chose the smallest and least expensive of three proposals it considered. The casino review board decided that the $70 million Kansas Crossing proposal would be the right fit for the market. Board members also said the company's principals had strong partnerships with local officials and were also involved in two other successful casinos in the state. The new casino and a 120-room hotel are expected to open next summer south of Pittsburg. The state of Kansas already operates casinos in Dodge City, Wichita and Kansas City. The Kansas Lottery is the legal owner of the casinos and the state receives about 20 percent of the gambling profits.

KU Chancellor Donates Pay Increase to School 

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — The chancellor of the University of Kansas is joining the presidents of four other state universities in giving up her recent pay increase. A KU spokeswoman says Chancellor Bernadette Gray-Little has regularly made gifts to the university in excess of her annual salary increase, and plans to do the same again this year. The Kansas Board of Regents recently approved 2% pay hikes for university presidents. The leaders of Wichita State, Kansas State, Pittsburg State and Fort Hays State have already said they intend to either decline the raise, or donate the money back to their schools. 


Activists Ask Wichita to Remove Confederate Flag from Park

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) - A Wichita activist group is asking city officials to remove a Confederate flag from a display at Veterans Memorial Park. The flag has been on display at the memorial in downtown Wichita since 1976, as part of a display of 13 historic flags that flew for the U.S. in war times. The Confederate flag has become a flashpoint since the deaths of nine black people last week in a South Carolina church by a white man in a shooting police say was racially motivated. KAKE-TV reports the Sunflower Community Action group is asking city officials to remove the flag, which they consider racially offensive. The city said in a statement that officials are discussing the subject with various groups responsible for the display at the park.


Feds Ask Judge to Reconsider Ruling in 'Pill Mill' Case

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) _ Prosecutors want a federal judge to reconsider a ruling that overturned six convictions against a former Kansas doctor and his wife whose pain clinic is linked to 68 overdose deaths.  A government filing Tuesday asks the court to resentence Stephen and Linda Schneider on those six counts, rather than tossing out the convictions.  A jury found the Haysville couple guilty in 2010 of conspiracy to commit health care fraud resulting in those deaths, unlawfully prescribing drugs, health care fraud and money laundering. The judge revisited their case after U.S. Supreme Court ruling in another case finding the victim's drug use had to be the actual cause of death, not merely a contributing factor. The couple was sentenced to more than 30 years in prison but with the six counts dropped, the sentence would be reduced to about 20 years.


Investigators Say Arson Likely Cause of Wichita Store Fire 

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Wichita fire investigators say arson is the likely cause of a store fire that caused about $400,000 in damages and injured two firefighters. The Wichita Eagle reports that investigators are looking for three juveniles who may have started the fire that heavily damaged the Dollar General on Tuesday. Fire Marshal Brad Crisp says one firefighter was treated for dehydration and the other for injuries sustained when he was hit by falling debris. Both firefighters have been released from the hospital. Crisp says investigators have been told three juveniles were in the store a short time before the fire and were asked to leave because of a disturbance. He says they reportedly returned to the store a short time later.


Topeka Police Search for People Who Fled Crash

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) _ Topeka police say three people fled the scene of a hit-and-run accident, forcing the evacuation of a Topeka high school.  Shawnee County Sheriff's Lieutenant  Danny Lotridge told The Topeka Capital-Journal that one person was taken into custody near the scene of the accident, which occurred Tuesday afternoon. Three other people fled.  Employees were evacuated from the Topeka High School after a person matching the description of the driver reportedly entered the building. Police searched the building but didn't find anyone. Employees were allowed back later Tuesday afternoon.  The crash occurred when two cars collided in traffic. The driver of one of the cars suffered minor injuries and the other car fled the scene.


Third Defendant Pleads No Contest in Kansas Couple's Deaths 

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Another defendant has pleaded no contest in the 2013 shooting deaths of a Kansas couple. KSN-TV reports that Andrew Ellington pleaded no contest Tuesday to first-degree murder and second-degree murder in the deaths of Roger and Melissa Bluml. The Blumls, the adoptive parents of Ellington's friend, Anthony Bluml, were shot outside their Valley Center home in November 2013. Melissa Bluml died the next day. Her husband died about five weeks later. Anthony Bluml and his biological mother, Kisha Schaberg, pleaded no contest last week to capital murder. A witness testified that Schaberg and her son devised and executed a plot to rob and kill the Blumls over hatred and for money. Another man, Braden Smith, is also charged with capital murder in the case. Ellington's sentencing is August 27.


EPA to Hear Testimony from Hundreds on Renewable Fuels Plan 

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Federal environmental officials say hundreds have signed up to testify on a renewable fuels proposal that ethanol supporters say would have stifling implications for their industry. Last month the Environmental Protection Agency announced a plan to reduce renewable fuels requirements by 4 billion gallons in 2015 and more than 3 billion in 2016. The agency says volumes required by a 2007 law are impossibly high. The EPA is conducting the hearings Thursday in Kansas City, Kansas, with plans to announce its final decision in November. At least two governors, busloads of FFA members and farmers from several states are planning to rally against the proposal at a nearby park. Ethanol backers say the EPA caved in to the demands of the petroleum industry, which is generally opposed to the standards.


Sly James Re-Elected as Kansas City's Mayor

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Sly James was re-elected to a second term as Kansas City mayor in an election with extremely low voter turnout.  Unofficial returns show the 63-year-old James was elected Tuesday with just 34,000 people voting. Turnout was 8 percent in Platte and Clay counties and 13 percent in Kansas City south of the Missouri River.  He won 87 percent of the vote over Vincent Lee, who didn't mount a visible campaign.  The Kansas City Star reports that the low turnout will thwart James's effort to make it harder to promote petition initiatives, which require just 5 percent of the mayoral turnout. That means petition organizers will need to collect about 1,700 signatures. Two city council incumbents were defeated, meaning most council members will be new when they take office August 1.


Sedgwick County Jail Deputy Charged with Assault 

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A Sedgwick County jail deputy has been suspended from duty after facing charges stemming from a domestic disturbance. Sheriff's Lieutenant Lin Dehning says the jail deputy was suspended without pay Monday. The Wichita Eagle reports that Dehning says he can't release the deputy's name because it's a domestic-violence case and the identity of the alleged victim needs to be protected. He says police arrested the deputy June 13 while he was off-duty after a disturbance at the residence. The Sedgwick County District Attorney's Office has charged the deputy with aggravated assault and domestic battery. He says the professional standards unit of the sheriff's office is also investigating the case separately from the criminal investigation.


Police Identify Body of Kansas Woman Found in Creek

HUTCHINSON, Kan. (AP) - Police have identified a 38-year-old Hutchinson woman whose body was found in a creek bed. Reno County Sheriff Randy Henderson says the woman was 38-year-old Mary Ann Arnett of Hutchinson. Her body was found Monday in a creek bed just south of Nickerson. Henderson says the family identified the woman based on her tattoos. Authorities say a 22-year-old man shot and killed by law enforcement officers early Tuesday at a Hutchinson home was a suspect in Arnett's death. Henderson says Jonathan Wilson was shot after he threatened officers and began breaking things at the home. Details of how Arnett died and her relationship with Wilson were not released. The Kansas Bureau of Investigation is investigating the shooting


Shatner to Ride Through Kansas on Thursday

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Actor William Shatner is scheduled to pass through Wichita this week on a trip to raise money for the American Legion. The Wichita Eagle reports that Shatner will be in Wichita on Thursday as he makes a 2,400-mile journey from Illinois to California on a three-wheeled motorcycle. The trip is intended to raise money for the American Legion. The 84-year-old actor portrayed Captain Kirk in the 1960s television series "Star Trek." His trip is scheduled to end in Los Angeles next week.


Police Identify Bicyclist Killed in Kansas City Crash 

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Kansas City police say a 57-year-old man died when the bicycle he was on collided with a pickup truck. The Kansas City Star reports that police identified the man Wednesday as John H. Baskin of Kansas City. He died Monday in the collision. A witness told police Baskin rode through a stop sign before the crash and wasn't wearing a helmet. Police say the pickup driver wasn't injured in the crash and stayed at the scene to provide police a statement.


McClatchy Names KU Alum as New Publisher for The Wichita Eagle 

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — The McClatchy Company has chosen a Tennessee newspaper official to be president and publisher of The Wichita Eagle. The Eagle reports that 59-year-old Roy Heatherly's appointment was announced Wednesday. Heatherly currently is president, publisher and advertising director for The Jackson Sun, a Gannett-owned newspaper in Jackson, Tennessee. He replaces Kim Nussbaum, who was promoted to vice president for advertising for McClatchy, based in Sacramento, California. Heatherly was born in St. Louis and moved to Wichita in the 5th grade. He graduated from Wichita West High School in 1974 and the University of Kansas in 1978. He worked in radio sales in Chanute before joining the Sun in 1980. He also worked for the News Star in Monroe, Louisiana, until becoming publisher of the Sun in 2008.


Gambling, Substance Abuse Summit Begins in Kansas City

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) _ A three-day summit about gambling and substance abuse prevention is getting underway in Kansas City, Missouri. More than 150 addiction experts and treatment providers are expected to take part in the annual Midwest Conference on Problem Gambling and Substance Abuse beginning today (WED).   The conference will feature more than 30 workshops and general session presentations from experts in the fields of problem gambling and substance abuse. The summit is the result of the planning of the Midwest Consortium on Problem Gambling and Substance Abuse. That's a committee comprised of addiction specialists, problem-gambling program coordinators and organizations throughout Iowa, Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska and Oklahoma. 


Seattle Mariners Beat Kansas City, 7-0

SEATTLE (AP) — The Seattle Mariners shut out the Kansas City Royals 7-0 on Tuesday night. Seattle rookie pitcher Mike Montgomery tossed a four-hitter against the Royals while Dustin Ackley singled, doubled and homered for his first three-hit game of the season. Montgomery (2-2) became the second Mariners pitcher this season to pitch a complete game. Montgomery retired 17 straight batters at one point, striking out a career-high 10 and allowing only two base runners after the second inning. He walked none and escaped a bases loaded jam in the first inning before overpowering Kansas City for the rest of the game. Montgomery was originally drafted by the Royals, but was traded to Tampa Bay before eventually landing in Seattle at the start of this season.


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