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Headlines for Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Here's a look at area headlines from the Associated Press

American Royal to Move to New $160 Million Home in Kansas 

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) — The new Kansas home for the American Royal horse and livestock exhibition is being planned as a $160 million project that includes arenas, a museum and an agricultural education center. American Royal officials and Kansas Governor Sam Brownback announced Tuesday that the Royal plans to move from Kansas City, Missouri, to the Kansas side of the metropolitan area. Plans call for the American Royal site near Kansas Speedway to have an exposition center and two arenas with 5,000 and 8,000 seats.  The 117-year-old American Royal is one of Kansas City's most fabled cultural institutions, drawing nearly 270,000 people annually. Governor Brownback called the project "an important growth opportunity." Officials say Kansas is committed to authorizing $80 million in bonds backed by sales tax revenues collected in the area.  Some Kansas legislators have voiced concern about financing the move with bonds backed by sales tax revenues. A prominent Democrat in the Kansas Legislature says she has mixed feelings about the announcement. State Senator Laura Kelly of Topeka says that it's exciting that Wyandotte County has attracted a major project and new jobs. But Kelly added, "It's sort of more of the same of just stealing from Missouri rather than trying to grow that region altogether."

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Kansas Lawmaker's Facebook Post Offends Black Colleagues

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A Kansas legislator has criticized a black performer's public protest by saying in a Facebook posting that she should go back "home." Republican State Representative Joe Seiwert, of Pretty Prairie in Reno County, confirmed the posting Tuesday in interviews with The Topeka Capital-Journal and Wichita Eagle. Seiwert defended the posting as a comment on someone showing disrespect to the American flag. Seiwert's post said, "Go back to where you claim home." Two black legislators and the Democrat opposing Seiwert's re-election called the posting offensive. Seiwert confirmed he posted the comment under a meme with vulgar language criticizing singer Denasia Lawrence for kneeling to sing the national anthem before a preseason professional basketball game Friday in Miami. She wore a Black Lives Matter shirt and later called it protest against racial injustice.

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Kansas Senate Candidates Want to Save Docking Building 

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The Democratic and Republican candidates for Kansas Senate districts that include the Docking State Office Building say they want to consider rehabilitating the building. Governor Sam Brownback's administration wants to demolish the building in Topeka. The building's future has caused a dispute between lawmakers and the governor for several months. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that Democratic Senator Laura Kelly wants a task force to determine the building's future. Her Republican challenger, Dave Jackson, wants the state to consider lease-back options with private developers. The building will be mostly empty of state employees by summer. Brownback entered into a $20 million contract to build a new Capitol complex energy center last spring, as a step toward demolishing the Docking building. The administration backed down after lawmakers objected to the deal.

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Kansas Supreme Court Won't Hear Schwab Case 

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The Kansas Supreme Court won't consider the case of a couple whose children were taken into state custody. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that the court Friday declined to hear the case of Raymond and Amelia Schwab, who claimed their children were placed in state custody because of Raymond Schwab's use of medical marijuana. A Kansas appellate court said earlier the children were taken into state custody because of neglect and Schwab's suspected drug use, not because of Schwab's use of medical marijuana. The appellate court found that Raymond Schwab tested positive for methamphetamine and opioids during a court-ordered urine screening last year. Raymond Schwab then appealed to the Kansas Supreme Court, where he intended to represent himself. The high court's refusal to hear the case denies him that opportunity.

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Topeka Authorities Investigate High Number of Arson Fires 

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) - Authorities from several agencies are investigating a higher-than-expected number of arson fires in Topeka. City officials say 57 blazes have been intentionally set this year. That's about 21 more than a city of Topeka's size would expect. Topeka Fire Marshal Mike Martin says many of the arsons have occurred in an area about two miles west of the Statehouse. No one has been injured in the recent arson fires, though they have caused thousands of dollars in damage to trash bins, garages and houses. Martin says that though the incidents appear to be connected, that doesn't necessarily indicate a serial arsonist. The Office of the State Fire Marshal, Topeka police and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives are assisting with the fire department's investigation.

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Federal Agency Levies $732,000 in Fines Against ONEOK 

TULSA, Okla. (AP) — The U.S. Department of Transportation's Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration has announced fines totaling $732,000 against Tulsa-based ONEOK following a fire at a ONEOK facility in Bushton, Kansas. The PHMSA says 15 safety violations of pipeline safety regulations were found during an investigation following the fire that occurred in 2008. The fines are against ONEOK NGL Pipeline, L.P., ONEOK NGL Pipeline, L.L.C., and ONEOK Underground Storage Company, L.L.C. PHMSA says ONEOK operates 11,500 miles of pipeline transporting natural gas liquids in Oklahoma, Kansas and several other states. ONEOK spokeswoman Stephanie Higgins said there were no injuries as a result of the fire and the company is reviewing the orders and considering its legal options. A PHMSA official did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

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Kansas Man Sentenced to Time Served for Sending Fake IRS Letters

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) - A suburban Kansas City man has been sentenced to five months he already served in jail for sending fake IRS letters to former girlfriends and business partners. The U.S. attorney's office says that 56-year-old Jeffrey Nickerson, of Lenexa, Kansas, was sentenced Tuesday for one count of impersonating a federal employee. Nickerson sent letters on IRS letterhead that said the victims were under investigation for tax evasion as a result of reports being filed to the IRS Fraud Investigations Hotline. He knew a woman who worked at the IRS Service Center in Kansas City, Missouri, and admitted to using information from IRS publications she brought home with her.

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Arkansas Scientist Pleads in Rice Seed Theft Case 

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) — A 61-year-old scientist has pleaded guilty to a federal charge nearly three years after he was accused of stealing proprietary rice seeds developed in the U.S. and giving them to a visiting delegation from China. The Justice Department said Wednesday in a release that Wengui Yan, of Stuttgart, Arkansas, pleaded guilty Monday in federal court in Kansas to one count of making false statements to the FBI. Yan, who worked as a geneticist for the U.S. Department of Agriculture at the Dale Bumpers National Research Center in Stuttgart, was originally charged in December 2013 along with Weiqiang Zhang, a Kansas scientist, of conspiracy to steal trade secrets and theft of trade secrets. According to the plea, Yan admitted knowing about plans to steal rice samples and send them to China.

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Official: Kansas Tornadoes Cost $500K in Damage 

SALINA, Kan. (AP) — An official says two tornadoes that recently touched down in eastern Saline County caused an estimated $500,000 in damage. The Salina Journal reports that Emergency Management director Hannah Stambaugh told county commissioners about the costs during their regular meeting on Tuesday. An EF2 tornado touched down October 6 just before 4:15 pm and stayed on the ground for a short distance. An EF3 tornado touched down near the town of Kipp around 4:20 pm that day, and traveled on the ground for 6.3 miles. Stambaugh says no one was injured, but a home, several outbuildings, farm implements and power lines were damaged.

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Changing Manhattan High School Mascot Could Cost $318K 

MANHATTAN, Kan. (AP) — A district official says changing Manhattan High School's Indians mascot could cost $318,000. The Manhattan Mercury reports that Manhattan-Ogden USD 383 assistant superintendent Eric Reid prepared a cost estimate for the possibility of changing the mascot that some have said is disrespectful to Native American culture. According to Reid's analysis, costs include $40,000 to change the turf at the school's stadium and $55,000 for new football team uniforms. Other costs would come from changing the uniforms of other sports teams and signage using the mascot. Members of Reimage MHK, the advocacy group pushing for the change of the mascot, say they're working to raise money to offset the cost. The school board is scheduled to consider the matter during its December 7 meeting.

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Sedgwick County Government Victim of $566,000 Fraud

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Law enforcement authorities say that Sedgwick County is the victim of fraud. The Sedgwick County Sheriff's Office said in a news release Wednesday that the resulting loss to the county government was about $566,000. The sheriff's office was notified at about 5 pm Tuesday about the fraud. Lieutenant Lin Dehning of the sheriff's office says the offense report shows the fraud occurred between September 23 and October 26, and that right now investigators are looking at the loss as one offense. Dehning says the investigation is just beginning and that is all the information they have to release right now.

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Wichita Zoo Put on Lockdown After Report of Orangutan Escape

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — The Sedgwick County Zoo says an orangutan who briefly escaped its enclosure found a weakness in the wire mesh of its enclosure. Zoo officials say a 11-year-old Sumatran orangutan named Tao appears to have unwoven the mesh enough to slip through the hole and escape into a public area. She went back into the enclosure on her own, and all orangutans were secured indoors within 10 minutes. A guest reported the orangutan escape at 10 a.m. Tuesday and zoo officials quickly escorted visitors to safety. No one was hurt. A zoo spokeswoman says the Oranghutan exhibit will remain closed until further notice while it is evaluated and secured. 

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Details Emerge in Monday Train Derailment Near Abilene Grain Elevator 

ABILENE, Kan. (AP) — A Union Pacific train derailed earlier this week near a grain elevator in Abilene. Union Pacific spokeswoman Calli Hite says the derailment happened at 3:50 pm. on Monday. No injuries were reported. Hite says the train was headed into customer facility when the 10 empty cars derailed and broke a power pole. The cause of the derailment is under investigation. According to Hite, train cars that derailed on private property will be righted by the property owner. The Salina Journal reports that Union Pacific's main line was cleared and reopened by about 8 p.m.

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Kansas State University Economics Club Says College Costs Outpace Inflation 

MANHATTAN, Kan. (AP) — Kansas State University's economics club says the cost of being a student at the university continues to rise faster than the rate of inflation. The Manhattan Mercury reports that since 2002, the club has measured the Student Price Index, which takes into account the costs the average student faces like housing, tuition, gas, groceries and textbooks. The Student Price Index rose by 2 percent this year. The average increase since the club started tracking the index has been 7 percent.

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Police Say Domestic Violence Played Role in Topeka Killing 

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Authorities say domestic violence was involved in the shooting of a 21-year-old man in Topeka. Topeka police said in a news release that Treondus Lee Wilson, of Topeka, was pronounced dead at the scene of Tuesday night's shooting. Police say the shooting happened after a "domestic violence incident" and that there was "an argument." The release says police have identified those involved and conducted interviews. Police plan to present the investigation case file to prosecutors and make no arrests pending a legal review. No other details were offered about what led up to the shooting.

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Man Convicted of Arkansas Murder as Juvenile to Be Released

FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. (AP) — A judge has ordered the release of a 59-year-old man convicted of a killing that occurred in Arkansas more than 40 years ago. The Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reports that Dennis Lewis of Wichita, Kansas, was 17 years old when Jared Cobb was fatally shot during a robbery at a Springdale pawn shop in April 1974. Lewis was convicted of capital murder and assault with the intent to rob in the case, and he was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole. Recent state and federal appeals court rulings have said mandatory life sentences without parole for juveniles are cruel and unusual punishment and therefore unconstitutional. A judge signed an order Tuesday that Lewis' sentence be vacated and that he be immediately discharged.

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Judge Calls Mistrial After TV Station Airs Footage of Jurors

SALINA, Kan. (AP) — A mistrial has been declared in a Kansas murder trial after a Nebraska television station aired footage of people in the jury pool. A judge put a stop Tuesday to the trial of 37-year-old Bobby Tallent after Nebraska TV showed footage Monday night of prospective jurors waiting to be questioned. The Kearney, Nebraska, station said on its website that it wouldn't have filmed or aired the video if it had known potential jurors were in the hallway where its reporter had received permission to stand. Prosecutors allege that Tallent killed 47-year-old Joseph Sweet, whose body was found in March 2015 in a park in the western Kansas town of Norton. Tallent was arrested near the Nebraska border after a pursuit in which shots were fired at officers.

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$80 Million Settlement Reached in Missouri Asbestos Case 

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — An $80 million settlement has been reached in a class-action lawsuit over removal of asbestos during renovation of the Jackson County (Missouri) Courthouse in Kansas City. The Kansas City Star reports that $25 million will go toward attorney's fees and the cost of the litigation. The rest of the money will go to a medical monitoring fund to cover the costs of diagnostic tests for people exposed to the asbestos 30 years ago. The case was scheduled to go to trial this week. Instead an agreement was reached between Jackson County and Kansas City-based U.S. Engineering, which removed the asbestos from 1983 to 1985. A judge is expected to finalize the agreement in late December. About 7,500 people could be eligible for the medical screenings.

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3 Killed in 2 Separate Shootings in Kansas City
 
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Authorities say three people have been killed and another wounded in two separate shootings in Kansas City. Police say the violence started around 6:30 p.m. Tuesday when a man fatally shot his 64-year-old mother, Nicki Alexopoulos, and wounded a family friend before killing himself. Police say the Kansas City woman and her son were found dead inside a residence. The wounded friend was found outside and rushed to a hospital in critical condition. The son's name wasn't immediately released. Three hours later, officers found another shooting victim, who was identified as 37-year-old Jeremy Eubanks, of Kansas City. Police say witnesses reported seeing a car fleeing after hearing gunfire.

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Car-Sharing Service Expands in Downtown Kansas City 

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Car-sharing service Zipcar has expanded into downtown Kansas City. Zipcar allows people to rent a car by the hour or by the day. The Kansas City Star reports that Zipcar has placed eight vehicles in four locations along the downtown streetcar route from River Market to Union Station. Zipcar already has two cars at Kansas City International Airport and two more at the University of Missouri-Kansas City. The company has said that the downtown expansion indicates  the success of the service in the KC area so far.

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Kansas Man Admits Role in Abduction of Woman Later Slain 

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A Kansas man faces a possible life prison term after admitting in federal court his role in the abduction of a woman who was later killed. Twenty-six-year Drexel Woody, formerly of the Fort Riley military base, pleaded guilty in Topeka to one count of kidnapping resulting in death. His sentencing is scheduled for January 30. Witnesses reported seeing 24-year-old Amanda Clemons of Junction City being placed in a car outside a motel on the night she disappeared in February 2014. Prosecutors allege Clemons was beaten in retribution for comments she had made on social media. Prosecutors say Clemons was taken to a bridge, broke free and jumped from the span, breaking her ankle before her assailants fatally cut her throat. Four co-defendants are awaiting trial.

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Kansas Woman Sentenced for Death of Newborn Put in Trash

OLATHE, Kan. (AP) _ A 21-year-old Kansas woman was sentenced to nearly 15 years in prison for placing her newborn baby in in a trash can and letting her die. Prosecutors say Marissa Carol Fields gave birth to a nearly full-term baby at her home in Olathe in December 2014. She was sentenced Tuesday to 14 years and 10 months after earlier agreeing to plead no contest to second-degree murder and aggravated abandonment of a child. The Kansas City Star reports Fields had not told anyone she was pregnant. Her father discovered the baby's body in the trash and contacted police. Earlier testimony indicated the baby girl was likely born alive. Fields told investigators the girl was cold and not breathing when she was born. The death was classified as homicide.  

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Missouri Regulators Warn Nevada Wastewater Plant 

NEVADA, Mo. (AP) - The Missouri Department of Natural Resources says a processing plant in southwest Missouri faces penalties of up to $10,000 per day if it continues to violate air quality regulations. The Joplin Globe reports the Missouri Department of Natural Resources sent an order Friday to Dan Scannell, president of the Nevada division of Custom Drying Solutions. The agency had already performed two inspections of the plant and sent a warning letter about its process of evaporating wastewater. The stage agency says Nevada residents have complained about the smell from the wastewater processing. The DNR gave company officials until November 4 to reply. Scannell says the company takes the situation seriously and is working with the Department of Natural Resources to resolve the issue.

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