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Headlines for Wednesday, September 3, 2014


Brownback: Davis Not Credible on Water Issues

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Governor Sam Brownback is promising to finish work on a 50-year water conservation plan for Kansas if he's re-elected this fall. The Republican governor also said Democratic challenger Paul Davis has no credibility on water issues because he showed no interest in the subject as a legislator. Brownback held a news conference Wednesday on a boat ramp on the Kansas River to discuss water policy and protecting the state's natural resources. It's the last piece of his re-election campaign platform. His administration is already working on a 50-year water plan and expects to roll out pieces of it next year. The governor says his administration already plans to issue $20 million in bonds for reservoir dredging.


Davis Rejects Criticism on Kansas Water Issues

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Democratic challenger Paul Davis is disputing statements from Republican Governor Sam Brownback that Davis has shown little interest in water conservation in Kansas. The Davis campaign responded Wednesday to a statement from Brownback that Davis has no credibility on water issues. Brownback promised during a news conference to finish work on a 50-year water conservation plan if he's re-elected this year. He said water is a crucial issue, and the state needs a governor who's interested in it. Davis spokesman Chris Pumpelly said the Democrat has met privately with farmers, water-rights attorneys and others to discuss water issues. Pumpelly also said funding for water conservation efforts is jeopardized by aggressive personal income tax cuts enacted at Brownback's urging in 2012 and 2013.


Brownback Open to Phasing Out Kansas Energy Rule

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Governor Sam Brownback says he's open to proposals for phasing out a renewable energy requirement for Kansas utilities because policies aimed at nurturing the wind industry shouldn't remain in place forever. The Republican governor said Wednesday that he's not developing a proposal of his own and wants wind energy companies, critics of the requirement and other interested parties to negotiate a new policy. But Brownback said he has supported the policy because it helped develop the wind industry in Kansas but said the industry is now strong. A 2009 state law requires utilities to have wind and other renewable sources account for 15 percent of their peak capacity for generating electricity by 2016 and 20 percent by 2020. Brownback said such policies shouldn't remain in place forever.


Davis Predicts Kansas School Funding Cuts if Brownback Wins

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Democratic challenger Paul Davis predicts that funding for Kansas public schools will be cut if Republican Governor Sam Brownback wins re-election, but Davis is not outlining a specific education plan. Davis had a news conference Tuesday at Lowman Hill Elementary School in Topeka to criticize Brownback on education funding issues. Davis said Brownback has made cutting the state's personal income taxes his top priority, to the detriment of public schools. The Democrat said that if Brownback wins a second four-year term, Kansas will have to reduce aid to schools because of budget problems created by the tax cuts. The Legislature's nonpartisan research staff is projecting a budget shortfall of $238 million by July 2016. Brownback spokesman John Milburn said Davis is distorting the governor's record while offering no specifics.


Dissident Kansas GOP Group Backs Orman for Senate

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Independent U.S. Senate candidate Greg Orman has been endorsed by a group of former moderate Republicans in the Kansas Legislature who are unhappy with the state GOP's conservative leanings. Orman held a Statehouse news conference Wednesday to tout his endorsement by Traditional Republicans for Common Sense. Former state Representative Jim Yonally, of Overland Park, says the group has about 70 members who are ex-legislators. Yonally was at the news conference with former state Senator Tim Owens of Overland Park and former state Representative Rochelle Chronister of Neodesha. They said they believe electing an independent candidate will help break partisan gridlock in Washington. Orman is challenging three-term Republican Senator Pat Roberts, whose campaign suggested the announcement was a fraud. Democratic nominee Chad Taylor's campaign had no comment.


Electrical Problems Close Shawnee County Courthouse

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The Shawnee County Courthouse is closed after flooding caused by heavy rain caused a problem with electricity. The courthouse was closed Wednesday morning after flooding in the building's subbasement near a transformer. Shawnee County Sheriff's Lieutenant Akim Reynolds says before the courthouse was closed, power was out in three public elevators and some offices. The courthouse has four floors, a basement level and a subbasement level. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that the courthouse was closed for the rest of Wednesday, to allow Westar Energy to shut down power to begin repairs.


Man Charged in 3 Shooting Deaths in Kansas City

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — A 34-year-old man is charged with first-degree murder in the shooting deaths of three people in Kansas City. Jackson County (Missouri) prosecutor Jean Peters Baker announced the charges Wednesday against Brandon Howell. He also faces charges of first-degree assault, burglary, car theft and felon in possession of a firearm for critically injuring two others. Police also said Howell assaulted three people at a north-side motel. Howell is being held in the Jackson County jail. Kansas court records show he was paroled in 2011 after a conviction for a home invasion in Johnson County, Kansas. Baker said 88-year-old Alice Hurst, 63-year-old son Darrel Hurst and 69-year-old Susan Choucroun were killed during an attempted car theft. An SUV that went missing from the scene of the shootings was found near the motel.


More Charges Filed Against Homicide Suspect

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — The suspect in a triple homicide in Kansas City is now accused of assaulting three people at a motel several hours after the killings. The Platte County prosecutor on Wednesday charged 34-year-old Brandon Howell with burglary, three counts of assault and other offenses. Investigators said Howell punched three guests Tuesday afternoon at a Motel 6 in a section of northern Kansas City that lies in Platte County. Howell was arrested shortly before midnight Tuesday in northern Kansas City. Jackson County (Missouri) prosecutors charged him Wednesday with first-degree murder for the shooting deaths of three people in southern Kansas City. Investigators said the shootings followed a failed attempt to steal a car on a quiet residential street. Police said two of the motel guests identified Howell from a lineup.


Respiratory Illness Hits Hundreds of KC-Area Kids

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — A Kansas City pediatric hospital has treated hundreds of young children for a respiratory illness that has symptoms similar to a common cold that more typically is seen during winter months. Children's Mercy Hospital spokesman Jake Jacobson says the facility has been seeing about 30 new patients a day who have been sickened by human enterovirus 68, with a total of about 450 cases as of Tuesday. While the virus hits children with underlying conditions such as asthma harder than others and has resulted in about 15 percent of the cases being placed in intensive care, most patients are simply urged to stay hydrated and sent home. The Missouri Department of Health issued a health alert saying St. Louis hospitals also have seen an increase in pediatric respiratory illnesses.


Feds Investigating Kansas Chemical Company

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Newly unsealed search warrants show federal regulators are investigating allegations that a Kansas chemical manufacturer illegally dumped fluids in a well in violation of safe drinking water laws. But the president of Sterling, Kansas-based Jacam Chemical Company says it was treating a customer's well and is cooperating with the investigation. Search warrants made public Wednesday in federal court show the Environmental Protection Agency has been conducting surveillance on Jacam and its subsidiary Jacam Manufacturing 2013 in Lyons since December 2012. The agency is investigating whether the companies discharged liquid into an underground injection well located in rural Rice County. Investigators in May seized environmental samples along with other evidence. No charges have been filed. The company makes chemicals used in the oil and gas industry.


Salina to Lease Hangar for Bombardier Test Center

SALINA, Kan. (AP) — The Salina Airport Authority will lease part of an oversized hangar at its airport and make improvements that will allow the Bombardier Flight Test Center of Wichita to consolidate its operation. The board voted Tuesday to offer a two-year lease to Bombardier and make $622,703 in repairs to the hangar, a taxiway and apron. Bombardier will lease about 27,000 square feet of the 130,000-square foot hangar known as "Big Bertha" in Salina. It can house aircraft with wing spans over 200 feet and tail heights up to 58 feet. The flight test center will consolidate its operations into one building. It currently leases 10 buildings in the Salina airport industrial center. The Salina Journal reports Bombardier will pay $188,100 a year for the lease, which begins October 1.


State Investigating Child's Death at Foster Home

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — State officials are investigating the death of a 4-month-old girl at a foster home in a Wichita suburb. Sedgwick County officials say the girl died last Thursday at the home in Bel Aire. Sheriff Jeff Easter says the girl's 18-year-old mother was sleeping with her on a couch and apparently rolled on top of the child. He says the investigation is continuing but the girl's death appears to be an accident. Easter says a preliminary autopsy found no traumatic injuries on the girl. The Wichita Eagle reports the child was not in foster care. However, the Kansas Department of Health and Environment is investigating because the death occurred at a foster home. Placements at the home are on hold while officials review the death.


Kansas Group Plans Crowd Funding for Rural Communities

INMAN, Kan. (AP) - The Kansas Sampler Foundation is planning a new crowd funding site to support projects that help rural communities. A pilot website, called Kanstarter, is scheduled to be up and running later this month. The foundation's director, Marci Penner, says projects allowed on the website will have to be good for the community and supported by several generations. She says the projects cannot cover salaries or promote religious or political views. The Hutchinson News reports 24 proposals were submitted for the pilot project and a committee narrowed the initial list to four. Those projects are an update to the Burdett Mini Golf Course; purchasing land in Plains for a grocery store; constructing an amphitheater to replace the Wilson Opera House and construction of a recreation trail in Yates Center.


Lawsuit Settled in Boy's Death at Alabama Airport

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (AP) — Relatives of a Kansas boy killed by a falling sign inside Birmingham's airport are settling a wrongful death lawsuit filed over the accident. The parents and four siblings of 10-year-old Luke Bresette each will receive an undisclosed amount of money from companies that were involved in designing, making and installing the sign under an agreement approved Wednesday in Jefferson County (Alabama) Circuit Court. The boy from Overland Park, Kansas, was crushed by a flight information sign that fell inside a renovated section of Birmingham-Shuttlesworth International Airport in March 2013. His family was returning home from a trip to Florida. Mother Heather Bresette was seriously injured. Two younger brothers were hurt. The free-standing flight information board toppled over as the family walked by. The family sued contractors that worked on a renovation at Birmingham's airport.


Advocates Seek Kansans with Voting Problems

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) - League of Women Voters chapters are trying to contact about 20,000 Kansans whose voter registrations are stalled because of problems proving their citizenship. The president of the Lawrence-Douglas County chapter says the work is slow because many of the potential voters do not answer telephone messages or emails from the organization. Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach contends it is easy for residents to prove their citizenship before voting. He says the law is necessary to prevent illegal immigrants from voting. Dolores Furtado, president of the League of Women Voters of Kansas, said the chapters are using various methods to help local election commissioners reach people whose registrations aren't complete.


Pittsburg Police Seek Vandals of Public Art

PITTSBURG, Kan. (AP) - The Pittsburg Police Department says it is looking for vandals who damaged several fiberglass footballs that were part of a public art project called SEK Art Fest. Police say they have video showing people who might have vandalized one of the painted footballs on Sunday. The footballs have been on display in downtown Pittsburg since June. The Joplin Globe reports that continued vandalism prompted art festival organizers to move 20 of the 24 large painted footballs out of downtown Monday and into the Meadowbrook Mall in south Pittsburg. Four of the footballs have been damaged by vandals since July. The footballs were to remain on display downtown until October 12, and then were to be auctioned off to raise funds for future art exhibits.


Police Investigate Suspended Kansas Teenagers

ROSE HILL, Kan. (AP) - Rose Hill police say they're investigating three suspended high school athletes who allegedly urinated on another student at a party. Police Chief Bob Sage says three Rose Hill High School football players and one baseball player were drinking at an off-campus party when the alleged battery occurred. He says three of the students urinated on the fourth. The incident was recorded with a cellphone. Rose Hill Athletic Director Jim Linot says the football players will miss their season opener on Friday and the baseball player will miss his first game in March because they were drinking while underage. Authorities have not released other information about the students. No charges have been filed. Sage says he plans to turn the case over to the district attorney next week.


2 Injured in Kansas Crash with Empty School Bus

HUTCHINSON, Kan. (AP) - Hutchinson authorities say two women have been injured in a three-vehicle crash that included an empty school bus. Hutchinson Fire Department officials say the crash happened Tuesday afternoon. They say an SUV collided with a car that pulled in front of it. The collision sent the car flying into a nearby school bus. Both car drivers were transported to Hutchinson Regional Medical Center with minor injuries. The school bus driver was uninjured. No charges have been reported.


Report: 7 Percent of Kansas Corn Harvested

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) - Some Kansas farmers are busy preparing for fall seeding of their winter wheat crop, while others are harvesting this season's corn crop. The latest report from the National Agricultural Statistics Service on Tuesday says about 7 percent of the corn cropsin Kansas have been cut. At this time last year none had been cut, but progress this year is closer to the 10 percent average for early September. The agency rated corn condition as 17 percent poor to very poor, 29 percent fair, 42 percent good and 12 percent excellent. About 5 percent of the sorghum crop in Kansas has now matured, and 6 percent of the soybeans have begun dropping leaves. The weekly report also said about 86 percent of the sunflower crop is blooming across Kansas.


Wichita Zoo at Risk of Losing Elephants

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) - A Kansas zoo will lose its accreditation to have elephants if its officials can't find a way to upgrade the animals' enclosure. The Sedgwick County Zoological Society on Tuesday asked county commissioners to pay $5.3 million of a proposed $10.5 million elephant barn. Zoo officials say the commissioners have three weeks to consider the funding before they move to relocate the animals. The zoo has housed two African elephants, named Stephanie and Cinda, since 1972. The change is necessitated by guidelines passed by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums in 2011. The association requires zoos with two females to have space for at least one more elephant by September 2016. It aims to protect the social animals from living alone.


KU Logs Record-Setting Year for Donations

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — The University of Kansas says it received a record $253.2 million in donations in the fiscal year that ended June 30. The university said in a news release Tuesday that the donations compared with $174.2 million donated the previous fiscal year. The contributions to the university and the University of Kansas Hospital included $193.1 million in outright gifts and pledges, $59.1 million in deferred gifts and $1 million in contributions directly to the university. The donations allowed the university to create seven new professorship and fund 91 new scholarships and fellowships. The statement says the money also will be used to expand or build several buildings, including Capitol Federal Hall, the DeBruce Center and the Earth, Energy and Environment Center.


Report: Midwest Economic Index Inched Up in August

OMAHA, Neb. (AP) — A monthly economic survey index for nine Midwestern and Plains states rose slightly in August, suggesting growth is ahead. A survey report issued Tuesday says the overall Mid-America Business Conditions Index inched up to 57.2 last month from 57.0 in July. The index had reached a three-year high of 60.6 in June. Looking six months ahead, the business confidence portion of the overall index climbed to 60.4 from 60.0 in July. It had hit 63.6 in June. The survey results from supply managers are compiled into a collection of indexes ranging from zero to 100. Survey organizers at Creighton University say any score above 50 suggests economic growth, while a score below that suggests decline. The survey covers Arkansas, Iowa, Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, Oklahoma and South Dakota.


Woman to Change Plea in Kansas Adoption Scam Case

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) _ A woman accused of pretending to be pregnant to scam prospective adoptive parents in Kansas and elsewhere has notified the court she intends to change her plea. A court notation Tuesday shows 34-year-old Chrystal Marie Rippey, of Marshall, Texas, is scheduled for a change-of-plea hearing September 17 before a federal magistrate judge in Kansas City, Kansas. Rippey was indicted in February on federal charges of mail and wire fraud. Defense attorney Thomas Bartee did not immediately respond to an email seeking comment. Prosecutors allege Rippey contacted adoption agencies and individuals, pretending she was pregnant and seeking to give up her unborn child for adoption. The indictment contends prospective parents bought her meals and gifts, believing she was willing to let them adopt her baby after birth.


Electric Bills Increasing for KCP&L Customers

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) — Customers of Kansas City Power & Light Company will be paying a little more each month for their electricity. The Missouri Public Service Commission says bills will be going up starting in September to account for higher fuel costs for the Kansas City-based utility. It says typical residential customers in the Kansas City service area will pay an additional $2.44 a month while customers in the St. Joseph service area will pay an additional $1.20 a month. KCP&L's Greater Missouri Operations Company serves about 313,000 electric customers in the state.


Survey: KHP Workers Loyal, but Frustrated

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) - A survey of Kansas Highway Patrol employees found a high degree of loyalty to the organization but strong frustration with management. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports the $20,000 study was done by University of Kansas researchers and was prompted by complaints of weak morale in the organization. About 83 percent of those surveyed said they cared about the fate of the organization and nearly 70 percent said they felt loyalty to the agency. But more than two-thirds said they didn't believe the highway patrol's management consistently enforced disciplinary procedures for all workers. The highway patrol's superintendent says two-thirds of civilian and uniform personnel volunteered for the survey. He says he'd received complaints in the past three years and wanted the review to identify whether the concerns were perceived or real.


KU Cornerback Short Withdraws from School

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) _ Junior cornerback Kevin Short has withdrawn from the University of Kansas due to personal reasons, though coach Charlie Weis left open the door Tuesday to his possible return next season. Weis refused to discuss the reasons for Short's departure. The two met Monday and the backup cornerback decided then to withdraw from school and return home to Florissant, Missouri. Short said in a statement that his departure was not due to academics or behavior. Weis said that he knew Short could be unavailable, and that's part of the reason he had been running with the second team in practice. Seniors Dexter McDonald and Cassius Sendish are listed as the starters for Saturday's season opener against Southeast Missouri State.



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