HHS: 371 Kansans Picked Insurance Plans in First Month of Federal Online Exchange
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services reports that only 371 Kansas residents selected a health insurance plan through a federally run online marketplace during its first, glitch-plagued month in operation. HHS released the figures Wednesday. The department said the insurance exchange had about 6,100 completed applications from Kansas from October 1 to November 2. Those applications sought coverage for about 12,000 people. The U.S. Census Bureau estimated earlier this year that 363,000 of the state's 2.8 million residents had no health insurance. The federal health care overhaul set up online marketplaces to help people find affordable insurance, but the rollout of the HHS website has been rocky from the start. The federal government did not say how many of the people selecting a health plan started paying premiums.
KS Board of Ed to Review Test Development Plan
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas State Board of Education members are weighing the options and cost of changing how students are tested each year. Brad Neuenswander, deputy commissioner for education, recommended to the board on Wednesday that Kansas use a blended testing system, including tests developed by the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium. Kansas is part of that group, which is developing tests for math, reading and language arts to be given first in spring 2015. Kansas is among 21 states involved in the consortium. The University of Kansas would still administer the tests developed by the consortium. The university has developed tests in the past, and some board members wondered if Kansas could continue with that practice and at what cost.
Construction Begins on South Lawrence Trafficway
LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — After years of debate and legal action, construction work has officially begun on the South Lawrence Trafficway. Kansas transportation department spokeswoman Kim Qualls says crews began removing vegetation Tuesday to create a new route for Haskell Avenue. The Lawrence Journal-World reports construction has not begun in the Baker Wetlands, which was the center of the controversy that delayed construction since the mid-1990s. Qualls could not estimate when construction would begin in the wetlands. When completed, the trafficway will connect Interstate 70 northwest of Lawrence with Kansas Highway 10 to the east. Construction on the nearly $130 million project is expected to take three years.
Arizona Groups Hope to Join Opposition in KS Voter Citizenship Case
WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Several Arizona groups want to join a lawsuit opposing efforts by Kansas and Arizona to force a federal agency to help the states' enforce their proof-of-citizenship rules for new voters. A motion to intervene was filed Wednesday in federal court in Wichita by the Inter Tribal Council of Arizona, the Arizona Advocacy Network, League of United Latin American Citizens of Arizona and Arizona state Senator Steve Gallardo. Kansas and Arizona are seeking a preliminary injunction at a December 13 hearing to force the U.S. Election Assistance Commission to modify a national voter registration form. The groups contend the states want to undo a victory they won before the U.S. Supreme Court this year. The court ruled states can't demand proof of citizenship from people registering to vote in federal elections.
KS Governor Hosting 4-Day Hunting Event
NORTON, Kan. (AP) — Kansas Governor Sam Brownback is sponsoring his third annual, four-day Ringneck Classic this week in Norton and Graham counties to spotlight pheasant hunting in northwest Kansas. The event begins Thursday with an evening reception in Norton. A five-hour sporting clays tournament is set to begin Friday morning, with Brownback holding an evening reception at the National Guard Armory. The governor's all-day hunt begins Saturday morning, and it's followed by an awards banquet in the evening. There will be further hunting Sunday. Also participating with Brownback are Wildlife Secretary Robin Jennison, state Senator Ralph Ostmeyer, state Representative Travis Couture-Lovelady, and Miss Kansas 2013 Theresa Vail. Pheasant hunting season opened in Kansas last week.
Report: Nearly All Kansas Winter Wheat Now Emerged
WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — The latest government snapshot of Kansas crops shows 92 percent of the winter wheat has now emerged. The National Agricultural Statistics Service reported Tuesday that about 64 percent of the wheat is in excellent to good condition. About 33 percent is rated as fair, with just 3 percent rated in poor condition. The agency says the harvest of other crops last week was hampered by precipitation in much of Kansas, with heaviest amounts in north-central and southeast portions. Corn harvest is 91 percent complete, and roughly 78 percent of the sorghum crop has been cut. Eighty-six percent of soybeans and 70 percent of sunflowers have also been harvested.
KS Soldier Sentenced for Deadly Chase
JUNCTION CITY, Kan. (AP) — A Fort Riley soldier has been sentenced to nearly 10 years in prison for a deadly wrong-way chase on Interstate 70. KMAN-AM reports that 22-year-old Specialist Gary Nelson was sentenced Tuesday in Geary County District Court. He pleaded no contest in August to second-degree murder and reckless driving. Authorities said Nelson intentionally drove the wrong way on I-70 the night of April 3. A vehicle that tried to avoid a head-on collision went off the highway and rolled over, killing 53-year-old passenger Jake Black of Manhattan. A Highway Patrol trooper continued chasing Nelson at speeds of up to 100 mph before the soldier surrendered after several miles. Investigators said Nelson told them and others he had planned to commit suicide by hitting a tractor-trailer but lost his nerve.
Woman Pleads Guilty in Kansas Sex Trafficking Case
WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A Massachusetts woman has admitted harboring workers who were in the country illegally as part of a human trafficking operation in Asian massage parlors in Kansas. The U.S. Attorney's office says 44-year-old Xiuqing Tian of Framingham, Massachusetts acknowledged in her plea deal Wednesday that she entered the United States illegally in 2009. Tian said she came to Wichita work for her former employers and co-defendants, Gary Kidgell and his wife, Yan Zhang. She admitted the couple encouraged her to perform sexual acts for patrons of two massage parlors where she worked. Prosecutors say Tian helped recruit other Chinese women to work at the massage parlors and provided translation services. Tian agreed to testify against her former employers at their December 3 trial.
Businessman Pleads Guilty to Fraud, Embezzlement Charges
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — A Missouri business owner from northeast Kansas has admitted embezzling more than $1.3 million from the Missouri Petroleum Storage Tank Insurance Fund. The U.S. Attorney's office says 52-year-old Robert Fine II of Lenexa pleaded guilty Tuesday to mail fraud and money laundering. His plea agreement requires him to pay restitution of $1.5 million. Fine was the owner and sole employee of FINEnvironmental Inc., a home-based company that used subcontractors to perform environmental services for property owners with underground petroleum storage tanks. Prosecutors say Fine created false, inflated invoices for the services and submitted them to the insurance fund. He could be sentenced to up to 30 years in federal prison.
KS Woman Accused of Selling Phony ID Documents
KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) — A northeast Kansas woman is accused of making and selling hundreds of counterfeit driver's licenses, resident alien cards and other identity documents over a three-year period. The U.S. Attorney's office says 29-year-old Lluvia Fernanda Salinas-Rodriguez was indicted Wednesday on charges of trafficking in identity documents and fraud. The indictment replaces a criminal complaint filed last week against the Kansas City, Kansas resident. Investigators allege Salinas-Rodriguez used a computer and printer to scan photos and produce counterfeit identity documents, which also included Social Security cards. The charges allege she sold two sets of documents a week for roughly three years, at $80 to $100 apiece. Salinas-Rodriguez did not have a lawyer Wednesday, and a phone number for her could not be found.
Caldwell Restaurant Fire Caused $200,000 in Damage
CALDWELL, Kan. (AP) — A fire at a downtown Caldwell restaurant last week caused an estimated $200,000 in damage. The Wichita Eagle reports that Caldwell fire chief Pat York says the fire at Richard's Last Chance Bar and Grill is still under investigation but he says there is "nothing suspicious" about the blaze. York said last week that the fire originated in the kitchen of the historic two-story stone building that houses it.
Elderly MO Man with Dementia Found Uninjured
RAYMORE, Mo. (AP) — Police in suburban Kansas City say an 87-year-old man reported missing Tuesday night has been found alive and uninjured. The Raymore Police Department had issued an alert asking the public's help in finding Kenneth E. Hunt, who has dementia. The alert was canceled Wednesday afternoon. Hunt called his son Tuesday evening to say he was putting gas in his car at a convenience store in Odessa, about 30 miles from Raymore. The cellphone was then turned off. Police did not say where Hunt was found.
Man Admits Secretly Taping Roommates in Shower
WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A former Wichita State student admits that he secretly videotaped his roommates while they were in the shower in their dorm. Twenty-one-year-old Keanan Daniel Smith pleaded guilty Tuesday to three counts of breach of privacy. As part of the plea bargain, two counts of sexual exploitation of a child were dismissed. The Wichita Eagle reports that Smith was accused of taping the roommates in February 2012. Smith will have to register as a sex offender after he admitted his actions were sexually motivated. Prosecutors agreed to recommend that Smith be placed on probation. In court documents, Smith listed an address in the southeast Kansas town of Edna. He was a student at Wichita State from the fall of 2010 through the spring of 2012.
Death Penalty Appeal Before Mississippi High Court
JACKSON, Miss. (AP) — Attorneys for a death row inmate have asked the Mississippi Supreme Court Wednesday to order a new sentencing hearing for Roger Gillett because a jury considered inadmissible evidence that otherwise would not have been before it. Gillett was convicted in 2007 in Forrest County (MS) on two counts of capital murder for his role in the deaths of a Hattiesburg couple and transporting their bodies to Kansas in a freezer. While in custody in Kansas, he attempted to escape. That crime was one of the aggravating factors prosecutors presented Mississippi jurors to support the death penalty. The attorney general's office argued the Supreme Court can uphold murderers' death sentences, even if a sentencing jury wrongly considered some adverse evidence. Prosecutors say the evidence against Gillett was overwhelming and supported conviction.
Crews Begin to Lay Streetcar Rail in Kansas City
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Crews are beginning to lay rail for a two-mile streetcar route through downtown Kansas City. The contractor is giving the media a chance to view the work Thursday afternoon. Mayor Sly James, city council members and streetcar advocates will be on hand. Streetcars are expected to begin running in 2015 from near Union Station to the River Market area. The project has an estimated cost of about $100 million. Supporters hope it will be the first leg of a more extensive public rail system.
Court Rules KC Diocese Not Liable in Priest Abuse Civil Case
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — A Missouri appeals court has ruled that the Catholic Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph cannot be liable for actions of a priest accused of abusing a boy away from church property. A three-judge panel of the Missouri Western District Court of Appeals on Tuesday upheld a ruling last year by a Jackson County judge that dismissed civil allegations against the diocese filed by a plaintiff identified as "D.T." The Kansas City Star reports that D.T. alleged in his lawsuit the Reverend Michael Tierney abused him in the 1970s, once in a hotel room and another time in the basement of Tierney's mother's home. Tierney denied wrongdoing. The plaintiff dismissed his claims against Tierney while his appeal of rulings in favor of the diocese was pending.
MO Man Sentenced for Selling Counterfeit Merchandise in Kansas
KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) — A Missouri man who sold counterfeit goods at a store in Kansas has been sentenced to 18 months in prison. U.S. Attorney Barry Grissom said in a news release Wednesday that 45-year-old Jehad Shalabi, of Blue Springs, Missouri pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to traffic in counterfeit trademark goods. He sold the merchandise at the Joe Black store in Kansas City, Kansas. Prosecutors say FBI agents working undercover bought counterfeit items at the store and agents searching the store in June 2011 seized 588 counterfeit items with trademarks including Polo Ralph Lauren, Nike and Major League Baseball. Investigators say the counterfeit goods accounted for up 20 percent of the store's weekly sales of $4,000 to $6,000.
MO Man Gets Long Sentence for Failed Robbery
RAYTOWN, Mo. (AP) — A man with a long criminal history was sentenced to almost 32 years in prison for a failed bank robbery and shootout in a Kansas City suburb. Thirty-four-year-old Eric L. Smith was sentenced Wednesday to 31 years and 10 months for the June 2012 attempted robbery at the Blue Ridge Bank and Trust in Raytown. Prosecutors say when Smith demanded a security guard's gun, the guard responded by firing three shots and Smith fled. The guard and an off-duty Drug Enforcement Administration special agent ran after Smith, who fired back and escaped. The Kansas City Star reports that Smith had been out of prison only a month when the robbery occurred. His criminal history included assault and two aggravated robberies.
Source: Chiefs' Bowe to Play Sunday Night
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Chiefs wide receiver Dwayne Bowe will start Sunday night's AFC West showdown against the Denver Broncos after his arrest for speeding and possession of marijuana over the weekend. Chiefs coach Andy Reid says he is bound by terms of the collective-bargaining agreement from disciplining Bowe, who was pulled over for speeding in the Kansas City suburb of Riverside on Sunday. A search of his vehicle revealed what officers believe was marijuana. Reid said that he intends to let the legal situation run its course, but Bowe will be in the starting lineup when the Chiefs (9-0) take on the Broncos (8-1) with first place on the line. Bowe, who signed a five-year, $56 million deal in the offseason, has struggled to live up to the expectations that come with being one of the game's best-paid wide receivers. He's second on the team with 33 catches for 369 yards and two touchdowns. This isn't the first time that Bowe has made questionable decisions. He was suspended four games in 2009 for violating the NFL's policy on performance-enhancing drugs after taking what his agent called an unapproved weight-loss supplement. He also made questionable comments to a magazine a few years ago about womanizing that allegedly occurred at team hotels, and then misstated the name of Chiefs ownership family in his apology. Now in his seventh season, Bowe is second in franchise history with 448 catches, trailing only former tight end Tony Gonzalez. He has 6,078 yards receiving, sixth-most in team history, and 41 touchdown catches, fifth-most in Chiefs history.
Kosher Hotdogs Come to Midwestern Hoops Games
CHAMPAIGN, Ill. (AP) — There isn't much at your typical college basketball arena that qualifies as kosher food, aside from the soft drinks. That's changing at the flagship campus of the University of Illinois. The Chabad Jewish Center has opened a kosher hot dog stand at the State Farm Center. There's also one at the University of Kansas, but otherwise it's a fairly rare treat. Rabbi Dovid Tiechtel runs the center and helps staff the stand. He says it's an expression of Jewish life on campus. Customers complimented the hot dogs on the stand's first night. Security guard Cory Coker said the kosher dogs taste good and have what he called a good "crispiness." Tiechtel said he's already heard from a few other schools that are curious about it.