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Headlines for Friday, July 20, 2018

 

Residents Safe After Topeka Home Explodes

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A man, woman and small child are safe after an explosion destroyed their Topeka home while they were away.  Topeka Fire Marshal Michael Martin tells the Topeka Capital-Journal that firefighters arrived late Thursday to find the empty home "pretty much destroyed" by the explosion and accompanying fire.  Shawnee County appraisal records show the obliterated house was owned by Ashley Nadeau, who posted on Facebook saying she's alive. Martin says the house's three occupants left before the explosion, citing a natural gas smell.  Martin says four people from a neighboring house were taken to a hospital for minor injuries, and have since been released. Firefighters are working with Kansas Gas Service to determine the cause of the blaze.  The Topeka Performing Arts Center has set up a GoFundMe page for Nadeau.

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UPDATE: 17 Killed as Duck Boat Sinks in Rough waters at Table Rock Lake, Sunken Boat Won't be Raised Immediately

It could take several days to raise a duck boat that sank in southern Missouri, killing its driver and 16 passengers.  Missouri State Highway Patrol Sgt. Jason Pace says the vessel came to rest in 80 feet of water in Table Rock Lake. Authorities initially said it would be raised today (FRI) but Pace says it will take several days to get the equipment in place. He says investigators "want to preserve evidence as best is possible."  Pace says the area has been secured and the investigation turned over to the National Transportation Safety Board and the Coast Guard.  Pace says divers indicated that the water visibility was better than normal, expediting the recovery of the victims' bodies. They ranged in age from 1- to 70-years-old.

A man who witnessed a deadly Missouri duck boat accident while aboard a nearby riverboat says the storm that swamped the smaller vessel appeared suddenly.  Brayden Malaske, of Harrah, Oklahoma, says no one was worried about the weather when he boarded the Showboat Branson Belle with family shortly before the storm hit Thursday night. He says Table Rock Lake seemed calm but that it "suddenly got very dark."  He says he didn't think the duck boats would have a problem despite the weather because they are repurposed military vehicles. He says that when the duck boat capsized, people aboard the riverboat tried to guide the passengers to safety. He says he saw a woman holding on for "dear life" to one of the riverboat's paddles before being rescued.

The National Weather Service issued multiple severe weather warnings in the hours before the boat capsized.  Meteorologist Kelsey Angle says a severe thunderstorm watch was issued for the area around 11:30 a.m. Thursday. The watch indicated that conditions were favorable for the formation of severe thunderstorms with winds reaching 70 mph.  The Weather Service then issued a severe thunderstorm warning at 6:32 p.m. for the three southwest Missouri counties that include Branson and Table Rock Lake. It followed up with a statement at 7:02 p.m. that 70 mile-per-hour winds were possible.  The first 911 calls about the boat capsizing were reported seven minutes later.  Wind gusts in the Branson area reached 50 to 60 mph.

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Carnival Workers Arrested in 2 Kansas Deaths

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — A probable cause affidavit says a carnival worker admitted to killing a Kansas couple at a county fair.  The suspect, Michael Fowler, told investigators that he shot Sonny and Pauline Carpenter of Wichita at the Barton County Fair in Great Bend.  Investigators believe they were killed Friday. Their bodies were found Monday in a forest near Van Buren, Arkansas. The three suspects were arrested Tuesday in Van Buren According to the affidavit released Thursday, Fowler told Van Buren police that Rusty Frazier and Kimberly Younger, also known as Myrna Khan, were with him when the couple was killed.  No charges have been filed in the Carpenters' deaths. The affidavit does not discuss a motive for the killings.

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Kansas Man Admits Going to Philippines for Sex with Girls

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A Kansas man who admitted that he traveled to the Philippines to have sex with minor girls has pleaded guilty to three counts of producing child pornography.  The U.S. Attorney's office says 55-year-old Anthony Shultz pleaded guilty Wednesday. He is scheduled to be sentenced in December.  Prosecutors say Shultz, a helicopter pilot from Lindsborg, also admitted he videotaped sex acts with a 12-year-old and a 15-year-old and brought the videos back to Kansas.  In one of the videos, Shultz is seen giving the 15-year-old money after having sex with her.  Prosecutors say Schultz also produced child pornography using an 8-year-old Philippine girl over Skype with the cooperation of the girl's mother.

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Manhattan Man Convicted in May 2017 Shooting Death

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A 39-year-old Manhattan man was convicted in the shooting death of one man and the attempted murder of another man.  Steven Harris was convicted Thursday of second-degree murder in the death of 39-year-old German Gonzalez-Garcia.  Prosecutors say Harris shot the two victims in May 2017 in Manhattan. German Gonzalez-Garcia died at the scene. The second victim, Adrian Ortega, was critically wounded. Harris was convicted of attempted second-degree murder in Ortega's death.  Harris was arrested along with his girlfriend in Wichita four days after the shooting when they tried to check into a Wichita hotel.  Harris had previously been convicted of attempted second-degree murder in Franklin County and was released from prison in 2015.  He will be sentenced August 27.

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Democratic Socialists Rally Democrats in Deep-Red Kansas

TOPEKA, Kansas (AP) — Two luminaries in the democratic socialist movement — one its national leader, the other its new star — are descending on solidly Republican Kansas on Friday, taking their emboldened liberal message to an unlikely testing ground before next month's congressional primaries.  Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who rose to fame following her surprise win in last month's New York congressional primary, see an opportunity to influence Democratic voters in Kansas ahead of the state's August 7 primary. They're especially focused on a crowded congressional primary in the Kansas suburbs of Kansas City.  In an election year defined by energized Democratic voters seeking to send President Donald Trump a message, Sanders and Ocasio-Cortez are betting they can stoke the liberal march in places where the left rarely competes. Some liberal voters are welcoming the spotlight.  "Progressive voters and even some moderate voters have been disheartened by the lack of positive news from Kansas," said Anne Black, 43, a Democratic precinct committee member from suburban Kansas City.  The trip is unusual on several fronts. For one, Trump won Kansas in 2016 by 20 percentage points, making it seemingly inhospitable for Democrats, much less democratic socialists. Moreover, Sanders is a 76-year-old Jewish senator from Vermont, while Ocasio-Cortez is a 28-year-old Latina from the Bronx who is poised to become the youngest member of Congress.  This political odd couple is scheduled to headline an evening rally in Kansas City, Kansas, for Brent Welder, a labor lawyer running in a crowded Democratic primary in Kansas' 3rd District. The district, represented by four-term Republican Congressman Kevin Yoder, is on Democrats' target list as they aim to seize the GOP-controlled House in November. Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton narrowly carried the district in 2016.  Sanders and Ocasio-Cortez are also scheduled to campaign together in Wichita for Democrat James Thompson, a civil rights lawyer running in Kansas' 4th District. Like Ocasio-Cortez and Welder, Thompson was an activist for Sanders' 2016 presidential campaign.

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Kansas Turnpike Toll Prices Increasing Beginning in October

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Drivers on the Kansas Turnpike will pay more beginning October 1.  The state announced Wednesday that tolls on the turnpike will increase about 5 percent for passenger vehicles with a K-TAG pass. Commercial vehicles with a K-TAG may see an increase because electronic fares will be rounded to the nearest nickel.  Fees for passenger vehicles paying cash will increase about 12.5 percent, while commercial vehicles paying cash will see a 10 percent increase. All cash fares will be rounded to the nearest quarter.  The turnpike authority says about 40 percent of customers pay cash, while 60 percent use an electronic system such as K-TAG.  State officials said the turnpike system is financially sound but the toll increases are needed to pay for preservation and modernization projects without issuing new debt.

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Kansas Delays Launch of New License Plates

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas officials have delayed the launch date for its new vehicle plates.  State officials said Friday that the original Aug. 1 launch date for the license plates has been delayed until August 15 due to issues in the new digital processing equipment.  Wichita's Center Industries will create the plates on demand using a digital printer that prints the tag information on a background, then bonds the background material to a metal plate. The plates were previously manufactured in bulk at a plant.  Johnson County is concerned the new system will confuse people because it involves a new delivery method. The new plates will be mailed to the customer's home within 10-14 business days.  This means license plate customers will leave the county office with a temporary plate and registration sticker until the permanent plate arrives.

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Trade Tensions Weigh on Outlook for Rural Parts of 10 States

OMAHA, Neb. (AP) — Weak economic growth is expected to continue in rural parts of 10 Plains and Western states, but all the recent trade disputes may shrink profits.  Creighton University economist Ernie Goss says the new tariffs are hurting grain prices, which were already weak.  The overall economic index for the region declined to 53.8 in July from June's 56.1.  That score still suggests growth because it is above 50, while any score below 50 indicates a shrinking economy.  Bankers from Colorado, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, South Dakota and Wyoming were surveyed.  The bankers say they're concerned about the ongoing trade tensions with China and the renegotiation of the North American Free Trade Agreement. The confidence index fell to 42.7 in July from June's 48.8.

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End of August Grand Opening for Camp Cowabunga at Topeka Zoo

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A zoo in Kansas will celebrate its 85th anniversary with a touch of Africa far from the continent.  The Topeka Zoo on Friday announced the Camp Cowabunga grand opening will be August 31. Spokeswoman Megan Burns says Camp Cowabunga, billed as "Bringing the Heart of Africa to the Heart of Topeka," is the first exhibit of the zoo's master plan —the beginning of a whole new zoo.  The Topeka Zoo website says Camp Cowabunga will let guests participate in activities that take place on a safari or at a camp while being surrounded by animals.  The $4.5 million exhibit is billed as the largest ever for the Topeka Zoo.

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Wichita State to Have Marching Band Starting this Fall

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Wichita State University plans to start a marching band this fall.  The university said in a news release that the band, which will be called the "Shocker Sound Machine," will include brass, saxophone and a drum line.  Tim Shade, director of bands at the school, says the new band will feature high-energy performances. It will perform mostly at Wichita State basketball games and major student events.  The school hopes the band will eventually have about 200 members.  Band members will pay a minimal fee in the first year. In the second year, students will have to enroll in a 1-credit course to participate. Scholarships for up to 100 students will be available in the 2019-20 school year.

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