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Headlines for Friday, November 17, 2017

Here's what's happening.

Fees to Protest at Kansas Capitol to Rise Substantially

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Advocacy groups wanting to hold events at the Kansas Capitol will pay more — sometimes substantially more — under a new fee schedule set to take effect January 1. Currently, Kansas charges $20 for any activist group event at the Capitol. Under the new rules, the lowest price will be $50 for events that require no setup or cleanup. The price will increase depending on several factors, such as the size of the crowd, whether the group wants to use the public address system, or if it needs tables and chairs, The Kansas City Star reported . Davis Hammett, a Topeka activist, said he was told Thursday the price for an annual event held by the Kansas People's Agenda will increase from $20 last year to $500 this year. Hammett called the cost increase "absurd and suppressive" and suggested it would prohibit smaller groups from protesting at the Capitol. John Milburn, spokesman for the Kansas Department of Administration, which maintains state buildings, said the price increase is intended only to help the state recover costs for providing the space and setup and cleanup for events. The number of rallies has increased and costs have risen since the state restored the Capitol, he said. "We certainly want people to hold events at the statehouse. . It had no other motive than to recover our costs," Milburn said. Under the fee schedule, groups that want a podium and access to the public address system will have to pay $100. Another $100 will provide six tables and 30 chairs. Events with chairs for 30 to 100 people will be $300 and any event larger than that will have a negotiated price. Neighboring Missouri does not charge for rallies at the Capitol and provides free setup and cleanup services, said Ryan Burns, spokeswoman for the Missouri Office of Administration. "Our facilities team is pretty amazing and they go to great lengths to make it happen," she said.


UPDATE: TransCanada Says Keystone Spill Contained

PIERRE, S.D. (AP) — Operator TransCanada Corp. says the leak of oil from the Keystone pipeline is "controlled" and not a threat to public safety.
The company says in a news release Friday that it has sent more than 75 people to the site of a spill in a rural area of South Dakota and crews were working "around the clock."
TransCanada says among those responding to the spill are specialists in "environmental management, metallurgy, engineering, pipeline integrity and emergency response."
The company shut down the pipeline early Thursday after discovering the 210,000-gallon spill on agricultural land in Marshall County, just south of the border with North Dakota.

(previous story) 

PIERRE, S.D. (AP) - The Keystone pipeline has sprung a leak... in rural South Dakota, spilling about 210,000 gallons of oil.  But... officials say thery don't believe that oil has polluted water.  The pipeline operator, TransCanada Corp., says it has shut down the system and the state has sent an inspector to the site near the border with North Dakota.  According to U.S. government data, there have been 17 oil leaks in the U.S. larger than the new spill since 2010.  But it comes just four days before Nebraska regulators are due to announce their final decision on whether a major expansion of the pipeline system, called Keystone XL, can pass through the state.  The expansion has been fiercely opposed by environmental activists, American Indian tribes and some landowners.  The Sierra Club is urging Nebraska regulators to reject the proposed Keystone XL oil pipeline.  President Donald Trump has approved a permit for the expansion.


Jurors Acquit Man in 2006 Death of 2-Year-Old in Topeka

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) - A man accused of killing a 2-year-old Topeka boy more than 11 years ago is free after a jury acquitted him in the case.  The Shawnee County District Court jury on Thursday found 33-year-old Johnathan Davion Mango not guilty of second-degree murder in March 2006 death of Eli Clemens.  An affidavit said the boy died at a Topeka apartment from blunt force trauma to the head and abdomen.  Mango was the former fianc of Fawn Clemens Mack, the child's mother. He testified during the trial that he was not responsible for the child's death.  The Topeka Capital-Journal reports witnesses said the youngster had fallen off a slide in a park the day before he died, perhaps injuring his head.  Mango was arrested last year in Florissant, Missouri.


Man Pleads Guilty Plea in 2016 Murder of Shawnee Woman

SHAWNEE, Kan. (AP) - A 55-year-old man has pleaded guilty to killing a Shawnee woman in her apartment last year.  The Kansas City Star reports Gregory Paul Wright II pleaded guilty Thursday to premeditated first-degree murder in the death of 44-year-old Monica Lee.  The victim was found dead in May 2016 inside her apartment.  Wright stole Lee's car and fled. He was arrested in Virginia about a month after the murder.  Wright will be sentenced January 10.


Democrat Tries Forcing Trump Voter Panel to Provide Records

AUGUSTA, Maine (AP) — A member of President Donald Trump's voter fraud commission is asking a federal judge to issue an injunction to force the group to give him documents about what it is doing. Maine Secretary of State Matthew Dunlap is one of four Democrats on the Republican president's 11-member commission. He wants the judge to compel the commission to turn over the documents now and in the future so he can "fully participate" in its work. Dunlap's request comes in the wake of his federal lawsuit involving what he says is a lack of information from the commission. The Portland Press Herald reports Dunlap says federal law requires commissioners receive equal information about the commission's work. Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, a Republican who serves as the commission's vice chair, has called Dunlap's lawsuit baseless.


Iowa Hires Kansas Official to Oversee Privatized Medicaid

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — Iowa's privatized Medicaid program has new leadership. The state Department of Human Services announced Friday that Michael Randol has been appointed director of the health care program for poor and disabled people. He begins Dec. 4. Randol served recently as Medicaid director in Kansas, which privatized its program in 2013. Kansas Republican Gov. Sam Brownback and his allies contend privatization there has controlled costs, while critics say it has reduced coverage and transparency about the program. Health care groups and Medicaid patients in Iowa have offered similar criticism about Iowa's coverage since privatization in 2016, and more issues remain. Three private insurance companies currently run Iowa's program, but one is leaving at the end of the month amid failed contract negotiations over money. Iowa officials say privatization is saving money, but future contract negotiations make that claim unclear. Iowa's Medicaid program serves more than 600,000 people.


Kansas City Prosecutor: Homeless Man Stabbed Victim for 7 Minutes

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Jackson County prosecutors say a homeless Kansas City man stabbed his victim with a screwdriver for more than 7 minutes before taking his wallet.  Forty-year-old Sonny Scott was arrested with a blood-covered screwdriver Tuesday after the attack on a 51-year-old man at a car wash. Prosecutors say the victim suffered life-threatening injuries.  The Kansas City Star reports police used surveillance video from the car wash and a nearby convenience store, which showed the 7-minute attack and the assailant going through the victim's pockets and removing his billfold.  A witness who arrived at the car wash, prompted Scott to leave. The witness told police he knew the assailant and had told him to stay off the property in the past.  Online court records don't that Scott has an attorney.


Records: Kansas Jailer Impregnated Inmate Who Had Abortion

GARNETT, Kan. (AP) - Court records show a fired eastern Kansas jailer had sex with five inmates, both male and female - including one woman who become pregnant and had an abortion.  The arrest affidavit for 27-year-old Lexington Laiter, of Garnett, was released this week. Laiter is jailed on $250,000 bail in Osage County after he was charged last month in neighboring Anderson County with 11 counts of unlawful sexual relations and two counts of attempted unlawful sexual relations. His attorney hasn't returned a phone message.  Laiter worked at the Anderson County Jail from 2013 until he was fired last December for bringing tobacco into the facility. The court records say one of the inmates alleged she became pregnant after having sex with Laiter in January 2015. She told authorities Laiter gave her $500 to help pay for the abortion.


Federal Housing Agency: Wichita Landlord Demanded Sex from Tenants

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A Wichita landlord has been charged with demanding sex from two female tenants and evicting them when they refused his advances.  The Department of Housing and Urban Development announced Thursday that Thong Cao is charged with housing discrimination. Cao owns multiple rental properties around Wichita and managed at least one other. He doesn't have a listed home number.  The charges stem from complaints filed by two women evicted in 2014. He is accused of smacking both of the women's buttocks and grabbing one woman's breast. The documents say one woman awoke and found Cao sitting on her bed.  The other woman filed for a protection order against Cao, saying her landlord asks for sex when he is called to fix things and to get rent. She said she felt "violated."


1 of 5 Suspects in Triple Kansas Homicide Sentenced to Life

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — One of five people accused of strangling or smothering to death three others in a Topeka home over a rape allegation has been sentenced to three life terms. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that 34-year-old Joseph Krahn won't be eligible for release for 150 years under the sentence imposed Friday. He pleaded no contest last month to three first-degree murder charges in the March slayings of 19-year-old Matthew Leavitt, 38-year-old Nicole Fisher and 20-year-old Luke Davis. Prosecutors had considered pursuing the death penalty. A witness testified during an earlier hearing that one of the other suspects, 19-year-old Shane Mays, was forced to participate to save his life. The witness said Krahn told Mays, "You're one of the few who gets to see me kill and live." Mays has pleaded not guilty.


Georgia Man Gets 2 Years for Cybercrime in Sedgwick County

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) - A Georgia man has been sentenced to two years and three months in federal prison for participating in a scheme that cost Sedgwick County $566,000.  U.S. Attorney Tom Beall said 49-year-old George James, of Brookhaven, Georgia, was sentenced Wednesday for wire fraud.  James told authorities someone contacted him in September 2016 and asked to deposit money into James' account. James said Sedgwick County sent about $566,088 to his account in Georgia. He spent some and transferred some money to banks in China and Germany.  The other person allegedly sent an email to Sedgwick County claiming to represent construction company Cornejo and Sons, and asking the county to send future payments to a new account number.  The county later learned the email was not from Cornejo.


Bankers: Economy to Remain Slow in Rural Parts of 10 States

OMAHA, Neb. (AP) - The economy will likely remain slow in rural parts of 10 Plains and Western states in the months ahead.  The overall Rural Mainstreet Index for the region remained in negative territory below 50 and declined to 44.7 in November from October's 45.3. The index is based on Creighton University's monthly survey of bankers.  Creighton University economist Ernie Goss the current low commodity prices and declining farm income continue to weigh on the rural economy.  The index ranges between 0 and 100, with any number under 50 indicating a shrinking economy.  The index tracking the price of farmland and ranchland declined to 36.5 in November from October's already-weak 39.2.  Bankers from Colorado, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, South Dakota and Wyoming were surveyed.


Kansas Man Sentenced for Trying to Buy Bomb Online

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Federal prosecutors say a Coffeyville man who tried to buy an explosive on the internet was sentenced to two years in federal prison. U.S. Attorney Tom Beall said in a news release that 19-year-old Carlos Francisco Martin was sentenced Friday for attempting to obtain an explosive with intent to destroy property. In his guilty plea, Martin admitted he ordered an explosive from an internet site where users remain anonymous and pay for purchases in bitcoins. Martin said he tried to buy the explosive to intimidate a rival drug dealer. Prosecutors say investigators tracked Martin's purchases on the internet site, which included more than $4,000 worth of illegal drugs.


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