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Headlines for Monday, January 22, 2018

Area news headlines from the Associated Press.

Interstate 70, Other Roads in Northwest Kansas Reopen

WAKEENEY, Kan. (AP) — Kansas authorities have reopened several highways that were closed in northwest Kansas because of heavy snow and strong winds. The Kansas Highway Patrol says a portion of Interstate 70 and other roadways from WaKeeney to the Colorado border were opened early Monday afternoon after the storm eased and moved east. Midwest Energy had reported about 3,200 customers without electricity early Monday, most between Oakley and Colby, but the utility said it had reduced that number to about 2,300. School districts across the region canceled classes for the day. The snow began in Kansas Sunday night and the National Weather Service forecasts 7-to-12 inches around Colby, Goodland and Hilly City. Hays and Concordia were expected to receive up to 3 inches, with lesser amounts as the snow moves east.

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Senate Closer to Vote on Ambassadorship for Kansas Governor
 
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The U.S. Senate is moving toward a vote on Kansas Governor Sam Brownback's nomination for an ambassador's post. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell filed a motion Monday to cut off debate on President Donald Trump's nomination of the conservative Republican governor to serve as U.S. ambassador-at-large for international religious freedom. McConnell communications director David Popp said in an email that a vote on the motion would occur Friday unless minority Democrats agree to have a vote sooner. Ending debate would clear the way for a second vote on Brownback's nomination. Trump first nominated Brownback for the ambassador's post in July, but his appointment has faced opposition from Democrats and LGBT groups. Brownback would resign if he is confirmed. Fellow Republican Lieutenant Governor Jeff Colyer would be elevated to governor.

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Voter Data for Nearly 1,000 Kansas Residents Exposed in Florida

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Efforts to detect voter fraud led to the exposure of private voter data from nearly 1,000 Kansas residents this year by officials in Florida, who released information including partial Social Security numbers to a woman who had filed an open records request. The incident is raising more questions about the Interstate Crosscheck System, which was designed in Kansas to detect double voting or people who register to vote in more than one state, The Topeka Capital-Journal reported. The Crosscheck system, set up in 2005 by former Kansas Secretary of State Ron Thornburgh, has been criticized in the past for concerns about security and identifying false matches. In response to the data exposure, Florida election officials on Friday offered a year of free fraud detection and protection services to those affected by the data release. In 2013, Kansas sent a list of 945 potential double registrants to Florida over an unsecured email account. The list of voters in the two states who shared first and last names and a date of birth also included partial Social Security numbers. In September, the Florida Department of State released the list in response to an open records request filed by Anita Parsa, a resident of Mission Hills, Kansas. Parsa said she didn't ask for any data but was trying to determine why Florida decided to leave the Crosscheck program. When she saw the unsecured email, "I was floored," said Parsa, who began working with the advocacy group Indivisible Chicago after filing the request. Kansas Director of Elections Bryan Caskey said the email violates existing policies. He said the Kansas database of nearly 100 million records is secure and has never been breached. While acknowledging that Kansas should not have sent the data via an unsecured email he said, "I also am adamant that Florida had no business turning that over to any third party," Caskey said. In a statement released Friday, Florida officials called the release "inadvertent" and said the state will contact people affected by the data release. It is also offering a free one-year membership to the Lifelock program out of "an abundance of caution." "At this time, the department has no reason to believe individuals' information has been misused," the release said. In response to earlier complaints, Caskey announced last week that the state would take over some key data transmission responsibilities from Arkansas, which was criticized for emailing usernames and passwords for the server containing state data. Kansas also pushed back the start of the 2018 Crosscheck program to accommodate a review of election security protocols in the Kansas Secretary of State's office that began in October 2016.

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Kansas Legislators Denounce Municipal 'Seat Shopping'

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas lawmakers are condemning the practice of municipal government and school board members resigning from office with the expectation of being quickly reappointed to a different vacancy to artificially extend their terms. Members of the Legislature have expressed bipartisan disapproval for the insider deals, but haven't put forth a bill to forbid or limit the practice, the Topeka Capital-Journal reported. Two "seat shopping" occurrences in southeast Kansas prompted interest in how elective boards, commissions and councils use authority to help incumbents who lost re-election or someone near the end of a term who didn't file for re-election. The arrangements allow those people to secure longer terms in office without being voted in. Republican Senate President Susan Wagle said she'd be willing to assign a bill to the Senate Elections Commission imposing a one-year suspension on the type of employee transfer authorized last year by members of the Frontenac Board of Education and members of the Arma City Council. The Frontenac board accepted the resignation of its president in July, and his colleagues appointed him to fill a vacant seat with two years left on a term. Arma council members appointed an incumbent who lost re-election to a vacant seat that was left open for a long time. "I'd say that's against the will of the voters. It's unacceptable," Wagle said. "There will be pushback from those voters in that community." Republican House Majority Leader Don Hineman said such transfers to extend terms in office are "not right." But he said lawmakers are reluctant to interfere in local government matters. "I can hear some local folks say, 'We have trouble finding people to run for some of those seats in the first place,'" he said. "There is some truth to that, especially in small towns."

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Former Uber Executive Running for Kansas Secretary of State

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A former Uber and Google executive is running for the Democratic nomination for Kansas secretary of state. Brian McClendon's announcement Monday is a sign that Democrats are making a serious run at a statewide office held by an early Kansas supporter of President Donald Trump. Republican incumbent Kris Kobach is running for governor this year. He was vice chairman of Trump's recently disbanded election fraud commission. The 53-year-old McClendon said Trump's election helped spur him to leave Silicon Valley, return to his hometown of Lawrence and consider a run for public office. McClendon left Uber last year after nearly two years as a vice president. Before that, he was Google's vice president of engineering for nearly 11 years. He is a University of Kansas research professor who advises startup firms.

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University of Kansas Group Wants School to Sell Jet

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A group of faculty, staff and students at the University of Kansas is urging the school's administration to sell its jet to save money. The recommendation came in a report by the University Senate's Planning and Resources Committee that was released last spring, the Lawrence Journal-World reported . Selling the Cessna CJ4 jet could generate about $6.6 million and save the university more than $1 million a year in operating costs, according to the committee. Administration officials responded last month, calling the plane an important business tool used for donor relations, athletics recruitment and outreach efforts by the KU Medical Center. The twin-turbine jet seats up to 10 passengers and can fly with a range of just over 2,000 miles. But most of the plane's flights between January 2015 and February 2017 had distances of less than 300 miles with few passengers on board, according to the report. The committee suggested the university would be fine using smaller, propeller-driven planes. "It's akin to owning a Lamborghini and using it to haul hay half a block to feed your horses. It's that wasteful," said Ron Barrett-Gonzalez, an aerospace engineering professor at the university and a member of the committee. "We've got the wrong aircraft, we're utilizing it the wrong way and it's wasteful." The issue may come up at the Kansas Legislature, where Republican Rep. Troy Waymaster of Bunker Hill said he began reviewing the state's aircraft fleet and is considering possible liquidation. "There were some interesting things that popped up when we started looking into that," he said. "Why some departments have an aircraft. And basically it's owned by the state of Kansas and they have to get permission to use the aircraft, but still, they're the frequent user of it."

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Family of Man Killed After 'Swatting' Call Sues City of Wichita 

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — The family of a Kansas man fatally shot by police at the door of his home after a hoax emergency call has sued the city of Wichita and the unidentified officers involved. The federal lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court of Kansas seeks unspecified damages from the December 28 death of Andrew Finch in Wichita. The unarmed 28-year-old man was shot by police responding to a California man's call with a fake story about a shooting and kidnapping at Finch's Wichita home. The shooting drew national attention to the practice of "swatting," when someone makes up a false report to get emergency responders to descend on an address. The hoax call reportedly was made after a dispute over a wager online in a "Call of Duty" online video game tournament.

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2 Ex-Students at Kansas Military School Charged in Assault

SALINA, Kan. (AP) — Authorities have filed criminal charges against two former students related to last week's sexual assault in a dorm room at St. John's Military School. Court records show the two boys, ages 15 and 16, were formally charged late Friday with aggravated criminal sodomy, a felony. The Associated Press is not naming them because they are juveniles. The attorney for the family of the 15-year-old Texas boy who was allegedly assaulted says the family has taken him out of school. St. John's Military School posted a statement on its website saying a "deeply troubling incident" took place on campus and that staff notified local authorities. It added that "every child deserves to be believed." The school says the two cadets who were arrested were dismissed from the school.

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Second Suspect Arrested in Shooting at Topeka Hotel

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A second suspect has been arrested in a shooting at a Topeka hotel that left a 31-year-old man dead. Police say 19-year-old Vincent Gonzalez-Rook was taken into custody Monday morning after a pursuit in a vehicle that had been reported stolen. No charges are listed for him in online court records, and it wasn't immediately known if he had an attorney. Nineteen-year-old Logan Bartley was booked into jail earlier this month. He is charged with first-degree murder and aggravated robbery in the death of Jesse Lee McFall. He was suffering from multiple gunshot wounds when officers responded Jan. 11 to the Best Western motel in southwest Topeka. McFall was taken to a local hospital, where he died. Police say McFall and Bartley knew each other.

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Wichita Police Officer Charged over Basketball Incident

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Authorities say a Wichita police captain has been charged with battery and disorderly conduct after allegedly pushing a teenage referee during a youth basketball game. The Wichita Eagle reports that the misdemeanor charges identify the captain as Kevin Mears. Augusta City Prosecutor Benjamin Winters said in a statement Monday that the case was investigated by the Augusta Department of Public Safety. He says the investigation included numerous witness statements and video evidence. The January 13 confrontation happened in the town of Augusta, which is just east of Wichita. A video of the confrontation has been shared thousands of times since it was posted to Facebook. Wichita police said in a news release Monday that Mears remains on unpaid leave pending the outcome of the criminal proceedings and an internal review.

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Police Shoot and Kill Teenager in Overland Park

OVERLAND PARK, Kan. (AP) — Authorities say an officer has shot and killed a suburban Kansas City teenager while responding to a report of a suicidal person. The Kansas City Star reports that the shooting happened Saturday night outside an Overland Park home. Police said in a statement that as officers approached the house, a garage door opened and a vehicle drove out toward one of the officers.

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9-Year-Old Boy Fatally Shot in Crossfire of Kansas City Gunfight

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Police say a 9-year-old boy was fatally shot in an exchange of gunfire in Kansas City.  The boy's father told police he was driving with his son Saturday night when people in two other vehicles began shooting at each other. The father didn't initially realize that his child had been caught in the crossfire and he continued driving to suburban Grandview. When his wounds were discovered, the boy was rushed to a hospital where he was pronounced dead.

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Universities See Drop in International Enrollment

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — The chancellor of the University of Kansas says the university is seeing a decline in international enrollment.  The Lawrence Journal-World reports that after about a decade of growth, universities nationwide began reporting dwindling numbers of international students since the fall of 2016. Some college administrators believe the trend is due to President Donald Trump's restrictive immigration and travel policies.  A recent report by the Institute of International Education shows that universities have seen an average decrease of about 7 percent from 2016 to 2017.  At the University of Kansas officials say that number is closer to 5 percent.  Chancellor Douglas Girod says the drop isn't a major problem. He says the university hasn't experienced the overall decline in enrollment suffered by some of its peers.

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Trump's Attempts to Show Voter Fraud Appear to Have Stalled

ATLANTA (AP) — President Donald Trump's efforts to show that voter fraud cost him the popular vote in 2016 appear to have stalled.  A White House official said in court documents that the commission produced no preliminary findings to be forwarded, and the voter data it collected from some states will be destroyed.  Earlier this month, Trump had tasked the Department of Homeland Security with reviewing the work of his disbanded election integrity commission. But the department's top official made it clear this week that her focus regarding elections is on safeguarding state and local voting systems from cyber attacks and other manipulation.  The end of the commission has been welcome news to voting rights advocates who were concerned that its ultimate goal was to promote voter-suppression.

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Ex-Kansas Teacher Gets Probation After Sex with Student 

HIAWATHA, Kan. (AP) — A former Kansas high school biology teacher was sentenced to three years of probation for having sex with a student. Twenty-four-year-old Gabrielle Bauman, of Fairview, was sentenced Monday. She will have to register as a sex offender for 25 years. Bauman was arrested in September after Hiawatha police investigated a report made to the school district in in mid-June. At the time, she taught anatomy and biology at Hiawatha High School. The St. Joseph News-Press reports a criminal complaint indicated the student was 16 or older and enrolled at the school. The victim and the victim's family asked that she receive probation.

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Speedy Trial Redefinition Clogs Kansas Jail, District Court

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — A jail in northeastern Kansas is seeing a rising inmate population after a 2014 law that redefined a defendant's right to a speedy trial from 90 days to 150 days.  The Lawrence Journal-World reports that the Douglas County sheriff's office is calling for a $44 million jail expansion to combat the rising the population. Sheriff Ken McGovern says the speedy-trial redefinition is one of multiple reasons why the population has exceeded its 186 beds.  Defense attorney Jennifer Roth testified against the then-bill in 2014. She said the redefinition would force defendants awaiting trials and unable to afford bond to spend more time in jail cells. She also said it would increase the costs for Kansas counties as defendants spent more time in jail.  

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Topeka Health Care Company Fined over Records Handling

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt says a Topeka health care company has been fined $10,000 for failing to protect patient and employee records.  Pearlie Mae's Compassion and Care LLC provides care for people with disabilities.  A consent decree filed in Shawnee County shows the company must pay $5,000 by Jan. 31, with the other $5,000 suspended. The company's owners also must make changes to comply with state laws governing personal records.  Schmidt says agents from his office and Topeka police found patient and employee records containing personal information in the home of one of the business owners and at the office. The records were in plain sight of anyone in the home.  Schmidt's office sued the company in June over its handling of the records.

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Kansas City Police Make Arrest in Fatal Double Shooting

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Kansas City police have made an arrest in a double shooting that left a 46-year-old woman dead and her boyfriend critically injured.  The Kansas City Star reports that the body of Rhonda Evans was found in a north Kansas City home by police investigating a report of a shooting. Police say Evans had been shot multiple times and was pronounced dead at the scene. Her boyfriend, a 58-year-old whose name has not been released, was also shot in the head, but managed to knock on doors to seek help.  On Friday, the Clay County prosecutor's office announced that it had charged 38-year-old Thomas Farris Jr., of Independence, with first-degree murder, assault and other counts. He remains in custody on $1 million bond.  Authorities say they've tied the gun used in the shootings to Farris.

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Clay Center Man Dies in North-Central Kansas Crash

CLAY CENTER, Kan. (AP) — A Clay Center man has died in a single-car crash in north-central Kansas.  The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that 49-year-old John Robert Linn died when the car he was driving overturned near Clay Center around 4 pm Thursday.  The Kansas Highway Patrol says Linn was driving westbound on Broughton Road when he came up upon slower traffic, swerved and lost control. The patrol says his car entered the north ditch and overturned.  A 41-year-old woman riding in Linn's car was hospitalized with injuries.

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Man Who Helped Arrange Killing of 14-Year-Old Wichita Girl Asks for Clemency

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — The family of a 14-year-old Wichita girl who was nine months pregnant when she was killed says a man who was paid to help has applied for clemency. The Wichita Eagle reports that 29-year-old Everett Gentry. Gentry is serving a 25-year-to-life prison sentence for capital murder for helping to orchestrate Chelsea Brooks's killing so her baby's father wouldn't be prosecuted for raping her.

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Lawrence Humane Society Gets $50,000 Grant from PetSmart Charities

LAWRENCE, Kan. (KPR) - The Lawrence Humane Society has received a $50,000 grant from PetSmart Charities, the leading funder of animal welfare in North America. The grant is designed to help the Lawrence Humane Society build a new, $7.5 million shelter to improve animal welfare in Lawrence and Douglas County.  The local humane society has been planning this capital project since 2014 and is excited to start construction this year. To date, the shelter has raised more than $6.6 million for the project.  The new shelter will replace the organization’s existing facility and will help homeless pets thrive by providing: more space for dogs and cats and better veterinary clinic facilities to reduce animal stress and limit disease transmission.  

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Kansas Archbishop Elected to Lead Anti-Abortion Effort

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) — The archbishop of Kansas City, Kansas, has been chosen to a leading role in the Catholic Church's fight against abortion.  Archbishop Joseph Naumann will be the chairman of the U.S. bishops' Committee on Pro-Life Activities.  R. Andrew Chesnut, chairman of Catholic Studies at Virginia Commonwealth University, says it was the first time in four decades that a cardinal was not elected to the position.  The Wichita Eagle reports Mary Kay Culp, executive director of Kansans for Life, has known Naumann for years. She says he has always cared deeply about the abortion issue and is "the right man for the right job."  Naumann joined more than 2,000 Kansans in Washington, D.C., this week for the March for Life. He is expected at the Rally for Life Monday in Topeka.

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Group Promoting Kansas Marks 100th Anniversary, Honors Ike, Dole, Others

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A group promoting Kansas and its history plans to mark its 100th anniversary by honoring President Dwight Eisenhower, former U.S. Sen. Bob Dole, other prominent residents and the rock band named for the state.  The Native Sons and Daughters of Kansas is scheduled to have its annual banquet Friday in Topeka. Besides naming a Kansan of the Year, it has compiled a list of what it describes as the half-dozen most distinguished Kansans of the past 100 years.  Besides Eisenhower and Dole, the list includes famed photographer Gordon Parks, newspaper editor William Allen White and aviation pioneers Walter and Olive Ann Beech.  Its Kansan of the Year is businessman and professional soccer magnate Philip Anschutz. It is giving its annual award for a distinguished non-Kansas native to the band Kansas.

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