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Headlines for Monday, November 19, 2018

Judge Delays Ruling on Barring Somali Videos

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) —  A federal judge says he won't immediately decide whether to allow testimony from Somali immigrants at the sentencing hearing for three men convicted of plotting to bomb a mosque and a Kansas apartment complex where the immigrants lived. U.S. District Judge Eric Melgren said during a court hearing Monday that he couldn't recall ever denying someone the right to be heard. He said he'd issue a decision later. A defense attorney argued that no one was harmed by the plot and questions the accuracy of the testimony translation. A prosecutor says harm to the community should be considered during sentencing. Patrick Stein, Gavin Wright and Curtis Allen were convicted of conspiring to use a weapon of mass destruction and conspiring to violate civil rights. Their attorneys have asked that the Somalis' victim impact statements be barred.

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Kansas to Pay $75,000 over Death of 18-Month-Old Girl

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The state of Kansas will pay $75,000 to settle a lawsuit alleging that the Department of Children and Families failed to intervene to protect an 18-month-old girl who eventually died. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that Jayla Haag died in 2012 from blunt-force injuries to the head. The girl lived with her mother, Alyssa Haag, in El Dorado. The suit filed by the father, Steven Watters, accused the agency of ignoring warning signs that included calls to a child-abuse hotline. He also alleged that a DCF social worker was aware of the mother's persistent use of illegal drugs. In addition to her injuries, Jayla tested positive for methamphetamine at birth and prior to her death. Gov.-elect Laura Kelly, a Democrat, has promised to reform DCF once she takes office in January.

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Inspector General: Haskell Falsified Crime Statistics

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — A federal agency has found that administrators at Haskell Indian Nations University underreported crime statistics for a two-year period. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that the inspector general of the U.S. Department of Interior also concluded in a report Friday that the Lawrence school had failed to follow internal policy when handling misconduct complaints. The agency's report says university employees told investigators they felt "bullied and intimidated" by Haskell President Venida Chenault. The document concluded the president influenced, through her presence at a meeting, a family member's appointment to a high-level campus job. Chenault told federal investigators Haskell's annual crime reports for 2014 and 2015 were inaccurate but she denied intentionally misrepresenting the statistics. The university enrolls about 1,000 students representing about 140 tribal nations and Alaska native communities.

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Kansas Teacher Recruitment Effort Attracts 3 Teachers 

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — An effort to attract more teachers to Kansas has recruited just three educators so far, but the state is still on the hook to pay $270,000 to the organization behind the program. KCUR reports that the Legislature agreed to pay the education nonprofit Teach for America for the pilot program with the aim of recruiting 12 teachers across the state. All three teachers were placed in the same district, in Kansas City, Kansas. Some lawmakers expressed disappointment in the low number of recruits and the fact that only one district has benefited.

"That's the best they can do so far?" asked committee chair Sen. Carolyn McGinn, who represents a district in south-central Kansas. "I don't recall during that appropriation process that we said, 'Just stay in the Kansas City area.'" The Kansas Department of Education said Teach For America told the department it recruited five teachers this year, all in Kansas City. But the Kansas City district said two of the recruits started teaching last year, before Kansas hired Teach for America. Still, KCUR reports that the education department is drafting a $270,000 contract to pay for the recruitment and training of all five teachers. The contract had promised $500,000 if 12 teachers had been hired. Mischel Miller, director of teacher licensure and accreditation at the state education department, said the contract was intended to help fill a teacher shortage in the state. The department said there were 612 vacant teaching positions in Kansas schools this fall. Teach For America Kansas City executive director Chris Rosson said the organization planned to encourage teachers to become more familiar with other parts of Kansas. Events such as an alumni reunion in Lawrence and a trip to western Kansas are scheduled for upcoming months. But the money hasn't been allocated yet, and will not come out of the training and recruiting budget that the state has agreed to pay this year.

"We're eager to do those things to try to support the work that's happening in the state of Kansas," Rosson said. "But we are also a (nonprofit group) that has to be very deliberate about and intentional about how we are allocating our resources."

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Contested Kansas Commission Race Decided After Recount

GIRARD, Kan. (AP) — A hand-recount has determined the winner of a contested southeast Kansas county commission race. The Pittsburg Morning Sun reports that Democrat Jeremy Johnson defeated Republican Chad Ulepich for a seat on the Crawford County Commission. Initially Ulepich was believed to be in the lead. But after the hand recount and a second canvass, the results found Johnson defeated Ulepich 1,648 to 1,623, a difference of 25 votes. Crawford County Clerk Don Pyle says the issue is that results from five of the county's 16 polling locations were counted twice after the election. He said the person inputting data cards into software that count votes was interrupted and put some cards in twice. The board of canvassers approved the final results Friday.

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7 Schools in Innovation Program Decide to Drop Out

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Seven school districts in Kansas that were given special status through the state's "Coalition of Innovative School Districts" program now say it's not worth the effort. KCUR reports that the districts last week asked the Kansas Board of Education to release them from the program that began in 2013. Districts that join have the freedom to ignore some state oversight in exchange for pursuing novel approaches for improving student achievement. The seven participating districts say they want to continue to collaborate, but as an informal network. The coalition uses the program to loosen teacher licensure and state assessment requirements. Some unions and education advocates argue that the regulations are needed to maintain high standards.

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Man Pleads Guilty to Killing Kansas Girlfriend with Shovel

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — The boyfriend of a woman found dead in her home after being beaten with a shovel has pleaded guilty to killing her.  The Wichita Eagle reports that 38-year-old Travis Becker Jr. entered the plea Friday afternoon in a Sedgwick County courtroom to reduced charges of first-degree felony murder and aggravated kidnapping in the November 2017 death of 42-year-old Perla Rodriguez. He had originally been charged with first-degree premeditated murder.  He's expected to serve about 40 years after he's sentenced on January 2.  Rodriguez was outreach director for the Wichita Area Sexual Assault Center. Her severely battered body was found November 14, 2017, in her home by Wichita officers. They also found a wooden handle shovel inside the bedroom, with the shovel blade covered in blood and hair.

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Lawrence Officials to Consider Concept for Riverfront Recreation Area

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — Lawrence officials will consider whether to move forward with a new plaza and recreation area concept along the portion of the Kansas River that borders downtown.  The Lawrence Journal-World reports that the city has budgeted $2 million this year to repair the Kansas River dam and address riverbank erosion south of the dam. The city could stabilize the riverbank by building a terraced stone plaza instead of rebuilding the existing retaining wall.  The plaza would create river entry points and extend slightly into the river, which would facilitate pools and whitewater for kayaking and other water activities.  Assistant City Manager Brandon McGuire says city officials are asking potential contractors for the most economical way to address both the dam and riverbank stabilization projects, while possibly integrating the recreational concept.

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Kansas State to Get Half of Campus Energy from Wind Farm

MANHATTAN, Kan. (AP) — Kansas State University officials estimate that half of the Manhattan campus will be powered by wind by 2020.  University officials announced on Tuesday a new agreement with Missouri-based Westar Energy, the Kansas City Star reported. The Kansas City electric utility will cover half of the campus' energy needs, saving up to $200,000 per year.  Kansas State's new power source will come from Soldier Creek Wind Energy Center, a 300-megawatt wind farm northeast of Manhattan in Nemaha County. It's projected to be operational by 2020.  The agreement locks the university into fixed rates that are cheaper than its electricity bill rates for about 20 years. Kansas State currently pays 2.3 centers per kilowatt-hour, but the new plan will freeze costs at 1.8 cents.  The university consumes about 113 million kilowatt-hours per year.  Gary Weishaar, university manager of energy and controls, said the move wasn't just about cost-savings, but part of ongoing sustainability efforts that are important to students.  "That's the number one question they ask about - renewables," Weishaar said. "They care about climate change, global warming and renewable energy."  The university also has plans to transition to more energy-efficient LED lighting and replace dated technology with more sustainable products.

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Sedgwick County Pays Counselor $77,000 to Leave

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Sedgwick County Commissioners will pay $77,000 to County Counselor Eric Yost in a separation agreement. The Wichita Eagle reported on the agreement Monday. Yost has been on paid suspension since November 7, when he released details of the commission majority's effort to oust County Manager Michael Scholes and confirmed an FBI investigation of commissioners. Scholes told Yost the commissioners were moving to oust him because he had provided information to the FBI in an investigation last year of Commissioner Michael O'Donnell, who is awaiting federal trial on wire fraud and money laundering charges related to campaign funds. O'Donnell is still a member of the commission. The $77,077 payment is equivalent to six months of salary and a year of health insurance benefits. Yost initially sought a $250,000 settlement.

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2-Alarm Fire Sweeps Through Wichita Apartment Complex

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A two-alarm fire has swept through a Wichita apartment complex, although no injuries have been reported.  Television station KSNW reports that the fire was reported shortly after 11 am Saturday at the Parke East Townhomes.  Officials say about 20 fire units responded to the fire.  Drivers were asked to avoid the area as emergency responders and vehicles packed streets around the scene.  Firefighters have not said what caused the fire.

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Police: 2nd Victim from Triple October Shooting in KC Dies

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Police say a second victim of a triple shooting last month in Kansas City has died from his injuries. The Kansas City Star reports that police announced Friday the death of 21-year-old James Speers. Police say Speers died November 8, more than two weeks after he was shot along with two others in the Sterling Acres neighborhood.  The October 23 shooting also killed 21-year-old Miranda Carr of Grandview. Another woman was also injured.  Police are asking the public for any information on the shooting.

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Kansas Unemployment Rate Remained at 3.3 Percent in October

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas is reporting that its unemployment rate remained at 3.3 percent in October for the third month in a row.  The state Department of Labor has reported that Kansas also saw an increase in the number of nonfarm, private sector jobs during the previous 12 months. Such unemployment was almost 1.17 million in October, or 17,100 more than in October 2017. The growth was 1.5 percent.  Mining and logging businesses, financial services companies, and professional services firms saw the most robust job growth.  The state's seasonally adjusted unemployment rate has been less than 4 percent since February 2017. In October 2017, it was 3.5 percent.

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Missouri Woman Builds Stray Cat Shelters for Winter Months

SAVANNAH, Mo. (AP) — A cat owner in northwestern Missouri is crafting makeshift shelters to help keep stray cats warm during winter months.  The St. Joseph News-Press reports that Savannah resident Lindy Anderson built the temporary shelters out of Styrofoam coolers, which she stuffed with straw and fitted with a cat-sized cutout entryway. Anderson is giving the small shelters away for free.  She started the initiative a few years ago after thinking about how many homeless animals freeze to death in the winter. She made about 25 shelters in the first year, sharing the project on Facebook. Demand for the shelters grew so much that she and her family made about 200 last year.  Anderson doesn't charge for the shelters, but she does accept donations. She bought this year's materials with last year's donations.

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Kansas GOP's Chairman to Step Down in February After 6 Years

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The Kansas Republican Party will be getting a new chairman in February.  State GOP Chairman Kelly Arnold has announced that he will not seek a fourth, two-year term after serving six years as the Kansas party's top official. The Republican State Committee will name his successor during the party's next statewide convention.  Arnold began as chairman in 2013 with the GOP have won all statewide and congressional races, starting in 2010. The party extended the streak through the 2016 election, with then-Gov. Sam Brownback and U.S. Sen. Pat Roberts winning tough re-election races in 2014 and U.S. Sen. Jerry Moran easily winning re-election in 2016.  But Democratic state Sen. Laura Kelly won the governor's race this year.  Kelly has served as Sedgwick County's elected clerk since 2009.

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Wichita Police to Ask Gun Owners to Save Fired Casings

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Wichita police will soon ask gun owners and sellers to keep spent ammunition as a way to help identify stolen weapons following an increase in gun thefts over the past five years.  Wichita Deputy Police Chief Jose Salcido tells the Wichita Eagle that the city has seen a spike in firearms thefts from about 400 in 2012 to 1,600 last year. He says 328 of the guns stolen last year "showed up at violent crime scenes in Wichita." Salcido says the police department plans to ask gun sellers and buyers to save two fired casings. The gun owner or dealer can then turn the casings over to police if their firearm is stolen.  He says the gun's distinct imprint on a fired cartridge can be put into a database and matched with cartridges recovered from crime scenes.

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Hall of Fame Classic to Tip After Class Inducted in KC

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Houston star Otis Birdsong, North Carolina standout Sam Perkins and Sidney Moncrief of Arkansas led the eight-member class inducted into the College Basketball Hall of Fame this year. Southern California's Paul Westphal, Morgan State star Marvin Webster and Arizona's Sean Elliott along with longtime coaches Danny Miles of Oregon Tech and John Kresse of College of Charleston were also inducted during weekend festivities in Kansas City. The class was announced earlier this year. The festivities conclude with the Hall of Fame Classic, where Nebraska plays Missouri State and Texas Tech faces USC in Monday night's semifinals. The third-place and championship games are Tuesday.

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Les Miles Signs 5-Year Contract to Coach Kansas Jayhawks Football

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — Les Miles walked confidently to the podium and slipped on a familiar white hat.  This one had "KU" embroidered across the front.  The quirky and energetic coach who led LSU to the 2007 national title, after building a consistent winner at Oklahoma State, is back in the Big 12. His task this time is to turn around a long-suffering program at Kansas, where years of losing have left fan apathy at historically high levels.  "When I first came to Kansas," Miles recalled during his introductory news conference Sunday, "I looked around and said, 'Man, it's beautiful. It's green. It's a spectacular place. I said, 'Why aren't they more successful?' I promise you, I carried that thought with me as we went."  It was a thought that accompanied him to Lawrence once more.  Miles signed a five-year contract that will pay him $2,775,000 annually with retention bonuses of $775,000 due in November 2020 and $500,000 in November 2022. The deal includes several other incentives in a sign that athletic director Jeff Long plans to invest heavily in the program.  "Even though I knew Coach Miles, in the end you don't know until they sign on the dotted line," Long said. "You have a number of coaches you're talking to because you have to talk to them. You don't know who is going to jump in the boat with you to tackle this project until they do."  The 65-year-old Miles was considered the front-runner for the Jayhawks' job from the moment David Beaty was told he would not be retained two weeks ago. Miles has a close relationship with Long dating to their days together at Michigan, and Miles made it clear he wanted back in coaching.  The path toward a deal became much easier last week, when LSU announced Miles had agreed to a lump sum of $1.5 million of the remaining $6.5 million he was owed under terms of his buyout.

The Jayhawks, who lost to sixth-ranked Oklahoma on Saturday to leave Beaty with a 6-31 record in three-plus seasons, will finish out their year under their former coach Friday against Texas.

Miles has been out of coaching since 2016, when he was fired by LSU after a 2-2 start that left him with a 114-34 record with the Tigers. His support among Tiger fans had waned considerably in a span of just a few years, even though Miles won at least 10 games in seven of his 11 full seasons, twice reached the national title game and beat Ohio State for the '07 championship.  The most common criticism was Miles had been unable to keep up with the times, sticking to an unexciting and often-stagnant attack during college football's offensive explosion.

The Jayhawks haven't had a winning season or reached a bowl game since 2008, the year before Mark Mangino was forced to resign under pressure. Turner Gill won five games over two seasons before getting fired, and Charlie Weis managed six wins in two-plus seasons before he was let go.  By that point, the program had become the laughingstock of the Big 12.

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