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Headlines for Monday, November 26, 2018

Storm Dumps from 2 to 14 Inches Across Kansas, Schools Cancel Classes

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A winter snowstorm has closed several universities and school districts in Kansas as crews work to clear the roads.  The National Weather Service says the storm dumped from 2 to 14 inches from late Saturday through Sunday across a large swath of the state.  As the storm hit, Governor Jeff Colyer declared a state of emergency.  The Kansas Department of Transportation reported several road closures Monday, mostly in the extreme northeast corner of the state. But crews had managed to clear Interstate 70 enough to reopen the major east-west route.  Some government offices in Topeka are opening late, and Kansas State University says it won't open until noon. Several other colleges called off classes entirely, including the University of Kansas, Emporia State University, Baker University, Washburn University and Wichita State.

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Winter Storm Batters Midwest, Kansas Digs Out from Blizzard

CHICAGO (AP) — A wintry storm is still battering parts of the Midwest today (MON), with blizzard conditions and freezing temperatures from northeast Missouri into southeast Wisconsin and northeast Illinois, including the greater Chicago area. The blizzard-like conditions at the end of the Thanksgiving weekend grounded hundreds of flights and forced the closure of major highways.  

In Kansas...

Major highways, including I-70, were closed Sunday.  I-70 has since reopened.  Kansas schools and universities canceled classes for today (MON).  At the peak of the storm, thousands of Kansans lost power.  Governor Jeff Colyer declared a state of emergency because of the winter storm which created blizzard conditions and slick roads.  Colyer advised travelers to consider delaying their travel until after the storm passed.  Those determined to hit the road were advised to make sure
gas tanks were full and cell phones were fully charged.  In neighboring Missouri, Interstate 29 was closed near the Iowa border.

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Next Kansas Governor Faces Troubled Foster Care System

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The incoming Kansas governor will face a large task dealing with a struggling child welfare system recently hit with a class-action lawsuit alleging conditions were so poor that children suffered mentally or ran away from foster homes.  The lawsuit filed in federal court this month alleges that children have been trafficked for sex, sexually abused inside adoptive homes or raped inside a child welfare office, The Wichita Eagle reported.  Lawmakers, experts and advocates say Democratic governor-elect Laura Kelly must significantly invest in the state's Department for Children and Families to improve the system. Kelly will become governor on January 14.  Kelly said the department will be "a high priority" for her administration. She said the agency has lacked resources for almost a decade.  "I will take the same approach to DCF, though, that we're going to take to every agency, which is to during the transition time to dig deep and figure out where the issues are, what's working, what's not working, and then set a course for fixing whatever we find that needs to be fixed," she said.

Many advocates said they believe Kelly's experience as a member of a legislative task forced aimed at improving the child welfare system will help her make progress on the issues.  "She really works on that task force," said Lori Burns-Bucklew, a Kansas City attorney and accredited child welfare law specialist. "She doesn't just show up."  The task force will deliver its recommendations in January and could possibly provide lawmakers with a road map on how to improve the system.  But Burns-Bucklew said Kelly faces a big challenge.  "She's inheriting an under-resourced system," she said. "This system has been stripped bare over the years. They haven't just cut to the bone. They've cut into the bone."  The task force has examined issues such as improving the agency's outdated computer systems and its work force, which has seen high turnover and high caseloads.

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State Senator's Election to Lt. Governor Post Leaves Opening

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A small group of Kansas Democrats will meet Saturday to pick a new state senator for a Wichita area district after Lynn Rogers was elected lieutenant governor. Rogers will serve as second-in-command under governor-elect Laura Kelly, leaving an opening in the senate, where he had represented the 25th District. The Wichita Eagle reports that the only candidate to announce plans to seek the seat is lawyer Kelly Schodorf. She is the daughter of former state Senator Jean Schodorf, who held the seat from 2001 to 2013. She said she thinks she would be the best candidate to keep the seat for the Democrats in 2020 because of her name recognition and campaigning experience. She said her top legislative priorities are ensuring that schools receive adequate funding and expanding Medicaid coverage.

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Kansas Democrat Backs Pelosi Bid for House Speaker

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) — Democratic Representative-elect Sharice Davids plans to cast one of her first votes for Nancy Pelosi as House speaker, saying Kansans didn't elect her to go to Washington "to play political games and take symbolic protest votes." The newly elected Democrat from Kansas also said that she plans to vote for "several younger and newer members" for other leadership roles in the Democratic caucus. Davids, who defeated GOP Rep. Kevin Yoder for the suburban Kansas City seat, never pledged during her campaign to vote against Pelosi but had also said when she was running that she wanted new leadership across the board. During a campaign debate, Yoder repeatedly suggested that Davids would support Pelosi for House speaker should Democrats recapture the House majority. Davids ducked the question at the debate, saying she couldn't say who she would support. But in an announcement posted Saturday on her campaign website, Davids said no one else has stood up to challenge Pelosi. House Democrats plan to meet in private this week for a vote nominating Pelosi to become speaker in January. She held that post from 2007 to 2011, the first woman to serve as speaker. After one potential rival stepped aside, Pelosi is expected to easily win the majority from her ranks. At one point Pelosi's opponents counted 17 Democrats on a letter against Pelosi and were hoping for more. But one by one, some of them started standing down. Davids said she will not do anything that could possibly make Republican Representative Kevin McCarthy the speaker. House Democrats have won at least 233 seats in the 435-member House in the November midterm election, with a few races still uncalled. Pelosi needs 218 to win the job, if all Republicans oppose her, which is likely. The margin could expand slightly with absences or if lawmakers simply vote "present."

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Kansas Sees Growing Urban-Rural Divide in Midterm Election 

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Political experts say Kansas is seeing an increasing urban-rural divide, especially after the November election when Democratic voters in the state's urban centers pushed Laura Kelly to defeat Republican Kris Kobach in the governor's race. The Kansas City Star reports that the growing urban-rural divide could make it easier for Democrats to control the governor's office or hold a congressional seat. Ahead of the 2018 midterm election, the percentage of Kansas Democrats registered to vote grew for the first time in years. But the urban-rural divide could also mean that Republicans fortify their hold on rural areas. Kansas won't have any Democratic state lawmakers west of Hutchinson. University of Kansas political scientist Patrick Miller says the politics and size of the divide are now starkly obvious on maps.

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15 Months Later, Just 1 Violation of KU Gun Policy

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — More than a year after the University of Kansas adopted a policy allowing concealed guns on campus, only one gun-relation violation has been reported.  The Lawrence Journal-World reports that the sole violation was minor enough that it was corrected without disciplinary action. The violation was for carrying a gun inappropriately.  The policy was enacted in July 2017. In response to a Journal-World request, the university cited just the single violation that occurred October 2 when a student was carrying a gun in the visible mesh part of a backpack, in violation of the provision that it be concealed from view.  A faculty member reported the incident, and the student corrected the problem.

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African Painted Dog Dies After Another Dog Attacks Her

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The Topeka Zoo and Conservation Center says an African painted dog has died after another dog attacked her. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that the dog, named Annie, had been brought to Topeka last Wednesday from the Bronx Zoo to be a mate for one of the zoo's male dogs. The attack happened Saturday as Annie was being introduced to the other painted dogs. Things went smoothly when Annie met the alpha male. There also weren't problems when the next subordinate male was added to the mix. Topeka Zoo director Brendan Wiley says problems arose when Annie was introduced to a third dog. Zoo staff was watching the introduction and intervened. But Annie died Sunday after undergoing surgery. African painted dogs are a critically endangered species.

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Train Strikes, Kills Pedestrian in Suburban Kansas City

OLATHE, Kan. (AP) — Authorities say a train has struck and killed a man as he was trying to cross a set of railroad tracks in suburban Kansas City. The Kansas City Star reports that the man died at the scene Saturday in Olathe. His death remains under investigation and his name wasn't immediately released. A preliminary investigation indicated the man was trying to cross the tracks when he was hit.

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Report: Adequate Soil Moisture Levels for Kansas Farm Crops

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A new government snapshot show mostly adequate topsoil and subsoil moisture supplies for Kansas crops. The National Agricultural Statistics Service reported Monday that about 87 percent of the winter wheat planted in the state this fall has now emerged. The agency rated winter wheat condition as 9 percent excellent, 37 percent good and 38 percent fair. Just 16 percent was rated as poor or very poor. Meanwhile, the harvest for other Kansas farm crops is rapidly drawing to a close. About 94 percent of the corn has been harvested in the state, along with 92 percent of the soybeans and 83 percent of the sorghum. Sunflower harvest is 82 percent finished. Topsoil moisture supplies are 98 percent adequate to surplus, while subsoil moisture levels are 95 percent adequate to surplus.

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Pipeline Builder Asks Judge to Allow Pre-Construction Work

HELENA, Mont. (AP) — The company that wants to build the Keystone XL pipeline is asking a Montana judge to change his order blocking the project so that pre-construction work can continue. Attorneys for TransCanada will argue on Wednesday that U.S. District Judge Brian Morris should clarify or amend his ruling to say the injunction does not apply to activities such as finalizing contracts, purchasing materials, conducting land surveys and discussing federal permits. On November 8, Morris blocked TransCanada's permit to build the pipeline from Alberta's oil sands through a half-dozen U.S. states to the Gulf of Mexico. The judge had ruled the Trump administration had not fully considered the environmental effects of the pipeline. TransCanada's attorneys say the company wants to continue preparing for construction while it considers an appeal.

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Holiday Express Train Begins Multistate Journey

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — A festive holiday train has started its journey through Louisiana, Mississippi, Texas, Arkansas, Oklahoma, Kansas, Illinois and Missouri. The Kansas City Southern Holiday Express Train started its journey last week in Shreveport, Louisiana. After stops in more than 20 cities, the trip will end Dec. 14 at Union Station in Kansas City, where the six-car train will remain on display through Dec. 18. It features a smiling tank car dubbed "Rudy," a gingerbread boxcar, a flatcar carrying Santa's sleigh, plus a reindeer stable and a miniature village. There's also an elves' workshop and even a little red caboose. Guests get to visit Santa and tour the train.

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Firefighters Rescue 3 People from Fire but 1 Doesn't Survive

COFFEYVILLE, Kan. (AP) — Firefighters in Coffeyville rescued three unconscious people from a house fire but one didn't survive.  KSN-TV reports firefighters were called to the house fire just after 3 am Saturday and found heavy flames coming from the second floor.  Firefighters used a ladder to rescue three unconscious people from a second-story window. All were taken to a Coffeyville hospital.  Authorities say one person died.  The conditions of the other victims weren't available.  Officials from several agencies are investigating the cause of the fire.

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KCK Traffic Engineer Introduces "3-D Crossing" to the City

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) — Public works employees in Kansas City, Kansas, are testing what they described as a "three-dimensional crosswalk" in one neighborhood.  The Kansas City Star reports the crosswalk gets the name because of the impression the paint gives on the roadway. While it looks like a typical crosswalk from a distance, the blocks appear to float in the air when drivers get closer.  Public Works Department traffic engineer Lideana Laboy says the crosswalk is modeled after one in Iceland.  Laboy says officials wanted to try it because they thought it would have an effect on safety. The street where the crosswalk was painted this month is in a neighborhood with a lot of children and is near a school.

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Man Throws Rock Through Topeka Police Department Glass Door

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Authorities say a man walked up to the Topeka police headquarters and threw a rock through the glass front door.  Police say an officer working the front desk heard the glass break about 10 pm Friday and thought the person had shot through the door.  An emergency call drew officers from several surrounding agencies.  Officers took the apparent rock-thrower into custody. He wasn't identified because he appeared to be having a mental crisis.  He was held at the Shawnee County jail.

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Art Captures Greensburg's Heart

GREENSBURG, Kan. (AP) — A south-central Kansas town that was nearly wiped out by a massive tornado has added a new sculpture to a park that stands on the grounds of its leveled city hall.  The Hutchinson News reports the 5-foot-tall spiral of stainless steel shaped around an elegant blue glass form is the third sculpture to be installed at Starlight Park in Greensburg. Called "Aurora," it's a joint project of glassblower Rollin Karg and metal sculptor Jeff Garrelts.  In May 2007, Greensburg was hit with a massive EF5 tornado that destroyed 95 percent of the town and left 11 people dead.  A cylindrical sculpture, called "The Beacon," and a kinetic piece, called "Triple Eclipse," are also on display in the park in Greensburg, about 100 miles west of Wichita.

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Dodge City Clerk Turns to Hired Legal Gun in Election Fight

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — When iconic Dodge City faced a lawsuit before the midterm elections for moving its sole polling place outside city limits, its top elections official turned to a hired legal gun to battle charges of voter suppression.  Ford County Clerk Debbie Cox hired Bradley Schlozman, who is little-known outside the legal community but is well-known for defending states and towns accused of trying to restrict voting.  Schlozman was a top lawyer in the Justice Department's Civil Rights Division in the George W. Bush administration. He has been involved in some of the thorniest voting issues of the last two decades.  At the Justice Department, Schlozman in 2005 backed Georgia, among the first to enact voter ID. He overruled the career attorneys who had argued it would reduce minority voting.

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Kansas Offers Paid Leave to More than 17,000 State Employees

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Outgoing Republican Governor Jeff Colyer has signed an executive order giving paid parental leave to more than 17,000 government employees.  The Wichita Eagle reports that Colyer signed the order Wednesday. It creates a policy that all state employees under the governor's jurisdiction will be eligible for paid leave after the birth or adoption of a child. Primary caregivers will receive six weeks of paid leave, while secondary caregivers will receive three weeks.  Under the police, employees will receive 100 percent of their regular salary during leave.  The order doesn't apply to the Legislature or judicial branch. Agencies headed by other elected officials, such as the secretary of state's office, also aren't included. With the order, Kansas becomes one of 15 states, including Missouri, to provide paid parental leave to employees.

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Kansas Company Admits Feed Truck Caused Amtrak Derailment

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — The upcoming trial over the Kansas derailment of an Amtrak passenger train has been cancelled after Cimarron Crossing Feeders admitted its runaway feed truck damaged the railroad track. Trial had been scheduled to start next week to determine who is responsible for the March 2016 derailment of Amtrak's Southwest Chief City near Cimarron, about 20 miles west of Dodge. More than two dozen people were injured. A federal judge summarily found earlier this month that there was no legal fault on the part of Amtrak or BNSF, which owns the track. That left only Cimarron as potentially liable for damages at trial. Cimarron stipulated in a filing Wednesday its employee was negligent in not setting the brake on an unattended truck, allowing it to roll downhill and strike the track.

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Group Wants to Cover Kansas City Tower with Changing Lights

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Artists are planning to transform a broadcast tower in Kansas City, Missouri, into a giant light installation.  The Kansas City Star reports that entrepreneur Jasper Mullarney says he thinks the KCTV-5 tower could become the "tallest public art piece in the world."  The roughly 1,000-foot tower previously was covered in more than 1,300 incandescent lights. But KCTV General Manager Chuck Poduska says the station has no plans to relight it.  Mullarney is working with Kansas City Art Institute faculty member James Woodfill as lead artist and Jose Faus as lead community engagement artist to hatch a plan.  The group wants to install LED lights that change nightly to match the color of the sky from the past day. They estimate it could cost $2 million.

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Police: 74-Year-Old Woman Fatally Shoots Possible Burglar

LEAVENWORTH, Kan. (AP) — Leavenworth police say a 74-year-old woman fatally shot a man who she thought was trying to burglarize her home. Police Chief Pat Kitchens says when officers responded to the woman's call early Saturday they found the 41-year-old suspect, Ralph Byrd Jr., of Leavenworth suffering from a gunshot wound. The Leavenworth Times reports Byrd was pronounced dead at the scene. Kitchens says the woman suffered a "medical event" after the shooting and was taken to a hospital but was expected to survive. Kitchens says the focus of the investigation will be to determine if Byrd was committing a burglary when he was shot.

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Gonzaga Passes Kansas for No. 1 in AP Poll, Duke Is No.3

Gonzaga pulled off what some considered impossible, stopping the Duke juggernaut in the Maui Invitational title game without one of its best players. Now the Zags are No. 1 again. Third in last week's poll, Gonzaga leapfrogged No. 2 Kansas to the top spot in The Associated Press Top 25 released Monday. The Zags received 32 first-place votes from a 65-person media panel, edging the Jayhawks by one. No. 3 Duke received one first-place vote despite losing to Gonzaga in Maui and No. 4 Virginia the other one after winning the Battle 4 Atlantis title. No. 5 Nevada has its highest ranking ever after winning the Las Vegas Invitational, with Tennessee, Michigan, Auburn, Michigan State and Kentucky rounding out the top 10.

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