update: Kansas Officials Seek Altered US Flag's Removal from Art Museum
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Republican Governor Jeff Colyer and a top GOP rival called Thursday for the University of Kansas to remove an altered U.S. flag from its campus completely rather than showing it in an art museum after complaints prompted an end to its being displayed publicly outside. Colyer and other Republicans saw flying the altered flag as a public art display as disrespectful. He said during a Fox News Radio interview Thursday that the piece should be returned to the artist. Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach also demanded publicly that the altered flag be removed from the university. Kobach is trying to unseat Colyer in the state's Aug. 7 primary and issued a statement as Colyer was being interviewed, criticizing both the university and Colyer. The altered flag was part of a national project called "Pledges of Allegiance," meant to stir conversations about the nation's current political climate. It was flying on a pole outside a building on the university's main campus in Lawrence, but Chancellor Douglas Girod had it moved Wednesday afternoon , saying its display had generated public safety concerns. Colyer called Girod on Wednesday to demand that the altered flag be taken down. He also ordered that an additional 19 flags be raised on the Statehouse grounds in Topeka in what spokesman Kendall Marr said was a show of support for the flag and its proper display. "It's not appropriate to have a desecrated U.S. flag at a taxpayer-funded institution," Marr said Thursday. "He doesn't want it at the university at all." Kobach said the same thing in his statement. But he also took after Colyer over the relocation of the art display to the Spencer Musuem of Art, suggesting the governor hoped "the public will not notice that the defiled flag is still on display." "It is ridiculous to call that a solution," said Kobach, who rides in parades in a Jeep painted in a flag design and festooned with campaign stickers with a replica machine gun mounted on back. The Lawrence Journal-World reported that University of Kansas police took at least one report Wednesday of a threat at the museum. Someone threatened a person by phone, according to the department's online crime report log. The case remained open Thursday. A university spokeswoman did not immediately respond Thursday to a telephone message and email from The Associated Press requesting comment on the Republicans' most recent comments or the threat report. Micah Kubic, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Kansas, said the decision to move the altered flag "smacks of censorship." "That is an affront to the spirit of the First Amendment, and the values for which the flag stands," Kubic said in an email. Creative Time, the nonprofit, New York-based arts organization that commissioned the work, said events in Kansas illustrate the political divisions that the "Pledges of Allegiance" project "confronted head-on." "The right to freedom of speech is one of our nation's most dearly held values. It is also under attack," the group said in a statement. "We are proud to stand by artists who express themselves."
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TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas Secretary of State and candidate for governor Kris Kobach is telling the University of Kansas to remove from the Spencer Museum of Art an art display featuring an altered American flag. The display, which had flown on a flag pole on the Lawrence campus, was taken down Wednesday and moved to the museum after Kobach, Governor Jeff Colyer and other Republican political candidates complained that it was disrespectful. University of Kansas Chancellor Doug Girod said in a statement that the display, which was part of a national art project called "Pledges of Allegiance," caused conversations on Wednesday that generated public safety concerns. He didn't elaborate. Kobach, who is running against Colyer in the GOP primary, said Colyer's demand that the flag be taken down didn't solve the problem.
LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — University of Kansas Chancellor Doug Girod says a controversial public art exhibit featuring an altered U.S. flag was moved because of concerns over public safety. The chancellor says the flag display will be relocated to the Spencer Museum of Art on the Lawrence campus. The flag art had been displayed in front of Spooner Hall on the campus since July 5. On Wednesday, Gov. Jeff Colyer and Secretary of State Kris Kobach had called for the flag display to be removed, saying it was disrespectful to the U.S. military. Girod said in a statement after the exhibit was taken down that the conversation around the display caused public safety concerns on the campus, although he did not elaborate. He says the university wants to foster dialogue on difficult issues but couldn't allow the discussion to put people or property in harm's way.
Kansas Governor Has Extra Flags Displayed at Capitol After Art Flap
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas Gov. Jeff Colyer has ordered additional American flags flown outside the Statehouse in response to a university's now-relocated public art display featuring an altered flag. Colyer spokesman Kendall Marr said the Republican governor ordered the 19 additional flags to go up Wednesday afternoon on the north and south sides of the Statehouse grounds. The state also displays extra flags on holidays such as Flag Day. Marr said the governor wanted to show support for the flag and its proper display. A national art project called "Pledges of Allegiance" at the University of Kansas featured the flying of an altered flag outside a building. Colyer others strongly criticized the display as disrespectful. The governor demanded that the altered flag be taken down. The university moved it to an art museum.
Kansas Governor Hopeful Criticizes Rival on Abortion Rights
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A leading Democratic candidate for Kansas governor is suggesting that one of her main rivals is misleading voters about his stance on abortion. State Senator Laura Kelly of Topeka made the comment about former Kansas Agriculture Secretary Joshua Svaty during a televised forum Wednesday evening. Kelly has had a strong abortion-rights voting record in the Legislature. Another major Democratic candidate, former Wichita Mayor Carl Brewer, also has been vocal in supporting abortion rights. Svaty served seven years in the Kansas House before becoming agriculture secretary in 2009 and consistently supported anti-abortion legislation. But he has promised to veto any new restrictions if elected. He said during the forum that he would support the right of women to make their own health care decisions. Kelly's then pointed to Svaty's legislative record. (Read more about Wednesday night's Democratic gubernatorial debate.)
Lawrence-Based Subcontractor 'On Site' Ahead of Fatal Wisconsin Blast
MADISON, Wis. (AP) — A communications company said Thursday that a subcontractor was working "on site" before an explosion that killed a Wisconsin firefighter this week. Authorities have said a crew punctured a natural gas main in downtown Sun Prairie on Tuesday, resulting in an explosion that damaged five buildings and killed Sun Prairie Fire Department Captain Cory Barr. Verizon Wireless said Thursday it had contracted with Lawrence, Kansas-based Bear Communications for a fiber project in Sun Prairie. Bear said in a statement to WISC-TV that its subcontractor was working "on site" but gave no other details. It wasn't immediately clear whether the subcontractor was working in the area of the explosion or was responsible for breaking the gas main. Bear said "many questions" remain and it's cooperating with investigators. Bear spokesman Scott Stein said in a telephone interview that the subcontractor's employees were working in the "vicinity" of the explosion and were evacuated before the blast occurred. He declined to comment further. Sun Prairie officials declined to release any information Thursday about the identity of the workers who punctured the main, citing an ongoing investigation. TDS Telecom said it had been working on fiber optics in the city as well but that none of its employees or contractors ruptured the line. The explosion happened after police received a call of a gas leak in downtown Sun Prairie, a Madison suburb of about 30,000 people. Something sparked the gas while firefighters and other emergency responders were evacuating people from the area. The blast rained debris up and down the street and leveled the Barr House, a tavern Barr owned. Ensuing fires damaged four other buildings, including Glass Nickel Pizza and a steak restaurant. Barr was working to evacuate people when he was caught in the blast, Fire Chief Chris Garrison has said. Eleven other people, including five other firefighters and a police officer, were hurt.
Kansas Water Park Plans to Tear Down Slide on Which Boy Died
KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) — A Kansas water park plans to tear down a giant water slide on which a 10-year-old boy died in 2016. The Kansas City Star reports an attorney representing an affiliate of Kansas City, Kansas, park operator Schlitterbahn said Thursday that the 17-story slide called Verruckt would start coming down about a week after Labor Day. Attorney Melanie Morgan says the work is expected to take about three weeks. The Kansas City park posted a statement on its Facebook page saying it had received court approval to demolish the ride. Caleb Schwab was decapitated in August 2016 while riding the waterslide. His death led to criminal charges against the company that built the slide and five individuals, including Schlitterbahn's co-owner. Schlitterbahn says Caleb's death was a tragic accident.
Westar Launches Efforts to Meet Green Energy Needs
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A Kansas utility company has launched a new program aiming to make it easier for large businesses to access affordable green energy. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that the Kansas Corporation Commission on Tuesday approved the Direct Renewable Participation Service by Westar Energy. The approval led to Westar announcing a day later that it has reached a 20-year agreement with a NextEra Energy Resources affiliate to purchase energy from a new 300-megawatt wind farm being developed in Nemaha County. Westar officials say the program offers large commercial businesses a way to meet sustainability goals by accessing Kansas wind energy. Participating businesses will be able to claim part of the energy generated by the wind farm as their own. The wind farm is expected to be operational by 2020.
Kansas Man Gets 30 Years for Fatally Shaking 6-Month Old Son
REECE, Kan. (AP) — A 23-year-old eastern Kansas man who fatally injured his 6-month-old son has been sentenced to 30 years in prison. Benny Clark, of Reece, was sentenced last week for second-degree murder and child abuse in the August 2017 death of his son, Cooper. The Emporia Gazette reports Clark pleaded guilty in March. He said he shook the boy for taking off his diaper and urinating on the bed. He also said the boy fell off the ottoman and hit his head. Emergency help wasn't called until the boy's mother, Ashley Morris, returned home for work hours after the boy was hurt. Cooper was flown to a Wichita hospital, where he died two days later. Testing showed the boy had a fractured skull.
Man Sentenced for Urging Minor Girls to Send Explicit Photos
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A Topeka man has been sentenced to 10 years and two months in federal prison for distributing child pornography. U.S. Attorney Stephen McAllister says 22-year-old Ryan Andrew Rivera, of Topeka, pleaded guilty Tuesday to one count of distributing child pornography. KSNT-TV reports that in his plea, Rivera admitted he contacted 10 minor girls on Facebook to urge them to send him sexually explicit images of themselves. McAllister says in one instance, a 15-year-old girl sent Rivera sexually explicit photos and he forwarded the photos to another 15-year-old girl.
VP Mike Pence Slams Missouri Senator Claire McCaskill as She Vies for Re-election
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Vice President Mike Pence is criticizing Missouri's Democratic U.S. Senator Claire McCaskill as she campaigns for re-election. According to the Kansas City Star, Pence laid into McCaskill for voting against tax cuts. He also slammed her for voting against Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsuch's confirmation. Pence made the remarks while attending an event in Kansas City. McCaskill's campaign spokesman Eric Mee, in a statement to The Associated Press, said instead of attacking her, Pence should explain why tax changes gave pharmaceutical companies a "massive windfall." Pence asked the crowd of more than 550 people to pressure McCaskill to vote for President Donald Trump's latest Supreme Court nominee, Judge Brett Kavanaugh. Mee says McCaskill will weigh Kavanaugh's qualifications as she considers his nomination. Trump is backing McCaskill's front-runner Republican challenger, Attorney General Josh Hawley.
Health Officials Halt Sausage Party Outside Vice President Pence's Event
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — A radio station that was planning a "Sausage Party" across the street from the Kansas City hotel where Vice President Mike Pence was speaking to protest his position on LGBTQ issues wasn't able to provide the hot dogs it promised. The Kansas City Star reports that the Kansas City Health Department informed Radio station 96.5 The Buzz on Wednesday morning that it lacked the required permits. The station elected to cancel the free hot dogs rather than file for the permits. About 100 protesters showed up at Pence's event at the Marriott hotel in downtown Kansas City. The event was a fundraiser for Kansas Congressman Kevin Yoder. Pence has a history of opposing LGBTQ rights, including supporting a 2006 constitutional amendment that would've defined marriage as between a man and a woman.
Attorney: Barriers Keep 7 Immigrant Children in Kansas
WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — The attorney representing seven immigrant children who are still in the care of a Kansas nonprofit after being separated from their parents at the U.S.-Mexico border says policies recently put in place by the federal Office of Refugee Resettlement are barriers to reuniting them with their families. Immigration attorney Clare Murphy Shaw said Wednesday one holdup in a Kansas case is a backlog in processing the parents' fingerprints. In that case, the child has been waiting at least three weeks since the mother was released from detention. Another common barrier is the $1,000 or more in airfare for the child and an accompanying adult to travel from Kansas. A new policy requires it be paid by the parents. Some parents are also waiting to see what happens with their own asylum claims.
Ex-Kansas Sheriff's Lieutenant Sentenced for Theft of Cash
ABILENE, Kan. (AP) — A former sheriff's lieutenant was placed on two years of probation for stealing more than $22,000 in cash from the Dickinson County Sheriff's Office. Forty-nine-year-old Gregory Swanson was sentenced for felony theft Wednesday after pleading guilty in April. He also admitted stealing more than $3,400 in money used by the Drug Enforcement Unit to buy narcotics. The Salina Journal reports Swanson expressed remorse before being sentenced. He was ordered to serve five days in jail before his probation. He resigned in May 2017 after serving in the sheriff's department for nearly five years. He also agreed to permanently forfeit his law enforcement credentials in Kansas and other states. He worked for 19 years in the Saline County Sheriff's office before moving to Dickinson County.
Train Hits, Injures Person on Bridge East of Manhattan
MANHATTAN, Kan. (AP) — Authorities say a train has struck and injured a person on a bridge just east of Manhattan. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that emergency crews responded just after 7 a.m. Wednesday to the railroad bridge over the Big Blue River in western Pottawatomie County. Sheriff Greg Riat says the injured person was receiving medical treatment but the extent of that person's injuries wasn't immediately known. Riat says the Union Pacific Railroad is investigating. No other details were immediately released.
Refugee Teen from Myanmar Drowns in Hillsdale Lake
HILLSDALE, Kan. (AP) — A teenage refugee from Myanmar who recently arrived in the U.S. with his family has drowned in a lake near Kansas City. Om Kee Hata drowned Friday while swimming with friends in Hillsdale Lake. Miami County Capt. Mike Talcott said the death was accidental and that the 17-year-old "got tired, went under and didn't come back up," the Kansas City Star reported. Hata arrived in the U.S. last year with his mother and four younger siblings, leaning heavily on soccer and faith. The Christian family fled religious persecution in Myanmar, a predominantly Muslim country. Mariya Goodbrake worked with Hata and his family through Global FC, a soccer club she started for refugee families focused on building a community and support system around them. She said she interacts with many refugee children at work, but Hata stood out. "This kid had every reason to be angry for the hand that life had dealt him," Goodbrake said. "And here is this boy who is talking to me about restoration and forgiveness." Hata was one of the players the club believed would eventually earn a college soccer scholarship, said his coach, John Parker. "As a coach you don't always get those types of kids," Parker said. "Om Kee took it to another level. He appreciated it so much and gave every bit of his heart and effort and time." Hata's funeral services will be held Saturday. The community has created a GoFundMe page in hopes of raising $20,000 to support his mother and siblings.
Father of Boy Found Dead Admits to Hitting Another Child
WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — The father of a 5-year-old Kansas boy whose body was found months after he was reporting missing has pleaded guilty to hitting another child. Thirty-four-year-old Jonathan Hernandez, of Wichita, was sentenced Wednesday to one year of probation and ordered to complete a parenting class after admitting to misdemeanor battery. Prosecutors said in a news release that Hernandez struck his girlfriend's 6-year-old, causing redness and swelling on the boy's chest. Emily Glass was Hernandez's live-in girlfriend, and police described her as the stepmother of Hernandez's son, Lucas. She reported Lucas missing in February and fatally shot herself last month after leading an investigator to Lucas' body in May. Prosecutors didn't charge her in Lucas' death but described her as a person of interest. Lucas' cause of death couldn't be determined.
Kansas City Police, Social Workers Support Family in Need
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Kansas City police, social workers and community groups have banded together to help a California family with nowhere to go. The Kansas City Star reports that Police Sgt. AJ Henry came across Chantre Russ and her three children sleeping in a parking garage stairwell last month. Henry immediately called the Police Department's social workers to help find the family a place to stay, and to ensure that they were kept together. Russ left California with her children after her oldest child's father was murdered. She chose Kansas City after receiving a letter from the city's public housing authority. Russ and four officers pooled together money for a hotel room. Local groups donated diapers, formula and hygiene products. The Police Department's social services coordinator Gina English says Russ just needed a support team.
Tiny Kansas Town's Councilwoman Bites Jailer's Thumb
HURON, Kan. (AP) — Authorities say a councilwoman for a tiny Kansas town kicked, hit and scratched deputies and that they had to use a stun gun to subdue her. Atchison County Sheriff's Office Sheriff Jack Laurie says 48-year-old Carol Fowler remains jailed Wednesday on $25,000 bond after the June 29 melee. It began when deputies went to Fowler's home in the 70-person town of Huron to arrest her for failing to appear in court on unrelated charges. Laurie says she later broke a jailer's thumb when she bit it, leading to a felony charge. Her attorney didn't immediately return a phone message. Fowler has attended just one meeting since she was elected in November with two votes. Fellow council member Paula Clem says Fowler faces possible ouster because she's missed so many meetings.
Wichita Oilman Fined $10,000 for Environmental Violations
WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A Wichita oilman has been fined $10,000 for violating state regulations involving oil and gas contamination. The Kansas Corporation Commission on Tuesday fined Benjamin Giles for violations at two wells near Towanda in Butler County. The Wichita Eagle reports Giles says he didn't do anything wrong and he plans to appeal. The commission found Giles didn't follow procedures for casing or plugging the two oil wells, which officials say can harm usable groundwater. Commission documents and testimony indicate that Giles pulled the casing out of an old oil well in 2014 and didn't replace it until 2016. The commission also said Giles hasn't shown that another well is properly cased.
Kansas Intent on Changing Football Culture Under Long
LARENCE, Kan. (AP) — Jeff Long didn't waste time making clear his focus as Kansas' new athletic director. "I'd like to say one message to the KU family specifically about our football team," Long said. "It's time to break the cycle." Long was introduced as the Jayhawks' new leader nearly two months after chancellor Doug Girod fired Sheahon Zenger , who had served in the role for more than seven years. At the time, Girod called the school's failure to find progress in football "elusive" in a letter to campus staff. That progress will now be the focus for Long, who comes from a campus at Arkansas focused on keeping up with the other members of the football juggernaut known as the Southeastern Conference. Long comes to one in severe need of change on the gridiron in Lawrence. And he understands the task ahead of him, to inject life into a program that has mustered just three wins in three seasons under coach David Beaty. But even though he may be starting at the bottom, Long's sights for the program rest far higher. "Our goal is set to reach a bowl game," Long said. "So we'll strive to reach a bowl game, and once we reach that level, we won't stop there. Then we'll move on to more games, and then ultimately ... someday down the road we're going to win the Big 12 championship. We've done it here at Kansas in the past, and it's something we're certainly going to work every day and night to do."
On paper, Long seems to fit the bill of Kansas' football savior. His resume includes stops at tradition-tied schools such as Arkansas, Oklahoma and Michigan, and he was the chairman of the College Football Playoff committee. That experience pulled Girod to Long, who, despite what was stressed to be a far-reaching and all-encompassing search, stood out above any other candidates. "One name kind of surfaced almost immediately, and it was this gentleman to my left," Girod said. Long will not only be tasked with fixing the on-field product, however. He is also handed the departed Zenger's $300-million plan to renovate the decaying Memorial Stadium and other athletic facilities across campus. He'll certainly have to do some fundraising, but he's already backed by a pledge of $50 million from university donor David Booth. Long is determined to see the renovation through, but as he begins to transition into the role he will formally assume on August 1, he's planning to take careful action in determining how he will truly make Zenger's plans his own. "I know we have a tremendous initial gift that is really going to help get this program off the ground, and it already has," Long said. "But I need to understand more about that. I'm looking forward to understanding, behind the scenes, the rollout and what they hope to accomplish with the $300-million campaign."
Topeka Zoo Welcomes Newborn Giraffe; Another Expected Soon
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The Topeka Zoo is welcoming a newborn giraffe. Abi, one of two pregnant giraffes at the zoo, gave birth Wednesday to a baby named Konza. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports the calf has been expected since late June when staff first thought Abi could go into labor. Zoo officials announced in March that Abi, who is 7, and 8-year-old Hope were pregnant. The calves were conceived with Sgt. Peppers, who was transferred to Topeka from Oklahoma City in 2013. Hope is expected to give birth within a month. Hope was born at the Topeka Zoo in 2010. Abi arrived in Topeka in 2015 from the Albuquerque, New Mexico, BioPark Zoo