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Headlines for Thursday, July 18, 2019

U.S. Heat Wave Just Warming Up for Long and Scorching Weekend

DETROIT (AP) - The heat wave that has been roasting much of the U.S. in recent days is just getting warmed up, with temperatures expected to soar to dangerous levels through the weekend.  Communities are preparing by offering buildings as cooling centers and asking residents to check in on family members and neighbors. Officials are also concerned about smog, which is exacerbated by the heat and makes it harder for certain people to breathe, including the very young, the elderly and people with asthma or lung diseases.  The National Weather Service estimates that more than 100 local heat records will fall Friday or Saturday, though most won't be daily highs... but rather, record-high nightly lows.  Greg Carbin, forecast branch chief for the weather service's Weather Prediction Center, says the heat wave will likely be "short and searing."


Kansas Priest Charged with Possessing Child Pornography

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) — A Kansas priest has been charged with one count of possessing child pornography. The Archdiocese of Kansas City, Kansas, said in a news release Thursday that it reported Christopher Rossman to authorities in September 2016 after learning he had accessed inappropriate content on his computer. Rossman was suspended from the ministry at that time. The archdiocese said it received information that an FBI investigation resulted in the charge being filed. At the time, Rossman was pastor at Roman Catholic churches in Baldwin City and Lapeer. He previously worked at churches in Olathe, Topeka, Holton, Mayetta and Potawatomi Reservation. The Kansas City Star reports Rossman's attorney, Scott Toth, said it was too early to comment on the case.


Inmate Hospitalized After Fall at Kansas Fairgrounds

HUTCHINSON, Kan. (AP) — A Kansas inmate has been taken to a hospital after he fell while working on the Kansas State Fairgrounds in Hutchinson. The Hutchinson News reports that police say 38-year-old Christopher Boothby was on a lift working on a flag pole when he fell about 14 feet and hit his head. He is listed in fair condition at Via Christi St. Francis in Wichita. Kansas Department of Correction records show Boothby has been at the Hutchinson prison since March, after he was recommitted for a probation violation. His original convictions, out of Stevens County, included two separate cases of aggravated assault and criminal threat in 2014, and a 2018 conviction for a third offense of attempting to flee and elude law enforcement. He is scheduled to be released in September.


Wichita Mother of 4 Killed, Boyfriend Arrested

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) - Police say a 25-year-old mother of four young children was shot to death at a southwest Wichita home and her boyfriend has been arrested. Police officer and spokesman Charley Davidson says  Elsey Puente was found suffering from a gunshot would Tuesday evening. She died later at a hospital.  The Wichita Eagle reports her boyfriend, 29-year-old Victor Manuel Castro, was arrested at the home and booked into the Sedgwick County Jail.  Police say Puente was shot after a "domestic violence disturbance" between Castro and Puente inside the home.  Puente's four children were inside the house at the time but were not injured. The children are staying with relatives.  Police say Castro is not the father of the children.


Man Struck, Killed by Passenger Train Near Topeka

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Authorities say a man has been struck and killed by an Amtrak train while walking across a stretch of railroad tracks south of Topeka. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that the man killed in Tuesday's crash has been identified as 64-year-old William Reynolds III, of Topeka. Shawnee County sheriff's Sgt. Todd Stallbaumer says about 150 passengers were aboard the train at the time he was hit. The train didn't move for about two hours afterward. None of the passengers were hurt. The collision is under investigation.


Kansas City Man Charged with Sexually Abusing 5-Year-Old Girl While Working at Day Care Center

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) _ A Kansas City area man has been charged with sexually abusing a 5-year-old girl while working at the day care center his mother owns.  Prosecutors filed statutory sodomy charges this week against 18-year-old Joseph Hammerly and charges of child endangerment and failure to report against his mother, 47-year-old Emily Hammerly. No attorneys are listed for them in online court records.  Court records say the Little Learner Day Care business manager approached Emily Hammerly after the girl reported the assault and was instructed to tell the child ``we don't talk like that.'' The manager also talked to the girl's parents, who called police.  Emily Hammerly told detectives she allowed her son to continue working because it didn't appear he was "hiding'' anything but made sure he wasn't alone with children. She didn't instruct staff to contact a state hotline.


Superintendent Says He Didn't Know Nurse in Sex Case Was Fired Before

DE SOTO, Kan. (AP) - The superintendent of a suburban Kansas City school district says he wasn't aware that a school nurse who's charged with two counts of unlawful sexual relations with a minor had faced similar accusations at a previous job.  The Kansas City Star reports that De Soto Superintendent Frank Harwood said Tuesday that Richard Finazzo wouldn't have been hired if the district "had any idea" of the suspicions.  Charging documents say Finazzo resigned from De Soto High School in October while under suspicion for the same conduct that led to his firing two years ago from the nearby Gardner-Edgerton High School.  Prosecutors say Finazzo has claimed he was the victim of a "double standard" that wouldn't apply to female nurses. The Gardner-Edgerton district didn't immediately respond to requests for comment from The Star or The Associated Press.


Couple Wins One, Loses One in Lawsuits against Emporia State

EMPORIA, Kan. (AP) - A black couple who filed separate discrimination lawsuits against Emporia State University won one lawsuit while the other was dismissed.  The Kansas City Star reports a federal judge ruled this week the university retaliated against Angelica Hale by not renewing her contract after she complained about racial discrimination during the 2014-2015 school year.  A jury on Monday dismissed her husband Melvin's $10 million lawsuit against five university administrators.  The couple worked at Emporia State's School of Library and Information Management. They alleged their employment ended after they found a racial slur written in a notebook and pushed for an investigation.  U.S. District Judge Daniel Crabtree awarded Angelica Hale damages of $1 and said she may recover her costs. She also will be allowed to submit a brief concerning whether reinstatement and back pay are appropriate.


Garden City Forms Committee to Support 2020 Census

GARDEN CITY, Kan. (HPPR / KNS) - Ahead of the 2020 census, Garden City is forming a “local count committee.”  That's because the last census missed about 3,000 people. Garden City's diverse population can be hard to count because of low response rates from several groups, including renters, immigrants and refugees.  Melissa Dougherty-O'Hara is a planner with the city’s neighborhood and development services. She told High Plains Public Radio that the census has identified five groups that are hard to count, and one is residents who don’t trust the government.  Dougherty-O’Hara says responses to the census can be in English or Spanish, but she encourages Garden City to work with community organizations to help translate for people who speak languages like Vietnamese.  Southwest Kansas is one of the more difficult areas in the country to count accurately.  In addition to Garden City, the last census showed low response rates from residents in Dodge City and Liberal.


Bankers: Trade War Having Negative Effect on Rural Economies

OMAHA, Neb. (AP) — More bankers surveyed in parts of 10 Plains and Western states say President Donald Trump's trade skirmishes are having a negative effect on their local economies. The Rural Mainstreet survey released Thursday shows the survey's overall index falling from 53.2 in June to 50.2 this month. Any score above 50 suggests a growing economy, while a score below 50 indicates a shrinking economy. Creighton University economist Ernie Goss, who oversees the survey, says higher agriculture commodity prices and rebuilding from recent floods helped prop up the region's economy last month. But he added that nearly 9 of 10 bankers surveyed noted the tariffs' negative impact on the economy. That's up from 8 in 10 who said the same thing in September. Bankers from Colorado, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, South Dakota and Wyoming were surveyed.


Missouri River Remains High Because of Releases from Dams

OMAHA, Neb. (AP) — The lower Missouri River is likely to remain high throughout the summer because of the large amount of water being released from dams upstream. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers says it needs to keep the releases high to clear out space in all the dams along the river. So it will continue releasing more than double the average amount of water from Gavins Point Dam on the Nebraska-South Dakota border at least into August. National Weather Service meteorologist Scott Dergan says the Missouri River isn't likely to go down much until the releases from the dams are reduced. The significant releases may worsen flooding downstream — in Iowa, Nebraska, Missouri and Kansas — where many levees were damaged during severe March flooding.


Muslim Group Wants Independence, Missouri, Councilman to Resign
INDEPENDENCE, Mo. (AP) - The Kansas chapter of a Muslim civil rights group is calling for the resignation of an Independence, Missouri, city councilman who said during a meeting that Middle Eastern owners of discount smoke shops will "sell anything out the back door."  The Kansas City Star reports Councilman Curt Dougherty made the comment Monday while discussing a proposal to regulate medical marijuana facilities in Independence.  He was arguing that the city had rules restricting several types of businesses, including smoke shops run mostly by Middle Easterners.  The Kansas chapter of the Council of American-Islamic Relations said in a statement Wednesday that Dougherty should resign. CAIR-Kansas Board Chairman Moussa Elbayoumy said the comment showed Dougherty couldn't represent a diverse constituency.  Dougherty did not immediately respond to an email or phone message seeking comment.


A Year After Tragedy, Branson Debates Future of Duck Boats

BRANSON, Mo. (AP) - A year after a duck boat sank and killed 17 people in a Missouri lake, the future of the tourist attraction remains a topic of debate.  Former Branson Mayor Karen Best had to inform the families of those who died on July 19, 2018, on Table Rock Lake. She told The Kansas City Star that she will never forget the survivors' screams and crying, and she doesn't see any reason the duck boats should return to the lake.  Best's replacement, Mayor Edd Akers, says he is open to the attraction returning if the boats are altered and have improved safety measures. Akers said when all the lawsuits from the tragedy are settled, he will propose that the city create a memorial to the duck boat victims.


KU Will Sell Beer, Wine at Home Football Games

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) - The University of Kansas will start selling beer and wine at home football games this season, joining a growing number of Big 12 schools to offer alcohol sales at sporting events.  KU athletics director Jeff Long says it's an expansion of a trial program.  KU says liquor sales will stop after the third quarter.


Army Corps Opens Fort Peck Spillway as Reservoir Level Rises

BILLINGS, Mont. (AP) - The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has partially opened two of the Fort Peck Dam's spillway gates to relieve the rising water level in the reservoir.  The Billings Gazette reports Fort Peck had been holding back water on the upper Missouri River because of this year's flooding downstream in South Dakota, Nebraska and Kansas.  The water in the dam had reached an elevation of nearly 2,247 feet, with the top of the gates at 2,250 feet.  Opening the gates on Monday brings the amount of water moving through the dam to 15,000 cubic feet per second.  The corps' Darin McMurry says that will likely be the level through August.  Last year's peak releases from Fort Peck dam were 20,000 cubic feet per second.

Pigs Fall from Truck; Officer Thinks Dispatch said "Kids"

MANHATTAN, Kan. (AP) - Confusion about whether pigs or kids had tumbled out of a vehicle in Kansas led to a humorous exchange between a dispatcher and an officer.  Police in Riley County posted audio of the exchange on Facebook under the hearing, "Just a typical day in Kansas."  It starts with a dispatcher telling an officer, "We evidently have a truck that is losing pigs out the back. The officer then attempts to clarify, saying "Kids, as in children?" The dispatcher then clarified, "No, pigs. As in little pink animals with curly tails."  Body-camera video shows the officer then arriving at the scene to find two people who had apparently captured the pigs holding them with leashes.


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