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Headlines for Tuesday, December 25, 2018

New Kansas Governor: Patrol Chief, Fire Marshal to Stay On

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Democratic Gov.-elect Laura Kelly will have the current superintendent of the Kansas Highway Patrol and the state fire marshal stay in their jobs after she takes office. Kelly has announced that Col. Mark Bruce will continue leading the patrol and Doug Jorgensen will continue serving as the state's chief fire safety official. Both were appointees of former Republican Gov. Sam Brownback. Bruce has been Highway Patrol superintendent since January 2015 and has worked for the agency for 29 years. Kelly called him a strong advocate for officers. Jorgensen has been fire marshal since July 2012. He previously worked for the Kansas Bureau of Investigation and Ellis County Sheriff's Department. Kelly said his experience in law enforcement make him a "valuable addition" to her administration. Kelly takes office Jan. 14.

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Staff Allege Violence, Sex Abuse at Kansas Juvenile Prison

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Allegations of violence between staff members and sexual relationships between workers and underage inmates at Kansas' only juvenile corrections facility were uncovered during a state audit prompted by allegations that a former superintendent of the center assaulted an employee. Auditors sought to contact 229 former and current employees of the Kansas Juvenile Correctional Complex in Topeka but only 48 responded. Of those, seven people reported being attacked or assaulted by other staff. Auditors also received three reports of sexual relationships between staff and youth at the facility, according to Kansas News Service . Other comments alleged staff removed residents from solitary confinement when auditors visited. Staff at the Kansas Legislative Division of Post Audit said that the number of responses was too low to draw definitive conclusions but that the comments were still concerning. All the comments were anonymous and could not be verified.

Kansas state Sen. Anthony Hensley and state Rep. John Alcala sought the audit after a center employee reported in 2017 that then-superintendent Kyle Rohr assaulted her. Rohr was convicted of battery in July for grabbing an accountant's arm after she failed to gather enough volunteers for a Christmas party. Rohr resigned following the conviction. When the audit was conducted in July, 171 residents ages 13 to 21 lived at the complex, which provides maximum- and medium-security detention for young people convicted of charges that would be felonies if they were adults. In 2012, auditors found issues of management, safety, training and staff discipline at the center. Another audit in 2015 found some of the problems were resolved, while others, such as outdated policies and inadequate supervision of youth at the facility, were not adequately addressed. This year's audit provided mixed results. Six respondents agreed with the statement that "Employee morale at KJCC is high," while 23 employees disagreed. Sixteen respondents agreed that "Appropriate actions are taken when staff violate policies," while 21 disagreed. Twenty-three respondents agreed that they feel safe working at the facility and 12 disagreed. Some respondents said they felt intimidated or threatened by co-workers or management and some feared retaliation from peers or management. The audit also received multiple comments about a "pervasive 'boys' club' mentality" that gives preferential treatment to favored staff and encourages others to quit, and lenient treatment of residents that puts staff in danger. Kansas Department of Corrections spokesman Samir Arif declined to comment on personnel matters. He said allegations of sexual assault are investigated according to guidelines set by the federal Prison Rape Elimination Act.

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Kansas Rep.-Elect Watkins Taps Aides from GOP, Jenkins Staff

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas Rep.-elect Steve Watkins has appointed members of his predecessor's staff and a state Republican Party official to key positions in his congressional office. The GOP congressman has announced that Jim Joice will serve as communications director. Joice has been the Kansas Republican Party's executive director. Watkins also announced that Bill Roe will be deputy chief of staff and Adam York will serve as legislative director. Roe was chief of staff to retiring Rep. Lynn Jenkins, and York was her deputy chief of staff. Watkins said earlier that Colin Brainard will be his chief of staff. Brainard worked previously for Jenkins but more recently as executive director of Congress' Joint Economic Committee. Watkins will represent the 2nd District of eastern Kansas and replace Jenkins on Jan. 3.

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Departing Kansas House Leader to Head Rural Issues Committee

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) _ A Republican leader in the Kansas House who was ousted from his position will serve as chairman of new Rural Revitalization Committee. Departing Majority Leader Don Hineman's new assignment for 2019 and 2020 will have him leading a committee that will examine challenges facing rural areas that include declining populations and limited access to broadband service. He was appointed by House Speaker Ron Ryckman Jr., a fellow Republican from Olathe who grew up in southwest Kansas. Hineman is a farmer and rancher from Dighton. He is a GOP moderate and was re-elected to the House this year but was voted out as majority leader earlier this month after the Republican majority became more conservative.  Ryckman said he created the committee to make sure rural communities ``get a fair shake.'' 

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Fewer Women Will Hold Seats in Kansas Legislature Next Year

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Fewer women won seats this election for the Kansas Legislature at a time more women captured legislative seats nationwide. The Wichita Eagle reports Kansas had been above the national average in terms of the percentage of legislative seats held by women but will fall below the national average come January. The National Conference of State Legislatures says Kansas had 48 female lawmakers, and women held 28.5 percent of all seats this year. Once new lawmakers take office in January, that number will drop to 43 with women holding just 26 percent of seats. The losses come even as Kansas elected Democrat Laura Kelly as its third female governor. Senator Vicki Schmidt also takes over as insurance commissioner after years without a woman holding a statewide executive office.

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Prosecutor to Review Fatal Crash 

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Prosecutors will review a crash that killed a 24-year-old Kansas man for possible criminal charges. The Wichita Eagle reports that Sedgwick County Sheriff's Sergeant Lanon Thompson says the collision that killed Logan Owens remains under investigation. He says the agency intends to present its findings to the Sedgwick County District Attorney Marc Bennett's Office. Owens was a passenger in a vehicle that ran a stop sign and collided with another vehicle around 3:30 a.m. Thursday. The crash report says the man driving the vehicle carrying Owens was taken to a hospital with serious injuries. The other driver received possible minor injuries but refused treatment. The report says authorities are investigating possible drug or alcohol use at the time of the crash.

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Planted Wheat Acres in Kansas May Be Lowest in Century

HUTCHINSON, Kan. (AP) — Low prices and a surplus of wheat have moved farmers away from the Kansas staple for the past two years. Now the wet weather that has kept growers out of their fields planting time this fall could further push the state's winter wheat acres toward the lowest point in a century. The Hutchinson News reports that acres planted to wheat in 2017 and 2018 neared 100-year lows. Last year's 7.7 million wheat acres hit the lowest point in 60 years. Winter wheat is planted in the fall in Kansas. The wet weather that delayed wheat planting also slowed down fall harvest of other crops. Some farmers who planned to plant wheat following grain sorghum or soybeans didn't have time to plant once harvest was over. Many were harvesting late into November.

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Gathering in Kansas Highlights Growing 'Storm Tourism' Trend

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Storm chasers and meteorologists from across the country will be gathering next year in Wichita for a convention some see as an opportunity to gain recognition for the city as a destination for the growing "storm tourism" trend. The National Storm Chaser Convention will be held February 8-10. This will be its first time in Wichita. Former AccuWeather executive and keynote speaker Mike Smith helped convince organizers that Wichita would be an ideal place for it. Smith says people from all over the world come to the central United States to go on storm tours as an adventure. Among the new sessions is a panel discussion that will bring storm chasers together with law enforcement to discuss ways to make storm chasing beneficial for everyone.

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Topeka 3-Year-Old Left Alone on School Bus

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A Topeka school district's new school bus service is facing criticism after one of its drivers left a 3-year-old boy along on a bus for more than two hours when temperatures were in the 30s and 40s. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that that the incident came near end of a year in which Topeka Unified School District 501 hired Kansas Central School Bus to replace the accident-plagued Durham School Bus Services. School district spokeswoman Misty Kruger called the situation unacceptable, adding that the district has taken action to ensure none of its students would ever again ride with the driver involved. The driver's identity hasn't been made public. Kruger says the district was reviewing safety protocols with Kansas Central and reviewing the incident to determine what additional steps were needed.

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Kansas Man's Wish for 2 Front Teeth for Christmas Comes True

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — A Kansas man's wish for two front teeth for Christmas is coming true. The Kansas City Star reports that a local church and friends helped raise money for Olathe man Evans Kamuru's dental implants. Kamuru wrote on Facebook that one front tooth broke off when he was using his teeth to cut tape and wrap presents last Christmas season. He says the other one broke in January when he was eating a waffle. Kamuru says both teeth had crowns and were weak. His friends created a group to help raise money for implants. Lenexa's Gospel Outreach Center chipped in $15,000 this month, and a dentist offered a discount. The newspaper reports that it will take months to insert the implants, but Kamuru will have two new teeth by next Christmas.

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Gun Store Courts Women with Department Store Approach

LEE'S SUMMIT, Mo. (AP) — With a scent machine that wafts grapefruit and vanilla fragrances through the air, guns displayed in cases similar to those found in jewelry stores and a high-end women's fashion boutique, the suburban Kansas City, Missouri, business that Bren and Mike Brown opened three years ago aims to take the women's gun store concept well past pink guns. "There's nothing like this across the United States," Bren Brown said as she walked around the 33,000-square-foot Frontier Justice store in Lee's Summit. Public radio station KCUR reports the luxury department store concept could be an important development for the $11 billion retail gun industry, which is increasing efforts to target women amid sluggish gun sales following the election of President Donald Trump. It's tough to pin down specific numbers, but Brown said retail firearm sales are clearly down since Trump was elected president because many people had purchased firearms in anticipation of anti-gun legislation had Hillary Clinton won the election. Statistics from the FBI's National Instant Criminal Background Check System show more background checks for gun purchases were run in 2016 than in any other year on record. In 2017, they dropped by about 8 percent. They are on pace for a slight increase in 2018. Gun stores are typically big-box retailers that cater to hunters or small shops packed with row after row of rifles. Brown said she noticed husbands and wives would sometimes walk together into a sporting goods store with their children, but that the wife and kids would go back outside and wait in their car while he shopped. And smaller stores, which sometimes have low ceilings and little natural light, seem too unwelcoming for some women, she said. With a women's fashion boutique, small cafe and concierge-style service for VIP members of the on-site shooting range, Frontier Justice offers women and families a shopping experience more tailored to their needs, Brown said. The store hosts events such as date nights, during which each couple gets a gun and shooting lane rental, two boxes of ammunition, dinner for two and a keepsake photo. Other aspects of the shopping experience speak to the Browns' values. The motto "faith, family, freedom" receives prominent placement in signage and marketing materials. Brown believes attracting more families to the firearms community will lead to stronger Second Amendment protections for future generations. Frontier Justice opened a second store last year in Kansas City, Kansas.

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Duke Returns to No. 1 in AP Poll; KU Drops to 5th

Duke moved to No. 1 after blowing out Kentucky in its season opener, only to lose the top spot two weeks later with a loss to Gonzaga in Maui. Now, the Blue Devils are back at No. 1. Buoyed by a win over No. 12 Texas Tech and Kansas' loss at No. 18 Arizona State, Duke moved atop The Associated Press Top 25 released on Monday, receiving 35 of 64 first-place votes. No. 2 Michigan received nine first-place votes, No. 3 Tennessee got 12, and No. 4 Virginia and No. 5 Kansas received four each. No. 6 Nevada, Gonzaga, Michigan State, Florida State and Virginia Tech rounded out the top 10.

 

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