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Headlines for Tuesday, January 30, 2018

Area news headlines from the Associated Press

New Kansas Governor Faces Wild Race, Possible Spoiler's Help

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Backers of the state's incoming Republican governor expect his elevation to boost his chances of keeping the job after this year's elections.  Many Democrats are more worried about a high-profile independent candidate becoming a spoiler benefiting the GOP.  Republican Jeff Colyer is scheduled to be sworn in Wednesday afternoon. He'll move up from lieutenant governor to replace outgoing GOP Governor Sam Brownback as Brownback steps down for an ambassador's post.  Colyer's supporters believe he'll now be free to distance himself from his unpopular predecessor in what is already a wild race for governor this year.  Democrats doubt it, though, because of Colyer's seven years as Brownback's loyal No. 2.  A big issue for them is whether Kansas City-area businessman Greg Orman's campaign for governor as an independent hurts the Democratic nominee.

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Brownback Critics Mock Fasting Proclamation with Pizza Party

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Departing Governor Sam Brownback wants Kansas residents to observe his final full day in office with prayer and fasting, but some critics are opting for pizza and beer.  The governor's office issued its last proclamation, designating Tuesday as a "Day of Prayer and Fasting." He's resigning at 3 pm Wednesday to become U.S. ambassador-at-large for international religious freedom.  Critics posted plans on Facebook for a 24-hour "Bye Brownback" pizza and beer party starting at 3 pm.  Brownback said in a statement Monday that he feels blessed to have served the state. He said he would like to observe a time of prayer and fasting before, in his words, "God takes me on to the next part of my journey."  Fellow Republican Lt. Gov. Jeff Colyer will succeed Brownback as governor.

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Deeper Review of Kansas School Funding Likely After Audit 

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas's attorney general and conservative lawmakers worry that the State Department of Education has informally tweaked policies determining how school funding is distributed. Their concerns are likely to prompt a broad, independent audit of how the department distributes more than $4 billion in aid each year to the state's 286 school districts. Education Commissioner Randy Watson said Tuesday that he's working on a plan for such a review. A state audit last month said a calculation used by the department for decades in distributing transportation funds was "not authorized" by law and cost the state an extra $45 million over the past five years. Top Republican legislators failed to get the department's deputy commissioner suspended but continue to ask whether similar issues exist elsewhere in the funding formula.

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Ruling: Kansas Law Targeting Israel Boycotts Chills Speech

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) _ A federal judge has temporarily blocked a Kansas law barring state contractors from participating in boycotts against Israel, saying the state law violates their free speech rights. U.S. District Judge Daniel Crabtree ruled Tuesday that the U.S. Supreme Court has held that the ``First Amendment protects the right to participate in a boycott like the one punished by the Kansas law.'' Crabtree granted the request from the American Civil Liberties Union to block enforcement of the law while the case proceeds. The judge found it is ``highly likely'' that the Kansas law is invalid and blocking it protects a constitutional right. The law that took effect in July prohibits the state from entering into contracts with individuals or companies participating in a boycott of Israel. Twenty-four states have such policies. 

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Tougher Penalties for Hoax Emergency Calls Under New Bill

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Stiffer penalties would be possible for calling in hoax emergency calls under a bill introduced in the Kansas House in response to a deadly police shooting in Wichita. The Wichita Eagle reports that the bill introduced Tuesday would allow for a murder prosecution if someone dies during a future "swatting" prank. Twenty-eight-year-old Andrew Finch was unarmed when he was killed last month as officers responded to a fake story about a shooting and kidnapping at his home. Twenty-five-year-old Tyler Barriss, of Los Angeles, is accused of making the false call. Court documents say it stemmed from a small wager in a "Call of Duty" online video game tournament. Barriss has been criminally charged with involuntary manslaughter, giving false alarm and interference with a law enforcement officer.

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House Approves More Liquor Hours, Tougher Drunk Driving Penalties

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The Kansas House approved a bill that would toughen penalties in some drunken driving cases on the same day it approved allowing restaurants to serve alcohol earlier in the morning. One bill would allow restaurants to begin serving alcohol at 6 a.m., rather than 9 a.m. Restaurants and bars would still stop serving at 2 a.m. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports supporters said the bill would bring the state in line with surrounding states, which attract breakfast and brunch business away from Kansas. The bill faced little opposition. The other bill would toughen penalties in some fatal drunken driving cases, with the minimum for aggravated battery increasing from 38 months to 47 months and the minimum for involuntary manslaughter rising from 62 to 89 months. Both bills still require Senate approval.

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Bill Would Require 1 Year Between Lawmaking and Lobbying

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A proposed bill before the Kansas House would require lawmakers and some state officials to wait a year after leaving office before they could become lobbyists. The House Elections Committee discussed the bill on Monday but took no action. Current state law prohibits lawmakers and public officials from being lobbyists only while they are serving in state government. The Lawrence Journal-World reports the bill imposing the one-year wait would apply to lawmakers and some statewide officials, including the governor, lieutenant governor, secretary of state and insurance commissioner. It also would apply to cabinet secretaries, heads of other state agencies and senior staff of those agencies. The bill would not prevent lawmakers for lobbying without pay or from taking a job at a company or organization that lobbies state government.

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Feds Drop Pursuit of Firearms Charge in Kansas Bomb Case

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — The government has decided not to pursue one of the charges against a man accused of plotting to bomb an apartment complex housing Somali immigrants in western Kansas. The 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on Tuesday granted a government request to end its appeal of a lower court's order dismissing a firearms charge against Curtis Allen. A judge last year had thrown out that count after an appeals court ruling in an unrelated case that a person convicted of misdemeanor domestic battery under a city ordinance can legally carry a gun. Allen and co-defendants Patrick Stein and Gavin Wright still face charges of conspiracy to use a weapon of mass destruction and conspiracy against civil rights. Wright also is accused of lying to the FBI. Trial begins March 19.

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Wounded Girl Was Directly in Cop's Line of Fire, Lawyer Says
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WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — An attorney for the family of a 9-year-old girl injured when a Wichita police officer shot at her dog described the situation as "extremely dangerous." The Wichita Eagle reports that attorney Charley O'Hara viewed body camera video Monday. He says the girl was so directly in the line of fire that the flashlight shining from above the officer's gun barrel illuminated her face before he fired. O'Hara says the girl "thought the officer was shooting directly at her." She was wounded by a bullet fragment. The shooting happened in late December after officers responded to a report that her father was threatening to hurt himself. The officer said the dog charged him while inside the house with the girl and her three siblings. The officer has since been fired.

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Maine Man Bound over for Trial in Shooting Death in Kansas

MINNEAPOLIS, Kan. (AP) — A Maine man will be tried for murder in the shooting death of a Kansas man in August. Robert Colson, of Bucksport, Maine, was bound over for trial Monday after a preliminary hearing into the death of Matthew Schoshke at his home in Tescott, about 25 miles northwest of Salina. The Salina Journal reports Colson faces charges of second-degree murder, theft and burglary. The trial is scheduled to start June 11. Prosecutors say Colson took Schoshke's dog and drove his truck to California. He was arrested about two weeks after Schoshke's truck was found in California. Colson was injured while trying to escape from an Amtrak train after a person on the train was stabbed. The dog was returned to Schoshke's family.

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Judge Won't Release Records in 1988 Kansas Disappearance

LEAVENWORTH, Kan. (AP) — A judge has denied a request from the parents of a Kansas teenager who disappeared nearly 30 years ago to release some of the investigative records in the case. Alberta Leach said she and her husband are "devastated" and considering an appeal. They contend the investigation into the disappearance of their 17-year-old son, Randy Leach, was botched, The Kansas City Star reports. They sued last year, alleging that authorities violated the Kansas Open Records Act by refusing to release the records created before 1993. Leavenworth County District Judge David King ruled that the records "contain no information" that would "promote the public interest." The ruling was released Sunday. But the family is "not giving up," Alberta Leach said Monday. "We had hope, have had hope for 30 years," she said. "We got to keep that up." According to the Leaches' lawsuit, a 2014 report indicated that the FBI and Kansas Bureau of Investigation had a suspect in the 1990s but the person died in prison. The same person had been a suspect in two 1990 homicides that occurred 7 miles from the Leaches' home. Randy Leach was last seen April 16, 1988, at a party in Leavenworth County. The case was classified as a homicide in 2002, though no one has been charged and his body was never found. Major Jim Sherley, the undersheriff at the Leavenworth County Sheriff's Office, commended the judge's decision. Sherley said the ruling will enhance the likelihood that the case is eventually solved because it protects the identities of confidential witnesses. Alberta Leach said she and her husband, Harold Leach, of Linwood, had hoped the judge would have ruled differently. They wanted the judge to provide the family an opportunity to find a clue in the documents that would lead to answers.

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Kansas Interns Must Sign Confidentiality Agreement

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The Kansas Legislature requires interns to sign agreements to keep anything that takes place or is said in a lawmaker's office confidential, or the interns could be fired.  Employment law experts who reviewed the agreement for The Kansas City Star say it is written so broadly it could deter interns from reporting harassment or illegal activity, and might violate the First Amendment.  Legislative leaders say the agreement is intended to remind interns that private political discussions should stay private, although they acknowledge the intention is not clear.  The Star uncovered the agreement as part of an open records request.  It comes as the Legislature is discussing ways to improve transparency in the Statehouse, enhance treatment of interns and respond to sexual harassment at the Capitol.

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Crews Rescue Boy from Car Submerged in Kansas City Creek

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Fire crews have rescued a 4-year-old boy after he was left in a running car that rolled into a Kansas City creek in near freezing temperatures.  Kansas City Fire Department Deputy Chief James Garrett says the child was "very lucky" crews were nearby Monday afternoon when the car was knocked into gear. The Kansas City Star reports that the car then rolled into Brush Creek while his mother was in a business. A person then flagged down a fire department rescue unit, and firefighters were able to knock out a window to pull the child from the submerged vehicle as temperatures dropped into the lower 30s.  Garrett says the child was taken to a hospital with his mother to be examined.

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Kansas Officer Fired for Violating Policy in Deadly Shooting

LEAVENWORTH, Kan. (AP) — Authorities say a Kansas police officer who fatally shot a man has been fired.  
Leavenworth Police Chief Patrick Kitchens said in an email Monday that Officer Matthew Harrington was terminated Friday for violating the department's use of deadly force policy. The release says Harrington was responding in July to a domestic argument over who owned a sport utility vehicle when he shot and killed 47-year-old Antonio Garcia Jr. while Garcia was in the SUV.  Harrington doesn't have a listed phone number and it wasn't immediately known if he had an attorney.  Kitchens says police aren't releasing body camera footage because the investigation is ongoing and it's classified as evidence.  Leavenworth County prosecutor Todd Thompson said in a news release that it's reviewing the shooting and awaiting requested information.

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Kansas Judge Won't Release Records in 1988 Disappearance

LEAVENWORTH, Kan. (AP) — A Kansas judge has denied a request to release police records in the nearly 30-year-old disappearance of a Kansas teen.  Alberta Leach says she and her husband, Harold Leach, are "devastated" and considering an appeal. The Kansas City Star reports that their son, Randy Leach, was 17 when he vanished in the spring of 1988.  Their lawsuit alleged that authorities violated the Kansas Open Records Act by refusing to release some of the older records. But Leavenworth County District Judge David King ruled that the records "contain no information" that would "promote the public interest."  Maj. Jim Sherley, the sheriff's office undersheriff, commended the decision, which was released Sunday. Sherley says it will enhance the likelihood that the case is one day solved by protecting the identities of confidential witnesses.

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Body in Kansas Ditch Investigated as Suspicious Death

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Sedgwick County authorities say the death of a man whose body was found in a ditch is being investigated as suspicious.  Spokesman Lt. Tim Myers said a passer-by saw the body in the ditch near Haysville Monday afternoon.  Myers says the man's age has not been determined. He released no information on how the man died or whether the body showed signs of trauma.

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After Silver Alert, Elderly Salina Man Found Dead in Car

SALINA, Kan. (AP) — Salina police say an elderly man who was the subject of a statewide Silver Alert was found dead in his car.  A Dickinson County deputy on Monday found the body of 89-year-old Gene Oliver Wolfe after receiving a report that a car had gone off a county road.  Wolfe, who had Alzheimer's and dementia, was reported missing Saturday afternoon. Relatives said he left his home and said he was going to his parents' gravesite in Manchester.  Authorities found no signs of foul play and no autopsy will be ordered.

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Man Pleads Guilty in Traffic Death while Fleeing Police

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) — A Kansas City, Kansas, man has pleaded guilty to causing a deadly crash while fleeing from a Kansas Highway Patrol trooper.  The Kansas City Star reports that 47-year-old David Colvin admitted to a charge of involuntary manslaughter in the August 2016 death of Janet Eimer. The 66-year-old Kansas City, Kansas, woman died when Colvin took off after the trooper tried to stop him for a traffic violation. He then ran a red light and collided with Eimer's vehicle.  The patrol said at the time that the trooper hadn't started to pursue the vehicle, but was following at a distance when the crash occurred. Sentencing is set for March 23.

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Kansas Shelter Launches Barn Program for Feral Cats

HUTCHINSON, Kan. (AP) — An animal shelter in central Kansas is hoping to address rodent problems by using feral cats.  The Hutchinson News reports that the Hutchinson Animal Shelter's Barn Cat Program launched last week. The program matches feral cats with applicants wanting to control rodent populations in barns, warehouses or outdoor structures.  Animal Services Director Stacy Cleaves says the program allows the shelter to save more cats at no cost to applicants. She says the cats are usually independent, but applicants still need to provide food, water and some type of shelter.  Feral cats who are matched with applicants will be neutered, vaccinated and have its ear clipped instead of being euthanized. Clipped ears are an international sign of a wild cat that's been neutered.  Cleaves reminds applicants the cats aren't "going to cuddle with you."

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Child Experts: Just Say "NO" to Facebook's New Kids App

BOSTON (AP) — Child development experts and advocates are urging Facebook to pull the plug on its new messaging app for kids under 13.  A group letter sent Tuesday to CEO Mark Zuckerberg argues that younger children aren't ready to have social media accounts, navigate the complexities of online relationships or protect their own privacy.  Facebook launched the free Messenger Kids app in December, pitching it as a way for children to chat with family members and friends while giving oversight to parents. The social media giant has said that it consulted with parenting experts.  But a group of 100 other childhood experts, advocates and parenting organizations is raising concerns. Led by the Boston-based Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood, the group includes psychiatrists, pediatricians, educators and the children's music singer Raffi Cavoukian

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