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Headlines for Tuesday, January 7, 2020

Pompeo Says He'll Stay at State, Forgoing Kansas Senate Run

WASHINGTON (AP) — Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has told reporters that he intends to remain in his job as top U.S. diplomat. That means he'll forgo a run for Senate from Kansas. That decision will make it harder for Republicans to retain that seat and maintain their majority in the chamber in November's elections. The popular former Kansas congressman has been considered a sure bet to be elected senator. Without him, Washington Republicans worry that Kris Kobach, a polarizing conservative who lost a race for governor last year, would become the GOP's Senate candidate and lose in the general election. 

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With Pompeo Out, GOP Can't Dodge Kansas Senate Race Headache

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Secretary of State Mike Pompeo's declaration that he won't run for the Senate from Kansas returned some Republicans to worrying that they can't block a polarizing conservative from winning the GOP nomination and putting the seat in play.  Some top Republicans saw Pompeo as the best bet for torpedoing hard-right immigration policy advocate Kris Kobach's bid for the Senate after Kobach lost the Kansas governor's race in 2018. Some anti-Kobach Republicans focused quickly Tuesday on the race's best-funded candidate so far. He is GOP Rep. Roger Marshall of western Kansas. Yet Marshall faces skepticism about his chances of beating Kobach.

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Kansas Sen. Moran is New Chairman of Veterans Committee

WASHINGTON (AP) — Kansas Sen. Jerry Moran is the new chairman of the U.S. Senate Veterans' Affairs Committee. Moran's office announced Tuesday that his fellow GOP senators had confirmed his appointment to lead the panel. Moran will replace former Georgia Sen. Johnny Isakson after Isakson retired from Congress at the end of last year. Moran has been a committee member since he began serving in the Senate in 2011. Moran served in the House before his election to the Senate in 2010 and was a member of the House Veterans' Affairs Committee from 1998 through 2010.

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Kansas Supreme Court Plans to Swear in New Justice January 24

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The Kansas Supreme Court plans to swear in a new justice Jan. 24. Evelyn Wilson is set to take her seat on the seven-member high court a little more than a month after Gov. Laura Kelly announced Wilson's appointment. Wilson has been a district judge in Shawnee County since 2004 and its administrative judge overseeing court operations since 2014. She is replacing former Supreme Court Justice Lee Johnson after he retired in September. Kelly has another appointment to fill because former Chief Justice Lawton Nuss retired in December. She is expected to name a replacement for Nuss by mid-March. 

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Lawrence Resident Wounded by Gunshot During Apparent Burglary
 
LAWRENCE, Kan. (KPR) - A Lawrence resident is recovering from a gunshot wound he received after interrupting an apparent burglary at his home.  Officers responded to a residence in the 2300 block of Wakarusa Drive around 4 pm Monday, where they discovered a man suffering from a gunshot wound. He was taken to an area hospital with non-life-threatening injuries.  The victim told police he was returning home when he interrupted the burglary in progress.  According to the victim, the suspect fired a weapon he was attempting to steal from the victim’s home while fleeing the scene.  That weapon was left behind as the suspect fled on foot.  No arrests have been made.  Police are asking anyone with information about this case to contact the Lawrence Police Department at (785) 832-7509.

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Southeast Kansas Sheriff Ousted from Office for Misconduct

INDEPENDENCE, Kan. (Montgomery County Chronicle) — The Montgomery County sheriff has been ousted from office.  Bobby Dierks (Dirks) was officially removed from office Monday, following a settlement hearing in Montgomery County District Court.  He had been suspended as sheriff since March 2019.  According to the Montgomery County Chronicle, Dierks admitted that he tried to stop one of his deputies from arresting his then-girlfriend on a charge of driving under the influence.  Dierks’s actions constitute misconduct in office, which, under state law, is subject to forfeiture of public office.  Monday's settlement agreement calls for Dierks to not seek public office for at least one year.  The former sheriff will not have to serve any jail time.  The settlement hearing and Dierks’ subsequent ouster from office now negates the need for a jury trial. 

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Democratic Mayor of Topeka Announces Run for Congress

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The Democratic mayor of Topeka has kicked off a campaign to challenge freshman Republican Congressman Steve Watkins. Michelle De La Isla told The Topeka Capital-Journal that she would concentrate on access to health care, job creation and infrastructure.  She made her formal announcement Monday that she's running for the 2nd Congressional District. In 2017,the 43-year-old De La Isla became the first Latina to be elected mayor of Topeka. She previously was the diversity coordinator for the utility company Evergy, as well as the executive director at Topeka Habitat for Humanity and chief financial officer at Housing and Credit Counseling in Topeka.

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Kansas Governor Turns to State Pension System for Budget Breathing Room

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Democratic Governor Laura Kelly is hoping to give Kansas more breathing room in its budget by slashing annual payments to its pension system for teachers and government workers. Kelly on Monday offered a new version of a plan that the Republican-controlled Legislature spiked last year. Kelly's proposal would allow the state to take 10 years longer to close a long-term gap in the funding for KPERS, the state pension system. The move would free up tens of millions of dollars each year to use on schools and social services. But it's not clear that her new plan will fare better than last year's.

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Kansas Court of Appeals Judge Announces Resignation

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The longest serving judge on the Kansas Court of Appeals announced on Monday that he will retire on April 3. Seventy-two-year-old Judge G. Joseph Pierron Jr.  has written 392 published opinions and heard thousands of appeals since he joined the state's second highest court in December 1990. The Office of Judicial Administration said in a news release that the governor appoints judges to the Kansas Court of Appeals, subject to a majority confirmation by the Kansas Senate. The governor has 60 days from the date the position becomes vacant to make the appointment.

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Escalating Protests Cloud Fight over Statehouse Rules

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The rise of protests at the Statehouse has exposed a complex landscape where rules diverge from one floor to the next and sanctions are inconsistently applied by law enforcement. Republican leaders in the Legislature, the Democratic governor’s administration and Capitol Police remain entangled in negotiations with the American Civil Liberties Union of Kansas over how to proceed. The discussions come after demonstrators with the Poor People's Campaign, which is focused on an array of social and economic issues, and those pushing for Medicaid expansion have been increasingly crossing paths with law enforcement over the past 18 months. 

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Layoffs Affect Kansas City Area Workers at Hallmark Cards, Russell Stover

KANSAS CITY, MO. (KSHB) — Days into the new year, three businesses with ties to the Kansas City area have announced layoffs.  Hallmark announced Monday that globally, 400 employees will no longer be employed.  In addition, KSHB TV reports that the parent company of Russell Stover’s has announced 300 layoffs and workers at Premier Surfaces in Riverside, Missouri, have also been laid off.  Laid-off workers at Hallmark and Russell Stover will receive severance pay and benefits.  Dan Fasching is one of the 200 workers at Premier Surfaces who was laid off. He said workers were neither given notice nor severance pay. They also did not receive health benefits, according to Fasching.  "None of us seen this coming," Fashing said.  Hallmark representatives said the company is streamlining to invest in new growth strategies, and in Kansas City, 325 workers will be laid off.  Lindt & Sprungeli (parent company of Russell Stover) said fewer than 10 of its employees will be laid-off in Kansas City.

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Key Boeing Supplier May Begin Shedding Workers

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A key Boeing supplier is asking if employees will take buyouts after it suspended production of fuselages and other parts for the troubled 737 Max aircraft. Spirit AeroSystems CEO Tom Gentile says the Wichita, Kansas, company will soon face difficult decisions about cutting jobs. He says Spirit still has no clear idea about when Max production will resume.  The Boeing 737 represents more than half of Spirit AeroSystems’ revenue. Gentile says his company is talking to Boeing about “different scenarios but nothing has been decided.”

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Kansas City, Kansas, Police ID City's First 2020 Homicide Victim

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) — Authorities have identified the victim of the first homicide of the year in Kansas City, Kansas. Police said in a news release Monday that 21-year-old Luis Deras-Orellana was the person shot early Sunday. He was taken to a hospital, where he died. No details have been released about a suspect or motive. Last year, 37 people were killed in Kansas City, Kansas.

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Kansas Man Dies After Falling Through Ice While Fishing

RUSSELL, Kan. (AP) — Authorities say a Kansas man died after falling through ice while fishing. The Russell County Sheriff's Department says 72-year-old James Schoenberger of Russell died Saturday afternoon after he was pulled from the river and taken to Russell Regional Hospital. The sheriff's office says Schoenberger was fishing in an area just south of Russell when he fell through the ice. The Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks conducted a boat accident investigation into the death.

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Memorial to Soldiers Vandalized by Anti War Protestors

ST. LOUIS (AP) - A memorial to soldiers in downtown St. Louis has been damaged by vandalism, including a spray-painted message of "No war."  It's unclear whether the vandalism is related to recent U.S. airstrikes.  But demonstrators marched through downtown St. Louis and protested in Kansas City over the weekend in opposition to further military action against Iran.  A Missouri Historical Society official called it sad that "anyone would deface a memorial to those who have made the supreme sacrifice for their country."  

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"Satanist" Soldier in Kansas Bomb Case Seeks to Change Plea

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) —Attorneys for an Army soldier, who prosecutors describe as a Satanist and who wanted to overthrow the U.S. government, have notified a court he intends to change his plea.  Prosecutors say Jarrett William Smith pleaded not guilty in September to charges of distributing explosives information and making a threatening interstate communication. A court notice posted yesterday (MON) shows a change of plea hearing is set for February 10 in Topeka.  Smith was a private stationed at Fort Riley.  He's accused of providing information about explosives to an FBI undercover agent and threatening to burn down the house of an anti-fascist.

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Burglary Suspect Crashes After KC-Area Police Chase

OVERLAND PARK, Kan. (AP) — A burglary suspect has been arrested after leading police on a chase in a Kansas suburb of Kansas City that ended in a crash. The Kansas City Star reported that the suspect allegedly drove in the wrong lanes, onto sidewalks and through a fence before crashing into a tree in Overland Park on Tuesday. Radio traffic indicated that the chase reached speeds of about 60 mph through residential neighborhoods and 80 to 85 mph on major thoroughfares. The suspect's name and details about whether he was injured were not immediately released.

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Missouri Senator Has Idea to Speed Up or Dismiss Impeachment

UNDATED (AP) - Missouri Senator Josh Hawley is proposing a rule change that would allow the Senate to dismiss the impeachment of President Donald Trump. Hawley's proposal, unveiled yesterday (MON), says the Senate could dismiss the articles of impeachment if the House doesn't deliver them within 25 days of its impeachment vote, which was December 18.  Already, ten Republican senators have signed on as co-sponsors of Hawley's proposal.  House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has delayed sending the articles of impeachment to the U.S. Senate.  Pelosi's delay is an effort to pressure the Senate to call witnesses during an impeachment trial.

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Judge Delays Ruling in Case of KU Researcher Who Denies Working for Chinese

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) — A federal judge has delayed making a ruling on a motion to dismiss the indictment against a researcher in Kansas accused of secretly working for a Chinese university. During a motions hearing Monday for Fenglin “Franklin” Tao, government attorneys told U.S. District Judge Julie Robinson they plan to file a superseding indictment next week in the case. The government alleges that Tao, a visiting professor at the University of Kansas, failed to report that he was working for Fuzhou University in China while doing federally-funded research in Kansas. Tao's attorneys have asked Robinson to dismiss the indictment because they contend a visiting scholar at KU fabricated the allegations against Tao after unsuccessfully trying to extort him.

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Kansas Police Officer Apologizes for Faked Expletive Written on Coffee Cup

HERINGTON, Kan. (AP) — A former Kansas police officer who made up a story that a McDonald's employee wrote an expletive and the word “pig” on a coffee cup has apologized. Herington Police Chief Brian Hornaday confirmed Monday that 23-year-old William Darling was the officer involved in the incident. Darling said in a statement to the Herington Times newspaper that was published Friday that he did not consider the “magnitude of the decision” and then “did not display the courage needed to end the situation before it got out of control.” Darling was not identified when his resignation from the Herington police force was announced last week.

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Kansas Computer Programmer Sentenced for Making Cyberattack Threat

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A computer programmer who offered “reputation management services” to a Wichita lawyer was sentenced Monday to three years of probation and a $2,000 fine for threatening cyberattacks against two websites that criticized that attorney's work. The U.S. attorney's office said in a news release that VIRAL Artificial Intelligence co-founder David Dorsett pleaded guilty in October to two counts of making extortionate threats via the internet. The 37-year-old Wichita man admitted that he contacted lawyer Brad Pistotnik in 2014 offering his services. Dorsett sent an email barrage to Leagle.com and Ripoffreport.com demanding they remove the information and threatening to target advertisers.

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Firefighter Dies After Falling Through Floor of Burning Home in Western Missouri

PECULIAR, Mo. (AP) — A Missouri firefighter died Sunday after falling through a floor while battling a house fire.  Officials have identified the victim as 30-year-old Chuck McCormick, who had been working with the West Peculiar Fire Protection District for just three weeks. He is survived by a wife and three children.  The fire was reported shortly after 11 am Sunday in the laundry room of a home in Peculiar, Missouri, which is about 30 miles south of Kansas City.  Grandview Fire Chief Ron Graham says the firefighter fell through the floor near the front door of the home as firefighters entered the home. The firefighter fell into the basement and was critically hurt. The injured firefighter was taken to a hospital where he died. The family that lives in the home was able to escape before firefighters arrived.

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Rural Kansas Struggles to Attract Psychiatrists

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Psychiatrists are so hard to come by in some rural parts of Kansas that out-of-state doctors now commonly treat patients through video conference. The Kansas News Service reports that Kansas is seeing an increase in patients seeking mental health treatment and the state can't find enough doctors, nurses and therapists to treat them. One measure from the federal government suggests only nine Kansas counties have enough psychiatrists, and they're mostly in or near populated areas. The state passed a law in 2017 adding psychiatry to the medical student loan program, but it's too early to tell how well it's working.

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Work Underway in Kansas, Missouri on Wind Farm Project

JOPLIN, Mo. (AP) — Work is underway on a 600-megawatt wind project in southwest Missouri and southeast Kansas. On the Missouri side, construction has started on the North Fork Ridge Wind Farm about 20 miles north of Joplin and is expected to begin in the next month around Golden City on the King’s Point Wind Farm. The Joplin Globe reports that both of those farms will consist of 69 wind turbines that will generate a total of about 300 megawatts. On the Kansas side, construction began in September on the Liberty Utilities-Empire District’s Neosho Ridge Wind Farm north of Parsons. The 139 turbines being built there will generate the other 300 megawatts of electricity.

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Motive for Kansas City-Area Crime Spree Still Unknown

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Investigators are still trying to determine what prompted a man to steal a gun at a suburban Kansas City store before driving to a car dealership and shooting a salesman. The man, who was identified as 26-year-old Jeffery Millsap, died last Thursday after he led authorities on a chase and was shot by a Clay County sheriff's deputy near Holt. Missouri State Highway Patrol Sgt. Bill Lowe says a gun found near Millsap after he was shot was the same gun stolen earlier Thursday from a sporting goods store in Liberty. It is still unclear if Millsap fired at officers before he was shot.

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Man Admits Shooting Fake Attack Ad in Wichita Mayor's Race

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — The lawyer for a man who shot a false attack ad against Brandon Whipple during the Wichita mayoral race says his client did not act alone. Whipple, who won the mayor's race, is suing unknown people and 21-year-old Matthew Colborn, a video producer who admits shooting an ad that falsely suggested that Whipple had been accused of sexual harassment at the Kansas Statehouse. In court filings, attorney Ross Hollander wrote that Colborn made the video at the direction of others, who are not identified in court records. It's still unclear whose idea the video was and who financed it.

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Arkansas Panel Issues Recommendations on State's Levees

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) — An Arkansas panel is calling for increased oversight of the state's levees after last year's historic flooding. The Arkansas Levee Task Force presented its final report Tuesday on the state's system of levees. Gov. Asa Hutchinson formed the panel after intense rain in Kansas and Oklahoma strained aging dams and levees all the way into Arkansas. A levy in the western part of the state that was breached. Hutchinson said he supports a plan to provide additional assistance through incentive grants that will encourage districts to bring levees up to U.S. Army Corps of Engineers standards.

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Gonzaga, Duke, KU Remain Atop AP Top 25 Men's Basketball Teams, Butler Climbs Up to No. 6

(AP) — Gonzaga, Duke and Kansas remain atop The Associated Press men's college basketball poll. The Bulldogs received 54 first-place votes from a 65-member media panel. The Blue Devils had nine first-place votes and the Jayhawks two. No. 4 Baylor moved into the top five for the first time in three years and undefeated Auburn was up to No. 5. Butler climbed five spots to No. 6 for the program's highest ranking ever.

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Kansas City Chiefs Prepare for Houston Texans at Arrowhead

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) - The Kansas City Chiefs will welcome the Texans to Arrowhead Stadium this Sunday for a rematch of their Week 6 game -- a game won by Houston. A spot in the AFC title game is riding on the outcome, but Kansas City is a markedly different team than the one that faced Houston in October.  Five starters were out that game and the Chiefs' defense was a mess. Now, all those big names are back on the field and the defense is playing as well as any unit in the NFL.

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