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Headlines for Tuesday, June 5, 2018

Area news headlines from the Associated Press

Kansas Utility Shuts Down Largest Plant After Fatal Accident

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The largest electric utility in Kansas has shut down its biggest generating plant following an accident that left two workers with fatal burns.  Westar Energy confirmed Monday that the employees died Sunday night at the University of Kansas Medical Center in Kansas City, Kansas. They were flown there by helicopter after the accident late Sunday morning at the Jeffrey Energy Center, about 30 miles northwest of Topeka.  The company identified the workers as Operations Supervisors Craig Burchett of Overbrook and Jesse Henson of Manhattan but did not provide additional details about them. Westar said equipment with high-pressure steam behind it apparently failed.  Westar said the plant's three coal-fired generating units are shut down while the "full circumstances" are reviewed.  Jeffrey accounts for nearly 26 percent of Westar's total generating capacity.

(This story has been corrected to show that the Jeffrey center accounts for nearly 26 percent of Westar's generating capacity, not 30 percent.)

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16 Arrested for Blocking Door to Kansas Governor's Office

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The Kansas Highway Patrol has arrested 16 protesters who blocked access to Kansas Governor Jeff Colyer's ceremonial office by sitting outside the door.  The people arrested Monday for misdemeanor criminal trespassing were part of the Poor People's Campaign. They were protesting over health care issues and environmental problems.  Colyer has opposed expanding the state's Medicaid coverage for needy residents as contemplated by the 2010 federal Affordable Care Act. The Republican governor was traveling Monday.  The campaign began weekly protests May 21. Each one has started with a rally and ended with a demonstration in which participants have been arrested or cited for blocking traffic.  The patrol said the group violated the terms of its permit for Monday's rally by sitting in front of Colyer's office, yelling and singing.

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Gun on Jeep Latest Way GOP Candidate Kobach Stirs Outrage

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Republican Kris Kobach promoted his campaign for Kansas governor by riding in a recent parade in a jeep with a replica machine gun mounted on the back. The move stirred criticism on social media and the city holding the parade apologized. Kobach didn't — and said Tuesday that he might use the jeep more often than previously intended. It's the latest example of the Kansas secretary of state and sometime adviser to President Donald Trump stirring controversy in the political center and left. Kobach is distinguishing himself in a seven-person GOP field that includes incumbent Governor Jeff Colyer. Political scientists said Tuesday that Kobach is appealing to a conservative base and fellow Trump supporters. His latest controversy may help get his voters to the polls in the August 7 election.

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Memorial Highways Designated to Honor Fallen Kansas Officers

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Ten stretches of Kansas roadways are being designated as memorial highways to honor fallen Kansas law enforcement officers. The Lawrence Journal-World reports that the memorial designations were authorized in a bill that Kansas lawmakers passed this year. Gov. Jeff Colyer's office announced this week that he held a ceremonial bill signing in southwest Johnson County. The memorial highways honor Bernard Hill, Maurice Plummer, Larry Huff, Conroy O'Brien, Jimmie Jacobs, Ferdinand "Bud" Pribbenow, Dean Goodheart, John McMurray, James Thornton and Brandon Collins. The highways include stretches in the Lawrence, Hutchinson, Manhattan, Wichita and suburban Kansas City area.

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Kansas Agency Won't Release info About Dead Boy

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas' child protection agency says it can't release any information about a dead child because there's no finding the boy died of abuse or neglect.  The Wichita Eagle filed a records request with the Department for Children and Families for information relating to 5-year-old Lucas Hernandez after a private investigator found the boy's remains under a bridge and covered with debris.  A state law says the department must provide upon request a summary of its previous contact with a child who dies of abuse or neglect. But the agency says there's currently no finding that Lucas died of abuse.  Emily Glass is the live-in girlfriend of Lucas' father. She led an investigator to Lucas's remains on May 24, months after reporting him missing. Glass had been suspected of abusing the Wichita boy.

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Kansas City Bus Agency Refuses to Disclose Settlement Amount

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) — The Kansas City Area Transportation Authority has refused to disclose how much it paid to settle a whistleblower lawsuit, citing a new policy that exempts it from open records laws in Kansas and Missouri.  The Kansas City Star says the transit agency has denied its request for payment information about the 2016 lawsuit. According to the policy adopted in January, the agency may withhold records and close meetings at its discretion.  An internal investigation found that Kansas City's RideKC bus system employees were stealing parts, tools and supplies. The authority's former human resources director, Jimmy Fight, raised the issue to the system's CEO, Robbie Makinen. Fight filed a lawsuit in 2016 that alleged that he was fired for raising the issue. The case was settled in three months.

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Missouri Police Chase Victim Headed to See Newborn Daughter

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — A victim in a suburban Kansas City police chase that killed four people has been identified as a father who was headed to see his newborn daughter.  The Kansas City Star reports that Aaron Daniel was identified by Kansas City police as one of the victims in the crash Friday. Independence police were pursuing a Jeep they believed to be stolen, which fled into Kansas City and crashed into another vehicle at an intersection.  Daniel's daughter was born two days before the collision.  His father, McAllister Daniel, says the 29-year-old was on the way to his partner's home in Kansas City to "celebrate their newborn." He says his son also has three other children, ages 5, 7 and 10.  McAllister Daniel calls the police's decision "reckless," saying possible auto theft isn't worth four deaths.

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Report: Almost Half of Kansas Winter Wheat Crop Struggling

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A new report suggests that almost half of the winter wheat crop in Kansas continues to struggle.  The National Agricultural Statistics Service reported Monday that 16 percent of the wheat is rated as "very poor," while another 33 percent is in poor condition.  The report said 35 percent is in fair condition, 15 percent is rated in good condition and 1 percent in excellent condition.  But 96 percent of the wheat crop has headed, just behind the five-year average of 97 percent at this point in the year.  The corn crop is in better shape, with 48 percent in good condition and 10 percent in excellent condition. It's 97 percent planted.  The report also said 61 percent of the soybean crop has emerged, well ahead of this time last year.

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Kansas Governor Candidate Decries "Snowflake Meltdown"

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach says the outrage over his appearance in a parade atop a Jeep with a giant replica gun mounted on the back is "the left trying to attack guns" and the Second Amendment.  The Republican gubernatorial candidate said in a tweet Sunday that he will "not back down in the face of a snowflake meltdown and outrage culture."  The Kansas City suburb of Shawnee apologized in a statement to those who felt unsafe after Kobach's appearance at the Saturday morning parade.  The Kansas Division of Emergency Management says someone subsequently hacked its Twitter account and sent a message that read: "Hey Kris, I think you are a bad guy with a gun. Also, maybe worse, you a dumb guy with a gun."

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Ballot Listing for Kansas Candidates with Same Name Attacked

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A Democratic congressional candidate is challenging how Kansas plans to distinguish on its primary ballot between two Republicans in the race with the same first and last names.  Democrat Laura Lombard filed an objection Monday to the secretary of state's plan to have the incumbent in the Wichita-area 4th District listed as Rep. Ron Estes.  The congressman faces another Ron Estes from Wichita in the August 7 primary. The challenger would be listed as Ron M. Estes.  Lombard said the plan gives the incumbent an unfair advantage and violates election laws.  State law generally prohibits titles on the ballot. But state elections director Bryan Caskey noted that it makes an exception when it's necessary to distinguish between two candidates.  A state board could rule by the end of next week.

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Conservative Icon David Koch Leaving Business, Politics

NEW YORK (AP) — Billionaire conservative icon David Koch is stepping down from the Koch brothers' network of business and political activities. The 78-year-old New York resident is suffering from deteriorating health, according to a letter that older brother Charles Koch sent to company officials Tuesday morning. Charles Koch wrote that he is "deeply saddened" by his brother's retirement. "David has always been a fighter and is dealing with this challenge in the same way," he wrote. David Koch is leaving his roles as executive vice president and board member for Koch Industries and a subsidiary, Koch Chemical Technology group, where he served as chairman and chief executive officer. Koch is also stepping down as chairman of the board for the Americans For Prosperity Foundation, the charity related to Koch brothers' primary political organization. Charles Koch had assumed a more visible leadership role in the brothers' affairs in recent years. He will continue to serve as the CEO of Koch Industries and the unofficial face of the network's political efforts. Democrats have demonized the Koch brothers for their outsized influence in conservative politics over the last decade. Former Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid regularly attacked Republicans for what he called a "Koch addiction." Yet the Kochs have clashed with the Trump administration at times. Citing concerns about Trump's style and substance, the network refused to endorse either presidential candidate in the 2016 election. And while they have praised Trump's policies on taxes, de-regulation and health care, they have aggressively attacked the Republican administration's trade policies. On Monday, the Koch network announced a multi-million-dollar campaign to oppose Trump's tariffs and highlight the benefit of free trade. Using the money they made from their Kansas-based family business empire, the Koch brothers have created what is likely the nation's most powerful political organization with short- and long-term goals. Their network has promised to spend $400 million to shape the 2018 midterm elections. They have also devoted significant time and resources to strengthening conservative influence on college campuses, in the Hispanic community and in the nonprofit sector. David Koch, who served as the Libertarian Party's vice presidential candidate in 1980, had begun focus more on philanthropy in recent years. The Manhattan resident donated $150 million to New York City's Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in 2015, the largest gift in the organization's history. He has also given $185 million in total donations to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, his alma mater. In an April interview with the Washington Examiner, Charles Koch described his younger brother this way: "David is much more political than I am." Charles continued: "David is a much better engineer than I am and is much more into the arts and social life. Obviously he's got to be or he wouldn't live in Manhattan. And David is much more into elective politics than I am." In Tuesday's letter, Charles Koch said his brother's "guidance and loyalty, especially in our most troubled times, has been unwavering." 

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Lawmaker to be Kansas Catholic Conference Executive Director

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A Republican legislator who is not running for re-election will become the next executive director of the Kansas Catholic Conference.  The state's four Catholic bishops on Monday announced the appointment of state Rep. Chuck Weber of Wichita. Weber plans to take over the job July 15 and will give up his Kansas House seat then rather than when his two-year term expires in early January.  The conference is the church's public policy arm in Kansas and represents the bishops at the Statehouse.  Weber will replace Michael Schuttloffel, who is stepping down from the executive director's job after 10 years.  Weber is a former television journalist who writes and produces short films, and he has served in the House since January 2016.

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Kansas State Library Faces Long Recovery from Fire

MANHATTAN, Kan. (AP) — Officials say Kansas State University's Hale Library suffered significant damage during a fire. Library dean Lori Goetsch tells the Topeka Capital-Journal that the university has contracted with an international disaster recovery business to restore the library following the May 22 blaze. Goetsch says the library has extensive water and smoke damage. The fire was contained to the building's roof, but hundreds of thousands of gallons of water were used to control the blaze. The library also contained the university's data center, and work remains to get the system fully back online. Goetsch says about 250 library staff and students will be moved to temporary offices until repair work is complete. Insurance adjusters will need about a month to assess the damage. It's unclear when the library will reopen.

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Texas Woman Guilty in Kansas Woman's Death, Stealing Baby

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A Texas woman has been convicted of killing a new mother in Kansas and kidnapping her baby. A Sedgwick County jury on Tuesday found 36-year-old Yesenia Sesmas guilty of first-degree premeditated and intentional murder, kidnapping and interference with parental custody. Prosecutors say she shot 27-year-old Laura Abarca in November 2016 at Abarca's Wichita apartment and abducted 6-day-old Sophia Gonzales. The baby was found safe about two days after the abduction at Sesmas's apartment in Dallas. Investigators said after Sesmas faked a pregnancy when she lost her unborn child, she drove to Wichita and Abarca in the head. The two women had worked together in the past. Sesmas had contended Abarca agreed to give her the baby after Sophie was born but changed her mind at the last minute.

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Retired Teacher Gives $7.4 Million to the University of Kansas

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — A retired high school teacher who lived in a modest two-bedroom home until her death has donated $7.4 million to the University of Kansas. The school says in a news release that Lavon Brosseau's gift will benefit students majoring in the arts, humanities and education. Brosseau said before her death in 2016 at the age of 88 that "It's not what you get in life that's important — it's what you share." The release said she was raised in a farmhouse that lacked plumbing and electricity. She taught English in Concordia and volunteered as a tutor well into her 80s. Her husband, Jack Brosseau, who co-owned a small glass company, died in 1998. The couple used their savings to buy farmland, which made up a large part of their estate.

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Wichita Seen as Potential Hub for Cybersecurity Jobs

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Officials say Wichita could potentially emerge as a hub for jobs battling cybercrimes.  The Wichita Eagle reports that the momentum is being driven by the development of cybersecurity programs at several higher education institutions in the city. Officials cite a high demand for employees trained in how to protect computer networks.  Col. Joe Jabara is the vice wing commander for the 184th Intelligence Wing of the Kansas Air National Guard at McConnell Air Force Base. He says the cybersecurity programs could bring IT firms to the area because of an available newly trained workforce.  Jabara also says Wichita could become a cybersecurity hub because it's far from the coasts, where competition for such specialists is intense. The flat terrain would also make it easy for IT companies to get bandwidth.

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Police Say Man Dressed in Black Robbed a Wichita Bank

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Authorities are investigating a Wichita bank robbery. The Wichita Eagle reports that police say a man dressed in all black clothing pulled a gun Monday morning on a Valley State Bank employee. The man left the bank on foot. Officer Charley Davidson says investigators will look at surveillance video taken during the robbery as part of their investigation. No one was hurt in the robbery.

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Man Who Rode to Kansas Bank Robbery on Bike Pleads Guilty

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) — An Overland Park man has admitted robbing a bank after investigators were able to track him down because he left the bank on a bicycle and had a spider web tattoo on his left hand. The U.S. Attorney's office said 57-year-old Richard Armenta pleaded guilty Tuesday to the November 2017 robbery at a Capitol Federal Savings Bank branch. Armenta got away with cash but witnessed told investigators he rode a blue bicycle and had the spider web tattoo. On December 2, Overland Park Police officers responded to a disturbance call involving Armenta. They identified Armenta from video surveillance of the bank robbery, the tattoo and a blue bicycle in the back of his pickup. Sentencing is set for August 20. Both parties have agreed to recommend about three years in federal prison.

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Man Who Unsuccessfully Sought Mother-Child Sex Slaves Pleads Guilty

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A Kansas man who tried to recruit mother-child sex slaves has pleaded guilty to criminal charges. The Wichita Eagle reports Michael David Mitchell of Eskridge pleaded guilty last week to one count of enticement of a minor. Investigators say he was arrested last June at a Missouri hotel where he went to meet a person he thought was a woman interested in selling her 10-year-old daughter for sex acts. According to the plea agreement, he told authorities he was a sadist who was willing to pay thousands of dollars for a family that he could enslave in his home for about five years. The plea agreement also alleges Mitchell was carrying a duffel bag full of "material related to sexual torture" when he was arrested.

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Missouri Attraction Sues Kansas Man over TripAdvisor Review

BRANSON, Mo. (AP) — Owners of a southwest Missouri attraction are suing a Kansas cattle farmer over a review he wrote on TripAdvisor.  The Springfield News-Leader reports that Randy Winchester left a three-star review about Bigfoot on the Strip after visiting the Branson "fun park" with his daughter in March. The attraction includes thrill rides, a mini-golf course and a tour of Bigfoot Farms and its cattle.  Winchester says a man identifying himself as an owner of the attraction repeatedly contacted him and his daughter to complain about the review. Winchester then changed his review to one star.  Bigfoot on the Strip filed the lawsuit in April against Winchester, his daughter and their Kansas business, Dancing Cow Farms. Bigfoot's owners are asking the court to order the Winchesters to remove the reviews.  Both parties didn't respond to the newspaper for comment.

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Man Admits $145,000 Embezzlement from Kansas Company

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A 65-year-old Hutchinson man has pleaded guilty to embezzling $145,000 from the company where he worked. U.S. Attorney Stephen McAllister said Richard Yust pleaded guilty Tuesday to one count of wire fraud. In his plea, Yust admitted he stole the money while working as controller for F&H Insulation Sales and Service, Inc., in Kechi, Kansas. He used company credit cards to make unauthorized purchases for his personal use. Sentencing is set for August 20. He faces up to 20 years and a fine up to $250,000.

 

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