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Headlines for Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Area news headlines from the Associated Press

Expert Defends Estimates of Noncitizen Voters in Kansas

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) — An expert witness called by Secretary of State Kris Kobach in a trial over Kansas's voter registration law endured intense questioning over his estimation that 18,000 noncitizens have voted in the state. Jesse Richman, an associate professor of political science at Old Dominion, testified Tuesday in the sixth day of a federal lawsuit challenging the law, which requires people to show documentation when registering to vote. Richman has offered various estimates, ranging from 1,000 up to 18,000, based on surveys he conducted. Kobach has said the 18,000 estimate is the best available number to show the law is needed to address widespread voter fraud. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports Richman acknowledged under cross-examination that his surveys weren't peer reviewed. Instead, 200 political scientists signed a letter criticizing Richman's work.

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Kansas Governor Issues Drought Declarations Covering State

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas Governor Jeff Colyer has declared a drought emergency, warning or watch across the entire state. Colyer signed an executive order Tuesday following several weeks of abnormally dry conditions in all 105 counties. He declared an emergency for 28 southern Kansas counties and a warning for 29 other counties in central and southern Kansas. The remaining 48 counties are under a drought watch. The order directs state agencies to combat drought conditions. It also opens up land in the federal Conservation Reserve Program for cattle grazing and temporarily lifts height and weight restrictions on trucks for easier shipping of hay into drought-stricken areas. Colyer said the state must act because conditions are not expected to improve and "we need to get ahead of this as early as possible."

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At Least 13 Kid-on-Kid Sex Assault Cases on Bases in Kansas

FORT RILEY, Kan. (AP) — A decade after the Pentagon began confronting rape in the ranks, the U.S. military frequently fails to provide justice to the children of service members when they are sexually assaulted by other kids on base.  An Associated Press investigation finds that sex assault cases occurring where military kids live and learn often die on the desks of prosecutors. Criminal investigators shelved an unknown number of reports.  Instead of punishment or rehabilitation, offenders may be shuffled into the civilian world.  The Pentagon doesn't know the extent of the problem. On two bases in Kansas, records the Army acknowledges are incomplete document at least 13 sex assault cases among children or teens since 2007. Fort Riley accounted for 12, while Fort Leavenworth recorded one case.  Pentagon officials promised to take "appropriate actions."

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3 Cases of Measles Confirmed in Johnson County
 
OLATHE, Kan. (AP) — Three cases of the measles have been confirmed at a child care facility in suburban Kansas City.  The Johnson County, Kansas, Department of Health and Environment says on its website Tuesday that all three cases are in children under the age of 1, who are too young to be vaccinated. The department says it has reached out to contact those at risk for the disease. The affected children and people they have been in contact with will be excluded from the facility for three weeks.  Measles is a highly contagious respiratory disease caused by a virus. Cases in the U.S. are rare since creation of the vaccine, but the illness kills 146,000 people worldwide each year.  The disease is spread through the air by breathing, coughing or sneezing.

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Kansas Lawmakers Considering Wager on Sports Betting Bill

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas lawmakers are considering bringing sports betting to the state. But even with an estimated $1.3 billion a year in wagering on the line, not everyone is on board. A House committee hearing had a hearing Tuesday on a bill to allow the Kansas Lottery to offer sports betting in state-owned casinos, over the Internet and with mobile apps. The bill is a response to a U.S. Supreme Court case in which New Jersey is trying to overturn a federal law banning sports betting in all but four states. Hollywood Casino lobbyist Whitney Damron said sports betting should be limited to "brick-and mortar" locations to promote foot traffic. Major League Baseball is neutral but wants both a share of profits and betting available on mobile devices if it is legalized.

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BuzzFeed Lawsuit Against Kobach's Office Dismissed

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A lawsuit filed by BuzzFeed against Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach over an open records request has been dismissed. BuzzFeed contended in a lawsuit filed in October that Kobach's office refused to release emails containing any of 30 terms that relate to immigration or election-related terms. BuzzFeed said Kobach's office at first asked for $1,025 for 13 hours of work and an attorney's review, then refused to release any records when the reporter challenged the cost. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports Tuesday that Shawnee County District Judge Larry Hendricks ruled Kobach's office simply clarified that payment for the records was needed in advance. The judge noted that court filings showed BuizzFeed and Kobach's office continued to negotiate the records request and nothing suggested the request was denied.
 
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Kansas Family Adopts 4 Siblings at Once
 
OLATHE, Kan. (AP) — Four siblings in the Kansas foster care system have all been adopted by the same family.  The Kansas City Star reports that Johnson County District Court Judge Kathleen Sloan made the adoptions official on Monday for 17-year-old Alisia, 16-year-old Bradley, 15-year-old Cody and 11-year-old Emma.  Eric and Phyllis Watson received their licenses in August 2015 to become foster parents with the potential to adopt. Adoption agency KVC Kansas called the Watsons the next day with their first case: four siblings looking for a home where they could stay together. Officials say the children likely would have been split into separate foster homes had the Watsons not taken them in.  Sloan calls the adoptions "the best hearing that any judge gets to have in the United States."

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Missing Wichita Child's Stepmom Asks for Release from Jail

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — The stepmother of a missing Wichita boy is asking a judge to lower her bond so she can be released from jail.  An attorney for 26-year-old Emily Glass said in a motion filed Friday that Glass' $50,000 bond is too high. Glass is the stepmother of 5-year-old Lucas Hernandez, who hasn't been seen since February 17.  She is jailed on a misdemeanor child endangerment charge involving her 1-year-old daughter.  Glass' attorney argues she is not a threat to the community and wants to be with her husband and other child, who has been placed in state custody.  A court hearing is scheduled for Wednesday.  Also Monday, Wichita police said they have closed an emergency tip line for information on Lucas but urged the public to call in any tips they might have.

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Founder and Editor of Kansas LGBTQ Newspaper Dies

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — The founder and editor of the Liberty Press, a Kansas-based LGBTQ newspaper with the motto, "We were gay before it was cool," has died. The Wichita Eagle reports that Kristi Parker died Saturday after suffering a stroke. She was 49. Parker grew up in Wichita and, in 1994, became co-chairperson of the city's committee that organized an annual celebration of the area's gay and lesbian community. She produced a guide for the event, selling ads and writing stories. The guide evolved, and Parker established the Liberty Press the same year. The monthly publication eventually grew to average about 60 pages with 5,000 copies printed in each run, winning national awards. Parker's friend, former business partner and ex-wife, Sharon "Vinnie" Reed, says Parker was passionate about the project and her death means the end of the publication.

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Kansas Social Workers Keep Licenses Despite Child Tragedies

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A newspaper review of five years of disciplinary actions shows that social workers rarely lose their license after high-profile deaths or injuries of children under the care of the Kansas Department for Children and Families.  The Wichita Eagle examined every disciplinary action posted on Kansas Behavioral Sciences Regulatory Board's website from 2013 through the first months of this year. The board has the power to both issue and revoke licenses for social workers.  The review found that licenses were rarely revoked in DCF-related cases where the board has disciplined social workers.  The department says it encourages workers to report unethical behavior, but acknowledges the agency itself doesn't make complaints to the board.  DCF is facing public scrutiny over several child deaths, including a 3-year-old Wichita boy whose body was found encased in concrete last year.

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Junction City Middle School Student Arrested for Bringing Airsoft Pellet Gun to School

 A Junction City Middle School student has been arrested for bringing an airsoft gun to school.  The Daily Union newspaper in Junction City reports (link is external) that Police Capt. Trish Giordano says the student (a 12-year old boy) didn’t make threats to shoot anyone, but did show the gun to other students who then notified staff.  “The School Resource Officer was notified a student possibly had a weapon,” Giordano said. “The officer located the student and took custody of the air soft pistol.”  No injuries were reported.  The gun was seized, and the student was arrested for charges of criminal threat under the reckless action.  An airsoft pistol is generally a very low-power type gun designed to shoot pellets or BBs.  The student was transported to the Juvenile Detention Center.  Middle school parents were notified of the late morning incident by email around 12:30 pm.  School officials said there were no threats made to the school or any students or staff and the middle school was never placed on lockdown.

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$1.5 Billion Settlement in Suit over Syngenta Modified Corn Seed

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — A $1.5 billion settlement has been reached in a class-action lawsuit covering tens of thousands of farmers, grain-handling facilities and ethanol plants that sued Swiss agribusiness giant Syngenta over its introduction of a genetically engineered corn seed.  Lawsuits in state and federal courts challenged Syngenta's decision to introduce its modified Viptera and Duracade corn seed strains to the U.S. market for the 2011 growing season before having approval for import by China in 2014. The plaintiffs said Syngenta's decision cut off access to the large Chinese corn market and caused price drops for several years.  The settlement must be approved by a federal judge in Kansas. It does not include exporters such as Cargill and ADM that are also suing Syngenta.

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Kansas Lawmakers Pass Bill Aimed at Luring Big Chicken Plant

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas legislators have given final approval to a bill aimed at attracting large chicken-processing plants to the state.  The House's vote Monday was 84-37 and sent the bill to Republican Gov. Jeff Colyer. The Senate approved it last month.  The House's vote came six months after Arkansas-based Tyson Foods put plans on hold for a $320 million chicken-processing plant outside Tonganoxie amid opposition from many local residents.  The bill rewrites laws regulating animal feedlots to set specific standards for large-scale chicken farms. It would allow farms with up to 333,000 chickens a quarter mile away from homes.  Cloud and Montgomery county officials still are trying to attract a Tyson plant and see the bill as helpful. Critics said the measure would not do enough to protect the environment.

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Man Dies After Explosion, Fire at Salina Home

SALINA, Kan. (AP) — Police say foul play is not suspected in a fire and explosion at a Salina home that killed a man.  The explosion happened around 4 a.m. Sunday. By the time firefighters arrived, the home was fully engulfed in flames, but they were able to keep it from spreading.  Salina police spokesman Captain Paul Forrester identified the victim Monday as 42-year-old Justin Rogers. He said police are awaiting preliminary autopsy results.  Salina Fire Marshal Troy Long said the fire was particularly intense and spread almost instantly throughout the house.  The Salina Journal reports Long said it appears "very likely" the furnace was involved in the blast but an official cause is still under investigation.

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Korean War Veteran, Caregiver Violently Attacked in Small Western Missouri Town

ORRICK, Mo. (AP) — Authorities in western Missouri are searching for the suspects who attacked an 85-year-old Korean War veteran at his farm home.  Shirley Battaglear told WDAF-TV that he's lucky to be alive after the attack Friday in Orrick, a town in Ray County.  Battaglear says two men wearing Halloween masks broke through the front window of his home. One man hit him over the head with a pistol and threatened to kill him while the other locked Battaglear's caregiver in the basement and searched for guns.  Battaglear and caregiver Renee McCormack were terrorized for four hours before the men stole his truck, cash, a shotgun and rifle and other items.

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Police Make 47 Arrests During Kansas Celebration

MANHATTAN, Kan. (AP) — Police say they arrested 47 people and issued 494 citations during this year's Fake Patty's Day celebration in Manhattan.  The Riley County Police Department said in a news release Monday that law enforcement responded to 287 calls from citizens during a period spanning from 7 pm Friday to 6 am Sunday.  Complaints included reports of parking problems, welfare checks, calls for disturbing the peace and reckless driving.  Police say that the crimes resulting in arrests included 13 for driving under the influence, 10 for disorderly conducted, seven for unlawful possession or consumption by a minor and two for possession of marijuana.  Police also issued 208 citations for possession of an open container, 54 citations for possession of alcohol by a minor, 156 parking citations and 33 for minors obtaining alcohol.

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Wichita Police Preparing for NCAA Tournament

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Wichita is preparing to host NCAA tournament games this week, and police are taking steps to ensure that the thousands of visitors flocking to the city are safe.  The police department is working with the Sedgwick County Sheriff's Office, Wichita Fire Department, the U.S. Department of Justice and other agencies in preparation for the basketball games Wednesday through Saturday.  Nearly 70 police officers will be working two shifts during the tournament. Patrols will be on foot, bicycle, car, horseback and ATV.  Lt. Troy Livingston says police have been preparing for months with expectations of up to 25,000 people daily in the area around the arena.

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University of Kansas Freezes Activities for 24 Fraternities

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — The Interfraternity Council at the University of Kansas is voluntarily imposing a temporary freeze on activities at the 24 fraternities it oversees.  Monday's announcement comes after at least three Kansas fraternities were disciplined because of violations of university codes. Few details about the violations have been made public.  The council says it will work with university officials to improve oversight and address "systemic behavioral issues." During the freeze, the council plans to develop a plan that will include higher standards in several areas.  During the freeze, fraternities will be allowed to have only chapter meetings, philanthropic events and service events. Fraternity members will be able to continue living in the houses.  The length of the freeze and conditions for having it lifted has not been determined.

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Kansas Lawmakers Looking to Name Official Rocks, Fish

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas legislators have advanced a bill to set in stone choices for the state's official rock, mineral and gem, plus a state fish.  The House gave first-round approval Monday to a bill designating four new state symbols. A final vote is expected Tuesday.  The bill would make limestone the state rock, galena the state mineral and jelinite the state gemstone.  The original bill focused only on rocks but a committee amended it to honor the channel catfish.  Republican Representative Jan Kessinger of Overland Park said the catfish was added at the request of a fourth-grader who provided impressively researched testimony on the fish's behalf.  And Democratic Representative Eileen Horn of Lawrence assured the House that channel catfish could still appear on the menu even if the state honors it.

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Fact Check: No, a Tornado Did Not Carry a Home Nearly 130 Miles

WICHITA, Kansas (AP) — A Kansas official has debunked a widely shared story that recently resurfaced on Facebook about a woman named Dorothy whose Oklahoma home supposedly flew nearly 130 miles before landing outside Wichita. Sedgwick County spokeswoman Kate Flavin told The Associated Press on Tuesday that the story is not true. The story was published in 2015 by the World News Daily Report and recently circulated again on Facebook. It claimed a woman named Dorothy Williams and four members of her family were carried in their Tulsa, Oklahoma, mobile home over northern Colorado before landing on an unoccupied car in Kansas. "This is false; it did not happen," Flavin wrote in an email, noting the publication's website states the content is not true. The story claims no one was injured in the home's 4-hour-plus flight amid winds that reached speeds of more than 220 mph. The story is accompanied with photos of storm damaged properties. The website includes a disclaimer that states, in part, that, "All characters appearing in the articles in this website - even those based on real people - are entirely fictional and any resemblance between them and any person, living, dead or undead, is purely a miracle."

(This is part of The Associated Press's ongoing effort to fact-check misinformation that is shared widely online, including work with Facebook to identify and reduce the circulation of false stories on the platform.)

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