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Headlines for Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Area news headlines from the Associated Press

Jury Selection Underway in Wichita for Men Accused of Garden City Bomb Plot

UPDATE: 
WICHITA, Kan. (AP) —  Jury selection has begun for three militia members accused of conspiring to bomb an apartment complex housing Somalis in Kansas. Patrick Stein, Gavin Wright and Curtis Allen are charged with conspiracy to use a weapon of mass destruction and conspiracy against civil rights. Stein also faces a weapons-related charge and Wright has an additional charge of lying to the FBI. Questioning on Tuesday sought to flush out views on gun rights, immigration and racial issues. Assistant U.S. Attorney Anthony Mattivi asked prospective jurors whether the U.S. should limit the number of refugees. Defense attorney Jim Pratt, who represents Stein, asked them whether there was anyone who's not offended by defining another human being as a cockroach or defining a group of people as an infestation.
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WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A trial begins this week for three members of a militia group accused of conspiring to bomb a mosque and apartment complex housing Somalis in the Kansas town of Garden City.  Patrick Stein, Gavin Wright and Curtis Allen are charged with conspiracy to use a weapon of mass destruction and conspiracy against civil rights. Stein also faces a weapons-related charge and Wright has an additional charge of lying to the FBI.  They all have pleaded not guilty.  Their trial is expected to last six weeks, with jury selection beginning Tuesday.  Prosecutors say a militia member tipped off federal authorities after becoming alarmed by the heightening talk of violence, and later agreed to wear a wire as a paid informant. The monthslong investigation features hours of profanity-laced recordings discussing the alleged plot.

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Judge Harshly Criticizes Kobach During Contempt Hearing

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) — A federal judge blasted Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach for ignoring her order to notify thousands of Kansas citizens that they were eligible to vote while litigation over a state voting law is underway. U.S. District Judge Julie Robinson criticized Kobach Tuesday during a hearing to determine if he will face a contempt order for not notifying certain voters who registered at motor vehicle offices that they could vote in the 2016 general election as Robinson had ordered. Kobach responded that he told the state's director of elections, Brian Caskey, to inform county election officials to notify the voters. Caskey testified that he verbally told county election officials to follow the judge's instructions, but Kobach acknowledged some counties had not sent notifications required by Robinson's May 2016 preliminary injunction.

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Testimony Ends in Kansas Voter Law Trial
 
KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) — After seven often contentious days, testimony has ended in a federal bench trial challenging a Kansas voter registration law.  During closing arguments Monday, Dale Ho, an attorney for the American Civil Liberties Union, argued that the thousands of noncitizens who Secretary of State Kris Kobach contends are stealing elections "are not real." But he said the law has stopped thousands of U.S. citizens from voting. And he says there has been real damage to the electoral process in Kansas. He asked U.S. District Judge Julie Robinson to find that the law should not be imposed on Kansas.  In his closing, Kobach argued the law hasn't prevented anyone but noncitizens from voting. He says people put on a list of suspended voters have several ways to provide the required documentation and register to vote. He urged Robinson to uphold the will of the Kansas Legislature, which enacted the law in 2013.  Robinson didn't say when she would issue a ruling but said she is mindful that elections are approaching. Attorneys have until April 16 for any more legal filings in the case.

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Sticker-Shocked Kansas Lawmakers May Temper Education Goals

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas legislators who suffered sticker shock from a report on the costs of improving public schools are considering whether to make the state's education goals less ambitious.  Some Republican lawmakers appeared less anxious Monday after hearing from two out-of-state consultants who issued the report last week. It said improving schools could require the state to increase its education funding by $2 billion a year to give schools a 44 percent boost.  That big price tag is tied to increasing the state's high school graduation rate from 86 percent to 95 percent and vastly improving how students perform on standardized tests.  The consultants said during a legislative committee hearing that costs would be lower if the goals were less ambitious.  Lawmakers face a Kansas Supreme Court mandate to increase education funding.

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Kansas Measles Outbreak Grows to 10 Cases

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The Kansas Department of Health and Environment and the Johnson County Health Department say 10 cases of measles have been identified in Johnson, Linn and Miami counties.  The agencies said in a news release Monday that eight Johnson County residents and one Linn County resident who contracted the disease are associated with a child care facility in Johnson County. One Miami County resident who got it is not associated with the daycare facility.  Health authorities say they are working to identify other contacts.  It takes about 10 to 14 days between the time a person is exposed to measles and when they first start showing symptoms.  Symptoms typically begin with a high fever, cough and runny nose. A rash develops three or five days after symptoms begin.

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Judge Orders Kansas Dad Fighting Deportation to Be Freed

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — A federal judge is freeing a Kansas father fighting efforts by the U.S. to deport him to Bangladesh pending the outcome of his case. Fifty-five-year-old Syed Ahmed Jamal was ordered released Tuesday after a hearing in Kansas City, Missouri. U.S. immigration officials put Jamal on a plane bound for his native country last month before an immigration panel granted a temporary stay in the case. Jamal, who's worked as an adjunct professor and researcher, was taken off the flight when it stopped to refuel in Honolulu. Jamal entered the U.S. legally in 1987 to attend the University of Kansas but twice overstayed his visa. He was ordered deported in 2011 but had been allowed to stay in the U.S. and check in regularly with immigration authorities.

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KBI to Assist in Investigation of Rural Western Kansas Death
 
PLAINVILLE, Kan. (AP) — The Kansas Bureau of Investigation is assisting in the investigation of a woman's death in rural western Kansas. The Kansas Attorney General's office says 24-year-old Alexis Garcia was found dead early Monday at a home in Plainville, in Rooks County. Spokeswoman Jennifer Montgomery says the Rooks County Attorney asked the KBI to help with the investigation. She said no further information would be released. Authorities have reported no arrests. The Rooks County Sheriff's Office referred questions to the attorney general's office. The KBI also didn't immediately return phone messages from the AP.

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Petitioners Hope to End Kansas Town's Pit Bull Ban, Free Dog

SALINA, Kan. (AP) — Petitioners are rallying to lift a ban on pit bulls in a north-central Kansas town. The Wichita Eagle reports that the online petition calling for an end to Salina's ban has more than 85,000 signatures as of Tuesday afternoon. The petition was created by Joshua Allen, whose pit bull Lyha and her three puppies were taken by Salina Animal Services, a no-kill shelter. Allen also asks the city free Lyha and the puppies. Salina has banned possessing pit bulls within city limits since 2004. Owning one is a misdemeanor usually carrying a fine of up to $200. Allen calls Lyla "a loving dog who has never shown any aggression ever." The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals has long opposed breed-specific legislation, saying there's no evidence such laws increase safety.

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Rain Gives Crews a Break Fighting Kansas Wildfire Outbreak

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Rains across Kansas have given emergency responders a respite from a wave of wildfires that have charred more than 27 square miles across several counties in recent days.  The Adjutant General's Department said in a news release Monday that the wildfire outbreak began March 14 in Rice County and later included fires in Barber, Butler, Kiowa, Labette, McPherson, Montgomery, Reno and Seward counties.  Damage reported to the State Emergency Operations Center include a bridge destroyed in Marshall County. Four non-residential structures were destroyed in Kiowa and Barber counties.  The Operations Center monitored 62 fires reported over the course of four days.

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Report: More than Half of Kansas Winter Wheat in Poor Shape

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — The latest government crop report estimates that more than half of the winter wheat crop in Kansas is in poor or very poor condition.  The National Agricultural Statistics Service reported Monday that 17 percent of the Kansas wheat is in very poor condition with another 38 percent is rated as poor. About 34 percent is rated as fair with just 10 percent in good and 1 percent in excellent condition.  That assessment comes at the same time that topsoil moisture supplies were rated as short or very short across 81 percent of the state.  Their report covers crop conditions for the week ending on Sunday.

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Former Fort Hays State Player Killed in Wichita Bar Shooting

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A former high school basketball standout from New York who went on to play at Fort Hays State University in Kansas has died in a bar shooting.  The Wichita Eagle reports that 27-year-old Dwayne Brunson, of Great Bend, was shot early Sunday after an altercation at the bar in Wichita, Kansas. Police Lt. Todd Ojile says Brunson died several hours later at a hospital.  Police don't know what the altercation was, what started it or whether Brunson was the target. No other injuries were reported.  Brunson was a 6-foot-7 forward from Queens. At Fort Hays State, he was selected to the All-Mid-America Intercollegiate Athletics Association First Team as a junior in 2013 and led the team in scoring and rebounding. He also played for Barton Community College in Great Bend.

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Lawmaker Pushes for Army Headquarters in Wichita

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A U.S. senator from Kansas is pushing for Wichita to be the headquarters for the Army's new innovation-focused command.  The Wichita Eagle reports that Republican Senator Jerry Moran met with Army Undersecretary Ryan McCarthy last week to advocate for the city as the headquarters of the new Army Futures Command.  The new command is part of the Army's efforts to reform the service's system of acquiring new equipment more quickly and cost-effectively. The command will collaborate with academic institutions and employ civilian workers focused on innovation.  Moran thinks Wichita qualifies partly because of Wichita State University, its Innovation Campus and the National Institute for Aviation Research.  An Army Futures Command Task Force spokesman says the group is looking at several locations for the headquarters but can't openly discuss them.

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Missouri State Highway Patrol Trooper Shoots Robbery Suspect

ST. JOSEPH, Mo. (AP) — Authorities say a Missouri State Highway Patrol trooper chasing two robbery suspects on foot returned fire and shot one of them.  The Missouri Highway Patrol said in a news release Monday that it was alerted at 10:46 am Monday of a theft in progress at a home in Ridgeway, Missouri. The Harrison County Sheriff's Department provided a vehicle description and advised the suspect vehicle was southbound on Interstate 35.  A trooper gave chase to a vehicle matching the description before it crashed into a ditch.  A preliminary investigation has found the male driver and a female occupant fled, with the trooper pursuing on foot. The male suspect shot at the trooper, who returned fire. Both suspects were taken into custody.  The male suspect was transported to a Kansas City hospital.

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Missouri Governor Greitens Wants Criminal Trial Moved Up to April 3

ST. LOUIS (AP) — Missouri Governor Eric Greitens is expected to ask a judge to move up his criminal trial to April 3, more than a month earlier than scheduled.  At a hearing Monday, attorneys for the Republican governor told Judge Rex Burlison they expect to request an earlier trial date and bench trial. The circuit attorney's office opposes both notions.  The case is scheduled for a jury trial starting May 14.  Greitens was indicted in February on felony fourth-degree invasion of privacy for allegedly taking an unauthorized photo of a woman with whom he was having an affair in 2015, before he was elected. Greitens has admitted to the affair but denied criminal wrongdoing.  Defense attorney Edward L. Dowd Jr. says the request for an earlier trial date is anticipated but hasn't been formally filed. Dowd says Greitens is entitled to have his case heard quickly and put it behind him.

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Muslim Engineer Sues After Kansas Flap over Malaysian Flag

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A Muslim aerospace engineer has sued the Spirit Boeing Employees Association for religious discrimination stemming from a party at a lake in Wichita, Kansas.  The American Civil Liberties Union filed a federal lawsuit Friday on behalf of Munir Zanial, a Malaysian national of Indian ancestry.  The association declined to comment.  Zanial rented the group's lake last year to host a party to celebrate Malaysian Independence Day. The lawsuit alleges the association reported him out of fear he used the lake to hold an Islamic State meeting.  It alleged an American flag that had been "desecrated with ISIS symbols." But the flag was actually a Malaysian flag and the guests included people of Malaysian Indian ancestry, some wearing hijabs.  Spirit filed a complaint with the FBI, and the association terminated his rental benefits.

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Officer Shot in Leg During Firearms Training in Lawrence

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — Authorities say a Lawrence police officer has been shot in the leg during firearms training.  Police described the Monday afternoon shooting at a Fraternal Order of Police lodge as an accident in a news release. The Lawrence Journal-World reports that the officer was taken to a hospital and is in stable condition.  The release says the preliminary investigation indicates the officer was wounded when equipment became entangled inside the firearm's trigger guard, causing the weapon to discharge. No other details were provided about the shooting.

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Car Lot Sued in Crash that Injures Wichita Police Officer

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — The family of a Wichita police officer who was run over by a suspect in a stolen SUV is suing the car lot that owned the SUV.  The Wichita Eagle reports that the lawsuit filed Monday contends Eddy's Chevrolet Cadillac lot failed to report that the SUV had been stolen almost two months before Brian Arterburn was critically injured in February 2017. Arterburn was unconscious for several days and underwent multiple surgeries.  The suit says Arterburn now requires around-the-clock professional care. It seeks more than $75,000 in damages.  The driver charged with running over Arterburn while fleeing from police is scheduled to go on trial in August. The Eagle reports that Eddy's didn't immediately comment on the case.

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