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Headlines for Tuesday, March 6, 2018

Area news headlines from the Associated Press

Challenge to Kansas Election Law Goes to Trial

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) — The Latest on a legal challenge to Kansas election laws on voter registration (all times local):

2:17 p.m.

Charles Stricker says he thought he was registered to vote until he showed up to the polls in 2014. Stricker testified Tuesday in federal court in a Kansas challenging a Kansas law that requires proof of citizenship to register to vote. He told the court he felt confused and embarrassed as he filled out a provisional ballot at a designated table. His vote didn't count. The Topeka Capital Journal reports the American Civil Liberties Union called Stricker and another witness to demonstrate how legal residents were affected by the strictest registration law in the nation. Stricker says he made two trips to the local motor vehicle office on the final day he could register to vote and left with the assumption he was registered.
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11 a.m.

An attorney challenging a Kansas law that requires proof of citizenship to register to vote says the restriction has kept an estimated 22,000 people from voting, with a large percentage being young people and independent voters. Dale Ho, director for the Voting Rights Project at the American Civil Liberties Union, offered that estimate during opening statements Tuesday in a lawsuit over the law's requirement that people provide documents such as a birth certificate or passport when they register. He said he would call experts to bolster arguments that the law is burdensome and inconsistently enforced. Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, who is representing himself as the defendant in the lawsuit, countered the law has successfully kept thousands on noncitizens from voting. He said an expert will testify the number could be as high as 18,000.

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Forecasters Warn of Extreme Fire Risk Across Much of Kansas

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Crews are battling fires in three southern and western Kansas counties as forecasters warn that strong winds could spread flames. Kansas Division of Emergency Management spokeswoman Katie Horner says the fires being fought late Tuesday morning are in Ellis, Reno and Sedgwick counties. Another blaze Monday burned 1,500 to 2,000 acres in Clark County before it was contained. The grassland fire risk is listed as extreme to catastrophic in central and southeast Kansas because of forecasts for wind gusts of up to 55 mph. The only areas where red flag fire warnings haven't been issued are in northeast and far north-central Kansas. But National Weather Service meteorologist Eric Schminke says that if the public heeds the warnings, the fires shouldn't be as bad as last year's record-setter.

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Senator: Altered Child Agency Records Horrific, Unsurprising

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A Kansas state senator said she was horrified but not surprised that someone in the state's child welfare agency altered records in the case of a 3-year-old Wichita boy whose body was found encased in concrete. Department for Children and Families Secretary Gina Meier-Hummel met with Evan Brewer's family on Friday before releasing records, the Wichita Eagle reported. Family spokeswoman Shayla Johnston said Meier-Hummel told the family "there was dishonesty" in a form that was changed. State Senator Barbara Bollier, a Republican from Mission Hills, said she had previously heard about a possible alteration but had no proof. She sits on the state's Child Welfare Task Force. "It's horrific. But unfortunately, the administration we've had, it doesn't surprise me," Bollier said. "I think you dig anywhere, you're going to find things. It will probably take years to unravel what's been done." Records show the agency made a mistake in the lead-up to Brewer's death. They show a report of detailed abuse allegations was not forwarded to a social worker investigating the case. Kansas Governor Jeff Colyer pledged Monday to reform the department and vowed additional transparency. "We're all aware of a couple very specific cases that are emblematic of some of the problems," Colyer said. Another lawmaker who sits on the Child Welfare Task Force, Democrat Rep. Jarrod Ousley of Merriam, said the administration has done a lot of "verbal identification" of problems, but changes haven't been implemented long enough to see if they're working. He said the last administration also said they were working on the problem for years. Lawmakers created the task force last year to examine the state's foster care system. Its monthly meetings have disclosed that foster children slept in offices while waiting for placement. It also noted as many as 70 children are missing from the foster system at any given time. The child welfare department is expected to face additional scrutiny on Friday at Meier-Hummel's Senate confirmation hearing. She now is serving in an acting capacity. The agency is supporting legislation that would require, after the death of a child, that the secretary release the age and sex of the child, date of the fatality, a summary of previous reports to the agency and findings, as well as any department recommendations of services provided. A hearing on the bill is set for Tuesday before the House Judiciary Committee. Responding to a question about the dismissal of Wichita DCF regional director Bill Gale last week, Colyer said the agency lost confidence in his leadership. "This is something more than just a couple of cosmetic changes," Colyer said. "In terms of personnel . we're dealing with regional directors or if there are thing that clearly are egregious, I won't tolerate it. Period."

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Kansas House GOP Leaders Outline Proposals on School Safety

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Top Republicans in the Kansas House have outlined school safety proposals that include new state standards for public schools and state funds for security upgrades. Leaders of the House's GOP majority said Tuesday that their package would set aside $5 million for security grants to local school districts. GOP legislators began work on what they described as a comprehensive school safety package the week after a mass Valentine's Day shooting at a high school in Parkland, Florida. They said their legislation will direct the State Department of Education to work with other agencies to develop statewide standards for secure buildings. It also will require the state's 286 school districts to adopt safety plans meeting the guidelines. The department also would hire two new employees to review the local plans.

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Pockets of Wildfires Raging Across Kansas

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Crews are battling pockets of wildfire across Kansas with at least 10,000 acres burned so far. Kansas Division of Emergency Management spokeswoman Katie Horner says that as of late Tuesday afternoon there were still 17 active fires and firefighters are mopping up another six that are almost out. Crews have put out 19 fires. The fires are primarily across central Kansas, ranging from the Nebraska to the Oklahoma borders. It is unknown how many structures have been destroyed, but officials have a report of at least one home that caught fire in Elk County. Strong winds also blew over a communications tower in Logan County. The Kansas National Guard has deployed six helicopters with water buckets and activated 29 soldiers to man them and the two fuel trucks.

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Kansas Student Arrested with Gun at School

DERBY, Kan. (AP) — A southern Kansas high school student has been arrested after bringing a handgun to school. The Wichita Eagle reports that the arrest happened Monday morning. An alert sent to students' families at Derby High School says school administrators brought the student in for questioning after receiving a tip, and the gun was found. The school resource officer arrested the sophomore without incident. The alert said no threat was made to students or staff. Derby spokeswoman Katie Carlson didn't say if the student was in class with the weapon, or what time the student was arrested.

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Texas Search Team Unable to Find Missing Wichita Boy

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A Texas-based search team says it hasn't found anything associated with the case of a missing 5-year-old from Wichita. The Wichita Eagle reports that Texas EquuSearch arrived in Wichita on Saturday to look for Lucas Hernandez. The team of volunteers searches for lost and missing people. Wichita Police Officer Charley Davidson says that the group joined other volunteers and police in the search, but found nothing linked to Lucas, who has been missing now for more than two weeks. The boy was reported missing February 17 by his stepmother, Emily Glass, who was later arrested and charged with child endangerment of her 1-year-old daughter. Police say they discovered information relating to the allegation while investigating Lucas's disappearance. She next appears in court March 13. Police don't believe Lucas was abducted, and encourage people to continue sending tips.

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Kansas Mother Accused of Poisoning Children

OLATHE, Kan. (AP) — New court documents show that two of the three children a Kansas mother is accused of poisoning would have died if police had not found them. The Kansas City Star reports that Therese Roever of Olathe is charged with attempted capital murder after police say she gave her children some kind of prescription medication. An affidavit released Monday states Roever's ex-husband called police Feb. 19 after she refused to answer her phone or door for over an hour. The affidavit says police found Roever lying with her 7-year-old who was "not alert." Officers found a 5-year-old stumbling and another 7-year-old crying. The affidavit says police found "multiple" pill bottles. Roever is being held in the Johnson County jail and is scheduled to appear in court next month. Jail records don't immediately list an attorney.

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Police: Man Shot During Drug Deal in Wichita Has Died

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Police say a man who was shot last month during a drug deal at a west Wichita Dillons has died. Officer Paul Cruz says 19-year-old Chris Coley was found with a gunshot wound to the head around 2:45 a.m. on February 19. The Wichita Eagle reports Coley was taken to a hospital in critical condition and died Monday. The case is the eighth homicide of the year. Police say Coley was at Dillons with a woman to sell marijuana to a 21-year-old man. The man allegedly shot Coley in the head during the transaction and then drove away from the scene. The suspect was arrested February 20 on suspicion of attempted first-degree murder and other potential charges.

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Ex-Olathe South Teacher Sentenced for Sex with Student

OLATHE, Kan. (AP) — A former Olathe South High School teacher who engaged in a sexual relationship with a student has been sentenced to three years of probation.  As part of a plea deal, 43-year-old Michael Jasiczek will serve 10 days of "shock time" in jail and will have to register as a sex offender.  The Kansas City Star reports the former sociology teacher said he began treatment after he was charged in June.  Jasiczek was an assistant football coach at Olathe South High School until May, when he was placed on administrative leave.  He pleaded guilty in January to engaging in unlawful sexual intercourse and lewd touching with a student over the age of 16. A third fondling charge was dropped.

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Man Pleads Guilty in Fatal Kansas Bar Shooting 

OLATHE, Kan. (AP) — A man charged with killing an Indian national and wounding another in a shooting last year at a suburban Kansas City bar has pleaded guilty to premeditated first-degree murder. Adam Purinton also pleaded guilty Tuesday to two counts of attempted premeditated murder. Witnesses said Purinton, who is white, yelled "get out of my country" before shooting Srinivas Kuchibhotla and Alok Madasani at Austin's Bar and Grill in Olathe, Kansas. Kuchibhotla died in the shooting on February 22, 2017. Madasani was injured. Another man, Ian Grillot, was wounded when he tried to intervene. The shooting raised fears of more attacks on immigrants following President Donald Trump's election. Officials in India also expressed concern about their citizens' safety in the United States, where many work in technology and other industries. Kuchibhotla and Madasani worked as engineers at GPS-maker Garmin. Purinton will be sentenced on May 4. He still faces federal hate crime charges.

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Kansas Senate Committee Passes Domestic Abuser Gun Law

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A Kansas Senate committee approved a bill that would make it a felony for fugitives and domestic abusers to possess firearms.  Supporters say the new law would allow offenders to be prosecuted in state courts instead of relying on federal courts, which are sometimes too busy to handle such cases.  Jo Ella Hoye, a representative for Moms Demand Action, said she was happy with committees' decision. She said the bill advanced Monday bill will help law enforcement protect women and families and ultimately save lives.  In addition to fugitives and domestic abusers, the bill also makes it a felony for an undocumented immigrant to have a firearm.  The committee also advanced a bill that would allow people who have concealed carry permits issued by other states to carry concealed firearms in Kansas.

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Suspect Arrested in Woman's Fatal Shooting in Dodge City

DODGE CITY, Kan. (AP) — Ford County authorities charged an 18-year-old man with first-degree murder after a woman was shot to death in Dodge City.  The Dodge City Globe reports Boston Cole Boswell was charged Monday in the death of 27-year-old Shantel Rose Winkler of Howell.  The Ford County Sheriff's office received a report of a shooting Sunday morning at Dodge City motel. They found Winkler dead of a single gunshot wound to the head.  Boswell made his first appearance Monday. He is being held on $500,000 cash bond.

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Kansas Officials Concerned About Youth Mental Health Care

HUTCHINSON, Kan. (AP) — Kansas officials dealing with youth in the local court system are concerned about trends in mental health treatment following a drastic change last year in state juvenile justice laws.  The Hutchinson News reports that a pressing issue for officials is the often monthslong wait to get care for youth needing inpatient psychiatric treatment.  Troubled teenagers waiting for treatment in Kansas are sent back home pending placement, usually worsening behavioral issues that initially landed them in court.  The growing wait times are a result of a 2017 law meant to divert the costs of keeping juveniles locked up to pay for treatment they need to stay out of jail. But community mental health officials say they aren't seeing much of the savings coming back from the state to pay for services.

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Epidemiologist Testifies on Roundup Cancer Claim in Monsanto Liability Trial

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — A University of California, Los Angeles epidemiologist has testified that she believes the active ingredient in Monsanto's widely used weed killer Roundup can cause cancer.  Beate Ritz explained during an unusual federal court hearing in San Francisco on Monday how she evaluated studies to reach her conclusion.  U.S. District Judge Vince Chhabria will spend a week hearing from experts to help decide whether there is valid scientific evidence to support the claim that exposure to Roundup can cause non-Hodgkin's lymphoma.  Monsanto vehemently denies the claims and says hundreds of studies have found glyphosate — Roundup's active ingredient — is safe.

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Ohio Attorney General Sues Monsanto over PCBs

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — Ohio's attorney general has sued the agribusiness company Monsanto alleging the company produced and sold chemical compounds known as PCBs for decades despite knowing of hazards the chemicals posed.  The lawsuit filed Monday in Hamilton County in southwest Ohio asks for unspecified financial compensation for the state, including money to pay for a plan to investigate and remove the chemicals from Ohio land and waters.  St. Louis-based Monsanto made the chemicals from 1929 until 1977 for use in paints, sealants, lubricants, electrical equipment and many other applications.  
Scott Partridge is Monsanto's vice president of global strategy. He says the company is still reviewing the lawsuit and plans an aggressive defense.  Similar lawsuits were filed by Oregon in January and by the state of Washington in 2016.

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AP All-Big 12 Team Led by High-Scoring Guards Who Also Pass

A pair of high-scoring guards who also share the ball with their teammates highlight The Associated Press All-Big 12 men's basketball team. University of Kansas senior Devonte' Graham and Oklahoma freshman sensation Trae Young, the league's top two in both scoring and assists, were the only unanimous picks on the AP All-Big 12 first team released Tuesday. They also took the top individual awards. Graham was named the Big 12 player of the year with his 17.6 points and 7.2 assists per game while helping lead the Jayhawks win their record 14th consecutive conference title this season. He ranked second in the league in both categories behind top Big 12 newcomer Young, the national leader with 27.5 points and 8.9 assists per game . KU's Bill Self took his fourth consecutive coach of the year honor, and seventh in 13 seasons. Texas Tech senior Keenan Evans, West Virginia senior Jevon Carter and Texas freshman post player Mohamed Bamba were the other first-team picks in voting by a panel of 18 journalists who regularly cover the Big 12 in the league's five states. Bamba is the Big 12 rebounding leader with 10.6 per game. Graham got nine of 18 votes for player of the year, while Young got seven and Evans two. Young was listed as top newcomer on 14 ballots, including five that also had him as the top overall player. Self got 10 votes for top coach, while Chris Beard of Big 12 runner-up Texas Tech got seven. The remaining vote went to first-year Oklahoma State coach Mike Boynton after the Cowboys became the first team with a regular season sweep of a Self-coached Kansas team.
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The 2018 AP All-Big 12 team, with players listed with school, classification, height, weight, class and hometown ("u-" denotes unanimous selections):

FIRST TEAM

u-Devonte' Graham, Kansas, Sr., 6-2, 185, Raleigh, North Carolina.

u-Trae Young, Oklahoma, Fr., 6-2, 180, Norman, Oklahoma.

Mohamed Bamba, Texas, Fr., 6-11, 225, Harlem, New York.

Jevon Carter, West Virginia, Sr., 6-2, 205, Maywood, Illinois.

Keenan Evans, Texas Tech, Sr., 6-3, 190, Richardson, Texas.

SECOND TEAM

Udoka Azubuike, Kansas, So., 7-0, 280, Delta, Nigeria.

Barry Brown Jr., Kansas State, 6-3, 195, St. Petersburg, Florida.

Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk, Kansas, Sr., 6-8, 205, Cherkasy, Ukraine.

Dean Wade, Kansas State, Jr., 6-10, 228, St. John, Kansas.

Kenrich Williams, TCU, Sr., 6-7, 210, Waco, Texas.

HONORABLE MENTION

Vladimir Brodziansky, TCU; Jeffrey Carroll, Oklahoma State; Sagaba Konate, West Virginia; Manu Lecomte, Baylor; Jo Lual-Acuil Jr., Baylor; Malik Newman, Kansas; Zhaire Smith, Texas Tech; Mitchell Solomon, Oklahoma State; Lindell Wigginton, Iowa State.
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Coach of the year — Bill Self, Kansas.

Player of the year — Devonte' Graham, Kansas.

Newcomer of the year — Trae Young, Oklahoma.

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