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Headlines for Tuesday, May 15, 2018

Area news headlines from the Associated Press

Strong Storms Spawn Tornadoes in Southern Kansas 

WICHITA, Kan. (Kansas.com) - The National Weather Service will conduct damage assessments in southern and southeast Kansas after strong thunderstorms brought tornadoes, large hail and heavy rain to the area Monday night.  According to the Wichita Eagle, four tornadoes touched down - three of them in Cowley County. No injuries were reported, and preliminary reports suggest minimal structure damage.  Two tornadoes touched down five minutes apart in Cowley County, National Weather Service meteorologist Eric Schminke said. Both tornadoes formed northwest of Arkansas City.  The third Cowley County tornado touched down more than three hours later near Maple City, and the last tornado of the night was reported a half-hour later in Chautauqua County.  Sheds were damaged near Cassoday in Butler County, but Schminke said that was caused by strong winds and not a tornado. Hail as large as baseballs was reported near Scott City in western Kansas and as large as ping pong balls in southeast Kansas.  The thunderstorms that formed packed substantial rain: Chanute set a 24-hour rainfall record, logging 2.96 inches, while Iola recorded 2.34 inches.  In Butler County, 2.85 inches fell in Latham and rainfall amounts of nearly 2 inches were widespread across the county. Eastern Sedgwick County saw similar rainfall amounts, but it tapered dramatically to the west.

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Sales Tax Vote to Expand Douglas County Jail Appears to be Falling Short

Douglas County voters appear to be rejecting a half-cent sales tax to expand the county jail and boost spending on mental health services.  With roughly 81% of the ballots counted, the ballot measure was falling short.  As of 6:30 pm, 53% of voters had rejected the initiative, known as Proposition 1.  During their last update this (MON) evening, county elections officials reported that more than 11,200 NO votes were cast compared to 9,800 YES votes -- a difference of about 1,400 votes.  However, a few thousand ballots had yet to be counted.  According to the Lawrence Journal World, about 21,000 of the approximately 26,000 Proposition 1 ballots had been counted.

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New Kansas Law Compensates Wrongfully Convicted Defendants

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) - A new Kansas law will grant cash compensation to wrongly convicted residents for time served behind bars.  The law comes in the wake of three high-profile cases where innocent defendants were released from prison.  Governor Jeff Colyer signed the legislation today (TUE).  It says that if a guilty verdict is overturned, the person who was wrongfully convicted is eligible for $65,000 for each year of incarceration.  The law takes effect in July.

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Kansas Governor Signs Letter Backing Trump for Nobel Peace Prize

COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) — Kansas Governor Jeff Colyer has joined a group of six other governors in backing President Donald Trump's nomination for the Nobel Peace Prize.   Colyer, South Carolina Governor Henry McMaster and five fellow governors wrote to Norwegian Nobel Committee chairman Berit Reiss-Andersen this week, citing what they called Trump's "transformative efforts to bring peace to the Korean peninsula."  Earlier this month, 18 U.S. House Republicans formally nominated Trump, who's preparing for a historic summit with North Korea's Kim Jong Un.  McMaster was an early Trump supporter in the 2016 election. Trump has backed him in next month's five-way South Carolina GOP primary.  Other signatories include Guam Governor Eddie Baza Calvo; Mississippi Governor Phil Bryant; Alabama Governor Kay Ivey; West Virginia Governor Jim Justice; and Maine Governor Paul LePage.

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Protesters Block Traffic in Topeka, More than 20 Cited in Protest Against Poverty

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Police issued more than 20 citations in Topeka to people participating in a nationally-organized protest against poverty, racism and other concerns.  Police say they cited 24 people Monday for unlawful obstruction of a street after protesters sat down and blocked traffic in a street near the state Capitol.  The Topeka Capital-Journal reports more than 20 Topeka police and Kansas Highway Patrol officers watched the protest and issued the citations after the protesters refused to move.  No one was injured.  Earlier in the day, more than 200 people joined clergy and activists from across Kansas to protest as part of the Poor People's Campaign, a 30-state, six-week program.  Kara Courtney, a minister from Wichita, says the state's decision not to expand Medicaid is placing low-income working people at risk in Kansas.

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Lawrence Wants Living Wage Registry for Businesses

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — Lawrence officials are considering a voluntary registry that would inform the public which local businesses pay a living wage.  The Lawrence Journal-World reports that resident Mike Wasikowski told the Lawrence City Commission last week about the idea of a living wage registry.  Wasikowski says some Lawrence residents struggle to cover basic living expenses like housing, food and child care. He says a registry would inform the public and let residents know where they could find jobs that help them afford a basic quality of life.  Vice Mayor Lisa Larsen and Commissioners Jennifer Ananda and Matthew Herbert have expressed interest in the concept.  Some members of the business community say even a voluntary registry is unfair to businesses. But Herbert says he sees it as thanking businesses that pay living wages.

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1 Person Dead Following Overnight Fire in Topeka

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Authorities say one person is dead following an overnight fire in northeast Topeka.  The Topeka Capital-Journal reports the blaze was called in at 12:08 am today (TUE) at a one-story, wooden-framed house.  Topeka Fire Department Shift Commander Dan Macke says that first-arriving crews reported the house was fully involved in flames. The fire appeared to have done the most damage on its back side.  The victim, who wasn't immediately identified, was found inside the residence
Macke says ammunition was stored inside the residence. The home also had a lot of clutter inside.  Fire crews stayed at the scene several hours after the blaze.  Topeka fire investigators were called to determine the cause of the fire.

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Body of Man Swept into River Recovered; He Was Trying to Rescue a Child

DE SOTO, Kan. (AP) — Authorities have found the body of a man who was swept away in the Kansas River while trying to rescue a young child.  Johnson County Sheriff's Office Lt. Paul Nonnast says 40-year-old Rogelio Paredes-Nino apparently drowned. His body was found around 9:45 am Monday.  Nonnast says Paredes-Nino and another man tried to help after the child began to struggle around 5 pm Sunday at a boat ramp at Roverfest Park in De Soto. The city is about 25 miles west of Kansas City, Missouri.  Nonnast says one of the men was rescued a short time later and is hospitalized in stable condition. He says the child made it safely to shore. Crews searched for Paredes-Nino until darkness fell and resumed their efforts when it was light again.

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Kansas Congressional Delegates Push for Faster Plant Cleanup

DE SOTO, Kan. (AP) — Kansas congressional delegates are pushing for faster environmental cleanup at a former ammunition plant in the northeastern part of the state.  The U.S. Army began cleaning up contaminants three years ago at the former Sunflower Army Ammunition Plant. The facility produced gunpowder and rocket propellants during several wars.  The Kansas City Star reports that the Army says it's making progress, but Kansas congressional officials are concerned about the 2028 target date to complete the 5,300 acres of cleanup.  Kansas Republican Senator Jerry Moran and  Kansas Congressman Kevin Yoder are now pressuring the Army to speed up the progress.  Yoder says Johnson County residents "deserve to have this land back for productive use in the community."  Sunflower Executive Director Kise Randall says she appreciates the pressure from the delegates.

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Former YMCA Employee Sentenced in Missouri Child Porn Case

SPRINGFIELD, Mo. (AP) _ Prosecutors say a former YMCA employee in Missouri has been sentenced for receiving and distributing child pornography over the internet.  The U.S. Attorney's Office says 28-year-old Benjamin Goodwin of Springfield was sentenced to 10 years and one month in federal prison without parole.  Goodwin had been employed as a childcare worker at the Springfield YMCA at the time of the offense. A forensic examination recovered dozens of message exchanges with others, including a picture Goodwin transmitted of one of the children he had supervised at the YMCA.  Goodwin had worked at the YMCA for more than a decade. He also worked as a special education paraprofessional.  The court also ordered Goodwin to 10 years of supervised release after he serves his prison term.  

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Man Gets Probation for Theft of Donations to Burn Victim

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) _ A man convicted of stealing more than $7,000 in donations meant for an 11-year-old burn victim has been sentenced to probation.  District Attorney Marc Bennett's office said in a news release Tuesday that 39-year-old Martin Kerr of Wellington took the money from an online account that was set up to benefit a Haysville girl who was burned in 2015.  Sedgwick County Judge Eric Commer on Thursday ordered Kerr to make minimum monthly payments of $150 over the next five years. Commer told him that he could serve six months in prison if he did not follow the terms of probation.  The judge noted more than 100 people donated to the GoFundMe account meant to be used to help the girl and her family with expenses related to her injuries.

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Black Student Sues After Alleged Assault by White Student

LANSING, Kan. (AP) — A black middle school student claims in a lawsuit that school administrators punished him after he was physically and sexually abused by a white student.  In a federal lawsuit, the black student at Lansing Middle School said he was repeatedly harassed last February by the white student at school and on the school bus. Both boys are seventh-graders.  The lawsuit alleges a teacher did nothing to help after the black student complained about the treatment in a study hall. He says the abuse continued on the school bus and he eventually responded by hitting the white student.  The black child alleges administrators initially blamed him for the confrontation and it's unclear if the perpetrator was ever punished.  The Kansas City Star reports the school district would not comment on pending litigation.

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Report: More than Half of Kansas Winter Wheat Faring Poorly

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A new report shows more than half of the winter wheat crop in Kansas is struggling.  The National Agricultural Statistics Service reported Monday that 18 percent of the wheat is in "very poor" condition, with another 33 percent rated as poor. Just 34 percent of the crop got a fair with another 14 percent rated as good and 1 percent as excellent.  The report further shows that only 42 percent of the wheat had headed, well behind the 80 percent at this point last year and the 62 percent average for this late in the season.  Kansas farmers have also been busy planting. The report says 68 percent of the state's corn crop has been seeded, along with 31 percent of the soybeans and 3 percent of the sorghum.

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Judge to Hear Evidence in Kansas Prison Recordings Case

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) — A federal judge is expected to hear testimony this week on whether prosecutors improperly used secret recordings of conversations between inmates and their attorneys at a federal prison in Kansas.  U.S. District Judge Julie Robinson has scheduled a two-day evidentiary hearing on the special master's findings that begins Tuesday in Kansas City, Kansas.  The investigation by the court-appointed special master stems from a prison contraband case during which criminal defense lawyers discovered that the privately run Leavenworth Detention Center was routinely recording meetings between attorneys and their clients.  Robinson is also hearing arguments on whether the government should be held in contempt for not cooperating with the probe.

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Missouri Governor No Longer Facing Sex-Related Charge

ST. LOUIS (AP) — Attorneys for Missouri Governor Eric Greitens say the felony invasion-of-privacy case against him was crumbling under a lack of evidence and they doubt any charge will be refiled.  But the St. Louis circuit attorney's office says it still plans to pursue the case, either through a special prosecutor or an appointed assistant.  Prosecutors alleged Greitens took a revealing photo of a woman with whom he has acknowledged having an affair. They dropped the charge Monday.  The Republican still faces other problems. Missouri's Republican legislative leaders say they still will convene Friday in a monthlong special session to consider whether to impeach Greitens.  Greitens also remains charged with a felony in St. Louis for allegedly disclosing a donor list from a veterans' charity he founded for use in his political campaign.

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Kansas Legalizes Self-Serve Beer Taps, Loosens Alcohol Laws

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas is loosening up its laws on brews and booze by authorizing self-serve beer taps, allowing longer hours for bars and taverns and legalizing candy laced with alcohol.  Republican Governor Jeff Colyer signed a bill Monday that makes the changes. He said during a ceremony on a downtown Topeka sidewalk that the legislation shows Kansas is forward-thinking and willing to help entrepreneurs.  The new law takes effect later this month and ends the state's status as one of the few that don't allow self-serve beer taps. The provision was inspired by plans for a new downtown Topeka restaurant near the Statehouse.  The new law will also allow bars, taverns and restaurants to begin serving alcohol at 6 am rather than 9 am and permits liquor stores to sell alcohol-laced candy.

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Japan Looks to Strengthen Business Ties with Kansas

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Japanese officials have met with Kansas Governor Jeff Colyer hoping to strengthen business relations and encourage Kansas to rejoin an alliance between Japan and regional states.  The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that Colyer met last month with a delegation from the Chicago-based Japanese consulate.  Consul general Naoki Ito says some federal trade decisions could jeopardize exports of Kansas beef and pork to Japan. He says Kansas could raise the profile of its image, showcase its business and attract investors by rejoining the Midwest U.S.-Japan Association. The association introduces U.S. companies to Japan's senior investors.  Former Governor Sam Brownback left the association in 2012 to save money, citing a $2,000 annual membership. Ito says Colyer's position in office marks an opportunity to renew relations.  Colyer's office declined to comment on the meeting.

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Sentencing in Kansas Bomb Case Delayed Until September

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A federal judge has delayed the sentencing of three men who plotted to bomb a mosque and apartment complex housing Somali refugees in Kansas.  U.S. District Judge Eric Melgren on Monday reset the sentencing date to September 6 for Patrick Stein, Gavin Wright and Curtis Allen. The case had been scheduled for sentencing next month, but some defense attorneys asked for more time in part to prepare for it.  The men were convicted in April of one count of conspiracy to use a weapon of mass destruction and one count of conspiracy against civil rights. Wright was also convicted of lying to the FBI.  They were indicted in October 2016 for an attack planned for the day after the presidential election in the western Kansas meatpacking town of Garden City.

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