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Headlines for Tuesday, November 19, 2019

Atchison Company Pleads Guilty to Clean Air Act Violation, Faces $1 Million Fine

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A distillery could be fined up to $1 million for a chlorine gas cloud that lingered over a city in northeastern Kansas in 2016.  Federal prosecutors say MGP Ingredients pleaded guilty Monday to negligently violating the federal Clean Air Act, a misdemeanor.  In October 2016, a chlorine gas cloud formed at the company's Atchison plant when 4,000 gallons of sulfuric acid were mistakenly combined with 5,800 gallons of sodium hypochlorite.  Residents evacuated the city 50 miles northwest of Kansas City, or sheltered in place for hours. About 140 people sought medical attention.  A federal report blamed the leak on missing key rings on chemical storage tanks and a lack of attention to procedure.  Sentencing is February 24. The company could be sentenced to five years of probation.

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Kansas Unemployment Drops to 3.1%, Lowest in 40-Plus Years

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas is reporting that its unemployment rate in October dipped to 3.1% and was at its lowest rate in more than 40 years.  The state Department of Labor said Tuesday that the seasonally adjusted unemployment rate declined from 3.2% in September and was below the 3.3% recorded in October 2018.  Labor Secretary Delia Garcia said the last time unemployment was 3.1% was in April 1979. The rate has stayed below 4% since January 2017.  The state had nearly 1.18 million people employed in private-sector, nonfarm jobs in October. That's 13,600 more than in October 2018 for an increase of 1.2%.  The most robust over-the-year growth was in administrative, support and waste management services. They added 5,600 jobs for 6.9% growth and employment of 86,900 workers.

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Kobach’s Brand Still Sells with GOP in Senate Race in Kansas

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Kris Kobach isn’t fazed that fellow Republicans worry he’s unpopular or too brash in pushing his hard-right views to keep Kansas’ open U.S. Senate seat in GOP hands next year. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and others are so concerned that they’ve spent months urging ex-Kansas congressman Mike Pompeo to step down as U.S. secretary of state and run for the seat Republican Sen. Pat Roberts is leaving. They want to keep Kobach from winning the August GOP primary. But the ex-Kansas secretary of state isn’t softening his rhetoric or putting less focus on the tough immigration policies that built his national profile. He’s tripling down and deriding critics as “weak Republicans” seeking a “malleable” senator. Kobach still appeals to conservatives. Speculation about Pompeo shows that Kobach remains a force.

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Eudora Day Care Worker Gets 10-Year Term in Baby's Death

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — A woman convicted in the killing of a 9-month-old boy at a Kansas day care has been sentenced to more than 10 years in prison.  Forty-five-year-old Carrody Melissa Buchhorn was found guilty in July of second-degree murder in the September 2016 death of Oliver Ortiz at the Sunshine Kids Group Daycare Home in Eudora.  She was sentenced Monday.  The Lawrence Journal-World reports that a coroner ruled Oliver's death a homicide caused by blunt force trauma. He testified that Oliver had a fractured skull caused by enough force to make him immediately unresponsive and, without intervention, died within minutes.  Oliver's parents last year filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the day care operators in whose home Oliver died, Gina Brunton and husband Morgan Eric Brunton. The court later approved a settlement.

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Kansas Researcher Denies Working for Chinese University

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — An associate professor in Kansas accused of secretly working for a Chinese university alleges that a visiting scholar fabricated the allegations after trying to extort $300,000 from him.  Attorneys for Feng "Franklin" Tao filed a motion on Sunday seeking to dismiss the indictment charging him with wire fraud and program fraud. Tao contends he never accepted a teaching position in China and therefore had no obligation to disclose it to the University of Kansas.  The defense filing alleges that the unpaid scholar who tipped off the FBI was upset that she was not given enough credit for some research. It contends the woman hacked into his email account to get the unsigned contract from Fuzhou University in China, then lied to the FBI about where she got it.

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Gay Rights Advocate Seeks Olathe Councilwoman’s Resignation

OLATHE, Kan. (AP) — A gay rights activist says an Olathe City Council member should resign after she complained to his employer about his efforts to persuade the council to adopt an ordinance providing protections for LBGTQ residents. Brett Hoedl, chairman of the Equality Kansas Metro Kansas City chapter, said in a Facebook post that Councilwoman Karin Brownlee complained to his employer, Black & Veatch, about his advocacy for the ordinance. He said Black & Veatch supported him but others might hesitate to testify before the council if they believe they could be targeted. The Kansas City Star reports Brownlee said she meant no harm when she discussed Hoedl’s frequent appearances before the council with an acquaintance from Black & Veatch at a social event. Hoedl and others plan to call for Brownlee’s resignation at the council’s meeting Tuesday.

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Police: Deaths at Webb City Dental Practice a Murder-Suicide

WEBB CITY, Mo. (AP) — Authorities say the deaths of two people at a Webb City dental office was a murder-suicide. Police Chief Don Melton said authorities believe 55-year-old Windell Glass fatally shot his estranged wife, 45-year-old Camille Hostetter, and then shot himself. The bodies were found Monday at Hostetter’s dental office where they both worked. The Joplin Globe reports Hostetter filed for divorce in February. She lived in Joplin and Glass was living in Pittsburg, Kansas, but they worked together at her dental practice. No one else at the office at the time was injured.

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Topeka Man Sentenced for Cyberstalking Involving Teacher

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A 35-year-old Topeka man was sentenced to nine years in federal prison for cyberstalking a former co-worker by using her identity to post sexual content. U.S. Attorney Stephen McAllister said Blake Adam Austin was sentenced Tuesday for cyberstalking and possessing and distributing child pornography. The investigation began when a middle school teacher in Topeka reported receiving emails from males responding to a Craigslist ad in which someone used the victim’s identity to post sexual content. The problem continued for years until an investigator identified an account Austin was using to post sexual content and the victim’s contact information. The woman said she had worked with Austin at a coffee shop and had rejected his attempts to initiate a relationship. Investigators also found images of Austin having sex with a 17-year-old girl and sexually explicit photos of a girl under 15.

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Wichita Officials Seek to Shutter Troubled After-Hours Club

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Wichita officials are asking a judge for permission to shutter an unlicensed after-hours club that has been the scene of a deadly shooting and other crimes. The Wichita Eagle reports that the city is seeking authorization to padlock the property for two years. The city says that since 2017, Wichita police have logged at least 25 cases there. The incidents included city nuisance code and marijuana violations, vandalism and aggravated batteries. Last summer, 37-year-old Issac Lewis was killed in a shooting at the club that also injured a 28-year-old woman. Several businesses have opted at the address, with the most recent one known as “The Peoples 316 Association.” The property’s landlord, A. Al Wakil, says the club operator’s lease is up this month, and he doesn’t plan to renew it.

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Teen Charged with Murder Says He Didn’t Know Gun Was Loaded

OLATHE, Kan. (AP) — A 13-year-old charged with murder in Johnson County said told investigators he didn’t know a gun was loaded when a 14-year-old was fatally shot. The Kansas City Star reports court documents released recently say the teenagers stole the gun from a car and were playing with it when Zavier Mendoza was shot Aug. 8 at a townhome in Olathe. Prosecutors charged the 13-year-old from Roeland Park with second-degree murder. Johnson County District Attorney Steve Howe declined to comment on the charging decision. Authorities have not released the 13-year-old’s name because of his age. The affidavit says the 13-year-old, Mendoza and two other teens were playing with the gun when Mendoza was shot. The 13-year-old is scheduled to go to trial Jan. 13.

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Ellison: Agreement Will Help Districts Afford School Milk

ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) — Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison says his office has reached an agreement to help more than 40 school districts afford to buy milk for students through 2030. Ellison said Tuesday the agreement with Kansas-based Dairy Farmers of America will make it easier for those districts to buy school milk at affordable prices for the next decade. Last year, DFA bought a milk-processing plant in St. Paul that was owned by Agropur, a Quebec-based dairy co-op. Until then, the St. Paul facility and Kemps, owned by DFA, competed to supply milk to schools mainly in the Minneapolis-St. Paul area. Ellison alleged the acquisition would lessen competition in the Minnesota school milk market. DFA denied the allegations. Under the agreement, starting next school DFA’s bidding for those districts’ school milk sales will be capped at the price for last school year, with adjustments for market conditions.

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Man Accused of Threatening Police with Candlestick in Church

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Topeka police arrested a man who allegedly threatened police with a large candlestick during a disturbance at a church. Police spokeswoman Gretchen Koenen said officers responded to a call early Tuesday about a disturbance at the Holy Name Catholic Church. The nearly 100 children and adults attending a Mass were evacuated from the church. Koenen says 32-year-old Edwin Soto Jr. became combative with officers and threatened them with a large candlestick. No one was injured. Koenen says Soto is being held in the Shawnee County jail without bond facing possible charges of aggravated assault and making an aggravated criminal threat.

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Wichita Man Pleads Guilty to Carjacking During Chase

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A 30-year-old Wichita man pleaded guilty to a federal charge of carjacking that was part of a police chase that included officers firing shots at a speeding car. Federal prosecutors announced Monday that Zachary Ausdemore pleaded guilty Monday. He admitted that on Sept. 10, he stole a car from an elderly Wichita couple after threatening to kill them if they didn’t give him their car keys. Police say the incident began when officers tried to stop a stolen Jeep. Officers fired at the Jeep as it sped toward them, injuring the driver and Ausdemore. Ausdemore ran to a house where the couple was watching the chase. He took their car and police chased him until the car went into a ditch. Ausdemore will be sentenced in February. 

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Remains Found in Nebraska Linked to Missouri Killings of Wisconsin Brothers

LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) — Nebraska authorities say human remains found in a stock trailer could be those of at least one of two Wisconsin brothers who prosecutors say were fatally shot by a Missouri farmer.  Lincoln County Sheriff Chief Deputy Roland Kramer said Monday that a rancher near Hershey, Nebraska, found the remains mixed with dirt in a plastic tub inside the trailer he recently purchased in Missouri.  Garland Nelson, a 25-year-old Missouri farmer, is accused of fatally shooting 35-year-old Nick Diemel and 24-year-old Justin Diemel, of Wisconsin, then burning their bodies and dumping them in a manure pile. He faces two counts of first-degree murder.  Relatives say the brothers traveled to Nelson’s farm to collect on a $250,000 debt.  Kramer says Missouri authorities confirmed the remains could belong to one of the brothers.

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Fire-Damaged Kansas Tyson Plant to Resume Operations Soon

HOLCOMB, Kan. (AP) — A fire-damaged Tyson meat processing plant in Kansas is expected to resume operations in December.  Tyson announced Monday in a news release that reconstruction of the Holcomb plant is nearing completion. The company says it will begin processing beef again in the first week of December and be fully operational by the first week of January.  The fire started in August in an area of the plant near where animals are killed, causing part of the roof to collapse. Reconstruction included replacing support beams and the roof, as well as installing more than 50,000 feet (15240 meters) of new wiring.  The plant employees about 1,200 people. The company says it continued to pay full-time workers during the shutdown.  Holcomb is located less than 10 miles west of Garden City.

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Man Charged with Death of Cousin at KC Area Restaurant

INDEPENDENCE, Mo. (AP) — A man is charged with second-degree murder after his cousin was shot to death at an Independence restaurant.  The Kansas City Star reports 25-year-old Porntrep Phonjaroen is charged with killing his cousin, 23-year-old Wasinee Sankra, of Blue Springs, on Saturday.  Phonjaroen, of Lee’s Summit, is also charged with armed criminal action in Sankra’s death at the Thai Spice restaurant where they both worked.  The business was open and serving customers when the shooting occurred but no one else was injured.  Charging documents say Phonjaroen told police he was upset with Sankra’s work habits but only meant to scare her when he fired the shot in the restaurant’s kitchen area.  Phonjaroen does not have an attorney listed in court records.

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Wichita Man Pleads Guilty to Carjacking During Chase

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A 30-year-old Wichita man pleaded guilty to a federal charge of carjacking that was part of a police chase that included officers firing shots at a speeding car.  Federal prosecutors announced Monday that Zachary Ausdemore pleaded guilty Monday. He admitted that on September 10, he stole a car from an elderly Wichita couple after threatening to kill them if they didn't give him their car keys.  Police say the incident began when officers tried to stop a stolen Jeep. Officers fired at the Jeep as it sped toward them, injuring the driver and Ausdemore.  Ausdemore ran to a house where the couple was watching the chase. He took their car and police chased him until the car went into a ditch.  Ausdemore will be sentenced in February.

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1 Killed in Wichita House Fire; Cause Under Investigation

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Authorities say one person has been killed in a house fire in Wichita.  KWCH-TV reports that that the fire started late Sunday in the northwest part of the city. Captain Chad Winton says that one person was found inside the structure and died despite life-saving efforts.  The fire was contained to the room where it started. Investigators are working to determine what sparked the blaze.

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Missouri Collecting Containers Found Floating in Floodwaters

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Hundreds of containers — many carrying hazardous materials — have floated into Missouri since flooding in the upper Missouri River basin during the spring.  Missouri Department of Natural Resources officials say the agency collected more than 740 containers this year. Many are believed to be from Nebraska and Iowa.  The containers range from small buckets to 500,000-gallon tanks. Many contain diesel fuel, pesticides or ammonia.  KCUR Radio reports most of the containers washed up on the banks of the Missouri River in northwest Missouri.  Environmental scientist Stephen McLane says the goal is to return the containers to their owners, but many don't have identifying marks.  A recycler in Kansas City has helped the agency dispose of roughly 12,000 gallons of fuel, pesticides and herbicides.  McLane said the agency expects to be collecting orphaned containers through at least January.

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Wichita Police: Man Suspected of Wounding Girlfriend, Killing Himself

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Authorities say a man is suspected of shooting and critically wounding his girlfriend before fatally shooting himself in a Wichita home.  KFDI reports Wichita police said Monday the man involved in the Saturday night shooting was 23-year-old Brandon Sandoval. The woman's name has not been released.  Wichita police said a man who lives in the home told police that Sandoval shot the 22-year-old woman during a fight. When officers got the woman on the phone, she told them she had been shot and then started screaming.  Police say as officers forced their way into the home, they heard another gunshot. The woman was suffering from a bullet wound to her abdomen and Sandoval was shot in the head. Police say his wound appeared to be self-inflicted. The roommate wasn't hurt.

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Kansas City to Disband Mounted Patrol Unit

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Kansas City’s popular mounted patrol units are being reassigned. Police Chief Rick Smith announced Tuesday that he is reassigning the officers in the unit to allow eight more detectives to be assigned to the homicide unit. Smith cited the city’s high homicide and violent crimes rates for prompting the decision. The Kansas City Star reports the department is trying to fill 42 vacant police officer positions. The department allocated about $649,000 for the mounted patrol unit in this year’s budget. The mounted patrol unit was used for crowd control during large outdoor events, to patrol districts such as Westport and the Country Club Plaza and visited neighborhoods as part of community engagement. The horses, which are donated, will be returned to their owners, if possible.

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Runaway Kansas Police Dog Bites 14-Year-Old on Face, Chest

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Authorities say a runaway Kansas police dog bit a teenager on the face and chest.  The Sedgwick County Sheriff's Office said in a Facebook post that the German Shepard , named Bocephus, went missing Monday night. Someone then found the dog, put him on a leash and walked around the neighborhood in an unsuccessful search for his owner. The person then returned home, and Bocephus was placed in the bedroom of a 14-year-old boy. The teen took the dog for a walk the next morning and was bit while removing the leash.  The post says the boy was treated at a clinic for minor injuries. Lt. Tim Myers says the dog will return to service after a 10-day quarantine, which is standard after a bite. Police don't know how the dog got out.

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Land Affected by Keystone Pipeline Leak Bigger than Thought

BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) — A crude oil spill from the Keystone pipeline in eastern North Dakota has turned out to have affected almost 10 times the amount of land as first reported, a state regulator said Monday.  North Dakota environmental scientist Bill Suess said the leak reported on Oct. 29 is now estimated by state regulators to have affected about 209,100 square feet of land near Edinburg. State regulators had said the leak affected about 22,500 square feet of land.  Calgary, Alberta-based TC Energy, formerly known as TransCanada, estimated its pipeline leaked an estimated 383,000 gallons of oil. Suess said that estimate has not changed.  The cause of the spill is still unknown.

An affected portion of the pipe has been sent to a third-party laboratory for inspection, as required by federal regulators.  TC Energy said the pipeline returned to service on November 10 after approval of a repair and restart plan by the U.S. Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration.  The company has not given an estimate on the land that was affected, Suess said. The initial estimate by state regulators was "a quick and dirty look at it," he said. "We did have some surface expansion since then."  The company reported late Sunday that it had recovered about 337,550 gallons of oil, along with 141,834 gallons of oily water, Suess said.

Cleanup crews and state regulators remained at the site on Monday. Some wetlands were affected, but not any sources of drinking water, he said.  TC Energy has said people were at the site working around the clock to clean up the spill. Suess said the cleanup work was cut to daylight hours on Monday.  The company has referred questions to its website but has not updated it in more than a week.  The proposed Keystone XL pipeline has drawn opposition from people who fear it will cause environmental damage.

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Duke Climbs to No. 1 in AP Top 25, KU Comes in at #4

Duke is back at No. 1, moving up a spot following a pair of victories last week.  The Blue Devils can thank Evansville for the jump.  Duke moved to No. 1 for the first time this season, receiving 52 first-place votes from a 65-member media panel in The Associated Press men's college basketball poll released Monday.  The Blue Devils climbed a spot after unranked Evansville pulled off the season's biggest surprise so far by knocking off previous No. 1 Kentucky.  Duke is ranked No. 1 for the 143rd week, extending its own record, and has the top spot in the AP poll for the 20th season under coach Mike Krzyzewski, also a record.  No. 2 Louisville received eight first-place votes and No. 3 Michigan State, the preseason No. 1, had four.  Kansas and North Carolina rounded out the top five, with No. 7 Virginia receiving the final first-place vote, one spot behind Maryland.

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