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Headlines for Wednesday, August 1, 2018

Judge Orders Kobach to Pay More Than $26,000 for Contempt

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A federal judge has imposed sanctions of more than $26,000 as punishment against Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach for his "contemptuous behavior" during a voting rights case that challenged the state's proof-of-citizenship registration law. U.S. District Judge Julie Robinson found Kobach in contempt in April. The decision handed down Wednesday specified the amount of attorney fees and expenses. It fell short of the more than $50,000 sought by the American Civil Liberties Union. Robinson said Kobach failed to ensure local election officials sent voter registration postcards to people who registered when applying for a Kansas driver's license or when using a federal form, regardless of documentary proof of citizenship. She also noted that until recently the county election manual advised local officials that people needed to submit citizenship paperwork.

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Two Johnson County Residents Contract Severe West Nile Virus Infections

OLATHE, Kan. (AP) - Kansas health officials say two Johnson County residents have developed serious cases of West Nile Virus.  Greg Lakin, medical officer of the Kansas Department of Health and Environment, says most cases of West Nile are not serious but the two Johnson County residents have neuroinvasive infections, which cause brain swelling and sometimes death.  The health department said most of the state is under a high-risk warning for the mosquito-borne illness.  

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Kansas Collected $11 Million More in Taxes Than Expected in July

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas is reporting that it collected $11 million more in taxes in July than anticipated to make it the longest streak of better-than-expected revenues in at least 50 years. The state Department of Revenue reported Wednesday that tax collections were $499 million last month. The state's official forecast had predicted $488 million in taxes. The monthly surplus was 2.3 percent. It was the 14th consecutive month that tax collections have been better than forecast. An AP spreadsheet compiled from monthly reports shows that the state hasn't seen a streak that long since at least February 1968. The state ended its 2018 budget year on June 30 with more than $7 billion in tax collections and exceeded expectations by $318 million. The annual surplus was 4.7 percent.

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Leading Kansas Democrat Under Scrutiny for Backing Voter ID

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The leading Democratic candidate for Kansas governor is under attack for her past vote in favor of tough voter identification policies. Democrats are anticipating the very real possibility that their author and aggressive champion, conservative Kris Kobach, will win the Republican nomination. No state had gone further in requiring prospective voters to provide papers documenting their U.S. citizenship when registering before a federal judge struck down the law in June. But the Kansas law had strong bipartisan support when the Legislature approved it in 2011. One of the yes votes came from state Senator Laura Kelly, of Topeka. That vote has dogged Kelly in the final weeks before the Aug. 7 primary. Her two main rivals hope it prompts Democrats to abandon her as a prospective nominee.

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Another Shakeup at Osawatomie State Hospital; New Interim Superintendent Put in Place

OSAWATOMIE, Kan. (AP) — The state has appointed a new interim superintendent at Osawatomie State Hospital.  A state official said Tuesday that Wes Cole, a retired psychiatric hospital employee, was named interim superintendent at the hospital. The appointment was approved July 24.  Cole replaces Clayton Bledsoe, who was named interim superintendent in April.  The Topeka Capital-Journal reports Cole was a member of the governor's behavioral health advisory council and has an extensive background in the field.  Bledsoe was hired in May 2017 as nursing director at the hospital.  Kansas Department for Aging and Disability Services officials didn't release a reason for Bledsoe's departure.

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Kansas City, Kansas, Police Shoot Suspected Car Burglar

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) — Kansas City, Kansas, police say a man is in stable condition after being shot by officers.  Police say the incident began when officers were called Tuesday night to the scene of an attempted car burglary.  KCTV reports when the car's owner confronted the suspect, he fired several shots into the air and rode away on a bicycle.  Officers found the man about a block away. Police say when he came out of a secluded area, the suspect was armed. Officers fired and hit him in the arm and leg.  The man was hospitalized with non-life-threatening injuries. No officers were hurt.  The police department's major case unit is investigating the shooting.

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Judge to Hear Arguments in Case Against Kansas Commissioner

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A federal judge plans to hear oral arguments on whether the federal government has needlessly interjected itself in matters traditionally reserved for states when it charged a Sedgwick County commissioner Michael O'Donnell. U.S. District Judge Eric Melgren set on Wednesday a hearing for August 17 on two pending defense motions seeking to dismiss all or part of the indictment. O'Donnell is accused of misspending more than $10,000 in campaign funds and then covering it up. He has pleaded not guilty to a 12-count indictment alleging wire fraud and money laundering. The defense argued "over zealous prosecution" sometimes occurs when prosecutors throw a wide net. It contends O'Donnell came to law enforcement's attention during an investigation of others. Prosecutors countered the indictment alleges federal crimes properly brought before federal courts.

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Kansas Attorney, Engineer Plead Not Guilty to Cyberattack

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A Wichita lawyer and a computer software engineer have pleaded not guilty to a federal indictment alleging they plotted cyberattacks on websites with information criticizing the attorney's work.tKWCH-TV reports that Wichita lawyer Bradley Pistotnik and VIRAL Artificial Intelligence Co-Founder David Dorsett made their first court appearances Wednesday in federal court on an indictment charging them with computer fraud and conspiracy. The 62-year-old attorney is also charged with making false statements to the FBI. Both men are free on $25,000 bonds. The indictment alleges that Pistotnik and Dorsett are responsible for cyberattacks on Leagle.com, Ripoffreport.com and JaburgWilk.com in 2014 and 2015. The indictment also accuses Dorsett of filling website inboxes with threats. Court records say one email demands that a webpage be removed or the hackers will target advertisers.

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Shamrock Trading Proposes Expansion Creating 1,000 Jobs

OVERLAND PARK, Kan. (AP) - Shamrock Trading Corp. has announced a proposed expansion at its Overland Park facility that it says will create more than 1,000 jobs.  Governor Jeff Colyer's office says in a news release that these are high-quality jobs with an average salary of $56,000.  The company recently announced the purchase of 30 acres in Overland Park. Though no plans have been finalized, it says the land could be used to build multiple office towers for a growing base of employees that has grown by 175 percent in the past three years.  The company's chief operating officer, Tom Sullivan, says the location is ideal for the expansion.  Shamrock Trading provides services for the transportation industry, including logistics, financing, and software technology.  The proposal is subject to approval from the city of Overland Park.

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Topeka Mayor Burglarized 3 Times in Past 6 Weeks

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) - Topeka Mayor Michelle De La Isla says she felt terrified because burglars had victimized her three times in the past six weeks.  She told reporters at a monthly news conference that it's a feeling of vulnerability, of feeling unsafe in your own home and not being able to sleep at night.  The Topeka Capital-Journal says the mayor is a single mother who owns a home in southwest Topeka's Briarwood subdivision. She's been Topeka's mayor since January and previously served four years on the city council.  The mayor says she was sleeping about 5 am Monday when someone jiggled her house's locked door, entered her daughter's unlocked car outside the house and stole bicycles and make-up.

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Independent Puts $650,000 into Kansas Governor Bid

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) - A businessman running for Kansas governor as an independent has donated $650,000 of his own funds to his campaign.  Greg Orman's contributions allowed his campaign to raise $1.3 million in cash. A Republican candidate, Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, made similar moves by borrowing heavily from his businessman running mate.  Orman has yet to submit the petitions with the required signatures from 5,000 registered voters, but it has already started running television ads. The Kansas City-area businessman made national headlines in 2014 by running as an independent for the U.S. Senate.  On the Republican side, Kobach has raised $1.7 million, which includes more than $1.5 million in loans from his running mate, Wichita businessman Wink Hartman. Kobach is challenging Republican Governor Jeff Colyer, who has raised $834,000 since the beginning of the year.  The primary is August 7.

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Kansas Congressman Roger Marshall Endorses Steve Watkins in 2nd District Race

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) - Kansas Congressman Roger Marshall has stepped into the race in a neighboring congressional district by endorsing political newcomer Steve Watkins for the GOP nomination.  The Watkins campaign announced the endorsement Tuesday. The former Army ranger and defense contractor from Topeka is in a seven-person contest in the August 7 primary in the 2nd District of eastern Kansas.  Marshall represents the neighboring 1st District of western and central Kansas and won his seat after defeating former Representative Tim Huelskamp in the GOP primary in 2016.  The 2nd District seat is open because five-term Republican Congresswoman Lynn Jenkins is not seeking re-election this year. The winner of the GOP nomination will face Democrat and former Kansas House Minority Leader Paul Davis.

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Kansas Man Remains Hospitalized After Stun Gun Used on Him

JOPLIN, Mo. (AP) - A 36-year-old Kansas man remains hospitalized with a head injury he suffered three weeks ago when a Joplin police officer used a stun gun on him.  Police say James Wary, of Pittsburg, was recently moved to a transitional care unit and is listed in stable condition at Freeman Hospital West.  The Joplin Globe reports Wary fell July 9 and hit his head on pavement at a Walmart store after an officer used the stun gun to stop him from fleeing. Wary had previously been banned from the store.  Captain Trevor Duncan said when Wary ran, officer Isaac Costley used his stun gun. Duncan Wary became unresponsive after falling and striking his head. He became unresponsive.  Duncan said an internal police review board cleared the officer of any wrongdoing.

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2 Kansas Mennonite Churches Offering Sanctuary to Immigrants

NEWTON, Kan. (AP) - Two Mennonite churches in Kansas say they could provide sanctuary to immigrants who are living unlawfully in the country.  The Shalom Mennonite Church in Newton has voted as a congregation to help such immigrants, and church members are working on transforming part of the basement into living quarters.  First Mennonite Church of Christian in Moundridge also says it is willing to offer sanctuary.  KSN-TV reports that while neither church has hosted any immigrants, both are ready to help.  Shalom pastor Rachel Ringenberg Miller says they have been told by attorneys that immigration agents could come, but churches along with other areas like hospitals and schools are considered sensitive spaces. She acknowledges she be facing possible legal issues for offering sanctuary.  Both churches say they are getting support the Mennonite community.

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KU Sees Increase in Student Mental Health Needs

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) - A University of Kansas report shows an increase in demand for student mental health services.  The Lawrence Journal-World reports that the university's Student Affairs department has found that counseling and psychological services had a total of 120 visits in May. That's up more than 73 percent from May 2017.  Michael Maestas is the director of the university's Counseling and Psychological Services. He says a decrease in stigma related to mental health issues and an increase in early recognition have likely contributed to the increase in demand.  An anonymous donation to the university's endowment has allowed CAPS to hire additional staff and launch a peer educator team in response to the increased need.  Maestas says anxiety and depression are the leading concerns at the university.

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Kansas Police Agencies Oppose Innocence Case Reviews

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) — Police agencies in northeastern Kansas are opposing a proposal from the Wyandotte County District Attorney's Office to study potential wrongful conviction cases. Wyandotte County District Attorney Mark Dupree recently sought $162,000 from the Unified Government Board of County Commissioners to create a Conviction Integrity Unit, The Kansas City Star reported . The unit would investigate claims of innocence, prosecutorial misconduct and law enforcement error. The commission has committed to funding the unit, Dupree said. Kansas City Police Chief Terry Zeigler, Wyandotte County Sheriff Donald Ash and Fraternal Order of Police representatives wrote a letter to the Kansas Attorney General's Office opposing the unit. The letter said the unit is a "clear deviation from the criminal justice system's handling of manifest injustice claims." Any cases that are mishandled would put communities at risk and could have adverse economic consequences, the letter said. State lawmakers recently passed legislation that would compensate people who have been wrongfully convicted. Dupree's office said Tuesday that the unit would follow Kansas law. The pursuit of justice for potentially innocent inmates should outweigh concerns of economic costs, Dupree said. "Ensuring justice for the citizens of Wyandotte County through the (Conviction Integrity Unit) must be paramount," he wrote. The law enforcement officials also expressed concerns over the possibility that law school interns with little experience would handle some case reviews. Dupree said that while interns would be involved in preliminary research, cases that need a deeper look would be handled by the professional unit. Dupree said his office has already identified 19 cases that could be reviewed. His office is working with the Paul E. Wilson Project for Innocence and the Innocence Project Clinic at the University of Missouri-Kansas City.

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Report: Midwest's Economy Still Growing, but At Slower Pace

OMAHA, Neb. (AP) — Economic growth is still slowing in nine Midwestern and Plains states amid trade and tariff disputes, according to a monthly survey report released Wednesday. The Mid-America Business Conditions Index declined to 57.0 in July, from 61.8 in June and 67.3 in May, the report states. It's still the 20th straight month that the index remained above 50. Survey organizers say any score above 50 suggests growth. "The regional economy continues to expand at a healthy pace, with manufacturing growth of approximately 2.6 percent over the past 12 months, compared to a lower 2.3 percent for the U.S.," said Creighton University economist Ernie Goss, who oversees the survey. "However, I expect expanding tariffs, trade restrictions and rising short-term interest rates from a more aggressive Federal Reserve to slow growth to a more modest but still positive pace." The results from the survey of business supply managers are compiled into a collection of indexes ranging from zero to 100. The survey covers Arkansas, Iowa, Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, Oklahoma and South Dakota. The slowdown is reflected in the July employment index, which dropped to 58.9 from June's 61.9. "Overall employment growth in the region over the past 12 months has been healthy but expanding at a rate below that of the nation," Goss said. "On the other hand, manufacturing job growth has been stronger in the region than the rest of the U.S." Almost two-thirds of the supply managers who responded said the tariffs and trade restrictions have harmed or will harm their companies. Nevertheless, the economic optimism index hit 63.9 last month, compared with 59.8 in June. "Despite trade tensions and skirmishes, healthy profit growth, still low interest rates, and lower tax rates, supported robust business confidence," Goss said.

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Teenager Faces Trial as Adult in 15-Year-Old's Death

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) - A 17-year-old from Kansas City who is already facing murder charges will stand trial as an adult in the fatal shooting of a 15-year-old during a gun sale.  Andrew Rodriquez is charged with second-degree murder and five other counts in the April death of Jesus Reyes. Reyes and another teenager were found shot by police who happened to be in the area. Reyes was dead at the scene. The other teen survived.  According to a probable cause statement, the teenager who survived told police he planned to buy a gun from Rodriquez, who he knew from school. He said when he gave Rodriquez and another person cash for the gun, Rodriquez shot the two victims.  Police later recovered several guns from Rodriquez's home.  On Monday, Rodriquez was certified to stand trial as an adult.

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Police: 10-Year-Old Accidentally Shoots Gun in Science Camp

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) - Police say a 10-year- boy brought a gun to a science camp in Kansas and accidentally discharged it.  The Lawrence Journal-World reports no one was injured but the incident caused the evacuation Tuesday of the room at the New Century Fieldhouse in Johnson County where the camp was being held.  Captain Rob Weber of the Johnson County Parks and Recreation Department Police says about nine to 10 children were in the room.  Police say the boy brought the gun from home in his backpack to "show it around" at the camp. The child later thought better of that plan and kept the gun in the backpack. He accidentally hit the gun's trigger when he reached into the backpack to get something out. The single round shot into the floor.

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Indiana Family in Duck Boat Tragedy Seeks Ban on Novelty Boats

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) - Dozens of members of an Indiana family who lost nine relatives when a duck boat sank in Missouri are calling for a ban on the tourist boats.  Fifty-three members of the extended Coleman family attended a tear-filled news conference Tuesday in Indianapolis, hours after their attorneys filed a second lawsuit seeking damages from the owners and operators of the boat that sank July 19 near Branson, killing 17 people.  Lisa D. Berry is the sister of a 69-year-old Belinda Coleman who was one of nine relatives who died in the sinking.  She says an entire branch of her family tree is now gone.

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TransCanada Ordered to Inspect Part of Keystone Pipeline

ABERDEEN, S.D. (AP) - TransCanada Corp. is digging up a portion of the Keystone oil pipeline in South Dakota after an inspection identified potential issues with the pipeline's coating.  South Dakota Department of Environment and Natural Resources spokesman Brian Walsh tells Aberdeen American News that there aren't any reported leaks. He says the federal Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration is ordering the energy company to further inspect the route north of Britton.  TransCanada spokesman Matthew John says crews are conducting "standard monitoring and inspections" of the pipeline.  The Keystone pipeline section being investigated is about 15 miles (25 kilometers) north of where a crack last year caused an estimated 210,000 gallons (174,900 imperial gallons) of oil to spill between the Ludden, North Dakota, and Ferney, South Dakota, pump stations. A federal investigation into the pipeline failure is ongoing.

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Procedure Question Cancels Jackson County Sheriff's Election

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) _ A judge's ruling means Jackson County, Missouri's political party leaders -- rather than voters -- will choose the county's sheriff for the next two years.  Former Sheriff Mike Sharp resigned in April in the middle of a four-year term.  A state law says party leaders can pick their nominee to be sheriff when the job is vacated voluntarily in a year when the job would not be up for election.  The Kansas City Star reports the county Democratic Party committee claimed in a lawsuit that the County Legislature's clerk didn't have authority to open a one-week window in May allowing candidates to file to compete in their party primaries.  Circuit Court Judge David Michael Byrn agreed Tuesday, and the county won't appeal.  Each party's committee will select a nominee for a general election race.  

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Union Workers at Topeka Frito-Lay Accept New Contract

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) _ Union members at the Topeka Frito-Lay plant have ratified a two-year contract after rejecting a contract proposal in June.  Union representative Brad Schmidt says the contract was ratified Monday by most of the 450 to 500 members at the plant represented by the Bakery, Confectionery, Tobacco Workers and Grain Millers Local 218 union.  The Topeka Capital-Journal reports the new contract addressed problems involving the company overscheduling for weekends and then releasing workers if they weren't needed. Under the new contract, the company will pay people for their time if they don't end up working.  Schmidt says the company also will address policies that had some employees working more than 80 hours a week.  Most employees will get raises but two classifications of workers that will receive only bonuses.  

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