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Headlines for Wednesday, January 2, 2019

Governor-Elect Kelly Says She's Aware of Need for Addressing Higher Education Issues

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — Kansas Governor-elect Laura Kelly says she's aware the state may need to help higher education institutions but has more pressing issues she needs to focus on during her first legislative session. The Lawrence Journal-World reports that Kelly says the state will "go after the critical issues first," listing K-12 education funding, Medicaid expansion, infrastructure and the state's foster care program as the main issues. She says the state will be "doing what we can" for higher education, which saw its budget slashed by $30.7 million under former Gov. Sam Brownback. Lawmakers restored $6 million of that in 2017 and another $15 million in May. Still, the University of Kansas announced it would need to make a $20 million cut from its own budget. Kelly acknowledged that morale is an issue.

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Kansas Rep.-Elect Davids to Support Democratic Shutdown Plan

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas's new Democratic congresswoman is preparing to vote for legislation drafted by her party's leaders for reopening parts of the federal government. Rep.-elect Sharice Davids said Wednesday the package should have bipartisan support in both the House and Senate and she hopes it can pass Congress quickly. The package includes $1.3 billion for border security. That's far less than President Donald Trump is seeking for a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border. Parts of the federal government have been shut down since Dec. 22 because of the dispute over funding the wall. Davids said she hopes Trump comes to see that the shutdown is bad for the nation. Davids and Republican Kansas Rep.-elect Steve Watkins will take office Thursday. Watkins' office did not immediately respond Wednesday to messages seeking comment.

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Voting Rights Case Costs Ford County About $70,000 So Far

DODGE CITY, Kan. (AP) — Ford County has paid more than $70,000 in legal fees so far to a firm that represented its county clerk in a lawsuit filed after Dodge City's only polling place was moved outside city limits for November's general election. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports a document it received through an open records request shows the county paid the Hinkle Law Firm $71,481 in October and November to defend County Clerk Debbie Cox. The American Civil Liberties Union sued Cox in late October because the location inside the city was scheduled to undergo construction. The ACLU argued moving the site made it more difficult for voters — particularly the city's large Hispanic population — to vote. Days before the election, a federal judge denied the ACLU's request to keep the original site open.

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Kansas Judge Rules Telemedicine Abortions Can Continue

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A Kansas judge has ruled that the state cannot stop telemedicine abortions.  The ruling Monday from District Judge Franklin Theis allows a Wichita clinic to continue giving patients abortion pills when it does not have a doctor on site. It also allows the clinic to provide the pills to women in rural areas.  The judge ruled that a law barring telemedicine abortions set to take effect in January has no legal force because of how it was written. He declared that other parts of state abortion laws banning telemedicine abortions are on hold indefinitely while they are being challenged in court.  An abortion rights group filed a lawsuit challenging the 2018 law on behalf of Trust Women Wichita. Its clinic began offering telemedicine abortions in October.

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Missing Man's Body Found in Eastern Kansas

OSAWATOMIE, Kan. (KAKE TV) -  The body of a 32-year-old man who was reported missing the day after Christmas has been found in eastern Kansas.  According to KAKE TV, searchers found the body of Cameron Guliford late Saturday morning in Osawatomie. Police took the report that he was missing on Wednesday.  Guliford's body was found about 200 yards from an apartment complex in the 1100 block of Chestnut, where he was last seen leaving on December 23.  The cause of his death is still under investigation.  Guliford was a longtime resident Osawatomie, but had recently been living in Archie, Missouri.

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Man Preparing to Fire Celebratory Round Shoots, Wounds Self

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) — Authorities say a New Year's Eve reveler accidentally shot himself while preparing to fire a celebratory round in Kansas City, Kansas.  Police Chief Terry Zeigler tweeted that the shooting happened as the victim was getting ready to go out at midnight and fire his .22-caliber handgun. Zeigler says that when he sat the gun down on the couch, he accidentally shot himself in the stomach.  Zeigler says the man is expected to recover. Celebratory gunfire is illegal because of the risk of stray bullets hurting or killing someone.

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Fire That Erupts After New Year's Eve Party Destroys Building

HUTCHINSON, Kan. (AP) — Authorities say a fire that erupted after a New Year's Eve party has destroyed a Hutchinson commercial building that was being used as a wood hobby shop.  The Hutchinson News reports that the party ended around 3:30 am Tuesday, and the fire was reported just before 7 am.  About 40 firefighters battled the blaze. It was brought under control about two hours later, despite a firefight that was hampered by freezing temperatures and a broken hydrant.  Hutchinson Fire Chief Steve Beer says the building was in the process of being purchased and is considered a total loss. The building next to the wood hobby shop housed the Ark Valley Cooperative Dairy Association and sustained water damage.

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Delaware Tribe Ends Plans for Heritage Center near Lawrence

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — The Delaware Tribe has abandoned plans to develop an agricultural heritage center northeast of Lawrence. Chief Chester Brooks said the tribe's council decided the proposed center would not produce enough revenue to cover the estimated $500,000 cost of developing it. The Lawrence Journal-World reports the tribe, based in Bartlesville, Oklahoma, is now trying to lease the 92-acre site to another agricultural user. The property is just northeast of the Kansas Turnpike's interchange in North Lawrence. Brooks says the Delaware Tribe would prefer to sell the land. The tribe bought the property in 2013 with plans to open a casino. The casino plan stalled because most of the site is within the Kansas River flood plain. Brooks says the state also was unwilling to expand gaming to out-of-state tribes.

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Wichita State Provost to Be School's Acting President

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Wichita State University President John Bardo has asked Provost Richard Muma to be acting president while Bardo recovers from lung surgeries. Bardo, who is 70, was hospitalized in November with a chronic lung condition. He was expected to return to campus this month. The university said in a news release Wednesday that Bardo asked that Muma be acting president while Bardo focuses on recovering. It is not clear when Bardo is expected to return to the university. Bardo has been Wichita State's president since 2012.

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Prosecutors Say Women Plotted Killing in Text Messages

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — Prosecutors say text messages show that a woman plotted her ex-boyfriend's death with a friend for more than a month before his body was found inside a burning home near Lawrence. The Lawrence Journal-World reports that prosecutors want to present the texts at the upcoming trial of 39-year-old Tria Evans. But the defense says allowing them wouldn't be fair. Evans and 38-year-old Christina Towell are charged with first-degree murder in the November 2017 killing of 34-year-old Joel Wales. Evans and Wales had a child together and a history of domestic disputes. Towell is accused of driving Evans to the scene. One text between the women reads: "This needs done this week." Evans also called Wales a "psycho" in a text and said she hates being "scared all the time."

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Man Sentenced for Beating Girlfriend to Death with Shovel

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A 38-year-old Wichita man who admitted beating his girlfriend to death with a shovel has been sentenced to 35 years in prison before he is eligible for parole. Travis Becker Jr. was sentenced Wednesday for the death of 42-year-old Perla Rodriguez, who was the outreach director for the Wichita Area Sexual Assault Center. Becker was sentenced to 25 years for first-degree murder and a consecutive sentence of 15.5 years for aggravated kidnapping. KAKE-TV reports officers found Rodriguez's body in November 2017 in a northwest Wichita home. They also found a wooden handle shovel inside the bedroom, with the shovel blade covered in blood and hair. Becker was later arrested at his sister's home in Olathe.

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Study Finds Kansas Among Top States for Outbound Moves

ST. LOUIS (AP) — A study from United Van Lines indicates that an awful lot of people are moving to Vermont, while significant numbers are leaving New Jersey. The suburban St. Louis-based moving company on Wednesday released its 42nd annual National Movers Study, which tracks customers' state-to-state migration patterns. Vermont saw the highest percentage of inbound moves in 2018. Four Western states filled out the top 5: Oregon, Idaho, Nevada and Arizona. New Jersey had highest percentage of outbound moves, followed by Illinois, Connecticut, New York and Kansas. The study showed that Americans continue to move west and south. The Mountain West and South regions saw high percentages of inbound moves. The Northeast and Midwest had high percentages of outbound moves.

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Kansas Man Dies After Sliding into Ditch in Freezing Cold

GREAT BEND, Kan. (AP) — Authorities say a man was found dead near his vehicle in western Kansas after it became stuck in a ditch in freezing temperatures.  Barton County Sheriff Brian Bellendir says 68-year-old Ronald Reuber, of Nickerson, apparently became lost Friday and drove onto a minimally maintained rural road that was filled with freezing water from a snowstorm that hit three weeks earlier. Reuber then slid into a ditch. His body was found Saturday.  Bellendir says it appears hypothermia contributed to his death.

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Fleeing Driver Crashes into 2 Vehicles, Killing 1, Hurting 4

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) — Authorities say a woman was killed and four others were hurt when a fleeing driver smashed a stolen car into two other vehicles in Kansas City, Kansas.  The Kansas City Star reports that police say officers began pursuing the stolen Audi A4 Saturday night but ended the pursuit shortly before the driver ran a red light and crashed into the two vehicles. Two or three suspects in the stolen vehicle ran from the scene before police arrived. Police searched known gang houses Sunday, but the deadly crash suspects remain at large.  The Kansas Highway Patrol identified the woman who was killed as 47-year-old Octavia Barker, of Kansas City, Kansas. The crash also left two passengers in her car and two people in a third car hospitalized with serious injuries.

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Union Pacific Employee Killed in Western Kansas

OAKLEY, Kan. (AP) — Union Pacific Railroad says an employee died in a "train-related Incident" in western Kansas.  Spokeswoman Hannah Bolte said the employee died Sunday night in Oakley, the county seat of Logan County.  The employee's name was not released.  Bolte said no other details were available Monday because the investigation into the death is continuing.

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2 Dead in Vehicle Fire at McConnell Air Force Base

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Authorities say two people are dead after a vehicle fire at McConnell Air Force Base in Wichita.  KFDI-FM reports that a base official says a "fatal vehicle accident" happened around 11 p.m. Sunday at the west gate of the base. Base fire personnel responded and found two people dead. The base says it is working with Wichita police and the Sedgwick County Sheriff's Office to investigate.  No other information was immediately released, including the names of the victims.

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Self-Defense Pushes Wichita's Homicide Totals Past Last Year

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Wichita amassed more homicides in 2018 than in any year since 1995.  The Wichita Eagle reports that at least 43 people died by homicide in Wichita over the past year, up five from 2017.  Wichita police say the increase can in part be attributed to self-defense killings, which increased by five — from three to eight.  Kansas is among several states where residents have no legal obligation to retreat from an attacker in a place where they are lawfully present.  A homicide is permissible in Kansas when a person "reasonably believes" that the use of deadly force is "necessary to prevent imminent death or great bodily harm" to that person or a third party.

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Hunter Found Dead in Northwest Missouri

CHILLICOTHE, Mo. (AP) — The Livingston County Sheriff's Department is investigating the death of a deer hunter whose body was discovered in a field.  Sheriff Steve Cox says the man's body was discovered Sunday night near a county road in the southeast part of the county.  Cox said the victim had been hunting deer with a friend. They were hunting in separate areas and had permission to be on the property.  The St. Joseph News-Press reports the hunting partner found the victim's body and called for emergency assistance.

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Wichita District to Settle with Student Who Broke His Leg

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — The Wichita school district plans to pay up to $25,000 to settle a lawsuit with a student who fell on a wet floor at a middle school on a rainy day and broke his leg.  The Wichita Eagle reports that a court hearing is set for Monday. The district's board has voted to settle the lawsuit with the student who fell three years ago as he approached a stair landing at Hamilton Middle School. Court documents say the student "suffered personal injury and incurred medical expenses."  Neither the district nor an attorney for the boy's family responded to The Eagle's requests for comment.

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Authorities Review Reports of White Man Kicking Black Boy

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Wichita police have contacted the FBI about a report that a white man kicked a 1-year-old black child in the back at a Wichita grocery store and yelled racial slurs.  The Wichita Eagle reports that the boy's mother, 29-year-old Lashantai Whitaker, says she talked to an FBI agent Monday. Her son wasn't seriously hurt. Wichita police confirmed that officers have been in contact with the agency.  Thirty-one-year-old Trace Riff was let out of jail shortly after his December 23 arrest. So far, the case has been referred to municipal court and is being treated as a relatively minor crime. But the Sedgwick County District Attorney's Office has said it expects to review the case for possible charges this week.  The NAACP says the case should be prosecuted to the fullest.

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$1 Million Powerball Winner Purchased in South-Central Kansas

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The new year is starting out great for someone who bought a Powerball ticket in Kansas.  The Kansas Lottery said Monday someone bought a $1 million Powerball ticket for Saturday's Powerball drawing in south-central Kansas.  The winning ticket numbers were 12-42-51-53-62. The winner has 363 days to claim the prize.  The jackpot for Wednesday's Powerball drawing is an estimated $53 million, with a $32 million cash option.  

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Nell Hill's Home Store Founder Sells Kansas City Business

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — The founder of Nell Hill's home store is selling the business she started nearly four decades ago to a Kansas City couple.  The Kansas City Star reports that the deal closed late Friday. Brandon and Katie Laughridge have been in negotiations since this spring with the store's founder, Mary Carol Garrity, who has written nine books on home decorating and has a blog and syndicated column. The purchase price wasn't disclosed.  Garrity's original store in Atchison, Kansas, became a popular day trip destination for people from the Kansas City area. In 2007, she opened an 18,000-square-foot, two-story showroom in Kansas City, Missouri. The Atchison location closed two years ago.  Garrity says she considers herself "one of the luckiest humans" to have gotten to do something she loves for so long.

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Survey Suggests Improving Business Conditions in Midwest

OMAHA, Neb. (AP) — Business conditions improved last month in nine Midwest and Plains states despite shortages of skilled workers, according to a monthly survey report issued Wednesday.  The Mid-America Business Conditions Index rose to 55.2 in December from 54.1 in November, the report said. The October reading was 54.9. Survey organizers say any score above 50 suggests growth.  "The regional economy continues to expand at a positive pace," said Creighton University economist Ernie Goss, who oversees the survey. "However, as in recent months, shortages of skilled workers remain an impediment to even stronger growth. Furthermore, supply managers are reporting negative impacts from tariffs and trade skirmishes."

The December employment index sank to 50.0 from 57.5 in November.  "Overall manufacturing employment growth in the region over the past 12 months has been very healthy at 2.3 percent, compared (with) a lower 2.2 percent for the U.S," Goss said. "I expect this gap to close in the months ahead as regional job growth slows faster than national manufacturing job growth."

The survey results are compiled into a collection of indexes ranging from zero to 100, with a score above 50 suggesting growth. A score below that suggests decline. The survey covers Arkansas, Iowa, Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, Oklahoma and South Dakota.  Looking ahead six months, the December index for economic optimism fell to a still solid 54.1 from November's 55.5.  "However, I expect business confidence to depend heavily on the Fed's interest rate policies and trade talks with China," Goss said. More than 43 percent of supply managers who responded to the survey expected profits for their companies to improve in 2019, he said.  The regional trade numbers turned sharply lower last month. The index for new export orders slumped to 48.1 from November's 51.8, and the import index plummeted to 41.1 from 54.3 in November.  "Despite higher tariffs on imported goods, healthy regional growth boosted imports for the month," Goss said.

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