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Headlines for Wednesday, July 11, 2018

update: University of Kansas Says Flag Art Installation Moved for Public Safety Reasons

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — University of Kansas Chancellor Doug Girod says a controversial public art exhibit featuring an altered U.S. flag was moved because of concerns over public safety. The chancellor says the flag display will be relocated to the Spencer Museum of Art on the Lawrence campus. The flag art had been displayed in front of Spooner Hall on the campus since July 5. On Wednesday, Gov. Jeff Colyer and Secretary of State Kris Kobach had called for the flag display to be removed, saying it was disrespectful to the U.S. military. Girod said in a statement after the exhibit was taken down that the conversation around the display caused public safety concerns on the campus, although he did not elaborate. He says the university wants to foster dialogue on difficult issues but couldn't allow the discussion to put people or property in harm's way.
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4:50 p.m.

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) —  The University of Kansas has removed an altered U.S. flag that was part of a public art display on the Lawrence campus. The Lawrence Journal-World reports the flag was removed from in front of the university's Spooner Hall shortly before 4:30 p.m. Wednesday. The removal came less than an hour after Kansas Gov. Jeff Colyer said Chancellor Douglas Girod had promised to take down the art display. Colyer and Secretary of State Kris Kobach demanded the flag display be removed, saying it was disrespectful to the country's military. Kobach is running against Coyler in the Republican governor's race. The primary is next month. Kansas congressional candidate Steve Watkins first raised the issue Wednesday but had not demanded that the flag be removed. The display, called "Untitled (Flag 2), went up on July 5.
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3:45 p.m.

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — Kansas Governor Jeff Colyer's spokesman says the top administrator at the University of Kansas has promised to take down an art display that involves an altered U.S. flag. Colyer spokesman Kendall Marr said the governor spoke Wednesday afternoon with university Chancellor Douglas Girod about the display. Marr said Girod promised that the altered flag would be taken down quickly. The governor had called the display disrespectful to the flag. Both he and Secretary of State Kris Kobach said it should be taken down. The piece, called "Untitled (Flag 2)," is the last of a series of flag pieces that have flown on the Lawrence campus since last fall as part of a national art project called "Pledges of Allegiance," which involves 11 institutions at 14 locations across the country.
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3:15 p.m.

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — Kansas Republican Governor Jeff Colyer and Secretary of State Kris Kobach on Wednesday demanded that the University of Kansas take down an art display that involves an altered U.S. flag, calling it disrespectful to the military. The piece, called "Untitled (Flag 2), is the last of a series of flag pieces that have flown on the Lawrence campus since last fall as part of a national art project called "Pledges of Allegiance," which involves 11 institutions at 14 locations across the country. The current piece, which was installed July 5, shows two black shapes on the flag and a black-and-white sock. The artist, New York-based Josephine Meckseper, said it represents a deeply polarized country. Colyer, who faces Kobach in the GOP gubernatorial primary in August, said Wednesday that the "disrespectful" display is "absolutely unacceptable" and should be taken down immediately. He said he had contacted university Chancellor Doug Girod and board of regents President Blake Flanders to express his disappointment that a public institution would allow such a display. "Men and women have fought and bled for that flag and to use it in such a manner is beyond disrespectful," Colyer said. University spokeswoman Erinn Barcomb-Peterson said private money paid for the project, which was intended to encourage conversation about the current political climate. Kobach said it was "outrageous" that a public university would display a desecrated flag. "The fact that they call it art does not make it any less of a desecration of our flag. I call upon the university to take down that flag right away," Kobach said. The controversy began when Steve Watkins, a combat veteran and GOP candidate for Kansas's 2nd Congressional District, drew attention to the artwork earlier Wednesday, saying the "defaced American flag" was disrespectful to the military. He said he was not demanding that the flag be removed. "To those who would trample, burn, or deface the flag, thank a soldier," Watkins said in a statement. "It hurts me to see a defaced flag fly at the University of Kansas." Meckseper, who is based in New York City, was commissioned by public arts nonprofit Creative Time to create the piece. In a statement on the Creative Time website, Meckseper said she divided the shape of the U.S. in two for the flag design to reflect divisions in the country. She said a black and white sock in the corner "takes on a new symbolic meaning in light of the recent imprisonment of immigrant children at the border ... It's about time for our differences to unite us rather than divide us." The "Pledges of Allegiance" project began at Kansas in November and will run until July 30.

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Topeka Man Gets 10 Years in Prison for Child Porn

TOPEKA, Kan. (KPR) - A Topeka man who pleaded guilty to distributing child pornography has now been sentenced to more than 10 years in prison.  Federal prosecutors say 22-year-old Ryan Andrew Rivera used Facebook to contact 10 underage females, urging them to send him sexually explicit images of themselves.  Prosecutors say in one instance, Rivera sent sexually explicit images of a 15-year-old girl to another 15-year-old girl.

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Official: School Funding Compliance Costs Would Total $900 Million

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) _ A top education official says Kansas would have to phase in another $364 million increase in public school funding over five years to comply with a recent Kansas Supreme Court order.  Deputy Education Commissioner Dale Dennis presented his calculations Tuesday to the State Board of Education. The Supreme Court ruled last month that a new law phasing in a $548 million increase in school funding over five years isn't adequate under the state constitution but gave legislators until next spring to fix it. Under Dennis's calculation, the total increase would exceed $900 million. The court said the new law should have provided additional funds to cover inflation and noted that the average rate was 1.44 percent from the 2010-11 school year through 2016-17. Dennis used that average in his calculations.

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GOP Candidates for KS Governor Talk Schools and Guns at Debate in Wichita

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) - Kansas Insurance Commissioner Ken Selzer says while local school boards should decide for themselves whether to arm individual teachers, they shouldn't offer extra pay. Selzer said during a televised Tuesday night forum for Republican gubernatorial candidates that offering teachers extra pay would encourage those with marginal firearms skills to bring weapons to school. He is trying to unseat Gov. Jeff Colyer in the August 7 primary.  

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Fireworks Hurt More than 130 During 4th of July Week

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) _ Officials say fireworks injured more than 130 people in Kansas during the week of the Fourth of July. The Kansas Department of Health and Environment says the injuries were reported by emergency departments throughout the state.  Sedgwick County had the most injuries, with 38, followed by Shawnee County, with 18, Douglas County, with seven, and Sumner County, with six.  Five injuries were reported in Riley, Butler and Johnson Counties, and there were four each in Wyandotte and Saline Counties. Several other counties had three or fewer. Sixty-three percent of those injured were male. Nearly half of the victims were 17 or younger.  The agency's chief medical officer, Dr. Greg Lakin, says the injuries were "mostly preventable'' and show that "greater care needs to be taken when handling fireworks.''

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Man Arrested in Killing of Wichita Woman in Her Apartment

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) - Authorities have arrested a man in the killing of a Wichita woman. Sedgwick County Jail records show the 59-year-old suspect is being held on $750,000 bond on suspicion of second-degree murder. Police say he was arrested Monday in the death of 55-year-old Eula Duncan. Lt. Todd Ojile said earlier that Duncan and a man she knew got into an argument that ended with him hitting her with an object. Ojile would not say what the object was. Ojile said people knew about the woman's injuries, but she did not come out of her apartment for several days before police were called to check on her. Officers found her body inside the apartment on June 30.

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Man Fatally Shot in Kansas After Arranging to Buy iPhone

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) _ A woman says her husband was fatally shot in Kansas City, Kansas, while meeting someone he met through the mobile sales app Letgo about purchasing an iPhone 7.  The Kansas City Star reports that 45-year-old Oune Somsanith, of Lee's Summit, Missouri, was shot Sunday afternoon. The father of five died at a hospital.  His wife, Kelly Somsanith-Hawley, said her husband loved to make money by finding deals online, but was careful. She said that whenever he met someone about purchasing a phone, he always insisted on going to a store to check to see if the phone had been reported stolen before negotiating a final price.  Letgo described what happened as an "unimaginable tragedy'' in a statement and said it's working with law enforcement. Police haven't released any details.

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Woman Arrested in String of Arsons in Southeast Kansas

MCCUNE, Kan. (AP) _ A 46-year-old woman is charged in a series of arson fires that have plagued the southeast Kansas town of McCune for the last three years. Crawford County authorities say Sherry Kerby, of McCune, was arrested last (MON) night by investigators from the county and the state fire marshal's office on one count of arson to a dwelling. Further investigation led to five more charges of residential arson and one count of aggravated arson. Authorities didn't say how Kerby was linked to the fires. The Pittsburg Morning Sun reports authorities have been investigating arson fires at 13 structures in McCune from September 5, 2015, to July 3 of this year. The investigation is continuing.  Kerby is being held on $350,000 bond. It wasn't immediately clear if she has an attorney.
    
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Kansas Senators React to Kavanaugh Nomination

TOPEKA, Kan. (KNS) _ Both U.S. senators from Kansas have expressed support for President Trump’s nominee for the U.S. Supreme Court. In a statement, Republican Senator Jerry Moran praised federal Judge Brett Kavanaugh’s legal experience and says he’s “well qualified” for the job.  Moran said he plans to meet with Kavanaugh to discuss his interpretation of the law, and to make sure he will be a “steadfast defender” of the Constitution. Fellow Republican Senator Pat Roberts said in a tweet that he looks forward to the Senate’s review of Kavanaugh’s record. Roberts said he’s hoping for a fair confirmation process. On Monday night, Trump named Kavanaugh as his nominee to replace Justice Anthony Kennedy, who is retiring at the end of the month. Kavanaugh will need to be confirmed by the U.S. Senate.

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Coffeyville Woman Pleads Guilty to Mail Fraud

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) - Federal prosecutors say a Coffeyville woman pleaded guilty to stealing $150,000 from a customer at a bank where she worked. U.S. Attorney Stephen McCallister said in a news release Tuesday that 61-year-old Phyllis Lanning pleaded guilty to one count of mail fraud. Lanning admitted that while she worked for Condon National Bank in Coffeyville she created and mailed falsified documents to conceal her theft of $150,000 from a customer's account. She also diverted legitimate monthly statements to a post office box in Bartlesville, Oklahoma, that she controlled. Lanning mailed fraudulent statements to the account owner. The theft was discovered after the account owner died and family members took control of the account. Sentencing is set for September 24.

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4 Schlitterbahn Rides Remain Closed over Safety Concerns

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) - Four rides remain closed at Schlitterbahn water park in Kansas City, Kansas -- more than a month after the park opened for the season.  The Kansas City Star reports permits for four rides at  Schlitterbahn expired July 1 and it's unclear when they will reopen. The four rides -- (Soaring Eagle, Boogie Bahn, Whirlpool and Wolfpack) -- were among 11 rides that state regulators decided in May were not complying with state law. The other seven rides are now operating.  

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Man Mowing Yards Nationwide Stops in Kansas

OVERLAND PARK, Kan. (AP) — A man who's mowing lawns for free across the country is trying to teach children about making a difference through acts of kindness. KMBC-TV reports that Rodney Smith Jr. is traveling the U.S. with a mower and trimmer as part of the 50-Yard Challenge, which encourages children to cut 50 lawns in their town for free. He's stopping in Overland Park after learning about an older couple who needed help with yard work. The challenge stems from Raising Men Lawn Care Service, Smith's yard maintenance program focused on helping elders, disabled people, single mothers and veterans. His mission began when he stopped to help an older man he saw struggling with a lawn mower. Participants of the challenge receive a different color T-shirt for every milestone and a new lawnmower if they complete the 50 yards.

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Myanmar Refugee Teen Accidentally Drowns Outside Kansas City

HILLSDALE, Kan. (AP) — A teenager who recently arrived with his family to the U.S. as refugees from Myanmar has drowned in a lake outside Kansas City. The Kansas City Star reports that Om Kee Hata drowned Friday while swimming with friends in Hillsdale Lake. Miami County Capt. Mike Talcott says the death was an accident and that the 17-year-old "got tired, went under and didn't come back up." Friends and teachers say Hata arrived in the U.S. last year with his mother and four younger siblings, leaning heavily on soccer and faith. The Christian family fled religious persecution in Myanmar, a predominantly Muslim country. Hata's funeral services will be held Saturday. The community has created a GoFundMe page in hopes of raising $20,000 to support his mother and siblings.

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Kansas Man Gets 30 Years for Fatally Shaking 6-Month-Old Son

REECE, Kan. (AP) — A 23-year-old eastern Kansas man who fatally injured his 6-month-old son has been sentenced to 30 years in prison. Benny Clark, of Reece, was sentenced last week for second-degree murder and child abuse in the August 2017 death of his son, Cooper. The Emporia Gazette reports Clark pleaded guilty in March. He said he shook the boy for taking off his diaper and urinating on the bed. He also said the boy fell off the ottoman and hit his head. Emergency help wasn't called until the boy's mother, Ashley Morris, returned home for work hours after the boy was hurt. Cooper was flown to a Wichita hospital, where he died two days later. Testing showed the boy had a fractured skull.

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Topeka Zoo Welcomes Newborn Giraffe; Another Expected Soon

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The Topeka Zoo is welcoming a newborn giraffe. Abi, one of two pregnant giraffes at the zoo, gave birth Wednesday to a baby named Konza. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports the calf has been expected since late June when staff first thought Abi could go into labor. Zoo officials announced in March that Abi, who is 7, and 8-year-old Hope were pregnant. The calves were conceived with Sgt. Peppers, who was transferred to Topeka from Oklahoma City in 2013. Hope is expected to give birth within a month. Hope was born at the Topeka Zoo in 2010. Abi arrived in Topeka in 2015 from the BioPark Zoo in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

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Tiny Kansas Town's Councilwoman Bites Jailer's Thumb

HURON, Kan. (AP) — Authorities say a councilwoman for a tiny Kansas town kicked, hit and scratched deputies and that they had to use a stun gun to subdue her. Atchison County Sheriff's Office Sheriff Jack Laurie says 48-year-old Carol Fowler remains jailed Wednesday on $25,000 bond after the June 29 melee. It began when deputies went to Fowler's home in the 70-person town of Huron to arrest her for failing to appear in court on unrelated charges. Laurie says she later broke a jailer's thumb when she bit it, leading to a felony charge. Her attorney didn't immediately return a phone message. Fowler has attended just one meeting since she was elected in November with two votes. Fellow council member Paula Clem says Fowler faces possible ouster because she's missed so many meetings.

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Wichita Oilman Fined $10,000 for Environmental Violations

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A Wichita oilman has been fined $10,000 for violating state regulations involving oil and gas contamination. The Kansas Corporation Commission on Tuesday fined Benjamin Giles for violations at two wells near Towanda in Butler County. The Wichita Eagle reports Giles says he didn't do anything wrong and he plans to appeal. The commission found Giles didn't follow procedures for casing or plugging the two oil wells, which officials say can harm usable groundwater. Commission documents and testimony indicate that Giles pulled the casing out of an old oil well in 2014 and didn't replace it until 2016. The commission also said Giles hasn't shown that another well is properly cased.

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Surveys Show Lesser Prairie Chicken Numbers Are Up

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — A grouse that has been the focus of an ongoing legal battle over whether it warrants federal protection has seen its numbers increase by nearly 30 percent over the past year. Officials say aerial surveys for the lesser prairie chicken in New Mexico, Colorado, Texas, Oklahoma and Kansas show an overall upward population trend over the last six years. More favorable weather patterns this past year contributed to apparent increases in some areas where the birds are found. Officials say there's concern that moderate to severe drought over portions of the lesser prairie-chicken range this year could lead to a down turn in the population next year. As part of a range-wide voluntary conservation plan, economic incentives are offered to landowners and companies that set aside land to reduce impacts to the bird and its grassland habitat.

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K-State to Increase Athletic Dept Budget After Record Donations

 MANHATTAN, Kan. (AP) - Kansas State plans to increase its athletic department budget for the upcoming fiscal year after setting a record in donations this year. The university announced Tuesday that the athletic department received cash payments of $30.9 million in the last fiscal year. The department says a record $18.9 million of that was designated to the Ahearn Fund giving program. For the next fiscal year, the athletic department's budget will increase by $8.9 million to $82.1 million. The record donations helped Kansas State achieve a balanced budget for the ninth consecutive fiscal year. The school's athletic department does not use public tax money or tuition funds in its budget. Most of next fiscal year's athletic department revenue is expected to come from Ahearn Fund donations and Big 12/NCAA revenue shares.

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Wichita City Council Approves Bonds for Cargill Expansion

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) - More than $38 million in industrial revenue bonds has been approved to help pay for Cargill's new biodiesel plant in Wichita. The Wichita Eagle reports that the city council approved the bonds on Tuesday. The plant is part of an $87 million project being built at Cargill's facility. Mayor Jeff Longwell says the city is "thrilled" in the investment in the city. Cargill currently has a soybean processing plant, a grain elevator and truck and rail bulk loadout operation at the site. Cargill facility leader John White says the site has produced vegetable oil, but it will transition to making biodiesel. White says it's a "great growth opportunity." He says the new plant should be completed by early next year.

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Boeing Awards $125K Grant to Boost Wichita Training

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) - Wichita manufacturing workers will receive more training through a $125,000 grant awarded by aircraft supplier Boeing Co. The Wichita Eagle reports that the money was awarded through the National Fund for Workforce Solutions and will be administered by the Workforce Alliance of South Central Kansas. It's aimed at helping entry-level manufacturing workers get on-the-job training and existing workers advance their skills. Cox Machine is among five partnering companies that will offer additional training to new hires and existing employees. The other manufacturers include GKN Aerospace, HM Dunn, TECT Aerospace and XLT Ovens. Cox Machine human resources manager Cheryl Childers says the grant will help Boeing recruit new workers and Cox with the cross-training of its workforce. She says the grant will "continue the growth of aerospace" in Wichita.

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KU Intent on Changing Football Culture Under Long

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — Jeff Long didn't waste time making clear his focus as the University of Kansas's new athletic director. "I'd like to say one message to the KU family specifically about our football team," Long said. "It's time to break the cycle."

Long was introduced as the Jayhawks' new leader nearly two months after chancellor Doug Girod fired Sheahon Zenger, who had served in the role for more than seven years. At the time, Girod called the school's failure to find progress in football "elusive" in a letter to campus staff. That progress will now be the focus for Long, who comes from a campus at Arkansas focused on keeping up with the other members of the football juggernaut known as the Southeastern Conference. Long comes to one in severe need of change on the gridiron in Lawrence. And he understands the task ahead of him, to inject life into a program that has mustered just three wins in three seasons under coach David Beaty. But even though he may be starting at the bottom, Long's sights for the program rest far higher.

"Our goal is set to reach a bowl game," Long said. "So we'll strive to reach a bowl game, and once we reach that level, we won't stop there. Then we'll move on to more games, and then ultimately ... someday down the road we're going to win the Big 12 championship. We've done it here at Kansas in the past, and it's something we're certainly going to work every day and night to do."

On paper, Long seems to fit the bill of KU's football savior. His resume includes stops at tradition-tied schools such as Arkansas, Oklahoma and Michigan, and he was the chairman of the College Football Playoff committee. That experience pulled Girod to Long, who, despite what was stressed to be a far-reaching and all-encompassing search, stood out above any other candidates.

"One name kind of surfaced almost immediately, and it was this gentleman to my left," Girod said.

Long will not only be tasked with fixing the on-field product, however. He is also handed the departed Zenger's $300-million plan to renovate the decaying Memorial Stadium and other athletic facilities across campus. He'll certainly have to do some fundraising, but he's already backed by a pledge of $50 million from university donor David Booth. Long is determined to see the renovation through, but as he begins to transition into the role he will formally assume on August 1, he's planning to take careful action in determining how he will truly make Zenger's plans his own.

"I know we have a tremendous initial gift that is really going to help get this program off the ground, and it already has," Long said. "But I need to understand more about that. I'm looking forward to understanding, behind the scenes, the rollout and what they hope to accomplish with the $300-million campaign."

A losing football culture has settled itself firmly into the Kansas athletic culture by now, but potential problems with its coveted basketball program are on the horizon as well. Yahoo Sports reported Tuesday that the university has been subpoenaed by the federal government in an investigation tied to its connections with Adidas. Long's contract reportedly includes a clause that will extend his deal equal to the length of any investigation of Kansas' men's basketball, women's basketball, football or volleyball programs prior to his taking office. That didn't come at Long's demand, however; the university added that language to the contract to double down on their insistence that the school isn't in danger of penalties.

"We wanted to demonstrate our confidence in where we were with this ... it was a way to reassure him that we are confident as well about where we are," Girod said.

That feeling has rubbed off on Long.

"I'm very confident that Kansas, we're going to work through this process and we're going to be just fine," Long said. "I think that was something I certainly considered as I decided to take the job, so I'm very confident that we're going to work through this."

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