UPDATE: Political Ripples from Kansas Representative's Nude Plunge Expanding to National Level
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney and running mate Paul Ryan are criticizing a Republican congressman from Kansas who briefly swam naked in the Sea of Galilee. Romney said Monday that last year's incident in Israel involving freshman Representative Kevin Yoder was reprehensible. He says Yoder's action was a terrible mistake. Ryan, a Wisconsin congressman, called Yoder's actions unbecoming. Romney and Ryan made their comments during an interview with WMUR-TV in Manchester, New Hampshire. Yoder has apologized repeatedly for taking his nude plunge in the Sea Galilee during an August 2011 fact-finding trip to Israel. He says he was in the water for about 10 seconds. The Sea of Galilee is a holy site for many Christians because the Bible says Jesus walked on water there.
UPDATE: Political Topics Emerge as Subject at Wichita Energy Policy Conference
WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Members of the state's all-Republican congressional delegation couldn't avoid talking politics at the annual conference of the Kansas Independent Oil and Gas Association. U.S. Senators Pat Roberts and Jerry Moran were on hand Monday for a panel discussion on energy policy. Three of the state's four U.S. House members were also there. Congressman Kevin Yoder was absent. He spent Monday apologizing to constituents in his northeastern Kansas district for his nude swim in the Sea of Galilee during a trip to Israel last year. Roberts bemoaned remarks by Missouri Congressman Todd Akin that women's bodies can prevent pregnancy from what Akin termed "legitimate rape." Akin is Missouri's GOP nominee for Senate. Roberts says Republicans had a great shot at winning that race but now have a "tougher row to hoe."
Report: Kansas Crops Continue to Deteriorate
WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas Agricultural Statistics Service says last week's scattered rainfall did little to stem the deterioration of parched crops throughout the state. A weekly survey released Monday showed every major crop rated in poor to very poor condition: corn at 72 percent, soybeans at 75 percent, and sorghum at 70 percent. The agency said it's the worst condition report for all three crops since data collections began in 1985. Farmers have cut 17 percent of their corn, well ahead of the 3 percent harvested at the same time last year. There was no good news for livestock producers, either. About 92 percent of range and pasture throughout Kansas was rated in poor to very poor condition. Supplies of stock water were short to very short across 74 percent of the state.
Voting Begins in Special Kansas Primary Election
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Voters in two Topeka precincts are being allowed to cast ballots in advance in a limited special election prompted by the distribution of the wrong ballots at one polling place. The Shawnee County elections commissioner's office is allowing any of the 432 affected voters to cast ballots starting Monday, in person at the office or by mail. Polls also will be open August 28, the date of the special election, at the Light of the World Christian Center, where the ballot mix-up occurred August 7. It's the polling place for the two precincts, one in the 52nd Kansas House District and the other, in the 56th. The special election will settle the Republican primary in the 52nd District. Shanti Gandhi, a Topeka physician, leads a three-person race by 45 votes.
UPDATE: Incumbent Kansas House Member Prevails in Recount
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A recount in Reno County has confirmed a conservative Kansas House Democrat's narrow victory in the state's primary election. Representative Jan Pauls, of Hutchinson, even picked up a vote Monday against challenger Erich Bishop, also from Hutchinson. The hand recount of votes in the 102nd House District had Pauls winning, 428-420. Her margin of victory previously had been seven votes. Bishop sought the recount. Pauls's race was notable because gay rights advocates have targeted her for defeat, and Bishop has been active in the Kansas Equality Coalition, the state's leading gay-rights group. Pauls has strongly supported legislation that gay rights advocates believe will nullify local ordinances meant to protect gays and lesbians from discrimination. Pauls will face Republican Dakota Bass, also from Hutchinson, in the November general election.
Democrats Seek to Tap Kansas Populism
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas Democrats are trying to reclaim the state's Populist tradition and are attacking conservative Republican tax-cutting policies. They're hoping to avoid a wipeout in legislative races driven by frustration in a GOP-leaning state with Democratic President Barack Obama. Brownback and other conservatives have positioned themselves as champions of entrepreneurs in promoting massive income tax cuts enacted this year as a boon to the state's economy. Democrats contend the tax cuts are unfair to middle-class and poor Kansans, particularly wage earners. They're trying to make the November election a referendum on Brownback's policies, instead of President Obama's. Conservatives ousted moderate Republicans from power in the state Senate in primary races after suggesting the moderates weren't ardent enough in opposing the health care law championed by President Obama.
Kansas Supreme Court to Hear Power Plant Construction Lawsuit
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The Kansas Supreme Court will consider a challenge to a state permit for construction of a $1.5 billion coal-fired power plant in southwest Kansas. The high court will hear oral arguments August 31st in Topeka on the validity of the state permit issued in 2010 to start construction of the 895-megawatt plant near Holcomb. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that the Sierra Club and Earth Justice filed lawsuit in Kansas contending the Kansas Department of Health and Environment improperly granted regulatory approval to the project, which they say is unnecessarily damaging to the environment. The organizations want the permit overturned. Development partners Sunflower Electric Power Corporation of Hays, and Tri-State Generation and Transmission Association of Colorado contend the state's permit is legally and scientifically sound.
Riley County Investigating Fatal Shooting
JUNCTION CITY, Kan. (AP) — Authorities in Riley County are investigating a shooting that left one person dead and another critically wounded. The Riley County police department says a suspect has been arrested in the shooting, which occurred early Saturday at a National Guard Armory. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that the incident had no ties to the military. Kansas National Guard spokeswoman Sharon Watson said the armory was rented out to a private group for an event Friday night and the Guard was not involved. Police say 25-year-old Antonio Maxwell of Junction City was killed in the shooting, and 30-year-old Jamaica Chism was wounded. She's also from Junction City. Police also said they believe a number of people witnessed the shooting in the parking lot and are being asked to come forward with information.
Governor Brownback Appoints Elections Official to Judgeship
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) _ Governor Sam Brownback has appointed Shawnee County's elections commissioner to a magistrate judgeship in northeast Kansas previously held by her husband. Brownback named Elizabeth Ensley Deiter to the bench in the 22nd Judicial District, which covers Brown, Doniphan, Marshall, and Nemaha counties. Her husband, Steve, stepped down from the job in June. Magistrate judges do not have to be attorneys. They can handle misdemeanor criminal cases and first appearances and preliminary hearings in felony criminal cases, as well as traffic infractions, juvenile cases and limited civil cases. They also can perform marriages. Elizabeth Ensley Deiter has served as Shawnee County's top elections official since 1992. Secretary of State Kris Kobach will choose Deiter's replacement in the elections job.
NE Kansas Attorneys Seek to Replace District Judge
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) _ Twelve Topeka-area attorneys have applied for a vacant Shawnee County District Court position created by the announced retirement of a longtime district judge. A local nominating commission plans to interview the candidates September 5 and forward the names of two or three finalists to Governor Sam Brownback, who will make the appointment. District Judge Daniel Mitchell has announced that he's retiring at the end of the month. He's been a judge since October 1985, handling juvenile cases. The attorneys applying for the judgeship are Athena Andaya, James Benfer, Brett Berry, Lee Davidson, Jason Geier, Kimberly Knoll, Joe Little, Derenda Mitchell, Mary Mattivi, Fred Patton, Duston Slinkard and Ardith Smith-Woertz. The seven-member nominating commission's non-voting chairwoman is Kansas Supreme Court Justice Marla Luckert.
2 Consecutive Life Sentences in 2002 Topeka Deaths
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — An Oklahoma woman will spend the rest of her life in prison for the 2002 deaths of her ex-husband and his fiancée in Topeka. Dana Chandler, of Duncan, Oklahoma, was sentenced on Monday to two consecutive life sentences for the deaths of 47-year-old Mike Sisco and 53-year-old Karen Harkness. They were shot while sleeping at their home in Topeka. Chandler was convicted in March of two counts of premeditated murder. Prosecutors say Chandler committed the crimes after Sisco told her he planned to marry Harkness. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that Chandler acted as her own attorney at the hearing Monday. Chief Judge Nancy Parrish denied her request for a new trial or acquittal.
First Orthodox Christian School in Kansas Opens
WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — The first Orthodox Christian school in Kansas has opened in Wichita. Christ the Savior Academy, a private school at St. George Orthodox Christian Cathedral, opened Monday with 18 students from pre-kindergarten through second grade. Jennifer Sebits, president of the school's board of trustees, says the school is open to students of all faiths. The Wichita Eagle reports the school offers a classical curriculum, with classes in Latin, Greek, art and violin, math, science and reading. Sebits says the school plans to add one grade each year for the next three years until it offers pre-K through fifth grade. She says it will take about five years for the school to receive accreditation. Tuition at the school is $2,500 a year.
Setting Duck Season Dates Becoming Difficult Issue
GREAT BEND, Kan. (AP) — The state wildlife department will set dates for this year's duck season this week, which has become a contentious issue in southeast Kansas. The Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism commission will meet Thursday in Great Bend. The Wichita Eagle reports duck hunters say the birds arrive later in southeast Kansas than in other parts of the state, where the season opens in late October. The department is suggesting opening the season Nov. 3. But commissioners Don Budd, of Kansas City, and Robert Wilson, of Pittsburg, think it should open one or two weeks later. That way, the 74-day season could last longer into January. Duck hunters in the northern part of the southeast zone want the November 3 opening, while those farther south want a mid-November opener.
8th Heat-Related Death Confirmed in Kansas City
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Kansas City health officials say they have confirmed an eighth heat-related death from this summer. The Kansas City Health Department said Monday the latest confirmed death was a male born in 1956. The Jackson County Medical Examiner is investigating three other deaths as possibly heat related. One previous case of a male born in 1952 is no longer considered heat-related. But the death of a female born in 1955 has been added as a possible heat-related death. No other details were provided.
US Education Secretary Duncan to Visit Emporia
EMPORIA, Kan. (AP) — U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan plans to visit Emporia and other Kansas communities during a national back-to-school tour. The Emporia Gazette reports that Duncan will be in town Sept. 18 to visit the National Teachers Hall of Fame, where he'll hold a town hall meeting with teachers and students. Duncan is also planning stops in Topeka and Kansas City, Kansas. It would be Duncan's first visit to Emporia. Teachers Hall of Fame spokeswoman Carol Strickland says Duncan has wanted to visit the hall and Emporia State University since 2009, when the school was chosen as a top teacher-prep institution.
Sedgwick County Sheriff Gets Wrongful Death Claim
WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Relatives of a man who committed suicide at the Sedgwick County Jail have filed a wrongful death claim against Sheriff Robert Hinshaw. The family of Jonathan Haehn is seeking $250,000 in damages in the wrongful death claim, which is the first step toward filing a lawsuit. Haehn hanged himself with a bedsheet on May 24. The family claims they warned jail staff that Haehn was bipolar and an alcoholic and was a risk for suicide. Hinshaw told The Wichita Eagle that the county has denied the claim because a screening on Haehn didn't show him being at risk of suicide. The sheriff also says Haehn claimed he was not feeling suicidal. Haehn was jailed on a warrant alleging he violated his probation for a DUI conviction.
Health Groups Renew Push to Ban Smoking at Casinos
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Kansas City health advocates say it's time for area casinos to ban smoking on their gambling floors. The casinos say such a ban would put them at a competitive disadvantage unless gambling halls on both sides of the Kansas-Missouri line go along with it. Clean Air Metro KC says it has been talking with casino representatives and elected officials about instituting bans. The coalition, which includes the American Cancer Society, American Lung Association and county health departments, says it would be easier for the casinos to voluntarily ban smoking than to drag the issue out through the legislative system. But the casinos have a lot of financial clout, and so far have been able to withstand all challenges to their smoking policies.
Surgical Equipment Stolen from Car in Wichita
WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Police in Wichita say a thief has apparently stolen thousands of dollars of surgical tools. The Wichita Eagle reports that the surgical tools were reported stolen early Sunday a car. A woman called police to say she left the equipment in a medical bag in her vehicle, which had been broken into late Saturday. Police said one item was valued at about $35,000.
Hays Opera House Headed for Demolition
HAYS, Kan. (AP) — Demolition work is scheduled to start this week on the historic Opera House in Hays. Midland Wrecking Inc. will begin setting up traffic control around the historic building on Monday. The Hays Daily News reports that crews expect to have the building demolished within about three days. Wood and other miscellaneous debris will be hauled to the Ellis County landfill, but stone and concrete will go to a private salvage site. The Opera House was built in the 1870s and is owned by a group that has restored many of the buildings in downtown Hays. But stones have fallen from the building recently, prompting the city to move forward with condemnation.
Film Festival Coming to Kanopolis Drive-In
KANOPOLIS, Kan. (AP) — Patrons of a small central Kansas drive-in will be part of a national effort to save venerable outdoor movie theaters. A miniature "film festival" will play at the Kanopolis Drive-In on August 25th. It will include two original short films followed by two major movies. The evening is part of a New York woman's efforts to promote drive-in theaters. Five years ago, C.C. Webster started a nonprofit group called Drive-In Film Festival. She says the mission is to bring independent films and film classics to small-town drive-ins across the U.S. Webster thinks no other theater offers the same relaxed and fun approach to watching the movies. The Salina Journal reports that in addition to the movies, the film festival includes old-fashioned carnival games, raffles and merchandise.
New Book Offers Fresh Look at Old Dodge City
DODGE CITY, Kan. (AP) _ Dodge City is getting a fresh look at its historic past. Author George Laughead Jr. has assembled a new book titled "Images of America: Dodge City,'' using photographs from the collection of the Ford County Historical Society. The Dodge City Daily Globe reports that most of the photos in the book have never been published. Laughead says the pictures help portray life in the iconic town between roughly 1890 and 1910. The book is available for pre-ordering on Amazon.com and is scheduled for release on September 10. It's being published by Arcadia Publishing, a company specializing in local American history from the late 19th century to the mid-20th century.
NFL Suspends Chiefs LB Tamba Hali 1 Game
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — The NFL has suspended Kansas City All-Pro linebacker Tamba Hali for the season-opener against Atlanta for violating its policy on substance abuse.The league announced the suspension Monday without disclosing details. Hali will miss the September 9 game against the Falcons and be fined an additional game check. Hali is a rising star who went to his first Pro Bowl last season along with fellow Chiefs linebacker Derrick Johnson. Hali had 12 sacks while Johnson set a franchise record with 131 tackles.
Jamaican Woman Faces Marriage Fraud Trial in Kansas
WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A federal jury must decide whether a Jamaican woman accused of entering into a "sham marriage" with a Kansas soldier wed for love or immigration purposes. Federal prosecutors contend Shannakay Hunter married a 23-year-old Army private stationed at Fort Riley in a scheme whereby he would get military benefits available to married soldiers and she would get legal immigration status. She faces trial Tuesday on charges of conspiracy to commit marriage fraud, marriage fraud and making a false statement to the government. Prosecutors say the union was never consummated and the couple never lived together. The defense contends she married Joshua Priest because she loved him. He pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit marriage fraud and wire fraud and is expected to testify against her. His sentencing is in October.
Kansas Man Pleads Guilty to Abusing 3-Month-Old
HUTCHINSON, Kan. (AP) — A Kansas man who called police last year to report committing a sexual act on a 3-month-old child has now pleaded guilty to the crime. The Hutchinson News reports that 25-year-old Michael Sherman faces up to life in prison following the plea Monday to aggravated criminal sodomy of a child. He could receive parole after 25 years, under Kansas law. Sherman's lawyer and Reno County District Attorney Keith Schroeder both say there was no plea agreement in the case. Sherman had been scheduled to go on trial Tuesday. Sherman was arrested at his Hutchinson home last December after reporting to police what he had done. Hutchinson Police Detective Scott Carlton says it's unusual for a suspect to report himself and then plead guilty.
Bishop, KC Diocese Seek to Exclude Evidence
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Defense attorneys argue that evidence used to convict a Catholic priest of child pornography shouldn't be allowed to try the diocese and the bishop who leads it. The Kansas City Star reported Monday that the effort to have eight pieces of evidence excluded was made in a pretrial motion. The Reverend Shawn Ratigan pleaded guilty earlier this month to federal charges of producing child pornography. His case led authorities to charge Bishop Robert Finn and the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph with failure to report suspected child abuse. Finn has pleaded not guilty. A trial in the case is scheduled to start September 24 in Jackson County Circuit Court. A spokesman for the prosecutor says a response to the defense motion will be made in writing, probably later this week.
Kansas Freshman Doyle Leaves Basketball Program
LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — Freshman guard Milton Doyle has left the Kansas basketball program. Jayhawks coach Bill Self said in a statement Monday that he spoke with Doyle at length over the weekend about his role in the program. Self said that "the first option was welcoming him back for the fall," but that Doyle decided on his own to leave the program. The 6-foot-4 guard from Chicago was a late addition to the Jayhawks' recruiting class. He was originally committed to Florida International before Isiah Thomas was let go as coach. Self said Doyle decided to find a program where he had a chance to make an impact early in his career. Kansas returns Elijah Johnson and Travis Releford from last season's national runner-up, and has several high-profile recruits joining the team.
Kansas House Candidates Awaiting Recount's Outcome
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A conservative Democrat in the Kansas House is hoping a recount sought by her primary challenger confirms her narrow victory in their south-central Kansas district. Representative Jan Pauls, of Hutchinson, won the August 7 primary in the 102nd House District by seven votes over challenger Erich Bishop, also of Hutchinson. The final tally in Pauls's favor was 427-420. But Bishop asked the Reno County clerk's office to recount the ballots by hand, and it expected to finish the recount Monday. Pauls's race was notable because gay rights advocates have targeted her for defeat, and Bishop has been active in the Kansas Equality Coalition, the state's leading gay-rights group. The winner will face Republican Dakota Bass, also from Hutchinson, in the November general election.
**this story has been updated. Please see above.
Kansas Conference Focuses on Energy Policy
WICHITA, Kan. (AP) _ The entire Kansas congressional delegation was expected to join a discussion of energy policy at a conference of the Kansas Independent Oil & Gas Association. Association president Ed Cross will be the moderator of Monday's panel discussion in Wichita. The scheduled panelists were the state's two U.S. senators, Pat Roberts and Jerry Moran, and its four U.S. House members _ Tim Huelskamp, Lynn Jenkins, Kevin Yoder and Mike Pompeo. All are Republicans. Other presentations will include a talk by Tom Ward, CEO of SandRidge Energy, on developments in a type of drilling called horizontal hydraulic fracturing...also known as fracking...in Kansas's Mississippian geological formation. The association's annual three-day conference ends Tuesday.
**this story has been updated. Please see above.
Kansas Representative Apologizes for Nude Sea of Galilee Swim
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — A conservative congressman representing Kansas has apologized for any offense caused by his naked swim in the Sea of Galilee last summer. Politico reported Sunday that freshman U.S. Representative Kevin Yoder was among 20 lawmakers and staff who swam at the holy site during a fact-finding trip to Israel last August. Yoder was the only one not wearing clothes. Yoder told The Kansas City Star he is "incredibly remorseful" and apologized for any embarrassment he has caused. He said it was dark and that he was only in the water for about 10 seconds. Politico says the FBI is investigating but does not say why. It is not clear if Yoder broke any laws or if his actions generated complaints. Yoder is running unopposed for re-election in the Kansas 3rd Congressional District.
**this story has been updated. Please see above.
KS Dem Party Leader: GOP Representative Should Resign over Skinny Dipping Incident
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The Kansas Democratic Party's chairwoman is calling on a Republican congressman to resign following the disclosure that he briefly swam naked at the Sea of Galilee during an official trip to Israel last year. Democratic Party Chairwoman Joan Wagnon said Monday that freshman Congressman Kevin Yoder had embarrassed the state, and his actions raise questions about whether he's fit to serve in Congress. Yoder apologized publicly for the incident, saying he regrets it. He said he was only in the water for about 10 seconds. The incident occurred in August 2011 when he and about 20 other lawmakers and staff members jumped into the water. Politico reported Sunday that he was the only one among them who wore no clothes.
**this story has been updated. Please see above.
GOP Colleagues: Yoder's Nude Swim Breaches Trust
WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Two of Kevin Yoder's fellow Republicans in the Kansas congressional delegation say his brief nude swim last year in the Sea of Galilee is out of line with what Kansans expect from elected officials. Senator Jerry Moran said Monday that what he's read and heard about the incident in Israel in August 2011 suggests something stupid happened. He said such incidents distract from important issues in politics. And Representative Mike Pompeo said elected officials have an obligation to act in ways that live up to the trust voters put in them. Yoder has apologized for the incident, which occurred on a fact-finding trip to Israel with other members of Congress. Kansas GOP Chairwoman Amanda Adkins said the brief nude swim should not overshadow Yoder's work in Congress.
**this story has been updated. Please see above.