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Weekend Headlines for August 11-12, 2018

The Latest: Kansas Mail-In Ballots Put Kobach Lead at 110

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach's lead over Governor Jeff Colyer stands at only 110 votes after late mail-in ballots were added to previous vote totals Friday in their hotly contested Republican primary race. Colyer has accused Kobach of advising county election officials not to count some late mail-in ballots that legally should be counted. Kobach said his advice on their handling has followed the law. State law says mail-in ballots would be counted if they were postmarked Tuesday and arrived by Friday. Kobach's lead had been 191 votes when statewide results were first reported Wednesday morning. More than 313,000 ballots were cast in Tuesday's primary. Counties still must review almost 9,000 provisional ballots given to voters at the polls when their eligibility is in doubt.

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Man Picked for Kansas Election Duties Had Past Controversies

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The top assistant who Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach has tapped to take over his duties until the Republican gubernatorial primary race with Governor Jeff Colyer is resolved has been reprimanded in the past for his handling of abortion investigations. Kobach on Friday picked Assistant Secretary of State Eric Rucker after the governor demanded a day earlier that Kobach stop advising election officials on the handling of uncounted ballots. Rucker also will serve in Kobach's place on the state board that certifies the final election results. Rucker was a top aide to former Attorney General Phill Kline when both men faced criticism over investigations of abortion providers. Rucker received an informal admonition from a disciplinary panel for allowing misleading information to be given to the Kansas Supreme Court.

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Kobach's Take-No-Prisoners Style at Forefront in Kansas Race

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Secretaries of state from middle America aren't generally household names. Kansas's Kris Kobach is the exception. The 52-year-old Republican has a take-no-prisoners style of conservatism that delights hard-right members of the GOP but makes him a target of Democrats and centrists. Now Kobach, the state's top election official, is locked in a too-close-to-call race for the nomination for governor. He is clinging to a shrinking lead of just 121 votes out of 311,000 cast in Tuesday's primary. Republican Gov. Jeff Colyer is banking on a recount to turn the tide. Kobach has the backing of President Donald Trump. He has advised the president on immigration issues and is a staunch advocate for strict voter ID laws.

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Planned Lawrence "Defend the Flag" Rally Poorly Attended; Counterprotesters Turn Out in Force

A “Defend the Flag” rally planned for Saturday afternoon in downtown Lawrence drew fewer than ten participants, but hundreds of counterprotesters turned out in opposition to the event. The "Defend the Flag" rally organizer, Ozawkie resident Clay Mead, told the Lawrence Journal-World that the rally was a response to a piece of art featuring an altered American flag that was displayed at the University of Kansas. Participants were instructed to meet at South Park and then march north on Massachusetts Street. At about 12:30 p.m., several Defend the Flag participants did show up at South Park. Meanwhile, approximately 600 counterprotesters took part in a demonstration billed as “Art is the Voice of Freedom.” One that demonstration's organizers, Courtney Shipley of Lawrence, said her group wasn’t just there to advocate against censorship. She said the timing of the Defend the Flag rally — on the anniversary weekend of 2017’s Unite the Right rally that brought neo-Nazis and white supremacy groups to Charlottesville, Va., and the same weekend as a planned Unite the Right rally in Washington, D.C. — suggested the event had connections to the so-called alt-right. The participants in the Art Is the Voice of Freedom event lined both sides of Massachusetts Street from Seventh to 11th streets, prepared to face the Defend the Flag marchers. The newspaper reports that there were a few brief verbal exchanges between the two groups, but no physical confrontations. A large number of law enforcement officers were present downtown throughout the morning, in part because a community safety fair was taking place at South Park at the time. Mead maintained the counterprotest organizers misunderstood his intentions. He said his event was being staged Saturday so those attending the rally could thank first responders attending the community safety fair. The rally's scheduling on the anniversary of the Charlottesville rally was a coincidence, he said. Mead also told the Journal-World that the Defend the Flag protest wasn’t a call for censorship, but to be taken as an opportunity to celebrate the flag as a symbol of unity.

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Officials ID 3 Kansas Teens Killed in Church Van Crash

BOLIVAR, Mo. (AP) — Missouri officials have identified three Kansas City-area teens killed in the crash of a church van that injured 10 others. The Missouri State Highway Patrol says Friday's crash happened when a rear tire of the van blew out, causing it to skid off of a highway 5 miles north of Bolivar in southwestern Missouri. Killed were 16-year-old David Martin, of Olathe; 14-year-old Hannah Foy, of Louisburg; and 17-year-old Samara Bayse, of Stilwell. Eight other children and two adults on the bus were injured. The Polk County coroner says the three teens killed had all been thrown from the van when it overturned and hit a tree. The van was carrying children and two chaperones from Faith Chapel Assembly of God of Overland Park to a weekend floating trip.

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Topeka Officer Bitten by Man He Was Trying to Arrest

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Authorities say a Topeka police officer suffered minor injuries when he was bitten by a man he was trying to take into custody. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that the incident happened Friday afternoon when police were called for a man refusing to leave another person's apartment. Shortly after the first officers arrived, a call went out for an officer in need of assistance, drawing a large police response. The officer bitten was taken to a local hospital with injuries that included broken skin. Three other officers were taken to a local hospital for decontamination for exposure to blood and pepper spray. The man accused of biting the office also was taken to a hospital with more serious injuries, although police did not detail what his injuries were.

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Salina Lake Closed Due to Toxic Algae Bloom Threat

SALINA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas health and parks officials have closed a Salina lake because of a toxic blue-green algae bloom. The Salina Journal reports that the Kansas Department of Health and Environment and the Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism have closed Lakewood Park Lake. Officials say conditions at the lake are extremely dangerous for humans and pets. All contact with the water at Lakewood Park Lake is prohibited. Also, a public health warning was issued for Webster Lake in Rooks County. Boating and fishing are allowed, but bodily contact with the water should be avoided. Skin exposed to the toxin can develop rashes and blisters, and drinking tainted water could cause headaches, nausea and muscle pain.

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Report: Plane Climbed Slowly Before Oklahoma Crash That Killed 5 Kansans

PONCA CITY, Okla. (AP) — The National Transportation Board says a small airplane that crashed in northern Oklahoma, killing four members of a Kansas family and a family friend, was seen climbing slowly before it went down in a soybean field. The brief report dated Thursday says a witness saw the Extra EA-400 aircraft take off Aug. 4 from the airport in Ponca City, about 90 miles (145 kilometers) north of Oklahoma City, but said it was slow to climb. The report says another witness saw the plane crash and burst into flames. The NTSB says the plane was flying to Independence, Kansas. Killed in the crash were Nicholas Warner and his two young sons, his father, Bill Warner and family friend Tim Valentine. The report does not identify who was piloting the plane.

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Authorities: Car in River Murder Case Stolen in Missouri

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — Law enforcement officials say a car that was driven into the Kansas River, killing one child, was stolen from a central Missouri town. Monroe County Sheriff's Office Sergeant Tony Coleman says the vehicle was stolen August 3rd from a rural home in Madison shortly before it was driven into the river near Lawrence. Scharron Dingledine is charged with first-degree murder in the death of her 5-year-old daughter and attempted first-degree murder for injuries suffered by her 1-year-old son. Authorities allege she intentionally drove the car into the river. The Lawrence Journal-World reports Coleman says a car was stolen from a Madison home and that a different car that did not belong to the homeowner was left behind. Madison is about 43 miles north of Columbia.

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Kansas Superintendents Work Together to Address Teen Suicide

OLATHE, Kan. (AP) — Kansas superintendents are working together to fight teen suicide. Blue Valley, De Soto, Gardner Edgerton, Olathe, Shawnee Mission and Spring Hill school districts in Johnson County have announced plans to work together on the issue, The Kansas City Star reported . The districts plan to meet monthly and will consult mental health providers, parents, religious leaders and local businesses. Tim DeWeese, the executive director of Johnson County Mental Health, said it's an unprecedented collaboration for the area, as school leaders and community groups have typically worked separately on mental health and suicide prevention programs. "It's not just a school issue," DeWeese said. "It's not just a mental health issue. It's a community issue, and if we are going to impact it we are going to need to take a community response." The teen suicide rate in the county has nearly doubled in the first six months of 2018, according to Johnson County Mental Health. Eight teens died by suicide last year through November 2017, two more than in 2016. School leaders hope to share ways to prevent suicides and find a way to train students and staff to better identify students who are struggling, said De Soto Superintendent Frank Harwood. "What we've talked about is how can we leverage student involvement in this?" Harwood said. "How can we help them not to continue to raise that pressure for themselves? And working more to survey students to get an idea of what is causing those issues and what can we do to address them." Districts plan to have public service announcements about suicide prevention that include resources to help. Officials will also plan events for National Suicide Prevention Week in September.

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Kansas Law Enforcement Training Center Seeing More Women

HUTCHINSON, Kan. (AP) — A Kansas Law Enforcement Training Center class has a record number of women. Fifteen of the 58 people in Class 252 are women, The Hutchinson News reported. It's the most women the center has trained in a single class since it started operating at the formal naval base in rural Reno County in 1968. The 14-week course features classroom training as well as hands-on experience. Students then become certified law enforcement officers. Executive Director Darin Beck said officials aren't sure if the increase in women is an anomaly or if it's a growing trend. Women used to account for about 10 percent of each class, but Beck said that number has slowly increased over his 20 years at the center. The amount of women in law enforcement rose from 14 percent in 1998 to 15.2 percent in 2008, according to the U.S. Department of Justice. Class 251 had nine women in the 55 person class. Temri Racines is one of the women in the class. She plans hopes to be a part of the McPherson County's emergency response team, be involved with Drug Abuse Resistance Education and start a community exercise program to use her background in personal training. "I wanted to show my daughter that you can be a single mom ... and still pursue your dream," Racines said. "Be an independent woman."

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Report: Kansas Forecast to Harvest More Corn Than Wheat

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A government report says Kansas farmers are forecast to harvest more than twice as much corn than wheat this year. The National Agricultural Statistics Service forecast on Friday Kansas corn production at 658 million bushels, about 4 percent below last year's crop. The crop is expected to be harvested off 5.1 million acres this fall. That compares to the recently completed winter wheat harvest which the government estimated at 277 million bushels, down 17 percent from last year. Kansas harvested 7.3 million acres of wheat. The agency also forecast the state's sorghum harvest this fall to total 231 million bushels, up 15 percent from a year ago. Kansas soybean production is forecast at 173 million bushels, down 8 percent from last year.

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Kansas Land Institute Continues Work on Perennial Crops

SALINA, Kan. (AP) — The Land Institute continues to grow slowly in Kansas. For more than 40 years, The Land Institute has been working to develop perennial crops that grow together but are harvested at different times, The Salina Journal reported . Institute leaders believe this will project the soil and help the environment. The ultimate goal is to protect the Earth's resources while feeding a growing population and creating a more sustainable place. The mission is slowly gaining momentum, said Fred Iutzi, the institute's president.

"We're on our way, but we're not there. That would be the worst assumption we could make," he said. While the Land Institute has made progress, breeding and selecting the best traits for crops takes time, said Lee DeHaan, the lead scientist for the domestication of Kernza perennial wheatgrass at the institute.

"It's fun to see the work we've been doing hopefully starting to make a difference," DeHaan said. "That's kind of a thrill for me." The institute collaborates with experts around the world who are studying new scientific techniques when it comes to perennial grain crops. It is currently looking to add a commercialization manager and work toward promoting Kernza.

"We have something marketable now as a specialty crop, but we're looking to improve it over time to be a major crop," Iutzi said. The grain can be used in a variety of ways, including for pizza, pasta, breads, desserts and beer.

"It has a sweet and nutty, honey aroma as you bake it," DeHaan said of Kernza's flour. The Institute will eventually expand efforts to develop perennial corn and soybeans, Iutzi said.

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Mississippi Man Sentenced to Life After Death Penalty Voided

HATTIESBURG, Miss. (AP) — A Mississippi man whose death sentence was overturned in 2014 has been resentenced to life in prison. State prison records show 44-year-old Roger Gillett was resentenced last month. Gillett and then-girlfriend Lisa Jo Chamberlin were convicted of killing Gillett's cousin and the cousin's girlfriend in 2004 because they wouldn't open a safe. Dismembered bodies of Vernon Hulett and Linda Heintzelman were found stuffed in a freezer on a farm near Russell, Kansas. The Mississippi Supreme Court voided Gillett's death sentence, finding jurors wrongly considered Gillett's attempted escape from a Kansas jail. The Hattiesburg American reports Forrest County District Attorney Patricia Burchell consulted victim families before deciding against the death penalty. Chamberlin's death sentence was reinstated in March after a federal appeals court dismissed accusations of racial bias in jury selection.
 

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