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Weekend Headlines for January 20-21, 2018

Topeka Police Cleared in Fatal Shooting

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The Topeka police department says its internal investigation determined two officers who fatally shot a man in September acted in compliance with the department's policy on use of force. Deputy city manager Doug Gerber said Friday no further information would be released on whether officers Justin Mackey and Michael Cruse were disciplined because it is a personnel matter. The two officers were on paid leave since they shot 30-year-old Dominque White Sept. 28 near a Topeka park. Authorities said the officers struggled with White and shot him after he appeared to be reaching for a gun as he ran away. Shawnee County District Attorney Mike Kagay announced in December that the officers wouldn't be charged. Attorneys for White's family on Friday disputed the findings, saying they were contradicted by video and ballistic evidence.


Kansas Archbishop Picked to Lead Anti-Abortion Effort

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) — The archbishop of Kansas City, Kansas, has been chosen to a leading role in the Catholic Church's fight against abortion. Archbishop Joseph Naumann will be the chairman of the U.S. Bishops' Committee on Pro-Life Activities. R. Andrew Chesnut, chairman of Catholic Studies at Virginia Commonwealth University, says it was the first time in four decades that a cardinal was not elected to the position. The Wichita Eagle reports Mary Kay Culp, executive director of Kansans for Life, has known Naumann for years. She says he has always cared deeply about the abortion issue and is "the right man for the right job." Naumann joined more than 2,000 Kansans in Washington, D.C., this week for the March for Life. He is expected at the Rally for Life Monday in Topeka.


Clay Center Man Dies in Kansas Crash

CLAY CENTER, Kan. (AP) — A Clay Center man has died in a single-car crash in north-central Kansas. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that 49-year-old John Robert Linn died when the car he was driving overturned near Clay Center Thursday afternoon. The Kansas Highway Patrol says Linn was driving westbound on Broughton Road when he came up upon slower traffic, swerved and lost control. The patrol says his car entered the north ditch and overturned. A 41-year-old woman riding in Linn's car was hospitalized with injuries.


Officials Predict More Kansas Wildfires in 2018

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Officials are warning that 2018 could be another bad year for wildfires in Kansas. The Wichita Eagle reports that the central and southern Plains face an elevated threat of wildfires through April. The prediction comes from Kansas State University scientists and a government organization that assesses risks. The warning issued earlier this week comes after back-to back years of the worst wildfires in Kansas history. The fires burned thousands of acres and destroyed homes, cattle, fences and power lines. Meteorologist Chip Redmond says heavy rain from April through September last year prompted heavy growth of brush and grass, resulting in "large to significant fuel loads" across the region. He says abnormally dry weather west of Wichita over the  past three months is depleting any remaining moisture and drying out the grass.


Report: KU Spent $21 Million on Consulting Fees

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A recent report is criticizing the University of Kansas' previous administration for spending more than $21 million over a five-year period on consulting fees to find savings and efficiencies at its campuses. Chancellor Douglas Girod and Provost Neeli Bendapudi defend the spending, saying the Chicago-based Huron Consulting Services, which was paid more than $9 million over five years, produced more than $51 million in savings and other benefits for the university. The Lawrence Journal-World reports that among the savings cited were $13.8 million in information technology costs and $10.4 million in purchasing costs through the use of rebates, signing bonuses and contract cost savings. The report by a committee of the University Senate began in 2016 amid concerns about the amount of money being spent on consultants.


Missouri Pushes for Tougher Penalties after Kansas 'Swatting' Death

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) — A Missouri lawmaker is pushing for tougher penalties after a Wichita death that resulted from a prank call to police. KRCG-TV reports that Representative Bill Kidd has filed legislation to hold pranksters civilly and criminally liable if they make a call resulting in an emergency response. The push comes amid the rise of "swatting," a prank in which someone calls the police to report an emergency that requires officers to send a SWAT team. The prank turned deadly last month when police fatally shot a Wichita man at his home after receiving a call about a shooting and kidnapping. The alleged caller, Tyler Barriss, faces manslaughter charges in the death. Kidd says existing false-report laws aren't suited for police hoaxes resulting in injury or death. Missouri has no state law dealing with swatting.


Two Students Arrested for Sexual Assault at Kansas Military School

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — An attorney says a 15-year-old Texas boy was sexually assaulted this week by two other students at a Kansas military school. The family's attorney, Dan Zmijewski, said Friday the assault at St. John's Military School allegedly occurred Tuesday night in a dormitory room. The boy was taken to the hospital the following day for an examination. He says police arrested two boys and referred the case to the Saline County District Attorney's Office for possible aggravated sodomy charges. A first court appearance is planned for Monday. St. John's President William Clark did not respond to a request for comment. The prosecutor's office did not immediately respond to a message. The Episcopalian boarding school also faces a pending lawsuit from a Tennessee father over the 2014 sexual assault of his son.


Kansas Unemployment Rate Drops to Lowest Since 2000

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas saw its unemployment rate drop slightly in December to 3.4 percent and reach its lowest point in nearly 18 years. The state Department of Labor reported Friday that last month's seasonally adjusted unemployment rate was lower than both the 3.5 percent reported in November and the 4.3 percent rate in December 2016. The state's unemployment rate has remained below 4 percent since March 2017. According to department statistics, the seasonally adjusted unemployment rate last dropped to 3.4 percent in February 2000. The department also said the number of people working in private-sector, nonfarm jobs also grew by about 8,000 in December from December 2016. The increase was 0.7 percent. Labor Secretary Lana Gordon said hours worked and real earnings also increased over the years as employers sought workers.


Kansas Long-Term Care Providers Struggle Financially

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Owners and advocates of long-term care providers in Kansas say they're being squeezed financially on several fronts. The Lawrence Journal-World reports that advocates told the House Health and Human Services Committee Thursday that Kansas providers face grave financial hardships due to low reimbursement rates, backlogs in processing Medicaid applications and a recent spike in civil penalties for health and safety violations. A survey found such facilities in the Midwest reported operating at a net loss of about 0.5 percent in 2016. A Kansas Health Care Association representative says the financial problems long-term care facilities face also threaten state and local economies. The association represents more than 250 long-term care providers. Republican Representative Dan Hawkins chairs the committee. He says he'll invite the secretary of the Kansas Department for Aging and Disability Services to respond to the concerns.


Senate Leader: Expand Lobbying Law to Kansas Contractors

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The Kansas Senate's top Republican leader says she will push to expand the state's lobbying laws so that they covers attempts to influence who receives state contracts. Senate President Susan Wagle of Wichita said Friday that she plans to introduce a bill to require people who try to influence contracting decisions by state agencies to register as lobbyists. Such a step would require them to disclose their spending on the meals and gifts they provide to officials, as well as what they spend on communications and advertising. The current definition of lobbying covers attempts to influence the Legislature and work by state agencies on administrative rules and regulations. Democratic legislative leaders quickly endorsed Wagle's proposal and said they'll outline their own government transparency proposals next week.


Officials: Arctic Snowy Owls are Dying in Kansas

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — While Kansans might enjoy seeing a snowy owl from the Arctic, wildlife experts say it's not good news that the animals are this far south. Wildlife officials say nearly a dozen snowy owls have been found dead this winter in Kansas. Most likely died from starvation. The Wichita Eagle reports the more than five dozen white owls seen in Kansas are here because they have been pushed out of their habitat in the Arctic. Chuck Otte, secretary of the Kansas Ornithological Society, says older owls claiming territory push the younger ones out of the Arctic. Most go to northern states but an abundance of snowy owls there can send them farther south. Otte suggests people resist the urge to feed the owls, saying that only prolongs their suffering.


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