Headlines for Thursday, April 16, 2015
Governor Brownback Signs Welfare Reform Bill
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Governor Sam Brownback has signed a bill that specifies several dozen items poor families will not be able to buy with their welfare benefits. The restricted items included in the bill Brownback signed Thursday include concerts, tattoos, psychics and lingerie. Although more than 20 states have similar bills, Kansas appears to have the most extensive list of restricted items. The bill has sparked national ridicule from several groups. But it is part of a broader welfare law taking effect in July that Brownback and his allies say is aimed at moving poor families from social services into jobs.
Grand Jury Indicts Kansas Man in Fort Riley Bomb Plot
KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) — A federal grand jury has handed down a three-count indictment charging a 20-year-old Kansas man with trying to carry out a suicide attack at Fort Riley. Prosecutors say John T. Booker Jr. of Topeka was arrested Friday while trying to arm what he thought was a 1,000-pound bomb inside a van near the Army post an hour west of Topeka. A federal grand jury in Kansas City, Kansas, on Thursday indicted Booker for attempting to use a weapon of mass destruction and other charges, including attempting to provide material support to the Islamic State group. Prosecutors say Booker told undercover FBI informants that he wanted to kill Americans and engage in violent jihad on behalf of the group.
Alleged Fort Riley Bomb Accomplice to Be Released to Parents
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A Topeka man charged as an accomplice in an alleged Fort Riley suicide bombing plot will be released to his parents' custody. A judge decided Thursday to release Alexander Blair. That is expected to happen by Monday. Blair's attorney Christopher Joseph had argued that his client was not a flight risk because he had little money and no car, and said he had fully cooperated with the investigation. John T. Booker Jr. was arrested in an FBI sting operation Friday as he attempted to arm what he thought was a 1,000 pound bomb outside Fort Riley. Blair was arrested shortly thereafter and is charged with allegedly lending money to Booker as a part of a plan. Prosecutors allege he had full knowledge of the plot and didn't inform the authorities.
Kansas Board of Education Considers Whether to Let Unlicensed Teachers Teach
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas may let five school districts hire unlicensed people for teaching jobs. The State Board of Education is planning to vote on a proposal allowing districts designated as innovative to have unlicensed teachers as long as they have some expertise and can pass a background check. KNEA, the state's largest teachers' union, is against the idea, as are many educators. The affected districts are: Concordia, Hugoton, McPherson, Kansas City, Kansas, and Blue Valley in Johnson County.
Regents President and CEO Tompkins Retires; Flanders to Succeed
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas Board of Regents president and CEO Andy Tompkins says he plans to retire at the end of June. After Tompkins's surprise announcement on Wednesday at the Regents' monthly meeting, the board appointed Blake Flanders, the regents' vice president of workforce development, to succeed him. Tompkins began serving on the Board of Regents in 2010. From 1996 to 2005, he was commissioner of education for the Kansas Department of Education, and then became an associate professor at the University of Kansas before moving to the Board of Regents. Flanders has been with the Board of Regents since 2008.
Kansas Senator's 'Frozen' Ringtone Creates Hearing Hysterics
WASHINGTON (AP) — U.S. Senator Pat Roberts is urging people to "let it go" after his cellphone filled a somber committee hearing room with the first few bars of a song from Disney's "Frozen." The Kansas City Star reports that the 78-year-old Kansas lawmaker was questioning Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack on Thursday when his phone went off. Vilsack tried in vain to repress a smile as an apologetic Roberts fumbled with his phone and quipped, "Just let it go." Twitter exploded, with the celebrity news focused TMZ and Roberts' 2014 primary opponent, Milton Wolf, among those offering snarky commentary. Wolf said he figured Roberts was "more like a Sleeping Beauty kinda guy." Roberts spokeswoman Sarah Little said in an email that the senator's "Frozen" ringtone is for his grandkids. He has five.
Kansas High School Students Acccused of Animal Cruelty
MULVANE, Kan. (AP) — Three Mulvane High School students are accused of running over a baby chicken several times in the school's parking lot. Mulvane police are seeking for animal cruelty charges to be filed against the students, two of whom are under the age of 18. Police Chief Dave Williams says several teachers and students have been interviewed during an investigation into the March incident. Police presented their findings Wednesday to the Sedgwick County district attorney. A representative for the Mulvane school district says officials have no comment at this time.
Washburn University Fraternity Suspended over Text Messages
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A Washburn University fraternity has been suspended by its national leadership after sexually vulgar text messages between its members were discovered. The Topeka Capital-Journal reported Phi Delta Theta International said early Thursday it suspended the Washburn chapter as it investigates the messages. University spokesman Patrick Early says the Office of Student Life was interviewing fraternity members. Jessica Barraclough, the director of student activities and Greek life for Washburn, say the fraternity cannot host any events or participate in any university events during the suspension but members can still live at the house. Fraternity vice president Luke Warnken and president Jake Gregg told the Capital-Journal they wouldn't comment until they spoke to their attorney and heard from chapter advisers.
Topeka Offers State's First Public Bike-Sharing Program
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The city of Topeka is offering 100 new bicycles for anyone to use for short-term recreation or commuting in the state's first public ride-sharing program. The Topeka Metro Bikes program started rolling Wednesday afternoon after a ceremony on the Washburn University campus. The bikes, equipped with a basket, GPS and lock, can be found at 10 stations across Topeka. Members sign up for $25, which pays for two hours of use a day. Visitors may use bikes for $2.50 an hour. Members receive a personal identification number to unlock the bikes. The bikes can be left at any station in the city. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that Washburn University President Jerry Farley says he thinks the service will help start a culture of bicycle riding in the city.
Washburn Professor Named Kansas Poet Laureate
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — An associate English professor at Washburn University has been named the Poet Laureate for Kansas. The nonprofit Kansas Humanities Council announced the appointment of Eric McHenry in a news release Thursday. McHenry's work has been featured in national publications such as Poetry International, Yale Review and Slate. His poetry reviews have appeared in the New York Times and Columbia magazines. In his new role, he will spend the next two years presenting readings and discussions about poetry in communities across the state. He said in the release that poetry provides "language that's equal to life's richness and complexity." Kansas Humanities Council executive director Julie Mulvihill said McHenry brings "an abundance of talent and enthusiasm" to his position.
Topeka Gets OK for Levee Repair Project
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The Army Corps of Engineers has signed off on the first phase of a $29 million levee repair project. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that Mayor Larry Wolgast made the announcement Thursday during a State of the Community luncheon. Wolgast says needed levee repairs have stalled efforts to develop the Kansas Riverfront near downtown up until now. But he says a cooperative effort between the city and the Army Corps of Engineers will soon change that. He announced the corps has authorized the city to accept bids to carry out the first of three phases of the project this coming September. Bids for the other phases to be accepted in 2016 and 2017. Wolgast says the city will be responsible for about $10 million of the repairs.
Commission Questions Numbers in Kansas Casino Proposal
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The Kansas Lottery Commission is giving Las Vegas billionaire Phil Ruffin more time to provide information about a proposed southeast Kansas casino. The Joplin Globe reports that the commission raised questions Wednesday about whether Ruffin is making the minimum investment required for a state-owned casino. The commission has put off making a decision on which of three proposals to back until April 24. Ruffin's proposal calls for a $78.5 million project at the former Camptown Greyhound Park in Frontenac. Questions have arisen about the value of the racetrack and land. The commission also heard proposals for Castle Rock Casino Resort, a $140 million casino that would be built in Cherokee County. The third proposal is a $62 million facility, Kansas Crossing Casino, which would be built south of Pittsburg.
Wichita State Gets $5 Million, Mostly for Honors College
WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Wichita State University's Foundation will use most of a $5 million gift to support its honors college. The gift from Bill and Dorothy Cohen was announced Wednesday. Bill Cohen founded IMA Financial Group in Wichita. The university said in a news release that $4.75 million of the gift will go to the honors college, which will be renamed the Dorothy and Bill Cohen Honors College. Another $250,000 will help create the Dorothy and Bill Cohen fund for University Libraries. The university said $2.25 million will endow scholarships for honors college students to pay for study abroad, undergraduate research, internships and attendance at national conferences. Another $1.5 million will endow honors college faculty fellows, with $1 million will endow a leadership academy.
Kansas City Man Gets 40 Years in Prison for Producing Child Porn
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — A 28-year-old Kansas City man has been sentenced to 40 years in prison without parole for producing child pornography. Donald Paris Jr. was convicted yesterday (WED) in federal court. Paris was arrested in December 2011 after he was caught printing images of child pornography at the Kansas City Public Library.
Hundreds March in Kansas City for $15 an Hour Wages
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — More than 200 low-wage workers took to the streets in Kansas City in pursuit of raises to $15 an hour as part of an expanding national movement known as Fight for 15. The protesters started yesterday (WED) morning with a rally at an east-side McDonald's, then gathered three-deep in front of a non-profit on Main Street to call attention to sub-par wages for home health care workers. The event was part of a national protest day to coincide with the April 15 deadline for filing income taxes. Organizers planned similar rallies in as many as 200 other U.S. cities. The movement to unionize and raise wages to $15 an hour began in 2012 with a single protest by fast-food workers in New York City.
Survey Suggests Economy Slowing in Rural Areas of 10 States
OMAHA, Neb. (AP) — The economic outlook for rural areas of 10 states in the Plains and the West remained negative in April even though it improved slightly from the previous month. Creighton University's Rural Mainstreet index grew to 46 in April from March's 43.6, but any score below 50 suggests a decline. The indexes range between 0 and 100. Creighton University economist Ernie Goss says the strong U.S. dollar continues to hurt exports of agriculture and energy products. And demand for farmland remains weak, so land prices are declining. The farm equipment sales index sits at 15.6, up slightly from March's 15.2, but well below the neutral level of 50. Bankers from rural areas of Colorado, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, South Dakota and Wyoming were surveyed.
Regional Jet Safely Makes Emergency Landing in Wichita
WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A regional airliner with 84 passengers on board safely made an emergency landing in Wichita after the plane had cabin pressurization problems. No one was injured during yesterday (WED) afternoon's landing by the Bombardier CRJ-900 at Wichita's Dwight D. Eisenhower National Airport. Airport spokeswoman Valerie Wise says the flight was operated by Mesa Airlines for American and had taken off from Wichita and was headed to Dallas-Ft. Worth. She says the plane wasn't in the air for very long before the pilot declared an emergency around 2:20pm and returned to the airport. She had no further details.
Teen to Stand Trial as Adult in Killings of Wichita Couple
WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A teenager will be tried as an adult in the fatal shootings of a Wichita couple during a robbery. The Wichita Eagle reports that Sedgwick County juvenile court Judge Robb Rumsey granted a motion Wednesday for adult prosecution for Carlos Delacadena-Edwards. He is jailed in Sedgwick County on two counts of first-degree murder and one count of aggravated robbery. The prosecutor's office didn't immediately return messages asking whether Delacadena-Edwards had an attorney. Delacadena-Edwards was 17 in October when 72-year-old Godofredo Moreno and his 71-year-old wife, Martha, were killed. A police affidavit said the teen, who is now 18, admitted going to the house with another suspect. The affidavit says the other suspect shot the couple multiple times while Delacadena-Edwards waited in the living room with a BB gun.
Records Reveal Details from High-End Clothing Thefts in Kansas City
OVERLAND PARK, Kan. (AP) — Newly released court documents show that a Facebook post first led police to investigate a suburban Kansas City woman charged with stealing more than $100,000 worth of high-end clothing. Forty-five-year-old Kelli Jo Bauer is accused in court documents of using social media to advertise the sale of more than 1,000 items of women's clothing. The documents say she was arrested this month after undercover detectives posing as customers went to her $900,000 home in an upscale Overland Park development. Bauer told the police that she was selling the items because she was a "compulsive shopper" and had lost weight. She is on house arrest as a condition of bond. Defense attorney Scott Gyllenborg didn't immediately return a phone call from The Associated Press.
Midwest Bird Flu Outbreak Could Head Eastward with Fall Migration
MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Some scientists say that eastern U.S. poultry producers should brace for the potential arrival of a deadly bird flu virus outbreak that farmers in the Midwest have struggled to stop. The fear is that if the virus isn't already lurking in the Atlantic Flyway, it could spread there this fall when wild ducks fly south for the winter. Donna Carver, extension veterinarian at North Carolina State University, says producers there are preparing for the worst. H5N2 avian influenza has turned up since December in poultry farms and wild birds in the Pacific and Central flyways. But it's done the most damage in the Mississippi Flyway, especially in Minnesota, the country's top turkey producing state. Midwest and Ontario producers have lost over 2 million turkeys and chickens since early March.
Southwest Airlines Unveils Missouri One Jet at KCI
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Southwest Airlines has unveiled a Boeing 737 jet that is painted as though it's wrapped in the Missouri state flag. The plane made its debut Wednesday at the Aviation Technical Services aircraft overhaul base in Kansas City. It's the 10th jet in the airline's fleet painted to honor one of the states it serves. Southwest Chairman and CEO Gary Kelly says the airline wants to show its appreciation. Missouri Governor Jay Nixon and Kansas City Mayor Sly James were on hand for the presentation, and the group christened the repainted plane Missouri One. Southwest makes 68 daily departures from the Kansas City International Airport, and there is talk of a massive overhaul of the facility. Kelly says any improvements should focus on cost.
Dole Institute Exhibits Bob Dole's WWII-Era Letters
LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — The Dole Institute of Politics in Lawrence is exhibiting World War II letters between Bob Dole and his family for an online audience. The institute announced the exhibit became available online Tuesday, marking the day Dole was wounded in the war. It shows correspondence between the former Republican senator and his family from September 1941, when he was a student at Kansas, through his military service until April 1947. Dole reported for duty in 1943 and was seriously wounded in Italy on April 14, 1945. He spent several years recovering from his injuries at Percy Jones Army Hospital in Michigan. Dole Institute archivist Audrey Coleman says the letters tell a story common to many on the home front and in the action of World War II.
Wichita University, Technical College Launch Partnership
WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Wichita State University is joining forces with Wichita Area Technical College to launch an innovative approach to degree completion. The university said Thursday in a news release that its Shocker Pathway partnership is the first of its kind in Kansas between a two-year technical college and a four-year university. It creates a joint Associate of Arts degree that allows students who begin their coursework at the technical college and finish their degree at the university. The partnership allows students to bring up to 50 hours of transferable coursework to the university where they can take additional coursework to get the degree. It also makes it easier for students to pursue more advanced degrees through the program. An official kickoff is planned Monday with a news conference featuring community and educational leaders.
Some Kidney Transplant Services to Be Offered in Wichita
WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Patients who have kidney transplants at the University of Kansas Hospital in Kansas City are now able to get some related treatments in Wichita. A clinic in Wichita officially opened Wednesday and will accept patients for pre- and post-treatment care for kidney transplants. Dennis McCulloch, spokesman for the hospital, says the clinic expects to receive about 300 patient visits per year. A typical transplant patient would be seen two to four times before surgery and five or more times after surgery, depending on complications. The Wichita Eagle reports most of the transplant specialists will commute from the hospital in Kansas City, Kansas. The hospital did 127 kidney transplants and 106 liver transplants last year. The clinic hopes to expand to liver transplant services in the future.
39 Greater Prairie Chickens Join Missouri Nature Preserve
EAGLEVILLE, Mo. (AP) — A northwest Missouri nature preserve has added another 39 greater prairie chickens to its flock. Last week's release brings the number of birds relocated to the Dunn Ranch Prairie to 79. The 3,200-acre Nature Conservancy property is located about 90 minutes north of Kansas City. Greater prairie chickens prefer to breed and nest on prairies. But their numbers have shrank as they tallgrass prairie they call home has shrank. The birds are designated as endangered in Missouri. The relocated birds come from Nebraska, where they are more plentiful. Conservancy site manager Randy Arndt says the birds are rebounding at the ranch, which contains the largest expanse of unplowed prairie in northern Missouri. Controlled burns and bison grazing have been used to restore the site.