Headlines for Thursday, June 25, 2015
Judge Blocks Kansas Ban on Abortion Method
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) —A judge has blocked a new Kansas abortion law saying the state's constitution protects a woman's right to have an abortion separately from the U.S. Constitution. Shawnee County District Judge Larry Hendricks cited a 2006 ruling by the Kansas Supreme Court in which justices said the protections in the state for abortion are generally in line with what the U.S. Constitution offers. Attorneys for the state of Kansas defended the state's ban on a procedure medically known as dilation and extraction abortion. The lawsuit filed by the Center for Reproductive Rights asked the judge to block the ban on what it says is the most common and safest method for ending second-trimester pregnancies. The group contended the new law would force some women to either accept higher medical risks or forgo abortions. The state's lawyers said abortion providers have safe alternatives to the procedure that anti-abortion activists describe as "dismemberment abortion." The National Right to Life Committee drafted the law as model legislation for states. Kansas was the first to enact it. Attorneys on both sides said Hendrick's ruling is significant. They say that if his ruling is upheld, the Kansas Supreme Court could grant more protections on abortion than the U.S. Supreme Court does. Abortion opponents have feared such a result, because they've pushed in recent years for new restrictions.
Brownback Disappointed by Abortion Ruling
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A spokeswoman for Kansas Governor Sam Brownback says the Republican is disappointed by a judge's decision to block a new state law that bans a specific abortion procedure. The governor is a strong abortion opponent. His spokeswoman, Eileen Hawley, released a statement saying Brownback is committed to "supporting a culture of life." Hawley called Kansas a "pro-life state" and said, "Kansas law should protect human dignity for all Kansans." The law bans a common procedure used during second-trimester abortions that opponents describe as dismembering a fetus. The law was scheduled to take effect next week. Shawnee County District Judge Larry Hendricks ruled that there's a substantial likelihood that the ban would create an undue burden for women seeking abortions. His order will stay in effect while a lawsuit challenging the ban proceeds.
Lawyer for Providers Relieved by Decision
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The Center for Reproductive Rights says it's relieved that a judge has blocked a new law banning a common second-trimester abortion procedure in Kansas. Still, senior counsel Janet Crepps said her group is looking to resolve the key legal issue of how much the Kansas Constitution protects abortion rights. Crepps represents two abortion providers who challenged the new law, which blocks a procedure that anti-abortion groups describe as dismembering a fetus. Abortion rights advocates say the law would force women to forgo abortions or accept riskier procedures. Attorneys on both sides of the issue interpret the ruling as meaning the Kansas Supreme Court could grant greater protections to abortion than the U.S. Supreme Court has.
Anti-Abortion Leader Says Judge Selection May Be Next Issue for Group
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) _ An anti-abortion leader in Kansas says a judge's decision to block a new abortion law has renewed her group's interest in changing how Kansas Supreme Court justices are selected. A county judge on Thursday temporarily blocked a law that bans a common second-trimester abortion procedure that critics call dismembering a fetus. The case will likely get to the Kansas Supreme Court. Currently, a lawyer-led nominating commission screens applicants for the Supreme Court and picks three finalists, then the governor appoints one. Mary Kay Culp, executive director of Kansans for Life, says one of her group's top priorities is changing that process, which would require amending the Kansas Constitution. Her group prefers that justices be elected by voters, but it also supports eliminating the commission and allowing the governor to appoint justices with Senate confirmation.
Kansas Governor Criticizes Supreme Court Health Care Ruling
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas Governor Sam Brownback is criticizing a U.S. Supreme Court decision upholding a key portion of the federal health overhaul and is not changing his stance on expanding Medicaid. Spokeswoman Eileen Hawley said Thursday in a statement that the decision is disappointing and ignores the federal law's actual language. The court's majority upheld health insurance subsidies for consumers in states like Kansas that refused to set up their own online marketplaces. Brownback and other Republicans blame the law championed by Democratic President Barack Obama for rising health insurance costs. Kansas so far has refused to expand its Medicaid program to cover residents not eligible for subsidies. Hawley said Brownback still believes the state must first provide services to the disabled and then ensure it can sustain an expansion long-term.
Kansans in Congress Vow to Push for Repeal of Health Law
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — An advocacy group in Kansas is relieved that the U.S. Supreme Court has upheld a key part of the federal health care overhaul, but members of the state's congressional delegation say they'll still push for its repeal. The high court on Thursday upheld health insurance subsidies for millions of consumers who purchased their coverage through a federal online marketplace. Kansas refused to set up its own exchange under the 2010 law. The Kansas Association for the Medically Underserved called the high court decision "a huge victory for consumers." The Kaiser Family Foundation estimated that about 70,000 Kansas consumers were receiving subsidies averaging $231 a month. But Republican Senator Pat Roberts and GOP congressmen Tim Huelskamp and Mike Pompeo issued statements promising to seek repeal of the law.
White House Says House Budget Would Hurt Kansas
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) _ The White House says a U.S. House budget bill would hurt Kansans, but Kansas Congressional members say the president's proposals are worse. The Topeka Capital-Journal reportsthat a statement from President Obama's administration Wednesday details the effects federal spending legislation in the House could have on Kansas programs, parks and agencies. The White House says Republicans could jeopardize health care coverage for 85,000 Kansans enrolled in the Affordable Care Act marketplace and result in 6,000 fewer Kansas children receiving full-day, year-round education through Head Start. Kansas Republican Representatives Lynn Jenkins and Kevin Yoder say Obama's 2016 budget creates $2.1 trillion in new taxes and adds $8.5 trillion to the national debt.
Governors Urge EPA to Keep Renewable Fuel Standards Intact
KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) — Opponents of an Environmental Protection Agency proposal to reduce renewable fuel standards say the agency's indecision has slowed investment in the industry. The EPA has proposed reducing the required volume of renewable fuels in the U.S. gasoline supply by 4 billion gallons this year and 5 billion gallons next year. The agency says Congress set the standards impossibly high in 2007 and they aren't being met. Iowa Governor Terry Branstad on Thursday accused the petroleum industry of pressuring the EPA to lower the standards through "misinformation and half-truths." He and Missouri Governor Jay Nixon joined hundreds of others addressing the EPA about the proposed changes. American Petroleum Institute spokesman Bob Greco says the standards need to be lower because demand for renewable fuels isn't high enough to meet them.
State Hospital Halts New Admissions During Renovations
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) _ Osawatomie State Hospital has stopped accepting new admissions while the facility undergoes renovations. Officials with the Kansas Department for Aging and Disability Services told The Topeka Capital-Journalon Wednesday the moratorium on new admissions began over the weekend. The renovations come after the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services found the hospital was not in compliance with federal standards. Under the moratorium, the hospital's patient population is capped at 146, below its previous capacity of 206. A spokeswoman for the Kansas Department for Aging and Disability Services says that a diversion process is now in place to provide care for patients who are unable to be admitted immediately and that no one is currently on a waiting list.
Wheat Harvest Activity Spreads Across Kansas as Fields Dry
WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — The hot winds blowing across Kansas are drying out fields enough for many farmers to begin their harvest. The industry group Kansas Wheat said in its update Wednesday that harvest has continued to spread throughout the state. In Abilene, the elevator is reporting that 30 percent of the crop has now been cut, with yields ranging from 40 to 65 bushels an acre. Some of the lower yields are showing up in areas where fields were drowned out by standing water. Test weights have been averaging 60 pounds per bushel there. Disease has also taken a toll and with farmers who didn't spray seeing a difference. The Garden City Co-op reports test weights at its 20 locations averaging slightly above the industry standard of 60 pounds per bushel.
Rural Kansas Man Drowns in Above-Ground Pool
GREAT BEND, Kan. (AP) — A central Kansas man died after apparently hitting his head when he dove into an above-ground pool. Barton County Sheriff Brian Bellendir says 36-year-old Ryan Fanshier, of rural Great Bend, died in the accident Wednesday night. Bellendir said Fanshier was not breathing when he was pulled from the pool. Emergency responders attempted to revive him but he died later at Great Bend Regional Hospital. The Great Bend Tribune reportsthe death is being considered accidental. Bellendir said it appears Fanshier hit his head on the bottom of the pool, possibly causing head and neck injuries.
Flag Smut Disease Detected in Kansas Wheat for First Time
WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Agricultural officials are contacting Kansas farmers with fields infected with flag smut disease in an effort to contain its spread. It is the first time it has been detected in Kansas since the 1930s The Kansas Department of "Agriculture said Thursday the disease poses no human or animal health concerns and doesn't impact grain quality. However, it can hurt wheat yields. That is why the department is reaching out to farmers in the midst of harvest. Officials are urging those farmers to delay harvest of infested fields until other fields are cut. They are asking that growers deliver wheat from infested fields to country elevators where it will be used for non-export uses. The disease has been detected at low infestation levels in 39 fields in central and western Kansas.
Kansas Wesleyan Unveils New Majors, Changes to Curriculum
SALINA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas Wesleyan University says it will begin offering 17 new majors and a revamped core curriculum during the next four years. Officials from the university in Salina said Wednesday the new curriculum will allow departments to combine offerings. For example, art therapy would combine art and psychology studies. Provost Nancy Cummings says the goal is to develop compelling programs and meet graduate's needs for employment. School officials say the changes grew out of discussions with employers and alumni, who said a well-rounded education was important. The Salina Journal reports students will generally take about 40 hours of liberal studies classes over four years, with the courses grouped into four broad categories.
Topeka Man Charged in Death of 13-Month-Old Girl
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A Topeka man has been charged in the death of a 13-month-old girl. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that 26-year-old Michael John Guerrero was initially charged with attempted second-degree murder. But the charge was amended to first-degree murder after the girl's death early Thursday. Guerrero has been jailed in Shawnee County since his arrest Wednesday. No attorney is listed for him in online court records. Police said the girl was in "medical distress" when emergency responders began treating her Monday. She later was flown to Children's Mercy Hospital in Kansas City, Missouri. Police said it was determined that her injuries were the result of "criminal action." The girl's name wasn't immediately released, pending notification of relatives.
Sentence in Death of Man Waiting with Disabled Vehicle
PLATTE CITY, Mo. (AP) — A Kansas City man has been sentenced to six years in prison for killing a motorist while speeding and under the influence of several prescription drugs. Platte County Prosecutor Eric Zahnd said 30-year-old Anthony Battaglia was sentenced Thursday after pleading guilty in April to involuntary manslaughter and possession of a controlled substance. Investigators say Battaglia's vehicle went off Missouri 152 in Parkville in February 2014 and rear-ended a parked car. The crash killed Donald Rippy, who was waiting alongside the highway with his grandson, whose vehicle had overheated. The grandson was treated for minor injuries. An analysis of Battaglia's blood showed it contained several prescription drugs. Battaglia did not have a prescription for the anti-anxiety medication alprazolam, commonly known as Xanax.
Man Sentenced for Wichita Murder
WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A man convicted of killing a Wichita radio station employee has been sentenced to 25 years to life in prison. Antwon Banks was convicted in April in the February, 2014 beating death of Daniel Flores, who was a co-worker of Banks's former girlfriend.
Activists Ask Wichita to Remove Confederate Flag from Park
WICHITA, Kan. (AP) - A Wichita activist group is asking city officials to remove a Confederate flag from a display at Veterans Memorial Park. The flag has been on display at the memorial in downtown Wichita since 1976, as part of an exhibit of 13 historic flags that flew for the U.S. during war times. The Sunflower Community Action group is asking city officials to remove the flag because, they say, it's not a U.S. flag and because many consider the banner racially offensive. The Confederate battle flag has become a flashpoint since the shooting deaths of nine black people last week in a South Carolina church which police say was racially motivated. Wichita officials said in a statement that officials are discussing the subject with various groups responsible for the display at the park.
Advocates Allege Religious Discrimination at V-A Hospital
WICHITA, Kan. (AP) _ A religious liberty group says members of a Native American sweat lodge at a VA medical center in Wichita have been subjected to discrimination aimed at shutting down their religious services. The Liberty Institute sent a letter Wednesday to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs concerning the Robert J. Dole Veterans Affairs Medical Center. Among the group's concerns is the recent suspension of the sweat lodge's spiritual leader, who is a substance-abuse counselor at the center. The group alleges his suspension came in retaliation for his advocacy work for the sweat lodge, and that his absence has effectively shut down the religious services. The medical center released a statement that didn't address the specific allegations, but says the center prioritizes supporting the religious practices of its staff, volunteers and veterans.
Shatner to Ride Through Kansas Today
WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Actor William Shatner is scheduled to pass through Wichita today (THUR) on a fundraising trip for the American Legion. The Wichita Eagle reports that Shatner will be in Wichita as he makes a 2,400-mile journey from Illinois to California on a three-wheeled motorcycle. The 84-year-old actor portrayed Captain Kirk in the 1960s television series "Star Trek." His trip is scheduled to end in Los Angeles next week.
Man to Face Trial for Murder in Death of 100-Year-old Woman
WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A man will be tried for first-degree murder in the death of a 100-year-old Wichita woman he is also accused of raping. A Sedgwick County judge ruled Wednesday that an autopsy report and previous testimony provided enough evidence to try 36-year-old Kasey Nesbitt for murder in the October 2014 death of Martha Schell. The Wichita Eagle reports the autopsy found Schell died from a blood clot that formed after the attack, which left her with a broken back and other injuries that made her immobile. Nesbitt also is charged with rape and aggravated burglary. Defense attorney Val Wachtel argued in court Wednesday that prosecutors had not provided probable cause for the murder charge. Nesbitt has pleaded not guilty. He is being held on $300,000 bond.
New Phase in Federal Effort to Combat Human Trafficking
WASHINGTON (AP) — The Justice Department is announcing a new phase in efforts to combat human trafficking. Attorney General Loretta Lynch says federal officials are looking for more cities to participate in the next phase of a program aimed at streamlining trafficking investigations and prosecutions. The idea is to build on an initiative from 2011 that officials say has resulted in more trafficking cases and convictions. The cities in the first phase are Atlanta; El Paso, Texas; Kansas City, Missouri; Memphis, Tennessee; Miami; and Los Angeles. Lynch describes the results of the program so far as "extraordinary."
2 Men Arrested on Suspicion of Raping Girl in Marion County
MARION, Kan. (AP) — Police have arrested two men on suspicion of raping a minor in rural Marion County, an hour north of Wichita. According to Marion County Undersheriff David Huntley, a young girl was raped Saturday morning on a rural county road. The two suspects were arrested Saturday and have been charged with aggravated child endangerment and rape. They are currently being held in the Marion County jail.
Moustakas, Infante Leads Royals Past Mariners 8-2
SEATTLE (AP) — Mike Moustakas hit a two-run home run and Omar Infante had a three-run double as the Kansas City Royals beat the Seattle Mariners 8-2 on Wednesday night. Alcides Escobar opened the fourth inning with a single to right off Roenis Elias (4-5), who had retired the first nine batters. Moustakas followed with his seventh homer of the season over the right-field wall. Royals' left-hander Danny Duffy delivered 4 2/3 effective innings in his first start back from injury. Ryan Madson (1-1) worked 1-plus inning of hitless relief for the win. The Royals travel south to California today. Right-hander Edinson Volquez will make his 200th career start when Kansas City begins a three-game series versus the Oakland A's on Friday night.