Headlines for Thursday, August 13, 2015
Kansas Requirements Low for Child Abuse Investigators
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A Kansas agency employs dozens of unlicensed workers to help investigate suspected child abuse claims, but the agency says those workers receive special training and are there to assist licensed employees. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that the Department for Children and Families has been using the workers, called special investigators, in addition to state-licensed social workers. DCF says special investigators are required to have a high school diploma, a year of experience and undergo special training. Agency spokeswoman Theresa Freed says almost all have a law enforcement or social work background. Freed says the agency had 34 special investigators of child abuse and neglect in 2010, and currently employs 54. The salary for a social worker is $18.26 an hour, while special investigators make $15.75 an hour.
Lawrence Mayor Resigns 2 Days After Tax Problems Revealed
LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — Jeremy Farmer has resigned as mayor of Lawrence, two days after he resigned from his job as executive director at a food pantry. Farmer resigned his seat on the City Commission Wednesday, effective immediately. He had resigned Monday from Just Food, a nonprofit food pantry, after it was revealed that he had not paid about $50,000 in federal payroll taxes. The Lawrence Journal-World reports that the remaining four city commissioners will meet Friday to accept the resignation and begin the search for a replacement. The Lawrence mayor has no administrative duties but chairs commission meetings and signs certain documents that require a mayor's signature. Just Food officials say there's no indication money was misappropriated from the nonprofit group. Farmer says it was an oversight that the taxes weren't paid.
Kansas Officials Defend Sale of Pension Bonds
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas officials are defending the state's decision to sell $1 billion in bonds in an effort to boost the financial health of its public pension system after a rating agency's report suggested the move is risky and won't help the state's long term pension fund problems. Kansas is selling the bonds after legislators authorized the sales earlier this year. The Kansas Public Employees Retirement System expects to earn more from investing the bond proceeds than the state will pay to investors over 30 years. The move is designed to help the pension system close a $9.5 billion gap between revenues and benefits owed retirees before 2034. But Moody's Investors Service said in a report this week that issuing the bonds will do little to solve the problem and presents some risk. KPERS Executive Director Alan Conroy disagrees with that assessment and said there's little risk in selling the bonds.
Kansas Public Pension System Says Funding Gap Has Decreased
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The public pension system for Kansas teachers and government workers says its long-term financial health improved last year. The Kansas Public Employees Retirement System is citing a recent report showing a 3 percent decrease in the gap between its anticipated revenues and the cost of benefits promised to retirees over the next 18 years. The figure was projected at $9.47 billion for the end of 2014. The year-end figure for 2013 was $9.77 billion. The difference was $298 million. The state committed in 2012 to increasing its contributions to KPERS over time, and it also changed benefit plans for new employees. The new estimate doesn't reflect the state's decision to issue $1 billion in bonds for the pension system to bolster its short-term financial health.
Kansas Launching Campaign to Boost Child Support Collections
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Two state agencies in Kansas are preparing to launch a new campaign aimed at increasing the collection of child support payments from unmarried or separated parents. The Department of Labor and the Department for Children and Families are planning a joint Friday afternoon news conference to kick off the campaign. Their announcement of the event says it will be an educational campaign but does not provide further details. The event will be at the Department for Children and Families state office in downtown Topeka. Labor Secretary Lana Gordon and Children and Families Secretary Phyllis Gilmore are planning to participate in the event. Child support is paid by non-custodial parents after a divorce or separation, or when parents never married and live separately.
Appeals Court Rejects Kansas Inmate's Conjugal Visit Appeal
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — A federal appeals court has again rejected a Kansas prison inmate's bid to "co-habitate and procreate" with a woman whose mother the couple were convicted of killing. The Kansas City Star reports 34-year-old Joshua Robertson sued state prison officials for refusing to allow him to have conjugal contact with 32-year-old Jennifer Self, a woman he describes as his common-law wife. The pair are serving life sentences for killing Self's mother in 2002. Roberts claimed in his suit that his constitutional rights to freely practice his religious beliefs were being violated. A federal judge and the10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals previously dismissed the suit, finding that a prison inmate has no constitutional right to contact visitation. The 10th Circuit on Thursday denied an additional appeal.
Kansas Gets Grant to Help Students with AP Exam Costs
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) - Kansas has been awarded nearly $81,000 from the federal government to help students pay for some of the costs associated with advanced placement exams. The Wichita Eagle reports the state is one of 38 to receive a total of $28.4 million in grants from the U.S. Department of Education to help prepare low-income students for college. According to the department, the grants will pay for approved tests administered by the College Board, the International Baccalaureate Organization and Cambridge International Examinations.
Douglas County Approves Permit for Specialty Meat Shop
LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — Douglas County commissioners have approved a permit for a specialty meat shop despite opposition from Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach and others. Commissioners approved the conditional use permit Wednesday for Lawrence chef Brian Strecker, who says his new shop, called The Burning Barrel, would process locally raised livestock into hams, sausages and other cuts of meat. Several residents said they worried the shop would pose fire, odor and health hazards. Kobach owns a structure near where Strecker's shop would be, and said he didn't want his children to grow up downwind from the shop. The Lawrence Journal-World reportsthat others who spoke in favor of the shop vouched for Strecker's work ethic and professional skills. Strecker says his shop would process no more than four hogs a week.
Judge Dismisses Indictment in Identity Theft Case
WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A federal judge has dismissed an indictment against the wife of a Mexican man accused of changing an identity theft victim's name on a birth certificate to his own. U.S. District Judge Eric Melgren granted the government's request Wednesday to drop charges against 83-year-old Antonia Vargas-Ortega for her alleged role in a scheme to obtain government benefits. Her 82-year-old husband, Ramon Perez-Rivera, pleaded guilty last week to charges including possession of an unlawfully obtained document. His sentencing is set for October 21. Prosecutors allege that Perez-Rivera convinced a California court to change the legal name of a U.S. citizen whose identity he had stolen to his own real name.
Missouri Trucker Sentenced for Sex Trafficking of Minor
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — A 56-year-old northwest Missouri man has been sentenced to nearly 21 years in federal prison for transporting a minor across state lines for prostitution. U.S. Attorney Tammy Dickinson says Tony Eugene Wardlow of St. Joseph was sentenced in federal court on Wednesday after being found guilty in December. The commercial truck driver and registered sex offender also pleaded guilty in February 2014 to a charge of interstate transportation for prostitution. Prosecutors say Wardlow paid the minor victim for sex numerous times while she worked as a prostitute in Kansas City. He also took her out of town in his truck on several occasions, including a trip to Texas in September 2011. Wardlow became a registered offender after being convicted in 1997 in Nodaway County of several sex crimes involving minors.
Junction City Man Arrested in Bomb Threat in Manhattan
MANHATTAN, Kan. (AP) — A 21-year-old Junction City man has been arrested after police say he phoned in a bomb threat in Manhattan. According to authorities, the Riley County Police Department and the Manhattan Fire Department responded to a reported bomb threat at Florence Manufacturing Tuesday. The scene was secured and the Kansas Highway Patrol brought in a bomb-sniffing dog to help in the investigation. Riley County Police Department spokesman Matthew Droge said officers determined there was no bomb. The suspect is being held on a $20,000 bond. He faces a charge of aggravated criminal threat.
Kansas Convict in 1980 Double Murder Returns to Prison for Parole Violation
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) - A Kansas man who killed a woman and her 4-year-old son 35 years ago has been returned to prison nearly 11 years after being released on parole. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports 55-year-old Tony Hobbs was taken back into custody after violating conditions of his parole last month. He'll meet later with the Kansas Prisoner Review Board in an attempt to be released again. Hobbs and Michael Simmons were convicted of killing 28-year-old Karen Crook and her 4-year-old son Brandon Crook on January 22, 1980. They also tried to kill 7-year-old Travis Magner, Karen Crook's son from a previous marriage, but he survived and walked to an area elementary school for help. Hobbs was released on parole in September 2004. Simmons isn't eligible for parole until 2020.
Kansas Corn Harvest Forecast to Be Larger Than Last Year
WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — The government's first corn production forecast of the season anticipates a good 2015 harvest in Kansas. The National Agricultural Statistics Service reported Wednesday that it projects the state's corn production to come in at 570 million bushels, 1 percent above last year's production. The agency estimates 3.75 million acres will be harvested, but higher yields will more than make up for fewer acres than in the previous year. Corn yields are forecast at 152 bushels per acre, up 3 bushels from a year ago. Sorghum production in Kansas is anticipated to be up 15 percent to 229 million bushels. This year's soybean crop is forecast to come in at 133 million bushels, down 7 percent.
UMKC Receives $1.4M Federal Grant for Diabetes Research
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — The University of Missouri-Kansas City has received a $1.4 million grant for diabetes research. The money from the National Institutes of Health will allow UMKC's School of Pharmacy to develop and test a new version of a material that mimics the function of the pancreas. The pancreas is the organ that makes insulin, which is the hormone that regulates blood sugar. In diabetics, the pancreas doesn't function properly. The material that is being developed is injected into the skin. It then lies dormant until a beam of light stimulates the release of insulin, in response to blood sugar information. The material is designed to take the place of multiple normal insulin injections and better regulate how the hormone is released.
After Years of Drought, Arkansas River Event Runs Again
SYRACUSE, Kan. (AP) — After having to call it quits years ago because of low water levels, organizers have rekindled a floating event on the Arkansas River, which once again actually has water in it in Kansas thanks to recent rains around the region. The Hutchinson News reports that the annual Arkansas River Run began in the 1980s and included cruising the Arkansas, located south of Syracuse, in wildly decorated vessels, including horse tanks. The event was discontinued in the 1990s when it became difficult to predict whether there would be enough water in the river, which originates in Colorado. But water is again flowing in Kansas, thanks to a deluge of rains. The run is scheduled for August 22.
Military Says It's Committed to Fairness in Manning Case
WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — The U.S. military says it is committed to "a fair and equitable process" in the case of national security leaker Chelsea Manning and other prisoners accused of breaking rules at the military prison at Fort Leavenworth. The response comes a day after Manning's lawyer disclosed that Manning could be placed in solitary confinement indefinitely for allegedly having a copy of Vanity Fair with Caitlyn Jenner on the cover and an expired tube of toothpaste, among other things. In a statement issued Thursday, Army spokeswoman Tatjana Christian says Manning's case is pending before a disciplinary board, which is "a common practice in correctional systems to hold prisoners accountable to facility rules." The former intelligence analyst was convicted in 2013 of espionage for sending classified documents to WikiLeaks while working in Iraq.
Trial of Missouri Lawyer Accused in Father's Death Delayed
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — The trial of a suburban Kansas City lawyer accused of killing her father and his girlfriend has been delayed. Jury selection was scheduled to begin Monday in Laclede County for the trial of Susan Van Note, who is charged with first-degree murder in the October 2010 deaths of William Van Note and his girlfriend, Sharon Dickson. Prosecutors allege Susan Van Note shot the two victims at their Lake of the Ozarks home. Dickson died at the scene. The elder Van Note was hospitalized and prosecutors accuse Susan Van Note of forging a document to have her father removed from life support. The Kansas City Star reports that the latest postponement arose after Susan Van Note's attorney raised questions Wednesday over the seizure of her cell phone records.
Tigers Rally to Beat Royals, 7-4
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) —The Detroit Tigers defeated the Kansas City Royals 7-4 on Wednesday night. The loss snapped the Royals' eight-game home winning streak, their longest since winning their first 11 games in 2003 at Kauffman Stadium. Royals right-hander Edinson Volquez (11-7) had retired 13 straight batters entering the eighth inning, which Detroit's James McCann led off with a single. Volquez walked Anthony Gose, and Jose Iglesias had an infield single to load the bases with none out. Ian Kinsler then doubled down the left field line to score McCann and Gose and finish Volquez's night. Volquez, who had given up three or fewer runs in his previous seven starts, was charged with six runs, five earned, on eight hits. The Royals begin a 3-game home stand versus the Los Angeles Angels tonight (THUR) in Kansas City.