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Headlines for Thursday, August 20, 2015


Lawmakers Request Data from Kansas Schools Seeking More Funding

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) _ Top Republican legislators are asking Kansas school districts seeking extra state funds to provide information about how they've become more efficient in recent years. Legislative leaders sent a letter Wednesday to the superintendents of the 38 school districts that have applied for extra aid under the state's new education funding law. The districts are seeking about $15 million in funds, but only $12.3 million is available under the law. The Associated Press obtained a copy of the letter which asks each district to list five efficiencies and to respond by Friday. Governor Sam Brownback and the state Legislature's top eight leaders will meet Monday to decide how much each district receives. 


Kansas Secretary of State Clerk Sues over Termination

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) _ A former state employee claims in a federal lawsuit that she was fired from her job at the Kansas secretary of state's office after she declined to attend prayer services in the office. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that Courtney Canfield says in her lawsuit filed in federal court in Topeka that before Assistant Secretary of State Eric Rucker fired her in November 2013, he "repeatedly and emphatically indicated a basis for her termination as the fact that, `She just doesn't go to church.'" The lawsuit names Rucker and the office of the secretary of state as defendants. Canfield's lawsuit says she declined to attend religious services in the office despite "repeated invitations'' to the services. Secretary of State Kris Kobach says Canfield's allegations are "ridiculous" and she was terminated because of poor job performance, not because she wouldn't take part in a religious service.


Report: Kansas Missing Out on Manufacturing Job Growth 

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A new report says Kansas is missing out on the manufacturing employment growth the rest of the nation is experiencing. The Governor's Council of Economic Advisors says Kansas saw a 0.9 percent decline in manufacturing employment between June 2014 and 2015, losing about 1,400 manufacturing jobs. During that same period, the nation saw 1.3 percent growth in manufacturing, adding 160,000 jobs. Dan Lara, of the Kansas Department of Commerce, said that the general aviation sector continues to lose positions. Lara says the state lost 39,000 manufacturing jobs during the recession and has only gained back about 4,000 of them. As of June, the state has about 162,300 manufacturing jobs, a 10.2 percent decline from 10 years ago.


Flack Seeks Venue Change for Murder Trial 

OTTAWA, Kan. (AP) — Lawyers representing a Kansas man accused of killing three adults and a child have asked the judge to move the trial. Kyle Trevor Flack is charged with capital murder in the 2013 slayings of 21-year-old Kaylie Smith Bailey and her daughter, 18-month-old Lana-Leigh Bailey. He's also charged with premeditated first-degree murder in the deaths of 30-year-old Andrew A. Stout, and 31-year-old Steven White. The Topeka Capital-Journal reportsthat Flack's lawyers asked the Franklin County District Court judge Thursday to move the case outside Franklin County. A professor testified that a survey showed fewer Wyandotte County residents surveyed were aware of the slayings than Franklin County residents surveyed. The judge said he'll decide on the venue request before a September 29 hearing. The trial's scheduled to start February 22, 2016.


Charges Filed in 2 Shooting Deaths in Kansas City, Kansas

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) — A 22-year-old Kansas City, Kansas, man has been charged in the shootings deaths of two men. Wyandotte County District Attorney Jerome A. Gorman said in a release that his office charged Christopher E. Lewis on Thursday with two counts of premeditated murder in the first degree in the deaths Tuesday of Deron Rucker and Antonio Rucker. Gorman's office says Lewis is being held in the Wyandotte County jail on $1 million bond. Gorman's office says Lewis will likely make a first appearance Friday, but a hearing time hasn't been scheduled. It was unclear if Lewis has a lawyer.


Hearing Delayed for Kansas Doctor, Wife in 'Pill Mill' Case 

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A Kansas doctor and his wife convicted in a moneymaking conspiracy at a clinic linked to 68 overdose deaths will have to wait a little longer to learn their new sentence. U.S. District Judge Monti Belot on Thursday rescheduled the hearing date for Stephen Schneider and his wife, Linda, to Sept. 24. The Haysville couple had previously been set for resentencing on August 31. They were convicted in 2010 of conspiracy to commit health care fraud resulting in those deaths, unlawfully prescribing drugs, health care fraud and money laundering. But in June, Belot overturned the conspiracy sentence following an unrelated U.S. Supreme Court decision that the victim's drug use had to be the actual cause of death, not merely a contributing factor. He also threw out some convictions.


Postal Worker in Southwest Kansas Accused of Stealing Mail 

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A southwest Kansas postal worker faces federal charges accusing her of stealing mail. The Hutchinson News reports that a federal grand jury in Wichita indicted 30-year-old Maria S. Alvidrez of Plains, this week on two counts of theft of mail. Alvidrez worked at a post office in the town of Kismet. According to the indictment, Alvidrez stole gift cards from mail addressed to a Denver, Colorado, man and Kansas City, Missouri, resident in April and May. The U.S. Postal Service Office of Inspector General investigated the case. Online court records don't list a lawyer for Alvidrez, who faces up to five years in federal prison and a fine up to $250,000 on each count if she's convicted.


Man Found Dead After Standoff in Kansas City, Kansas

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) — Authorities say a man was found dead inside a Kansas City, Kansas home after a nearly four-hour standoff with law enforcement officers.  Kansas City, Kansas police say the standoff began Wednesday evening when U.S. Marshals tried to serve a fugitive arrest warrant at the house. The suspect exchanged gunfire with law enforcement officers and barricaded himself inside the home. No officers or marshals were injured.  After several attempts to make contact with the suspect, the Kansas City, Kansas, special operations unit entered the home early Thursday and found the man dead of an apparent gunshot wound inside a closet.  The suspect's name was not released. He was described as a Hispanic in his 30s.


Moran Touts Drones as Valuable for Kansas Economy

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — U.S. Senator Jerry Moran advocated the use of unmanned aerial vehicles Wednesday as an important advance for the Kansas economy. The aviation forum in Washington was attended by U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx, the nation's top federal transportation official. Foxx told aviation and congressional leaders that while the government is on "a good path" when it comes to commercial use of drones, he is concerned about their private use. Foxx says federal officials are looking at strategies such as a possible registration system at the point of sale so that problem drones can be traced back to their owners. Moran says drones are becoming a valuable asset for the Kansas economy with its aviation research centers and manufacturers. He says the unmanned aircraft are also proving to be a useful tool for agriculture, utilities, construction and transportation.


Topeka City Council Approves Public Nudity Ban

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) _ The Topeka City Council has approved a ban that bars public nudity in most places The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that the measure makes public nudity a misdemeanor punishable by a fine between $1 and $499 and a jail term of up to 30 days. Acting city attorney Mary Feighny says under the new rules, the city wouldn't prosecute someone who was naked in their own yard. The new law also allows exceptions for breast-feeding mothers and children under age 5. Councilwoman Sylvia Ortiz said the city needed to take action against public nudity because of numerous recent complaints. Councilman Jeff Coen sponsored the proposal and said it was based on a similar nudity ban implemented by another city. 


Water Officials Say Kansas Still Needs More Rain

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) _ A Kansas water official says despite more frequent rains recently, sections of western Kansas still need about five inches of rain to compensate for what they lost in the drought. Diane Knowles, an environmental specialist with the Kansas Water Office, spoke Wednesday at the Kansas Environmental Conference in Topeka. Knowles says in June, 33 western Kansas counties were still under a drought watch due to low stream flows and soil moisture. Overall, most Kansas counties have more rain this year than they did a year ago. But, Knowles says, even some areas in northeast Kansas have struggled because rainfall is widely scattered and some crops got less moisture than others. 


White Tiger at Salina Zoo Euthanized 

SALINA, Kan. (AP) — The white tiger at a central Kansas zoo has been euthanized because of illness. Rolling Hills Zoo in Salina says the tiger, Raja, was euthanized Thursday. The Salina Journal reports that the tiger would have been 20 years old in November, and came to the zoo in 1996 from a private breeder. Tigers generally live an average of eight to 12 years in the wild and between 16 and 18 years in captivity. White tigers, however, tend to live much shorter lives.


Topeka Zoo Denies Activists' Claims on Elephants' Care

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) _ Topeka Zoo officials have denied claims by activists that the zoo's two elephants are suffering from lack of social interaction. The animal rights group, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, wrote to Topeka Zoo director Brendan Wiley asking for a meeting to discuss elephants Tembo and Sunda. PETA activists say the animals need to interact with a third elephant. On Wednesday, the zoo responded, declining the request for a meeting. Wiley says the zoo meets accrediting standards of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums, and has space for another elephant, but he says adding a third elephant this year wouldn't be a good idea because of ongoing zoo construction.


2nd Mental Evaluation Ordered for Kansas Woman in Son's Death

WELLINGTON, Kan. (AP) _ A Wellington woman accused of stabbing her 10-year-old son to death is set to undergo a second mental evaluation. The Wichita Eagle reports Lindsey Nicole Blansett will spend 30 to 45 days undergoing psychological testing to determine if she had a mental defect that rendered her incapable of premeditation. She's charged with first-degree premeditated murder and aggravated assault for the death of her son Caleb Blansett last December. Sumner County Attorney Kerwin Spencer says he asked for the evaluation after Blansett's attorney filed a notice of his plan to assert his client had a mental disease or defect as a possible defense in the case. This evaluation is different from the competency exam she previously underwent to determine if she was fit to stand trial. A judge ruled that she is competent to face her charges.


Escaped Inmate Sentenced in Kansas to 4 More Years 

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A man who was arrested in Kansas after escaping from an Oklahoma prison has been sentenced to more than four years in prison. The U.S. Attorney's office for Kansas said 40-year-old Lance D. Colbert was sentenced Thursday to four years and five months after pleading guilty to unlawful possession of a firearm after a felony conviction. The sentence will be served consecutively to his Oklahoma prison term. Colbert was arrested March 11 in Spivey, Kansas, two days after he escaped from the Mack Alford Correctional Center in Stringtown, Oklahoma. Prosecutors say he had a .38 caliber revolver when he was arrested. Colbert was convicted in the shooting deaths of two people in the early 1990s.


Kansas City Police Get Tip in 1993 Missing Person's Case

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Kansas City police are digging up a back yard after receiving a tip about a woman missing since 1993.  Kansas City media report the search began yesterday (WED) and resumed today (THUR).  Police are looking for Laura Mason, who 45 when she was last seen on March 28, 1993. She was seen getting into a car with a male acquaintance outside a jazz club.  The man told police he dropped her off at the Mutual Musicians Foundation, another jazz club. No one has seen her since then.  Police say the male acquaintance's version of events leading up to Mason's disappearance has been inconsistent.


Kansas City Art Institute Receives $25M Donation 

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — The Kansas City Art Institute has received an anonymous $25 million donation. KCAI says in a release that the Greater Kansas City Community Foundation presented the $25 million donation to the school this week. Debbie Wilkerson, president and CEO of the foundation, says the $25 million donation comes from a donor "who has the highest confidence" in the institute. Tony Jones, interim president of KCAI, calls the donation "transformative" and says it will allow KCAI to continue to support its students and faculty. The institute says $14 million of the donation is for a general endowment, $5 million will be for campus improvements and $6 million will go toward student scholarships, endowed professorships and visiting professors. The art institute is a private, independent four-year college of art and design.


Survey: Weak Economic Growth Seen for 10 States' Rural Areas

OMAHA, Neb. (AP) — A new survey suggests that the economic outlook for 10 Midwest and Plains states is weaker than in previous months. The Rural Mainstreet Index sank to growth neutral 50.0 in August from 53.4 in July. The survey indexes range from 0 to 100. Any score below 50 suggests decline in that factor in the months ahead. Bankers from Colorado, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, South Dakota and Wyoming were surveyed. Creighton University economist Ernie Goss oversees the survey, and he says the weaker business conditions for agriculture and energy businesses accounted for the downtown. The confidence index, which reflects expectations for the economy six months out, slumped to 42.0 from 46.6 last month.


Green Bay Packers' Jordy Nelson Pledges Gift to Kansas State

MANHATTAN, Kan. (AP) — Green Bay Packers wide receiver Jordy Nelson has pledged an undisclosed gift to Kansas State to help with the next phase of renovations to Bill Snyder Family Stadium.  The gift from the former walk-on combined with other contributions pushes to $8 million the total raised for the next round of work. The $15 million phase will connect the east concourse to the recently renovated Vanier Football Complex, fully enclosing the stadium.  It will also provide new visiting locker room space, offices and video boards.  Nelson grew up near Manhattan. He says it's important to be giving back to the university that has afforded him the opportunities he has now.  Kansas State has spent $165 million to renovate the stadium over the past five years.


New Jersey Man Convicted in KC of Trafficking in Caviar-Producing Paddlefish

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — A 45-year-old New Jersey man has been convicted of violating federal law by trafficking in Missouri paddlefish, which produce an expensive caviar.  Federal prosecutors in Kansas City said Petr Babenko of Vineland, New Jersey, was found guilty yesterday (WED) of illegally trafficking in paddlefish and of participating in a conspiracy to illegally buy and sell paddlefish.  Babenko was arrested in 2013 when federal and state authorities conducted an undercover investigation as part of paddlefish conservation efforts. The decline in other caviar sources has led to an increased demand for paddlefish caviar, which has spurred a paddlefish population decline.  Prosecutors say the retail value of the caviar Babenko and another defendant had is estimated to be between $30,000 and $50,000.  Babenko faces up to 10 years in federal prison without parole, plus a fine up to $500,000.


Royals Complete Sweep of Reds

CINCINNATI (AP) — Lorenzo Cain had a tie-breaking RBI single in the second inning and Ben Zobrist had four hits as the Kansas City Royals beat the Cincinnati Reds 4-3 Wednesday night to complete a sweep of the two-game series. Royals starter Jeremy Guthrie left in the fifth with the 4-3 lead and Luke Hochevar took over at the mound. Their bullpen gave the Royals 4 scoreless innings, striking out six Reds. Wade Davis gave up a single and a walk but struck out Cincinnati's Joey Votto to give the Royals their 73rd win of the season. 


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