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Headlines for Friday, August 21, 2015


Chairman of Kansas Democratic Party Resigns 

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The chairman of the Kansas Democratic Party has resigned amid a backlash over comments he made about the party's message. The party's executive director, Kerry Gooch, confirmed to The Wichita Eagle that Larry Meeker resigned Friday shortly before the party's annual convention in Wichita. Meeker has been chairman since March. On Wednesday, he said the Kansas Democratic Party should be "rebranded" to differentiate it from the national Democratic party. He said Kansas Democrats are fiscal conservatives and the party should include people who disagree on its stand on such issues as abortion rights and same-sex marriage. His comments drew criticism from several Democratic leaders, including Senate Minority Leader Anthony Hensley. Hensley said Friday that he believed Meeker made the right decision in resigning.


Kansas Officials Oppose Moving Guantanamo Detainees to Leavenworth

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) - Several Kansas officials are voicing objections to moving prisoners from the Guantanamo Bay, Cuba detention facility to the federal prison at Fort Leavenworth. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports the outcry began after Defense Secretary Ashton Carter ordered a site survey at Fort Leavenworth and at a facility in Charleston, S.C. Carter has said other sites will also be assessed. State Senator Steve Fitzgerald of Leavenworth said housing prisoners in Fort Leavenworth would be an invitation for terrorist attacks in the area. U.S. Senator Jerry Moran said the move would require closing off public access to airports in the Leavenworth area and stopping nearby rail and barge traffic. Governor Sam Brownback said he told Deputy Department officials that it would be wrong to send "these terrorists, who hate America, to the Heartland."


Kansas Lost Federal Funds Stripped from Planned Parenthood 

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas has lost the federal planning money it stripped from Planned Parenthood and another unaffiliated clinic since winning its legal fight to defund the organization. The federal government reduced its Title X funding to the state by about the $370,000 annually in Title X money that two Planned Parenthood facilities in Wichita and Hays and an unaffiliated clinic in Dodge City had been receiving. Medical providers say that means low-income patients are finding it harder to access birth control, cancer screenings and other reproductive health care services.. Patients in Ellis and Ford counties where clinics closed still have no Title X medical provider there to serve poor families. Kansas also cut the amount of family planning funding that Sedgwick County Health Department had previously received.


Kansas School Superintendents Outline Efficiencies

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) - School superintendents seeking supplemental state funding are responding to a request from state lawmakers to outline how they're saving money in their districts. Superintendents worked Thursday to respond to the request by legislators for evidence of budget austerity by today's (FRI) deadline. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that administrators in the Manhattan-Ogden district in Riley County, say the district is justified in requesting additional funds to address enrollment growth after spending down cash reserves, raising property taxes and reducing expenditures for personnel and supplies by $1 million. The Satanta Unified District superintendent says the district is saving money by delivering curriculum in language arts, science and social studies via laptop computers rather than traditional textbooks. A panel of lawmakers will meet Monday to discuss supplemental funding requests from more than three dozen Kansas districts. The districts are seeking a total of about $15 million dollars but the legislature has only set aside $12.3 million.


Leawood Businessman Named Kansas Commerce Secretary


TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Governor Sam Brownback has named a Leawood businessman as the state's secretary of commerce. Brownback's office said in a release Friday that George Hansen has been named secretary of commerce, replacing Pat George, who retired last month. Hansen's appointment requires confirmation by the Kansas Senate. The release says Hansen has more than 35 years of experience managing businesses and was most recently president and CEO of a venture development organization.


Jury Selection Concludes in Jewish Site Shootings Trial 

OLATHE, Kan. (AP) — Eight women and nine men have been chosen from a pool of 200 to hear the case of a Missouri white supremacist accused of killing three people at two suburban Kansas City Jewish sites. Twelve of the 17 Johnson County, Kansas, residents picked Friday will serve as jurors and the other five will be alternates. They won't know which role they'll be given until after the capital murder trial has ended. Frazier Glenn Miller Jr. of Aurora, Missouri, has admitted killing a 69-year-old man, his 14-year-old grandson and a 43-year-old woman in Overland Park, Kansas, on April 13, 2014. The 74-year-old says it was his duty to kill Jewish people because they're endangering the existence of the white race. Opening statements are slated to begin Monday morning.


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 September 24. The Haysville couple had previously been set for resentencing on August 31. They were convicted in 2010 of health care fraud, unlawfully prescribing drugs, and money laundering. But in June, Belot overturned some of the convictitons and sentences following a U.S. Supreme Court decision that a victim's drug use had to be the actual cause of death, not merely a contributing factor. 


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. 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 Stout, and 31-year-old Steven White. 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 request before a September 29 hearing. The trial's scheduled to start February 22, 2016.


Topeka Police Say Remains Likely Man Missing for a Week 

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Topeka police say a body found Friday is likely that of a 65-year-old man who has been missing for a week. Police say the body of Benedict Gerstner was found Thursday in a wooded area near the Lexington Park Assisted Living center, where Gerstner had lived. Police Lieutenant Colleen Stuart said Friday evidence at the scene indicated the body was Gerstner's. The cause of death is under investigation. Gerstner was reported missing on Saturday and a Silver Alert was issued Monday. Lexington Park said in a statement that Gerstner, like many of the center's residents, had been his own responsible party and was free to come and go from his apartment.


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 dropped to a neutral 50.0 in August from 53.4 in July. The index ranges from 0 to 100. Any score below 50 suggests decline 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. He says weaker business conditions for the agriculture and energy sectors accounted for the downtown. 


Algae Warnings Issued for 11 Kansas Lakes

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) - Kansas health officials say 11 lakes in the state are under warnings because of toxic algae blooms. The Kansas Department of Health and Environment says lakes under warning for blue-green algae are not closed, but contact with the water can cause serious illness and should be avoided. KDHE says high levels of blue-green algae have been found in Brown County State Fishing Lake, Chisolm Creek Park Lake in Sedgwick County, Crystal Lake in Anderson County, McPherson County State Fishing Lake, Melvern River Pond in Osage County, Memorial Park Lake in Barton County, Milford Reservoir in Clay, Dickinson and Geary Counties, Nemaha State Fishing Lake and Sabetha City Lake in Nemaha County and Plainville Township Lake in Rooks County.


Hutchinson Inmate to Stand Trial for Attack on Guard 

HUTCHINSON, Kan. (AP) — A judge has ruled that a 43-year-old inmate at the Hutchinson Correctional Facility will stand trial for an attack on a corrections officer. The Hutchinson News reports that Reno County District Judge Joseph McCarville on Thursday ordered Corey Jeffery to stand trial for attempted capital murder for the September 17, 2014, attack on Corrections Officer Timothy Russell. The judge set Jeffery's arraignment for September 8. The judge denied a request from Reno County Deputy District Attorney Tom Stanton to add a charge of possessing contraband. Russell testified he was stabbed at least 13 times in the back and torso and has yet to return to work. Jeffery was sentenced to prison in Minnesota for murder and was being housed as a courtesy by the state of Kansas.


Overland Park Teen Pleads Guilty in Pedestrian Death 

OLATHE, Kan. (AP) — An Overland Park teenager has pleaded guilty to charges stemming from the 2014 death of a pedestrian. The Kansas City Star reports that 18-year-old Conner Estrella pleaded guilty Thursday to involuntary manslaughter in the death of 52-year-old Kevin Patrick Moroney. Moroney was struck while standing next to a parked vehicle in August last year. Court documents show Estrella was driving under the influence of alcohol when the accident occurred. He also pleaded guilty to aggravated battery for injuring a woman standing with Moroney. Sentencing for Estrella is September 17 in Johnson County District Court.


Man Arrested in Fatal Shooting of 42-Year-Old Man in Wichita

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A man has been arrested in the fatal shooting of a 42-year-old man in Wichita. According to Wichita police Lieutenant James Espinoza, a 51-year-old man was arrested Wednesday night on suspicion of two counts of a felon in possession of a firearm in the killing of Dorce Pittman. He was also arrested on two drug-related offenses. The Wichita Eagle reports Pittman approached a home with his ex-girlfriend and the suspect inside on August 10. Authorities say the woman refused to come outside and Pittman fired a shot at the back wall of the house. Police sat Pittman was shot in the head as he ran away from the home and died in the street. Lieutenant Todd Ojile said the evidence in the case will be presented to the Sedgwick County District Attorney's Office on Monday.


Police: Woman Stabbed Multiple Times in Newton

NEWTON, Kan. (AP) — Police are investigating after a woman was stabbed outside a Newton home. According to Newton Police Chief Eric Murphy, a woman was stabbed multiple times during a domestic dispute around 8:15 pm Thursday. Murphy said the dispute began inside a home before spilling out into the front yard where the woman was stabbed. The victim was transported to a hospital for treatment of injuries that authorities said do not appear to be life-threatening. Police are looking for a man in connection to the stabbing.


2 Men Die After Being Hit by Truck While Walking 

GODDARD, Kan. (AP) — Two Kansas men have died after they were hit by a pickup truck in Goddard. Police say the men were crossing a street while walking a dog Friday morning when they were hit by the truck. The men, ages 69 and 71, were taken to a Wichita hospital where they later died. Police say the driver of the truck stopped at the scene and is cooperating with the investigation. The victims were reportedly neighbors who took daily walks.


Photos Heading to Kansas Museum 

BAXTER SPRINGS, Kan. (AP) — A group that's worked to reunite Baxter Springs residents with hundreds of photos displaced by the April 2014 tornado is turning the remaining photos over to a Baxter Springs museum. The Joplin Globe reports that a press conference to mark the transfer is scheduled for Saturday at the Baxter Springs Heritage Center and Museum. National Photo Disaster Rescue, based in Carthage, Missouri, returned more than 1,000 photos of those collected after the tornado. Officials with the group, which began after the 2011 Joplin tornado, hope to return additional photos Saturday to residents. The photos were processed at NPDR headquarters. In 2013, the group turned over to the Joplin Museum Complex some 17,000 photos displaced by the May 2011 Joplin tornado. They also reunited about 17,000 photos with individuals and families. 


White Tiger Euthanized at Salina Zoo 

SALINA, Kan. (AP) _The white tiger at the Salina, 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 between 16 and 18 years in captivity. White tigers, however, tend to live shorter lives. 


NFL Star Pledges Gift to K-State

MANHATTAN, Kan. (AP) — Green Bay Packers wide receiver Jordy Nelson has pledged an undisclosed gift to Kansas State University to help with the next phase of renovations to Bill Snyder Family Stadium. The Manhattan native says giving back to his college program was very important to his family. The school has now raised $8 million of the $15 million needed for the next stage of the project.  Kansas State has spent $165 million to renovate the stadium over the past five years.


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.


Red Sox Beat Royals, 4-1, to End KC's Winning Streak

BOSTON (AP) — The Boston Red Sox beat the Kansas City Royals, 4-1 Thursday night, ending the Royals' five-game winning streak. Boston's Wade Miley (10-9) left in the eighth inning, after allowing just one run on six hits while striking out six. Salvador Perez had two of the Royals' six hits. The Royals had won 10 of the last 12 games to open a 14 1/2 game lead in the AL Central Division. Kansas City's Danny Duffy (6-6) struggled for five innings giving up four runs on seven hits while allowing two walks and striking out three. 


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