Headlines for Monday, November 16, 2015
Kansas Governor Issues Decree Barring State Help to Refugees
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas Governor Sam Brownback has issued an executive order forbidding any state agencies or organizations that receive state grant money from helping relocate Syrian refugees in his state. Brownback said Monday the action was necessary because the federal government can't guarantee Syrian refugees coming to America aren't terrorists. He says refugees fleeing persecution in their own country might be better served by resettling in a friendly country closer to their homes. Brownback acknowledged that many people seeking refugee status are peaceful and looking for a better life, but said Kansas can't allow an influx of Syrian refugees while the Islamic State group is threatening to infiltrate the refugee process. Lieutenant Governor Jeff Colyer says the well-being of Kansans is a higher priority than helping refugees.
8 Syrian Refugees Settled in Kansas in 2015
WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas says eight Syrian refugees have settled in the state this year. The Kansas Department for Children and Families said Monday that one Syrian refugee family settled in Wichita and the other settled in Kansas City, Kansas. The Wichita office of the International Rescue Committee has said in the past it would be more likely that any Syrian refugees that might come to Kansas would be resettled in Wichita because there is already a well-established Syrian population living in Wichita. But on Monday, Kansas Governor Sam Brownback issued an executive order forbidding any state agencies or organizations that receive state grant money from helping relocate Syrian refugees in his state. The governor said the action was necessary because the federal government can't guarantee Syrian refugees coming to America aren't terrorists.
Three KU Student Leaders Asked to Resign
LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) _ Racial tensions are growing at the University of Kansas with a call for three top Student Senate leaders to resign and a recent graduate initiating a hunger strike. The Senate's Student Executive Committee is demanding that Student Body President Jessie Pringle, Student Body Vice President Zach George and Chief of Staff Adam Moon step down by Wednesday. The committee took up the issue Friday, voting 6-3 that it had no confidence in the three leaders. One member abstained from the vote. The three embattled leaders released a statement Saturday, saying they plan to continue serving and professing support for minority groups.
KU Student Leaders Say They're Not 'Mimicking Mizzou'
LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — Protest leaders at the University of Kansas say they're pushing for changes to ensure that problems faced by minority and other "marginalized" students are addressed swiftly and effectively. But they said Monday they won't follow University of Missouri students in seeking the ouster of administrators. Leaders of the Rock Chalk Invisible Hawk group at KU acknowledged that they were inspired by protests at the University of Missouri that led to resignation of the system's president and the chancellor of its flagship Columbia campus. They have presented demands to the university that included increasing faculty diversity, a team of counselors for students of color and mandatory "inclusion and belonging" training for all students and staff. But one of their leaders, St. Louis-area junior Kynnedi Grant, said they're not "mimicking Mizzou."
Winter Storm Forecast for Western Kansas
GOODLAND, Kan. (AP) — A winter storm is forecast to move into sections of western Kansas. The National Weather Service issued a blizzard watch Monday for northwest Kansas, forecasting high winds, rain and up to 6 inches of snow. The weather service office in Goodland says the storm is expected to be more severe to the west in Colorado. But snow and wind gusts up to 55 miles per hour may combine in northwest Kansas, reducing visibility on roadways. The weather service says the snow in Kansas would likely begin after midnight Monday, with the heaviest snowfall expected about midmorning Tuesday. The blizzard watch in Kansas is forecast to be in effect from late Monday through Tuesday night.
Lawrence School Board Opposes Shooting Range Near School
LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) _ Lawrence school board members have opposed a shooting range and gun shop proposed for a location across the street from the district's college and career center. School board member Shannon Kimball says it's not appropriate for a business that close to a school to sell deadly weapons. The board called the proposal "unreasonable'' in a letter. The Lawrence Journal-World reports that the Douglas County Planning Commission is scheduled to consider the issue today (MON). The commission's report says commissioners will vote on whether to approve businessman Rick Sells's request to rezone about 1 acre of land for the indoor shooting range and a gun sales and repair shop. The rezoning request is recommended for approval. A vacant industrial building currently sits on the lot.
Arson Suspected in Central Kansas Grass Fires
SALINA, Kan. (AP) _ Authorities in Salina suspect someone set a series of weekend grass fires. Officials say the six fires that spread out over 80 acres in Saline and Dickinson counties on Sunday appear to have been intentionally set. No injuries were reported. Authorities were notified of the the fires by hunters arriving at fields for the second day of pheasant and quail season.
Two Kansas Lawmakers Removed from Education Committee
LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) _ Two Kansas lawmakers who voted against school funding changes have been removed from a Kansas House committee that oversees education. Representatives Diana Dierks, of Salina, and John Ewy, of Jetmore, were notified that they had been taken off the committee. Their replacements voted in favor of the bill that replaced the state's per-pupil formula for distributing aid to districts with "block grants'' based on what districts received previously. The plan is to use the block grants for two years while the system for funding public schools is revamped. Dierks says that when she asked why she was removed from the education committee, she was told it was for the betterment of the caucus. She was moved to the elections committee.
Shawnee County OKs Aquatic Center Naming Rights
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Shawnee County commissioners have approved a plan to name an aquatic center after a Topeka company that's contributing $1 million to the project. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that the commissioners on Thursday approved a resolution naming the center the Midwest Health Aquatic Center. Midwest Health operates senior living communities, including independent and assisted living and skilled nursing. The agreement allows the county to remove the "Midwest Health Aquatic Center" name if that company fails to meet payment obligations. Groundbreaking on the $8 million aquatic center project is scheduled for Monday. Construction is expected to be complete around Memorial Day of next year.
Study: Over-Tapping of High Plains Aquifer Peaked in 2006
MANHATTAN, Kan. (AP) — A new study has found that over-tapping of the High Plains Aquifer beyond its recharge rate peaked overall in 2006, while its rate of depletion in Kansas reached its highest point in 2010. The Kansas State University study released Monday also projected the aquifer's use would decrease by about half over the next 100 years. Civil engineering professor David Steward and doctoral student Andrew Allen during their research looked at historic and projected future groundwater use rates of the eight states comprising the High Plains Aquifer. Researchers studied the water depletion processes from 3,200 Kansas wells plus 11,000 wells from the other seven states. Their study found the aquifer's depletion followed a south to north progression. It noted some portions of the aquifer are depleting, while others are not.
Developers Announce Plans for Topeka Hotel
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Developers have announced plans to create a new hotel in downtown Topeka. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that the plan announced Monday involves redoing four underused buildings in downtown Topeka to make the 79-room Cyrus Hotel. The hotel is named for Cyrus K. Holliday, one of the founders of Topeka. Cody Foster, who bought the buildings, says construction would likely take about a year after work on designs and permits is completed. He says the planned opening is for Fall 2017, and estimates the investment at $6 million to $8 million. The hotel project is also expected to include a restaurant, a rooftop garden area and an event space.
Kansas Inmate Convicted of Firing at Police During Escape
PLATTE CITY, Mo. (AP) — A Missouri jury has convicted one of two inmates who led authorities on a chase after escaping from a Kansas prison in 2013. The Kansas City Star reports that a Platte County jury convicted Scott A. Gilbert on Friday of 10 felonies, including firing at a law enforcement officer and resisting arrest. Gilbert and two other men escaped from the Lansing Correctional Facility in Lansing, Kansas, on May 10, 2013. One of the men was arrested without incident outside of Topeka. Gilbert and a second inmate led authorities on the chase before barricading themselves in an unoccupied home near Smithville Lake in northwest Missouri. They surrendered after about six hours. Gilbert is scheduled for sentencing on January 8. The Lansing prison is about 30 miles west of Smithville.
US Catholic Bishops Focus on Marriage, Religious Liberty
BALTIMORE (AP) — U.S. Roman Catholic bishops, at their first assembly since gay marriage became legal nationwide, have vowed to uphold marriage as only the union of a man and a woman and to seek legal protections for those who share that view. Some bishops said they were committed to reversing the U.S. Supreme Court same-sex marriage ruling last June. Archbishop Joseph Naumann of Kansas City, Kansas, said a concerted effort was needed to "build a consensus" to do so. Naumann said, "I don't think because five Supreme Court justices changed the public policy on such a fundamental issue that we should just accept it." Bishop Robert Baker of Birmingham, Alabama, said the bishops should join other religious groups in working to protect government workers who refuse to participate in same-sex weddings. The bishops have not said specifically what kind of conscience protections they support for civil authorities.
Kansas City Police Seeking Suspects Who Kidnapped Woman
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Kansas City authorities are investigating after a woman reported being kidnapped from her driveway and forced to withdraw money from an automatic teller machine. Police say three men approached the woman late Saturday as she drove into her driveway. They forced her into the back seat of her car, while one of the men drove her to a bank and forced her to withdraw money from the ATM. The Kansas City Star reports that another man assaulted the woman as they drove to the bank. Police say that after leaving the bank, they drove to nearby Prairie Village, Kansas, got out of the woman's vehicle and got into a vehicle that had been following them. Police did not release suspect information.
Missouri Mom Accused of Locking Girl in Closet Stands Trial
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — A Missouri woman accused of locking her emaciated 10-year-old daughter inside a closet is standing trial this week. Opening statements began Monday for the woman who is charged with first-degree assault, child abuse and endangering the welfare of a child. The Associated Press is not naming the mother to protect the girl's identity. The girl weighed just 32 pounds when she was found locked inside a filthy closet in the family's Kansas City apartment in June 2012. She told police that her mom often locked her in the closet for days at a time. She also said she wasn't allowed to go outside and hadn't attended school in five years.
17-Month-Old Wichita Girl Dies; Police Suspect Child Abuse
WICHITA, Kan. (AP) _ A 17-month-old girl has died from injuries that Wichita police suspect are the result of child abuse. The Wichita Eagle reports that the girl was pronounced dead around 8:10 a.m. Saturday. Her mother's boyfriend has been charged with child abuse and aggravated battery. Wichita police Captain Jeff Weible says that when emergency crews arrived Monday, they were told the girl had fallen about 30 minutes earlier. The boyfriend had been caring for the girl and her 4- year-old sister while their mother was working. Weible says the baby had multiple bruises and other internal injuries that are "indicative of child abuse.''
Reconciliation Memorial Planned for Wichita Park
WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A memorial to soldiers who fought on both sides during the Civil War will replace the Confederate flag that once flew at a Wichita park. The Wichita Eagle reports that the Reconciliation Memorial planned for the plaza at Veterans Memorial Park will tell the story of both Union and Confederate armies. Wichita Park Board members voted last week to keep the Confederate flag from flying at the park. The flag was removed in July after the city received complaints about the flag in the wake of the deadly June shootings at a church in South Carolina. The new memorial will include an 8-foot obelisk and will tell the story of how both sides lost soldiers and what they were fighting for. The memorial's expected to be up by May 2016.
4.3 Magnitude Quake Felt in NW Oklahoma
FAIRVIEW, Okla. (AP) _ The U.S. Geological Survey has recorded a 4.3 magnitude earthquake near Fairview in northwestern Oklahoma, about 60 miles south of the Kansas state line. The quake was recorded at 3:45 a.m. Sunday, 18 miles northwest of Fairview _ about 155 miles northwest of Oklahoma City. Fairview police say there are no reports of injury or damage. A recent paper by the Geological Survey singled out Oklahoma, concluding that quakes are induced by injecting deep into the earth massive amounts of wastewater that are the byproduct of oil and gas production.
Police: Bicyclist Killed in 3-Car Collision in Wichita
WICHITA, Kan. (AP) _ Authorities say a bicyclist has been killed in a three-vehicle crash in Wichita. The Wichita Eagle reports that the crash happened around 4:40pm Saturday. Wichita police Sergeant Troy Nedbalek says a man on a bicycle was attempting to cross a street when two cars collided head-on. A third car then turned into the two cars. Nedbalek says the bicyclist was caught in the middle of the wreck and was pronounced dead at the scene. The man's name wasn't immediately released. Nedbalek says three other people sustained non-life-threatening injuries in the collision.
Groups Want to Talk About Elephants Plans in Wichita
WICHITA, Kan. (AP) _ Animal welfare groups are asking the federal government to give the public more time to discuss Sedgwick County Zoo's request to receive six new elephants. Lawyer for the Animal Legal Defense Fund Carney Anne Nasser says the month the government has allowed for public comments isn't enough time. The Wichita Eagle reports that Nasser's group requested the delay on behalf of other animal activist groups. They oppose the import because they believe African elephants do not belong in zoos as a migratory, social species. An extended period of discussion would delay the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's decision to approve the importation of the elephants from Swaziland. Sedgwick County Zoo Director Mark Reed says waiting for the decision's approval until at least late January could put off the planned Memorial Day weekend opening of the elephant exhibit.
Majority of Kansas Precinct Seats Empty for Both Parties
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) _ Kansas has more than 7,000 precinct seats per party, but fewer than a fifth of Democratic seats are occupied and less than half of Republican seats are filled. Precincts are geographical units within the electoral system. Each Kansas precinct has two seats per political party. The Topeka Capital-Journal tallied precinct seats for all of Kansas' 105 counties using data from election offices and political parties. The data showed 51 percent of Republican precinct seats appear to be vacant, as well as 83 percent of Democratic seats. Forty counties have no Democratic precinct leaders. Political scientists and party leaders cite several reasons why precinct seats remain unfilled, ranging from apathy to awkward boundary lines that sometimes result in precincts with few or no residents.
Kansas Court's Approval of Death Sentence Not Seen as Shift
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) _ Kansas isn't likely to see executions soon or a shift in how its Supreme Court handles capital murder cases after it recently upheld a death sentence for the first time under the state's 1994 capital punishment law. Several prosecutors are encouraged by the court's decision in the case of John E. Robinson Sr. He was sentenced to die for killing two women in 1999 and 2000 and tied by evidence or his own admissions to the murders of seven women and a teenage girl in Kansas and Missouri, starting in 1984. But two Kansas law professors said the 415-page decision in Robinson's case earlier this month suggests the Supreme Court will keep scrutinizing capital cases thoroughly. A national expert said he doesn't read too much into a death sentence standing.
Kansas City's New Streetcars Take Successful Test Drive
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) _ Kansas City's first new streetcar has made a successful test tour of downtown. The Kansas City Star reports the new streetcar made three successful loops of downtown last Thursday on its own electrical power. It's the first of four vehicles that are part of Kansas City's $100 million downtown starter route from River Market to Union Station.
UNC Tops AP Men's Basketball Poll; KU at Number 4
North Carolina is ranked number 1 in the first regular-season men's college basketball poll by The Associated Press, after opening with victories over Temple and Fairfield. The University of Kentucky's in second place. Maryland is third and the University of Kansas is fourth. Defending national champion Duke is fifth, followed by Virginia. Iowa State, Oklahoma, Wichita State and Gonzaga round out the top 10.