Headlines for Tuesday, November 17, 2015
Winter Storm & Wild Weather Slam Western Kansas
GOODLAND, Kan. (AP) — A winter storm packing high winds and heavy snow has hit northwest Kansas, forcing the closure of a section of Interstate 70. The National Weather Service issued a blizzard warning for the area through late Tuesday, forecasting up to 15 inches of snow. National Weather Service meteorologist Mike Kochasic in Goodland said Tuesday the band of storms from Colorado has been dumping heavy snow in northwest Kansas. The combination of heavy snow and wind gusts up to 55 miles per hour are expected to lead to whiteout conditions in the area. The Kansas Department of Transportation says the nearly 200-mile stretch of I-70 from Goodland, Kansas, to Denver was closed Tuesday because of the hazardous conditions.
DENVER (AP) — Dozens of semi-trailers and cars are stranded because of the closure of Interstate 70 east of Denver. The vehicles lined up along the interstate and a nearby frontage road as strong winds blew snow across the highway on Tuesday. Truck driver Thomas Meyer was bound for Liberal, Kansas, and said he didn't realize they were shutting the roads down. Truck driver Fernando Rendell said was headed to Kansas City but stopped after seeing two trucks in the ditch along the slick interstate. Several inches of snow have fallen in the plains of eastern Colorado, and up to 15 inches of snow is expected in western Kansas.
GOODLAND, Kan. (AP) — The National Weather Service says a tornado outbreak that caused minor damage in northwest Kansas was the latest on record in that part of the state. Nearly two dozen tornadoes were reported in western Kansas early Monday evening, snapping power poles and damaging sheds over largely rural areas. Meteorologist Jerry Killingsworth in Goodland says a tornado damaged roofs and broke windows in the tiny Gove County town of Grainfield, which could get 3 to 6 inches of snow today (TUE). The severe weather also brought hail along a line that ran vertically from Oklahoma to Nebraska. Killingsworth says the line of storms moved slowly east while individual storms moved northeast.
The Wichita Eagle reports that the tornadoes were part of a rare November outbreak that spanned three states. The outbreak was the latest on record for northwest Kansas and so many tornadoes touched down in southwest Kansas that a weather official called it “unprecedented” for that part of the state in November. A total of 41 tornadoes were reported in Kansas, Oklahoma and Texas, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Significant damage occurred near Pampa, Texas, and lesser damage was reported elsewhere.
Kansas Governor Bars State Agencies from Helping Syrian 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. Lt. 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, 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.
Missouri Governor Calls for Safeguards After Paris Attacks
COLUMBIA, Mo. (AP) — Missouri Governor Jay Nixon says it's up to the federal government to screen refugees and is calling for safeguards following deadly terror attacks in Paris. But the Democrat in a statement Monday didn't say he'd block Syrian refugees from settling in Missouri. Republican gubernatorial candidates suburban St. Louis businessman John Brunner, former state House speaker and U.S. attorney Catherine Hanaway and Lt. Governor Peter Kinder want Nixon to do so. They cited safety concerns. Eighteen Republican state senators similarly called to suspend Syrian refugee relocation. The U.S. State Department's Refugee Processing Center says 29 Syrian refugees settled in Missouri from January 1 through Monday. The president and CEO of the U.S Committee for Refugees and Immigration says under the Refugee Act of 1980 governors cannot legally block refugees.
Kansas Panel Chairman Questions Suitability of Homosexual Foster Parents
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A Kansas legislative committee's chairman has raised questions about whether gays and lesbians should be allowed to serve as foster parents for abused and neglected children. State Senator Forrest Knox had the Special Committee on Foster Care Adequacy hear testimony Monday on "family structure considerations" in placing children in foster care. The Altoona Republican said he scheduled the testimony because family environments influence how well children do in school and life. Equality Kansas Executive Director Tom Witt called the hearing "reprehensible." The study committee heard conflicting testimony on whether children of same-sex parents are at a disadvantage. A Catholic priest and sociology professor said a study shows the children are at a disadvantage, while an official from the American Psychological Association said they are not.
Kansas Official Says 'Action Plan' Coming on Student Demands
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A top official at the University of Kansas says it is creating a team to address demands from student protesters and expects to release an "action plan" by mid-January. Provost Jeffrey Vitter released a statement Tuesday in response to demands made last week by the Rock Chalk Invisible Hawk group. They include increasing faculty diversity, forming a team of counselors for students of color and requiring "inclusion and belonging" training for all students and staff. Vitter said messages from across the university have expressed solidarity with the group's aims. He said the team would include faculty, students, staff and administrators. He said its action plan would include mandatory education for students and staff. Leaders of the student group did not immediately respond to cell phone and email messages seeking comment.
University of Kansas Student Leaders Outline Diversity Plan
LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — University of Kansas student leaders who are facing an attempt to oust them have outlined proposals for increasing diversity within student government. Student Body President Jessie Pringle, Vice President Zach George and Chief of Staff Adam Moon issued a joint statement Monday night outlining 11 proposals. A student government committee is pushing for their resignations or impeachment, based in part on what members see as an inadequate response to demands to the university from a campus protest group called Rock Chalk Invisible Hawk. Their proposals include increasing the number of student senators from the current 86 to increase the Senate's diversity, and creating an election fund to help students who want to run for office. The measures also include raising a student fee to increase diversity programs.
Arson Suspected in Central Kansas Grass Fires
SALINA, Kan. (AP) — Authorities in east-central Kansas say they suspect someone set a series of weekend grass fires. Saline Rural Fire District No. 1 Fire Chief Rod Ade told The Salina Journal that 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, and the damage was limited to grass and hay bales. Saline County Sheriff's Lt. Stan Fruits says authorities were notified of the fires by hunters arriving at fields for the second day of pheasant and quail season.
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.
Wichita State Has New Diversity Position
WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Wichita State University has named an assistant dean to a new position for diversity. The Wichita Eagle reports that WSU President John Bardo on Monday named Marche Fleming-Randle, assistant dean of the university's Fairmount College of Liberal Arts & Science, to become assistant to the president for diversity. University spokesman Lou Heldman says Fleming-Randle, who was also appointed recently as adviser to the student governing association, has considerable credibility with students. Fleming-Randle says in a prepared statement that her job is to move the university "forward on diversity." The announcement comes amid several student concerns, including lack of staff diversity. A Wichita State University student protest planned for Wednesday at the Kansas Board of Regents meeting at the university was cancelled Tuesday afternoon. Student body president Joseph Shepard announced on his Facebook page that he had worked out an agreement with President John Bardo after a two-hour meeting.
Former Missouri-Columbia Leader Keeps Bulk of Old Salary After Stepping Down
COLUMBIA, Mo. (AP) — The former chancellor of the University of Missouri's flagship Columbia campus will get more than $344,000 a year in his new role heading up the school's research. The Associated Press obtained Loftin's transition agreement Monday under Missouri's open records law. It shows that R. Bowen Loftin will earn three-quarters of the $459,000 he was making as chancellor until he resigned November 9. Loftin's resignation came hours after the university system's president, Tim Wolfe, also stepped down in the wake of racial unrest on the Columbia campus. Loftin had said he was stepping aside as chancellor at the end of the year, but the university's governing board last week named Hank Foley as interim chancellor. Loftin's transition deal also indemnifies him against any lawsuits for his actions as chancellor.
Cerner Corporation Raises Concerns About University of Missouri Deal
COLUMBIA, Mo. (AP) — A Kansas City-based company that helps operate a research institute at University of Missouri's flagship campus in Columbia is raising concerns about a transition agreement with the former chancellor. Chancellor R. Bowen Loftin and the university system's president, Tim Wolfe, last week announced plans to resign amid student protests over the handling of racial issues. Loftin's transition agreement calls, in part, for him to serve as director of university research at the Tiger Institute for Health Innovation. Health information technology company Cerner Corporation operates the institute with the university. The Columbia Missourian reports that Cerner wants references to Cerner and the Tiger Institute removed from Loftin's agreement until the institute's governing body reviews the deal. A university spokesman didn't immediately respond to a call seeking comment Tuesday.
Planning Commission Votes Against Shooting Range Near Lawrence School Property
LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — The Lawrence-Douglas County Planning Commission has recommended that the city commission deny rezoning for a shooting range and gun shop to open near a school. The planning commission voted 4-2 to recommend denial of businessman Rick Sells's request to rezone an estimated one-acre property for the indoor shooting range and gun shop. The city commission will make the final decision on the proposal. 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. A vacant industrial building currently sits on the lot.
Retrofitting Nears Completion at Nebraska Biodiesel Plant
BEATRICE, Neb. (AP) — Retrofitting is nearing completion and tests are being prepared at the Beatrice biodiesel plant in southeast Nebraska that's yet to produce any fuel. The never-used plant was built in 2007 and purchased in late 2011 by Duonix Beatrice, a joint venture between Benefuel Inc., of Irving, Texas, and Koch Industries subsidiary Flint Hills Resources, of Wichita, Kansas. Beatrice Mayor Stan Wirth told the Beatrice Daily Sun that the plant will be tested before it begins operating sometime next year. Plant representatives say one of the safety checks may result in a "blowdown," which is the venting of high-pressure gas or water. Workers also will test the flare gas recovery system. That test will produce a visible flame at the plant.
Kansas Man Sentenced for Role in 3-Year-Old Girl's Death
WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A Wichita man is sentenced to more than 16 years in prison for his role in the death of his girlfriend's 3-year-old daughter. The Wichita Eagle reports Evan Schuessler was sentenced to 165 months for second-degree intentional murder and 34 months for child abuse, the maximum he could have received. Sedgwick County District Judge Steve Ternes rejected recommendations from state and defense attorneys for the two terms to run concurrently, saying the murder of a child deserves the maximum penalty allowed by law. Emma Krueger was taken to Wesley Medical Center unresponsive and covered in bruises on June 2, 2014. She was pronounced two days later after being removed from life support. Police have said Emma suffered beatings for perhaps a month before she was taken to the hospital.
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.
Drug Runner Clocked at 111 MPH Gets Four Years in Prison
KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) — A Missouri man who was clocked at more than 100 mph while trying to outrun a Kansas Highway Patrol trooper has been sentenced to 47 months in federal prison for possession with the intent to distribute methamphetamine. U.S. Attorney Barry Grissom says 22-year-old Miguel Torres of Kansas City, Missouri, admitted Monday that on March 14 a trooper tried to stop his BMW, which he was driving west on Interstate 70 in Geary County, Kansas. During the chase, the trooper clocked Torres's speed at 111 miles an hour. Once Torres stopped, the trooper found 22 pounds of methamphetamine in the trunk of his car. Grissom says Torres was paid $6,000 to drive the drugs from Riverside, California, to the Kansas City area.
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.
Census Weighs Changes to Counting American Indians in 2020
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — The U.S. Census Bureau is testing new questions on tribal enrollment to try to get a more accurate count of American Indians in 2020. Director John Thompson told The Associated Press on Tuesday that the agency is aiming to avoid a 5 percent undercount of the population seen in 2010. Dee Ann Alexander, a census tribal specialist, says past censuses didn't ask whether someone was an enrolled tribal member. She says there was an American Indian box to check with instructions on describing a tribe. Officials say the bureau is getting feedback from tribal leaders and will decide later whether the questions make it on the 2020 census. Thompson says the agency is reaching out to American Indian tribes and Alaska Native villages five years early because of distrust of federal government.
Five Sites in Kansas Nominated for National Register of Historic Places
WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas authorities have nominated five Kansas sites for the National Register of Historic Places. The Wichita Eagle reports that the Kansas Historic Sites Board of Review nominated five new places at a meeting earlier this month. Kansas has more than 1,300 listings on the National Register of Historic Places, which lists historically significant properties in the U.S. Owners of historically designated properties can receive up to 25 percent of their improvement investment back as state tax credit. The recent nominations are: The Beal House in Lawrence, the Senate & Curtis Court Apartments Historic District in Topeka, the East Badger Creek Culvert in Cowley County, the Woodland Place Stock Farm in Republic County and prehistoric sites of Wildcat Creek Watershed in Riley County.
Prosecutor: Destroy Oklahoma City Bombing Conspirator's Guns
DENVER (AP) — Federal prosecutors want more than a dozen guns belonging to Oklahoma City bombing conspirator Terry Nichols destroyed rather than turned over to his ex-wife. Prosecutors said in Monday court filings they're concerned that the rifles, handguns and shotguns would be sold and used in copycat crimes, given their owner's notoriety. They say the government should destroy Nichols's guns and apply their value to his restitution. Nichols argued in July that the 13 weapons should be transferred to his ex-wife because he owes child support. The guns were seized from Nichols's Kansas home but had no part in the 1995 bombing at the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building that killed 168 people. Nichols was convicted of conspiring to use a weapon of mass destruction and of involuntary manslaughter of eight federal agents.
Kansas City's Streetcar Passes Test
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 Thursday on its own electrical power. Streetcar No. 801 is the first of four vehicles that are part of Kansas City's $100 million downtown starter route from River Market to Union Station. The Streetcar Authority anticipates delivery of the second vehicle in about a month, and the last two vehicles are expected after the beginning of next year. The system is expected to be running as early as next spring.
Energy Company to Refocus on Missouri for Transmission Line
COLUMBIA, Mo. (AP) — Developers of a proposed $2 billion transmission line say they are returning their attention to Missouri after Illinois regulators approved the multistate project. The Columbia Daily Tribune reports Clean Line Energy will try again to persuade Missouri regulators to approve the 780-mile Grain Belt Express transmission line that would carry wind-generated electricity from Kansas through Missouri and Illinois to Indiana. Illinois officials gave their approval Thursday. Missouri's Public Service Commission voted in July to deny Clean Line's application for a certificate of need and public necessity, a step necessary to carry wind energy from the plains across Missouri. The commission said developers didn't provide evidence the project would benefit Missouri. Mark Lawlor with the Grain Belt project said officials haven't decided whether to file a new case with the commission or pursue the project through federal energy regulations.