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Headlines for Monday, December 4, 2017

Here's a look at area headlines from the Associated Press

Kansas Headed Toward Debating Tax Increase Again for Schools
 
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas legislators are headed toward considering their second big tax increase within a year because of a state Supreme Court order to increase spending on public schools. Lawmakers formally kicked off their work Monday on a response to the court's order in October that the state's aid to public schools is inadequate under the state constitution. The justice's ruling came despite a new law that phased in a $293 million increase over two years, to raise it to $4.3 billion annually. A joint committee appointed by legislative leaders had its first meeting Monday, and it reviewed projections from legislative researchers that the state could face projected budget shortfalls after July 2019. That's even with the $600 million-a-year income tax increase lawmakers passed earlier this year to help balance the budget.

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Kansas Nursing Homes May Refuse Patients Waiting on Medicaid

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Health care officials say Kansas nursing homes are hesitant to take patients who need hospice care and are waiting on Medicaid coverage because they may not get paid for the care they provide. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that a backlog of Medicaid applications has been affecting Kansas nursing homes in recent years. Beneficiaries of Kansas' privatized Medicaid program, KanCare, wait months to see their applications approved while nursing homes provide care for which they aren't paid. Health care official Morgan Bell raised the issue last week to a KanCare oversight committee. She says Topeka-area nursing homes aren't ready to take patients waiting on KanCare and are likely to die soon. A spokeswoman for the Kansas Department for Aging and Disability Services says continuing to reduce the backlog will help build trust between KanCare and nursing homes.

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Payless Trying to Sell Its Topeka Headquarters
 

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Payless ShoeSource is putting its corporate headquarters in Topeka up for sale. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports the company is seeking $8.5 million for the headquarters, amid rumors that Payless might leave Topeka. Payless emerged from bankruptcy in August. In early November, company spokeswoman Meghan Spreer said the company was evaluating its structure. In mid-November, 170 employees were laid off. That came after another 165 employees were laid off in January, and information technology jobs were outsourced. Spreer confirmed Monday the company is seeking to sell its headquarters.

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Lawsuit over Botched Johnson County SWAT Raid Headed to Court

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A federal trial that begins today (MON) will focus on whether police lied about the results of tests on discarded tea leaves found in a Kansas couple's trash to get permission for a SWAT-style raid on their home. Robert and Adlynn Harte are seeking $5 million for economic losses plus emotional pain, distress and humiliation after a 2012 raid on their Leawood home. They are also seeking $2 million in punitive damages. Authorities targeted the Hartes, both former CIA employees, after seeing Robert Harte leaving a store that sold hydroponic gardening equipment. Johnson County sheriff's deputies found brewed tea leaves outside their home. An affidavit claimed field tests indicated the leaves were marijuana. A search of the home found only vegetable plants. The Hartes say law enforcement lied about the test results.

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Kansas November Tax Collections $8.5 Million More Than Expected

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas is reporting that it collected $8.5 million more in taxes than anticipated in November. It was the sixth consecutive month with higher-than-expected revenues. The Department of Revenue reported Friday that the state collected $463.5 million in taxes last month. The official projection was $455 million, and the surplus is 1.9 percent. It was the first monthly report on tax collections since state officials revised revenue projections November 2. The state's new fiscal forecast is more optimistic than the previous one issued in April. Since the budget year began in July, the state has collected nearly $2.5 billion in revenues, also $8.5 million more than expected. Tax collections this year are 11.7 percent ahead of last year's collections. Lawmakers increased income taxes earlier this year to help balance the budget.

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Brownback Advices Successor to 'Pray'

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Governor Sam Brownback has one word of advice to give to his successor: "Pray." The Wichita Eagle reports that the governor told supporters at the Wichita Pachyderm Club on Friday that leaders need to be people who pray and who seek wisdom from above. Brownback also announced that one of his last acts before leaving office as governor will be to declare a statewide day of prayer and fasting for Kansas. A U.S. Senate committee has approved President Donald Trump's nomination of Brownback as an ambassador at large for international religious freedom. Brownback is expected to resign after confirmation by the Senate and Lieutenant Governor Jeff Colyer will become governor. Brownback says in his diplomatic post he is going to urge other countries to protect religious minorities.

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CHS Closes Plants in Kansas, Iowa and Minnesota

HUTCHINSON, Kan. (AP) — A soy processing plant in Hutchinson has closed, costing 77 people their jobs. CHS Inc. has announced that the Hutchinson plant was one of three it was closing as it moves out of soybean protein production. The others were in Creston, Iowa, and Eagan, Minnesota. Spokeswoman Annette Degnan says a total of 144 employees at the three locations will be affected. The Hutchinson News reports eligible employees will be paid through January 30 and will be eligible for severance pay and outplacement assistance. The company reported net income of $128 million for the fiscal year ended August 31, compared to net income of $424 million for fiscal 2016. CHS Inc. is a global agribusiness owned by farmers, ranchers and cooperatives.

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Organizer Apologizes for Confederate Flag at Lawrence Christmas Parade

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — An organizer of Lawrence's Old Fashioned Christmas Parade is apologizing after a Confederate flag was seen at the event. Photos of Saturday's parade show a horse blanket with a Confederate-flag design draped over a horse's saddle. The Lawrence Journal-World reports the young woman and older man riding the horse haven't been identified. Parade organizer Marty Kennedy said the controversial flag has never appeared in the parade's 25 years. He met Monday with Porter Arneill, the city's director of arts and culture, to ensure a similar incident won't happen again. The parade is a private event but it received about $10,000 from a Lawrence transient gas tax program. Kennedy says he and many others didn't notice the flag because the parade attracted thousands of people.

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Couple Booked in Death of Kansas Boy Encased in Concrete

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Police say two people are being held in the death of a Kansas boy discovered earlier this year encased in concrete. The remains of 3-year-old Evan C. Brewer were discovered on Sept. 2 inside a Wichita house where his mother once lived. Wichita police released a statement Monday saying the boy's mother, Miranda Miller, and her boyfriend, Stephen Bodine, are being held on suspicion of felony murder and child abuse. They're expected to make court appearances this week. Miller was already in jail charged with aggravated interference with parental custody. Bodine also was in jail charged with aggravated assault. The landlord cleaning out the home alerted police after finding a suspicious concrete structure emitting an odor. The boy is the grandson of former Wichita mayor and gubernatorial candidate Carl Brewer.

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Man Slain During Robbery in Kansas City's Westport Neighborhood

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) - Police say a gunman has fatally shot a man as he walked home from the Westport bar and entertainment area in Kansas City. KMBC-TV reports that police say the shooting happened late Sunday after a sport utility vehicle pulled up alongside the victim and another man to rob them. After the two men turned over their phones and wallets, the gunman fired a single shot. One of the men was struck and killed. The other man wasn't injured. Police say the gunman and at least two other people left in the SUV. The fatal shooting is Kansas City's 134th homicide for the year.

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Fired Missouri Cafeteria Worker Awarded $340,000 in Lawsuit

INDEPENDENCE, Mo. (AP) - A former high school cafeteria worker has won a $340,000 judgment in her lawsuit alleging she was discriminated against by the Independence School District. Amy Stubbs filed the lawsuit after she was fired as a cook in the cafeteria at William Chrisman High School in May 2015. Her daughter attended the school. The Kansas City Star reports Stubbs alleged her daughter was sexually harassed at the school and the district didn't do enough to protect her. Stubbs contended she was disciplined and eventually fired for complaining to district officials. The school district said in a statement that Stubbs was fired for posting comments on social media about a security issue at a school building. The district says it plans to appeal the verdict.

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Relative: Contractor Died of Issues Tied to Iraqi Abduction

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Relatives say one of the three Americans abducted in Baghdad last year has died from complications stemming from his month in captivity. His daughter, Amanda Frost, says Russell Frost died Thursday at his home in Wichita. Frost was working as a contractor in January 2016 when he and two co-workers, Amr Mohamed and Waiel El-Maadawy, were abducted in Dora, a mixed neighborhood that is home to both Shiites and Sunnis. Iraqi officials said they were in good health when they were handed over to the U.S. Embassy the following month. But Amanda Frost said her father lost more than 40 pounds in captivity because of dehydration and malnutrition, which caused kidney problems. The Americans have sued, alleging that Iran and a prominent Shiite cleric gave material support to their abductors.

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Panel to Discuss Statue to Honor Eisenhower at Kansas Capitol 

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas may be getting closer to adding another memorial for President Dwight Eisenhower at the Statehouse. The state's Capitol Preservation Committee is set to meet Thursday. Its agenda includes a presentation from the state Department of Administration about a statute honoring Eisenhower on the Statehouse grounds. Governor Sam Brownback has advocated honoring Ike with a statue outside, and his administration has been working on the idea for about four years. The state added a plaque for the president and supreme Allied commander during World War II to the Statehouse's sidewalk "Walk of Honor" in 2015. Eisenhower grew up in Abilene. 

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2 Dead, 1 Wounded in Weekend Shootings in Wichita

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) - Authorities are investigating after two people were killed and a third person was wounded during separate shootings in Wichita. The first shooting happened early Sunday. Officer Paul Cruz says a 33-year-old man was wounded during a disturbance at a home. He died later at a hospital. Police also are investigating a Sunday night shooting that left one person dead and another critically injured. The names of the victims weren't immediately released.

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Witness Reports Seeing Woman Forced into Car Trunk Near Kansas City

LEE'S SUMMIT, Mo. (AP) - Authorities are investigating after a witness reported seeing a man force a woman into the trunk of a car in suburban Kansas City. Lee's Summit police say the witness called Saturday night to report seeing a man jump out of a car that was stopped in the middle of a street. The witness told police the car sped off after a woman with shoulder length brown hair was put into the trunk. She was wearing a red shirt. The car was described as a cream colored Chevrolet Malibu. Police say officers canvassed the area working to gather surveillance footage and talk to additional witnesses. Police haven't determined what happened, including whether the incident was a domestic disturbance.

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Kansas Nature Center Helps Bring Back "Extinct" Ferret

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — A ferret species once thought to be extinct is making a modest comeback on the prairie, thanks to the staff at a Kansas nature center and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service biologists. The Lawrence Journal-World reports that workers at the Prairie Park Nature Center and volunteers from across Kansas have surveyed the black-footed ferret recovery site in Logan County annually for the last decade. Park staff members say they feel optimistic after a November trip to the 1,100-acre tract in western Kansas, where crews capture, tag and vaccinate the wild-born ferrets. The World Wildlife Fund reports that there are only about 300 black-footed ferrets left in the U.S. Prairie Park staff say the animal's population decline is linked to the extermination of prairie dogs, the ferrets' main food.

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Kansas City Man Burned While Cooking for Homeless

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) - A Kansas City man has been badly burned when his propane tank exploded while he was cooking for the homeless. Scott Lamaster, the founder of Taking it to the Streets, was burned Saturday. Lamaster's daughter, Janna Jensen, says the grill "blew up and pushed him 6 foot back into his truck." His face, his arms, and hands were scarred. He was preparing food to help those in need when the accident happened. Raytown Fire Battalion Chief Andy Finkelstein says Lamaster also cooks meals for firefighters. Fire department employees are among those donating money to help Lamaster with his mounting medical expenses. Finkelstein says he imagines Lamaster will "feel blessed that he has a community that supports him every bit as much as he supports the community."

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Forest Service Seeks Temporary Firefighters for Kansas, Other Plains States

CHADRON, Neb. (AP) — The U.S. Forest Service is looking for hundreds of new firefighters. The Forest Service wants to hire more than 900 temporary firefighters in Kansas, Nebraska, Colorado, South Dakota and Wyoming. The first of two application phases will run December 15-21 and focus on wildland firefighting jobs. Applicants must be at least 18, have a driver's license and a high school or GED diploma and be a U.S. citizen. Applicants are also needed for engine crews, aviation support and dispatching. Trainees will go through a "fire camp" in Crawford, Nebraska next spring to be certified to fight fires on federal lands.

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Man Killed in Wichita Shooting

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Police say a man has died in a shooting over the weekend in Wichita.  Police say officers responded around 2 a.m. Saturday to a report of a shooting. Arriving officers found a man in his 20s with a gunshot wound to the chest. He was taken to a local hospital, where he died. Police have not released the victim's name, nor have they reported any arrests in the shooting death. Police Sergeant Paul Kimble says homicide detectives are investigating. It is the city's 33rd homicide this year.

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Kansas, Missouri at "High-Risk" for Deer Accidents

JOPLIN, Mo. (AP) — Insurance companies have classified Kansas and Missouri as "high-risk" for deer collisions. The Missouri State Highway Patrol says that accidents involving deer are common, but fatalities and injuries are rare. The patrol reported three deaths and just more than 300 injuries from deer collisions in 2015. Auto shop manager Kelly Peterson says he's had 15 people in the past three weeks come in to have their cars repaired after a run-in with deer. Peterson recommends motorists slow down and pay more attention than usual this time of year, especially at night. State Highway Patrol Sergeant John Lueckenhoff advises people to avoid making an erratic action upon seeing deer.

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Chiefs Fall to 6-6 After 38-31 Loss to Jets

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (AP) - The Kansas City Chiefs were plagued by penalties and mistakes as they lost to the New York Jets on Sunday, 38-31. The Chiefs are 6-6 after Sunday's loss. It was Kansas City's sixth loss in seven games and did little to calm the nerves of fans who think their team is in the middle of an ugly collapse.  "You just continue to fight and try to win a game," quarterback Alex Smith said. "We've been in some close ones a bunch here lately and have come out on the wrong side. Keep fighting and try to find a way. We know we have a couple of big division games coming up, so you have to assess this and get ready." The Chiefs are still tied for first in the AFC West with Oakland and the Los Angeles Chargers, each of whom won Sunday to improve to 6-6. Kansas City will play at home against the Raiders and Chargers the next two weeks.

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