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Headlines for Monday, October 16, 2017

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

Kansas Wins Approval to Continue Private Medicaid System 

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The federal government has given Kansas permission to operate its private Medicaid system for another year. State officials announced Monday afternoon that the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services has given the state until Dec. 31, 2018 to operate the KanCare system. The program was set to expire at the end of 2017 had the federal oversight agency not approved an extension. The state's original request for an extension was denied because the federal agency said Kansas was not meeting federal standards and risked the health of the low-income patients served. The state is now working to gain permission to extend the program beyond 2018.

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Topeka Records 25 Homicides, Up From 7 in 2014

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) - Topeka is investigating an unusually high number of homicides. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that there have been more than 25 so far this year. That's a marked increase from 2014 when there were seven. Topeka deputy police chief Darin Scott says violent crime is a "community issue" and that police "cannot tackle this problem alone." Staff has been added to the police department's organized crime and gang unit and the behavioral health unit. Authorities also have identified areas with high levels of violent crime and focused officers on those neighborhoods. Of the 25 homicides, one suspect was identified, but died. Two others were found to be justified. Four were a result of murder-suicides. Eleven led to arrests, and six others remain unsolved. A police shooting in September remains under investigation.

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Kansas Governor's Race Draws Record Field of Candidates

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas has a record number of candidates for the early stages of its 2018 governor's race. Even high school students are joining the elected officials and prominent business figures voters would normally expect. Eighteen candidates have appointed treasurers or committees for a campaign next year, a requirement to raise money. There are 11 Republicans, six Democrats and an independent. More are likely. The Libertarian Party is expected to have a nominee, and another independent candidate may get into the race. But no women are running yet. Still, the current number of candidates tops the previous record of 16 on the primary and general election ballots in 1964. Governor Sam Brownback is term-limited but is expected to step down this fall anyway to become U.S. ambassador-at-large for international religious freedom.

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Kobach to Get Help from Trump Jr. in Kansas Governor's Race 

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach's run for the Republican nomination for Kansas governor is getting a boost from President Donald Trump's son. Kobach announced Monday that Donald Trump Jr. will be in Kansas on November 28 for a campaign fundraiser. Kobach is vice chairman of the President's commission on election fraud. So far 18 candidates — 11 Republicans, six Democrats and an independent — have appointed treasurers or committees for a campaign for governor next year, a requirement to raise money.Kobach says in a news release it is an honor that Trump Jr. will join his campaign "at this important time." Republican Governor Sam Brownback is term-limited and is expected to step down this fall to become U.S. ambassador-at-large for international religious freedom.

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Climate Change May Erode Kansas Forage Grass

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas State University researchers say a dominant forage grass in the Great Plains could be diminished by climate change to less than half of its current stature during the next 75 years. The studies involving Kansas State University faculty indicated that changes would potentially shrink the plant size of big bluestem grass by 60 percent. The grass covers millions of acres in the region. That kind of transformation would disrupt the region's livestock economy. Researchers say big bluestem would be a shorter kind that's common in eastern Colorado. Loretta Johnson, KSU biology professor, says climate change could reduce forage for cattle in drier parts of grasslands, in places like Kansas.

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Northeast Kansas Jail Escapees Apprehended

MARYSVILLE, Kan. (AP) - Authorities have captured two inmates who are accused of obtaining two shotguns while escaping from a Kansas jail near the state's northern border with Nebraska. The Kansas Bureau of Investigation says 46-year-old Jeffrey Guenther and 30-year-old Matson Hatfield escaped Saturday from the Marshall County Jail after a fire was lit in a cell. The KBI says Hatfield fled to a nearby home and surrendered a short time later. A pickup truck also was stolen at gunpoint from a civilian county employee. The KBI says Guenther was arrested after rolling the truck in rural Gage County, Nebraska. The KBI says shots were fired at a Kansas fire department truck and at a man in front of a home. No one was hurt, and no charges have been filed in the escape.

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Dispute Arises from Gas Leaks from Kansas Wells

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Regulatory filings show natural gas is leaking through unplugged abandoned wells that have penetrated a massive underground storage field in Kansas. It is creating a public safety hazard amid a dispute over whose responsibility it is to fix the problem. Northern Natural Gas Co. told federal regulators in a filing this week that the Kansas Corporation Commission "has sat on its hands with full knowledge of the risk." The Kansas agency filed a motion last month with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission in Washington, D.C., seeking an order forcing Northern Natural to keep its storage gas from escaping through the wells. But Northern contends Kansas law requires well owners to plug the abandoned wells. Northern owns the Cunningham Storage Field spanning Pratt, Kingman and Reno counties.

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Kansas Looks at Alert System for Missing Foster Children

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A Kansas lawmaker is pushing for new procedures for responding when children in foster care go missing. Foster care contractors revealed this week that more than seventy foster children are currently missing in Kansas. The report was in response to question about the August disappearance of three sisters from a Tonganoxie foster home. Officials say the number amounts to about one percent of the state's foster children, a rate in line with the national average. Democratic Senator Laura Kelly says there needs to be a system similar to an Amber Alert that would prompt an immediate search. Foster care officials say they file monthly reports with the Department for Children and Families on missing foster children. Kelly says that's not enough.

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More Kansas Farmers Planting Dryland Corn 

HUTCHINSON, Kan. (AP) — After years of being considered a risk not worth taking, western Kansas farmers are planting more acres of dryland corn. The Kansas Agricultural Statistics Service says farmers in southwest Kansas planted 149,000 acres of dryland corn in 2016 — up 133 percent from 2015. West-central Kansas was up 59 percent in that time period. The Hutchinson News reports that figures aren't available for this year's acreage of the corn, which is not irrigated by water sources like the Ogallala aquifer. Timely rains and full underground moisture have contributed to the increase. The increase in corn and soybean acres across the state means fewer acres of wheat and sorghum. As the fall harvest season continues, several grain elevators are seeing less sorghum as farmers look for alternatives in a sluggish agriculture economy.

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Work Nearly Done at McConnell Air Force Base for New Tanker

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Work is nearly complete at McConnell Air Force Base in preparation for the KC-46A Pegasus air refueling tanker. It has been almost three years since work began on $267 million in new construction projects. The Wichita Eagle reports that on Monday officials celebrated the work at the base. McConnell will be the first base to receive the new Boeing tankers that will replace a nearly 60-year-old fleet of KC-135 aircraft. The project features three new hangers. They are among 16 construction projects on and off McConnell's flight line required to support the new tankers. The Air Force says the first KC-46 delivery to the Air Force is expected in spring 2018.

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Kansas State Apologizes After Stadium Breast Pump Confusion 

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas State University has apologized to a concession worker who complained on Facebook about being told she would have to put her breast pump in a clear plastic bag before entering the football stadium. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that Katie Doyle, of Holton, said she was humiliated by the experience Saturday. The mother of a 5-month-old son says she decided against putting the pump in a clear bag because she didn't think anybody wanted to look at the milk-covered pump parts. Kansas State began requiring clear bags for ticketed athletic events last school year, although breast pumps are exempted as medically necessary. Kansas State senior associate athletic director for communications, Kenny Lannou, says there will be more staff training. Doyle told the newspaper that a security official was "very apologetic."

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Wheat Seeding, Fall Harvest Make Slow Progress in Kansas 

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A snapshot of crops across Kansas shows the pace of wheat planting lagging well behind normal for this late in the season. The National Agricultural Statistics Service reported Monday that just 42 percent of the next year's winter wheat crop has been planted. Normally by this time about 75 percent of the crop is seeded. Corn harvest is also slower than usual at just 54 percent of the crop in the bin. That is well behind the 73 percent average for this time of year. Also dragging behind normal is the sorghum harvest with just 13 percent finished. The state's soybean harvest is running about usual for this time with 34 percent of that crop now cut.

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Southeast Kansas Man Charged with Murder in Burning Death

BAXTER SPRINGS, Kan. (AP) — A Kansas prosecutor has filed first-degree murder and other charges against a man suspected of fatally burning a woman and injuring two police officers during a confrontation. Cherokee County Attorney Jake Conard's office says 49-year-old Harvey Raymond Ortberg is accused of dousing 65-year-old Sharon Horn with gasoline and setting her on fire September 30 at her Baxter Springs home. She later died at a Springfield, Missouri, hospital. Other charges include burglary, arson and the attempted murder of two responding officers, who also were burned. Once Ortberg is released from the hospital and extradited to Kansas, he'll be held on a $1 million bond. He faces life in prison without the possibility of parole for at least 50 years.

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Westminster College Announces Pick for New President 

FULTON, Mo. (AP) — Westminster College has picked Fletcher Lamkin to take over as its next president later this year. The college made the announcement Monday. Lamkin is now president of West Virginia University at Parkersburg and previously served as president of Kansas Wesleyan University. His selection marks Lamkin's return to Westminster College, where his 2000-2007 administration included record fundraising and campus improvements. Lamkin says in a news release that Westminster is the only school that could have induced him to leave his present position. The college says news of his return was celebrated by faculty, administration and alumni. It cited his knowledge of the school and his relationships with alumni. Kurt Jefferson, director of the Churchill Institute for Global Engagement at Westminster, says Lamkin led Westminster to its "greatest era of student growth."

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Book Buyer Finds Serial BTK Serial Killer's Drawing Inside 

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A man who bought a used copy of the book co-written by BTK serial killer Dennis Rader has discovered inside the book one of the killer's drawings showing a bondage rack and rope. Rader is known for binding and torturing his victims. The crayon-and-ink drawing has his name and a July date on it. The Wichita Eagle reports that research scholar Katherine Ramsland says the artwork appears to have been made by Rader. She co-wrote with him "Confession of a Serial Killer: The Untold Story of Dennis Rader, the BTK Killer." She says Rader sends bookplates to pen pals and people who've bought the book. The Kansas Department of Corrections says inmates are allowed to send and receive mail as long as it's not a security risk or sexually related.

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Old Letter on Apartheid Resurfaces Amid Scrutiny of Kobach

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach once wrote a letter as a 20-year-old student denouncing racial segregation in South Africa but arguing that U.S. corporations shouldn't pull out. The Wichita Eagle reports that it found the letter after receiving several tips about a letter from Kobach on South African apartheid. Kansas Senate Democratic Leader Anthony Hensley also said he'd heard about such a decades-old letter. Kobach is vice chairman of a presidential commission on election fraud and a candidate for governor next year. Kobach wrote the letter to The Topeka Capital-Journal in August 1986 when he was at Harvard University. He says the idea that he might have tried to justify apartheid is ridiculous. Kobach's letter said the U.S. must strive to end apartheid but that pursuing divestiture would be ineffective and irresponsible.

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Multi-State Crime Suspect Sentenced for Shooting in Kansas 

PRATT, Kan. (AP) — A man suspected of killing or wounding people in Mississippi, New Mexico and Kansas has been sentenced in Kansas. Local media outlets report that Alex Deaton was sentenced Monday to nearly 13 years in prison and $4,000 in restitution for shooting a Pratt convenience store clerk in March.Deaton pleaded guilty in July to attempted first-degree murder and aggravated robbery.He's charged in Brandon, Mississippi, with first-degree murder, auto theft, and drive-by shooting. He's accused of strangling his girlfriend, stealing her car, and shooting a jogger in February.He's also suspected of killing a woman near Philadelphia, Mississippi.Police say Deaton then carjacked a New Mexico couple before fleeing to Kansas and shooting the clerk. Pratt County District Attorney Tracey Beverlin says she doesn't know when Deaton will go to Mississippi.

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Kansas Man Convicted in Wreck that Killed Western Missouri Commissioner

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) — A Kansas man has been convicted of manslaughter in the drunk-driving crash that killed a western Missouri county commissioner. Missouri Attorney General Josh Hawley has announced the conviction of 30-year-old Wesley Michael Hays of Pleasanton, Kansas. He was also convicted of second-degree assault and failing to keep on the right side of the roadway in the 2014 wreck that killed Bates County Commissioner Larry Berry. Sentencing will be December 7. Hays could face up to life in prison. The case was tried by the Missouri Attorney General's office. Jurors were told that Hays consumed 10 alcoholic drinks before driving his GMC Sierra that crossed the center line on Route A near Hume, Missouri, striking Berry's Ford Taurus. Berry's 20-year-old son was injured.

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Kansas City Man Sentenced to 40 Years for Sex with Underage Girl

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) - A Kansas City man has received a 40-year prison sentence for having sex with a preteen girl. 34-year-old Shaun B. Bettis will serve time for first-degree statutory rape. He also will be subject to lifetime monitoring as a sex offender. Clay County prosecutors say Bettis knew the victim and was able to have sexual contact with her at his home while the victim's family members were busy taking care of sick relatives. Clay County prosecutor Daniel White says the child has experienced a series of losses in her life including the illness and death of family members, and was particularly vulnerable.

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Steelers Win 19-13 to End Chiefs' Unbeaten Streak 

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — The Pittsburgh Steelers' Le'Veon Bell ran for 179 yards and a touchdown, Antonio Brown made an acrobatic touchdown catch in the fourth quarter as the Steelers held on to beat the Kansas City Chiefs 19-13 on Sunday. The Chiefs (5-1) still had a chance after Brown's 51-yard reception made it 19-10, moving quickly downfield and getting a 33-yard field goal from Harrison Butker. And when the Chief's defense forced a quick three-and-out, Tyreek Hill's 32-yard punt return gave them the ball with 1:48 to go. But after the Steelers (4-2) gave up a first down, James Harrison sacked Alex Smith on third-and-10, and the quarterback's incomplete pass on fourth down left the NFL with no unbeaten teams. Ben Roethlisberger was 17 of 25 for 252 yards for Pittsburgh. Kansas City rolled into the game averaging 414.2 yards and 32.8 points, but the Steelers shut down NFL rushing leader Kareem Hunt, who gained just 21 yards on nine carries. They also spent the afternoon with their paws on Smith's jersey, holding the league's top-rated passer to 246 yards and a touchdown.
 

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