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Headlines for Monday, October 3, 2016

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

Kansas Tax Collections Fall $45M Short of Mark in September

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas says its tax collections fell nearly $45 million short of expectations in September. The report Monday from the state Department of Revenue complicates the state's budget picture five weeks before the election. Republican Governor Sam Brownback's fiscal policies are a major issue in legislative races. The department said tax collections were $521 million last month, 7.9 percent below the official projection of $566 million. Since the budget year began July 1, tax collections have been $68 million less than anticipated. That's a 4.7 percent shortfall. Kansas has struggled to balance its budget since Republican legislators slashed personal income taxes in 2012 and 2013. Brownback pushed for the cuts as an economic stimulus. Tax collections have fallen short 32 of the 45 months since the first cuts took effect.


U.S. Supreme Court Rejects Challenge to Military Death Penalty

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Supreme Court won't hear a challenge to the death penalty for members of the military. The justices on Monday rejected an appeal from the former soldier who was sentenced to death for killing two fellow soldiers and injuring 14 others in an attack in Kuwait in 2003. The appeal from Hasan Akbar focused on whether the way in which the armed forces impose a death sentence complies with recent Supreme Court rulings. Akbar is being held at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas. He was convicted of killing Army Captain Christopher S. Seifert and Air Force Major Gregory L. Stone in Kuwait during the early days of the Iraq war. The military hasn't carried out an execution since 1961.


U.S. Supreme Court Declines to Review Kansas Serial Killer's Case 

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The U.S. Supreme Court has declined to review the case of a Kansas serial killer who stuffed the bodies of several victims into barrels. Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt says Monday's ruling leaves John Robinson's capital murder conviction and death sentence intact. Robinson was convicted of killing seven women and a teenage girl in Kansas and Missouri in cases dating back to 1984. Investigators say he lured some victims with promises of work or sex. Schmidt says this is the first death penalty case to exhaust direct appeals since capital punishment was reinstated in 1994 in Kansas. The case now returns to Kansas courts for further proceedings. His attorney didn't immediately return a phone message from The Associated Press.


Democrats Intensify Kansas Registration Drive Efforts After Rulings 

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Democrats and voting rights advocates are ramping up voter registration drives across Kansas in the wake of recent court rulings allowing thousands of people to more easily register with a federal form or at motor vehicle offices without providing citizenship documents. But the state's Republican Party contends those court cases are "practically irrelevant" to the November election. GOP Executive Director Clay Barker says it isn't putting party emphasis on registration because its numbers are so high in Kansas and registration "tends to take care of itself." Republicans comprise 45 percent of the state's 1.76 million registered voters. Unaffiliated voters make up 29 percent of the electorate, while Democrats trail with 25 percent. The League of Women Voters is also advising its volunteers to use the federal form to register voters.


Pro Racecar Driver Scott Tucker, Others Ordered to Pay $1.2B for Payday Loan Scam

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — A federal judge has ruled that professional racecar driver Scott Tucker and others deceived payday loan consumers and owe the Federal Trade Commission about $1.2 billion. The Kansas City Star reports that the commission brought charges against Scott Tucker, of Leawood, Kansas, and others on claims that their payday loan operations charged exorbitant interest rates. U.S. District Court of Nevada Judge Gloria Navarro issued a judgment Friday that found consumers of Tucker's payday loan businesses were harmed because of misleading loan terms. Tucker denied wrongdoing in the case. He also has pleaded not guilty to criminal exploitation charges and is scheduled for trial in April. The Associated Press sent an email early Monday seeking comment from an attorney for two lending companies with ties to Tucker.


Kansas Supreme Court Holds Session in Hutchinson

HUTCHINSON, Kan. (AP) — The Kansas Supreme Court is scheduled to conduct a special session Tuesday at Hutchinson Community College. The session is open to the public. The cases on the docket include an appeal involving a conviction in Butler County for possession of methamphetamine. The Hutchinson News reports the visit is part of the Supreme Court's outreach effort to familiarize the public with the high court and its work. Representatives of the court say such sessions outside the Topeka courtroom began in 2011. Five of the seven justices are up for retention on the November 8 ballot. 


FEMA Again Denies Disaster Declaration for May Storms in Kansas 

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The Federal Emergency Management Administration has denied an appeal from Kansas officials for federal help for several counties affected by storms in May. FEMA denied the state's original request for a federal declaration. Several counties were included in that request after they were hit by severe weather that included thunderstorms, tornadoes and flooding during the last week of May. The state appealed FEMA's initial decision on August 31. FEMA has now denied the appeal, reaffirming its original findings that the damage caused by the storms did not warrant a major disaster declaration, which would have granted broader authority for federal agencies to help the region recover. 


Larned State Hospital to Overhaul Sex Offender Treatment

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas is overhauling a program that confines sex offenders indefinitely for post-prison mental health treatment. The changes to be rolled out this month follow a federal lawsuit, a critical legislative audit and legal challenges to similar programs in other states. Officials at the Larned State Hospital program said treatment will become more structured, personalized and focused on changing behavior that could cause patients to commit new crimes. They also said patients will be allowed a greater number of short, supervised community visits. Advocates for the 264 men committed by state courts to the program said they're encouraged by the proposed changes but remain concerned about staffing issues at the western Kansas hospital. Twenty-five patients filed a federal lawsuit in October 2014 and a critical legislative audit followed last year.


Haskell Indian Nations University Names New Acting Dean of Students 

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — After complaints of nepotism, Haskell Indian Nations University named an interim dean of students to replace the son of the university's president. Haskell officials announced Monday that Melissa Holder, an American Indian Studies faculty member, will take over the job that was held by Haskell president Venida Chenault's son, Joshua Arce. She will serve part-time as dean of students for 120 days "in a non-supervisory capacity." The Topeka Capital-Journal reported last month that Haskell staff and faculty filed several complaints with the Department of Interior's Office of Inspector General over Arce's influence at the school. Arce, who is the school's chief information officer, was acting president and acting vice president at Haskell several times during his mother's tenure. Holder is chairwoman of the American Indian Studies department.


Fifth Man Pleads Guilty in Fraud Impersonating Cerner Corp. 

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — A Texas man pleaded guilty to leading a multi-million dollar fraud that involved impersonating Kansas City-based Cerner Corp. in business and legal activities. Federal prosecutors announced Monday that Albert Davis, of Richardson, Texas, pleaded guilty to participating in a conspiracy to commit wire fraud. More than 10 victims suffered total losses of $9.5 million in the scheme, which ran from August 2008 to February 2015. Davis is the fifth defendant to plead guilty in the scheme. Prosecutors say the conspirators created a fake Cerner business entity, a fake Cerner bank account, a fake Cerner Internet domain and leased virtual office space for a fake Cerner address in Kansas City. The also created fictitious employees and documents. They used the fraud to turn business deals and several lawsuits in their favor.


Kansas City Library Officials Question Arrest During Event

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Kansas City Public Library officials are questioning the arrests of an employee and a patron during a library event. Jeremy Rothe-Kushel, of Lawrence, was asking a question of Dennis Ross, an author and diplomat, who had just delivered a presentation at the library's Plaza branch in May. Rothe-Kushel asked if Jewish Americans, like himself, should be concerned about actions by the U.S. and Israel that amount to "state-sponsored terrorism." The Kansas City Star reports when he tried to ask another question, a security guard grasped his arm and was trying to take him out of the room, when a library employee tried to intervene. Both face municipal charges that library officials think should be dismissed. Police say the off-duty officers acted appropriately. Police say the arrests were appropriate.


Kansas Family Pushes for Law to Alert Police to Mental Issues

HAYS, Kan. (AP) — A Kansas police officer was found justified in shooting an autistic man who tried to take his gun away, but the victim's family says things might have turned out differently if the officer had been aware of the man's mental issues. The Salina Journal reports that Joseph "Joey" Weber was fatally shot by a Hays police officer August 18 after grabbing the officer's gun as the officer tried to take him into custody. Weber's family is pushing for a new law that would allow people to include on their vehicle registration information any mental and physical conditions that might cause erratic behavior. Salina attorney Ken Wasserman, who represents Weber's family, says there was nothing about Weber's appearance that would have indicated to an officer that he had mental health issues.


Relatives Sue over Kansas Traffic Stop Death 

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) — Relatives of a 44-year-old Kansas City, Kansas, man who died after a traffic stop have filed federal lawsuits accusing the police of wrongdoing. Craig J. McKinnis died in May 2014 after the car he was riding in was stopped by police, who said he tried to flee and died after a brief struggle. Family members and his girlfriend have filed two federal separate lawsuits accusing the police of violating his civil rights. Both lawsuits, which were filed in 2015, list several defendants, including the police department. The Lawrence Journal-World reports that a lawyer representing the defendants denied the claims, noting police believed their use of force to be necessary.


Survey: Weak Economy Continues in Kansas and Other Midwestern States

OMAHA, Neb. (AP) — A monthly survey of business leaders suggests the economy will continue to slow in Kansas and eight other Midwest and Plains states because of weakness in the agriculture and energy businesses. Creighton University economist Ernie Goss says energy and agriculture manufacturing is especially weak in the region. The survey covers Kansas, Arkansas, Iowa, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, Oklahoma and South Dakota.


130-Year-Old Kansas Fruit Plantation For Sale

HUTCHINSON, Kan. (AP) — A former plantation near Nickerson that was once the largest shipping point for fruit between the Missouri River and California is for sale. The Hutchinson News reports the 130-year-old Yaggy Plantation used to grow up to 50,000 apple trees and a million catalpa trees, which were used for fence posts and railroad ties. Up to 300 people worked there during harvest season. Today, the land is mostly grassland and irrigated cropland, with no apple trees and few catalpas remaining. The plantation was founded by Levi Walter Yaggy. His descendants have decided to auction off the acreage. The auction will be October 5 at the Cosmosphere in Hutchinson. The family is selling about 1,260 acres, which will be offered in five tracts and combinations.


Kauffman Foundation Announces New Kansas City Area Scholarships

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — A foundation named after the pharmaceutical company founder who established the Kansas City Royals has announced a $79 million scholarship program to celebrate what would have been Ewing Marion Kauffman's 100th birthday. Students from low- and modest-income families in two Kansas counties and four Missouri counties can apply starting next year for the three-tiered program called KC Scholars. The Kansas City Star reports the scholarships will benefit 2,000 students when it's running full scale. The program includes a traditional scholarship of up to $10,000 a year for five years that would be awarded to 11th grade students with at least a 2.5 GPA. There's also a scholarship of up to $5,000 a year for five years for adults 24 and older.


Fitzwater Exhibit to Open at Kansas State Library

MANHATTAN, Kan. (AP) — An exhibit about former presidential press secretary Marlin Fitzwater is opening next month at Kansas State University. The Salina Journal reports that Fitzwater donated his personal papers to the Department of Special Collections at Kansas State University Libraries. Visitors will be able to examine correspondence, publications, photos, memorabilia and official government documents. The exhibit will remain on display through March 17. Fitzwater is a Salina native who grew up in Abilene and graduated from Kansas State. He worked in the Environmental Protection Agency, and the departments of Transportation and the Treasury, before serving as press secretary for Presidents Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush. Before going to Washington, he worked at several newspapers including The Manhattan Mercury and The Topeka Capital-Journal.


Kansas Student Will Help Grandmother with $10K Winnings

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — A 21-year-old University of Kansas student who won $10,000 in a half-court shot contest has plans for the money: she'll give it to her grandmother who rescued her from foster care when she was 10. Jordan Stiers, a sophomore from Independence, Missouri, won the money Saturday when Brennan Bechard, director of Kansas basketball operations, made the half-court shot during Late Night in the Phog in Lawrence. The Wichita Eagle reports that Stiers is the first one in her family to graduate high school and also to attend college. She says her grandmother took her in and also volunteered to raise four of Stiers' siblings in her Independence home. Stiers said the money will help her grandmother pay bills.


Steelers Romp in 43-14 Win over Chiefs

PITTSBURGH (AP) — The Pittsburgh Steelers' Ben Roethlisberger threw five touchdowns passes for the fifth time in his career as the Steelers throttled the Kansas City Chiefs 43-14 last (SUN) night. The Steelers (3-1) overwhelmed the Chiefs (2-2). Kansas City's Alex Smith went 30 of 50 for 287 yards and two fourth-quarter touchdowns. The Chiefs' Spencer Ware ran for 82 yards but also fumbled in the first quarter to kick-start Pittsburgh's record-setting run. Kansas City running back Jamaal Charles ran one time for 6 yards in his first game since injuring his right knee last October. It was perhaps the lone bright spot in a loss that played in stark contrast to the Chiefs' romp over the New York Jets last week in which Kansas City forced eight turnovers. Pittsburgh's 43 points were the most allowed by Kansas City in a regular season game since head coach Andy Reid took over in 2013.


Royals End Season with 3-2 Loss to Cleveland Indians 

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — The Cleveland Indians beat the Kansas City Royals 3-2 on Sunday to end the Royals' season. Cleveland's Josh Tomlin (13-9) dueled with the Royals' Ian Kennedy (11-11) into the eighth before the Indians pulled ahead. Jason Kipnis hit with a double in the eighth and Francisco Lindor hit a fly ball deep enough to right field for the lead. The Indians (94-67) got a nice boost heading into the playoffs. Their Division Series against Boston begins Thursday, though the location was still to be decided. 

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