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Headlines for Sunday, October 30, 2016

Kansas Supreme Court Ouster Campaign Faces Backlash

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) - A push to remake the Kansas Supreme Court could falter because of a political backlash against Republican Governor Sam Brownback.Five of the court's seven justices are on the Nov. 8 ballot that asks voters whether each justice should stay on the court for another six years.Four justices appointed by Democratic and moderate Republican governors are being targeted in by GOP conservatives, abortion opponents and critics of rulings that overturned death sentences.Brownback publicly supported an effort to oust justices in 2014, but he's not making an endorsement this year amid a backlash over the state's budget problems. At least one group backing the ouster effort says the governor is a liability.A group supporting the justices is reminding voters the conservative Republican governor can appoint new justices.

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KPERS Changes Under Consideration

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) - Kansas officials are considering lowering the expected rate of return for public employee pension investments. The Topeka Capital-Journal  reports that the Kansas Public Employee Retirement System has assumed an annual return on investment of 8 percent for three decades. A transition wouldn't change pension benefits to KPERS' members. But a lower expected return on investments would mean taxpayers and possibly employees would need to chip in more money.Consultants have been meeting with the pension's board for months to weigh options. Retirement system executive director Alan Conroy says the board is "in the thick of considering it."A final decision might be made at the Nov. 18 meeting or put off until January.

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Student Senate Hopes to Support University's Religious Minorities

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) - The University of Kansas Student Senate is forming a group to explore issues that religious minorities face on campus. Student Body President Stephonn Alcorn said Thursday in a letter to student senators that the committee will create a survey to gauge students' accommodations for religious holidays and access to reflection spaces on campus. The Lawrence Journal World reports  the Student Senate approved a resolution to form the committee Oct. 19. Alcorn said the committee then will present legislation based on the survey to the Student Senate to enhance the quality of life and freedom of religion for religious minorities at the university.
 
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 Wichita Rescue Group Returns Pet to Florida Family

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) - A 10-year-old cat that went missing in Wichita in June is going back to her human family in Florida. The cat, called Ninja, escaped her carrier at a Wichita hotel when the family stopped on a trip to Colorado. The family looked everywhere but couldn't find their beloved animal.Last weekend, a group that traps, neuters and returns feral cats in Wichita captured 40 cats. One of them was Ninja, who had a microchip that led to the Florida phone number of Renee and Brett Farmer of Sarasota, Florida. The Wichita Eagle reports that Ninja was treated for fleas and a superficial wound and was given a clean bill of health Wednesday. She'll be flown to Tampa, Florida, sometime in the next two weeks to be reunited with the Farmers.
 
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Kayak Death Prompts Improved Warnings

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) - Wichita has installed new, larger warning signs at an Arkansas River dam where a 24-year-old man drowned. Brian Bergkamp drowned in July at Wichita's 21st Street dam as he tried to help another kayaker. The group of kayakers he was with didn't see the small, faded yellow warning signs on the bridge until it was too late. Bergkamp's body was found in the river nearly three weeks later, 6 miles away. In 1979, two kayakers also died at the dam. The city has installed new 4-by-6-foot signs on the bank of the Arkansas River to warn people to steer clear of the dam and to exit the water to get around it. The Wichita Eagle reports  the city is looking at several other locations that may need warning signs.

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DeLeon Murder Suspect Moved to Kansas Jail

 KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) - A Missouri woman recently charged in the 1989 death of a woman in Kansas City, Kansas, has been moved to a Kansas jail.Carolyn Heckert was arrested in Smithville, Missouri, earlier this month and charged with first-degree murder in the December 29, 1989, death of Sarah DeLeon. DeLeon was found stabbed to death along railroad tracks in Kansas City, Kansas. Police said had also suffered a head wound.KMBC-TV reports  that authorities moved Heckert from a Missouri facility to the Wyandotte County Detention Center this week. She's being held on $1 million bond. Police said new DNA collection and testing technology prompted police to review the DeLeon case.

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First Phase of Dredging Project Completed

 BURLINGTON, Kan. (AP) - Crews have completed the first phase of a large-scale dredging project at an eastern Kansas reservoir.The Emporia Gazette reports that the John Redmond Reservoir dredging project, which began in May, involves dredging sediment from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers reservoir, which is a supply source to nineteen communities and six industrial users. The dredging project began after a study determined the water supply needs in the region could not be sustained during a 1950s-like drought, and dredging up the sediment to restore water supply storage was the best option. Director of Kansas Water Office Tracy Streeter says there are still additional steps in the project before the reservoir project is concluded.

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GOP Mailers Raise Eyebrows

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) - The Kansas Republican Party is sending out mailers in legislative races depicting explosions and Islamic State fighters. The move comes as GOP candidates face a backlash against Governor Sam Brownback over the state's budget problems. The Wichita Eagle reports  that one mailing to homes in Republican state Representative Joseph Scapa's district in Wichita shows an Islamic State fighter holding a machine gun with a message that reads: "Have you met the new neighbors?" It touts Scapa as a supporter of funding for law enforcement to help deal with threats. But critics said Friday that the mailer was anti-Muslim. Kansas GOP Executive Director Clay Barker confirmed that similar mailings have been sent across the state. He said internal polling showed that security is a good issue for Republicans.

 

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