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Headlines for Thursday, December 1, 2016

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

Kansas Hits More Pessimistic Tax Projections in November 

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas hit its new, more pessimistic revenue projections for November, with tax collections exceeding estimates by $1.4 million. But the report Thursday from the state Department of Revenue did not significantly alter the state's gloomy budget picture. It still faces a projected shortfall of more than $345 million for the current fiscal year that began July 1. The state expected to collect $399.9 million in taxes in November and collected $401.3 million. The surplus was 0.3 percent. It was the first monthly report on tax collections since officials slashed the state's official revenue projections three weeks ago to reflect their pessimism about the economy. Tax collections last met expectations in April after forecasters issued the previous revenue projections. They've fallen short of expectations 10 of the past 12 months.


Settlement Proposed After Sulfuric Acid Spill in Kansas

HERINGTON, Kan. (AP) — The Environmental Protection Agency says it has reached a proposed settlement with Union Pacific Railroad over a sulfuric acid spill in Herington five years ago. The EPA said Wednesday the railroad has agreed to pay a $24,000 civil penalty and complete a $338,100 environmental project because the spill violated federal clean water laws. The Salina Journal reports the railroad agreed to install earthen berms and other structures to minimize runoff from the railroad's yard in Herington into Lime Creek. Two railroad tank cars at the yard collided in January 2012, releasing 11,000 gallons of sulfuric acid. The EPA says the spill affected about two miles of the creek and caused a fish kill. The settlement doesn't become final until a public comment period ends December 15.


Ex-Haskell Student Pleads to Lesser Charge in Alleged Rape

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — A former Haskell Indian Nations University student accused of rape has pleaded no contest to a lesser charge. Jared Wheeler entered the plea to aggravated battery last week and faces a maximum of less than three years in prison. The Lawrence Journal-World reports Wheeler originally was charged with two counts of rape and one count of aggravated criminal sodomy. Wheeler and another former Haskell student, Galen Satoe, were charged with raping a 19-year-old freshman in a dormitory room in November 2014. Mistrials were declared in both men's trials this summer after juries could not agree on a verdict. Satoe still faces trial in February on two counts of rape and a count of aiding and abetting attempted rape.


Employee Sues Kansas over Alleged Rape at Mental Hospital

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) — An employee at Osawatomie State Hospital is suing the state of Kansas after she allegedly was raped at the institution. The federal lawsuit filed Wednesday alleges female employees at the hospital were sexually and verbally abused by male patients, creating a "sexually hostile work environment." The Kansas City Star reports the woman says in the lawsuit that she was raped while working at the hospital in October 2015. She says she was not aware the man had made "multiple" attempts to strangle his wife and was involuntarily admitted to the hospital because it was likely he could cause injury or abuse to himself or others. The lawsuit says two patients helped stop the attack before hospital security arrived. Miami County charged the man with rape.


Man Gets 8 Years, 4 Months in Killing of Concrete Worker

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A man has been sentenced to eight years and four months in prison in the fatal shooting death of a Wichita concrete company worker. The Wichita Eagle reports that 43-year-old Deon Nolan Hale was sentenced Wednesday for voluntary manslaughter in the death of Efren Antonio Villarreal-Alvarado. Authorities have said robbery motivated the February 2014 shooting of the 43-year-old as he sat in his truck. The sentence imposed was the maximum allowable. But the victim's ex-wife, Dawn Villarreal, said it was too short and that "the system as failed us." Another man, Donnie Lalonde, was sentenced previously to 24 years in the killing. The homicide conviction is the second for Hale, who also goes by Auriel Huntstwobears. The first was second-degree reckless murder for a 1997 killing in Douglas County.


Sedgwick County Payment of About $566K Never Reached Company

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Records show a Sedgwick County payment of over half a million dollars that didn't reach the intended company has triggered a fraud investigation. The Wichita Eagle reports the county made a payment of about $566,000 to Wichita construction company Cornejo & Sons on October 7. Sedgwick County spokeswoman Kate Flavin says the payment went through an automated clearing house, but never reached Cornejo. County staff didn't realize what happened until October 25. The county sent another check to Cornejo & Sons on October 26, which was cashed. The newspaper says deputy chief financial officer Rick Durham reported to the sheriff the county was a victim of theft by deception. It's unclear where the first payment went, and county officials wouldn't say if the money has been recovered. The company declined to comment on the ongoing investigation.


Bethany College Offers Free Tuition in 2 Kansas Counties

LINDSBORG, Kan. (AP) — Bethany College plans to offer free tuition to first-time freshmen who graduate from McPherson or Saline county high schools. The school in Lindsborg announced Thursday that the offer will begin in the fall 2017 semester and last five years. The scholarships are valued at more than $110,000. Bethany College President William Jones said in a statement that the college wanted to invest in its community. He says the program will allow young people in the two counties a chance to attend college close to home and perhaps stay in the area after they graduate. Students who receive a "Bethany Good Life Scholarship" will be required to live on the Lindsborg campus. Bethany College has an enrollment of just more than 700.


Kris Kobach Supports Trump's Unsubstantiated Claims of Voter Fraud

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach is supporting President-elect Donald Trump's unsubstantiated claim that he would have won the popular vote if "millions" of people hadn't voted illegally.  Kobach offered no evidence Wednesday of specific cases of election fraud this year.  Instead, he cited a large-scale study of the 2008 election to suggest several million non-citizens living in the U.S. could have voted illegally. He also argued that the overwhelming majority also would have supported Democrat Hillary Clinton.  The study Kobach cited surveyed nearly 33,000 people, including a small number of non-citizens who said they voted. But the conclusion that it shows significant illegal voting has been disputed.  An American Civil Liberties Union spokeswoman called Kobach's assertion "plainly false."  Kobach is a potential Trump nominee for U.S. homeland security secretary.


Former Wyandotte County Engineer Accused of Taking Bribes 

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) — A former engineer for the Wyandotte County government has been charged with taking more than $17,000 in bribes. U.S. Attorney Tom Beall says in a news release Thursday that 58-year-old Willie D. Jones was indicted by a federal grand jury in Kansas City, Kansas. Prosecutors allege Jones took three bribes from the owner of a company that obtained contracts to do street repairs for the Unified Government. Jones, of Kansas City, Kansas, also is charged with five counts of money laundering. Prosecutors alleged Jones funneled the money through his bank account and the account of a Kansas City church where he was a minister.


Physician's Assistant Admits Cosmetic Treatments Broke Law 

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A Kansas physician's assistant has pleaded guilty to breaking federal law while treating patients with Botox and another drug used cosmetically to prevent wrinkles. The U.S. attorney's office says in a news release that 53-year-old Joel Erskin, of Garden City, admitted Thursday to one count of receiving and dispensing misbranded drugs. He admitted through his plea to purchasing cheaper versions of Botox and Juvederm from Canadian pharmacies while he owned and operated Renovo Medical. The business also is known as University Medical. The release says the Botox he purchased was misbranded and failed to meet labeling requirements. The Juvederm was adulterated and not approved for U.S. distribution. Erskin didn't inform his clients that the drugs were purchased from Canada and didn't meet federal standards. Sentencing is set for December 20.


Topeka Zoo Welcomes Newborn Sloth 

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The Topeka Zoo is celebrating the birth of a Hoffmann's two-toed sloth. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports the sloth named Newt was born Wednesday morning. Zoo staff hasn't determined Newt's gender. Zoo director Brendan Wiley says it's difficult to know a newborn sloth's gender without a physical examination, and staff plans to not disturb Newt and the mother unless there is a medical concern. Newt is offspring number fourteen of its mother 26-year-old Jackie. Hoffmann's Two-toed sloths are native to a small area of Central and South America. They are threatened by deforestation.


Nearly 2 Million Gallons of Raw Sewage Overflows in South Lawrence

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — Officials say close to 2 million gallons of raw sewage overflowed from a manhole in south Lawrence, prompting a health and stream advisory.   The Lawrence Journal World reports the overflow happened after a bypass pump failed Monday evening. Officials say sewage overflowed the manhole for about 12 hours and went into the nearby Naismith Creek. The city wasn't aware of the overflow until Tuesday morning, and the flow of sewage was stopped about an hour after it was reported.  Officials say the sewage could result in elevated levels of bacteria and contaminants in the creek, which is bordered by a city bike and walking trail. Residents are advised to not enter the stream.  City spokeswoman Megan Gilliland says the city has reported the incident to the Kansas Department of Health and Environment.


After New Regulations, Oklahoma's Shakes Calm Down a Bit

WASHINGTON (AP) — An Associated Press statistical analysis shows a dramatic drop in Oklahoma earthquakes since late May, when the state limited wastewater injections into energy wells.  And a new study says the state is on its way back to calmer times that prevailed before a huge jump in man-made earthquakes.  In parts of Oklahoma, the state ordered a 40 percent volume reduction in injection of saltwater — waste from hydraulic fracturing — that scientists generally blame for the massive increase in earthquakes.  An AP analysis of U.S. Geological Survey data of earthquakes magnitude 3.0 or larger shows that before the new rules went into effect, Oklahoma averaged 2.3 quakes a day in 2016. Since then the average dropped to 1.3 a day, though some were large and damaging.


Spring Trial Date Set for 3 Men in Somali Bomb Plot Case

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A spring trial date has been set for three Kansas men accused of plotting to bomb an apartment complex where Somali immigrants live.  U.S. District Judge Eric Melgren has scheduled the jury trial for April 25 at the federal courthouse in Wichita.  Prosecutors say 47-year-old Patrick Stein, 51-year-old Gavin Wright, and 49-year-old Curtis Allen were part of a militia group called The Crusaders.  The government alleges they conspired to detonate truck bombs at an apartment complex where 120 Somali immigrants live in the meatpacking town of Garden City. One of the units was used as a mosque.  They have pleaded not guilty to conspiring to use a weapon of mass destruction.  Trial had been set to begin December 20, but attorneys asked for more time to prepare a defense.


Temple Grandin Delivers Kansas State University Lecture

MANHATTAN, Kan. (AP) — A noted professor with autism whose work to understand livestock was the subject of an HBO movie has spoken at a lecture at Kansas State University.  The Manhattan Mercury reports that Temple Grandin spoke Tuesday as part of the university's Landon Lecture series, named after former Kansas Governor Alf Landon.  Grandin, who showed signs of autism at an early age, spoke about her visual thinking process and how it helped her create cattle handling facilities. Grandin stressed hands-on learning and encouraged teachers attending the lecture to build on the strengths of students with different learning styles.  Grandin is a livestock equipment designer and animal welfare advocate, as well as the author of several books.  An HBO biopic, "Temple Grandin," starred Claire Danes and won five Primetime Emmys.


Man Charged with Wounding Kansas Officer Has Criminal Record

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A man charged with shooting and injuring a Topeka police detective has a criminal record, including a sex crime case and a case involving another law enforcement officer.  Twenty-nine-year-old Christopher Curtis Harris appeared in court Monday on charges of attempted capital murder, aggravated assault on a law enforcement officer, aggravated robbery and criminal possession of a firearm by a convicted felon. It wasn't clear if Harris has an attorney.  Harris and detective Brian Hill exchanged gunfire November 5, while Hill was trying to apprehend the suspect after a convenience store robbery. Hill is expected to make a full recovery.  The Topeka Capital-Journal reports Harris previously pleaded no contest to indecent solicitation of a sex act involving a 14-year-old girl, and pleaded guilty to interference with a law enforcement officer in March. He received probation in both cases.


Funeral Services Held for Slain Wichita Mother

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Funeral services were held for a 27-year-old Wichita woman slain earlier this month before her newborn was kidnapped.  Laura Abarca-Nogueda of Wichita was shot and killed November 17 in her apartment in west Wichita. Her then 6-day-old daughter was kidnapped and later found safe in Dallas and reunited with her family.  The Wichita Eagle reports that about 150 people attended Abarca-Nogueda's funeral, which was conducted in English and Spanish on Wednesday.  Authorities have arrested Yesenia Sesmas in Texas in connection with the death and kidnapping. The 34-year-old Mexican national is fighting extradition back to Kansas. The complaint detailing the charges against Sesmas won't be revealed until she appears in court.


Victim of Deadly Topeka Fire Identified as 50-Year-Old Man

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Authorities have identified the victim of a deadly Topeka house fire as a 50-year-old man.  The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that David Packett was identified Tuesday as the man killed Saturday. Topeka Fire Marshal Mike Martin says the fire started in the front living room. The cause is listed as undetermined but likely accidental.  The house didn't have utilities connected at the time of the fire. Martin says the use of candles in the residence couldn't be eliminated as a contributing factor.  The fire caused $15,000 in structural damage.


10 Questioned After Standoff Following Police Shooting 

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Police say four people were involved in a standoff with officers at a Kansas City house linked to a robbery suspect who was fatally shot by an officer. Police say the man was killed Wednesday afternoon as he reached for a gun. He was a suspect in several robberies and told police he was armed and ready for a shootout if officers tried to arrest him. Officers later converged on a nearby home where the man was earlier seen. Six occupants voluntarily left the house, but four more held out for six hours. Police say all 10 were eventually taken into custody for questioning. Police have not explained the connection between the dead suspect and the occupants of the house. They have released no details of possible charges against any of the 10 who were questioned.


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