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Headlines for Monday, September 28, 2015

Kansas Voter List Purge Affects Young, Unaffiliated Most

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A newspaper report says young and politically unaffiliated Kansas residents are most likely to be affected by the state's plans to purge the names of people with incomplete registrations from its voter lists. The Wichita Eagle reports more than half of the prospective voters with incomplete registrations list no party affiliation. More than 40 percent are under the age of 30. The newspaper analyzed a list of nearly 36,700 suspended registrations obtained from Secretary of State Kris Kobach's office. The Republican secretary of state has enacted a new administrative rule removing the names of any prospective voters whose registrations have been incomplete for more than 90 days. It takes effect Friday. Most incomplete registrations are for voters who haven't met a requirement to document their U.S. citizenship.


Standard Cited in Kansas Pension Debates Questioned By Experts

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas officials say the state will know its underfunded pension system is back on solid financial ground when its revenues and investment earnings can cover 80 percent of the benefits promised to state employee retirees over the next two decades. The 80 percent rule of thumb has been cited repeatedly as Governor Sam Brownback and state legislators have promoted their efforts to improve the public pension system. The funding figure was only 62 percent at the end of last year but lawmakers say they expect it to rise. The 80 percent benchmark has been cited in federal reports, but its value is questioned by some financial experts and state pension system administrators. Those experts say a pension system's health depends on multiple factors and not a single benchmark.


Education Officials: Schools May Need Complete Overhaul 

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas education officials say the state's public school system might need a complete overhaul to meet the demands of the future workplace. Education Commissioner Randy Watson says that could include changes in school culture, new roles for counselors and getting students more real-life work experience.  Watson spoke to a group of about 100 educators in Wichita. Earlier this year he and deputy commissioner Brad Neuenswander held discussions across the state to find out what residents want from their education system. Most said students need non-academic skills such as persistence, teamwork, emotional stability and a strong work ethic. Business leaders said personality traits and soft skills are more important for success than academic knowledge.


Enrollment Falls at Kansas State and Other Kansas Universities  

MANHATTAN, Kan. (AP) — Kansas State University officials are attributing the school's first enrollment decline in nine years to tougher admission standards. The Manhattan Mercury reports that enrollment at K-State fell by 620 students, or 2.5 percent. The Kansas Board of Regents released a report last week detailing the official enrollment census. The report says enrollment at state universities overall dropped by about 1 percent, or 890 students, while enrollment at the state's technical colleges rose by 6.3 percent. The University of Kansas and Fort Hays State are the only state universities to see a rise in student numbers. Kansas State dean of students Pat Bosco says the school has weathered the transition from being an open admissions school to one that intentionally prioritizes student success.


Inmate Flown to Hospital After Beating by Fellow Prisoners

HUTCHINSON, Kan. (AP) — A Kansas inmate was flown by helicopter to a Wichita hospital for treatment of head injuries after being beaten by two other inmates. Reno County Sheriff Randy Henderson says 30-year-old Darrell Beachy was beaten at the Reno County Correctional Facility on Saturday night by inmates Antoine Alexander and William Alexander. Henderson says aggravated battery charges were added to the brothers' original charges. The Hutchinson News reports Beachy is being held on numerous charges of theft, burglary, forgery and interference with law enforcement. Henderson says he doesn't know what caused the altercation.


4 Injured in Shooting in Kansas City's Jazz District

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) _ Police are investigating after four people were injured during a shooting in Kansas City's 18th and Vine Jazz District. The Kansas City Star reports that two large groups of people gathered in the streets and started shooting at each other early Sunday outside The Juke House bar.  Police said one man was found lying on the sidewalk in front of the bar and was taken to a hospital  where he was listed in serious condition. The other three victims also appeared to have been shot, although their injuries weren't believed to be life-threatening.  


Kansas Officials Closely Watching Utah Endangered Species Suit

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) _ A court battle over a Utah prairie dog ruling that activists say could undermine the Endangered Species Act is set to come before a federal appeals court in Denver on Monday. The hearing comes after a judge in Utah struck down federal endangered species protections for the small, burrowing animals that residents say are taking over the southern Utah town of Cedar City, burrowing into cemeteries, airports and backyards.  U.S. District Judge Dee Benson decided in November that the Commerce Clause doesn't allow the federal government to regulate animals found in only one state.  But lawyers for the federal government and animal rights groups say the ruling could weaken protections for animals all over the country because the majority of endangered species are only found in a single state. On the other side attorneys representing 10 states, including Kansas, have stepped in to support the decision. 


US Drilling States Guided on Handling Quakes 

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — A working group of U.S. drilling states, seismologists, academics and industry experts has issued guidance to state regulators for handling human-induced earthquakes caused by hydraulic fracturing or the disposal of fracking wastewater. The StatesFirst initiative's 150-page report was released Monday. It represents perhaps the most candid discussion on the topic since tremors across the mid-continent were first linked to fracking-related activity around 2009. But it stops short of suggesting model regulations. Ohio Oil & Gas Chief Rick Simmers, who co-chaired the effort, tells The Associated Press that's because each state's regulatory framework, laws and geography are unique. He described the report as a primer, providing states with up-to-date scientific and technical data, case studies and several suggested approaches for detecting and managing quakes potentially tied to human activity.


Wedding Expo Planned for Same-Sex Couples in Topeka 

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) _ Organizers of a wedding expo geared toward same-sex couples say the November event in Topeka will give businesses a chance to let the gay community know they want their business. The Kansas Equality Wedding Expo is scheduled for November 22 at the Maner Conference Center.  The Topeka Capital-Journal reports the event will feature vendors who are friendly to same-sex couples. Visit Topeka President Brett Oetting says the expo will help couples avoid the discomfort of going into a business and finding out the owner doesn't want to serve them.  A similar event took place in February in Kansas City, Missouri.


Police Arrest Woman Wanted in Wichita Woman's Slaying

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A second person has been arrested in the shooting death of a Wichita woman in her home. KSNW-TV reports that the 22-year-old Wichita suspect was arrested Sunday on suspicion of first-degree murder, aggravated burglary, aggravated robbery, theft of property of service and criminal use of a financial card. Her bond is set $250,000. Her arrest comes just more than a week after 21-year-old man was arrested on felony murder charges in the death of Jacquelyn Harvey. Authorities say Harvey's son found her dead on September 16, when he was dropping off his son so Harvey could take him to school. Police say her purse and vehicle were stolen.


Police: Man Stabbed with Screwdriver in Burlington Home

BURLINGTON, Kan. (AP) — A man is in critical condition after police say he was stabbed with a screwdriver in his Burlington home. WIBW-TV reports the man was injured Saturday afternoon. The Coffey County Sheriff's Office says the man called 911 to report his home and trailer had been broken into. Police say that while he was on the phone with dispatch, a man who was hiding in the home jumped out with a large screwdriver and stabbed the victim in the stomach.The victim was transported to a Topeka hospital. According to Coffey County Sheriff Randy Rogers, police are still looking for a suspect described as a 6-foot-tall, black male wearing blue jeans and sandals. Rogers said the suspect was also wearing a red or maroon shirt. The investigation is ongoing.


Girl, 15, Dies After Leading Officers on Chase in Kansas

CUNNINGHAM, Kan. (AP) — A 15-year-old girl has died after authorities say she led police on a chase that began in Pratt County and ended in Kingman County. According to a report from the Kansas Highway Patrol, 15-year-old Rebecca Vandermerwe was erratically driving a car with Oklahoma license plates Sunday morning when they tried to pull her over. Authorities say Vandermerwe sped off and led police on a chase reaching more than 100 mph. According to the report, Vandermerwe lost control of the vehicle as the car went down the shoulder of an exit ramp and rear-ended the trailer of a semitrailer south of Cunningham. She was pronounced dead at the scene. The driver of the semi was not injured.


Lawmakers Examine Possible Uses for Former Disease Lab Facility

FARMINGVILLE, N.Y. (AP) — Environmentalists and elected officials appear united in their desire to keep commercial development off New York's Plum Island. The future of the island off the eastern tip of Long Island has been the topic of a long-simmering debate. Congress voted in 2009 to close a lab there that studies infectious animal diseases. Congress envisioned selling Plum Island to defray the costs of a lab now being built in Kansas. But the sale's not expected until at least 2020 and no one's sure how much Plum Island could fetch. A state Assembly subcommittee met Monday to discuss options for the 843-acre property. Donald Trump has mused about possibly buying it, although local zoning laws would restrict most development. Environmentalists and others want it to become a nature preserve or a park.


California Man Sentenced for Driving Load of Heroin to KC 

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) — A California man who was being paid to drive drugs to Kansas City has been sentenced to 46 months in federal prison without parole. Prosecutors say 21-year-old Juan Carlos Ahumada of San Ferdinando, California, pleaded guilty to possession with the intent to deliver heroin after being caught on Interstate 70 with 15 pounds of the drug. Ahumada was pulled over by a Kansas Highway Patrol trooper in Wabaunsee County, where investigators found a hidden compartment where the heroin was concealed. In his plea deal with prosecutors, Ahumada admitted he was hired to drive a load of the drug from California to Kansas City. He was sentenced Monday.


Nature Foundation Unveils $3.3M in Monarch Butterfly Grants 

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — A consortium that includes agribusiness Monsanto and a national wildlife group says $3.3 million in grants are being doled out as part of an initial bid to stem the worrisome decline of monarch butterflies. The 22 grants announced Monday by the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation will be matched by more than $6.7 million from the recipients, who are in at least a dozen states. The money is meant to restore up to 33,000 U.S. acres of habitat in areas identified by experts as key to monarch butterfly recovery. St. Louis-based Monsanto said in March it was committing $4 million, most of it to the foundation's Monarch Butterfly Conservation Fund. Critics have partly blamed Monsanto's popular weed killer Roundup for knocking out monarch butterflies' habitat.


$3.5M Garden Opens Outside Wichita Art Museum 

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A $3.5 million art garden has opened outside the Wichita Art Museum after about three years of planning and installation. Hundreds of people attended a grand opening and dedication event on Saturday. Museum benefactors Paula Downing and Martie Walker came up with the idea to install the art garden in 2012. The Wichita Eagle reports that the garden is designed to represent a natural prairie environment. It features 13 new tree varieties, seven deciduous shrub varieties, 37 perennial varieties and 14 grass varieties. Museum director Patricia McDonnell hopes the garden will be a "welcome mat" for the community to access the art museum. The art garden was funded entirely by private donors.


Officials Try to Increase Attendance at RoadRunners Games 

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The Shawnee County Commission is trying to rally community support for the Topeka RoadRunners amateur hockey team. Commissioners voted in July to adopt a lease agreement to keep the team through at least the end of the 2017-18 season. After attending the team's home opener this month, commission chairman Kevin Cook lamented that many of the seats were empty. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that average attendance at the team's first four games this season was down about 40 percent compared to last season's average. Cook is encouraging residents who haven't attended a game to check it out and is sharing his concerns over the team's attendance with fans who urged the commission to keep the RoadRunners in Topeka.


Royals Beat Indians 3-0 on Sunday

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — The AL Central champion Royals beat the Cleveland Indians 3-0 Sunday. Royals' pitcher Chris Young (11-6), making his first start since July 28 after nearly two months in the bullpen, pitched five hitless innings. He allowed one walk, struck out two and threw 68 pitches. Danny Duffy struck out two in a perfect sixth for the Royals, who already have clinched their first division title in 30 years.  The Indians fell four games behind Houston for the AL's second wild card with eight games left. The Royals hit the road to play both the Cubs and the White Sox in Chicago then finish the regular season with a three-game series in Minneapolis. 


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