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Headlines for Tuesday, December 5, 2017

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

Kansas Headed Toward Debating Tax Increase Again for Schools

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) _ Kansas legislators are considering their second big tax increase within a year because of a state Supreme Court order to increase spending on public schools. Lawmakers formally kicked off their work Monday on a response to the court's order in October that the state's aid to public schools is inadequate under the state constitution. The justice's ruling came despite a new law that phased in a $293 million increase over two years, raising annual spending on public education to $4.3 billion. A joint committee appointed by legislative leaders had its first meeting Monday and it reviewed projections from legislative researchers that the state could face projected budget shortfalls after July 2019. That's even with the $600 million-a-year income tax increase lawmakers passed earlier this year to help balance the budget. 

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Kansas Nursing Homes May Refuse Patients Waiting on Medicaid

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Health care officials say Kansas nursing homes are hesitant to take patients who need hospice care and are waiting on Medicaid coverage because they may not get paid for the care they provide. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that a backlog of Medicaid applications has been affecting Kansas nursing homes in recent years. Beneficiaries of the state's privatized Medicaid program, KanCare, often wait months to see their applications approved while nursing homes provide care for which they aren't paid. Health care official Morgan Bell raised the issue last week to a KanCare oversight committee. She says Topeka-area nursing homes aren't ready to take patients waiting on KanCare and are likely to die soon. A spokeswoman for the Kansas Department for Aging and Disability Services says continuing to reduce the backlog will help build trust between KanCare and nursing homes.

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Topeka Considers Hiking Age for Buying Tobacco Products

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) - Topeka officials are considering increasing the minimum age at which people can legally buy tobacco products. The Topeka City Council will take up the issue at a meeting tonight (TUE). Councilwoman Elaine Schwartz has proposed banning the sale or furnishing of cigarettes and other tobacco-related products, including electronic cigarettes, to anyone younger than 21. The current minimum age to buy tobacco products in Topeka is 18. Eleven people, including many health professionals, spoke in favor of the proposal when the governing body accepted public comments last month. The tobacco sales minimum age already is 21 in more than 270 municipalities in 18 states. Most of the Kansas City metro area has switched in recent years, as well as communities in other parts of the state.

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'Suspicious Packages' Shut Down Interstate 70 for 4 Hours

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Topeka police say two people were taken into custody after suspicious devices prompted the closure of a section of Interstate 70 for four hours. Police Lt. Chris Heaven says officers noticed the suspicious packages in the cab of a vehicle they stopped for several traffic violations early Tuesday in Topeka. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports investigators eventually determined the packages were blasting packs used for large homemade rockets. Heaven says the packs look similar to sticks of dynamite. The discovery prompted the shutdown of east- and westbound traffic on Interstate 70 four about four miles in downtown and west-central Topeka. The interstate was reopened by 6:30 a.m. Heaven says the driver and a passenger were taken into custody on drug and weapons charges.

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Judge Removes Contempt Order Against Larned State Hospital 

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) — A Wyandotte County judge has removed a contempt of court order against Larned State Hospital over records involving a man charged with the murder of a Kansas police officer. Wyandotte County District Judge Wes Griffin issued the order after saying the hospital hadn't responded to repeated record requests on Jamaal Lewis. Lewis is charged with capital murder in the July 2016 shooting death of Kansas City, Kansas, police Captain Robert Melton. The Kansas City Star reports the contempt order was removed Tuesday after officials said the requested records had been supplied. Griffin says mental health experts for the prosecution and defense needed the records to determine if Lewis was competent to stand trial. Melton died last year while trying to stop a suspect in a drive-by shooting.

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Wichita Police to Resume Special Teams Against Violent Crime

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — After a recent spike in homicides, Wichita police will bring back special teams to target problem areas and problem people. The Wichita Eagle reports the department used the team concept in a pilot project from May to August. The teams made 375 arrests. Wichita police Chief Gordon Ramsay announced Monday the department wants to use the teams in the long term because of the past success. The teams will start work January 1. The first 10-officer team will work on drug complaints in residential neighborhoods and respond to violent crimes throughout the city. The second team of 12 officers will work on investigations of known violent offenders, focusing on street gangs and responding to violent crimes. A third, 16-person team will work with community policing teams.

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Kansas Teacher Sues for Discrimination After Firing 

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) — A Kansas teacher who was tripped by a student and knocked unconscious in her classroom is suing the school district for discrimination after she was discharged following an extended work leave. The Kansas City Star reports that former McKinley Elementary School teacher Susan Miles filed a federal lawsuit Monday. The lawsuit alleges Miles was injured after a student tripped her in April 2016. After returning to school in January, she learned she'd lost her job. Miles alleges she experienced retaliation from the school's principal and the school district in Kansas City, Kansas. She also alleges she wasn't given a due process hearing when discharged. Miles has also filed a disability discrimination complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. The district didn't immediately respond to a request for comment.

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Payless to Sell Off Corporate HQ 

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) _ Payless ShoeSource is putting its corporate headquarters in Topeka up for sale. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports the company is seeking $8.5 million for the headquarters, amid rumors that Payless might leave Topeka. Payless emerged from bankruptcy in August. In early November, company spokeswoman Meghan Spreer said the company was evaluating its structure. In mid-November, 170 employees were laid off. That came after another 165 employees were laid off in January, and information technology jobs were outsourced. Spreer confirmed Monday the company is seeking to sell its headquarters.  

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Organizer Apologizes for Confederate Flag at Lawrence Christmas Parade

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — An organizer of Lawrence's Old Fashioned Christmas Parade is apologizing after a Confederate flag was seen at the event. Photos of Saturday's parade show a horse blanket with a Confederate-flag design draped over a horse's saddle. The Lawrence Journal-World reports the young woman and older man riding the horse haven't been identified. Parade organizer Marty Kennedy said the controversial flag has never appeared in the parade's 25 years. He met Monday with Porter Arneill, the city's director of arts and culture, to ensure a similar incident won't happen again. The parade is a private event but it received about $10,000 from a Lawrence transient gas tax program. Kennedy says he and many others didn't notice the flag because the parade attracted thousands of people.

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Relative: Contractor Died of Issues Tied to Iraqi Abduction

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Relatives say one of the three Americans abducted in Baghdad last year has died from complications stemming from his month in captivity. Amanda Frost says her father, Russell Frost, died Thursday at his home in Wichita. Frost was working as a contractor in January 2016 when he and two co-workers, Amr Mohamed and Waiel El-Maadawy, were abducted in Dora, a mixed neighborhood that is home to both Shiites and Sunnis. Iraqi officials said they were in good health when they were handed over to the U.S. Embassy the following month. But Amanda Frost said her father lost more than 40 pounds in captivity because of dehydration and malnutrition, which caused kidney problems. The Americans have sued, alleging that Iran and a prominent Shiite cleric gave material support to their abductors.

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2 People Charged with Murder in Young Wichita Boy's Death 

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Two people are charged with first-degree murder in the death of a 3-year-old Kansas boy whose body was discovered encased in concrete. The remains of Evan C. Brewer were discovered Sept. 2 inside a Wichita house where his mother once lived. The boy's mother, Miranda Miller, and her boyfriend, Stephen Bodine, were charged Tuesday in his death. Bodine and Miller lived at the home where the boy's body was found. The child had been the subject of a custody battle for months. A landlord cleaning out the home alerted police after finding a suspicious concrete structure emitting an odor. The boy is the grandson of former Wichita mayor and gubernatorial candidate Carl Brewer. Miller and Bodine are each being held on $500,000 bail.

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Forest Service Seeks Temporary Firefighters for Kansas, Other Plains States

CHADRON, Neb. (AP) — The U.S. Forest Service is looking for hundreds of new firefighters. The Forest Service wants to hire more than 900 temporary firefighters in Kansas, Nebraska, Colorado, South Dakota and Wyoming. The first of two application phases will run December 15-21 and focus on wildland firefighting jobs. Applicants must be at least 18, have a driver's license and a high school or GED diploma and be a U.S. citizen. Applicants are also needed for engine crews, aviation support and dispatching. Trainees will go through a "fire camp" in Crawford, Nebraska next spring to be certified to fight fires on federal lands.

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Assault Charge Against Ex-KU Football Player Dropped

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — Prosecutors have dropped an assault charge against a former University of Kansas football player accused of threatening his girlfriend with a gun. The charge against 20-year-old Maciah Long was dropped Tuesday after he agreed to plead no contest to marijuana possession. The Lawrence Journal-World reports Long was sentenced to six months of probation and ordered to complete an anger management program. Long was arrested in August after his then-girlfriend reported he threatened her with a gun during an argument. Prosecutors say the woman has moved out of state and didn't want to participate in prosecuting the case. Long, a sophomore from Houston, was dismissed from the team the day after he was arrested. He played linebacker and tight end for the Jayhawks in 2016.

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Missouri Man Charged with 3 Felonies After Being Shot by Police 

SMITHVILLE, Mo. (AP) _ Prosecutors have filed three felony charges against a Missouri man who was wounded in a police shooting after allegedly pointing a gun at officers. The Kansas City Star reports that 63-year-old Larry Caton was charged Monday with assault on a law enforcement officer, unlawful use of a weapon and armed criminal action. He is jailed on $100,000 bond. No attorney is listed for him in online court records. Caton was shot Saturday after three Smithville officers responded to a report of a disturbance. The Clay County sheriff's office said that there was ``an intoxicated man armed with and discharging a gun.'' One officer had minor injuries. The officers involved in the shooting have been placed on paid administrative leave pending an investigation, which is typical procedure.
 

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