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Headlines for Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Here's what's happening in our area

Kansas Tax Collections Fall Nearly $45 Million Short of Expectations for September

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas says its tax collections fell nearly $45 million short of expectations in September.  Monday's report 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.


Kansas Task Force Proposes Ending Monthly Tax Comparisons

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A task force appointed by Kansas Republican Governor Sam Brownback suggests ending the monthly reports that compare the state's tax collections to projections of how much money it'll bring in. A proposal released Tuesday by the task force instead wants to do monthly reports only comparing tax collections to the previous year. Task force chairman Sam Williams said the goal is to focus on actual tax collections rather than imperfect projections. Monthly comparisons of tax collections against projections have long provided a look at how the state's budget is faring, but have become a political problem for Brownback as tax collections have regularly fallen short of expectations. Balancing the budget has been difficult for Kansas since GOP legislators slashed personal income taxes in 2012 and 2013 at Brownback's urging


Some Lawmakers Fear Medicaid Application Backlog Will Grow 

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Some Kansas lawmakers are expressing concern over whether another backlog of Medicaid applications in the state will emerge. The Topeka-Capital Journal reports that the Kansas Department of Health and Environment is on track to clear a current KanCare backlog after the agency told federal officials in June the number of unprocessed applications was underreported by 12,000. The backlog developed in 2015, spurred by problems with a new electronic eligibility system. The department retained temporary staff and enlisted the help of the Department for Children and Families to deal with the backlog. State Representative Jim Ward says he thinks that it's probable that another backlog will emerge and that the agency is unprepared to keep the volume of applications under control.


USGS: 3.5-Magnitude Earthquake Hits Northern Oklahoma

PAWNEE, Okla. (AP) — A 3.5-magnitude earthquake struck northern Oklahoma this (TUE) morning, hitting the same spot where a record-setting temblor was centered a month ago.  The U.S. Geological Survey says the quake hit shortly after 4 am with an epicenter about 10 miles northwest of Pawnee, or about 75 miles northeast of Oklahoma City. There are no reports of damage or injury.  On September 3, Oklahoma's strongest earthquake on record struck Pawnee and was felt widely throughout the central United States. Scientists later said the 5.8-magnitude quake led to the discovery of a new fault line, leading to worries that oil and gas production could trigger more powerful earthquakes.  Scientists have linked Oklahoma's sharp increase in earthquakes in recent years to the underground injection of wastewater during oil and gas production.


October Storms Could Bring Hail, Tornadoes to Central US 

NORMAN, Okla. (AP) — Large hail, damaging winds and isolated tornadoes are possible in parts of the central United States on Tuesday as early autumn storms pass through. In all, about 12 million people living in an area stretching from Oklahoma to Minnesota and South Dakota could see severe weather Tuesday. The Storm Prediction Center in Norman, Oklahoma, says central and eastern Kansas and north-central Oklahoma are at the greatest risk for bad weather. Forecasters say baseball-sized hail is possible in the Wichita area, along with straight-line winds of up to 75 mph. Forecasters say an "isolated but important tornadic storm" is possible in southern Kansas or northern Oklahoma. October tornadoes are less common than springtime storms but not unheard of. According to the Storm Prediction Center, 40 tornadoes were recorded in October 2015.


Leawood Man, Others Ordered to Pay $1.2 Billion in 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, 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.


Woman Ordered to Stand Trial in Killing of Son's Friend

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A 43-year-old woman has been ordered to stand trial in the fatal 2007 shooting of her son's teenage friend in Topeka. A Shawnee County judge found sufficient evidence Monday for Michelle Antoinette Filby to be tried on a second-degree murder charge in the killing of 16-year-old Michael Torneden. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that Torneden's death originally was reported as a possible suicide but was ruled a homicide after an autopsy. Filby's son, Lance Olsson, testified that his mother said the shooting was an accident. Olsson had talked to Torneden beforehand. Olsson said Torneden talked about wanting to resume high school. The pair planned to walk to school the next day. Filby was arrested in May in Torrance, California. Her trial is scheduled to start in February.


University of St. Mary Mourns Slain Basketball Player

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) — The University of St. Mary is mourning the death of former basketball player Marcus Mondaine. The Kansas City Star reports that Mondaine was found fatally shot Saturday in a Kansas City, Missouri, house. An arrest warrant has been issued for a person of interest. Mondaine was finishing his final semester at the private liberal arts university in Leavenworth. Before his last season ended this spring, he was twice been named the Kansas Collegiate Athletic Conference Men's Basketball Defensive Player of the Week. He also played for State Fair Community College in Sedalia, Missouri, and Lincoln College Preparatory Academy in Kansas City, Missouri. University President Diane Steele described Mondaine in a statement as a "humble, gentle soul." A prayer service is planned for Tuesday night at the university's Annunciation Chapel.


Justices Won't Halt Mental Exam for Boy Who Killed 2 in Fire

HUTCHINSON, Kan. (AP) — The Kansas Supreme Court won't block a mental evaluation for a Hutchinson boy who was convicted of killing his mother and sister in a fire. The Hutchinson News reports that the justices on Monday denied Reno County District Attorney Keith Schroeder's request for a temporary stay or injunction. The request stems from a Reno County judge ordering Samuel Vonachen to remain in juvenile custody pending sentencing and then ordering that the teen undergo a mental evaluation. Schroeder says a pre-sentence examination is "needless." Vonachen was convicted in August of two counts of first-degree murder and other charges for the September 2013 fire that killed 47-year-old Karla Jo Vonachen and 11-year-old Audrey Vonachen. He was tried as an adult, although he was 14 at the time of the fire.


Man Killed Outside Kansas City, Kansas, Apartment Complex

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) — Authorities are investigating a killing outside a Kansas City, Kansas, apartment complex.  Police said in a news release that officers found the victim Monday afternoon while responding to a report that shots had been fired. The release said the man died from apparent gunshot wounds.  The name of the suspect wasn't immediately released, pending notification of relatives.  Police say no suspect information is available. Anyone with information is urged to call a tips hotline.


Bicyclist from Australia Killed in Kansas Crash

EUREKA, Kan. (AP) — Authorities say a bicycle rider from Australia has been killed in a Kansas crash.  The Kansas Highway Patrol says a car struck the bike from behind Monday on U.S. Highway 54 east of the Greenwood County town of Eureka. The bicyclist landed in a ditch and was killed. The patrol identified the victim as 60-year-old Michael John Balfe. He was from the town of Claremont, a suburb of the Western Australian capital city of Perth.  The driver of the car wasn't hurt.  No other information was immediately available.


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.


Supreme Court Declines Review of 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.


Outdoor Giant Bass Pro Will Acquire Rival Cabela's for $4.5 Billion

OMAHA, Neb. (AP) — Outdoor gear giants Bass Pro and Cabela's will combine in a $4.5 billion deal announced Monday.  Bass Pro is paying Cabela's shareholders $65.50 cash per share. The deal creates uncertainty about jobs in Cabela's home state of Nebraska. The combined companies plan to keep some operations in Sidney and Lincoln, Nebraska, but it's not immediately clear how many jobs might be lost.  Bass Pro CEO Johnny Morris says he hopes to continue growing the Cabela's brand alongside his own Springfield, Missouri, based chain.  Capital One will take over running Cabela's credit card unit as part of the deal. Activist investment firm Elliott Management began pushing for significant changes at Cabela's last fall. Cabela's employs about 2,000 people in the western Nebraska town of Sidney, which has about 7,000 residents.  The Cabela's store in Kansas City, Kansas is one of the state's top tourist destinations.  


Jayhawks' Shelley-Smith Retires Due to Concussions 

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — University of Kansas offensive lineman Jordan Shelley-Smith has decided to retire from football due to repeated concussions, the second player in the Big 12 to make that decision this week. The senior has played a minimal number of snaps after sustaining a concussion in before the season began. He also missed three games last season after sustaining a concussion against Oklahoma State. Oklahoma linebacker Tay Evans decided to retire on Monday. And just last year, Kansas linebacker Jake Love made the same decision after dealing with several concussions.


Man Escapes Minimum-Security Prison in Kansas City

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Authorities are searching for an offender who escaped from a minimum-security prison in Kansas City.  The Missouri Department of Corrections announced Monday in a news release that Brian Deconink scaled the roof of the Kansas City Reentry Center's main building Sunday during outside recreation. The release said he had help from another offender.  The center houses inmates nearing parole; Deconink was set to be paroled in March.  Authorities say Deconink was serving a five-year sentence for possession of a controlled substance in a correctional center from DeKalb County. He has past convictions for burglary, stealing, robbery and resisting arrest.  Authorities are investigating the escape from the center. It was a hallway house before it was converted last year to a minimum-security prison.


Democrats Ramp Up Kansas Registration Drives After Court Rulings on Voting

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.


Haskell 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.


Missouri Man Sentenced in 3-Part Cattle Fraud Scheme

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — A northern Missouri man was sentenced to two years in prison without parole for cattle fraud schemes that cost his victims $262,000.  Federal prosecutors announced Monday that 22-year-old Garland Joseph Nelson, of Braymer, also was ordered to pay restitution.  Nelson admitted that he sold at least 114 mortgaged cattle that were pledged to the Farm Service Agency and spent funds for himself, rather than remitting sale proceeds to the FSA. He also received two loans to buy and raise cattle but then sold livestock under different names to keep the proceeds.  Nelson also removed identification from cattle that were owned by others. He commingled the cattle with his own and with those owned by his neighbor and landlord, in order to sell livestock undetected.


Supreme Court Rejects Fort Leavenworth Inmate's Challenge to Military Death Penalty

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Supreme Court won't hear a challenge to the death penalty for members of the military.  Yesterday (MON), the justices 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. 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.


Kansas City Tilapia Farm, Garden Project to Continue 

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — An agreement has been reached that will allow a tilapia farm and community garden project in a poor Kansas City neighborhood to move forward. Dre Taylor started the project about a year ago to provide food in the city's food desert. Taylor wanted to use boys in a mentoring group he founded called Males to Men to help with the project. The Kansas City Star reports that Kansas City Keys president Harrel Johnson Jr. barred Taylor from the property when construction was nearly complete. Kansas City Keys owns the project site. Kansas City Keys bought the land from Land Bank of Kansas City. When Land Bank's executive director learned of the issue, he sent a letter to Kansas City Keys board members, reminding them that the land's purchase was contingent on the project. 


Still No Break in Case, 5 Years After Baby Disappeared in Kansas City 

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — A Kansas City woman is asking the public to come forward with tips five years after her baby disappeared. The Kansas City Star reports that Deborah Bradley issued her plea Monday night. Her daughter, Lisa Irwin, was 10 months old when she went missing from her home on October 4, 2011. Her disappearance drew national attention and sparked a massive search by thousands of law enforcement officers and volunteers. Bradley says she knows that someone knows something and that she will "never give up." Bradley and the girl's father, Jeremy Irwin, told police someone came into their home in the early morning and took the girl while Bradley was asleep and Irwin was working. Police say the case remains open. A vigil is planned for Saturday night.

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