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Headlines for Wednesday, August 24, 2016

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

U.S. Appeals Court Considers Kansas Voting Case

DENVER (AP) - A federal appeals court in Denver will decide whether Kansas can keep thousands of people who haven't presented documents proving they're citizens from voting in November's election.  Three judges from the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals heard arguments in the case Tuesday from Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach and the American Civil Liberties Union but didn't indicate how soon they could rule.  Kansas wants the court to overturn a ruling by a federal judge in May that temporarily blocked the state from disenfranchising people who registered at motor vehicle offices but didn't provide documents such as birth certificates or naturalization papers. That was about 18,000 people at the time. If the order is allowed to stand, Kobach says up to an estimated 50,000 people who haven't proven they're citizens could be able to cast ballots in the fall.  The ACLU says the federal motor voter law intended to increase registration doesn't allow states to ask applicants for extra documents.


Brownback: It's Time to Consider a New School Funding System 

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas Governor Sam Brownback wants to hear what the public thinks about how schools are funded. Brownback told WIBW-AM that the old system had "a lot of problems," and it's time to talk about a new one. He said Tuesday that his office plans to announce a system for collecting public feedback in the next couple of weeks. He says people should also discuss the issue with Legislative candidates. Last year, the state's per-pupil funding formula was junked in favor of predictable grants to districts that allowed lawmakers to better control state spending. The plan is to replace the grants with a new funding system. An ongoing legal fight clouds the discussions. The state Supreme Court could rule by the year's end on whether lawmakers are underfunding schools.


Kansas Launches Crime Victim Notification System 

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas is launching a centralized computer system that will give victims of crime the ability to track offenders being held in county correctional facilities. The Lawrence Journal-World reports that the Kansas Victim Information and Notification Everyday, or VINE, system, is a telephone and web-based system that is a free and anonymous way for people to track the status of their offenders. People can register to receive automatic notifications about their offender's status, including in which facilities they're being held and their scheduled date of release. The system also allows access to offender information in other participating states. Information about inmates in state facilities is already centralized through the Kansas Department of Corrections, but there was previously no system for inmates in county facilities. Corrections databases from 18 counties have been activated in the system.


Judge Delays Sentencing for Kansas Man in Foiled Bomb Plot 

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A federal judge has delayed sentencing for a Kansas man who has admitted aiding a wannabe Islamic State jihadist's plan to detonate what they thought was a bomb at Fort Riley. U.S. District Judge Daniel Crabtree heard a psychologist testify Wednesday at the hearing for 29-year-old Alexander Blair. The U.S. attorney's office says the judge wanted some time to go over the material before handing down a sentence. No new sentencing date has been set. Blair pleaded guilty in May to a conspiracy count that carries up to five years' imprisonment. He admitted loaning John T. Booker $100 to pay for the storage of the device during an FBI undercover operation.


Fatal Topeka Fire Was Set Intentionally by 1 of 3 Victims

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Authorities say one of the three victims of a deadly Topeka apartment fire intentionally set the blaze. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that Janelle Owens ignited the fire in a bed in the living room of her second-floor apartment. The fire burned upward, killing 59-year-old Rhonda Gill and her daughter, 41-year-old Letitia Gill. Topeka Fire Marshal Mike Martin said Tuesday that the Gills had sought shelter Monday in a closet in a rear bedroom. A man in the unit with Owens was able to get outside and was taken to a hospital. His condition wasn't immediately known. Several other people were able to make it out of the building safely. Authorities estimate damage to the 12-unit, three-story building at $400,000. Damage to the building's contents is estimated at $100,000.


State: No Single Cause for High Lead Levels in Saline County 

SALINA, Kan. (AP) — State health officials say they have not discovered a single cause for high lead levels found in some children in Saline County. The Kansas Department of Health and Environment has been investigating since routine physical exams found 32 children in and around Saline County with elevated levels of lead in their blood. The Kansas City Star reports that the health department has notified some Salina families that the lead poisoning was caused by conditions inside their homes. Department spokeswoman Cassie Sparks says the agency's findings will be officially released in September but the letters are going out to the families so they can begin addressing lead-causing issues in their homes, such as old lead paint. She says inspectors found no common link between all the cases.


Kansas Forms Task Force to Study How Agencies Can Use Drones 

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas has formed a task force to study how state agencies can use drones in their operations. The Kansas Department of Transportation said in a news release Wednesday that the Unmanned Aerial Systems Joint Task Force will also consider how state government can help the private sector use drones. Task force members are Josh Row, assistant secretary of Agriculture; Billy Brown, agribusiness development coordinator for the Agriculture Department; Matt Keith, director of research for the Department of Commerce; Chris Tymeson, chief counsel for the Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism; Frank Papish, assistant director of the KBI; and Ron Seitz, chief of KDOT's Division of Engineering and Design. In July, the state named Air Force veteran Bo Brock as its first director of an unmanned aircraft systems program in Kansas.


Southern Kansas Flooding Damages Homes, Businesses

MULVANE, Kan. (AP) - Southern Kansas flooding victims are cleaning up the mess torrential rains left behind.  The Wichita Eagle  reports that Mulvane city administrator Kent Hixson says 44 homes and five businesses inside the city limits saw some sort of flooding damage from Friday's deluge. The National Weather Service says between 6 and 7 inches of rain fell in about two hours.  As of Monday, damage estimates in Mulvane had already reached about $1 million. And they could rise as homeowners, insurance companies and inspectors get a closer look at the losses.  Hixson says the heavy rains "just overwhelmed our drainage systems" and sewer system.  Nadine Sanchez says she "wouldn't wish this on anybody." Her losses included letters she exchanged with her husband while he was away on military duty in Germany.


Former Republican Now Seeks Kansas Congressional Seat as Independent

CLYDE, Kan. (AP) - A fifth-generation farmer who nearly upset incumbent 1st District Congressman Tim Huelskamp in the Republican primary two years ago is running as an independent against the Republican who dethroned Huelskamp in August.  Alan LaPolice of Clyde announced Tuesday that he has officially been placed on the November 8 ballot for the 1st District race. He will face two opponents: Republican physician Roger Marshall, who beat the tea party-backed incumbent in the GOP primary, and Libertarian candidate Kerry Burt.  LaPolice says as an independent candidate he doesn't have the baggage attached to candidates for the two major parties and is the only one in the race who can hope to accomplish anything in Washington.  LaPolice waged a surprisingly close primary race in 2014 against Huelskamp, pulling in more than 45 percent of the vote.


Kansas, Texas and Other States Sue President over Transgender Issues

AUSTIN, Texas (AP) - Kansas and four other states are again suing the Obama administration over its efforts to strengthen discrimination protections for transgender people.  The lawsuit filed Tuesday in a North Texas federal court seeks to block parts of a nondiscrimination mandate of President Barack Obama's health care law. Republican state officials say the rules could force doctors to help with gender transition against their medical judgment or religious convictions.  Transgender rights advocates called that a far-fetched hypothetical and say the rules simply require doctors to make decisions without bias.  The lawsuit was filed a day after a federal judge in Texas blocked a directive that would have required U.S. public schools to let transgender students use bathrooms consistent with their gender identity.  Texas, Wisconsin, Kentucky and Nebraska also joined the latest lawsuit.


Former US Senators to Appear at University of Kansas Forum 

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — Former Republican U.S. senators Nancy Kassebaum and Bob Dole are set to participate in a forum at the University of Kansas in Lawrence. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that the forum will be held September 17 at the Dole Institute of Politics, and that the two longtime Kansas politicians will reflect on the current Congress compared to the Congress when they served. Dole served in the U.S. House of Representatives from 1961 until 1969 and in the U.S. Senate from 1969 until 1996. The 93-year-old was the Republican Party's presidential nominee in 1996 and lost the election to President Bill Clinton. The 84-year-old Kassebaum served in the Senate from 1978 until 1987. The forum will be open to the public and admission will be free of charge.


Fatal Shooting of Co-Worker 'A Reckless Beyond Reckless Act' 

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A Wichita man has been sentenced to three years and two months in prison for fatally shooting a co-worker. The Wichita Eagle reports that 22-year-old Jacob Pulliam was sentenced Tuesday in Sedgwick County for killing 19-year-old Mekko Stumblingbear in April. Pulliam had pleaded guilty to involuntary manslaughter last month. In exchange, prosecutors agreed to not file charges against him in an unrelated methamphetamine possession and drug distribution case from 2015. Pulliam had requested probation, saying the shooting was an accident. He says he had pointed a gun at Stumblingbear and fired, not knowing it was loaded while some men played with Airsoft rifles before work. Initially he told police Stumblingbear shot himself. But District Judge Ben Burgess characterized the shooting as a "reckless beyond reckless act."


Hutch Teen on Trial for Setting Fire that Killed His Mother, Sister

HUTCHINSON, Kan. (AP) - Testimony is underway in the southern Kansas trial of teenager charged as an adult in the killing of his mother and 11-year-old sister in a 2013 house fire.  Samuel Vonachen is being tried in Reno County on two counts of premeditated first-degree murder.  Vonachen was 14 in September 2013 when he allegedly used gasoline to ignite his family's Hutchinson home. The blaze killed 11-year-old Audrey Vonachen and their mother, 47-year-old Karla Jo Vonachen. His father escaped.  A prosecutor told jurors Tuesday during opening statements that Vonachen was a compassionless psychopath who wanted his family to die. A defense attorney countered that his client has a dissociative disorder and didn't know what he was doing.


Court: Out-of-State License Plates Don't Justify Search by Kansas Law Officers

State troopers in Kansas can't pull over trucks and cars simply because they have out-of-state license plates from places like Colorado, where marijuana is legal.  A federal appeals court said yesterday (TUE) that law officers in Kansas cannot stop and search motorists for having nothing more than out-of-state tags from states that have legalized marijuana.  Yesterday (TUE), the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals said the officer's reasoning would justify the search of citizens from more than half of the states in the country.  The court reinstated a lawsuit filed by a Colorado motorist against two Kansas Highway Patrol officers who stopped and searched his vehicle while he was driving alone at night on I-70 in Kansas.  The court found the officers violated the Fourth Amendment rights of Peter Vasquez when they searched his car. Twenty-five states permit marijuana use for medicinal purposes.  Colorado, Alaska, Oregon, Washington, and Washington, D.C. also permit some recreational use under state law.  


Ex-Wichita Police Officer Pleads Guilty to Embezzlement

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) _ A retired Wichita police lieutenant has admitted fabricating documents and agreed to forfeit the $56,400 he unlawfully received under a contract to train law enforcement agencies on responses to armed engagement. Kevin P. Vaughn pleaded guilty Tuesday to one count of embezzlement of public funds and one count of mail fraud. The 51-year-old Wichita man acknowledged he falsified reports to make it look like his company, Red Mist Tactical, had completed 15 eight-hour classes the company agreed to provide last year. He also admitted he fabricated student sign-up sheets for the classes and forged signatures of officers. Vaughn retired in March 2015 after 28 years with the Wichita Police Department.  Sentencing is set for November 16.


M. Lee Allison, Former State Geologist, Dies in Arizona 

TUCSON, Ariz. (AP) — The Arizona Daily Star reports that M. Lee Allison, director of the Arizona Geological Survey, died after an accidental fall in his home earlier this month. He was 68. Allison was appointed state geologist in December 2005 and doubled the agency's personnel and activities, even while the agency received a 45 percent drop in state support during his nearly 11-year tenure. Allison had previously been the state geologist in Utah and in Kansas.


1 Dead, 1 Wounded in Kansas City Shooting 

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Authorities are investigating after one man was killed and another wounded in a possible exchange of gunfire. Police say the shooting happened Wednesday morning in the central part of the city. One man was pronounced dead at the scene, while another person arrived at a hospital a short time later. The survivor is listed in serious but stable condition. Police say they believe the two may have shot each other, although the investigation is ongoing. No other information was immediately released.


2 Dozen Students Escape Serious Injury in Missouri Bus Crash 

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Police in Kansas City, Missouri, are investigating a head-on school bus accident in which the district says the roughly two dozen students on the bus escaped serious injuries. Authorities say a sport utility vehicle hit the Raytown school district bus carrying the high school students shortly after 7 am Wednesday at a curve. The district's spokeswoman, Danielle Nixon, says the bus was carrying about 25 students. She says emergency crews checked out the students at the scene, and only minor injuries were reported. A student released to a parent at the scene was taken to a hospital for examination. The SUV's driver was taken to a hospital for treatment of injuries not considered life-threatening.


Prehistoric Tusk Found During Kansas Construction Project 

CUNNINGHAM, Kan. (AP) — A southern Kansas construction project has uncovered a tusk believed to have belonged to a mammoth. The Hutchinson News reports that the discovery was made last week while the Kingman County city of Cunningham was running a sewer line across a grain elevator's property. Skyland Grain CEO David Cron says a Wichita State University associate professor would examine the seven- to eight-foot-long curved tusk Friday. Mammoths are the extinct, prehistoric cousin to the elephant and once roamed the region. Their bones also were discovered on a Scott County farm in recent years. Cron is hoping to get advice on how to extract the tusk without damaging it. Eventually, he would like to see it displayed for the public, although curiosity-seekers are being shooed away from the business for now.


Kansas City Royals Rack Up 9th Straight Victory

MIAMI (AP) _ (AP)_ The Kansas City Royals go for their 10th straight victory tonight. The defending World Series champions blanked Miami 1-0 last (TUE) night in Florida. 


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