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Headlines for Wednesday, January 4, 2017

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

Kansas December Tax Revenues Top Estimates by $6 Million

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas revenue officials say tax collections slightly exceeded estimates in December. The Kansas Department of Revenue said Tuesday that tax revenue in December was nearly $531 million, exceeding revenue estimates by about $6 million, or about 1 percent. Combined with higher than expected revenues in November, the state's budget shortfall in the current fiscal year is now about $342 million. The new numbers come after state officials drastically reduced the revenue forecasts in November. The biggest gains in December were in individual income taxes, which totaled $2.2 million, or nearly 5 percent, above the official estimates. Acting Revenue Secretary Sam Williams says he hopes the new numbers indicate improved purchasing power in the agriculture and oil and gas sectors.

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Schools, Abortion, Death Penalty Top Kansas Court's Docket

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The Kansas Supreme Court is heading into a year in which it could shape policy with major rulings on school funding and abortion. The court heard arguments in September on whether Kansas is spending enough money on public schools to provide a suitable education for every child. Four school districts sued the state in 2010. They argue that the $4.1 billion a year Kansas spends on schools is roughly $800 million short of what's required. The justices could rule on that matter at any time. The court could also reshape abortion policy with a decision in a lawsuit filed by two doctors challenging a ban enacted in 2015 on a common, but controversial, second-trimester procedure. The court also could decide capital punishment cases, and Chief Justice Lawton Nuss will push legislators to increase court employees' pay.

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Kansas Legislature to Stream Live Audio of Committee Hearings

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The Kansas Legislature is planning to begin streaming live audio of committee hearings over the internet. The three rooms that host the most high-profile committees will be the first to have live audio later this month. The other 10 rooms used for hearings are expected to have live audio before the end of the 2017 session. Kansas open government advocates have long sought streaming audio, which was mandated in the final budget bill lawmakers passed last year. The program is funded by a three-year, $199,000 grant from the Information Network of Kansas, which helps public entities launch government internet services. Residents have been able to listen to Kansas Senate or House sessions in real time on the internet for several years. State officials say there aren't immediate plans to begin streaming video because it would be too expensive.

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Attorney for Nevada Man Faults Kansas Forfeiture Law 

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — An attorney for a Las Vegas man who had $32,000 seized says the Kansas Highway Patrol is getting away with "highway robbery" through its asset forfeiture program. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that the money was taken from Salvador Franco in March when he pulled into a central Kansas rest stop. No charges have been filed, but court documents allege Franco's money is tied to the sale of controlled substances. Franco, however, says he intended to use the cash to buy a truck in St. Louis. In Kansas, law enforcement can seize a person's property or money if it's suspected of having a connection to criminal activity and an individual doesn't have to be charged or convicted of a crime.

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Man Pleads Guilty to Killing Kansas Police Detective

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) _ A man accused of killing a Kansas police detective has agreed to a plea arrangement with prosecutors and pleaded guilty to capital murder. Curtis Ayers pleaded guilty Tuesday to gunning down Kansas City, Kansas, Detective Brad Lancaster on May 9. He also pleaded guilty to nine other charges related to Lancaster's death. The 28-year-old Ayers agreed to waive a jury trial and serve life without the possibility of parole and the state agreed to not seek the death penalty. Prosecutors say Lancaster was shot seven times when he exchanged gunfire with Ayers near the Kansas Speedway. Ayers then stole the detective's car before carjacking another vehicle and then stealing a third. He drove into Kansas City, Missouri, where police shot and wounded him before taking him into custody.

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Court Rules City's Interests Outweigh Worker's Speech Rights 

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A federal appeals court has ruled that the "operational interests" of a city as a public employer outweigh the free speech rights of a former secretary who provided an affidavit in support of a fired police officer's lawsuit. The 10th Circuit Court of Appeals sided with the city of Hays. A three-judge panel found administrative secretary Firma Helget's disclosure of confidences in the voluntary affidavit caused her superiors to lose trust in her, undermining the department's operations. Helget was fired in 2012 after her affidavit saying she had been instructed to not order a ballistic vest for a police officer known for union organizing. The officer contended in a wrongful termination lawsuit the city decided not to order the vest prior to the incident used to justify his termination.

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E-Cigarette Retailers Battle Lawmakers on New Tax
 
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A group representing electronic cigarette retailers in Kansas is fighting to prevent the state from enforcing a new tax on vaping fluid. The Lawrence Journal-World reports that a lobbyist for the Kansas Vapers Association argued during a legislative committee meeting Tuesday that the bill imposing the new tax on e-cigarettes was drafted poorly and made the original intent unclear. The association told the Joint Committee on Administrative Rules and Regulations that legislators should revisit the law before allowing the Kansas Department of Revenue to enforce the tax. A provision to a tax bill passed in 2015 imposed a new tax on vaping fluid of 20 cents per milliliter of "consumable material."

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Mumps Cases Reported at University of Kansas 

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — Health officials have confirmed one case of mumps at the University of Kansas and are investigating nine other suspected cases since mid-December. The Lawrence-Douglas County Health Department announced the findings Wednesday. Mary Beverly, the department's director of epidemiology, says it's not clear where the cases were contracted but some likely spread before the university's winter break on December 16. The first day for spring classes is January 17. The Lawrence Journal-World reports that Beverly said some of the students who became ill lived in group housing but others did not. She declined to share more details. The University of Missouri reported more than 220 mumps cases by mid-December. Federal officials say the 258 cases of mumps nationwide as of early December is the largest outbreak since 2006.

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Apple Doesn't Drop in Manhattan's New Year's Celebration 

MANHATTAN, Kan. (AP) — Just like in New York City, technical glitches marred the New Year's Eve celebration in the "Little Apple" of Manhattan, Kansas. A large crowd gathered in the Aggieville entertainment district to watch an apple drop at the stroke of midnight. But the crowd was disappointed when the apple remained on top of a pole. Linda Mays, executive director of the Aggieville Business Association, says the winch that drops the apple malfunctioned a few hours before the event and efforts to fix it were unsuccessful. The Manhattan Mercury reports that fireworks went off when the countdown to midnight reached zero and Mays says the event was still a success. In New York, Mariah Carey ran into technical problems during her performance at the ball drop celebration in Times Square.

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Hays Medical Center, University of Kansas Hospital Partnership Official 

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) — The University of Kansas Hospital and Hays Medical Center are officially partners. The partnership was announced in September but became official with the new year. The Kansas City Star reports the agreement more closely aligns the Hays hospital with the state's only academic/teaching hospital and allows University of Kansas medical residents to work in Hays. The two hospitals will have a new operations council to direct the partnership. Hospital staff will continue to be employed by their current organizations and the Hays Medical Center Board of Directors will remain in place.

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New Kansas Congressman's Son 'Dabs' During Capitol Photo 

WASHINGTON (AP) - A new Kansas Congressman is dishing out discipline after his 17-year-old son pulled a dance move resembling a sneeze during a photo shoot with House Speaker Paul Ryan after the U.S. House of Representatives swearing-in ceremony at the Capitol. Newly elected U.S. Representative Roger Marshall of Great Bend tweeted: "He's grounded." During the photo shoot Tuesday, Cal Marshall held the Bible with his father and Ryan. As the photographer prepared to take photos, the son raised one arm in the dance move popularized by sports celebrities known as dabbing, hiding his face as if he were about to sneeze. Marshall, an obstetrician, won the 1st District seat after beating incumbent tea party favorite Tim Huelskamp in the Republican primary.

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Missouri Woman Sentenced for Embezzling Nearly $5.3 Million 

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — A federal judge sentenced a suburban Kansas City woman to eight years in prison without parole for embezzling millions of dollars from her employer. Jane Barnes, of Lee's Summit also was ordered Wednesday to pay $5.29 million in restitution. Barnes pleaded guilty in August to embezzling from ACI Boland Architects, where she was an officer manager. She committed fraud hundreds of times over 10 years. Prosecutors say she used the payroll system to pay herself unauthorized amounts above her salary and increased her salary without authorization. She also created payroll checks to herself and forged the signature of a company's partner to deposit them in her bank. Barnes used the stolen money to travel, buy cars, furnish her house, eat out and gave money to relatives.

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Report: Kansas Wheat Condition Mixed as State Remains Dry

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) _ The government's January crops report says most of Kansas has remained dry this past month, prompting some concerns about development of the state's winter wheat. The National Agricultural Statistics Service reported Tuesday that the condition of Kansas wheat is rated as 5 percent very poor and 14 percent poor. About 37 percent is in fair condition with 42 percent in good and 2 percent in excellent shape. About 92 percent of the cotton crop has now been harvested in the state. Calving is also underway in Kansas with 7 percent complete. Lambing progress is 3 percent complete.  

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Sex Offender Registration Ordered for Olathe Van Driver 

OLATHE, Kan. (AP) — A suburban Kansas City transport van driver accused of sexually molesting a young woman who is developmentally disabled has been sentenced to 30 days in jail and three years of probation. The Kansas City Star reports that 75-year-old Terry Mize Curry was sentenced Tuesday in Johnson County for mistreatment of a dependent adult. He'll also be required to register as a sex offender. Surveillance video captured Curry kissing and touching a 20-year-old woman who was a participant in a program for young adults with special needs. Court documents say he was heard on the video telling her he would lose his job and she would be taken out of the program if anyone found out. Curry drove for the company that the Olathe school district contracted to provide transportation.

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Iraqi Man Sentenced for False Army Translator Claims 

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) — A former University of Kansas graduate student who falsely claimed on his visa application that he served as a translator for the U.S. Army in Iraq has been sentenced to two years in federal prison. The U.S. attorney's office says 35-year-old Goran Sabah Ghafour was sentenced Wednesday for visa fraud and aggravated identify theft. The Iraqi man lived in Lawrence while he was a student. He admitted through his plea that he applied for a visa under a program allowing Iraqi nationals who worked for or on behalf of the U.S. government in Iraq to qualify for a visa. Prosecutors say he fabricated a letter from an Army officer who didn't know him to support the claim. Ghafour graduated in May with his doctorate.

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Wichita Eagle to Move to New Headquarters 

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) _ The Wichita Eagle will move its news operations to Old Town Square, an entertainment and shopping district in downtown Wichita. President and publisher Roy Heatherly announced Tuesday that the Eagle had signed an agreement to move its business and about 100 employees to Old Town. The Wichita Eagle reports the building is expected to be ready by April. Heatherly says the new location will help the Eagle emphasize its digital and multimedia operations, including digital screens on the front of the building that will project the paper's website and breaking news. Heatherly is still looking for a second building for a distribution center. The newspaper moved its printing operations to Kansas City last year. The Eagle's current building will be converted to a regional headquarters for the Cargill Corporation. 

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Explosion in Grandview Rocks Nearby Neighborhood, Businesses 

GRANDVIEW, Mo. (AP) — Investigators have found evidence that fireworks were being manufactured at a business that exploded and burned in suburban Kansas City. The explosion at JW Lawn Service in Grandview Tuesday broke windows and caused damage to at least nine houses and 19 nearby apartments and nearly 50 people were evacuated from nearby apartments. Residents from miles away reported hearing the explosion. No injuries were reported but the building was destroyed. ATF spokesman John Ham said Wednesday containers with chemicals and other evidence of fireworks manufacturing were found at the business. He says investigators are searching for the source of the ignition. Ham also said the owner of the business is not a licensed fireworks manufacturer. Natural gas was ruled out as a cause because business had no natural gas service.

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Explosion in Grandview Rocks Nearby Neighborhood, Businesses 

GRANDVIEW, Mo. (AP) — Investigators are scouring the debris from an explosion at a suburban Kansas City lawn care business. The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives said in a news release Wednesday that no injuries have been reported. Fire crews evacuated 46 people after the explosion Tuesday night in Grandview. The release says 19 apartments and nine houses had windows that were broken. The release said firefighters reported hearing ammunition going off. Natural gas has been ruled out as the cause because the business had no natural gas service. The ATF says investigators are talking to the owner of the business.

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KU Center Azubuike Has Surgery on Wrist, Out for Season 

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — University of Kansas Jayhawks center Udoka Azubuike had surgery Wednesday to repair torn ligaments in his left wrist, and coach Bill Self said the big freshman should be able to resume playing by mid-summer. Azubuike hurt the wrist during practice late last month. He had just begun to assume a bigger role with the third-ranked Jayhawks, giving them a big presence that they'd been lacking in the paint. He played 11 games, starting his last six, and averaged 5 points and 4.4 rebounds. The Jayhawks' interior defense has suffered in the two weeks since he's been out. The procedure on the 7-footer was performed by Dr. Thomas Graham of Northwell Health at the Crystal Clinic Orthopaedic Center in Akron, Ohio. Self said doctors called it "a complete success." KU (13-1, 2-0 Big 12) plays Texas Tech on Saturday.

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Kansas Jayhawks Beat K-State at the Buzzer, 90-88 

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — The Kansas Jayhawks' Svi Mykhailiuk went the length of the court and threw in a finger-tip layup as the buzzer sounded to give No. 3 Kansas a 90-88 victory over Kansas State on Tuesday night. Josh Jackson matched a career high with 22 points to go with nine rebounds and six assists, and Landen Lucas added 18 points and 12 rebounds, as the Jayhawks (13-1, 2-0 Big 12) pushed their home winning streak to 50 in one of the closest games during that streak. The Kansas State Wildcats (13-2, 1-1) had the first chance to take the lead in the final seconds, but Dean Wade missed a 3-pointer and the ball bounced out of bounds with 5.6 ticks left on the clock. Kansas struggled to get the ball inbounds, but once it got into Mykhailiuk's hands, he used his long stride to carry him down the court. His buzzer-beating basket gave him 11 points in the game. It also prevented coach Bill Self from losing to Kansas State for the second time at Allen Fieldhouse. K-Sate's Wade matched a career high with 20 points.
 

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