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Headlines for Wednesday, October 19, 2016

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

Bond Debt in Kansas More Than Triples over 2 Decades 

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Researchers have found that the bond debt in Kansas has more than tripled in size since the late 1990s. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that legislative researchers created a chart showing the debt levels standing at more than $5 billion in the 2017 fiscal year. From fiscal year 1997 to 2017, the total amount of bond debt increased by 336.4 percent, or $3.8 billion. The bond debt has increased under both Republican and Democratic governors. Bond debt for general government has rocketed upward by 4368 percent over the past 20 years. General government includes the Department of Administration, Commerce, Insurance and pension bonds. The debt of the Kansas Board of Regents, which oversees the state universities, rose by 1062 percent. Only public safety saw a debt load decline.

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Kansas Cites Slavery-Era Decision in Abortion Case, then Backpedals

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt is withdrawing a court brief that cites the slavery-era Dred Scott decision to support the state's position that the Kansas Constitution does not guarantee a right to an abortion. Schmidt said Wednesday in a statement that the filing submitted to the Kansas Supreme Court a day earlier does not accurately reflect the state's position and should not have been made. The state used the 1857 Dred Scott case to bolster its argument that the Declaration of Independence had no legally binding effect. Schmidt says the reference was "obviously inappropriate," and he ordered it withdrawn once he became aware of it. In the infamous decision, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled a black person whose ancestors were sold as slaves could not be a U.S. citizen.

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Judge Revives Kansas Voting Citizenship Case 

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A federal judge has revived a lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of a Kansas law requiring prospective voters to prove they are U.S. citizens. U.S. District Judge Julie Robinson on Wednesday gave Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach a pass for failing to file a timely response to the lawsuit. She set aside a court clerk's default judgment issued last week against the state. Robinson says the case is of constitutional significance and public interest, and that it deserves to be decided on the merits and not through procedural default. The Kansas law requires people who register to vote to provide documentary proof of citizenship such as a birth certificate, U.S. passport or naturalization certificate. Kobach is facing four separate lawsuits challenging various aspects of that law.

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Johnson County Elections Officials Under Fire over Registration Form

OLATHE, Kan. (AP) _ Johnson County elections officials are under fire for not offering the easiest option for people who wanted to register to vote. The Kansas City Star reports that until Monday - the day before the last day to register -- Johnson County election officials only offered a form that requires documentary proof of U.S. citizenship in order to register to vote. Recent court decisions have blocked Kansas from requiring proof-of-citizenship documents from people who register when getting their driver's license or when using the federal form. After the newspaper questioned whether doing so violated the National Voter Registration Act, the office began providing a federal form that simply requires people to attest they are citizens. The American Civil Liberties Union told The Associated Press it's trying to determine whether other counties were doing the same thing.

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Grand Jury Indicts 3 Kansans in Possible Immigrant Attack 

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A federal grand jury has indicted three Kansas men who are suspected of plotting to attack Somali immigrants in Garden City. Acting U.S. Attorney Tom Beall says the grand jury indictment returned Wednesday is based on the same facts presented Friday in U.S. District Court in Wichita. Forty-nine-year-old Curtis Allen and 51-year-old Gavin Wright, both of Liberal, and 47-year-old Patrick Eugene Stein of Wright, are each charged with one count of conspiring to use a weapon of mass destruction. Prosecutors say the men were part of a small militia group called the Crusaders. They allege the three planned to detonate truck bombs around a small Garden City apartment complex where about 120 Somali immigrants live. They also allegedly had discussed attacking churches that helped the refugees.

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Fort Riley Gets New Commanding General 

FORT RILEY, Kan. (AP) — The new leader of Fort Riley has taken command. The Manhattan Mercury reports that Major General Joseph Martin was named commanding general of Fort Riley and the 1st Infantry Division last month after the Army fired Major General Wayne Grigsby. An investigation into the circumstances surrounding Grigsby's dismissal is ongoing. A change of command ceremony was held Tuesday morning. Martin is set to deploy to Iraq in the coming weeks along with about 500 troops. While deployed, the troops will work to support Operation Inherent Resolve by helping train Iraqi forces fight the Islamic State group.

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Kansas Regulators Threaten to Halt $12.2B Westar Merger 

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas regulators are threatening to halt the $12.2 billion sale of Topeka-based Westar Energy to Great Plains Energy if they don't get details on cost savings and other information. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that Kansas Corporation Commission took no action at a Tuesday meeting. But an order warned that if merger standards aren't met, possible action could include a request for dismissal of the merger application. Regulatory staff said in multiple filings in September and October that the utilities failed to meet the agency's merger standards. A spokesman for the utilities says the order is being evaluated. Staff raised concerns about what departments or functions would remain in the Topeka headquarters and how long the commitment to Topeka would last.

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Kansas Man Accused in Failed Army Base Bomb Plot Sentenced

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) _ A Topeka man has finally been sentenced for his role in a plot to blow up Fort Riley.  A judge sentenced 29-year-old Alexander Blair, of Topeka, to 15 months in prison on Tuesday. Prosecutors say Blair was helping another Topeka man, 21-year-old John T. Booker Jr., in his effort to detonate a bomb at the army base.  Blair loaned $100 to Booker to store what they thought was an explosive device. The device was a fake bomb built by FBI operatives. Prosecutors allege Booker intended to plant it near Fort Riley to express support for the Islamic State terrorist group.  Booker pleaded guilty in February to two felonies under an agreement calling for him to serve 30 years in prison, but he has yet to be sentenced.

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Feds Find Nepotism Complaint at Haskell Unsubstantiated

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) _ Administrators of Haskell Indian Nations University in Lawrence say federal investigators have determined a complaint about nepotism at the school was unsubstantiated.  The Lawrence Journal-World reports that the complaint accused of Haskell President Venida Chenault committed nepotism by supervising her son, Joshua Arce, while he served as acting dean of students for eight months. Arce's permanent job is chief information officer. The university said Tuesday the federal Office of Inspector General found the complaint was unsubstantiated. However, to meet a new U.S. Bureau of Indian Education policy, Haskell will move supervision of the vice president for university services under the vice president for academic services. Arce was removed as acting dean of students as of September 1. Haskell later named faculty member Melissa Holder as acting dean of students.  

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Lawrence Teacher Suspended After Complaints About Remarks 

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — The Lawrence school district says a middle school teacher has been suspended with pay after allegedly making racist comments during class. The district announced the suspension Wednesday but did not provide the name of the South Middle School teacher or the content of the alleged remarks. The Lawrence Journal-World reports the district said in a news release that it received a complaint against the teacher on Monday from the family of a South student. South administrators investigated and then contacted the district's human resources department, which conducted its own investigation. The release says Superintendent Kyle Hayden suspended the employee, with pay, in accordance with Lawrence Board of Education Policy and to ensure a fair investigation.

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1 Flown to Hospital After House Explodes in Rural Kansas 

BEVERLY, Kan. (AP) — Authorities say a person has been flown to a hospital after a house explosion in a rural area of central Kansas. The Hays Post reports that the explosion happened Wednesday south of the Lincoln County town of Beverly. Beverly Fire Chief Jon Ahlquist says the home was destroyed. The Kansas State Fire Marshal's office is assisting with the investigation.

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Body of Victim in 1974 Killing Exhumed to Determine Identity 

ABILENE, Kan. (AP) — The Dickinson County Sheriff's Office says investigators exhumed the remains of a person believed to be a possible victim of a serial killer. Sheriff Gareth Hoffman said in a news release the remains were exhumed Wednesday from the Abilene Cemetery in Abilene. Hoffman says the sheriff's office was contacted last April by the Kansas Bureau of Investigation of a possible match between the remains found near Upland in 1974 and a person reported missing from Tulsa, Oklahoma, that year. The Salina Journal reports that a KBI investigation in 1974 identified a serial killer, Cecil Henry Floyd, as the suspect in the Dickinson County case. Investigative reports indicate that Floyd admitted to killing 11 people — four in Florida, one in Kansas, one in Nebraska and five in Indiana.

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Kansas Businesswoman Sentenced for Tax Evasion 

LEAWOOD, Kan. (AP) — A Leawood businesswoman has been sentenced to more than four years in prison for tax evasion. U.S. Justice Department officials announced Wednesday that 58-year-old Kathleen Stegman diverted hundreds of thousands of dollars from her company, Midwest Medical Aesthetics, for her personal use. She was sentenced Tuesday to four years and three months in federal prison, fined $100,000 and ordered to pay $68,000 in restitution to the Internal Revenue Service. The Kansas City Star reports that at her trial earlier this year, prosecutors said Stegman gave IRS investigators false information and had an employee destroy company records. They said Stegman used company money to buy condominiums in Las Vegas, real estate in North Carolina, a 54-foot yacht and $300,000 in gold coins.

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Ex-Wichita State University Worker Files Discrimination Suit

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) _ A former Wichita State University administrative assistant has filed a lawsuit in federal court accusing the university of discrimination under the Americans with Disabilities Act.  Vicki Huntoon says in the lawsuit that she was fired from the university because of her generalized anxiety disorder after two doctors diagnosed the disorder and she requested to work in a quieter department multiple times.  According to the lawsuit, a transfer request recommended by a university selected doctor was denied.  A university spokesman said that school officials were not aware of the lawsuit.

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Police: Stranger Chokes Baby at Kansas City-Area Walmart 

OVERLAND PARK, Kan. (AP) — Police say a man is in custody after he allegedly tried to choke a 4-month-old baby he didn't know at a Kansas City-area Walmart. Overland Park police say the man walked up to a woman who was in a checkout lane early Wednesday and began choking her baby. The woman screamed and the man stopped. Police say people in the store helped the woman and held the man until officers arrived. The baby was not injured. Investigators say the man possibly was under the influence of drugs or alcohol.

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Alleged Drug Dealer Charged in Kansas Overdose Death

OVERLAND PARK, Kan. (AP) — A 24-year-old man has been charged in the drug overdose death of a suburban Kansas City man. The Kansas City Star reports that Michael Christopher Bickley of Kansas City, Kansas, made his first court appearance Monday in Johnson County District Court.  Bickley is charged with the distribution of drugs resulting in the death in February of a 27-year-old Overland Park man. Bickley also is charged with possession of heroin, possession of oxycodone and possession of Xanax. He is jailed on $250,000 bond. His next court appearance is scheduled for October 27.

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Mammoth Tusk Found in Kansas Moved to Wichita Lab

CUNNINGHAM, Kan. (AP) _ An 8-foot-long tusk of a mammoth uncovered earlier this year by a southern Kansas construction company has been moved to a lab at Wichita State University. The Wichita Eagle reports that the tusk will be cleaned and prepared for display in Cunningham in Kingman County, where it was found as a construction crew ran a sewer line across a grain elevator's property. Wichita State anthropology professor David Hughes says radiocarbon dating will be conducted to determine the tusk's age but researchers suspect it might be from about 200,000 years ago, which would make it one of the earliest discovered in Kansas. Hughes says the tusk belonged to a mammoth that was probably about 12 feet tall.
   
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Missouri Police Charge Man in Road Rage Death

INDEPENDENCE, Mo. (AP) - Jackson County authorities say a 39-year-old man is charged in the fatal shooting of an Independence woman that was apparently prompted by road rage. County Prosecutor Jean Peters Baker announced Tuesday that Christopher Taylor of Independence was charged with second-degree murder and armed criminal action in the death Sunday of 22-year-old Whitney Gray. Taylor was arrested early Tuesday in Box Elder, South Dakota. Court records indicate Gray was shot from a moving vehicle while driving a van with three children inside. Witnesses told police a white van was following Gray's vehicle closely and tried to pass her, nearly causing an accident. A liquid was thrown from Gray's vehicle onto Taylor's vehicle and then a loud "pop" was heard. The three children in the van weren't hurt.

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No-Brainer: $300,000 Campaign to Rescue Dorothy's Ruby Slippers

WASHINGTON (AP) - The ruby slippers that transported Dorothy back to Kansas in "The Wizard of Oz" are looking a little shabby these days so the Smithsonian Institution has launched a $300,000 Kickstarter fundraising campaign to preserve them. Museum officials started the drive to repair the iconic slippers from the 1939 MGM film. The funds will also be used to create a new, state-of-the-art, display case for the magic shoes at the National Museum of American History. The sequined slippers were made almost 80 years ago by the MGM Studios prop department and have grown fragile over time. The color has faded and some of the sequins have snapped off. The campaign, dubbed "#KeepThemRuby," offers donor rewards ranging from T-shirts and tote bags to replica slippers and behind-the-scenes tours. This isn't the Smithsonian's first Kickstarter campaign. In 2015, it raised $700,000 to conserve Neil Armstrong's spacesuit.

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Chiefs Trade RB Knile Davis to Packers for Draft Pick

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — The Kansas City Chiefs have traded backup running back Knile Davis to the Green Bay Packers. The Packers gave up a conditional draft pick Tuesday for Davis, who has already started practicing with his new team. The Packers needed help at the running back position with Eddie Lacy nursing a bothersome ankle and James Starks undergoing knee surgery. Lacy was their only active running back against Dallas on Sunday, when he rushed for 65 yards on 17 carries in a 30-16 loss. Starks will be out a couple of weeks. Lacy was being held out of practice Wednesday because the ankle was "very sore". That means the Packers will have to get Davis up to speed on the playbook quickly if he's going to be ready when the Chicago Bears visit Lambeau Field on Thursday night. In other roster moves on Tuesday, Kansas City signed free agent defensive lineman Kendall Reyes, who was with Washington for two games this season and previously played four years in San Diego. The Chiefs also added cornerback Terrance Mitchell, defensive lineman Rakeem Nunez-Roches and linebacker Ramik Wilson from its practice squad.

 

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