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Headlines for Wednesday, January 3, 2018

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

Kansas Revenues Artificially High in December

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) - Kansas collected $75 million more in taxes than expected in December.  But state officials say that figure is artificially inflated because of changes Congress made to federal tax laws.  Revenue Secretary Sam Williams said some individuals made estimated personal income tax payments earlier than normal in December because of coming changes in tax law.  Kansas tax collections last month were $711 million.

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Governor Brownback Prepares to Deliver Final State-of-the-State Speech

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) - Kansas Governor Sam Brownback says he will deliver budget and school funding proposals next week during the State-of-the-State address.  He also announced yesterday (TUE) that he won't resign before he's confirmed by the U.S. Senate to become an ambassador.  Brownback will deliver the speech Tuesday at 5pm.  KPR will carry the address live.  He says the budget and school funding proposals will be his, though Lt. Gov. Jeff Colyer had more input this time than usual.

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Trump Signs Order Disbanding Voter Fraud Commission 

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump has signed an executive order disbanding his voter fraud commission. A White House statement is blaming the decision on numerous states that have refused to provide voter information to the Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity. White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders says that, "Rather than engage in endless legal battles at taxpayer expense," Trump has signed an order to dissolve the commission and asked the Department of Homeland Security to determine the administration's next steps. Critics saw the commission as part of a conservative campaign to strip minority voters and poor people from the voter rolls, and to justify unfounded claims made by Trump that voter fraud cost him the popular vote in 2016. Past studies have found voter fraud to be exceptionally rare.  Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach was serving as vice-chair of the commission.

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Brownback Names Interim KDHE Secretary, Top Medical Officer

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Governor Sam Brownback has appointed a Kansas Department of Health and Environment attorney to serve temporarily as its top administrator. Brownback's office said Wednesday that the new interim KDHE secretary is Darian Dernovish. He is the department's chief litigation attorney in federal and state courts. He has been a local and federal prosecutor and worked for the Kansas Highway Patrol. He is replacing Secretary Susan Mosier, who is resigning Friday. Dernovish will serve as secretary until a more permanent replacement is found. Brownback's office also announced that he appointed Republican state Representative Greg Lakin of Wichita to serve as the department's chief medical officer. Lakin is an osteopath and medical director for the Valley Hope Rehabilitation Center. The Wichita Eagle reports that Lakin plans to resign Monday from the Kansas House.

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Los Angeles Suspect in 911 Hoax Faces Felony in Kansas Death

LOS ANGELES (AP) — A Los Angeles man suspected of making a hoax emergency call that led to the fatal police shooting of a Kansas man told a judge Wednesday he would not fight efforts to send him to Wichita to face charges. Tyler Barriss, 25, was held without bail after waiving his right to an extradition hearing in Los Angeles Superior Court. He stood behind a glass wall dressed in black with his hands cuffed in front of him and provided brief answers to a judge's questions, acknowledging he was the wanted man and voluntarily signed the waiver. Police have said Andrew Finch, 28, was shot after a prankster called 911 last week with a fake story about a shooting and kidnapping at Finch's Wichita home. A fugitive warrant filed in court said Barriss was charged with making a false alarm, which covers calling police or a fire department and knowingly giving false information. It's a low-level felony in Kansas that carries a maximum of 34 months in prison, though other charges could be filed after Wichita prosecutors review the results of a police investigation. A more serious potential state charge would be a second-degree murder for unintentionally causing a death by reckless actions, said Elizabeth Cateforis, a law professor at the University of Kansas. That can carry a sentence of up to about 20 years. Another option may be an involuntary manslaughter charge in which a death is caused by a person acting recklessly or in the commission of another felony. That carries a maximum sentence of a little over 10 years. Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Deborah Brazil said Kansas authorities have to pick up Barriss by February 2. In Kansas, the head of the Wichita police force said the department has no policy on such "swatting" calls. The Wichita Eagle reported that Wichita Police Chief Gordon Ramsay vowed Tuesday for a "thorough review" of Finch's death. The goal of such hoax calls is to get a SWAT team to respond, although Ramsey said none of the officers at the scene were SWAT team members. Ramsey said the officers who responded reported that Finch's hands went up and down around his waistband before he was shot. Ramsay called Finch's death a "terrible tragedy."

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Topeka Police Identify Body Found in Burning Vehicle

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Topeka police say the death of a Lawrence man whose body was found inside a burning vehicle is being investigated as a homicide. Police said in a statement Wednesday that the body of 30-year-old Arnulfo Garcia was found inside the vehicle Saturday morning after firefighters responded to a call of a vehicle on fire in Topeka. The statement said arson investigators have ruled the vehicle fire was intentionally set. The coroner's office ruled Garcia's death a homicide. Anyone with information about the case is asked to call authorities.

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Pastor Complains About Searches at Kansas Church, Nonprofit

BALDWIN CITY, Kan. (AP) — A Baldwin City pastor says Douglas County Sheriff's deputies were unnecessarily aggressive when they searched his church and a Lawrence nonprofit he operates. The Lawrence Journal-World reports the Reverend Mark Halford filed an online complaint with the sheriff's department's internal affairs division after the search on Thursday. He is pastor of the New Life Assembly of God Church in Baldwin City and director of the Heart of America Teen Challenge, which treats addictions. Halford alleges deputies pointed a shotgun at him and a handgun at a staffer at Teen Challenge during the searches, which were part of a child-in-need of care investigation. Sheriff's Sergeant Kristen Channel declined to comment on the complaint, other than to note that the church's attorney was at the church when the warrant was served.

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Kansas Elementary School Ends Bible Giveaways

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A public elementary school in Kansas is ending the free distribution of Bibles to students after complaints about the practice violating the constitutional separation of church and state. The Wichita Eagle reports that Herington Elementary School's giveaway took place about two weeks ago. A table was placed at the school with a sign inviting fifth-graders to help themselves to a free Bible. The American Humanist Association sent a letter to the school district, demanding that it end the practice, after receiving complaints from parents. Jeff Jackson is a constitutional law professor at Washburn University. He says Bible distribution tables have been barred from elementary schools, with courts ruling that the young students "are especially open to coercion." Superintendent Ron Wilson says the district respects all religious beliefs and students' constitutional rights.

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Capital-Journal Publisher Ahrens Joining Missouri Company

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The president and publisher of The Topeka Capital-Journal has accepted a job with WEHCO Media in Jefferson City, Missouri. Zach Ahrens will be general manager of Central Missouri Newspapers Inc., which publishes the Jefferson City News Tribune, Fulton Sun, California Democrat and HER Magazine. He will also oversee the company's commercial printing division and Flypaper, a digital marketing firm. Those media outlets are owned by WEHCO Media, a privately owned communications company that operates daily and weekly newspapers, magazines and cable television companies in six states. Ahrens announced his decision to Capital-Journal employees on Tuesday and introduced himself to Jefferson City employees Wednesday. Grady Singletary, regional vice president for GateHouse Media, said a search for the newspaper's next publisher would begin soon.

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Officials Identify Man Killed in Wamego House Fire

WAMEGO, Kan. (AP) — The State Fire Marshal says a 35-year-old Wamego man died in a house fire in Pottawatomie County. The victim of a fire on December 26 was identified Wednesday as Wade Stewart Parkhurst, whose body was found inside the house. Five other people in the house were able to escape the fire. The fire marshal's office said in a news release that his death was caused by toxic gases from the fire. No foul play is suspected. The blaze began in the home's basement in an area where several electronic components were located. The property is a total loss, with estimated damage of more than $350,000. The fire marshal's office and the St. George Fire Department investigated the fire.

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Wamego Firefighter Dies After Fall at Station

WAMEGO, Kan. (AP) — Wamego fire officials say a firefighter died after a fall at a fire station. The department said John Randle died Tuesday from injuries he suffered Monday. Randle had returned to the station after helping to fight a structure fire early Monday. The department says in a release that he fell while he was returning a fire apparatus to service. Randle was airlifted to a Topeka hospital, where he died on Tuesday. Further details were not immediately released.

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Deadly Shooting Outside Mall in Independence, Missouri

INDEPENDENCE, Mo. (AP) - Police are investigating a deadly shooting in the parking lot of a suburban Kansas City shopping mall.  The shooting happened last (TUE) night outside of the Independence Center.  Officers found the male victim sprawled on the pavement just outside the shopping center.   Police didn't immediately release the victim's name or what led up to the shooting.

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Two Dead After Becoming Trapped in Grain Elevator

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) - Sedgwick County officials say two people have died after being trapped in a grain elevator in south Wichita. The bodies were recovered around 5 o'clock yesterday (TUE).  It's still not clear how the two got into the bin and became trapped under 25 feet of grain.  

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Former Kansas Congressman Dies at 98

PRAIRIE VILLAGE, Kan. (AP) - Former Kansas Congressman Larry Winn Jr. has died.  From 1967 to 1985, the Republican Congressman represented the 3rd Congressional District, currently held by Congressman Kevin Yoder.  Winn's son, Larry Winn III, told The Kansas City Star his father died on New Year's Eve. He was 98.

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AP Source: Kansas State's Bill Snyder Returning Next Season

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) _ K-State football coach Bill Snyder will return for his 27th season.  The 78-year-old Hall-of-Fame coach already retired once from his head coaching job in Manhattan, but returned after the football program suffered a series of setbacks.

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Topeka Police Chief Finalists Include Ex-St. Louis Chief

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) _ Authorities say the former St. Louis police chief is among three finalists to lead the police force in Topeka after a year that included a controversial police shooting in Kansas' capital city and a record number of homicides.  The city announced Tuesday that the finalists include Sam Dotson, who was the St. Louis police chief until April. He retired on Mayor Lyda Krewson's first day in office but remained with the department as a consultant and received his full salary.  The other finalists are Bill Cochran, the current interim Topeka police chief, and Dominic Rizzi Jr., the Yakima, Washington, police chief.  The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that the new chief will face deteriorating community relations stemming from the police shooting of Dominique White. The city also recorded 29 homicides last year.

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Douglas County Seeks Federal Judge to Rule on Lawsuit Related to Woman's Death

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) - Douglas County is asking a federal judge to decide a lawsuit filed after a woman's death in the county jail nearly six years ago. A trial in the lawsuit filed by the family of 32-year-old Rachel Hammers was scheduled for this fall. The Lawrence Journal-World reports federal Judge Carlos Murguia is considering a motion filed by the county for a summary judgment, which would mean the $1.35 million lawsuit would not go to trial.

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Kansas City Natives Buy Alternative Magazine, The Pitch

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) - A new Kansas City-based ownership group has bought alternative magazine The Pitch.  KCUR reports Carey Media LLC closed the deal on December 31 to buy the magazine from Tennessee-based SouthComm, which bought The Pitch in 2011.  The new owners, Stephanie and Adam Carey, say they plan to keep the magazine focused on Kansas City. It is the first time in nearly 20 years that the magazine has been owned and operated locally.  Long-time reporter David Hudnall has been named the magazine's new editor.  Last year, The Pitch moved from a weekly publication to a monthly.

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First Female President of Malawi to Speak at K-State

MANHATTAN, Kan. (AP) _ A woman living in exile after spending two years as president of the east African country of Malawi is speaking at Kansas State University.   Joyce Banda's January 29 appearance is open to the public. Banda was the Republic of Malawi's first female president from 2012 through 2014. She has also been a women's rights activist, entrepreneur, educator and lawmaker. She is credited with implementing reforms that helped turn around the nation's ailing economy.  Police in Malawi issued an arrest warrant for her in July in connection with a public corruption scandal in which millions of dollars were looted from government coffers. Banda denies the allegations.  Banda's appearance is part of the Landon Lecture series. It's named for former Kansas Governor Alf Landon, who was the 1936 Republican nominee for president.

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