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Headlines for Tuesday, November 28, 2017

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

Kansas Insists Pension Fund Still Stable Amid Concerns

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas officials say retirees won't be affected by eliminated or delayed pension fund payments to teachers and other government workers. Officials with the Kansas Public Employees Retirement System assured retirees' financial safety to a legislative oversight committee on Monday. The message was part of the retirement system's annual report to the Legislature about the actuarial value of the pension fund and the estimated difference between its current assets and long-term obligations, the Lawrence Journal-World reported . "Our members should not worry about getting their retirement benefits," said Alan Conroy, executive director of the retirement system. "No retiree should worry about not getting their retirement benefit." KPERS is a pension system that manages the retirement accounts of more than 300,000 members, including state, city, county and school district employees. Lawmakers eliminated a nearly $100 million payment to the pension fund last year to help balance the state budget. They also delayed a $64 million payment this year and said they plan to delay another $194 million. Conroy said those decisions will have little impact on the fund, which he said is now valued at more than $18 billion. Republican state Rep. Steven Johnson said he's not worried about the cuts. "There is a significant amount in the trust fund. The risk to benefits is not there," said Johnson, who chairs the Joint Committee on Pensions, Investments and Benefits. Democratic state Sen. Laura Kelly said the retirement system is now nearly 67 percent funded. This means if no new money were put in and no new employees were added, the fund would have 67 percent of all the money it needs to pay the debts it has acquired. "That's a safe zone, between 60 and 80 (percent)," Kelly said. "It's an improvement over the past, so we're going in the right direction."

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Donald Trump Jr. Leads Kansas Fundraiser for Kobach Campaign 

OVERLAND PARK, Kan. (AP) — Donald Trump Jr. is doing a fundraiser for Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach's campaign for governor. The event Tuesday evening at a Kansas City-area hotel highlights how Kobach has closer ties to the president than any fellow Republican in the crowded race. Kobach has advised the White House and serves as vice chairman of a presidential commission on election fraud. His campaign for governor has sounded themes similar to those Trump senior emphasized in his presidential run last year. The elder Trump carried Kansas by 20 percentage points, but Democrats hope to make inroads into the state's all-GOP congressional delegation next year by attacking the president and appealing to disaffected Republican moderates. Yet Kobach's solid base on the right could be enough to win the August 2018 GOP primary.

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Governor Brownback to Meet with Mitch McConnell on Wednesday 

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas Governor Sam Brownback is traveling to Washington to meet with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. McConnell's spokesman, David Popp, confirmed the meeting is scheduled for Wednesday. The Kansas City Star reports Popp would not discuss the reason for the meeting but it comes as Brownback's confirmation to be the next ambassador-at-large for international religious freedom has slowed, with no final vote scheduled. Brownback said last week that he is hopes his appointment will be voted on before Christmas. He has already handed over some of his most important duties as governor to Lieutenant Governor Jeff Colyer, including leadership over the state budget. Brownback was nominated in July. A Senate committee narrowly approved the nomination in October, amid Democratic concerns about his record on LBGT issues.

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Supreme Court Leaves in Place Law Barring Topeka Church from Funeral Protests

WASHINGTON (AP) - The Supreme Court is leaving in place a Nebraska law that bars protests around funerals. Nebraska enacted the law in 2006. It prohibits protests near a cemetery, mortuary or church from one hour before the beginning of a funeral to two hours after. Members of the Topeka-based Westboro Baptist Church challenged the law but have lost in lower courts. Members of the church routinely conduct anti-gay protests outside military funerals. The protests have been a way of drawing attention to their controversial view that U.S. deaths in Afghanistan and Iraq are God's punishment for the nation's tolerance of homosexuality. The Supreme Court said Monday that it would not take up the church's challenge to Nebraska's law.

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Appeals Court Rules on Bail for Those in U.S. Unlawfully 

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A federal appeals court has ruled that judges cannot deny bail to immigrants in criminal cases solely because they are living in the country unlawfully and could be deported before trial. The little-noticed ruling by a three-judge panel last week noted that this is the first decision of its kind in the 10th Circuit. The court ruled that under federal law, judges cannot include the risk of deportation when they judge whether a defendant will flee.

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Ex-Rowers' Title IX Lawsuits Against KU Dismissed

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — A federal judge has dismissed two lawsuits filed by former female rowers who claimed the University of Kansas did not properly respond to their complaints that a football player had sexually assaulted them on campus. The lawsuits filed in 2016 by Daisy Tackett and Sarah McClure were dismissed last week at the request of the two women and the university. The Lawrence Journal-World reports that the lawsuits were dismissed with prejudice, which means the claims can't be refiled. Tackett says a University of Kansas football player raped her in 2014 at Jayhawk Towers. A year later, McClure alleged the same man fondled her breasts in her apartment in the same building. The two allege in their lawsuits that the university should have known there was an increased risk of sexual assault at the Jayhawk Towers apartments, where football players live with less supervision than in residence halls. The lawsuits cited Title IX, the federal law prohibiting sex-based discrimination in education, including in allegations of sexual violence. The former football player was never charged with a crime. The Associated Press generally doesn't identify alleged victims of sexual assault, but Tackett and McClure said they wanted their names used.

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Police: Man Killed in Kansas Costco Had No Specific Target

LENEXA, Kan. (AP) — Lenexa police say a man who was shot to death by an off-duty officer at a Costco in Kansas didn't appear to have specific targets when he walked into the store screaming and waving a gun. Investigators say 58-year-old Ronald Hunt was living in his truck in the Costco parking lot in Lenexa before he entered the store Sunday. Lenexa Police spokesman Danny Chavez says investigators have not determined Hunt's motive for terrorizing customers and employees before he was shot. He says Hunt apparently never fired his weapon. The Kansas City Star reports Hunt was a long-haul trucker who lived in the cab of his truck. Investigators have had a difficult time finding any relatives. The only address listed for Hunt was the Swift Transportation Kansas Terminal in Edwardsville, Kansas.

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Bales Catch Fire at Kansas Cotton Gin

ANTHONY, Kan. (AP) — A fire has been reported at a gin in southern Kansas where as many as 300 bales of cotton are burning. The Hutchinson News reports the fire was discovered Monday at the Southern Kansas Cotton Growers Co-op Gin near Anthony. Manager Gary Feist says he received a call that one of the gin's pods of cotton caught fire. Feist suspects the fire came from the middle of one of the bales. He says they can smolder internally without anyone knowing. Feist says the fire is under control because wind conditions have been ideal. He says the fire could take a few days to extinguish and that crews are monitoring the increasing wind speed. Feist estimates the loss at about $300,000 due to the fire.

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Law Enforcement Seeks Public's Help in Emporia Death Case 

EMPORIA, Kan. (AP) — The Kansas Bureau of Investigation and Lyon County authorities are asking the public for help in solving the killing of a 19-year-old from Emporia. Lyon County deputies were called September 6 to investigate a suspicious vehicle on a road about five miles east of Emporia. The deputies found the car on fire, with the body of Jesus Avila-Galvin Jr. inside. The KBI said in a news release Tuesday that several agencies continue to investigate the case and believe even small details could help bring a resolution. Anyone with information is asked to call the KBI at 1-800-KS-CRIME or Lyon County Crime Stoppers at 620-342-2273. Crime Stoppers is offering a cash reward of up to $2,000 for information leading to an arrest.

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Kansas Coalition Forms PAC Against Kobach

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach is facing a newly formed fundraising committee dedicated to stopping him from becoming governor. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that "StopKobach" is a political action committee formed in August. Michael Hoheisel says the PAC is working to establish its board and build a website. Kobach is campaigning to become Kansas governor. His campaign is focusing on his advocacy of strict voter requirements after he made unsubstantiated statements of widespread voter fraud committed by people who aren't U.S. citizens. President Trump appointed him vice chair of his Voter Fraud Commission. 

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Court Dismisses Appeal in Fort Riley Bombing Case

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A federal appeals court has refused to hear the appeal of a Kansas man who tried to set off what he thought was a bomb at an Army post to support the Islamic State. A three-judge panel of the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals dismissed on Tuesday the appeal filed by John T. Booker, Jr., of Topeka challenging some conditions of his supervised release. It ruled the Topeka man had waived his appeal rights in his plea deal. Booker was sentenced in July to 30 years in prison, followed by a lifetime of supervised release. He pleaded guilty to one count each of attempting to use a weapon of mass destruction and attempting to destroy government property with an explosive. He was arrested in 2015 outside Fort Riley in Kansas.

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Authorities ID Man Who Died at Garmin Construction Site 

OLATHE, Kan. (AP) — Authorities say the contractor who died at a Garmin construction site near Olathe was a 28-year-old from Holden. Investigators say Jubal Hubbard died Monday when a pipe ruptured at the site of a Garmin expansion project. Olathe Fire Captain Mike Hall says Hubbard was working on a high-pressure valve near a loading dock area of a warehouse when the line ruptured. The cause of the rupture has not been determined. No one else was injured. Construction began a year ago on a site for a new warehouse and distribution center for Garmin.

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Douglas County Jail Looks at Modular Units to Deal with Overcrowding

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — The Douglas County Sheriff's Office is considering modular units as a temporary solution to jail overcrowding The Lawrence Journal-World reports that Douglas County Undersheriff Gary Bunting is exploring a type of free-standing, temporary cell block to increase on-site capacity at the county jail. His office says the jail has more inmates than its 186 beds can accommodate. Some inmates have even been placed in laundry rooms and rooms reserved for programming when the jail is overcapacity. Bunting says completion of any projects involving jail expansion is at least three years away, so the county may resort to doublewide modular units as a temporary fix. He says the sheriff's office will need to study the units' design, cost and security before making a decision.

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$1 Million Boosts Kansas State Family Scholarship Program

MANHATTAN, Kan. (AP) — Kansas State University will use a $1 million gift to create at least 30 matching scholarships as part of the university's Family Scholarship Program. The university announced Tuesday that new gifts of $30,000 will be matched with $30,000 from Mary Vanier's gift. Another $10,000 will go make $2,000 scholarships immediately available to students. And $50,000 will be used by the university's endowment to ensure scholarships are available in the future. The program's goal is to increase philanthropic support for Kansas State while also creating scholarships. Vanier said in a statement that this is a critical time for the university because of decreased state support and lower enrollments and she hopes the gift will bring students to the school. Vanier, a 1989 graduate of Kansas State, is president of Grand Mere Development.

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Lawrence's Stone Buffalo Sculpture Vandalized

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) - A Scrooge has vandalized a stone buffalo sculpture that was decorated for the holidays near a busy Lawrence intersection. The Lawrence Journal-World reports that the sculpture was adorned with a wreath on Friday. But by Saturday morning, both of its sides were marred with a silver reflective paint. Lawrence Director of Arts and Culture Porter Arneill says the city will assess how to remove the paint without damaging the sculpture. He says the city needs to determine what kind of paint was used, the type and grade of stone, and whether the sculpture was treated with any kind of polish. Sculptor Jim Patti designed the buffalo as part of the 1988 Kansas Sculpture Association Stone Symposium, which was designed to promote interest in sculpture and the use of Kansas limestone.

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Woman Found Dead Inside Vehicle During Kansas Traffic Stop

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) — Authorities have found a woman dead inside a vehicle after the driver was stopped for speeding in suburban Kansas City while attempting to rush the woman to a hospital. Kansas City, Kansas police said in a news release that police in neighboring Mission stopped the vehicle early Tuesday. Inside officers found a 28-year-old woman dead from an apparent gunshot wound. The release says the investigation determined that the crime happened in Kansas City, Kansas. The name of the slain woman wasn't immediately released.

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Kansas High School Football Team Copes After Fatal Crash

SABETHA, Kan. (AP) — A high school football team in northeastern Kansas is coping after a head-on collision killed three family members of teammates. The Sabetha High school football team won a state championship game on Saturday. But on the way home, players Tanner and Carson Ukele were told that three of their relatives died in a two-vehicle highway crash. Their 42-year-old mother Carmen Ukele, 11-year-old sister Marlee Ukele and 62-year-old uncle Stephen Ukele were killed in the collision on U.S. Route 75. Their 59-year-old father Lee Ukele was also in the vehicle. He was in stable condition as of Sunday. A police report says the two people in the other vehicle were injured and taken to a hospital. Head coach Garrett Michael says Tanner and Carson have the support of the community and "50 brothers who are going to be surrounding them in our school."

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2 Found Dead in Central Topeka Home After Police Standoff 

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Police say two people were found dead after a standoff at a central Topeka home. Topeka police said a standoff began at the home Monday morning after officers responded to a call about a domestic violence situation. When officers arrived, they heard gunfire. Officers removed one person from the home's front porch. Lieutenant Colleen Stuart said officers eventually sent a robot into the house. The robot found the two people dead. Their names and the cause of death have not been released. Police also didn't say how the person on the front porch was involved.

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Topeka Police Investigate Deadly Shooting 

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Topeka police are investigating the shooting death of a 46-year-old man. The victim, Faustino Vasquez, was found dead at an east Topeka home early Monday when officers responded to a call about a shooting. Vasquez's death is Topeka's 28th homicide this year, which tied a record set in 1994. 

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Kansas Farm Bureau Event to Focus on Policy Positions

MANHATTAN, Kan. (AP) — More than 800 Kansas farmers are expected to gather in Manhattan next month as the Kansas Farm Bureau drafts its public policy positions for 2018. The group's annual meeting runs December 3rd through 5th and includes workshops on water, the farm bill, crop insurance and estate planning. Other topics include using social media, emergency management and holiday cooking. Also on tap are workshops on the farm economy and agritourism. Kansas Farm Bureau President Rich Felts kicks off the event with his state of agriculture address at the group's annual banquet. Kansas State University President Richard Myers will also be speaking at the conference as will Mary Kay Thatcher, senior director of congressional affairs for the American Farm Bureau Federation.
 

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