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Headlines for Tuesday, October 2, 2018

Kansas Congressional Candidate's Adventure Claims Challenged

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) _ The Republican nominee for a competitive Kansas congressional seat is facing scrutiny about details of some of the biographical details he shares with voters. Steve Watkins's campaign website featured a since-removed testimonial to his "heroic leadership'' when a deadly earthquake shook Mount Everest during an expedition. The guide he quoted says he never said that. Watkins also has acknowledged that he was inaccurate about a claim that he started a business in the Middle East and expanded it from three to 470 people. And, while he claims to be a devoted, sixth-generation Kansan, property records show he has stronger ties recently to Alaska. He participated in the Iditarod dogsled race there this year. Competitors question whether that was a publicity stunt for the campaign.

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Kander, Citing Mental Health Concerns, Drops Out of KC Race

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) _ Jason Kander, a rising star in Democratic politics who narrowly lost a 2016 Senate bid, is dropping out of the race for mayor of Kansas City, Missouri, citing post-traumatic stress disorder stemming from his stint in the military. Kander, who is 37, announced his decision Tuesday. The former Army intelligence officer said in a statement that he continues to feel the impact of PTSD, 11 years after leaving the military. Kander says he contacted the Veterans Administration for help about four months ago but his condition worsened. He says he recently called a VA crisis line to say he has had suicidal thoughts.   Kander was seen as a likely favorite in the 2019 mayoral race. He was defeated by incumbent Republican Roy Blunt in Missouri's 2016 Senate race. 

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Kansas Tax Collections $81 Million More than Expected in September

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas is reporting that it collected $81 million more in taxes than expected in September to extend its streak of better-than-anticipated figures to 16 months in a row.  It is the longest streak of better-than-expected collections in at least 50 years. An AP spreadsheet compiled from monthly reports shows the state hasn't seen such a streak since at least February 1968.  The Kansas Department of Revenue reported Monday that tax collections were $696 million last month. The state's official forecast had predicted $615 million.  The monthly surplus was 13.2 percent.  Since the current fiscal year began in July, tax collections have run $99 million ahead of expectations for a 6.2 percent surplus. The state also ended its last fiscal year on June 30 with better-than-expected tax collections.

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KanCare Enrollment Begins While Amerigroup Contract Pending

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) — Enrollment has begun for Kansas's privatized Medicaid program, leaving 125,000 residents covered by Amerigroup in a state of uncertainty while the provider sues the state over its contract. The Kansas City Star reports that Kansas residents who receive Medicaid services through Amerigroup can begin choosing a new plan for 2019 this month. Amerigroup sued the state this year after the health care provider wasn't awarded a new contract for Kansas's Medicaid program, KanCare. The company alleges that the bidding process is flawed. It's uncertain whether residents currently covered by Amerigroup will have an option to stay with the Virginia-based company. The Kansas Department of Health and Environment's enrollment website says Amerigroup's tenure as a KanCare company will end Dec. 31. Department spokeswoman Theresa Freed declined to comment on what would happen if Amerigroup wins its court challenge.

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Body Found in Hodgeman County Investigated as Homicide

HANSTON, Kan. (AP) — Law enforcement authorities are investigating the death of a man whose body was found in a field as a homicide. The Kansas Bureau of Investigation says a farmer reported finding the body Monday in a field about three miles west of Hanston in Hodgeman County. The deceased man, who was Hispanic, has not been identified. This investigation is ongoing. No further information was released.

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Kansas Colleges, Universities See Overall Enrollment Decline

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Public colleges and universities in Kansas reported an overall decline in enrollment for the current fall semester, according to a report from the Kansas Board of Regents. A report issued Monday showed enrollment at public higher education institutions dropped by more than 1,000 students, The Topeka Capital-Journal reported . The annual enrollment report used a different counting method than the traditional head count used in the past. The new system, called full-time equivalency, counts credit hours and converts them with a formula that the average undergraduate takes 15 hours a semester and the average graduate student takes 12 hours. The new formula is meant to better reflect the influence of part-time students at the schools. Two-thirds of students in the Board of Regents' system are enrolled on a part-time basis. Using just the six state universities, enrollment increased 0.1 percent, or 95 students, compared to the fall of 2017, according to the report. Kansas State University and Emporia State University were both up 0.5 percent; Fort Hays State University increased 2 percent; and Wichita State University was up 1.5 percent. The regents said FTE enrollment dropped 3.9 percent at Pittsburg State University and 0.6 percent at the University of Kansas. "These gains are remarkable given the challenges we face in higher education, such as the declining number of high school graduates, increased options for students and the difficulties students face in financing their education," said Rick Muma, provost at Wichita State. At Kansas State, the number of full-time equivalency students increased but the overall headcount dropped 574 students. However, Pat Bosco, Kansas State's vice president for student life, said a 3 percent increase in the freshman class was a positive sign. University of Kansas officials cited its traditional headcount, which showed an increase of 63 students on all its campuses. It also noted the increased academic skills of freshmen and growing interest in university programs offered in Overland Park, Leavenworth and Kansas City, Kansas. "We are pleased to have grown our enrollment for the fifth straight year and to have welcomed the most talented freshmen in history," said Douglas Girod, the university's chancellor. Washburn University in Topeka reported a full-time equivalency drop of 1.2 percent. The state's 19 community colleges combined for a FTE enrollment drop of 1,112 students or 2.6 percent. The state's technical colleges enrolled 289 more FTE students than one year ago, registering a 5.2 percent increase.

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On-Campus Rapes Doubled Last Year at KU

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — An annual safety report at the University of Kansas says twice as many rapes were reported on the Lawrence campus in 2017 than the previous year. The Clery report says nine of the 12 rapes reported were in campus housing. The Lawrence Journal-World reports 14 rapes were reported if off-campus locations that are affiliated with the university are included. That is about the same as previous years, with 13 in 2016 and 16 in 2015. This year's report was the first since the Kansas Legislature required the university to allow concealed carry of handguns on campus. The Clery report show the university reported no weapon law arrests or violations referred for disciplinary action. University spokeswoman Erinn Barcomb-Peterson says those numbers reflect violations of state law and not necessarily the university's weapons policy.

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Mercy Hospital in Fort Scott Is Closing by End of Year

FORT SCOTT, Kan. (AP) — Officials say Mercy Hospital in Fort Scott will close by the end of the year. Mercy officials said on Monday that declining patient numbers and reduced reimbursements from government programs, which is the largest source of the hospital's revenue, led to the decision. The statement said hospital officials tried for months to find a way to keep hospital services in the community of about 7,800 people in southeast Kansas. The Iola Register reports Mercy officials said they are working on an agreement with the Community Health Center of Southeast Kansas, based in Pittsburg, to maintain primary care services in Fort Scott. The hospital, which opened in 1886, is a 46-bed acute care center. It is expected to close December 31.

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About $500,000 in Drugs Seized, 6 Arrested in Great Bend

GREAT BEND, Kan. (AP) — The Barton County Sheriff's Office says six people were arrested and an estimated $500,000 in drugs were seized after a raid in Great Bend. Sheriff Brian Bellendir said in a news release that his department and several other agencies executed search warrants at six locations and three vehicles on Monday. The sheriff says the months-long investigation began as a cocaine distribution case but eventually expanded into a distribution case involving several drugs. The Great Bend Tribune reports authorities seized heroin, LSD, cocaine and methamphetamine, with an estimated value of $500,000. The seizure included imitation hydrocodone tablets that contain fentanyl, which the sheriff said is far more likely to cause an overdose leading to death. Bellendir says investigators believe most of the seized drugs were smuggled into the U.S. from Mexico.

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2 Children Killed in Franklin County Crash

OTTAWA, Kan. (AP) — The Kansas Highway Patrol reports two children were killed and four others were injured in a two-vehicle crash. The crash was reported Monday night five miles east of Ottawa. The accident killed 11-year-old Briana Sobba and 3-year-old Becham Klemen, both of Wellsville. The patrol says a Ford they were in failed to yield the right of way and was struck by another vehicle. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports two other children who were in the Ford were injured and flown to Children's Mercy Hospital in Kansas City, Missouri. The driver of the second vehicle was injured and taken to an Overland Park hospital.

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Economy Remains Strong in Midwest but Trade Worries Linger

OMAHA, Neb. (AP) — A new survey suggests the economy remains strong in nine Midwest and Plains states, but business leaders are concerned about the ongoing trade disputes.  The overall economic index for the region slipped to 57.5 in September from August's 61.1, but it remained in positive territory.  Creighton University economist Ernie Goss says he expects business will slow down but continue growing in the next few months because of the trade concerns and rising interest rates.  The survey results are compiled into a collection of indexes ranging from zero to 100. Survey organizers say any score above 50 suggests growth. A score below that suggests decline.  The survey covers Arkansas, Iowa, Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, Oklahoma and South Dakota.

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Records: Ex-Wife Plotted Killing While Jailed for Poisoning

OLATHE, Kan. (AP) — Court records say a Kansas woman plotted to kill her ex-husband when she was in jail on suspicion of trying to poison their three children.  Therese Roever, of Olathe, was charged in February in the attempted capital murder of her children and last month in the attempted capital murder of her ex-husband.  The Kansas City Star reports that court records released last week say Roever's former husband was contacted by a relative of another Johnson County jail inmate who told him his ex-wife was trying to find someone who would kill him. He then contacted police.  The documents say Roever told another inmate she would rather die in prison or have the children go to foster care, than have her ex-husband get custody.

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2 Killed After Driver Smashes Through Railroad Crossing Arms

DERBY, Kan. (AP) — Authorities say two people are dead after a driver smashed through railroad crossing arms and into the path of a train.  The Kansas City Star reports that the crash happened Sunday night just west Kansas 15 in Derby. Lt. Tim Myers, of the Sedgwick County Sheriff's Office, says the 38-year-old driver and her 39-year-old male passenger died in the crash. Their names weren't immediately released.

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3 Found Fatally Shot in Front of Suburban Kansas City Home

RAYTOWN, Mo. (AP) — Authorities say the killings of two brothers and another man in front of a suburban Kansas City home was a double homicide and a suicide.  The Missouri State Highway Patrol says 59-year-old Dale Villines, 57-year-old Christopher Bogert and 54-year-old Mark Bogert died Sunday night in Raytown, where they all lived.  They were found dead after a caller reported hearing gunfire and seeing bodies in front of a home.  The Kansas City Star reports that the patrol hasn't yet determined who fired the shots.  Autopsies are pending and the investigation is continuing.

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Defendant in Wichita Fatal Swatting Case Appears in Court

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — The man accused of making a hoax phone call that led police to fatally shoot a Wichita man has been arraigned on a new indictment.  Tyler Barriss, of California, was arraigned Monday on a superseding indictment accusing him of making false/hoax reports to emergency services, cyberstalking, making interstate threats, wire fraud and conspiracy.  Barriss is accused of calling Wichita police in December 2017 from Los Angeles to report a shooting and kidnapping at a Wichita home. An officer shot 28-year-old Andrew Finch when he opened the door.  Also charged in the superseding indictment are 18-year-old Casey Viner, of North College, Ohio, and 20-year-old Shane Gaskill, of Wichita.  Police say an online dispute between Viner and Gaskill led Barriss to make the call that sent police to what Barriss mistakenly thought was Gaskill's home.

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Man Who Raped Women at Gunpoint Gets 170 Years in Prison

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A 33-year-old Kansas man has been sentenced to 170 years in prison for kidnapping and sexually assaulting women who walked alone at night. Sedgwick County District Attorney announced Tuesday that De'Andrew Dixon, of Augusta, was after being convicted last month. Bennett said in a news release that in September and October of last year, Dixon kidnapped and sexually assaulted two women, and he sexually assaulted a third woman in 2016. Dixon sought out women walking alone at night, hold them at gunpoint and then drive to secluded areas in Wichita, where the woman were assaulted. Dixon was convicted of rape, battery, two counts each of aggravated kidnapping and criminal possession of a firearm by a convicted felon, and three counts of aggravated sodomy.

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AP FACT CHECK: Kris Kobach Didn't Call Schools "Overfunded"

A new television ad in the Kansas gubernatorial race hits Republican Kris Kobach for his past comments on state school funding.  Democratic state Senator Laura Kelly is running against Kobach, a fiery conservative backed by President Donald Trump, who says he will cut both spending and taxes and crackdown on immigrants living illegally in Kansas. Kelly hopes to beat him in a red state by luring moderate Republican voters uncomfortable with Kobach's in-your-face style.  In her newest campaign spot, Kelly directly attacks Kobach for what she says is a past comment about education funding in Kansas. Kobach has asked the ad be pulled from the airwaves, calling it inaccurate.

A look at her claim:
KELLY: "He actually says our schools are overfunded," says the ad which began running on TV late last month.
THE FACTS: Kobach did not actually say that, although he has been critical of how the state funds education and how school districts spend taxpayer money.

Kobach opposes a $548 million state education funding increase approved by legislators this year to meet a Kansas Supreme Court mandate. Kansas conservatives and the state Supreme Court have been at odds for years over a provision of the constitution that requires the state to provide "suitable" funding for public schools. Kobach is frustrated by the Legislature's annual ritual of approving education funding followed by the high court saying the budget is not enough. He says the cycle should stop.
He also refers to some school buildings as "crystal palaces " and complains about the number of administrators employed at some districts. During a debate earlier this year, Kobach said state legislators should stop focusing on the total amount of money spent on schools.

The ad stems from an April debate between three Republican gubernatorial candidates, including Kobach. In the ad, the Kelly campaign cites a newspaper article of the event that said Kobach described the schools as overfunded, but does not directly quote him as saying that.  During that debate, a moderator asked Kobach how he would balance the different interests of school districts throughout the state.  

In a nearly three-minute response, Kobach touched on a number of issues, including his plans to make Kansas schools compete for dollars based on student test scores and give students vouchers to move out of failing school districts.  While Kobach said at the event that "every school should have the resources it needs" he also added that state lawmakers need to "stop focusing on the total amount of money" spent on schools.

Kobach, a graduate of Harvard, Yale and Oxford, then told the audience he didn't go to a school with up-to-date technology or buildings growing up in Topeka, Kansas.  "I didn't need to have a big, shiny, new building," Kobach said. "You don't need to be spending money just to spend money and say that that's going to improve student performance. It is much more important that we look at the dollars going into the classroom."

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Obama Endorses Sharice Davids in Kansas 3rd District Race Against Kevin Yoder

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Former President Barack Obama has endorsed Democrat Sharice Davids in her race against Republican Congressman Kevin Yoder in the 2nd congressional district of eastern Kansas.  Obama included Davids on a tweeted list Monday of more than 250 candidates he endorsed across the nation. Davids was the only Kansas candidate listed.  The ex-president, a Democrat, tweeted that he was endorsing candidates running "to expand opportunity for all of us and to restore dignity, honor, and compassion to public service."  Davids is a Native American and LGBT lawyer who was a White House fellow during Obama's administration.  President Donald Trump tweeted his full endorsement of Yoder in July. Yoder is seeking a fifth term in the Kansas-City area 3rd District.  Democrat Hillary Clinton narrowly carried the district in the 2016 presidential race.

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Data: Many University of Kansas Students Graduate in 6 Years

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — Recent figures show only 42 percent of students at the University of Kansas graduated within four years.  The Lawrence Journal-World reports that the university's recent graduation data found that 63 percent of students graduated within six years.  Each additional year of study costs about $21,500 based on in-state tuition and room and board rates at the Lawrence campus. Figures show that out-of-state students usually have to pay about $38,000 each additional year.  DeAngela Burns-Wallace is the university's vice provost for undergraduate studies. Burns-Wallace says there are many nuances that affect graduation rates, such as changing a major or studying overseas.  She says university officials are trying to improve graduation rates by providing access to mentors, peer advisers and other resources, such as tutoring.

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Whereabouts of 100s of Missouri Sex Offenders Unknown

ST. LOUIS (AP) — A state audit has found that police across Missouri don't know the whereabouts of nearly 1,300 registered sex offenders, including hundreds who fall into the most dangerous category.  Missouri state Auditor Nicole Galloway, a Democrat, released the audit in St. Louis on Monday.  Missouri law requires convicted sex offenders to register their name, address and other information with county law enforcement where they live, most often the sheriff's department. The Missouri State Highway Patrol then maintains a publicly available database. Offenders must keep their information up-to-date and notify police when they move.  The audit says 1,259 sex offenders are unaccounted for — about 8 percent of the nearly 16,000 registered sex offenders in Missouri — and blames inadequate enforcement of the registration requirement at the local level.

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Missouri AG Reports 5,424 Untested Rape Kits in the State

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) — The Missouri attorney general's office says an 11-month audit determined that at least 5,424 rape kits remain untested across the state, but a new federal grant might help reduce the backlog.  Attorney General Josh Hawley's office said in a news release Monday that 372 of Missouri's law enforcement agencies voluntarily responded to the audit. The Columbia Missourian reports the office also received information from 87 health care providers and five crime labs.  Hawley said his office has received a $2.8 million Sexual Assault Kit Initiative grant from the U.S. Department of Justice. The grant will help fund testing of the kits, and efforts to standardize the collection and testing procedures. One condition of the grant is that Hawley's office must make more efforts to inventory untested kits.

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Statue Dedicated in Topeka to Key Player in Brown Case

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A statue has been dedicated in Topeka to honor an instrumental player in the Brown v. Board of Education case that ended segregation in public schools.  The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that the statue of McKinley Burnett was dedicated Sunday afternoon in the city's downtown. While president of the Topeka chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, Burnett helped recruit the 13 black parents who tried unsuccessfully to enroll their children in white Topeka elementary schools in 1951. Their lawsuit was combined with four other segregation challenges, leading to the historic 1954 U.S. Supreme Court ruling.  Washburn University School of Law dean Carla Pratt says the case was the most significant of the 20th century because it demanded that America live up to its promise of equality.

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Company Wants Some Missouri Boat Death Lawsuits Dropped

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — The company that owns the Ride the Ducks operation in Branson is asking a judge to dismiss some of the lawsuits filed after one of its boats sank on a Missouri lake, killing 17 people.  The Kansas City Star reports Ripley Entertainment said in motions filed Monday that the boat's sinking July 19 on Table Rock Lake was "an unforeseeable and unintentional occurrence." The company also argues that the duck boats complied with U.S. Coast Guard regulations.  Survivors and relatives of those who died on the boat have filed several lawsuits against Ripley and five other businesses. They contend the owners and operators of the duck boats ignored weather warnings the day the boat sank and didn't heed long-standing warnings about the safety of the boats' design.

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