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Headlines for Wednesday, October 10, 2018

Kansas Gubernatorial Candidates Trade Barbs in Debate

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Democrat Laura Kelly accused Republican Kris Kobach of not being truthful when he claimed during a televised debate that Kansas can save $377 million a year by cutting off benefits and services to immigrants living in the U.S. illegally.  Kobach, in turn, argued that Kelly is lying when she says that he wants to cut school spending.  The contentious exchanges came Tuesday evening as the candidates for Kansas governor faced questions about taxes, school funding and immigration in a hotly-contested race where Kelly previously accused Kobach of not supporting public education, and Kobach has tried to translate a rally with President Donald Trump into momentum in the campaign's final weeks.  Kobach is nationally known for advocating tough immigration and voter identification policies, and was Trump's most visible early supporter in Kansas.

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Pence Planning Visit to Kansas to Help Boost Kobach, Watkins

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Vice President Mike Pence is planning to visit Kansas next week for events to help Republicans Kris Kobach and Steve Watkins in their campaigns for governor and Congress. Kobach's campaign says Pence will come October 18 to Wichita for an event to show his support for Kobach, the Kansas secretary of state. Kobach's campaign said the details still are being worked out. Watkins's campaign announced Wednesday that Pence will have a private October 19 fundraiser for the candidate's campaign in the 2nd Congressional District of eastern Kansas. While the details still are being settled, tickets will start at $250. Pence's events will come less than two weeks after President Donald Trump had a rally in Topeka aimed at helping Kobach and Watkins in a state Trump carried easily in 2016.

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Governor Jeff Colyer Issues State of Disaster Declaration Following Heavy Rains 

SEDGWICK, Kan. (AP) — Kansas Governor Jeff Colyer has issued a state of disaster declaration because of rains that soaked much Kansas this week. As of Wednesday, the Kansas Division of Emergency Management says it has not yet received requests for assistance from any counties, but the emergency declaration will speed the state's response if local governments need help with response and recovery operations. Many roads are closed as rivers and creeks overflow their banks across the state. The Arkansas River in Wichita is closed to all recreational activities for a week after the rains brought more than 11 times the average amount of water to the river for this time of year. The Wichita Eagle reported the Arkansas River was causing minor flooding at noon on Wednesday as it went above flood stage.

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Kansas Rivers and Creeks Overflow Banks After Heavy Rain

SEDGWICK, Kan. (AP) — At least one Kansas school district has canceled classes and many roads are closed as rivers and creeks overflow their banks.  The closures come as the National Weather Service issues a flood warning for a large swath of central and eastern Kansas. National Weather Service meteorologist Brad Ketcham told The Wichita Eagle that the weather system is a "beast."  The Sedgwick school district near Wichita has called off classes for at least two days as a creek floods, forcing some residents to sandbag around their homes. Superintendent Larry Roth told KWCH-TV that the district wants to ensure buses are safe and that it can get students home as water rises.  Amtrak also is closing its route between Hutchinson and Topeka through Wednesday morning and rerouting passengers on buses.

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GOP Official Resigns over Post on Davids and 'Reservation'

SHAWNEE, Kan. (AP) — A local GOP official has resigned his party post in Kansas after fellow Republicans condemned his social media attack saying a Native American congressional candidate would be "sent back packing to the reservation." The Kansas City Star reports that Michael Kalny of suburban Kansas City resigned Wednesday as a Republican precinct committee member. In his Facebook message, Kalny called Democratic candidate Sharice Davids a "radical socialist kick boxing lesbian Indian." He sent the message Monday to the president of a local Democratic women's group. Davids is an LGBT lawyer and member of the Wisconsin-based Ho-Chunk Nation running against Republican Representative Kevin Yoder. She also has fought mixed martial arts bouts. Yoder's spokesman and the Kansas GOP's executive director repudiated Kalny's remarks. Kalny did not return a telephone message seeking comment.

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Kansas Senate Recommends Medicaid Inspector General

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A Kansas legislative committee recommended that the full Senate confirm a new inspector general for the state's Medicaid program.  The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that if Sarah Fertig is confirmed, it would end four years without independent oversight of the state's $3 billion program, which serves 400,000 people.  Attorney General Derek Schmidt nominated Fertig in January after the 2017 Legislature moved the inspector general's position from the Kansas Department of Health and Environment to the attorney general's office.  Former Governor Sam Brownback's refused to fill the inspector general position at the health department or use agency resources to examine Medicaid delivery.  Fertig, of Lawrence, has been an assistant attorney general for seven years.  The Senate committee's vote Tuesday allows Fertig to begin working pending a final vote by the Senate in 2019.

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Dole Leadership Prize to Ex-Secretary of State James Baker

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — The Dole Institute of Politics at the University of Kansas will honor former U.S. Secretary of State James Baker with the 2018 Dole Leadership Prize.  The institute announced Wednesday the honor for Baker on Wednesday.  Baker served in senior government positions under three U.S. presidents, including as secretary of state for President George H.W. Bush and chief of staff for President Ronald Reagan. Baker will accept the award on November 7 at a public program at the institute.  The Dole Leadership Prize is awarded annually to an individual or group whose public service leadership inspires others. The prize includes a $25,000 cash award.

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Former Leavenworth Inmate Sentenced in Attack on Guard

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) — A former Leavenworth inmate has been sentenced to 15 years in federal prison for attacking a Leavenworth prison guard with a pair of scissors. U.S. Attorney Stephen McAllister said 27-year-old Richard James Jr. was also ordered Wednesday to pay $18,692 in restitution. James, who is in federal custody, pleaded guilty to assaulting a federal officer. He admitted that he sharpened a pair of grooming scissors and stabbed Joseph Brian Wilson, a unit manager for the U.S. Bureau of Prisons. Other corrections officers pulled James off Wilson to stop the attack. Prosecutors say James told investigators he wanted a "change of scenery" and attacked Wilson so he would be moved to another prison.

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Dole Endorses GOP's Watkins in Kansas Congressional Race

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Former presidential candidate and U.S. Senate Majority Leader Bob Dole has endorsed Republican Steve Watkins in his race for an eastern Kansas congressional seat. Dole announced his support for the Army veteran and political novice in a tweet Wednesday. Watkins and Democrat Paul Davis are seeking to replace retiring Republican Representative Lynn Jenkins. Democrats hope to flip the seat even though President Donald Trump carried the district in 2016. Watkins has faced questions because he's lived most of his adult life outside Kansas and did not vote in the state until a Topeka municipal election last year. But Dole tweeted that he believes Watkins will work hard and "protect our Kansas values." The 95-year-old Dole was the 1996 GOP presidential nominee and served more than 35 years in Congress.

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Kansas Woman Sentenced for Defrauding Bank Customer

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) — A Coffeyville woman was sentenced to 60 days in federal prison for stealing $150,000 from a customer at a bank where she worked. Federal prosecutors say 61-year-old Phyllis Lanning was sentenced Wednesday for mail fraud. She also was ordered to pay full restitution. Prosecutors say Lanning admitted that while she worked for Condon National Bank in Coffeyville she created and mailed falsified documents to conceal her theft of $150,000 from a customer's account. Lanning sent the customer's monthly statements to an address in Bartlesville, Oklahoma, that she controlled. She then mailed false statements to the customer. The theft was discovered after the victim died and family members took control of the account. Lanning will serve three years of supervised release after she serves her sentence.

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Kansas Infant Death Rate from Asphyxia Doubled in 3 Years

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A new report shows that the rate of Kansas infants dying from a lack of oxygen has more than doubled in just three years.  The Wichita Eagle reports that the Kansas State Child Death Review Board's analysis of 2016 child deaths found that 20 children died from unintentional asphyxia, such as suffocation, strangulation or choking. The finding is a small fraction of the state's 394 child deaths in 2016, but the rate of death from asphyxia has grown steadily since 2013.  Sixteen of the 20 Kansas asphyxia deaths involved a child less than 1 year old, while 17 of the deaths were sleep-related.  State figures show the majority of sleep-related deaths occurred when a child wasn't sleeping in a crib or bassinet, but instead sharing a sleeping surface with another person.

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Man Accused of Using Children's Identities in Tax Fraud

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Federal prosecutors allege a 52-year-old Kansas City man used his children's identities in a nearly $2.6 million tax fraud scheme. Michael Kheop was indicted by a grand jury on three charges of making false claims, two counts of mail fraud and one count of aggravated identity theft. The indictment was made public Wednesday after Kheop was arrested. The indictment alleges Kheop filed false claims for income tax returns in his own and his children's names from 2014 through 2018. Prosecutors say Kheop created a fictitious business called Al-Aleem Engineering in February 2013. He then allegedly created W-2 forms containing false income and withholding under his and his children's names. Online court records do not show an attorney for Kheop.

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Man Convicted in Shooting Death of 3-Year-Old Boy in Kansas City

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — A Kansas City man has been convicted in a drive-by shooting that killed a 3-year-old boy.  A Jackson County jury on Tuesday found 26-year-old Dominque Marchbanks guilty of second-degree murder in the May 2015 death of Amorian S.L. Hale.  Marchbanks also was convicted of unlawful use of a weapon and armed criminal action.  The Kansas City Star reports that Marchbanks is the first of three men to go to trial in the case.  Murder charges are pending against SirTerry Stevenson and Sulif Wilkins.  Prosecutors say Amorian was asleep when bullets from an assault-style rifle were fired into his family's Kansas City home. A bullet struck the boy in the head, killing him instantly.  Two adults and three other children in the home were not injured.

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Kansans Wait Average of 573 Days for Decisions About Social Security Claims

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Data shows Kansans waited an average of 573 days for decisions on their Social Security claims during the last fiscal year.  The Topeka Capital-Journal reports Social Security data showed that is an increase from the previous fiscal year, when wait times were 557 days. However, the number of pending cases decreased from 4,290 in the previous year to 2,454 cases pending between September 2017, and August 2018.  Jewell Colbert, spokeswoman for Social Security's Kansas City region, says a complex appeals process and a "stringent definition" of disability requires detailed medical evidence before the decisions are made.  Mike Stein is assistant vice president of operations for TrueHelp, which helps people through the disability claims process. He says people waiting for decisions often can't afford medications or regular treatment they need for medical problems.

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Kansas GOP Congressman's Ad Has Softer Tone on Immigration

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas Congressman Kevin Yoder has launched a new television ad with a testimonial from the widow of an Indian engineer murdered in a Kansas City-area bar.  The 30-second spot that began Tuesday features Sunayana Dumala praising Yoder for the Republican's efforts to help her remain in the U.S. after her husband's death last year.  The ad is airing with the four-term congressman locked in a tough race against Democrat Sharice Davids.  Yoder received President Donald Trump's full endorsement in July. His new ad began three days after Trump had a campaign rally in Topeka in a neighboring district that Yoder didn't attend.  Washburn University of Topeka political scientist Bob Beatty said many anti-Trump voters view him as "anti-immigrant." Beatty said the ad allows Yoder to distance himself from Trump.

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Lawrence Commission Favors Reducing Marijuana Penalties

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — Lawrence city commissioners favor reducing the city's penalties for marijuana possession, which are more stringent than state law requires. The commissioners discussed the issue during a work session Tuesday after receiving a request from a Lawrence resident to consider lowering the penalties, The Lawrence Journal-World reported. Currently, first-time offenders in Lawrence pay a minimum fine of $200 and must also pay for and undergo a drug evaluation. Both city ordinance and state law set a maximum fine of $1,000 and/or imprisonment up to 180 days. State law doesn't require a minimum fine for first-time offenders or a mandatory drug evaluation. The commission took no action, but commissioners say they support reducing the minimum fine, perhaps to $50, and changing the requirement for a mandatory drug evaluation. The city's current ordinance on penalties for marijuana possession was adopted in 2006. "This is a conversation I think we've been needing to have for several years, I believe," Vice Mayor Lisa Larsen said. "And as we've heard, public opinion has changed, and we just need to do it and get it done and make the changes. First-time offenders in Lawrence typically must pay the minimum $200 fine, $63 court costs, $85 to $150 for a mandatory drug evaluation and additional costs if education or counseling is required. The person also generally receives a 90-day suspended jail sentence and six months of probation requiring court appearances monthly or every two months until all obligations are met. Possession of drug paraphernalia would bring more charges and fines. Being placed in diversion requires more costs. Commissioner Matthew Herbert said he thinks the city changing its ordinance could send a message to state legislators that cities want lawmakers to enact. "I think by taking actual action on a municipal level, we do a little something more than just sending a legislative statement," Herbert said. "We demonstrate to our state the actions that we hope to see done. And I for one would like to be part of that change."

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Lawrence District, Teachers Union to Meet with Mediator

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — A mediator will meet Wednesday with negotiators for the Lawrence school district and its teachers union to try and reach a teaching contract for this school year.  The Lawrence Journal-World report s negotiations between the district and teachers broke down August 29. The sticking points are salary differences and the union requests for compensation for overtime work, staffing and teacher input on student discipline.  The union has asked for a $2,200 increase to the base salary paid for new teachers with no experience. The district has countered with a base increase offer of $500. If mediation fails, the district and union can ask a fact finder to research the dispute and recommend a solution.  The union and the Lawrence school board will have to approve a mediated solution or a recommendation from a fact finder.

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Trump to Allow Year-Round Sales of High-Ethanol Gasoline

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Trump administration is moving to allow year-round sales of gasoline with higher blends of ethanol, a boon for Iowa and other farm states that have pushed for greater sales of the corn-based fuel.  President Donald Trump is expected to announce he is lifting a federal ban on summer sales of high-ethanol blends during a trip to Iowa on Tuesday.  The long-expected announcement is something of a reward to Iowa Sen. Chuck Grassley, who as Senate Judiciary Committee chairman led a contentious but successful fight to confirm Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court. The veteran Republican lawmaker is the Senate's leading ethanol proponent and has pushed for year-round sales of the high-ethanol blend.  A senior administration official confirmed the change Monday on condition of anonymity ahead of Trump's announcement.

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Wichita Man Sentenced for Gun Theft from Sheriff's Vehicle

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A Wichita man has been sentenced to four years and nine months in federal prison for stealing guns from an undercover Sedgwick County Sheriff's vehicle. The U.S. attorney's office says 38-year-old Travis Keller pleaded guilty to one count of possessing stolen firearms. Keller admitted in his plea that he and co-defendant Justin Winger took guns from the unmarked car. The guns included a 9-mm handgun, a 12-gauge shotgun and a 5.56-caliber rifle. Another co-defendant, Arthur Mannie is scheduled to go on trial in January. Sentencing for Winger is scheduled for Nov. 19.

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Wichita School Warns Parents and Students About "Happy Crack"

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A Wichita middle school is asking parents to be sure their children aren't bringing a candy known a "happy crack" to school.  Truesdell Middle School officials sent an email to families Monday saying the school's teachers are seeing more students bringing in powder candy in plastic bags.  The Wichita Eagle reports the candy is Kool-Aid mixed with sugar or crushed smarties. The email said the candy has caused disruptions at the school several times.  Wichita school district spokeswoman Susan Arensman said she hadn't heard about other schools having problems with "happy crack."  The powdered candy isn't new. In 2011, officials at a Maize elementary school asked parents to discuss drugs with their children after some fifth-graders reportedly sold baggies of Kool-Aid and sugar to classmates on the bus.

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