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Headlines for Wednesday, December 10, 2014


Kansas Governor Working on Pension, School Plans


TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Governor Sam Brownback says he's working on proposals for changing how Kansas distributes aid to public schools and for bolstering the pension system for teachers and government workers. But the Republican governor provided no details during an interview Wednesday with The Associated Press. He said only that his administration is researching options on school funding and pensions. Brownback's comments came a day after he outlined a plan for closing a projected $279 million shortfall in the state's current budget. His plan received bipartisan criticism because he directed the state to divert nearly $41 million from the public pension system. He said he did so to avoid cutting aid to public schools and higher education spending. But he also said the state can't sustain increases this year in education funding.


GOP Leaders in Kansas Senate Criticize Budget Plan

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) - Two Republican leaders in the Kansas Senate are criticizing  Governor Sam Brownback's plan for eliminating a projected $279 million shortfall in the current state budget. State Senate President Susan Wagle of Wichita said the governor is picking winners and losers by being selective in cutting. She said she prefers to see the burden of closing the budget shortfall spread evenly. Senate Vice President Jeff King of Independence criticized the plan for diverting $41 million in contributions to the state pension system. King is chairman of the Senate pensions committee. He said the plan threatens to undo gains made in recent years to improve the pension system's long-term financial health.


Tough Voting Laws Useless in Identity Theft Case 

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A Mexican man accused in a bizarre identity theft scheme would likely still be able to circumvent tough new Kansas voting laws because he had the proper documents. Eighty-one year-old Ramon Perez-Rivera entered a not guilty plea Wednesday in Wichita after being charged in a 33-count indictment. Federal prosecutors say he took another man's identity to get food stamps and Medicaid, obtain a U.S. passport and driver's license, and register to vote. While Perez-Rivera did not have to prove his citizenship to vote because he registered in 1999, he still would have likely fooled the state even under the strict requirements now in place because he would have had the needed paperwork. Election officials say he remains eligible to vote pending a conviction. As of Wednesday, more than 25,000 voter registrations in Kansas were suspended because they had not provided the necessary paperwork.


5 People Charged in Kansas Counterfeiting Scheme 

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Five Kansas residents are facing federal charges accusing them of counterfeiting or trying to pass fake $100 bills. Prosecutors on Tuesday charged 47-year-old John Stark and 24-year-old Deona McNutt of Great Bend, and 30-year-old Alyssa Dannebohm and 22-year-old Keith Dannebohm of Hutchinson, with counterfeiting. They also charged 30-year-old Justin Herren of Great Bend with one count of passing two $100 bills. A complaint filed against Stark says the defendants photocopied a number of bills between June and November and tried to pass them. Stark also was charged with three additional counts of making counterfeit $10, $20 and $50 bills, and one count of being a felon in possession of a firearm. A public defender listed for Stark didn't immediately return a phone call from The Associated Press seeking comment.


University of Kansas Receives $58M Donation

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) - The University of Kansas has received a $58 million gift from the estate of a couple who are the most generous private donors in school history. Madison "Al" Self and his wife, Lila, died in 2013, both at the age of 91. Their donation announced Tuesday brings the total they have given to the school to $106 million. School officials say that places them among the most generous benefactors to graduate students at any public university in the U.S. Of the $58 million gift, $39 million will go to the Self Graduate Fellowship Fund for doctoral students, $15 million will go to the Self Engineering Leadership Fellows Program and the remaining $4 million will establish a new Self Graduating Senior Fellowship Fund.


New Kansas Insurance Chief Hiring Former Rival

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) - Incoming Kansas Insurance Commissioner Ken Selzer says he's planning to hire a former Republican primary rival to serve in a key position in the office. Selzer said Tuesday that Republican state Senator Clark Shultz of Lindsborg has agreed to serve as the Insurance Department's legislative liaison after Selzer takes office January 12. Shultz was appointed this year to fill a vacancy in the Senate after previously serving 17 years in the House, the last nine as Insurance Committee chairman. He and Selzer were among five candidates in the Republican primary, which Selzer won. Selzer then defeated Democrat Dennis Anderson in last month's general election. As commissioner, Selzer is replacing three-term Republican Sandy Praeger who did not seek re-election this year.


Former Kansas Cops Indicted in Gun Selling Scheme 

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) - Federal prosecutors say two former Bel Aire police officers have been indicted for their roles in a scheme to buy and sell discounted firearms by falsely claiming they would be used for law enforcement purposes. The U.S. attorney's office says in a news release that 26-year-old Nathan A. Mavia of Wichita falsely certified that the guns would be owned by the Bel Aire Police Department. He worked for the department for about two years and is charged with one count of mail fraud. Forty-year-old Robert S. McCaslin of Wichita is accused of trying to cover up the crime. He is charged with one count of making a false statement during a federal investigation.


Teenager Sentenced in Stepbrother's Death

SALINA, Kan. (AP) — A rural Kansas teenager was sentenced to just over 10 years in prison in the shooting death of his younger stepbrother. Eighteen-year-old Ryan Velez was sentenced Monday in the June 2010 death of 9-year-old Kaden Harper. The boy died when Velez, who was 14 at the time, shot him at their home in rural Assaria. The Salina Journal reports that Velez has spent about four years at Larned State Hospital for second-degree murder and was referred to the county court after his 18th birthday for further sentencing. With time served, Velez is expected to be in prison for about five years and nine months. Velez's attorney argued for a shorter sentence, or a sentence that would have allowed the teenager to receive outpatient treatment while on probation.


KC Woman Facing Felony Animal Abuse Charge 

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — A 36-year-old Kansas City woman is facing a felony animal abuse charge after witnesses say they saw her throw a dog off a third-floor balcony and then continue abusing it. The Jackson County (Missouri) prosecutor's office says Kimberly Anderson also has been charged with misdemeanor animal abandonment for incidents last month. Witnesses told investigators they saw Anderson throw her small dog off an apartment complex balcony and later pick it up and slam it to the ground. They say Anderson also choked the animal with a leash and left it outside. Both of the dog's eyes were removed as a result of its injuries. Prosecutors have asked that part of her bond include the stipulation that she have no contact with animals. It was unclear if she had obtained an attorney.


Corps: US Falling Behind on Waterway Maintenance 

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers' commander general says the nation is falling behind on maintaining its aging levees, dams, ports and harbors. Lieutenant General Thomas Bostick spoke to reporters Wednesday during the Society of American Military Engineers conference in Kansas City, Missouri. He says finishing all the projects that have been authorized would cost about $23.5 billion, but the corps' annual budget for the work usually hovers around $1.5 billion. He says that figure doesn't include addressing a maintenance backlog. Bostick says the corps is looking at alternative financing methods, including public-private partnerships. The corps says 16 percent of the dams it operates are categorized as extremely or very high risk. Since 2009, delays and interruptions have more than doubled on the nation's inland waterways, locks and dams.


U.S. Senator's Family Files Suit over Son's Fatal Plane Crash

TULSA, Okla. (AP) — The family of a U.S. senator's son who was killed in a plane crash is suing the aircraft's manufacturers. A lawsuit filed Tuesday in Tulsa County District Court claims the November 2013 crash that killed Perry Dyson Inhofe II, 51, was due to manufacturers not providing proper maintenance on the plane's engine and parts. Inhofe — a licensed pilot, flight instructor and Tulsa physician — was the son of U.S. Sen. Jim Inhofe. He died after the twin-engine aircraft he was flying crashed about 5 miles north of the Tulsa International Airport runway and caught fire. "This accident has devastated the Inhofe family, and we intend to find accountability from those responsible," said the family's attorney, William Angelley, in a statement. The suit, which asks for at least $75,000 in damages, names Honeywell International Inc., Standard Aero, Standard Aero (Alliance) Inc. and International Jet Service Corp. as defendants, the Tulsa World reported. Honeywell spokesman Scott Sayres said in a statement that the company "firmly believes neither its engines nor any of its other products were responsible for this tragic accident.  "Honeywell takes great pride in our products and their long history of safe and reliable performance," Sayres said. International Jet Service declined to comment Wednesday, and StandardAero said it doesn't comment on pending litigation. A message was left with Standard Aero (Alliance) Inc. A federal accident report said Inhofe didn't "appropriately manage" the aircraft when one of its engines failed. The plane should have been operable in a one-engine condition, and weather wasn't a factor in the accident, the National Transportation Safety Board said in its probable cause report. Angelley calls the report "absolute nonsense" in saying the plane should have been flyable with a single engine. He said the left engine shut down after the plane's gear and flaps already had been lowered, setting up an "impossible situation" for Inhofe. "Virtually no one could have recovered from that," he said. "There was simply too much drag and not enough power." Authorities say Inhofe was conducting his first solo flight in the Mitsubishi MU-2 plane from Salina, Kansas, to Tulsa when he overshot the airport's runway.


Nixon Asks for Analysis of Tolls on Missouri's  I-70

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) _ Missouri Governor Jay Nixon is asking state highway officials to analyze the potential of turning Interstate 70 into a toll road. Nixon sent a letter Tuesday to the transportation commission requesting a report by the end of December on options for using tolls to improve and expand I-70.  Highway officials have said the interstate between St. Louis and Kansas City is in need of a complete makeover and have talked for years about widening it to three lanes in each direction.  Voters in August defeated a proposed sales tax that would have funded the I-70 project and numerous others. The transportation department suggested several years ago that I-70 could be rebuilt by a private company that could collect tolls. But that measure failed to pass the Legislature. 


Mother Says Man Accused in Teen's Death Needs Mental Help 

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — The mother of a Kansas City man accused of deliberately running down a Muslim teenager says her son is mentally ill and didn't commit a hate crime. Hawo Abdullahi of Minneapolis says her son, 34-year-old Ahmed H. Aden, needs help. Authorities say Aden was driving a sport utility vehicle that hit 15-year-old Abdisamad Sheikh-Hussein on Thursday. The teen's legs were nearly severed and he died at a Kansas City hospital. Authorities are investigating it as a possible hate crime. Abdullahi expressed her condolences to Sheikh-Hussein's family, but says his death wasn't a hate crime because her son — who is also Somali and Muslim — isn't in his right mind. Minnesota court records show Aden was diagnosed with schizophrenia in 2012, was committed to a hospital for treatment, and has a history of stopping medication.


Hutchinson Man Arrested in Officer Shooting

HUTCHINSON, Kan. (AP) - Hutchinson police have charged a man who they say shot at officers. Thirty-one-year-old Jason Mendoza was arrested Tuesday afternoon and taken to the Reno County jail. Police say three officers were working an unrelated case on Monday when Mendoza shot at them with a handgun and ran away. No officers were injured. Mendoza is charged with three counts of aggravated assault of a law enforcement officer and one count of unlawful discharge of a firearm. 


Police: Topeka Man Accidentally Shoots Neighbor

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) - Topeka police say a woman has been shot and wounded by her neighbor who was cleaning his rifle. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports the woman was shot in the forearm in her apartment Tuesday evening as she returned from grocery shopping. A police spokesman says the man had removed the magazine from his gun but didn't realize a bullet was in the chamber and the weapon fired when the man set it down. Police say the bullet traveled through the man's television and wall. The woman was taken to an area hospital where her injury didn't appear to be life-threatening. Topeka police say the man likely won't be charged because there wasn't any criminal intent. Their identities haven't been released.


Feds Say Impostor Changed Name of ID Theft Victim

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) - An 81-year-old immigrant from Mexico who has lived unlawfully in the United States for decades has been charged in federal court in Kansas in what authorities say is one of the most ingenious identity theft cases in the country. The government contends that Ramon Perez-Rivera fraudulently convinced a California court to legally change the name of the U.S. citizen whose identity had been stolen to his own real name. Perez-Rivera was then able to get the state to also change the name on the man's birth certificate. A 33-count indictment charges him with aggravated identity theft and other charges, including using making false statements to obtain food stamps and Medicaid, register to vote and get a U.S. passport and a driver's license.


4 Russian Nationals Accused of Casino Fraud Scheme


ST. LOUIS (AP) — Four Russian nationals are accused of carrying out a scheme to use electronic devices to cheat slot machines at at least 10 casinos in three states. A St. Louis federal grand jury has indicted them on charges of traveling in interstate and foreign commerce in furtherance of the conspiracy. They are 38-year-old Yevgeniy Nazarov, 36-year-old Murat Bliev, 28-year-old Igor Lavrenov, and 32-year-old Ivan Gudalov. Authorities believe Bliev, Lavrenov and Gudalov reside in Moscow. Nazarov is a U.S. citizen living in Miami. Prosecutors say some of the affected casinos are in St. Louis and Kansas City, Missouri, as well as in East St. Louis, Illinois, and Temecula, California.  Online court records don't show whether any of the four defendants have U.S. attorneys.


Union Station's Science Center Rebounding 

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Science City at Kansas City's Union Station is rebounding from years of stagnant attendance, thanks to new exhibits and attractions and an increase in donations. The latest good news came Wednesday, when two new exhibits costing more than $1 million and resulting from a high school science competition opened. The Kansas City Star reports that more than half of Science City has been overhauled in recent years, sparked by more than $5 million in donations from the Burns & McDonnell Foundation and in-kind services from the company. It appears to be paying off. Attendance at Science City increased 7 percent in 2013 and has grown by double digits this year. Revenues increased 17 percent in 2013 and Union Station CEO George Guastello says the science center is financially self-sustaining.


Bonner Springs Man Charged in Killing at Lowe's Store

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) - Prosecutors have charged a Kansas man with first-degree murder after they say he shot and killed a woman in a Lowe's Home Improvement store parking lot Sunday. Wyandotte County prosecutors say 28-year-old George Lingenfelser killed 29-year-old Janet Billings. Kansas City, Kansas, police say Billings and Lingenfelser are from Bonner Springs and knew each other. Their relationship is unclear. Officers found Billings's body in the parking lot. Lingenfelser is being held on $750,000 bond at the county jail. 


Kansas State Beats Bradley 50-47

MANHATTAN, Kan. (AP) — Nino Williams had 14 points and 12 rebounds as Kansas State (5-4) defeated Bradley 50-47 on Tuesday night at Bramlage Coliseum. It was Williams's second-career double-double, with the last coming against Baylor on March 8. Auston Barnes scored a career-high 21 points for the Bradley Braves (3-6). Barnes scored five-straight points tying the game at 39 apiece with 7:55 left but a Kansas State run in the final minutes put the Wildcats ahead by 3 at the final buzzer. 


Kansas City Chiefs Charles, Hali Held from Practice Due to Injuries 

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Chiefs running back Jamaal Charles, linebacker Tamba Hali and tight end Anthony Fasano were held out of practice Wednesday with knee injuries. All of them are considered day to day, Chiefs coach Andy Reid said. Defensive lineman Allen Bailey also missed practice as he continues to recover from a concussion, but wide receiver Junior Hemingway returned to the field after passing his concussion tests. Hemingway had missed the previous two games. The Chiefs (7-6) have lost three straight, putting their playoff hopes in jeopardy. They play the Oakland Raiders on Sunday at Arrowhead Stadium.


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