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Headlines for Thursday, October 29, 2015


Kansas Extending Fracking Limits until at Least Mid-March

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — State regulators are keeping limits on a practice associated with fracking until at least mid-March 2016 as part of their efforts to decrease the frequency and size of earthquakes in south-central Kansas. The Kansas Corporation Commission issued an order Thursday to extend restrictions on the injection of wastewater into the ground by oil and natural gas producers first put in place in March of this year. The limits apply in five earthquake-prone areas in Harper and Sumner counties. The order says the KCC will revisit the issue in March, but the restrictions will remain without further action. The restrictions were to expire in September, but the KCC's staff recommended keeping them after the number and seriousness of earthquakes dropped. The limits remained while the commission considered an extension.


Shawnee County Denied $16.7M for Bridge

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Shawnee County won't be getting a federal grant for more than $16 million to rebuild an aging bridge. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports the county learned Thursday it won't receive the $16.7 million federal grant to fund the $24.4 million Willard Bridge project. Concerns about the bridge's structural integrity prompted commissioners to reduce the bridge's weight limit to nine tons. County Commissioner Shelly Buhler says replacing the bridge remains a priority. After finding out the county won't get the grant, Buhler met with staff to discuss other funding options. County commissioners sent letters to Sens. Jerry Moran and Pat Roberts, as well as U.S. Rep. Lynn Jenkins seeking their help in obtaining federal assistance. Buhler also met U.S. Secretary of Transportation Anthony Foxx in August during his visit to Wichita.


Olathe Couple says Move to Arkansas Led to Double Voting

OLATHE, Kan. (AP) — A lawyer says an Olathe Air Force veteran and his wife who are accused of voter fraud made a mistake while they were involved in a move to Arkansas. Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach's office recently filed charges against Steven Gaedtke and his wife, Betty Gaedtke. They were charged in Johnson County with misdemeanors for allegedly casting 2010 general election ballots in Kansas and Arkansas. Trey Pettlon, who's representing the Gaedtkes, told The Kansas City Star the Gaedtkes applied for advance voting ballots in Johnson County for the 2010 general election and submitted them while they were traveling back and forth over several months from Olathe to a home in Arkansas. He also says they weren't voting twice for the same candidates.


Last Defendant Sentenced in Killing of Kansas Couple

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — The last defendant in the deaths of a Kansas couple has been sentenced to prison. Twenty-year-old Braden Smith was sentenced Thursday to 24½ years in prison for providing guns he knew would be used to kill Roger and Melissa Bluml of Valley Center. The couple was shot outside their home in November 2013. Smith was originally charged with capital murder but pleaded guilty to two counts of second-degree murder and testified against his three co-defendants. The shootings were planned by the couple's adopted son, Anthony Bluml, and his biological mother, Kisha Schaberg. Andrew Ellington, Anthony Bluml's high school friend, helped with the plot. All three are currently serving long prison sentences. Testimony indicated Schaberg and her son devised the plot to kill the Blumls over hatred and for money.


Kansas Woman to go to Trial After Hitting Students

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) — A judge has ordered a Kansas City, Kansas, woman whose car struck and killed a teenage girl in January to stand trial for involuntary manslaughter. The Wyandotte County judge on Thursday ordered Tamika Pledger to also stand trial on three counts of aggravated battery after three other teenagers were hurt in the collision. Pledger testified during a preliminary hearing that her car was traveling at least 55 mph in a 20-mph zone when it hit the teenagers January 13. The teenagers were part of a brawl at the time and Pledger was on her way to the scene after her daughter called about the fight. The Kansas City Star reports Pledger's attorney entered a not guilty plea for her. She remains free on bond. No trial date was set.


Brownback criticized for speaking at conference

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Gay rights advocates are criticizing Gov. Sam Brownback for speaking at a conference sponsored by an organization that seeks to promote marriage as between a man and a woman. Brownback, a Republican, participated in a panel Wednesday at the World Congress of Families conference in Salt Lake City, Utah. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports the Human Rights Campaign criticized Brownback for speaking at the conference and says WCF is a hate group for its efforts against gay rights. Eileen Hawley, Brownback's spokeswoman, says the governor was invited to the event to discuss "strategies to lift individuals out of poverty." WCF says it supports what it calls the "natural family," or the lifelong marriage of a man and woman. WCF also says implications that it hates the LGBT community are untrue.


College Board Names Jeffrey Vitter new Ole Miss Chancellor

OXFORD, Miss. (AP) — College Board trustees have voted to name Jeffrey Vitter as the next chancellor of the University of Mississippi. The vote came Thursday afternoon after the University of Kansas provost met with campus groups Wednesday at the University of Mississippi Medical Center in Jackson and Thursday in Oxford. Trustees said Vitter was the clear front-runner after initial interviews with eight candidates. They ended the process early to pursue Vitter, who was a finalist to lead the Fayetteville campus of the University of Arkansas. Vitter has said he hopes to start by Feb. 1 and says he will spend time on campus before year's end. A computer scientist and brother of Republican Sen. David Vitter of Louisiana, Vitter replaces former Chancellor Dan Jones. Trustees declined to renew Jones' contract this spring, prompting widespread protest.


National Assessment Shows Dip in Math Scores for KS Students

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) _ Kansas schoolchildren are faring worse on a test known as the nation's report card. The state's performance dip follows a national trend of falling scores on the National Assessment of Educational Progress. The scores were released Wednesday. They show that the math scores of Kansas fourth and eighth graders slipped over the last two years. Reading scores dropped slightly for Kansas fourth graders but held steady for eighth graders. Kansas Education Commissioner Randy Watson said in a statement that the reason for the decrease isn't clear.  Governor Sam Brownback says the scores ``reflect the need for real education reform.'' 


Kansas Health Officials Slam Plan to Ask Patients About Immigration Status

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) _ Health officials are concerned about a proposal by the Sedgwick County Commission to ask about the immigration status of people seeking services at county health clinics. Commissioners say they want to collect data to see if immigrants who are living in the country illegally are getting taxpayer-funded services. But health department officials say the questioning would scare people away from seeking immunizations and disease screenings and would jeopardize the health of the entire community. The Kansas Department of Health and Environment agrees that it does not want to deter any residents from getting services needed to protect the public health. 


$4.2M Grant for Study of Impact of Climate Change on Rivers

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) _ The National Science Foundation has awarded a $4.2 million grant to research how climate change is affecting river systems in the U.S. and Mongolia.  About $2 million from the five-year grant will support work at the University of Kansas, where ecology and evolutionary biology professor James Thorp is the grant's lead investigator. He says that North American river systems, with their dams and presence of non-native fauna, could foreshadow the future of rivers in Mongolia. And he says changes in Mongolia's rivers could help also help predict the impact of future climate change on American rivers.  Also participating are researchers from Kansas State University, the National University of Mongolia and six other universities.


Syphilis Outbreak Reported in Saline County

SALINA, Kan. (AP) _ Health officials say Saline County is dealing with an outbreak of syphilis. The Saline County Health Department says that 11 cases have been reported since mid-August. The Salina Journal reports that Health Department Coordinator Jason Tiller told county commissioners this week that officials think even more cases of syphilis are undiagnosed, and the department is trying to raise awareness. Tiller says syphilis is a bacterial infection spread through sexual contact, and is easily treatable with antibiotics during the first year after infection.


Kansas Gets $1.3M for Ethanol Fuel Development

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) _ The U.S. Agriculture Department has awarded Kansas $1.3 million in matching funds for a program to increase the availability of ethanol blended fuels. The Kansas Corn Growers Association announced Wednesday that Kansas is one of 21 states to receive funding from the U.S. Agriculture Department to expand ethanol production and distribution. The funds will help Kansas retailers offer choices for higher ethanol fuel blends. The funding will cover 90 percent of the cost of installation for blender pumps and 75 percent of the cost of E15 pumps to provide higher blend ethanol products.


Bill Clinton to Receive 2015 Dole Leadership Prize

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — Former President Bill Clinton is scheduled to receive the 2015 Dole Leadership Prize at the University of Kansas nest month. The Robert J. Dole Institute of Politics said Wednesday that Clinton will receive the prize at the university campus in Lawrence on November 23rd. Dole, a former senator from Kansas, said in a statement that he and the former president have become friends. Clinton served as president from 1993 to 2001. Previous winners of the Annual Dole Leadership Prize include Nelson Mandela, former New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani and former President George H.W. Bush.


Cueto Pitches 9 Innings to Lift Royals Over Mets for 2-0 Series Lead

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Pitcher Johnny Cueto stayed on the mound for a full nine innings as the Kansas City Royals beat the New York Mets 7-1 Wednesday night to take a 2-0 lead in the World Series. Cueto allowed two-hits, struck out four and walked three. Eric Hosmer hit a tiebreaking, two-run single off in a four-run fifth inning. He has 15 RBIs in 13 games this postseason. The series moves to Citi Field in New York for Game 3 Friday night. Mets rookie Noah Syndergaard will face the Royals' Yordano Ventura in a matchup of young aces, each known for firing 100 mph fast balls. 


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