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Headlines for Friday, November 6, 2015


Kansas Slashes Revenue Forecast, Adjusts Budget to Avert Gap 

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas has slashed its revenue projections, and Republican Governor Sam Brownback's budget director has announced immediate budget adjustments so the state keeps paying its bills on time. State officials and university economists on Friday issued a new, more pessimistic forecast for state government. The new forecast predicts $354 million less in state revenues from now through June 2017 than previously predicted. The new forecast created a deficit in the state's current budget. Budget director Shawn Sullivan immediately announced $124 million in budget adjustments to close the gap and avoid delays in meeting the state's bills. The new forecast came hours after the Kansas Supreme Court heard arguments about whether a school funding law enacted earlier this year is valid and whether school districts are owed another $54 million in aid.


New Report: Social Programs Likely to Cost Kansas $47M over Estimates

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) _ A new report says Medicaid and other services will cost Kansas about $47 million more than expected during the next two budget years. The new estimates Thursday complicate the budget picture for Governor Sam Brownback and the Kansas Legislature. The report was issued by legislative researchers and Brownback's budget staff.  The report covers cash assistance, foster care and Medicaid's health coverage for the poor and disabled, which cost the state $1.1 billion annually. The new estimates are $16.6 million higher for the current budget and $30.8 million higher for the fiscal year beginning in July 2017. 


State Defends School Funding in Kansas Supreme Court Hearing 

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — An attorney for four Kansas school districts says the state Supreme Court needs to take "prompt action" to fix funding shortfalls. Attorney Alan Rupe told the court on Friday that "the kids of Kansas deserve nothing less." He is requesting $54 million that he says poor schools were shortchanged last year and this year. Earlier Friday, the state's attorney, Stephen McAllister, told the court school funding increases in 2014 were an improvement over previous years. He argued the decision to adopt block grant funding while lawmakers look for a better school funding formula shouldn't be punished. A Shawnee County District Court panel found in June that the state's new strategy for financing 286 school districts and cuts to state aid for low-income school districts were unconstitutional.


Budget Division Recommends Against Emergency School Aid 

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Governor Sam Brownback's administration is recommending against granting emergency state aid to most Kansas school districts that plan on seeking funds at an upcoming meeting with lawmakers. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that superintendents were sent a message from the Kansas State Department of Education on behalf of the Division of Budget. The message says giving certain districts extra aid would not benefit them until next year because school budgets for this fiscal year have already been set. The message directed at 17 of 23 districts that applied for aid suggested they apply for money next year and that attending the State Finance Council meeting on Monday is not necessary. The governor's office said Thursday that the message was meant as a courtesy advance notice to the superintendents since many district representatives would be driving to Topeka from western Kansas.


Obama Administration Kills Keystone XL Pipeline

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Barack Obama says he's rejecting the Keystone XL pipeline because he does not believe it serves the national interest. Obama says the pipeline has played an overinflated role in political discourse. Obama is speaking at the White House after meeting with Secretary of State John Kerry. The decision caps a seven-year saga that became a flashpoint in Obama's presidency. Killing the pipeline allows Obama to claim aggressive action on the environment.


Environmentalists Hail Obama Decision on Pipeline 

WASHINGTON (AP) — Environmental groups are praising President Barack Obama's decision today to reject a Canadian company's application for the Keystone X-L pipeline. And some are declaring it a "day of celebration." The executive director of the Sierra Club, Michael Brune, says, "Stopping the Keystone X-L pipeline is a victory for the planet" -- and also for "the health and well-being of the communities along the pipeline route." But pipeline supporters are making it clear that the fight isn't over. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell says, "Given this project's importance to North American energy independence, the question still remains not if but when Keystone will be built." In announcing his decision today, Obama accused both sides of making exaggerated claims about the impact the pipeline would have -- on the economy and on the environment.


Convicted Serial Killer's Kansas Death Sentence Upheld

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The Kansas Supreme Court has upheld the death sentence for a convicted serial killer who stuffed several of the bodies of his female victims into barrels. The ruling Friday in the case of John E. Robinson Sr. marks the first time justices have upheld a death sentence since Kansas reinstated capital punishment in 1994. Robinson was sentenced to death for killing two women in Kansas, in 1999 and 2000. The justices upheld his death sentence in a 415-page ruling that also addressed numerous technical arguments raised by Robinson's attorneys. Robinson also was convicted for the 1985 death of a third young Kansas woman whose body was never found. Robinson, now 71, was sentenced to life in prison for killing four other women and a teenage girl in Missouri.


Lawrence Woman Charged in Fleeing to Europe with Daughters 

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — A Kansas woman has been charged after she fled to Europe with her 9-year-old and 11-year-old daughters. The Douglas County District Attorney's Office says Samantha Elmer was charged Friday with two counts of aggravated interference with parental custody. Authorities say Elmer and the girls were was last seen October 26 in Lawrence. The girls' father, Justin Bush of Smithville, Missouri, says he contacted Elmer after the girls missed several days of school and Elmer told him the girls were ill. Bush contacted Lawrence police a few days later and they traced Elmer to Europe. Sergeant Trent McKinley says missing person profiles have been created on Interpol, which assists in solving international crimes. Bush says Elmer left ahead of a custody hearing and a November 2 trial on theft charges.


Kansas Teacher at Center of Anti-Bullying Controversy Decides Not to Resign

CONWAY SPRINGS, Kan. (AP) — A Conway Springs teacher at the center of a controversy over showing an anti-bullying video says he has changed his mind and has decided not to resign. The Wichita Eagles reports that Tom Leahy's decision could force a school board vote on whether or not he can return to the classroom. The social studies teacher has been on leave since October 21st. He was asked to resign after showing eighth-grade history students a short film depicting a fictional world in which heterosexual children are bullied by homosexual children. Leahy plans to address the school board Monday.


No Charges Against US Marshals in Fatal KCK Shooting 

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) — Wyandotte County District Attorney Jerry Gorman will not file charges against two deputy U.S. marshals who shot and killed a man in Kansas City, Kansas. The Kansas City Star reports the two deputy marshals shot Patrick Pippin, of Shawnee, July 16th after he led police on a chase along Interstate 35. Gorman said his investigation indicated the officers were justified in using deadly force. Deputies went to a home as part of an investigation into several armed robberies. When they attempted to stop a vehicle that that drove away from the home, the driver sped off and eventually crashed. The marshals reported that Pippin appeared to have a gun when he started running toward one officer. The two marshals shot him and Pippin died of four gunshot wounds.


Activists Seek Answers in Clean-up of Former Kansas City Nuclear Weapons Plant

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) - Activists are seeking more aggressive cleanup measures at a former federal weapons manufacturing site in Kansas City, Missouri. The Kansas City Star reports that members of the Alliance for Nuclear Accountability, a coalition of organizations from communities located near Department of Energy nuclear facilities, met Thursday to discuss the 300-acre Bannister Federal Complex. Ann Suellentrop, an ANA board member, calls for more transparency about contamination at the site, which formerly housed a plant that produced non-nuclear parts for nuclear weapons. Honeywell operated the plant for years for the Department of Energy but moved to a new National Security Campus south of the Bannister site last year. A firm picked to redevelop the site is considering how to demolish the buildings at the old complex and tackle the environmental restoration.


New Shigellosis Cases Spread in Kansas City Area

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) - The shigellosis outbreak that began in the Kansas City area in July continues to spread. The Jackson County Health Department has seen 62 cases so far this year, bringing the total in the metro area to more than 400.  More than half of the Jackson County cases occurred in October. The county typically sees fewer than 10 cases each year. Shigellosis is an infectious intestinal disease caused by bacteria transmitted by people who have symptoms, including abdominal pain, fever and vomiting. Most of the region's cases have been associated with child care facilities and elementary schools.


Haskell Athletes to Wear Nike's New Native-Inspired Uniforms

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — Haskell Indian Nations University men's and women's basketball teams will wear special turquoise uniforms honoring Native Americans this month. The Lawrence Journal World reports that Haskell is one of eight universities nationwide chosen to wear Nike's new N7" uniforms during November, Native American Heritage Month. The jerseys and shorts are turquoise and have an accompanying white T-shirt with a graphic blue and black image of a Native American warrior. Nike said Wednesday that Haskell Indian Nations University men's and women's basketball teams will wear the uniforms on November 24 during their games against Baker University at Haskell. N7 is a Nike initiative to encourage Native American youth to participate in sports.


Passenger Who Caused Flight Diversion Released on Bond 

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A magistrate judge has released on $25,000 bond the passenger who allegedly threatened to bring down an American Airlines flight after being refused a beer. Thirty-eight-year-old Jason Baroletti of Holbrook, New York, was ordered on Friday not to travel by commercial airline, as one of his release conditions.. He also is not to use alcohol while he awaits trial on one count of interfering with the performance of a flight crew. The disruption caused American Airlines to divert a Phoenix-to-New York flight Tuesday evening to Wichita. An FBI affidavit contends an inflight dispute escalated after he was forbidden to smoke an electronic cigarette. Baroletti became agitated and allegedly threatened to kill a passenger after flight attendants refused to serve him beer, which he claimed he needed for anxiety.


Diamond Pendant Auction to Benefit Topeka Habitat for Humanity

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A diamond pendant apparently valued at about $20,000 is headed for the auction block to benefit a Topeka charity. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that Topeka Habitat for Humanity is auctioning the diamond pendant, which came from an anonymous donor. The 1.59-carat round diamond pendant has an estimated value of $20,000. The charity says in a release that the donor wanted to give the heirloom to honor her mother-in-law. Michele De la Isla, executive director of Topeka Habitat for Humanity, says the starting bid is $12,500. The silent auction runs through Wednesday.


Kansas City Police Report Car Passenger Shot

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Kansas City police say they're investigating after a woman was fatally shot while she was a passenger in a car. Police spokesman Captain Tye Grant says in a release Friday that police received a call of a shooting late Sunday. They found the victim, 23-year-old Vernae Watson of Kansas City, injured from a gunshot. Grant says she died Tuesday at a hospital. A witness told police Watson had been a passenger in a moving vehicle when the driver heard gunshots and realized she had been shot. Police say no arrests have been made.


Kansas Man Who Robbed Businesses with Kids in Getaway Car Sentenced 

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A 26-year-old Wichita man has been sentenced to nearly five years in prison for robbing three businesses while his young children were in his getaway car. The Sedgwick County prosecutor's office says Charles Emerson pleaded guilty in September to one count of aggravated robbery and three counts of robbery. He was sentenced Friday in Sedgwick County District Court to 59 months in prison and ordered to pay more than $1,100 in restitution. Prosecutors say Emerson was armed with a pistol on April 21 when he robbed an X-Citement Video, Quik Trip and Petro America in Wichita within 90 minutes. His 10-month-old daughter and 5-year-old son were asleep in the back seat of the car during the robberies. Emerson's girlfriend is scheduled to be sentenced on similar charges in December.


Clinton Debuts in Ad Paid for by Group Tied to Koch Brothers

WASHINGTON (AP) — Democratic presidential front-runner Hillary Rodham Clinton is making her first appearance in an advertisement funded by wealthy Republican donors tied to billionaires Charles and David Koch. A 30-second ad aimed at Internet users in South Carolina and Florida shows headlines about veterans who have died while awaiting health care. Then it shows a recent MSNBC interview with Clinton saying of problems at the Department of Veterans Affairs, "It's not been widespread as it has been made out to be." Text in the ad says: "Not widespread? Our veterans deserve better." The digital ad is backed by at least $100,000 from a nonprofit group, Concerned Veterans for America, that does not identify its donors. The ad is timed to run as Clinton participates in a Democratic candidate forum in South Carolina.


Kansas Woman Indicted in Las Vegas Identity Fraud Case


LAS VEGAS (AP) — Federal prosecutors in Nevada say five Las Vegas-area residents and one from Kansas are accused of using identities of dead people to obtain some $2.7 million in fraudulent tax refunds. U.S. Attorney Daniel Bogden said Friday that Andrew Hanzelic, Brian Summers, Ronald Kelly, Clint Tarrant and Terry Williamson, all of Las Vegas, and Kelly Coyan of Lenexa, Kansas, face conspiracy and fraud charges. Hanzelic, Coyan, Summers and Kelly also face false claims and identity theft counts. Tarrant is also charged with theft of government funds. An indictment alleges that Hanzelic obtained birth dates, addresses and Social Security numbers from online genealogical databases and sold it to others in the scheme. The defendants are accused of using several bank accounts and debit cards to receive federal Internal Revenue Service refunds.


Wichita's Newman University Receives $1M Grant

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Newman University in Wichita has received a $1 million grant for the university's science and health science programs. The Wichita Eagle reports that the gift is from the Dwane L. and Velma Lunt Wallace Charitable Foundation. Newman President Noreen Carrocci says the donation will go toward helping students in the science, nursing and allied health fields. Dwane Wallace led the Cessna Aircraft Company from 1934 through 1975. The Wallaces established their foundation in 1989 to support programs and organizations in Wichita. Newman, a Catholic University founded in 1933, has an enrollment of about 2,700 students.


Cherokee County Signs Agreement to Cover Casino Legal Costs

COLUMBUS, Kan. (AP) _ Cherokee County commissioners have signed an agreement with a Missouri company that will pay legal bills the county amassed while fighting a proposed casino for nearby Crawford County. The company has agreed to pay the county's legal fees, which total close to $150,000. The agreement says the county has two years to repay the money if the state-owned casino is shifted to Cherokee County. If no casino is built, the county does not have to reimburse the money. Cherokee County has filed a lawsuit, saying regulators did not follow state law and arbitrarily awarded the casino contract to Crawford County.


University of Missouri-Kansas City Receives 3 Gifts 

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — The University of Missouri-Kansas City has received three significant gifts to support a proposed campus for the arts. The university's foundation said it recently received $1.5 million from the David Beals Charitable Trust and two $1 million gifts from anonymous donors. The Kansas City Star reports that the gifts bring the university within $14 million of reaching its $48 million fundraising goal for the arts campus. It needs to reach that goal by June 30 to request matching funds from the state to cover the project's first phase, estimated to cost $96 million. The arts campus would house the university's Conservatory of Music and Dance.


Baylor Holds Off K-State to Win 31-24 

MANHATTAN, Kan. (AP) —  No. 2 ranked Baylor held on for a 31-24 victory over Kansas State in college football on Thursday night. The Baylor Bears (5-0 Big 12, No. 6 CFP) improve to 8-0 for only the second time in school history. Kansas State got to 31-24 in the fourth quarter and had a chance to recover when Baylor missed a field goal with 51 seconds remaining. But on their first play, the Wildcats quarterback threw an interception and Baylor ran out the clock. Kansas State (3-5) drops to 0-5 in conference play for the first time since 1989.


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