Headlines for Thursday, December 31, 2015
Attorneys Want to Add New Plaintiff to Kansas Voter ID Lawsuit
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Attorneys in a federal lawsuit challenging the Kansas proof of citizenship voting law want to add another plaintiff to the case in their bid to make it a class action lawsuit. The lawsuit challenges the constitutionality of a 2013 Kansas law requiring new voters to document their U.S. citizenship when registering. The Lawrence Journal-World reports lawyers for the plaintiffs filed a motion recently to add a 20-year-old Kansas University student, Parker Bednasek, as a plaintiff. If approved, he'd serve as a representative of all members of the class of people whose voter registrations are being blocked for failure to show valid proof of U.S. citizenship. A spokesman for Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach says their attorneys will ask for an extension of time to respond to the latest motion.
Amtrak Suspends Route from KC to St. Louis Because of Flooding
UNDATED (AP) — Amtrak has suspended traffic on a route from Kansas City to St. Louis because of flooding in Missouri. A spokesman says passengers with tickets on the River Runner will be bused on Thursday, though that service will bypass at least two cities.
Leavenworth to Pay $85,000 for Clean Water Act Violations
LEAVENWORTH, Kan. (AP) — The city of Leavenworth will be required to spend $85,000 for violating the federal Clean Water Act. The payments come after the Environmental Protection Agency documented 19 sewer overflows between 2010 and 2015 from the city's water treatment plant near the Missouri River. The overflows sent sewer water into the river. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that the city must pay $46,200 in penalties and spend $38,800 for improvements to its storm water system. Leavenworth spokeswoman Melissa Bower says the city had already planned a project to improve its storm water system before the EPA's report. The EPA at first proposed $104,000 in penalties and costs but reduced the amount after talking with city officials.
Teenager Pleads Not Guilty in Grandmother's Death
LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — A 16-year-old Lawrence boy has pleaded not guilty in the death of his grandmother. The teenager is being charged as a juvenile with first-degree murder in the death of 67-year-old Deborah Bretthauer. Police say she was found dead Monday in her apartment with "obvious traumatic injuries." Authorities say the suspect, who lived with his grandmother, called police and initially said he had found the woman dead. He was arrested after a police interview. The Lawrence Journal-World reports that the suspect entered his plea Thursday in Douglas County District Court. He is being held without bond in the Douglas County Juvenile Detention Center until Jan. 20, when his next court appearance is scheduled.
Arizona Company Must Pay Fines, Reimburse Kansas Customers
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) _ An Arizona company that told customers it was selling products to help a charitable organization has been ordered to pay a $10,000 fine and reimburse customers. A Shawnee County District Court also ordered Phoenix-based American Handicapped and Disabled Workers to stop collecting payments from Kansas customers. The company's owner is Adli Najib Dasuqi of Waterford, Michigan. Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt said Wednesday the company's telemarketers sold household items such as light bulbs and trash bags priced above market value but the telemarketers misled consumers into believing that the company was a charity. Kansas residents seeking reimbursement from the company should contact the Consumer Protection Division at (800) 432-2310, or visit its website at InYourCornerKansas.org.
Hospital Says KanCare Contractors Deny Legitimate Claims
LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — Lawrence Memorial Hospital officials say the three insurance companies managing Kansas' Medicaid system routinely turn down legitimate claims to hold down costs. The three contractors for the state's privatized Medicaid system, known as KanCare, deny the accusation. The Lawrence Journal-World reports other hospitals have made such accusations in the past. Taryn Schraad, who deals with insurance claims appeals at the Lawrence hospital, told a state legislative panel Tuesday that the facility frequently gets denial notices, often with no explanation given. Officials from the three companies that manage the system insisted they don't send out such notices without an explanation. The committee encouraged Lawrence hospital officials to return to the next meeting with examples of claim denials they found were unreasonable or unexplained.
Westar Strikes Deal for Wind Energy
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A Kansas electric utility has announced a new wind power contract in south-central Kansas. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that Westar Energy said Thursday in a release the company has a deal with an affiliate of NextEra Energy Resources to buy 200 megawatts of wind energy west of Wichita. The deal is for power produced by the Kingman Wind Energy Center in Kingman County, a wind farm that's expected to be in service in early 2017. Westar is the state's largest utility and has about 700,000 customers.
4 of 5 Suspects in Plot Against Hutchinson High School Plead
HUTCHINSON, Kan. (AP) — Four of five teenagers who were charged in an alleged plot to attack Hutchinson High School entered no contest pleas to felony criminal threat and were placed on probation. The fifth suspect entered a plea in the case on December 15. Prosecutors say the teenagers in April threatened on social media sites to commit mass murder at the high school. They were arrested after a parent discovered the threats and contacted the school. The five were originally charged with solicitation to commit murder but that charge was dropped as part of the plea bargains. All the students must write letters of apology to the Hutchinson school district. The Hutchinson News reports District Judge Patricia Macke Dick ordered them to serve four months of supervised probation.
Kansas Survey to Study Dropping Groundwater Levels
LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — Crews are undertaking an annual effort to monitor changes in groundwater levels in western and central Kansas. The University of Kansas says the Kansas Geological Survey will measure nearly 570 wells beginning early next month. The Kansas Department of Agriculture's Division of Water Resources will measure about 830 additional wells. Ninety percent of the wells to be measured draw water from the massive High Plains aquifer system, which consists largely of the Ogallala aquifer. The remaining 10 percent are drilled into the Dakota aquifer and other deeper systems or shallow alluvial aquifers along creeks and rivers. The data are used by landowners, state and federal agencies, local groundwater management districts, private entities and the general public. Water levels in the 1,400-well network as a whole declined an average of 0.87 feet during 2014.
Kansas Considers Tougher Penalties for Water Violations
HUTCHINSON, Kan. (AP) _ Kansas state officials are considering stiffer penalties for water violations. The Hutchinson News reports that the higher penalties are among four proposed changes that state water officials plan to present to Governor Sam Brownback's office by February 1. The plan is the result of 500 meetings and 15,000 comments over the past couple of years. They're all part of Brownback's effort to develop ideas to preserve and extend the state's water resources. The plan proposes fines for failing to provide water use information, unauthorized diversions, tampering with a meter or falsifying a water use report.
Manhattan Staging New Year's Eve Ball Drop
MANHATTAN, Kan. (AP) — Up to 10,000 New Year's Eve revelers are expected to turn out in the Kansas town known as "the Little Apple" for a ball-drop event modeled after the one in New York's Times Square. Manhattan is staging its annual New Year's Eve celebration in the Aggieville bar and entertainment district. Thursday's festivities begin at 10:30 pm and include music and fireworks. The event culminates at midnight with the lowering of a ball from atop Varney's bookstore. It's reminiscent of the ball drop in the Big Apple, a Times Square tradition for more than a century.
5 Arrests Made in Stabbing Death of Wichita Man
WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Five people have been arrested in the stabbing death of a Wichita man whose body was found in a sport utility vehicle on Christmas Eve. The Sedgwick County Sheriff's Office says the five suspects range in age from 20 to 28. They are jailed in the death of 42-year-old Moises Arias-Aranda. Park City police officer found Arias-Aranda dead in a 1994 Ford Explorer on December 24. Four suspects were arrested Monday in Wichita, while an Oklahoma man was arrested there on Tuesday. Three of the other suspects are from Wichita, while the fifth is from California.
Affidavit: Slain Student Met Woman Accused in Death Online
WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — An affidavit says a slain Wichita State University student contacted a woman charged in his death about sexual services she advertised online shortly before he was killed. Rayan Ibrahim Baba, a 23-year-old Saudi undergraduate student, was found shot in a parking lot of one of the university's dormitories August 8. Eboni Fingal was charged with first-degree murder and aggravated robbery in October, and a 23-year-old man also faces those charges. The Wichita Eagle reports the affidavit released Wednesday says Baba called Fingal about 30 minutes before his death. The affidavit says police tracked cellphone locations from the suspects, and that and surveillance video pinpointed the three together in the parking lot. According to the affidavit, Fingal told police she activated the phone for a friend, but couldn't explain why the friend would be in contact with Baba.
Winning $1 Million Holiday Raffle Lottery Prize Purchased in South-Central Kansas
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The winner of a $1 million Kansas Lottery promotion bought the prize-winning ticket in south-central Kansas. Lottery officials announced today (THUR) that the winning number in the lottery's Holiday Millionaire Raffle was: 1-4-3-3-3-3. The winning ticket is worth $1 million. Twenty other people won $5,000 in the contest. Whoever has the winning ticket has a year to claim the prize. So far, the winner has not stepped forward.
Powerball Jackpot Rises to $334 Million, 12th-Highest in History
DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — The Powerball jackpot has risen to $334 million, the 12th largest in the game's history. No one won the jackpot on Wednesday, and the next drawing is set for Saturday. The lump-sum cash prize for the winner is $205 million. Iowa Lottery spokesman Kevin Kirkpatrick says the prize hasn't been this large since March 2013, when a New Jersey man won $338 million. Powerball's largest jackpot was more than $590 million in May 2013. Kirkpatrick says the game would have to continue a few more rounds without a winner before it could reach that level. The odds of winning the Powerball jackpot are 1 in 292 million.
US Rig Count Drops to 698; Kansas Number Holds Steady
HOUSTON (AP) — Oilfield services company Baker Hughes Inc. says the number of rigs exploring for oil and natural gas in the U.S. declined by two this week to 698. The Houston firm said Thursday 536 rigs sought oil and 162 explored for natural gas amid depressed energy prices. A year ago, 1,811 rigs were active. Among major oil- and gas-producing states, California and North Dakota each declined by two and Ohio, Oklahoma and West Virginia dropped one apiece. Louisiana and Texas gained two rigs. Pennsylvania was up one. Alaska, Arkansas, Colorado, Kansas, New Mexico, Utah and Wyoming were unchanged. The U.S. rig count peaked at 4,530 in 1981 and bottomed at 488 in 1999. The count, normally released on Fridays, was early this week because of the New Year's holiday.
Wichita State Beats Drake University 67-47 for 8th Straight Win
WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Ron Baker scored 14 points, Fred VanVleet added 13, and Wichita State beat Drake 67-47 on Thursday for its eighth straight victory. Baker was 3 of 4 from 3-point range as Wichita State made 8 of 24 from distance. Zach Brown added 10 points for Wichita State (7-5), which has won six straight Missouri Valley Conference openers. Kale Abrahamson hit a 3-pointer for Drake to tie it at 25-all before Wichita State closed on an 8-0 run, with a Baker 3-pointer, for a 33-25 halftime lead. The Shockers started the second half on a 13-2 run, with balanced scoring from VanVleet, Brown and Anton Grady, as Drake only made one field goal in the first six minutes. Abrahamson and Graham Woodward scored 12 points apiece for Drake (5-8). The Bulldogs were held to 16-of-43 shooting (37 percent), were outrebounded 38-28 and turned it over 18 times.