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Headlines for Monday, May 5, 2014


No FEMA Aid for Baxter Springs

BAXTER SPRINGS, Kan. (AP) _ No FEMA aid for southeast Kansas.  Officials say Baxter Springs and the southeast Kansas residents affected by a recent tornado won't get financial assistance from the Federal Emergency Management Agency.  Jonathan York is the response and recovery branch director for the Kansas Division of Emergency Management.  He said over the weekend that preliminary reports show the April 27th twister that hit Baxter Springs didn't have a magnitude strong enough to meet public assistance or individual assistance from FEMA.  Governor Sam Brownback has requested a Small Business Administration disaster declaration for Cherokee County and adjacent counties, which would make low-interest, long-term loans available.  


Heat Sets Record, Causes Outages in Wichita

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) _ Summer showed up early in Wichita.  The city baked under 102 degree temperatures yesterday (SUN).  The National Weather Service says it's the earliest the temperature ever broke the 100 degree mark in the city.  The previous record for May 4 was 94 degrees, set in 1963.  It's also the earliest day in the year the city went over 100. The previous record was May 9, 2011.  The heat caused widespread power outages in Sedgwick County.  Westar Energy says about 12,000 customers lost power Sunday.  


US Senate Confirms Kansas Justice to Federal Court

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The U.S. Senate has confirmed the appointment of a Kansas Supreme Court justice to the federal appeals court that handles cases from six western and Plains states. Kansas Senator Jerry Moran's office says the chamber voted 90-3 Monday to confirm Nancy Moritz  to the Denver-based 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. President Barack Obama nominated Moritz in August 2013. The 54-year-old Moritz will fill the vacancy created in 2011 when Judge Deanell Tacha retired and became dean of the law school at Pepperdine University in Malibu, California. Tacha is from Kansas. Moritz is a former federal prosecutor. She was appointed to the Kansas Court of Appeals in 2004 and the state Supreme Court in 2010. Moran said Moritz is well-prepared for the federal court.


Kansas Women Form Political Group to Seek Changes

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A group of Kansas women have formed an organization to work to change leadership of state government, starting with the defeat of Governor Sam Brownback and Secretary of State Kris Kobach in November. The Wichita Eagle reports that Women for Kansas was founded in Wichita as a grassroots group that cuts across political, racial, cultural and economic boundaries. Laura Dungan is a member of the group and says women's issues have moved backward in Topeka. The group hopes to reverse the trend by working to defeat Brownback and Kobach, both Republicans. Officials with Brownback and Kobach's campaigns defend their achievements since being elected in 2010, including efforts to improve the economy, lower taxes and increase funding for schools under recent legislation signed in to law.


Oklahoma Treasurer: Kansas Downgrade a 'Wake-Up Call'

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — Oklahoma Treasurer Ken Miller is warning state policymakers that a reduction in Kansas' bond rating should serve as a "wake-up call" that a potential downgrade could happen in Oklahoma, despite the state's growing economy. Miller released figures Monday that show gross receipts to the state treasury continued to improve in April. But he says the state's pension debt, the use of non-recurring revenue for operational costs, and the reduction of taxes without offsetting cuts in state spending could ultimately lead to a reduction in Oklahoma's bond rating. Moody's Investor Services last week reduced Kansas's bond rating, citing income tax cuts, pension obligations, and the use of one-time revenue to cover operating expenses. Miller says Oklahoma faces similar problems, although he says income tax cuts here have been more responsible.


Body Pulled from Missouri River

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) _ Authorities are working to identify a body that was pulled from the Missouri River in Kansas City.  The Medical Examiner's Office in Jackson County, Missouri is trying to identify the body retrieved from the river Saturday by troopers from the Missouri State Highway Patrol.  Police say the body appeared to have been in the water for a while.  Detectives were awaiting identification of the body and a ruling on the cause of death from the medical examiner.  Police say it's unclear if the body is connected to an April 9 incident where a man dropped into the river after hanging off an area bridge. A police helicopter and fire rescue team tried unsuccessfully to find the man after he fell into the water.  


Sedgwick County Shuttering Home for Troubled Boys

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) _ A lack of funding has prompted Sedgwick County to start the process of closing a home for troubled boys it operates for the state. The Wichita Eagle reports that County Manager William Buchanan sent an email to county leaders on Monday saying he has instructed the local department of corrections director to stop accepting boys into the program. The Judge Riddel Boys Ranch has been teetering on the edge of closing for the past couple of years after Buchanan presented a budget in 2012 that recommended shuttering the facility at Lake Afton. The Kansas Legislature approved a one-time grant of $750,000 in its current fiscal year, which ends June 30, after the county asked for $1.5 million. No additional money was budgeted for the fiscal year that starts July 1.

Report: Winter Wheat Deteriorating in Kansas

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Winter wheat is deteriorating in Kansas amid dry, windy weather conditions and little rain. The National Agricultural Statistics Service reported Monday that almost half of the state's crop is faring poorly. What little rain Kansas got last week was limited to eastern and northern counties. Topsoil moisture is short or very short in 70 percent of Kansas. The weekly snapshot shows 18 percent of winter wheat rated as very poor and 29 percent as poor. About 36 percent is in fair condition with 16 percent in good and 1 percent in excellent condition. About 15 percent of the crop has now headed. The agency also reports that 52 percent of the corn, 1 percent of the sorghum and 4 percent of the soybeans have been planted.


Court Upholds Dismissal of Naked Custodian's Lawsuit

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) _ A federal appeals court has dismissed a retaliation lawsuit filed by a custodian found sunbathing naked on the roof of the northeast Kansas elementary school where he worked. The Kansas City, Kansas, school district in 2007 gave Charles Davis a 30-day unpaid suspension and demoted him from his position as head custodian following the incident. Davis later applied for head custodian jobs at seven schools in the district but was rejected. His claims against the district included racial discrimination and retaliation for filing the discrimination claim. The U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on Monday upheld a lower court's award of summary judgment dismissing the lawsuit. The appeals court said Davis failed to prove he was the victim of retaliation.


Body Found in Car at Suburban Wichita Apartments

MAIZE, Kan. (AP) _ Police in a Wichita suburb say a body found in a car at an apartment complex appears to have been there at least two months. KSNW-TV reports that a resident called Maize police around 10:30 am Monday after noticing a bad smell around the vehicle. Maize Police Chief Matthew Jensby says officers found the body in an advanced state of decomposition. Jensby says the deceased person was 30 to 50 years old. Investigators were waiting for the coroner to remove the body so they could try to make an identification. Jensby says police don't know if the death resulted from a crime, an accident or natural causes.


Koch Bros Decline Invitation to Debate Climate Change

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) _ Conservative billionaire brothers Charles and David Koch are turning down an invitation extended in a full-page ad in their hometown newspaper asking them to join a public debate on climate change.  The Wichita Eagle reports that Friday's advertisement was placed by an organization group called NextGen Climate Change, a group supporting the views of retired billionaire investor Tom Steyer.  A Koch corporate spokeswoman (Melissa Cohlmia) says the brothers are not experts on climate change.  


Ford County Among Pilot Broadband Communities

DODGE CITY, Kan. (AP) — Dodge City and Ford County are among four pilot communities that will identify long-term structural and service needs for broadband internet service. Kansas Statewide Broadband Initiative Director Stanley Adams said the other three pilot communities are Topeka, Fort Scott, Norton and their counties. The Dodge City Globe reports the program is funded through a federal grant. It provides access to tools, expertise and resources for communities to identify their own broadband needs. The program involves work already begun in the city to identify connectivity needs, stakeholders and how to expand access. Each of the pilot programs seeks to address not just urban needs but rural needs as well.


Dedication Scheduled for "Home on the Range" Cabin

ATHOL, Kan. (AP) — The north-central Kansas cabin where the iconic song "Home on the Range" was written more than 140 years ago is restored and open to visitors, although more work is planned before it is dedicated in October. The cabin, built in 1872, was once home to Brewster Higley, a frontier doctor who wrote a poem that later was put to music and became "Home on the Range," the state song of Kansas. It is located near the Nebraska border in Smith County. The Wichita Eagle reports that the cabin was in ruins in 2011. A grassroots effort raised more than $113,000 to restore it and install nature walks and other amenities. For now, the cabin is bare but supporters plan to add some furniture before Flag Day June 14.


KS Gov Plans Motorcycle Rally in June

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) _ Governor Sam Brownback is sponsoring a motorcycle rally in Junction City and a ride through nearby Fort Riley next month to raise money for veterans programs and scenic highway routes in the area.  The Governor's Freedom Rally is set for June 7th in Heritage Park. The Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism says it expects more than 1,000 motorcyclists to participate.


Topeka Zoo Welcomes 3 Sumatran Tiger Cubs

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) _ The Topeka Zoo is celebrating the birth of three Sumatran tiger cubs.  The cubs were born yesterday (SUN) afternoon.  Zoo workers will watch the mother and her cubs in an isolated section of the zoo for the next two weeks while the mother - Jingga - adjusts to her new babies.  The city says in a news release the public will able to see the cubs in 90 days but the zoo hopes to release video of the new arrivals soon.  


Wichita Hospital Won't Resume Kidney Transplants

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) _ A Wichita hospital has decided not to restart its kidney transplant program and instead focus its resources on areas where more people are affected.  The Wichita Eagle reports Via Christi officials intend to beef up the hospital's primary care facilities and behavioral health services, which serve far more patients than the transplant program did.  Via Christi suspended its kidney transplant program in May 2012 after four patients who had received transplants in the previous 12 months died within a three-week period and another suffered kidney failure but lived. The hospital decided last year it would restart the program. But chief clinical administrative officer Carl Rider says with three transplant centers within a two- or three-hour drive form of Wichita, it made sense to focus on other areas.


New Hearing Date Set for Lawrence Man

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) _ A 55-year-old Lawrence man awaiting a retrial in the 2004 death of his wife still does not have a new trial date.  The Lawrence Journal-World reports that Martin K. Miller appeared in Douglas County District Court last week for a hearing that was scheduled to set a trial date.  But both parties instead agreed to return June 5 for a status conference because Miller's new attorney (Richard Ney) recently joined the case.  Miller was convicted in 2005 for the death of 46-year-old Mary Miller. Prosecutors allege he strangled his wife in July 2004 because he was having an affair and wanted to collect $300,000 in life insurance.  That conviction was overturned in February when the Kansas Supreme Court ruled the jury instructions in his trial were incorrect.


Despite New Radar, SE Kansas Remains in Blind Spot

JOPLIN, Mo. (AP) — An EF-2 tornado that left mounds of debris, twisted metal and hanging power lines along a two-block-wide path through Baxter Springs, Kansas, last month wasn't big enough to be detected by a new radar at the National Weather Service office in Springfield. Moments before the April 27 tornado damaged more than 100 homes and businesses in Baxter Springs, the weather service in Tulsa, Oklahoma, detected a tornado in Quapaw, six miles to the south. The Joplin Globe reports that  new dual-polarization radar installed in Springfield and Tulsa has greatly enhanced forecasters' ability to detect tornadoes. But even with the technology there's a blind spot in southeast Kansas because of the curvature of the earth. That makes trained weather spotters even more critical in providing early warnings when severe storms approach.


Kansas City Prohibits Smoking in Public Housing

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — The Kansas City Housing Authority is drawing both praise and anger for its decision to ban smoking in all public housing, beginning July 1. The policy, which will prohibit smoking indoors and outdoors, affects more than 1,700 residential units and about 5,000 adults and children. More than a dozen other large housing authorities on the coasts have taken similar steps. Donovan Mouton, chairman of the Housing Authority board, says he expected much more opposition when the idea was first proposed but the authority heard from more nonsmokers who favored the idea. The Kansas City Star reports that some angry residents say they should be able to smoke in their own homes. The Public Housing Resident Council endorsed the policy but wanted residents to have more time to adapt.


KC Man Found Guilty in Missouri Bar Owner's Death

HARRISONVILLE, Mo. (AP) — A 28-year-old Kansas City man will spend the rest of his life in prison after being found guilty of killing a central Missouri bar owner in the businessman's driveway. The Daily Star-Journal of Warrensburg reports that Cass County jurors on Friday found Reginald Singletary guilty of first-degree murder and armed criminal action in the September 1, 2012, slaying of 25-year-old Blaine Whitworth of Warrensburg. Prosecutors say Singletary confessed that he killed Whitworth but said University of Central Missouri student Ziyad Abid paid him to do it. That claim led to first-degree murder and armed criminal action charges against Abid, who was jailed for nearly a year before prosecutors dropped the charges when Singletary changed his story. Investigators testified Whitworth was shot three times in the back with hollow-point bullets.


School Districts Evaluate Effects of School Lunch Rules

WASHINGTON (AP) — Two years in, schools are having mixed success putting new healthier school lunch rules in place. Some report that students are excited about a variety of healthier options and have barely noticed the changes. Others say some kids are throwing fruits and vegetables away and balking at whole grains. The requirements are part of a government effort to make school lunches and breakfasts healthier. Championed by first lady Michelle Obama, the new standards have been phased in over the last two school years, with more changes coming in 2014. Some schools are asking Congress and the Agriculture Department to roll back some of the requirements. Their main concerns: finding enough whole grain-rich foods that kids like, lowering sodium levels and keeping fruits and vegetables from ending up in the trash. Not all schools are required to follow the requirements, but most do. If they don't, they won't receive government subsidies that partially reimburse schools for free and low-cost lunches for low-income kids.

In Kansas, the Wallace County school district made headlines in 2012 when students and teachers put together a video called "We Are Hungry" — set to the tune of the popular song "We Are Young" by the group Fun — in which kids pretended to pass out from hunger because of the new standards. The students' main concern was maximum requirements on proteins and grains. After hearing the same complaint from many schools across the country, USDA scrapped those requirements. Teacher Linda O'Connor, who helped produce the video, says her district has a high percentage of athletes and that was part of the reason kids were so hungry. She says she still hears some complaints, but kids are generally less hungry since the standards were relaxed.


Clint Bowyer Signs Extension with Michael Waltrip Racing

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) — Clint Bowyer is heading home to Kansas Speedway this weekend with a new wife, a baby on the way and now a three-year contract extension that will keep him with Michael Waltrip Racing. The team announced the deal Monday, a day after Bowyer drove his No. 15 Toyota to a third-place finish at Talladega. Michael Waltrip Racing also announced an extension for crew chief Brian Pattie and said that 5-Hour Energy has agreed to extend its sponsorship. Bowyer, who grew up in Emporia, returns to the Heartland riding high. He married his bride, Lorra, in the Bahamas two weeks ago, during the off week in the Sprint Cup schedule. And on Monday he announced on Twitter they are expecting a boy.



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