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Headlines for Thursday, June 12, 2014


Statistics Indicate Kansas Lags Other States in Growth

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — New federal statistics show Kansas's gross domestic product grew slightly faster than the national average last year but still lagged behind most other states in the region. The Lawrence Journal-World reports that the U.S. Department of Commerce says Kansas's gross domestic product grew 1.9 percent in 2013. GDP is the value of finished goods and services and is considered a key indicator of economic health. The U.S. saw a 1.8 percent growth in its GDP last year. But the statistics showed that among eight neighboring or Plains states, only Missouri saw lower GDP growth than Kansas, with 0.8 percent. The top GDP growth in the region was North Dakota's 9.7 percent, followed by Oklahoma at 4.2 percent and Colorado at 3.8 percent.


Judges: Kansas School Funding Law Meets Mandate

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) _ A three-judge state court panel in Kansas has ruled that an education funding law approved by legislators in April complies with a state Supreme Court mandate on aid to poor school districts. But the panel in Shawnee County District Court on Wednesday also declined to dismiss all claims about the fairness of the school funding formula in a 2010 lawsuit brought by school districts. The judges said they are ready to consider whether the state is spending enough money overall on public schools to meet its duty to provide an adequate education to every child. The Supreme Court ruled in March that past cuts to poor districts created unconstitutional gaps in aid. Legislators responded by passing a law increasing aid to poor districts by $129 million during the next school year.


Wichita Hospitals Set Surgical Safety Protocols

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) _ Health care providers in Wichita have come together to develop surgical protocols for use citywide in operating rooms and ambulatory facilities. The announcement Wednesday in Wichita was designed to coincide with National Time Out Day. The Medical Society of Sedgwick County's Wichita Quality Health Collaborative coordinated the effort to make Wichita the safest place in the country to undergo surgery. Doctor Randall Morgan is chairman of the group's safety committee. He says in a news release that developing a common process and checklist that is consistently used whenever the surgery or procedure is performed will reduce the risk of errors and improve patient safety. Health care providers from across the city have met for a year to research and develop the common procedures.


KS Highway Patrol Cracking Down on Texting

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Some law enforcement officers say a Kansas law against texting-and-driving is difficult to enforce because it is too vague. The 3-year-old law requires officers to ticket drivers who are writing or sending a text while driving or any time the phone is transmitting any type of data. A bill that would have clarified that the law doesn't apply to drivers who are typing in a phone number to make a call did not get a hearing last session. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports the Kansas Highway Patrol issued 56 texting-and-driving citations in a recent crackdown. Patrol spokesman Lt. Josh Kellerman says the law is making drivers safer but it requires officers to observe drivers carefully to confirm that they're using their phone as allowed by law.


Tribal Leader Killed in Kansas Crash

MAYETTA, Kan. (AP) — A 56-year-old leader in the Prairie Band Potawatomi Nation in northeast Kansas has died in a motorcycle crash involving a deer. The Kansas Highway Patrol says James M. Potter of Delia died in the crash Wednesday evening west of Mayetta after his motorcycle hit a deer, left the roadway and landed in a ditch. The patrol says someone driving by early Thursday saw Potter and the motorcycle and notified authorities. Suzanne Heck, editor for the tribe's newspaper and website, said Thursday that Potter was tribal council secretary. An obituary posted on the tribe's website says Potter served on the tribal council for 16 years and had also been on the executive board of National Congress of American Indians. Services are scheduled for Monday, with burial Tuesday at the Danceground Cemetery.


Senators Introduce New Veterans Health Care Bill

HONOLULU (AP) — A bill has been introduced in Congress that aims to offer relief to veterans that have had to pay for emergency health services. Democratic Senator Mazie Hirono of Hawaii and Republican Senator Jerry Moran of Kansas co-sponsored the bill on Thursday. The proposal would eliminate a rule that prevents veterans from being reimbursed for emergency care if they haven't been seen in a VA center for 24 months. The bill comes after a different Senate bill was approved Wednesday that makes it easier for veterans delayed in getting initial visits to receive VA-paid treatment from local doctors instead. Hirono says veterans shouldn't be penalized because they live in rural communities or face outrageous wait times for appointments. Moran says veterans shouldn't bear the burden of a dysfunctional VA system.


Chu Confirmed to Head National Endowment for Arts

WASHINGTON (AP) — The U.S. Senate has voted to confirm Missouri arts leader Jane Chu as the next chairman of the National Endowment for the Arts. The White House is expected to make an official appointment within days, and Chu will start work at the arts agency. The Senate confirmed her appointment Thursday. Since 2006, Chu has served as president and CEO of the Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts in Kansas City, Missouri. The center is home to the Kansas City Ballet, Kansas City Symphony and Lyric Opera of Kansas City. The National Endowment for the Arts has not had a permanent chairman since Rocco Landesman left the post at the end of 2012. The federal agency funds local arts programs produced by groups nationwide.


Former Regents CEO to Direct School of Public Affairs at KU

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — A former leader of the state Board of Regents has been named director of the School of Public Affairs and Administration at the University of Kansas. The appointment of Reggie Robinson was announced Thursday. He replaces Marilu Goodyear, who is leaving the post to become an assistant vice chancellor at the university's Edwards Campus in Overland Park. Robinson holds bachelor's and law degrees from the University of Kansas. He was appointed president and CEO of the Kansas Board of Regents in 2002, leaving that job in 2010 to teach law at Washburn University and direct its Center of Law and Government. Robinson has also held senior positions in the U.S. Justice Department, and served four years in the Army.


Carjacking Arrest in Shawnee County

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A 25-year-old Topeka man is facing carjacking charges after a witness followed him for several miles until officers could make an arrest. Shawnee County Sheriff's deputies were called to a carjacking Wednesday in the Pauline shopping district. The victim told police when she went into a store, a man pointed a gun at a teenager in her car. The passenger got out of the car and the man drove off. WIBW-AM reports a witness followed the car into Osage County, updating emergency dispatchers along the way. An Osage County Sheriff's deputy followed the car into Burlingame, where the suspect stopped and ran into a house. He eventually surrendered without incident and is being held in the Shawnee County jail.


Vandals Damage Olathe School

OLATHE, Kan. (AP) _ Olathe police are searching for those responsible for up to $10,000 in vandalism at Olathe East High School. Police were called the school Wednesday evening and found damage on the school's track and some utility buildings. KSHB-TV reports the damage included white spray paint saying "Go South'' on the outer lane of the track, with an image of a marijuana leaf and vulgar images and phrases on the center lanes. Police said they don't have any leads but didcollect some white spray paint cans from the scene.


Kansas Judges Consider Legal Lessons from Holocaust

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Dozens of Kansas judges have heard a presentation about how Germany's judiciary aided the Nazis and the Holocaust before and during the Second World War. The presentation Thursday by Marcus Appelbaum and William Meinecke Jr. of the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington came during an annual conference for nearly 300 Kansas judges. Both told reporters before their presentations that Germany had a tradition of an independent judiciary and many of the judges who served before the Nazi regime continued in the judiciary. They said judges interpreted laws broadly to assist the Nazi regime and often appear to have done so to remain relevant in public life. Kansas Supreme Court Chief Justice Lawton Nuss said the history contains lessons for the judiciary and reminds citizens that they must remain involved.


Wind Topples Train Cars in Western Kansas

LACROSSE, Kan. (AP) _ Rush County authorities say winds that blew through LaCrosse were strong enough to knock over train cars sitting at a lumberyard. The sheriff's department says the strong winds Wednesday night pushed over six empty train cars near Main Street in LaCrosse. They were part of an empty train that stretched almost a mile into town. No injuries were reported and no highways or roads were closed. KWCH-TV reports winds were up to 80 mph when the derailment happened.


Lucas City Worker's Death Investigated

LUCAS, Kan. (AP) — A 65-year-old Lucas city worker died while installing a security light in the small northeastern Russell County town. Lucas city clerk Kay Mettlen says the man and another city employee were doing electrical work Thursday morning when he died. The cause of the death is still being investigated. The Salina Journal reports that the other worker called for help but the man died at a Russell Hospital. His name has not been released. The Kansas Department of Labor is helping with the investigation.


Man Pleads Guilty to Arson, Insurance Fraud

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — A western Missouri man has admitted leading a conspiracy to buy cheap houses and set them on fire to collect nearly $435,000 in insurance benefits. The U.S. Attorney's office says 27-year-old Joshua Stamps, of Independence, pleaded guilty in federal court Thursday to charges alleging arson and insurance fraud. Prosecutors said Stamps and his co-conspirators bought five Kansas City houses at prices ranging from $6,500 to $15,000 but insured them for as much as $307,000. After setting the houses on fire, the conspirators filed claims for insurance payments. The scheme went on from 2007 through 2013. Stamps's plea agreement requires him to pay a judgment of nearly $435,000. He also faces 10 to 25 years in prison without parole. A sentencing date will be set later.


2nd Man Sentenced in Theft of Statue from Museum

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — A 37-year-old suburban Kansas City man has been sentenced to three years for his role in the theft of a 6-foot bronze statute from outside an Independence museum. Jeremy Ratliff of Independence pleaded guilty last month to felony stealing in the June 2013 theft of the Pioneer Woman statue from the National Frontier Trails Museum. He was one of three men accused of stealing the 1,000-pound statue that cost $35,000 when it was dedicated in March 1990. A scrap dealer estimated the metal was worth less than $600. Randy Perez was sentenced in March to seven years for the theft, while a third defendant is scheduled to be sentenced Monday. Police say the men were charged after trying to sell remnants of the statue to a Kansas City recycling company.


KS Winter Wheat Estimate Revised Downward

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) _ Kansas farmers could be looking at their smallest winter wheat crop in a quarter of a century -- whenever it stops raining long enough for them to get into their fields to cut it. The National Agricultural Statistics Service released its latest estimates Wednesday. Kansas is now forecast to harvest nearly 244 million bushels, down 24 percent from last year. Just a month ago, the government had predicted the state would bring in just over 260 million bushels.


Company to Bring 40 Jobs, Investment to Pittsburg

PITTSBURG, Kan. (AP) — An Illinois company described as a national leader in home delivery, assembly and repair services is moving to southeast Kansas, where its new owner plans to invest $9 million and create 40 new jobs over the next two years. Pittsburg-based Backyard Leisure Holdings recently acquired Go Configure and plans to move its administrative and call center operations from Chicago this year. The Kansas Department of Commerce says Go Configure was founded in 1996 and now serves more than 1,000 retail locations in 48 states. Its operation includes a call center that fields nearly 1 million calls for service each year, and a fleet of installation specialists across the country. The company says it will begin transferring operations this summer with plans to be fully operational in Pittsburg by October.


Inmate Convicted in Attack on Kansas Prosecutor

HUTCHINSON, Kan. (AP) — A Kansas man has been convicted of attempted first-degree murder for a courtroom attack on a county prosecutor. The Hutchinson News reports that a Reno County jury deliberated nearly six hours Wednesday before returning the verdict against Michael Sherman. The attack last July 10 left Reno County district attorney Keith Schroeder with red marks on his throat from Sherman's wrist and belly chains. Sherman leaped on Schroeder just after a judge had reaffirmed his life sentence for sodomizing a 4-month-old baby. The attempted first-degree murder charge alleged the attack was premeditated. Sherman's life sentence for criminal sodomy of a child was later reduced to 13 years and nine months in prison. But he now also faces about 20 years for the new conviction.

Missouri Company Recalls 4K Pounds of Beef

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) _ A Missouri company is recalling possibly tainted beef products distributed to restaurants and a grocery chain. The U.S. Department of Agriculture said in a release Wednesday that Cape Girardeau County-based Fruitland American Meat is recalling about 4,012 pounds of beef because it could contain parts of the nervous system that can carry properties related to bovine spongiform encephalopathy, or mad cow disease. BSE is fatal to cows and can cause a fatal human brain disease in people who eat tainted beef. The USDA says there's no indication that the slaughtered cattle showed signs of BSE. The department says the products were produced between September 2013 and April 2014 and were distributed to a restaurant in New York, New York, another in Kansas City, Missouri, and a Whole Foods distribution center in Connecticut. The recalled products include: quartered beef carcasses stamped with the USDA mark of inspection and establishment number "EST. 2316," and 80-lb. cases containing two cryovac packages of bone-in "Rain Crow Ranch Ribeye" bearing the establishment number "EST. 2316" inside the USDA mark of inspection with the following production dates: 9/5/13, 9/10/13, 9/11/13, 9/26/13, 10/2/13, 10/3/2013, 11/8/13, 11/22/13, 12/17/13, 12/26/13, 12/27/13,1/16/14, 1/17/14, 1/23/14, 1/31/14, 2/13/14, 2/14/14, 2/21/14, 2/28/14, 3/8/14, 3/20/14, 4/4/14 or 4/25/14 printed on the box. The products were produced between September 2013 and April 2014.


Farm Equipment Sales Down

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) _ The Association of Equipment Manufacturers is reporting that U.S. sales of farm combines dropped last month. The industry group says the 572 combines sold in May were down more than 16 percent from the same month a year ago. Sales of farm tractors fell more than 2 percent from May 2013.


Horses at Closing Boys Ranch Need New Homes

LAKE AFTON, Kan. (AP) — Sedgwick County is looking for homes for eight horses that had been kept at a home from troubled boys that is closing in July. Commissioners voted Wednesday to move the horses, which are ages 13 to 25, out of the Judge Riddel Boys Ranch near Lake Afton. It's one of many things that must be done before the ranch closes. The ranch is being shuttered because the county said it could not afford to operate it. The state did not budget more money for the ranch during the last session. The Wichita Eagle reports that 14 boys will remain at the ranch until July 18 to complete summer school, with the last boy scheduled to leave July 20. The county likely will lay off a few employees at the ranch.


Kansas Justice to Judge Cowboy Poetry Contest

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) _ Kansas Supreme Court Chief Justice Lawton Nuss will judge the upcoming state Cowboy Poetry Contest. The Wichita Eagle reports the annual contest is scheduled for Friday in Alma. Nuss has judged the contest every year since the contest began in 2011. The panel of celebrity judges also includes Kyle Bauer of KFRM Radio, Frank Buchman of WIBW-FM and Marie Martin of the Flint Hills Discovery Center Foundation. Those who compete at Alma will have survived regional qualifying rounds in Wichita, Dodge City and Strong City. The top cowboy poets will be recognized at Saturday's Symphony in the Flint Hills concert, which is an event sponsor.

Science Fiction Writers Meeting in Lawrence

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — A conference at the University of Kansas this weekend will explore the ways science fiction and reality often overlap. Science fiction writers will be attending the Campbell Conference in Lawrence Friday through Sunday. It's the 35th year of the event. This year's program will honor the work of Frederik Pohl, who died in September 2013. He was a writer, editor, literary agent and scholar of science fiction. The Lawrence Journal-World reports that a theme of this year's conference will be the relationship between science fact and fiction. James Gunn, founder of the University of Kansas' Gunn Center for the Study of Science Fiction, says science fiction studies how change can affect humans in the future, and how the choices people today make will influence the future.


Mississippi Court Orders New Sentencing for Gillett

JACKSON, Miss. (AP) — The Mississippi Supreme Court has thrown out the death sentence handed down to Roger Lee Gillett and ordered him re-sentenced. Gillett was convicted in 2007 in Forrest County on two counts of capital murder for his role in the deaths of a Hattiesburg couple and the transporting of their bodies to Kansas in a freezer. While in custody in Kansas, he attempted to escape. That crime was one of the aggravating factors prosecutors presented jurors to support the death penalty. The Mississippi Supreme Court, in its 6-3 decision Thursday, says not every escape is considered a crime of violence under Kansas law. Therefore, wrote Justice Ann Lamar, the Kansas crime cannot be used to support a death sentence in Mississippi. The ruling came in Gillett's post-conviction appeal.


Kansas Man Charged with Murder in Child's Death

PRATT, Kan. (AP) — A south-central Kansas man has been charged with first-degree murder in the death last January of an infant. The Kansas Attorney General's office says 27-year-old Joseph Sponaugle of Pratt made his first court appearance Wednesday on charges of murder, child abuse and child endangerment. The criminal complaint did not identify the victim but said the child was born in September of 2013. The Pratt Daily Tribune reports that it ran an obituary of Sponaugle's daughter, Aurora Sponaugle, in January. She was born in September 2013. Sponaugle remains jailed on $1 million bond and no date has been set for his next court appearance. It was not immediately clear if he had an attorney. Pratt County District Attorney Ken Van Blaricum asked the attorney general's office to prosecute the case.


Humane Society Opposes Missouri Farm Amendment

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) _ The Humane Society of the United States is opposing Missouri's proposed constitutional amendment establishing a "right to farm.'' The amendment will appear on the August 5 ballot. It asks voters whether the right "to engage in farming and ranching'' should be "forever guaranteed'' in the Missouri Constitution. The Humane Society says the measure seeks to prohibit laws restricting industrialized agriculture and would allow large agricultural businesses to write their own rules. The organization predicts it would prompt lawsuits over what farming practices are permitted. Farm groups and rural Republicans began pushing for the amendment after a 2010 conflict surrounding an initiative petition on dog breeders. The Humane Society was a leading supporter of that ballot question. Supporters of this year's proposal say they are trying to protect and promote agriculture.


Sedgwick Joins Other KS Counties in Rejecting ICE Detention Requests

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) _ Sedgwick County says it will no longer honor requests from federal immigration officials to detain people in the country illegally if they're not facing any criminal charges. Courts in Pennsylvania and Oregon have ruled local officials do not have to honor the federal requests. Shawnee, Johnson and Finney counties have made similar changes.


Wildlife Officials Shocking Carp

NEWTON, Kan. (AP) _ Kansas wildlife officials have been shocking and removing carp from East Lake in Harvey County in hopes of improving conditions for other fish. Biologists say it should improve the water clarity in the lake and help the fishable population of largemouth bass and crappie.


Chanute to Expand High-Speed Broadband Service

CHANUTE, Kan. (AP) - The Chanute City Commission has voted to expand the city's ultra-high-speed broadband service to every home and business, if funding is found. The commission voted Monday to proceed with the $13.5 million project. The Wichita Eagle reports the new system would be 100 times as fast as the national average Internet connection.


Minor Injuries in Kansas City School Bus Accident

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — A school bus carrying two adults and two students rolled over, causing minor injuries. The accident happened Thursday morning near the Truman Sports Complex in Kansas City. The Grandview School District told KSHB-TV that the small bus had picked the students up from their homes and was headed to the Nova Center School, a school for students with special needs. The children were not transported to the hospital for injuries. Police said the adults were taken to the hospital as a precaution. Police says it's unclear how the accident occurred.


Missouri Files Violations Against Tyson Foods

MONETT, Mo. (AP) - The state of Missouri has filed a notice of violation against Tyson Foods after a chemical spill in a town in southwest Missouri killed fish and caused a wastewater treatment plant to fail last month. The plant's failure caused a nearly complete fish kill in Clear Creek between Monett and Pierce City.



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