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Headlines for Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Wichita VA Hospital Had Secret Waiting List

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) - The director of the Robert J. Dole Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Wichita acknowledges the hospital had a secret waiting list of patients that endangered some veterans. Director Francisco Vazquez sent a fax message last Friday to Senators Pat Roberts and Jerry Moran acknowledging that nine veterans waited more than 90 days for appointments with a primary care doctor at the Wichita hospital. The Wichita Eagle reports that Roberts says those on the waiting list were patients who had been discharged from the hospital and were supposed to receive ongoing primary care while recovering at home. The fax said the U.S. Office of Inspector General found 10 secret lists in its Midwest network. Two of those lists put veterans at risk, including the one in Wichita.

Senators Seek Answers in VA Waiting List Inquiry

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — U.S. Senators Pat Roberts and Jerry Moran want more answers about the status of veterans' care at the Veterans Affairs hospital in Wichita after learning of a secret waiting list of patients. The two Kansas Republicans said Tuesday that documents faxed to them Friday from the director of the Robert J. Dole Veterans Affairs Medical Center raised additional questions. The director acknowledged that some veterans waited more than 90 days for appointments. Roberts and Moran also want to know what happened to the veterans on the secret waiting list maintained by the Wichita VA outside the agency's official records system. The fax said the list had been terminated and gaps in patient care were being addressed. Roberts and Moran have forwarded the information to the VA's Office of Inspector General.


Kansas Utilities Worry EPA Rule Will Raise Costs

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Two Kansas utilities say they're worried that the federal government's new rule for curbing carbon emissions from power plants will raise costs for consumers. Spokeswomen for Topeka-based Westar Energy and Hays-based Sunflower Electric Power Corporation said Monday the companies are still reviewing the 645-page rule outlined by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Both said it's too early to tell what the effects will be. But Westar's Gina Penzig said tougher environmental regulations have increased the company's costs and have been a major factor in rate increases over the past decade. Sunflower's Cindy Hertel said it is always concerned that regulations will increase costs. The new rule sets goals for states for lowering carbon emissions. Kansas would have to cut its emissions from 2012 levels by 23 percent.


KS Governor Decries EPA Carbon Emissions Rule

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas Governor Sam Brownback says a new federal rule for cutting greenhouse gas emissions from power plants is a "war against middle America" that will increase energy costs. The Republican governor criticized the rule Monday after the Environmental Protection Agency's administrator unveiled it in Washington. It gives states goals for reducing emissions but allows flexibility in meeting them. According to the EPA, the Kansas target would be a 23 percent reduction in emissions by 2030 from 2012 levels. The unveiled the rule three days after Kansas gave the go-ahead for a new, $2.8 billion coal-fired power plant in southwest Kansas. Environmentalists said the plant would hinder Kansas's efforts to comply with the EPA rule. Brownback defended the decision on the power plant, saying its construction develops clean coal technology.


Severe Weather in Midwest Packs Baseball-Size Hail

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — Large hail has been reported in Nebraska as severe weather with a potential for tornadoes moves through a swath of Midwest states. The National Weather Service says the highest risk for severe weather Tuesday is centered in parts of northern and eastern Nebraska, western and southern Iowa, and northeast Missouri. Officials say there's the potential for a derecho system, which is a storm of strong straight-line winds spanning at least 240 miles. An outbreak of severe thunderstorms also is expected in parts of Illinois, Kansas and South Dakota. Officials say baseball-size hail was reported Tuesday afternoon in northeast Nebraska. The severe weather threat arrives amid an unusually quiet late spring, with far fewer documented tornadoes in May than in previous years.


KanCare Inspector's Background Scrutinized

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A former state lawmaker appointed to identify fraud in Kansas's privatized Medicaid system has a background that doesn't include a college degree or career experience in insurance, but does include a business bankruptcy and a DUI conviction. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that Phil Hermanson, a Republican who resigned from the Kansas House in 2013, started as inspector general for the $3 billion-a-year KanCare health care network in April. He declared Chapter 7 bankruptcy in 1998 amid closure of his print company and pleaded no contest in 2010 to driving under the influence of prescription drugs. Hermanson says he's learned from his mistakes. He says his preparation for the inspector general's job came from time in the U.S. Navy and private business, as well as five years in the Kansas House.


Court Will Hear Kansas, Arizona Voter Suit

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) - A federal appeals court will hear arguments August 25 in a lawsuit by Kansas and Arizona attempting to force the federal government to help them enforce proof-of-citizenship requirements for new voters. The 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver announced its plans Monday. The hearing will take place after Kansas's August 5 primary election but a day before Arizona's primary. The lawsuit was filed last year by Secretaries of State Kris Kobach of Kansas and Ken Bennett of Arizona. They want to force the federal government to add instructions to its national voter registration form telling new voters in those states that they must provide proof of U.S. citizenship when registering. A federal judge in Wichita ordered the change, but the federal government appealed his decision.


State of Kansas Pushes Back on Threatened Bird

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas Governor Sam Brownback is pushing the federal government to assume some costs for protecting the lesser prairie chicken by expanding incentives for farmers to enroll their land in a longstanding conservation program. Brownback also said Tuesday that Kansas will return to federal court this week to seek additional time for farmers, ranchers and oil and natural gas producers to respond to the federal government's decision in March to list the bird as threatened. The Republican governor scheduled a news conference Tuesday in Wichita to discuss new actions by the state and outlined them in an interview with The Associated Press beforehand. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service contends the listing is justified by a steep decline in the bird's numbers in recent years.


Kansas Audubon Leader Supports Brownback Proposal

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The executive director of Audubon of Kansas likes Governor Sam Brownback's call for improved federal conservation incentives for farmers to help increase the habitats for the lesser prairie chicken. Ron Klataske said Tuesday that increasing the amount of land enrolled in the federal Conservation Reserve Program would help reverse a loss of habitat for the bird. The federal government has listed the lesser prairie chicken as threatened. Audubon of Kansas has been at odds with the Republican governor over his criticism of the listing. Brownback sent a letter to federal officials, calling on them to pursue enhanced incentives to encourage more farmers to enroll land in the conservation program. Klataske said it's a good idea. Under the program, the federal government pays farmers not to cultivate land.


Man Arrested in Shooting Near Lawrence

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — The Douglas County sheriff's department says a 25-year-old man has been arrested in the shooting of a motorist on Highway 59 south of Lawrence. Sheriff's department spokesman Lieutenant Steve Lewis says in a news release that the suspect from Lawrence was arrested Monday night and booked into the county jail on an attempted second-degree murder charge. Twenty-four-year-old Skylar Workman was injured in the May 26 shooting and is recuperating at a Topeka hospital. Investigators have said they do not think the shooting was a random act of violence.


Kansas Ed Board Chairwoman to Retire

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The chairwoman of the Kansas State Board of Education has decided against seeking re-election. Independence Republican Jana Shaver tells The Topeka Capital-Journal that she's retiring to travel and spend time with family, not for political reasons. Monday was the filing deadline. Shaver is in her second term on the board. Republicans Jim Porter of Fredonia and Martin Burke of Riverton are the only candidates seeking to replace her. Among other incumbents whose terms are expiring, Republicans John Bacon of Olathe and Ken Willard of Hutchinson filed for re-election but face no primary or general opposition. Vice Chairwoman Sally Cauble of Dodge City faces Meg Wilson of Great Bend in the GOP primary. Incumbent Democrat Janet Waugh of Kansas City will face Republican Nancy Klemp of Leavenworth in November.


Topeka Teen Pleads Guilty in Fatal Crash

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A Topeka teenager has pleaded guilty to charges stemming from a high-speed crash that killed one passenger in his car and injured three others. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that prosecutors and defense lawyers have agreed to recommend a suspended sentence for 16-year-old Adam David Erickson. Erickson pleaded guilty Monday in Shawnee County District Court to one count of involuntary manslaughter and three counts of aggravated battery. The district attorney's office has recommended dismissing marijuana-related charges. Authorities said Erickson was driving at speeds up to 110 mph the night of September 29, 2012, when his car hit trees and landed on its side. The crash killed 14-year-old passenger Cameron Johnson, of Berryton, and injured three others in the car. Erickson was the only person in the car wearing a seat belt.


Salina Declares June LGBT Pride Month

SALINA, Kan. (AP) — Two years after a divisive public referendum led to repealing discrimination protections based on sexual orientation, Salina's mayor has signed a proclamation declaring June LGBT Pride Month in the city. Mayor Aaron Householter signed the proclamation Monday celebrating Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Pride Month. The proclamation said LGBT youths are four times more likely to attempt suicide than their straight peers, and nine out of 10 LGBT youths report harassment at school. The Salina Journal reports that in 2012, a citizens group collected about 2,500 signatures seeking a public vote to repeal protections that had been approved for the city's anti-discrimination ordinance. The repeal was approved by 54.2 percent to 45.8 percent. The city's second Gay Pride Salina parade is planned for June 28.


Not Guilty Pleas Entered in Topeka Motel Death

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) - A Shawnee County judge has entered not guilty pleas for a Topeka man charged with killing a woman in November. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports 30-year-old Andrew Charles Redick is charged with first-degree murder in the death of 39-year-old Lena Ann Keithley, who was found dead in a motel on November 15. The Shawnee County coroner said Keithley died from "asphyxia due to strangulation," but said he couldn't rule out suffocation as a contributing factor. Redick was bound over on the charges last week. A judge entered the not guilty pleas for him during a hearing Monday. Redick is jailed in Shawnee County on $1 million bond. His trial is scheduled to begin Aug. 11.


Kansas Child Dies After Being Run Over by Car

CLAY CENTER, Kan. (AP) - The Kansas Highway Patrol says a 1-year-old child died after being hit by a car in a parking lot.The patrol says Kael Dame of Clay Center died in the accident Monday night at the Huntress Park ball field in Clay Center. The car driven by 58-year-old Peggy Ward, also of Clay Center, was leaving the parking lot when the accident occurred. Further details of the accident were not immediately released.


Ex-City Official Sentenced for Child Sex Crimes

COLUMBUS, Kan. (AP) - A former city councilman and elementary school crossing guard from southeast Kansas has been sentenced to life in prison for child sex crimes that authorities say spanned 35 years. Seventy-nine-year-old Stanley Pickering, of Baxter Springs, pleaded guilty in April to six counts including aggravated criminal sodomy, indecent liberties and indecent solicitation. A Cherokee County judge on Monday handed Pickering two consecutive life sentences without the chance of parole for 50 years. Pickering resigned as a crossing guard and from the Baxter Springs City Council after his arrest in January. He remained on the ballot for re-election in March but lost to a write-in candidate. Officials have said none of the offenses occurred on school property. The case came to light last November when one victim, now an adult, contacted authorities.


Ex-Sheriff Pleads Guilty to Firearms Charge

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) - A former Kansas sheriff has pleaded guilty to letting his son possess firearms and ammunition even though the younger man was convicted felon. The U.S. Attorney's office said 70-year-old Barry Walker, of Mound City, entered the plea to the federal firearms violation on Monday. His son, 47-year-old Pleasanton resident Jeffrey Nicholas, pleaded guilty to possessing firearms and ammunition after a felony conviction. Walker is the former sheriff of Linn County and the owner of Big Bear's Gifts & Pawn Shop in Pleasanton. Nicholas has a felony drug conviction from Nevada and worked for his father at the shop. Prosecutors said federal agents warned Walker to stop letting his son sell guns at the store. But undercover agents later bought firearms from Nicholas at various times.


Kansas Candidate Filing Deadline Passes

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) - The filing deadline for candidates seeking a spot on the August 5th Kansas primary has passed with no additional Republicans joining the U.S. Senate race. State Senator Dennis Pyle did not file for the race by Monday's noon deadline. The conservative Republican from Hiawatha spent the past few weeks gauging support for a potential challenge to incumbent GOP Senator Pat Roberts. Another Republican, Leawood radiologist Milton Wolf, filed to run against Roberts in January and is endorsed by tea party groups. Pyle had asked conservatives whether he should join the race, and if he or Wolf would be stronger competition for Roberts. Numerous candidates did file for the state House of Representatives. All 125 House districts are up for election this year.


Kansas Independent to Run for US Senate\

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) _ A northeast Kansas businessman is planning to challenge Republican Sen. Pat Roberts in November as an independent candidate. Greg Orman, of Olathe, ran briefly against Roberts in 2008 as a Democrat. He said Monday he plans to run this time as an unaffiliated candidate. Orman has until August 4 to submit 5,000 signatures from registered voters to the secretary of state's office to get on the November 4 ballot. Roberts faces three Republican primary challengers in his bid for a fourth Senate term. Two Democrats, including Shawnee County District Attorney Chad Taylor, have also filed for the office. Orman runs a boxing equipment company in Lenexa. He plans formal announcements of his Senate bid around the state Wednesday and Thursday.


Democrats File Complaints in 2nd District

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) _ Kansas Democrats have filed two federal complaints against Republican congresswoman Lynn Jenkins alleging she violated ethics and campaign rules because a staff member also serves as an unpaid re-election spokesman. The Kansas Democratic Party said Monday the complaints were filed last week with the U.S. House's Office of Congressional Ethics and the Federal Elections Commission. They deal with Jenkins campaign spokesman Bill Roe, who is also her district director. Jenkins's office said the allegations are without merit. The complaints were filed by Jason Perkey, the Kansas Democratic Party's executive director. Perkey contends that Roe's dual roles violate rules designed to keep congressional staffers from being involved in politics. Jenkins's staff said ethics rules allow staffers to do volunteer campaign work on their own time.


Train Derails in NE Kansas; No Injuries Reported

FRANKFORT, Kan. (AP) — Marshall County sheriff's officials say a train derailed in the northeast Kansas town of Frankfort, causing some traffic problems. No injuries were reported after the derailment Monday morning. KSNT-TV reports that the 137-car Union Pacific Railroad train was carrying coal from Wyoming to Texas when 12 cars derailed. Crews plan to work through Monday to remove the cars and repair the track. The Kansas Department of Transportation said all lanes of Kansas 9 were closed after the derailment. Kansas 99 reopened after being closed briefly. The cause of the derailment is under investigation.


Kansas City Man Pleads in Water Threat Hoax

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) _ A 70-year-old Kansas City man has pleaded guilty to charges involving a hoax threat to contaminate water supplies in Kansas and Missouri. The U.S. Attorney for western Missouri says Manuel Garcia pleaded guilty Monday. He admitted making three telephone calls to authorities in October 2013 about the fake plot to contaminate water supplies in Kansas City, St. Louis, Wichita and Topeka. An FBI agent recognized Garcia's voice from a 2010 case in which he was sentenced to 18 months in federal prison after pleading guilty to making a phone call threatening to bomb the U.S. courthouse in downtown Kansas City.


Kansas Man Killed in Confrontation with Deputy

DEXTER, Kan. (AP) _ A south-central Kansas sheriff says a deputy was dragged by a vehicle he tried to stop before the motorist was shot and killed. Cowley County Sheriff Don Read released details Monday of Saturday night's incident near Dexter. KWCH-TV reports the driver has been identified as 22-year-old Tayler Rock, of Arkansas City. Read says the deputy pulled over the car for a traffic violation, then approached the vehicle. The sheriff says Rock tried to drive away, dragging the deputy through a ditch and running him over. At some point, shots were fired, but the sheriff would not say who opened fire. Rock was pronounced dead at a hospital. The deputy was treated for injuries to his lower legs. A 1-year-old girl who was in Rock's car was unhurt.


Former St. Joseph Detective Pleads Guilty

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — A former St. Joseph police detective has pleaded guilty to a federal charge accusing him of withholding information about a man who illegally possessed a firearm. The office of the U.S. Attorney for western Missouri says in a release that 42-year-old Scott Thomas Coates pleaded guilty Tuesday to the felony charge of misprision of a felony. Under the plea agreement, prosecutors will recommend that Coates be sentenced to probation and ordered to resign from the St. Joseph Police Department. Coates admitted that between 2007 and 2010 he failed to tell his superiors that Corey Andrew Barr illegally had a firearm. Barr was prohibited from having a firearm because of domestic violence conviction and later pleaded guilty to illegally possessing a firearm.


Sedgwick County Zoo's Beloved Orangutan Dies


WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A Sumatran orangutan who became a favorite at the Sedgwick County Zoo over the decades has died at the estimated age of 57. The great ape, named Tia, was recognized as the oldest orangutan in North American zoos accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums. Sedgwick County Zoo executive director Mark Reed tells The Wichita Eagle that Tia died Tuesday in her sleep, lying on her back on her hammock. The cause of death was listed as age-related health issues. Reed says Tia had some heart issues last year. Tia was born in the wild and first came to the U.S. at age 2, living at zoos in Milwaukee and Madison, Wisconsin. The Wichita zoo acquired her in 1985. Tia gave birth to a male orangutan, called Panji.





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