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Headlines for Wednesday, June 4, 2014


KPR-News-Summary

385 Vets on Wichita Waiting List

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — An official with the Wichita Veterans Affairs medical center says 385 veterans were on an unauthorized list of those waiting for care, some for more than 90 days. An official with the Robert J. Dole Veterans Affairs Medical Center told The Associated Press Wednesday the lists were created by staff that lacked training and understanding of VA procedures. Executive secretary Diane Henderson says an unknown but small number of veterans on the list did wait more than 90 days for care. Those veterans were separate from nine others on an official database that did wait more than 90 days for appointments. The secret list was similar to one maintained by a VA campus in Arizona that included 1,700 veterans waiting for appointments for more than 90 days.

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Storm Damage Reported in NE Kansas

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) - Severe storms swept through parts of Kansas, with the worst damage reported in northeast counties near the Nebraska border. The National Weather Service in Topeka says the heaviest damage from Tuesday's storms was reported in and around Bern, about three miles south of the Nebraska-Kansas border in Nemaha County. Nemaha County officials say at least one home was destroyed and others were damaged on the west side of Bern. More damage was reported near Everest in Brown County, where more than 2,000 people were without power. The entire city of Hiawatha was without power Tuesday night. Early reports did not include any serious injuries.Weather service officials plan to be in Nemaha, Brown and Marshall counties Wednesday to determine whether damage was caused by tornadoes or straight-line winds.

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Storm Derails Train Cars in Northeast Kansas

WILLIS, Kan. (AP) — Crews are using heavy equipment to move 52 empty coal cars away from tracks in northeast Kansas after they were derailed by high wind amid powerful storms. Union Pacific spokesman Mark Davis tells KNZA-FM that no one was injured when the cars were toppled around 12:05 am Wednesday in the Brown County community of Willis. The 134-car coal train was bound from Wyoming to Arkansas and stopped because of the extreme weather. Davis said a tornado warning had been issued, and the train's emergency technology alerted the crew that wind gusts were high enough to put the cars at risk of derailing. Davis also said the track escaped damage because the wind simply pushed the 52 cars onto their sides.

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Kansas Businessman Opens Independent US Senate Bid

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A northeast Kansas businessman is running for the U.S. Senate as an independent candidate and advocating open primary elections to blunt what he says is the influence of extremists in both major parties. Greg Orman of Olathe met with reporters Wednesday at the Statehouse as part of a six-city tour to open his campaign. He's seeking the seat now held by three-term incumbent Republican Pat Roberts. The 45-year-old Orman is co-founder of the capital and business management firm Denali Partners. He said he believes Washington has become too partisan to solve problems. He needs to collect signatures from 5,000 registered voters to get on the ballot in November. He also advocates that states hold a single open primary, with the final two candidates advancing to the general election.

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Kansas Oil Production Up, Natural Gas Down in 2013

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) - Fracking in southern Kansas has increased oil production in the state, but natural gas production continued its downward spiral. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports the value of both oil and gas produced in Kansas has increased despite the lower gas output. The state produced about 46.8 million barrels of oil in 2013, a 7 percent bump from the 43.7 million barrels in 2012. Most of that increase came from south-central and southwest Kansas. Natural gas production fell 1.5 percent, from 299 billion cubic feet in 2012 to 295 billion cubic feet last year. The Kansas Geological Survey says the value of the natural gas rose from $790 million in 2012 to $1.1 billion last year, while the value of oil rose from $3.7 billion to $4.1 billion.

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Police Kill Suspect in Kansas Hit-and-Run

MCPHERSON, Kan. (AP) — The Kansas Highway Patrol is helping investigate the fatal shooting of a suspect by McPherson police. The McPherson Police Department said in a statement that the suspect "charged" at officers before being shot around 1 pm Wednesday. No other details about the suspect were immediately released. Authorities said the confrontation took place after officers were called to investigate and hit-and-run accident in the central Kansas community. The suspect vehicle was gone, but police found it abandoned at another location. Police say the suspect was found a short distance away and charged at officers, who opened fire. The suspect was pronounced dead at a hospital. The Kansas Bureau of Investigation and McPherson County Sheriff's Department are also investigating.

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State Education Board Approves Teacher Regulation

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The State Board of Education has agreed to allow schools to hire teachers for certain subjects who have expertise but no education degree. The regulations approved Tuesday require teachers to meet one of three criteria: They would need an out-of-state license and to pass the licensure tests, or at least a bachelor's degree and at least five years of related work experience in science, technology, engineering or math, or an industry-recognized certificate in a technical profession and at least five years of related work experience. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports the regulations are temporary pending a 120-day public comment period. The Kansas National Education Association opposes the regulations. Supporters say the new option would be used mostly in career and technical education, and would give smaller districts more hiring flexibility.

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Small Town Faces Huge Bill to Fix Water System

PRETTY PRAIRIE, Kan. (AP) — A small south central Kansas town is facing a multi-million dollar bill to fix its aging and contaminated water system. Leaders in Pretty Prairie, a town of about 680 people in Reno County, say current estimates to repair the city's water system is $4.63 million. The Hutchinson News reports that city council members indicated Monday they want to reduce the size of the project, but the costs would still be in the millions. A consultant report issued in May said the town's water in 2013 had an average nitrate level of 19.85 milligrams per liter. The maximum should not exceed 10, and the state health department has put the town on its violation list. The engineers recommended fixes such as an ion exchange program, lined lagoons, a new water tower.

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Kansas Man Sentenced for Defrauding Missouri Fund

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) — A Kansas man has been sentenced to 30 months in federal prison for a $1.3 million fraud involving a Missouri fund for cleaning up leaking petroleum tanks. Robert Fine II was sentenced Tuesday after pleading guilty last November to one count each of mail fraud and money laundering for bills submitted to the Missouri Petroleum Storage Tank Insurance Fund. The Jefferson City News Tribune reports that the 52-year-old Lenexa, Kansas, man apologized in court for his actions while expressing shame and remorse. Fine was the owner and sole employee of FINEnvironmental Inc., a Missouri corporation that operated from his home. Prosecutors said Fine created false and inflated invoices for services provided by subcontractors and submitted them to the insurance fund. He already has paid $1.5 million in restitution.

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Head-On Crash Kills 2 in Southeast Kansas

PARSONS, Kan. (AP) — A head-on collision on a southeast Kansas highway has left both drivers dead. The Highway Patrol says the crash happened shortly before 9 am Wednesday on U.S. 59, a few miles north of Parsons. The patrol says a northbound SUV crossed the center line and struck a southbound car. The SUV driver was identified as 64-year-old Timothy Schartz, of Altamont. The car was driven by 41-year-old Misty Chalker, of Parsons. Investigators said they couldn't determine if either driver wore a seat belt.

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Kansas Woman Dies After Being Hit by Car

NEWTON, Kan. (AP) — Harvey County authorities say a 28-year-old teacher died after being hit by a car. The sheriff's office says 28-year-old Crystal Stauffer of Newton died after she was struck Tuesday on a road west of Newton in Harvey County. She was a physical education teacher at Santa Fe Middle School in Newton. Stauffer had worked for the district since 2010 and was married last July. The 40-year-old Halstead woman driving the car stopped and called 911. She was not hurt. The sheriff's office says the accident is still under investigation.

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McQuade Replacing Brownlie at Planned Parenthood

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — A top officer of a New York City-based organization that promotes women's equality worldwide has been named new president and chief executive officer of Planned Parenthood of Kansas and Mid-Missouri. Planned Parenthood says Laura McQuade will begin her new role early next month. She replaces Peter Brownlie, who stepped down at the end of March after serving as the chapter's top administrator since 1999. Planned Parenthood of Kansas and Mid-Missouri board chairwoman Jackie Johnson says McQuade was chosen after an extensive national search. McQuade has been chief operating officer and executive vice president at the Center for Reproductive Rights in New York for the past six years. Johnson says McQuade has a history as an organization builder, reformer and women's rights advocate.

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Tribe Signs Agreements for Oklahoma Site Cleanup

QUAPAW, Okla. (AP) — The Quapaw Tribe of Oklahoma has signed an agreement with the state to clean up contaminated waste left over from decades of mining. The tribe announced Wednesday that it has signed the agreement with the State of Oklahoma and the Environmental Protection Agency to perform additional remediation within the Tar Creek Superfund site. The tribe this year became the first in the nation to successfully clean up a federal hazardous waste site. Under the agreement, the tribe will remove approximately 72,000 tons of contaminated material and haul it to a nearby repository. The tribe has also signed another agreement with the EPA to clean up various properties in southeast Kansas. The Tar Creek Superfund site is a 40-square-mile area that includes portions of Kansas, Missouri and Oklahoma.

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Oklahoma Man Who Rammed Truck into Airport Pleads Guilty

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — An Oklahoma man who rammed his pickup truck through a security gate at Wichita Mid-Continent Airport has pleaded guilty to criminal trespass and criminal damage to property. Twenty-six-year-old Mark Rehme of Marlow, Oklahoma, will be sentenced June 9. He entered his plea Monday before his jury trial was to begin. Sedgwick County prosecutors say Rehme was arrested January 19 after he drove his Ford F-150 through a fenced area and walked toward a small, private plane. The Wichita Eagle reports that authorities said Rehme was waving some papers and talking to himself when he was arrested. A handgun and knives were found in his truck. No one was injured. The motive for Rehme's actions has never been made public.

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Topeka to Host World Horseshoe Competition

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas residents are being encouraged to try their skill at pitching horseshoes to qualify for the world championships being held next year in Topeka. The Topeka Horseshoe Association and the Kansas Horseshoe Pitching Association say more than 1,500 people are expected to compete in July 2015 at two venues in Topeka. Kansas will have several qualifying events over the next year at locations including Bonner Springs, Salina, Topeka and Wichita. Topeka outbid cities in Texas and West Virginia for the 2015 world championship. The event last took place in Kansas in 1909, in the southeastern town of Bronson.

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Tiahrt Names Campaign Chief for Race in Kansas 4th

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Former Kansas congressman Todd Tiahrt has picked a longtime colleague to manage his campaign to recapture his old seat in the state's 4th Congressional District. Tiahrt announced Tuesday that Robert Noland would serve as his campaign manager. Noland had been executive director of the Kansas Family Policy Council since 2010. The group strongly opposes abortion, gay rights and same-sex marriage. Tiahrt is challenging two-term congressman Mike Pompeo in the August 5 Republican primary. Tiahrt won the Wichita-area district in 1994, but did not seek re-election in 2010 to make an unsuccessful U.S. Senate run. Noland was the only employee of Tiahrt's campaign in 1994 and worked for him throughout his tenure in the U.S. House, mostly as his district director.

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Kansas Oil Producer Knocks Prairie Chicken Status

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A Wichita oil company executive says the federal government's listing of the lesser prairie chicken as threatened has hampered his firm's operations in western Kansas. Vess Oil Corporation chairman J. Michael Vess said Tuesday his company recently abandoned three western Kansas sites where it was ready to put up drilling rigs. He said it has backed away from exploring 10 to 15 sites because of the listing. Vess joined Governor Sam Brownback at a news conference Tuesday in Wichita about the listing. Vess blamed potential fees from the federal government and other requirements to help preserve lesser prairie chicken habitats. The federal government announced the listing in March and said it's justified by the steep decline in the bird's population in recent years.

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KU Med Research Program Gets $19 Million Grant

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) - The University of Kansas Medical Center has received a five-year, $19 million grant from the National Institutes of Health to continue a multi-university research program. The medical center is the lead school in the Kansas Institutional Development Award Network of Biomedical Research Excellence. The network includes all of the state's public universities, as well as Haskell Indian Nations University in Lawrence and Langston University in Oklahoma. The bioscience network was established in 2001 to enhance research capacity through various means, including faculty development and retention. The grant money will be used for such things as research projects, post-doctoral fellowships and startup funds for new faculty.

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Brownback Pushes Back on Prairie Chicken Regulations

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) _ Governor Sam Brownback announced Tuesday that he is pushing the federal government to bear some of the costs for protecting the lesser prairie chicken by expanding incentives for farmers to enroll their land in a longstanding conservation program. Brownback has criticized the government’s listing of the lesser prairie chicken as threatened. He says it’s a regulatory overreach that will harm the Kansas economy. Brownback says the state 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 executive director of Audubon of Kansas says he likes the Governor's proposals.

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State Education Board Approves Teacher Regulation

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) - The State Board of Education has agreed to allow schools to hire teachers for certain subjects who have expertise but no education degree. The regulations approved Tuesday require teachers to meet one of three criteria: They would need an out-of-state license and to pass the licensure tests, or at least a bachelor's degree and at least five years of related work experience in science, technology, engineering or math, or an industry-recognized certificate in a technical profession and at least five years of related work experience. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports the regulations are temporary pending a 120-day public comment period. The Kansas National Education Association opposes the regulations. Supporters say the new option would be used mostly in career and technical education, and would give smaller districts more hiring flexibility.

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Saline Commission Delays Decision on IUD Grant

SALINA, Kan. (AP) _ Saline County commissioners delayed a decision on whether to accept a federal grant to fund a form of birth control that one commission says causes abortions. Two weeks ago, the commission rejected the $6,064 grant to provide IUDs, or intrauterine devices, after Commissioner John Price likened the devices to murder. After being strongly criticized, the commission decided to reconsider the decision. Saline County Health Department Director Bronson Farmer and several others pleaded with the commission Tuesday to reverse its decision. He says the county should give citizens options and let them decide whether to use them. Price said he hasn't changed his mind, and women who want IUDs can get them from their doctors. The Salina Journal reports the commissioners might take up the issue again next week.

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Tiahrt Names Campaign Chief for Race in Kansas 4th

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) - Former Kansas congressman Todd Tiahrt has picked a longtime colleague to manage his campaign to recapture his old seat in the state's 4th Congressional District. Tiahrt announced Tuesday that Robert Noland would serve as his campaign manager. Noland had been executive director of the Kansas Family Policy Council since 2010. The group strongly opposes abortion, gay rights and same-sex marriage. Tiahrt is challenging two-term congressman Mike Pompeo in the August 5 Republican primary. Tiahrt won the Wichita-area district in 1994, but did not seek re-election in 2010 to make an unsuccessful U.S. Senate run. Noland was the only employee of Tiahrt's campaign in 1994 and worked for him throughout his tenure in the U.S. House, mostly as his district director.

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Kansas Man Sentenced for Defrauding Missouri Fund

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) - A Kansas man has been sentenced to 30 months in federal prison for a $1.3 million fraud involving a Missouri fund for cleaning up leaking petroleum tanks. Robert Fine II was sentenced Tuesday after pleading guilty last November to one count each of mail fraud and money laundering for bills submitted to the Missouri Petroleum Storage Tank Insurance Fund. The Jefferson City News Tribune reports that the 52-year-old Lenexa, Kansas, man apologized in court for his actions while expressing shame and remorse. Fine was the owner and sole employee of FINEnvironmental Inc., a Missouri corporation that operated from his home. Prosecutors said Fine created false and inflated invoices for services provided by subcontractors and submitted them to the insurance fund. He already has paid $1.5 million in restitution.

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Small Town Faces Huge Bill to Fix Water System

PRETTY PRAIRIE, Kan. (AP) - A small south central Kansas town is facing a multi-million bill to fix its aging and contaminated water system. Leaders in Pretty Prairie, a town of about 680 people in Reno County, say current estimates to repair the city's water system is $4.63 million. The Hutchinson News reports city's council members indicated Monday they want to reduce the size of the project, but the costs would still be in the millions. A consultant report issued in May said the town's water in 2013 had an average nitrate level of 19.85 milligrams per liter. The maximum should not exceed 10, and the state health department has put the town on its violation list. The engineers recommended fixes such as an ion exchange program, lined lagoons, a new water tower.

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Suspect Arrested in Shooting Incident

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. Police have said they do not think the shooting was a random act of violence.

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Topeka Teen Pleads Guilty in Car Crash

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) _ A Topeka teenager charged in a crash that killed a passenger in his car and injured three others has pleaded guilty. Prosecutors and defense lawyers have agreed to recommend a suspended sentence for 16-year-old Adam Erickson. The Wichita Eagle reports that fourteen-year-old Cameron Johnson of Berryton was killed when Erickson crashed his car in 2012.

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Sedgwick County Zoo 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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Royals GM Moore Hinted to Brett About Coaching Position 

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Royals general manager Dayton Moore says he hinted to George Brett a couple of weeks ago about the Hall of Famer reprising his role as interim hitting coach for the struggling franchise. Moore says Brett told him that he had "a lot going on" this summer. Moore also says he hoped Brett would have stayed on longer than he did last summer, when he joined Pedro Grifol in a two-person team responsible for overhauling the Royals' offense. Brett wound up stepping aside after nearly two months. Grifol was given the job on a full-time basis, but was relieved of his duties last week with the team in another slump. Dale Sveum has taken over the job. Counting Brett, he's the sixth hitting coach the Royals have had since Kevin Seitzer was let go at the end of the 2012 season.

 

 

 

 

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