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Regional Headlines for Friday, August 10, 2012



Report: Drought Slashes Size of Kansas Farm Crops 

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — The Kansas Agricultural Statistics Service is forecasting the smallest corn crop in Kansas since 2006 amid a deepening drought. The agency reported Friday that it expects Kansas growers to bring in 390.6 million bushels of corn. That is down 13 percent from last year. Kansas farmers planted 4.7 million acres of corn and are expected to harvest grain from 4.2 million of those acres. Thousands of corn acres have been abandoned or baled for silage. The service estimated average yields this year of 93 bushels per acre, the lowest Kansas corn yield since 1983. Sorghum production is forecast at 88 million bushels, down 20 percent from a year ago and the smallest crop since 1956. The soybean crop is estimated to come in at 73.7 million bushels, down 27 percent.

Kansas Governor Warns Against Outdoor Burning

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Governor Sam Brownback is warning Kansas residents against lighting outdoor fires because of the state's severe drought, but he's not ready to impose a statewide ban on burning. Brownback acknowledged Friday that officials are studying the state's authority to impose a ban. But he said he prefers to leave such decisions to local communities. All 105 Kansas counties are now covered by a drought disaster declaration, and 67 have imposed burning bans. Brownback told reporters after a meeting with state and local officials on drought issues that local officials are better judges of when to impose and lift such bans. He also said he'll also look into harvesting prairie grass along state highways and at Cedar Crest, his official residence, to provide forage for livestock producers whose supplies are short. The state has also launched a new website that lists information about the drought and links to drought assistance resources, at  


KDOT Considering Layoffs

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The Kansas Department of Transportation is considering laying off 40 employees from its headquarters in Topeka. Transportation Secretary Mike King on Friday announced the proposed the layoffs of the headquarters staff to the Kansas Department of Administration. King says the layoffs would make the department more efficient. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that King is not planning additional layoffs at this time, but they are a possibility in the future. King did not announce when the layoffs might happen and the potential savings to the state. He says the changes won't negatively affect the state's 10-year transportation plan. About 800 of the transportation department's 2,800 work in the Topeka headquarters.


Blue-Green Algae Warning Issued for Central Park Lake in Topeka

Central Park Lake in central Topeka has been added to the list of Kansas bodies of water in which blue-green algae blooms have been detected. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that the Kansas Department of Health and Environment issued a blue-green algae advisory and warning update Friday. Central Park Lake has been listed as being under a warning, which means that swimming, wading and skiing are prohibited. 


Ford County Commission Race Left Off Ballot

DODGE CITY, Kan. (AP) — Provisional ballots will decide the outcome of a Ford County Commission race that was left off the ballots given to some voters in Tuesday's election. Unofficial returns showed Michael Burkhart holding a three-vote lead over incumbent Commissioner Chris Boys in the Republican primary. After the error was discovered, the company that provided the ballots was able to correct it and voting continued. The Dodge City Daily Globe reports that it is unclear how the error occurred. About 30 provisional ballots will be reviewed Monday to determine the outcome of the race.


Laffer to Speak at Forum on Kansas Tax Cuts

OVERLAND PARK, Kan. (AP) — Kansas Governor Sam Brownback's administration will hold a forum next week to tout newly enacted income tax cuts, and the economist whose work inspired them is expected to attend. The forum takes place Tuesday afternoon at Johnson County Community College in Overland Park. It's billed as a chance for business owners to learn how the tax cuts will benefit them. Scheduled speakers include Arthur Laffer, who advised President Ronald Reagan. Laffer had a $75,000 contract with the Brownback administration to help develop tax policy. The Kansas cuts will reduce individual income tax rates for 2013 and exempt the owners of 191,000 businesses from income taxes. The goal is to stimulate the economy, but legislative researchers have predicted they'll create budget shortfalls by mid-2014.


Russell Close to Enacting Stage 4 Water Conservation Measures

RUSSELL, Kan. (AP) — The central Kansas town of Russell is close to moving into its most stringent water conservation stage. The Hays Daily News reports that Russell is already in the third stage of its conservation plan, which involves restricting outside watering to one day a week. City officials have also discussed the idea of building a pipeline from an area reservoir to wells closer to town. Early estimates suggest the pipeline could cost about $25 million. Water levels in Russell's water wells along the Smoky Hill River are low, and the city's conservation plan, which is under review, calls for moving into the fourth stage when levels fall about another foot. If Russell goes into the fourth stage, most of the water would be only for human consumption.


KBI: Body Found Near Salina Is Likely Homicide Victim

SALINA, Kan. (AP) — The Kansas Bureau of Investigation says a body found near Salina is that of a man believed to be a homicide victim. Fingerprint tests confirmed the body found Wednesday evening in Lincoln County was 37-year-old Jeffrey B. Powell, who had been missing since July 31. The Salina Journal reports Sheriff Glen Kochanowski declined to release details of where the body was found or a possible cause of death. A 29-year-old man was arrested Aug. 2 and is being held on a second-degree murder charge in Powell's death. Authorities believe Powell was killed the day he went missing.


Prosecutors Question $100K Child Support Payment from Man Involved in KU Ticket Scandal 

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — Federal prosecutors are questioning child support payments of nearly $100,000 that a former University of Kansas employee made before pleading guilty in a ticket scheme. Prosecutors have been pursuing assets of former assistant athletics director Rodney Jones and other defendants who pleaded guilty last year to stealing more than $2 million in football and basketball tickets from the university. Jones is serving a 46-month prison sentence. His personal take from the ticket scheme was believed to be $359,000. The Lawrence Journal-World reports that the U.S. Attorney's office says in court documents that about $100,000 in child support payments Jones made before his guilty plea were fraudulent. An attorney for Jones's former wife said Jones's lawyers contended the advance payments were lawful.


Lawsuit Claims Beef Checkoff Paying for Lobbying

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A Kansas rancher has filed suit claiming the National Cattlemen's Beef Association is improperly using "beef checkoff" funds to influence government action and policy. The federal lawsuit by Michael Callicrate names the U.S. Agriculture Department, the Cattlemen's Beef Promotion and Research Board and three other defendants. It seeks to bar the USDA from giving any checkoff dollars to the Cattlemen's Beef Association. The filing was announced Friday in Kansas City, Missouri at a conference of the Organization for Competitive Markets. The organization has been critical of the checkoff program and supports the lawsuit. The checkoff program generates more than $80 million annually to strengthen beef sales through promotion and research programs. The National Cattlemen's Beef Association — which is not named as a defendant — criticized the lawsuit. USDA officials declined comment.

Kansas Woman Sentenced for Putting Newborn in Trash

EMPORIA, Kan. (AP) — An Emporia woman has been sentenced to nearly 13 years in prison after being found guilty earlier of putting her newborn son in a trash bin. KVOE-AM reports that Lyon County District Judge Merlin Wheeler on Friday sentenced 26-year-old Christina Devine to 155 months in prison. She was convicted in July of attempted first-degree murder. Workers at an Emporia apartment complex found the 7-pound, 10-ounce baby alive in a trash bin in October 2010. Authorities said Devine's route to the complex took her past several places where she could have left the infant. Under Kansas law, an unharmed baby up to 45 days old can be left with an employee at medical facilities, fire departments and city or county health departments, with no questions asked.


Officers Testify about Children Found Bound at Lawrence Walmart 

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — A Lawrence officer says a 7-year-old girl found bound at a Walmart told him she was hitting her siblings and asked to be tied up. Officer James Miller testified Friday about his conversation with the girl during a preliminary hearing for the girl's parents, Adolfo and Deborah Gomez. The suburban Chicago couple was arrested in June after the 7-year-old and her bound 5-year-old brother were found outside the family's vehicle. Three older children weren't restrained. The Lawrence Journal-World reports that another officer, Charles Stewart, testified that the 5-year-old said Adolfo Gomez told the boy not to take off his bindings. Police say the father either recited religious sayings or prayed when he was asked to exit the vehicle. Ultimately, police used a stun gun to subdue him.


Agents Raid Kansas Synthetic Drug Distribution Ring

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A seven-month investigation into sales of synthetic marijuana commonly known as "potpourri" has culminated in raids in Emporia, El Dorado, Arkansas City and Wichita. The Kansas Bureau of Investigation said Thursday that 10 search warrants were served. Two men were arrested, and more arrests are expected. The investigation began with undercover agents buying potpourri and investigating emergency room admissions of people using the substances. Agents made controlled purchases from Blitzed Detox Shop in Emporia along with All Out Detox and Price Right Smoke Shop/JKL Liquor in El Dorado. Searches of those businesses led to other raids, including an alleged packaging operation in El Dorado. An undercover purchase was made in Wichita. The KBI says agents seized several pounds of treated potpourri plus vehicles and more than $100,000 in cash.


Kansas National Guard Unit Returning from Kuwait

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Members of a Kansas National Guard aviation unit that flies Black Hawk helicopters are coming home from a yearlong deployment to Kuwait. A welcoming ceremony is scheduled Saturday at Washburn University in Topeka for about 112 soldiers from the 1st Battalion, 108th Aviation Regiment. The rest of the unit's approximately 250 soldiers will return later. Since arriving in Kuwait last August, the battalion conducted air movement and air assault operations to support the winding down of the war in Iraq. The unit is headquartered in Topeka, with companies based in Topeka and Salina and in Austin, Texas.


2 Kansas Agencies to Receive $550K in Grants for DNA Testing

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) — Two Kansas law enforcement agencies are receiving more than $550,000 in federal grants to help reduce backlogs in testing DNA samples. U.S. Attorney Barry Grissom says the Kansas Bureau of Investigation will receive about $319,000 from the National Institute of Justice and the Department of Justice. Johnson County will receive slightly more than $247,000 from the same entities. Grissom says the demand for DNA testing is growing faster than crime labs can process the requests. He says the grants announced Thursday are intended to help state and local governments reduce DNA backlogs and sample turnaround time. The National Institute of Justice defines a backlogged case as one that remains untested for 30 days after being submitted to a laboratory.


Officials: Man Died Before Fire Started in Motel

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The Shawnee County Coroner says a man died of natural causes before a fire started in his room at a Topeka motel. Fifty-seven-year-old Daryl R. True was found dead Wednesday at the Traveler's Inn motel where he lived. Firefighters who were called to the hotel found True's body inside the room. They said the fire had self extinguished. The cause of the fire has not been determined.


Baldwin City Trying to Lure Dinner Train to Area 

BALDWIN CITY, Kan. (AP) — Baldwin City officials are negotiating to bring a dinner train to town from Nebraska. The Baldwin City Council this week gave City Administrator Chris Lowe authority to discuss incentives the city might provide to move the Fremont Dinner Train to Midland Railway. The council was told the cost of moving the dinner train to Baldwin City would be about $220,000. The owners have secured all but $25,000. Bruce Eveland, manager of the dinner train, says it draws 8,000 to 9,000 riders a year to Fremont, Neb. He says more than twice as many people live in a 150-mile radius of Baldwin City than in the same area around Fremont. The Lawrence Journal-World reports the dinner train operates year-round in heated and air-conditioned cars. It has about 15 part-time employees.


Mulvane Casino Looking for 400 Workers

MULVANE, Kan. (AP) — The Kansas Star Casino in Mulvane is looking for 400 more workers as it prepares to open a permanent casino and hotel. The casino's general manager, Scott Cooper, says 80 to 85 percent of the jobs will be full-time positions. The casino currently has 600 employees. The jobs will include 40 dealers and 150 food and beverage workers, along with various other positions such as housekeeping, office staff and security. The Wichita Eagle reports Cooper says the permanent casino and hotel is likely to open before the end of the year. The current casino is housed in an arena that will eventually be used for equestrian and other entertainment events.


Kansas Wheat Production Bright Spot Amid Drought

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — The 2012 winter wheat crop sitting in elevators across Kansas remains the single bright spot in a dismal forecast for the state's fall-harvested crops. This year's wheat was harvested before this summer's drought took hold in Kansas. Kansas Agricultural Statistics Service on Friday estimated the state's wheat crop at 387 million bushels. The estimate is 2 percent lower than the agency's forecast last month, but is still 40 percent higher than the drought-stricken 2011 wheat crop. This is the biggest wheat crop in Kansas since 2003. The agency says the wheat was cut from 9 million acres. That is 1.1 million more acres than harvest a year ago. It is the largest Kansas wheat acreage since 2006. Yields averaged 43 bushels per acre.

Report: Alfalfa Hay Production Increases 

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A new government forecast says alfalfa hay production is up 15 percent in Kansas after a huge spike in harvested acres. Kansas Agricultural Statistics Service reported Friday that Kansas growers are expected to harvest 2.25 million tons of alfalfa hay. The expected yield of 3 tons per acre is the same as a year ago, but it is coming off about 750,000 acres. Kansas farmers planted 100,000 more acres of alfalfa hay this year in response to record hay prices last year. Kansas growers also harvested 1.8 million acres of other types of hay, about 50,000 more acres than last year. But despite those added acres, production of other hay types is forecast to be down 12 percent from last year at 2.16 million tons.


Topeka Student Works to Help Special Ed Students

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A Topeka High School junior is on a mission to make school a more pleasant place for special education students. Jack Hishmeh recruited fellow students and adults to help paint the special education room this week. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that's the latest project Hishmeh began to befriend the nearly 20 special education students at the high school. Last year, he formed a group called "Lunch Buddies," who lunched with special education students in the cafeteria. Previously, the students rarely left the room set aside for them, not even for lunch. Lunch Buddies eventually became "Special Opps," about 25 students who befriend and mentor the special education students.  Hishmeh then sought grants and donations to improve the special education room, which he says looks like a storage closet.


Report: Airplane Deliveries and Billings Rise in 2012

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A general aviation industry group says airplane shipments and billings rose in the first half of 2012 amid signs of stability and growth. The new report from the General Aviation Manufacturers Association shows airplane shipments up 5.9 percent, with 918 planes delivered in the first half the year. The value of those deliveries rose 13.2 percent, to $8.2 billion. GAMA president Pete Bunce says those figures, combined with positive trends in the used airplane market, may signal the start of the industry's recovery. But he says more work must be done to improve the efficiency of the FAA certification process.


91-Year-Old Kansas Inmate Granted Parole

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A 91-year-old Kansas prison inmate convicted in a botched murder for hire has been granted parole. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports the Kansas Prisoner Review Board recently granted Joseph Johnson's second request for parole. A spokesman for the state Corrections Department said Thursday the parole will take effect January 1, provided Johnson moves to what the agency called a structured living environment that can address his medical needs. A Topeka man hired Johnson in 1992 to arrange the killing of the man's estranged wife. Johnson paid a 16-year-old boy $300 to carry out the attack and drove him to the address they'd been given. The teen shot and killed a man who opened the apartment door — but the victim was a new tenant. The intended victim had moved out sometime earlier.


Mystery Man Arrested after 72-Mile Chase in Western Kansas

COLBY, Kan. (AP) — Authorities are trying to identify a man who was arrested after leading officers on a 72-mile chase through northwestern Kansas. The Colby Free Press reports the chase started Thursday morning after a state trooper tried to stop the man on Interstate 70 about 25 miles west of Colby. The driver dodged traffic spikes as he led officers on several highways between Colby and Oakley at speeds that reached 130 mph. Authorities said the man briefly drove along railroad tracks in Colby and onto a street where he became boxed in by trees. He abandoned the car and was found under a pickup truck. Officers hoped to identify the man from his fingerprints because he won't provide his name.


KC Chiefs Enter Partnership with University of Kansas Hospital

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — The University of Kansas Hospital has become the official health care provider of the Kansas City Chiefs and will have its name on the team's training facility near Arrowhead Stadium. The 10-year partnership was announced Thursday. The hospital is located just over the state line in Kansas City, Kansas. Chiefs chairman and CEO Clark Hunt says the hospital will open a sports medicine clinic at the training facility, which will be renamed the University of Kansas Hospital Training Complex. The clinic is expected to open next summer. Hospital president and CEO Bob Page said it will serve Chiefs players, staff and families, along with anyone in the community with a sports injury. The hospital already has relationships with the Kansas City Royals, Kansas Speedway and the Sprint Center in downtown Kansas City, Missouri.


 New Female Gorilla at KC Zoo, Possibly for Breeding

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — The assignment of a female gorilla to the Kansas City Zoo is raising hopes that the zoo will soon be authorized to start a breeding program. Conservation officials who oversee the genetic distribution of gorillas in zoos sent the 25-year-old female, named Makari, from the Lincoln Park Zoo in Chicago to Kansas City. She went on exhibit Thursday, joining a troop of one male and two females. Zoo director Randy Wisthoff says the male in the troop previously has not been ranked high for breeding, but that could change. Wishtoff says for now, all three females will remain on contraceptives. The Kansas City Star reports that all of the zoo's gorillas are lowland gorillas, an endangered species.

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