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Regional Headlines for Friday, August 9, 2013


Kansas House Minority Leader Forms Committee for Governor's Race

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas House Minority Leader Paul Davis has formed a campaign committee for a potential run for the Democratic nomination for governor next year. Davis announced Thursday that he's created the committee and appointed former state Representative William Kassebaum of Burdick as his treasurer. Kassebaum is the son of former U.S. Senator Nancy Kassebaum Baker and served in the House as a moderate Republican. Davis is a Lawrence attorney and is the first prominent Democrat to publicly show an interest in challenging Republican Governor Sam Brownback. But Davis spokeswoman Haley Pollock emphasized that he's not yet formally announcing his candidacy. Davis has served in the House since 2003. He's been repeatedly mentioned by prominent Democrats as a potential challenger to Brownback.


Agreement Would Narrow Suit over Kansas Abortion Law

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Attorneys for Kansas and Planned Parenthood have agreed about how parts of a new state abortion law will be enforced and are seeking to narrow the abortion provider's federal lawsuit over the statute. The lawyers filed their agreement Friday in U.S. District Court. If Chief Judge Kathryn Vratil accepts it, Planned Parenthood's lawsuit will be limited to a single requirement in the law dealing with abortion providers' websites. Planned Parenthood had objected to requirements that providers post information containing statements about abortion and fetal development that the organization views as misleading. But under the agreement, the state is declaring that providers are compliant as long as they give patients access to materials from the Kansas health department, without repeating the statements in their own materials.


I-70 in Kansas City Reopened After Accident Cleanup

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Horses, cowboys and rescue personnel worked together to clear the wreckage of a cattle truck that closed westbound lanes of Interstate 70 near downtown Kansas City. The accident occurred about 3:45 am Friday and the westbound lanes of the interstate weren't reopened until about 10:30 am. Police say the driver told them the accident occurred when his load of about 80 cattle shifted, causing the truck to overturn. Six of the cows were killed or had to be put down because of their injuries. Cowboys on horses were called in to lasso one cow that escaped. The remaining cattle were trapped in the wreckage. The truck driver was not injured and a passenger suffered minor injuries.


More Rain Expected, Floods Possible in Central US

ST. LOUIS (AP) — Water-weary residents of several central U.S states are girding for more rain and possible flooding after a week of intermittent downpours dumped as much as 15 inches in some locations. The National Weather Service predicts heavy rainfall and says there's a flood risk through early Saturday across southeast Kansas and southern Missouri. More rain is expected into next week. In Oklahoma City, a 60-year-old man drowned early Friday while trying to rescue a relative who was stranded by floodwaters. Police say the man was swept into a drainage canal. The relative, who was stranded in a car, escaped without injury. Authorities in southwest Missouri say a woman who died Thursday morning while attempting to drive across a flooded creek near the town of Jane was 69-year-old Helen Pendergraft of Noel.


Flooded Basements, Sewage Plague Some Kansas Homes

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Emergency responders say most of the flood damage to Kansas homes has been water in basements and sewage backups. Megan Hammersmith, director of the Central Kansas Chapter of the American Red Cross, said Thursday that Reno County has some of the worst damage, mostly stemming from Sunday's downpour. There has been no new flooding to homes reported from Thursday's latest round of rainfall. The agency says four homes in Reno County were totally destroyed by flooding and 11 homes have major damage. Another 180 homes have minor damage and 56 other homes were affected. Mostly minor damage was reported to 30 homes in Harvey County and 60 homes in the city of Ellinwood. About 122 homes were flooded last week in Lindsborg.


Man Arrested After Resisting Rescue in Kansas River

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A 35-year-old man is in custody after Wichita police say he resisted efforts to rescue him from the Arkansas River. KWCH-TV reports that a witness alerted police to a man giving what looked like a distress signal around 8:30 am Friday as he floated down the river on an inflatable object. Firefighters in boats threw ropes to the man but said he refused to grab the ropes and continued floating. More than 20 rescue workers were involved before the man finally surrendered and was brought to shore. Police said the man had several warrants out for his arrest. He also faces possible charges for failing to obey an officer and being in the river.


Hutchinson Assisted Living Site Damaged by Flooding

HUTCHINSON, Kan. (AP) — The residents of a Hutchinson assisted living complex will be out of their home for least two weeks while workers repair damage from flooding. Water seeped into the Elm Grove Estates after heavy rains hit the area Sunday, forcing 104 residents to move other living situations. Shawn Lahr, an official with Emeritus, which operates Elm Grove, says about half of the residents are living with family. The others are at the Hutchinson Regional Medical Center or Golden Plains Rehabilitation Center. Elm Grove staff is continuing to care for the residents. The Hutchinson News reports that about 100 workers are involved in efforts to dry out the complex. Lahr says they will work 24 hours a day, seven days a week until repairs are completed.


Kansas Confirms West Nile Virus Case

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — State health officials say an Atchison County adult is the state's first reported case of West Nile in Kansas this year. The officials did not release further information about the patient. The Kansas Department of Health and Environment said Thursday the first sample of mosquitoes infected with the virus were found this year in Sedgwick County. Last year, Kansas had 57 reported cases of West Nile virus, the most cases since the virus first was found in the state in 2002.


4 More Heat-Related Deaths Confirmed in Kansas City/Jackson County Area

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — The Kansas City Health Department says it has confirmed that four deaths this summer in Jackson County, Missouri were heat-related. That brings the total number of heat-related deaths to five in the county. The new cases include men in their late fifties, late sixties and early seventies and a woman in her mid-eighties. Two more suspected heat-related cases are still under investigation.


Judge Named to Kansas Sentencing Commission

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A trial judge from east-central Kansas has been appointed to the state Sentencing Commission by Chief Justice Lawton Nuss. Judge W. Lee Fowler has served since 1997 in the 5th Judicial District, handling cases in Lyon and Chase counties. He's one of two judges appointed to the sentencing commission by the chief justice and will replace Judge Richard Smith, of Linn County. The Kansas Sentencing Commission has 17 members drawn from all three branches of government. The commission evaluates the effects of sentencing practices on corrections resources and prison populations and recommends changes in laws to the Legislature. Fowler's appointment was announced Thursday. Nuss noted that Fowler has been both a prosecutor and a defense lawyer and established a drug court in Emporia in 2004.


Kansas Man Given Death Penalty for Missouri Killings

LIBERTY, Mo. (AP) — A southeast Kansas man convicted of killing three relatives in west-central Missouri has been sentenced to death. Clay County (Missouri) Circuit Judge Larry Harman imposed the sentence Friday on 47-year-old Robert Blurton, of Garnett, Kansas. Blurton was convicted in June of first-degree murder in the shooting deaths of his aunt and uncle, Donnie and Sharon Luetjen, and the couple's 15-year-old granddaughter, Taron Luetjen. The killings took place in June 2009 at the couple's home in Cole Camp. Investigators said Blurton killed the three after a robbery. The case was moved from Benton County to the Kansas City area because of extensive publicity. The jury that convicted Blurton had recommended the death penalty. The judge on Friday accepted the recommendation and rejected Blurton's motion for a new trial or a new penalty phase.


Kansas Board of Regents Planning 3-Day Retreat

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Members of the Kansas Board of Regents plan to discuss budget issues and their policy of banning concealed guns on higher education campuses during a retreat next week. The Lawrence Journal-World reports that the three-day gathering is to begin Tuesday at a bed and breakfast in Valley Falls, northeast of Topeka. Regents President and Chief Executive Officer Andy Tompkins said the regents will help their staff develop budget proposals to be considered at the board's meeting in September. The regents expect to meet Wednesday with Governor Sam Brownback's chief of staff and budget director. They're also planning to discuss a new state law aimed at ensuring that people with valid permits can carry concealed guns into public buildings. Public universities and colleges can exempt themselves through 2017.


Kansas Board Cracking Down on Teacher Crime

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The Kansas State Board of Education will consider disciplinary action next week against six teachers who have been convicted of criminal activity, an usually large number for one meeting. Cheryl Whelan, attorney for the State Department of Education, says the board is pursuing school districts that are not reporting criminal activity by teachers and administrators. Four of the six teachers were convicted of sexual improprieties with minors; one stole an instrument from the school and the sixth was convicted of fraud. The board also will consider denying the application for a new license from a man convicted of marijuana possession. Whelan told The Lawrence Journal-World that school districts and local prosecutors have been reminded they must report criminal cases to state teaching licensing officials.


Hays Resident Claims $1M Powerball Prize

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A northwest Kansas resident has come forward to claim a $1 million cash prize in Wednesday's Powerball drawing. The Kansas Lottery said Friday the person lives in Hays but has chosen to remain anonymous, as allowed by state law. The winning ticket matched the first five numbers but not the Powerball in Wednesday's drawing, which had a $425 million jackpot. Lottery officials say the million-dollar Kansas ticket was sold at Cerv's 2, a convenience store in Hays.


Kansas City Police Shoot, Kill Man at Motel

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Police say officers shot and killed a man after a confrontation in northern Kansas City. Officers went to a motel Thursday across Interstate 435 from Worlds of Fun after being told a man wanted on outstanding warrants was there. Police say when they found the man, he resisted and threatened them with what believed to be a gun. The officers fired and the man was pronounced dead at the scene. No officers were injured. The man's name was not released.

Copper Ripped from Historic Kansas Theater

PITTSBURG, Kan. (AP) — Someone worked hard to steal copper fixtures from a historic southeast Kansas theater, and a theater official worked just as hard to track the items down. The Joplin Globe reports Colonial Fox Theatre executive director Vonnie Corsini noticed copper gutters, ornamental boxes and brackets missing from the Pittsburg building's exterior Tuesday. Corsini says a thief would have needed at least a 20- or 30-foot extension ladder to reach the fixtures. Calls to area salvage yards led Corsini to a scrap metal business in Columbus, where the owner reported paying $280 for the stolen fixtures. The Colonial Fox is being renovated, and Corsini had bought the items for $2,300 a few years ago when another historic building in Pittsburg was demolished.

Baldwin City School District Having Trouble Selling Property

BALDWIN CITY, Kan. (AP) — The Baldwin City school district has a deal for you. The district has been trying to sell a three-story office building and a gymnasium near downtown Baldwin City for more than two years. It's asking $415,000 but will accept a reasonable offer. The Lawrence Journal-World reports  that the district hasn't had any offers for the property, which includes a parking lot and adjacent lot. District superintendent Paul Dorathy says the problem is that the buildings were built in the 1920s and '30s and would need a lot of renovation. The district has sold two closed schools in recent months. Baldwin City has the extra property because a $22.9 million bond issue passed in 2008 allowed it to build an elementary school, baseball fields and a performing arts center.

Kansas Conference Focuses on Women's Role on Farms

MANHATTAN, Kan. (AP) — Kansas farm women are gathering near Manhattan for the second annual "Dirt, Denim and Diamonds" conference. The two-day event begins Friday at the Living Water Ranch 16 miles north of Manhattan. It is hosted by the Flint Hills Chapter of Kansas Agri-Women. The conference focuses on the role of rural women on the farm, with sessions on leadership, current events and agricultural issues as well as skill-building opportunities. Topics on Friday's agenda included food labeling, livestock photography and farm communication. Saturday's plans include more sessions on areas ranging from livestock to agribusiness.


Tyson to Stop Buying Cattle Fed with Bulking Supplement

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Tyson Foods Incorporated says it will no longer buy cattle fed a supplement that's designed to bulk them up before slaughter, citing experts who suggest the drug may be causing animals to become lame. The decision has raised concerns that less beef will be available, which would drive up consumer prices. Tyson told cattle feeders this week it's concerned about the incidences of cattle at its processing plants that had difficulty walking or moving. Some experts have suggested the use of Merck Animal Health feed supplement Zilmax, or zipaterol, is a possible cause. The company says it will suspend purchases of Zilmax-fed cattle, effective September 6. Merck contends it is confident that Zilmax isn't causing Tyson's problems. Tyson says this is not a food safety issue, but about animal well-being.


US Rig Count Down 4 This Week to 1,778

HOUSTON (AP) — Oilfield services company Baker Hughes Incorporated says the number of rigs actively exploring for oil and natural gas in the U.S. decreased by four this week to 1,778. The Houston-based company said in its weekly report Friday that 1,385 rigs were exploring for oil and 386 for gas. Seven were listed as miscellaneous. A year ago there were 1,931 active rigs. Of the major oil- and gas-producing states, Colorado gained three rigs and Kansas and North Dakota each gained one. California lost four rigs, New Mexico and Texas each lost two and Alaska and Wyoming each lost one. Arkansas, Louisiana, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Utah and West Virginia were unchanged. The U.S. rig count peaked at 4,530 in 1981 and bottomed at 488 in 1999.


Southwest Jet from KCI Diverted to Alabama After Fire Alarm

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (AP) — Authorities say a Southwest Airlines jet was diverted to Birmingham due to a mid-flight fire alarm. Southwest spokesman Chris Mainz tells The Birmingham News that Southwest Flight 585 was en route from Kansas City to Tampa, Fla., Friday morning when the firm alarm sounded in the plane's rear lavatory. The flight was diverted to Birmingham and landed around 9:30 am Friday. No injuries were reported among the 65 passengers and five crew members. reports that there was no fire or smoke on the plane. Mainz said the passengers were being placed on another flight to Tampa after a delay of about an hour and a half.


Authorities Search for Missing 15-Year-Old Missouri Girl

GILMAN CITY, Mo. (AP) — Kidnapping charges have been filed against a 23-year-old man accused of leaving a northwest Missouri home with a 15-year-old girl. The Missouri State Highway Patrol issued an endangered person advisory for Bailey Ann Summers, who was last seen Thursday leaving a Gilman City home with 23-year-old Elijah McPike. Gilman City is about 100 miles northeast of Kansas City. Harrison County Sheriff Josh Eckerson said Friday a recent protection order prohibits McPike from contacting Summers. The Harrison County prosecutor's office says McPike was charged Friday with kidnapping and violating a protection order. Eckerson says Kansas authorities have also become involved in the search because McPike's cellphone signal was located late Thursday in Edwardsville, Kansas. McPike may be driving a silver 2001 Dodge Ram extended cab truck with Missouri license plates 5DB857.


Small Suburban KC Town Seeks Historic Designation

WESTWOOD HILLS, Kan. (AP) — A small suburban Kansas City town is asking to be placed on state and federal registers of historic places. Westwood Hills is one of the first suburbs developed in Kansas by urban planning pioneer J.C. Nichols. The city covers only 5½ blocks and has 359 residents. The Kansas City Star reports that a state review board will consider the city's request Saturday. If it's approved, the request will go to the National Park Service for federal approval. An endorsement by the state increases chances the town will get on the national register. The listing would provide protection for the town's 1920s and '30s architecture, winding streets and tall trees. And it could make some preservation grants available.

Wichita Man Struck, Killed by Freight Train

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Wichita police have identified a pedestrian struck and killed by a freight train, but they're not certain why the man appeared not to notice the danger before it was too late. KFDI-FM reports 26-year-old Robert Wells of Wichita was dead at the scene of the accident late Wednesday afternoon. Witnesses told investigators Wells was crossing the tracks and turned to see the Burlington Northern Santa Fe train just before he was struck. The train's crew had sounded a horn but could not stop the train in time. Police Lieutenant Joe Schroeder says the victim did not have any disabilities, and the death doesn't appear to have been a suicide. He also says Wells was not wearing headphones.

Skelton Named to WWI Centennial Commission

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Former Missouri congressman Ike Skelton has been named to the national panel planning next year's activities marking the 100th anniversary of the start of World War I. The western Missouri Democrat was appointed Thursday by President Barack Obama to the 12-member World War I Centennial Commission. The commission is headquartered in Kansas City at the National World War I Museum at Liberty Memorial. Skelton represented Missouri's 4th Congressional District in the U.S. House from 1977 to 2011. He chaired its Armed Services Committee during his final two terms. Skelton is currently a partner in the law firm of Husch Blackwell LLP. The White House noted that his father, Ike Skelton Sr., served in the U.S. Navy during World War I as a fireman aboard the USS Missouri.



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