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Regional Headlines for Friday, December 20, 2013


UPDATE: Kansas Bomb Suspect to Stay in Jail Pending Trial

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A federal magistrate judge says an avionics technician charged with plotting to bomb a commercial aircraft terminal in Kansas poses a public danger and should not be released pending trial. U.S. Magistrate Judge Karen Humphreys also ruled at Friday's hearing that Terry Lee Loewen is a flight risk. She entered a plea of not guilty on his behalf. The 58-year-old man is charged with attempted use of a weapon of mass destruction, attempted use of an explosive device to damage property and attempted material support to al-Qaida. Loewen was arrested December 13 after a months-long undercover sting. Prosecutors say he tried to bring what he believed was explosives onto the tarmac at Wichita's Mid-Continent Airport where he worked. They say the attack could have killed or maimed hundreds of people.


Topeka Fire Crews Evacuating Shops After Accident

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Topeka fire crews are evacuating several shops at a mall after a car hit a building, severing a gas line. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that the accident occurred Friday morning at the Barrington Village complex. The fire department did not have details on how many shops and how many people were involved in the evacuation. The accident was reported around 11:15 am. There were no immediate reports of fire or injuries.


Grand Jury in Kansas Indicts Chinese Scientists

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) — Two scientists from China have been indicted on federal charges accusing them of stealing seeds developed by a U.S. bioscience company and giving the seeds to members of a visiting delegation from China. A federal grand jury in Kansas indicted Weiqiang Zhang, an agricultural seed breeder at Ventria Bioscience's facility in Junction City, and Wengui Yan, a U.S. Department of Agriculture research geneticist in Arkansas, on one count each of conspiracy to steal trade secrets and theft of trade secrets. Zhang and Yan were initially charged in a federal complaint last week with conspiracy to steal trade secrets. They're both in custody. Their lawyers didn't immediately return calls seeking comment Friday. U.S. Customs and Border Protection confiscated the seeds from the delegation before they flew home to China in August.


Disciplinary Panel Finds KS Lawyer's Tweets Violated Rules

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A disciplinary panel says a former Kansas courts research attorney violated the rules of lawyer conduct when she used foul language in tweets about former Attorney General Phill Kline. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that the three-judge panel ruled Friday in the case of Sarah Peterson Herr, who was fired from her Kansas Court of Appeals job over her Twitter comments in November 2012. Herr posted the tweets during an appearance by Kline before the Kansas Supreme Court as part of an ethics case about his investigation of abortion clinics. Herr told the disciplinary panel she wrote "dumb things" and didn't mean for the tweets to go public. Herr's lawyer says she has been penalized enough. She's asking that she receive the minimum sanction of an informal reprimand.


Search Underway for Woman Along Kansas Turnpike

MATFIELD GREEN, Kan. (AP) — A search is underway along the Kansas Turnpike for a woman who was spotted walking away from her car earlier this week. KAKE-TV reports that a state trooper saw the woman Wednesday evening in Chase County, walking away from her parked car and carrying a red duffel bag. The trooper turned around to see if the woman needed help, but she was gone. On Friday, officers from several agencies were searching the rugged terrain in the rural area of east-central Kansas. The woman is described as white, about 5 feet, 5 inches tall and weighing about 150 pounds. Relatives said she has a history of medical issues.


KS Jobless Rate Declined to 5.1 Percent in November

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas labor officials say the state's unemployment rate dropped to 5.1 percent in November, its lowest mark in nearly five years. The state Department of Labor reported Thursday that November's seasonally adjusted unemployment rate declined from 5.6 percent in October. The jobless rate in November 2012 was 5.5 percent. The department said that unemployment was last so low in December 2008. Department spokeswoman Barbara Hersh said about 6,000 Kansans who had been receiving unemployment benefits found jobs in November. Also, the department said about 19,900 more Kansans were employed in private-sector, non-farm jobs in November than in November 2012. The over-the-year growth was 1.8 percent. Governor Sam Brownback said in a statement that the numbers show that 2013 was a good year for the state's economy.


Kansas to Offer Free Radon Testing Kits

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas officials are launching a campaign to get residents to test their homes for radon gas. Governor Sam Brownback signed a proclamation Friday designating January as Kansas Radon Action Month. Throughout the month, the Kansas Department of Health and Environment will provide free test kits at more than 80 locations throughout the state. KDHE Secretary Robert Moser says the agency is trying to gather data about radon levels around the state, especially in homes. He says as many as one in four homes may have high levels of the odorless, colorless gas. Radon can cause health problems for humans, including lung cancer. Moser says knowing levels of the naturally occurring gas will help set health policies.


No Penalties Included in Drug Testing for KS Legislature

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A man chosen to administer a new drug testing program for state lawmakers says those who fail the tests won't be penalized, and their names might not be made public. The law allowing the drug testing for lawmakers also requires testing of some people who receive government benefits. If those people fail drug tests, they will have their welfare benefits frozen unless they complete a treatment program. Jeff Russell, director of Legislative Administrative Services, will run the testing program. He told The Topeka Capital-Journal Thursday that the bill does not give anyone authority to penalize lawmakers. And he says he doesn't think he can disclose names of lawmakers who fail the tests because of privacy laws concerning medical records.

Topeka Bond Issue Proposes Closing 3 Schools

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A proposed $142 million bond issue in the Topeka school district would include closing three elementary schools and moving students in another school to two other schools. The Topeka School Board is considering a proposal to put the bond issue on the April ballot. The board will vote next month on whether to proceed with the plan. The board heard details of the proposal Thursday night. The three elementary schools that would be closed are Bishop, Avondale West and Shaner. Students would move to a new elementary school. Students at Capital City would be sent to other schools. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports the bond issue would include $40.7 million for security, $23.5 million in technology spending, $18 million for a new career center, and other programs and projects.


Clerk Injures Would-Be Wichita Robber

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A 911 call about an alleged assault led Wichita police to a man suspected of trying to rob a convenience store. KFDI-FM reports that the call was made late Thursday by the girlfriend of the suspect, who received minor injuries in a fight with the store's female clerk. Police Lieutenant Doug Nolte says the 28-year-old man entered the Jump Start store around 11:30 pm and showed a gun. The 23-year-old woman behind the counter gave him cash, but grabbed the gun and hit him with it when he demanded money from the safe. The clerk then dragged the robber outside and told him to leave. Officers arrested the man at his girlfriend's home. Police say the clerk thought the gun was a toy. She was also treated for minor injuries.

KS Commission Approves Proposed Oneok Split

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas regulators have approved a settlement that allows Oklahoma natural gas company Oneok Inc. to spin off its utility operations but imposes a freeze on its rates through 2016. The settlement approved Thursday by the Kansas Corporation Commission also will provide rebates totaling $3.4 million each of the next three years to 630,000 customers of Oneok subsidiary Kansas Gas Service. Customers will receive a $5.34 credit on their bills in April 2014, 2015 and 2016. With the settlement, there was no opposition to the company's plan. A new company, One Gas, would take over Oneok's gas distribution systems in Oklahoma, Kansas and Texas, with 2 million customers. The remainder of Oneok would keep the company name and operate its other energy businesses. Oneok's board still must approve the plan.

KS Acting Agriculture Secretary Names Assistant

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A management consultant and former Kansas State University student body president has been appointed assistant secretary of the state Department of Agriculture. Acting Agriculture Secretary Jackie McClaskey announced the hiring of Hill City native Jake Worcester on Thursday. Worcester has a degree from K-State in agricultural economics and grew up working on his family's farm. He recently served as vice president of Peak Solutions USA, a leadership and management consulting firm for manufacturing and agriculture. He also served as a full-time executive for the Kansas FFA Foundation and as director of development for the Kansas State School of Leadership Studies. Worcester and his wife live in Fort Collins, Colorado and will move to Manhattan in the spring.

Kansas Man Convicted of Shooting Sheriff's Deputy

EL DORADO, Kan. (AP) — A 41-year-old man has been convicted of attempted second-degree murder in the Labor Day shooting of a south-central Kansas sheriff's deputy. KAKE-TV reports the Butler County jury that convicted Jan Kilbourne on Thursday went with the lesser charge instead of the alternative count of attempted capital murder. Kilbourne was arrested in Wichita four days after Butler County Deputy Jacob Lawrence was shot in the shoulder by a passenger in a car he had stopped in Augusta, about 16 miles east of Wichita. The deputy was wearing a protective vest but suffered severe bruising. Kilbourne, who has a long criminal record, testified Wednesday he only intended to "spook" the deputy when he fired a shot. Sentencing will take place in February.


KS Jury Says Man Did Not Eavesdrop

HUTCHINSON, Kan. (AP) — A Reno County jury has determined that the owner of a Hutchinson dog kennel did not use a surveillance camera to watch an employee in a tanning bed. The Hutchinson News reports the jury on Wednesday determined that 42-year-old Terry Bryan, owner of Pampered Paws, was innocent of the charge of felony eavesdropping. A former employee claimed Bryan used a concealed camera to watch her while she tanned nude in a backroom at the kennel last year. She said she noticed the camera, unplugged it and took cellphone photos of it and showed them to police. Bryan said the camera was there for security purposes. He would have faced a possible nine months in prison if he had been convicted.


Competency Hearing Sought for MO Homicide Suspect

ST. JOSEPH, Mo. (AP) — An attorney is seeking a competency hearing for a suspect in the death of a St. Joseph man. Defense attorney Michelle Davidson on Thursday asked a Buchanan County judge for 30 days to arrange a mental examination for 39-year-old Robert Jarrell. Jarrell and another man, Martin Rilinger, are charged with second-degree murder in the death of 38-year-old Jason Davies. His body was found near Leavenworth, Kansas on September 19. The St. Joseph News-Press reports prosecutors didn't object to Davidson's request and it was granted. Investigators allege Jarrell and Rilinger beat Davies with a baseball bat and frying pan at his apartment in St. Joseph. Both defendants are being held in the Buchanan County Jail on $250,000 bonds.


Wyandotte County Moves Closer to Ballpark Purchase

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) — Wyandotte County officials have moved a step closer to buying the privately-held ballpark where a minor league baseball team plays. The Kansas City Star reports that the board of commissioners of the Unified Government of Wyandotte County and Kansas City, Kansas on Thursday approved a notice of a change to the development plan in the Village West area where the Kansas City T-Bones play. Without the change, the county's talks with T-Bones owner, Ehlert Development Corporation, about a possible sale wouldn't have moved ahead. If a deal is reached, the Unified Government will pay $5.5 million to acquire the ballpark from Ehlert Development and set aside $2.5 million for future repairs and upgrades.

Company to Bring 600 Jobs to KCI Maintenance Base

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — An aviation maintenance and overhaul firm from the state of Washington says it plans to bring about 600 jobs to the maintenance base at Kansas City International Airport. Aviation Technical Services, based in Everett, Washington, announced plans Thursday to lease 607,000 square feet at KCI's Maintenance, Repair and Overhaul base. It also plans to invest $57 million in the base. The Kansas City Star reports that the firm expects to hire 540 new employees and 40 contract workers within three to five years. ATS officials say the number of jobs could eventually grow to 1,000. The KCI plant will service wide-body and narrow-body commercial and military transport jet aircraft. ATS president and CEO Matt Yerbic said it would handle more than 150 aircraft a year when fully operational.

UCM Radio Station Transferred to KCPT

WARRENSBURG, Mo. (AP) — The University of Central Missouri has finished transferring ownership of its campus radio station to Kansas City Public Television. The university says the transfer of KTBG occurred this week after the Federal Communications Commission signed off on it. KCPT is planning a public launch on January 6. KCPT spent $1.1 million to buy the license to operate the station, and is planning to spend $600,000 for improvements, including tower upgrades. KCPT has agreed to offer internships to university students and air some programming produced by the university's public television station, KMOS-TV. The acquisition marks KCPT's first radio endeavor.

2 Critically Wounded in Shooting at Wichita Store

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Police say two men were critically wounded in a double shooting at a clothing resale store in eastern Wichita. KFDI-FM reported Thursday afternoon's shootings at the Flying Pig Boutique apparently stemmed from a dispute between a woman's former and current boyfriends. Police Captain Hassan Ramzah says investigators believe the ex-boyfriend entered the store carrying a shotgun and asked for the current boyfriend. Police say the ex-boyfriend shot the other man's legs, then shot himself in the head. The woman was not believed to be in the store at the time.

KU to Offer Classes at Brown v. Board Site

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A University of Kansas program plans to begin offering classes in January at the Brown v. Board of Education National Historic Site in Topeka. The university had housed the administrative operations for its Public Management Center at a different Topeka site, where it also offered professional development classes for public sector employees. But after the decision was made to move the administrative operations to the Lawrence campus, the university started looking for a new place to offer the classes. Alecia Gray of the School of Public Affairs and Administration says the Brown site's Topeka location was attractive. Many of the state employees the program serves work in the capital city. The Brown site tells the story of the U.S. Supreme Court decision that declared segregated schools unconstitutional.

Wichita Dealership Replaces Man's Stolen SUV

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Christmas came early for a Kansas Army National Guard member whose vehicle full of holiday gifts was stolen earlier this week. A Wichita dealership, Eddy's Toyota, on Thursday gave Benjamin Lewis a 2003 Chevy Tahoe and Christmas gifts for his four sons. In September, an organization called Cars 4 Heroes donated an SUV to Lewis, who is raising his four children himself. The vehicle was stolen earlier this week, along with the presents Lewis had hidden inside. After receiving the new vehicle Thursday, Lewis says he hopes his sons learn that Christmas is about helping people who need it, not about gifts. KAKE-TV reports that several other people contacted the station this week to offer help for Lewis.

Kansas State University Gives Athletic Director Contract Extension

MANHATTAN, Kan. (AP) — Kansas State has given athletic director John Currie a raise and one-year contract extension that would keep him with the Big 12 school through June 2019. Kansas State President Kirk Schulz announced the new contract Friday. Currie's annual salary will increase by $100,000 to $575,000 for the remainder of the 2013-14 fiscal year through the 2015-16 seasons. His salary will then increase by $25,000 each remaining year. Currie also will be eligible for various retention incentives. Currie, who was hired in May 2009, has initiated $125 million in facility improvements since his arrival, including a massive renovation to Bill Snyder Family Stadium, a new basketball training facility and a rowing center. His most notable hiring has been basketball coach Bruce Weber. The Wildcats are 7-3 with a five-game winning streak.



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