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Regional Headlines for Friday, December 6, 2013


Panel Questions KS Health Care System Changes

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Two days of hearings in Kansas by a national health care oversight panel raised questions about the implementation of the state's KanCare system and the impact on Medicaid services. The hearings were conducted Wednesday and Thursday by the National Council on Disability, which advises the president and Congress on health care issues. Members of the panel on Thursday questioned changes in how services were provided to the disabled under KanCare. The Wichita Eagle reports the panel asked Kansas officials to explain why some residents no longer qualified for services. Shawn Sullivan, secretary for the Department for Aging and Disability Services, says the changes were related to how service levels were approved under a new managed-care model. He says that gave less discretion to deviate from approved standards of care.


State Seeks Dismissal of Suit on Science Standards

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas education officials are seeking dismissal of a federal lawsuit over new, multistate science standards filed by a group that claims the guidelines promote atheism and violate students' religious freedoms. Attorneys for the State Board of Education, its 10 members, the Department of Education and Commissioner Diane DeBacker filed the request Thursday. They argued that Citizens for Objective Public Education and the 15 parents who joined it in challenging the standards can't show they were harmed by the state board's adoption of them in June. Among other things, the suing parties object to how evolution is handled. State lawyers said the state board provides only general supervision of local schools, and decisions about what's taught are local. Attorney Doug Patterson, representing the suing parties, said a dismissal request was expected.


Former KS A-G Seeks New Hearing on Law License

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — An attorney for former Kansas Attorney General Phill Kline is asking the Kansas Supreme Court to consider modifying a ruling that indefinitely suspended Kline's law license. The motion for a rehearing was filed this week by Tom Condit, who argued that investigators in Kline's case were biased and facts about the former attorney general's investigations into abortions were misrepresented. The Supreme Court in October agreed with a state disciplinary panel that Kline repeatedly misled or allowed subordinates to mislead others, including a Kansas City-area grand jury, during his investigations. The unanimous decision came after disputes between the Republican and critics of his tactics. Kline is now a professor at Liberty University in Virginia.


Ag Department Investigating Cattle Thefts

ST. JOHN, Kan. (AP) — The Kansas Department of Agriculture is helping to investigate three separate thefts of cattle in Stafford County. The department's division of animal health says three groups of cattle were stolen between December 3 and December 4. The first group included 11 heifers, all solid black with black and white faces. The cattle had tags in one ear stamped with "PLLC," and brands on their right hip. The second group was 10 mixed steers/heifers that were not branded. Those cattle were black, with black and white face, and eight of them had yellow and white tags. The third group included two Charolais with no brand, one steer and one heifer with yellow/white tags. The Hutchinson News reports a 24-foot white trailer also was stolen.


KS Lawmaker, Allies Push for Renewable Energy

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A Kansas Senate Democrat and her allies plan to push next year for policies promoting renewable energy because of concerns about climate change. A key Republican lawmaker is interested in the same issues, but he worries the policies will lead to higher electric rates. Lawrence Democrat Marci Francisco had a Statehouse news conference Friday to discuss energy issues. She said Kansas can take steps to promote renewable energy and combat climate change. She said Kansas should rewrite its laws to encourage more electric customers to take advantage of a law giving breaks on rates for installing solar panels and other renewable energy technology. But Senate Utilities Chairman and Louisburg Republican Pat Apple said he wants to examine whether such policies merely shift electric rates to other customers.


Kansas Utility Warns of Fraudulent Phone Calls

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Westar Energy says it has received several reports from customers of fraudulent calls from scammers posing as employees of the Topeka-based electric utility. The company says the scammers are targeting Spanish-speaking customers and businesses. In most cases, the caller claims to be a customer service representative and says the customer's check has bounced or a bill is overdue, then asks for credit card information or other personal data. Scammers also have claimed a customer's meter is defective and may catch fire. The caller then says there's a repair fee and asks the customer to obtain a prepaid money card. The utility says legitimate calls from Westar Energy should show 800-383-1183 and Westar Energy on caller ID. Also, agents should always be able to provide their names and extensions.


Free Flu Shots This Weekend in KCK

The Mother and Child Health Coalition of Kansas City and the U.S. Department of Health are offering free flu shots this weekend for anyone over the age of 9. The event takes place Sunday afternoon at Walgreens, 7739 State Avenue in Kansas City, Kansas. For more information, visit

KU Faculty Senate Approves Post-Tenure Policy

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — After nearly a year of discussion, the Faculty Senate at the University of Kansas has approved a post-tenure review policy. The faculty senate approved a policy Thursday that removes most of the punitive language included in an earlier version. Some faculty members had expressed concerns in earlier meetings about possible discipline against faculty that did not meet department expectations. Kansas Provost Jeffrey Vitter and Chancellor Bernadette Gray- Little still must approve the policy. The Lawrence Journal-World reports the proposal sets up post-tenure review committees to evaluate faculty members every seven years. The Kansas Board of Regents in 2012 ordered state universities to devise a post-tenure review policy that would help faculty members "reach their full potential for contribution to the university."

Blue Construction Crane to Leave KS Statehouse

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A fixture on the Topeka skyline for more than three years is coming down as renovation of the Kansas Statehouse nears completion. The towering blue crane was used to carry building materials to the capitol roof and dome, including massive steel beams used to support scaffolding. Statehouse architect Barry Greis said Thursday the crane has picked up its last loads. JE Dunn Construction planned to start dismantling it Friday or Saturday. The $330 million renovation project began in 2001. State officials are planning a ceremony marking its completion to coincide with the January 29 anniversary of Kansas statehood.


Frozen Pipe Problem Leads to Dodge City Fire

DODGE CITY, Kan. (AP) — An attempt to thaw a frozen pipe turned into a big problem for a southwest Kansas resident. The Dodge City Daily Globe reports that an above-ground water pipe beneath a mobile home froze and broke Thursday afternoon. The resident tried to unfreeze the pipe with a propane burner, but set a fire instead. No one was injured, but firefighters said the flames then spread across the bottom of the home. Dodge City Fire Captain Mark Elder says that such fires are common when exposed pipes beneath mobile homes freeze in cold weather. Elder advises making sure that siding is in place to provide some insulation. The temperature was 12 degrees at the time of Thursday's fire, and southwest Kansas is expected to have wind chills below zero through the weekend.


MO Man Pleads Guilty to ID Theft Conspiracy

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — A suburban Kansas City man has admitted taking part in a $725,000 fraud scheme that involved hacking into business computer systems and stealing customers' identity information. The U.S. Attorney's office says 45-year-old Vince Evola, of Gladstone, pleaded guilty Thursday to count of conspiracy to commit mail fraud. He admitted taking part in the scheme with his ex-wife, a sister and a Jordanian citizen, all residents of Gladstone, and a second sister from Overland Park, Kan. Prosecutors say the five used stolen credit and debit card numbers to make online purchases over three years, starting in 2006. Vince Evola admitted a loss of $30,000 to $70,000 can be attributed to him. Evola faces a maximum sentence of 20 years. His four co-defendants pleaded guilty earlier and were sentenced.

3 of 4 Agree to Plea Deals in Ellis County Drug Sweep

HAYS, Kan. (AP) — Three of four people arrested in a September drug bust in Ellis County that netted 2.5 pounds of crystal methamphetamine have accepted plea deals. Thirty-nine-year-old Rick Grecian of Hays has agreed to enter an Alford plea to three counts of felony distribution of methamphetamine and one count of possession of methamphetamine. The deal calls for Grecian to be sentenced to a total of nearly six years in prison without parole. The Hays Daily News reports two other people also have reached plea deals. Thirty-nine-year-old Ricky McBee has been sentenced to nearly six years in prison and 25-year-old Nathaniel Ward is awaiting sentencing for drug-related charges. The case against 46-year-old Karen Knoll of Ellis is pending.


Ex-Federal Agent Pleads Guilty to Mortgage Fraud

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — A former federal agent has pleaded guilty in Missouri to lying to the FBI about an $800,000 mortgage fraud scheme. The U.S. Attorney's office says 48-year-old Jeffrey Morriss, of Kansas City, entered the plea Friday in federal court. Prosecutors agreed to recommend a sentence of three years' probation and nearly $13,000 in restitution. Morriss was a special agent with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's Homeland Security Investigations. Prosecutors said he lied about his income, child support obligations and other issues on four home loan applications for three houses between August 2007 and March 2012. He obtained $812,000 in home loans but failed to make full payments on them, resulting in three defaults and foreclosures. In his plea, Morriss admitted lying to FBI agents during an interview about the loan applications.


Economic Impact of National Juco Basketball Tournament Drops

HUTCHINSON, Kan. (AP) — A study found the economic impact of the national junior college basketball tournament dropped in Hutchinson this year after the format was changed. The NJCAA Division I tournament switched from a 16-team double elimination format to 24-team single elimination. That made all the games more meaningful but also meant half the teams were gone by the second day of the tournament. The NJCAA is threatening to look for another site if the city doesn't upgrade its arena. The tournament has been held in Hutchinson since 1952. A study contracted by the Hutchinson/Reno County Chamber of Commerce found the five-day tournament in March brought in a little more than $1 million. The Greater Hutchinson Convention/Visitors Bureau had estimated the impact at $2.3 million.

Olympic Women's Soccer Coach to Teach at Bethany College

LINDSBORG, Kan. (AP) — The women who coached the U.S. women's soccer team to two Olympic gold medals will be a distinguished professor at Bethany College in Lindsborg. The college announced Thursday that Pia Sundhage will start in January as this year's Distinguished Pearson Professor of Swedish Studies. Sundhage will teach a one-credit-hour class, work with Bethany's soccer team and other regional teams and make several public presentations. The U.S. women's soccer teams she coached in 2008 to 2012 won gold medals in Beijing and London and took second place in the 2011 FIFA World Cup. She returned to Sweden to coach that country's national team in December 2012. The Salina Journal reports Sundhage's one-hour class will be on Tuesdays and Thursdays from January 6 to 23.


Feds Seek New Mental Exam in 9/11 KC Airport Hoax

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Federal prosecutors say a Pennsylvania man accused of trying to take fake bombs through security at Kansas City International Airport on the 10th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks still isn't competent to stand trial. The U.S. Attorney's Office in Kansas City filed a motion Thursday seeking a new mental evaluation for 49-year-old Anthony Falco Jr., whose last known address was East Petersburg, Pennsylvania. They say he has schizophrenia and isn't able to help in his defense against charges that he created a hoax and made false statements. An earlier evaluation determined Falco was not a danger to himself or others, so he isn't eligible to be involuntarily committed in a mental institution. But since he's also not able to stand trial, prosecutors have said they might have to drop the charges.


Pittsburg State University to Host Engineering Competition

PITTSBURG, Kan. (AP) — Thousands of engineering students from the U.S. and abroad are expected to head to Pittsburg State University next May for a vehicle design competition. The Joplin Globe reports it will be the second time in four years that the school has hosted a Baja SAE-Kansas competition. The events are sponsored by the Society of Automotive Engineers and held at sites across the U.S. and in several other countries. Students work in teams to design, build and race off-road vehicles equipped for rough terrain. The selection of Pittsburg State was announced Thursday. Crawford County Convention and Visitors Bureau director B.J. Harris said the event could inject up to $3 million into the area's economy. He says the Joplin area will likely benefit as well, as competitors patronize hotels, restaurants and other businesses.

AG to Seek 'Hard 50' for Kansas Murder Suspect

COLBY, Kan. (AP) — Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt says he'll seek the "Hard 50" prison sentence for a man accused of fatally stabbing a former girlfriend and setting her house on fire. Schmidt's office is handling the prosecution of 25-year-old William Andrew Shank in Thomas County District Court. The Garden City man is charged with first-degree murder, aggravated arson and burglary in the February 9th death of 27-year-old Teri Morris in Colby. Schmidt filed a motion Thursday indicating that if Shank is convicted, he'll request a sentence of at least 50 years in prison without parole. Shank faces trial in March 2014. Shank has pleaded not guilty to killing Morris, an emergency medical technician with whom he was contesting custody of their 8-month-old daughter. A coroner said Morris had been stabbed 27 times.


Sporting KC, Real Salt Lake to Meet for MLS Cup

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) — Sporting Kansas City went through a long-term rebuilding project under new ownership, complete with a rebranding of the organization and construction of a $200 million stadium. Real Salt Lake went through a rebuilding project that took about a month — it jettisoned a bunch of veteran players in an attempt to go younger. It's paid off for both of the clubs. They'll meet Saturday at Sporting Park for the MLS Cup. Sporting KC hasn't won the league's championship since 2000, when it was still known as the Wizards. Real Salt Lake will be trying to add to its 2009 title.



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