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Regional Headlines for Friday, February 17, 2012




Explosives in Kansas Capitol Incident Were Fireworks

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas authorities say explosives found in a pickup near the state Capitol earlier this week were illegal homemade fireworks. Capitol Police spokesman Patrick Saleh declined to give more details about the devices Friday. He also refused to say how powerful they might have been. The Capitol Police, overseen by the Highway Patrol, previously had described several devices in the pickup as homemade bombs. The Kansas Highway Patrol said it still plans to ask the Shawnee County district attorney to file criminal charges against the pickup's owner. He was detained and questioned Wednesday but released. The pickup's owner was of two men detained Wednesday in what authorities say were separate incidents. A 37-year-old man was arrested and jailed for making an allegedly threatening phone call to Governor Sam Brownback's office.

8 Kansas Legislators Endorse Gingrich for President

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) _ Eight Kansas legislators have endorsed former U.S. House Speaker Newt Gingrich in the race for the Republican presidential nomination. Gingrich's campaign announced the endorsements Thursday. The Republican lawmakers include two state senators: Ray Merrick, of Stilwell and Rob Olson, of Olathe. Six Kansas House members have endorsed Gingrich as well. They are Anthony Brown, of Eudora; Mario Goico, of Wichita; Trent LeDoux, of Holton; Larry Powell, of Garden City; John Rubin, of Shawnee, and Scott Schwab, of Olathe. The state's Republican presidential caucuses are March 10, with 40 delegates to the GOP National Convention at stake.

Shawnee County DA Plans No Charges on Destruction of Abortion Records

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) _ A northeast Kansas prosecutor says he won't file criminal charges over the state's destruction of abortion records, an issue that had overshadowed a criminal case against a Planned Parenthood clinic. Shawnee County District Attorney Chad Taylor said Friday that no records related to Planned Parenthood were destroyed by the Kansas attorney general's office when it shredded abortion-related files. But Johnson County District Attorney Steve Howe said Friday that he has evidence that records that could have been important evidence in his 2009 case against a Planned Parenthood clinic in Overland Park were destroyed by the Kansas attorney general's office. After he made a similar statement in November, a judge dismissed 49 of 107 criminal charges against the clinic. Taylor said that while abortion-related records were destroyed in April 2009, none of them were connected to the Planned Parenthood case.

Income Tax Bills on Legislative Agenda

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) _ Members of the Kansas House Taxation Committee will begin working next week on rival plans for reducing the state's income tax rates. Representative Richard Carlson, a St. Marys Republican, said Friday that the committee would consider a bill that was offered by House GOP leadership and another one proposed by Republican Governor Sam Brownback. Both plans reduce tax rates and have a mechanism to cut the rates in the future based on growth in state revenues. House members have heard several days of testimony on both plans, which aim to cut the individual income tax rates while stimulating business growth. The plans would eliminate many tax credits and exemptions in exchange for lowering rates. Carlson says he doesn't expect the full House to debate the proposals until early March.


Ticket-Fixing Investigation Leads to 2 Lawrence Police Force Suspensions

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — Two Lawrence police officers have been suspended after an FBI investigation into traffic tickets being fixed in exchange for University of Kansas basketball tickets over a span of several years. City Manager David Corliss confirmed Thursday that the person whose traffic tickets were fixed is serving time in a federal prison for crimes related to a broader Kansas ticket scandal. In the scandal, seven people, including top business officials in the athletics department, were convicted in the thefts of more than 17,000 Jayhawk basketball tickets and at least 2,000 football tickets. The tickets were illegally sold to brokers and others, with the defendants pocketing the money. Officials declined to name the person whose tickets were fixed or the officers who were suspended. Dismissing traffic tickets in exchange for the Kansas basketball tickets violated the city's gratuity policy, Corliss said.


Federal Court in Topeka Participates in Camera Experiment

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A courtroom inside the federal courthouse in Topeka this week became part of a pilot project to determine the impact of cameras on court proceedings. Four video cameras recorded arguments in a water case from Douglas County. The cameras focus on the witness stand, the lectern where lawyers ask questions, the judge's bench and a desk where evidence is displayed. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports the courtroom deputy operates the cameras from her desk. The proceedings will be posted online after the hearings. The Court Administration and Case Management Committee is running the three-year pilot project. The judge in the Topeka case, U.S. District Judge Julie Robinson, leads that committee. She and four other federal judges in Kansas are participating in the project.


2 Killed in Suburban Kansas City Apartment Fire

SHAWNEE, Kan. (AP) — Shawnee fire officials say two people died in a fire at an apartment complex in a Kansas City suburb. The fire was reported about 5 am Friday at the Carlyle Apartments in Shawnee. Shawnee fire officials told KMBC-TV that when firefighters arrived they found minimal fire and only light smoke. As they searched ground floor apartments the smoke became heavier at one apartment. The victims were found inside that apartment and efforts to revive them failed. Aerial pictures of the fire show little damage to the exterior of the building. The fire was under control around 6 am. The cause of the fire is under investigation.


Manhattan Teen Will Be Tried as Adult in Homicide

MANHATTAN, Kan. (AP) — A 15-year-old from Manhattan will be tried as an adult for first-degree murder in the shooting death of a fellow Manhattan High School student. Riley County District Judge David Stutzman issued the ruling Thursday in the death of 14-year-old Tyler Dowling, who was found dead April 13 in a field. Stutzman granted the state's motion to try the suspect as an adult because of the seriousness and nature of the crime. He says the evidence during the hearing described a calculated killing of a friend. KMAN reports that the judge said the shooting apparently happened so the suspect could appear tough and to impress another friend. The suspect is charged with first-degree murder and aggravated burglary.


Rural Robbery Thwarted By Slamming Door

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — An eastern Kansas sheriff says a would-be armed robber left a rural home empty-handed after he confronted the occupant and had the door slammed in his face. Osage County Sheriff Laurie Dunn says a resident of the home in the northern part of the county answered a knock around 6:30 am Thursday. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports the occupant found himself face-to-face with a man holding a gun. The home's occupant slammed the door, locked himself in a bathroom and called for help. Dunn says the gun-wielding man drove away.


Leavenworth Police Seek Assistance in Search for Man Charged with Murder

LEAVENWORTH, Kan. (AP) _ Police are asking for the public's help in finding a man accused of killing two brothers in Leavenworth.
An arrest warrant was issued Thursday for 36-year-old Aundray Duashawn McDonald on two counts of first-degree murder and two weapons-related charges. Leavenworth Police Chief Pat Kitchens says McDonald is a suspect in the deaths of 25-year-old Derrick and 28-year-old Marshall Jones. The two brothers were shot December 16. Kitchens said the shooting stemmed from a feud between the brothers and McDonald. The Leavenworth Times reports McDonald is already facing drug charges in Leavenworth County District Court. Kitchens says McDonald should be considered armed and extremely dangerous.


Koch Brothers Release Transcripts of Threatening Email on Eve of Protests

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Charles Koch says he and his brother and their employees are getting death threats and hate messages because of their political beliefs. The billionaire head of Koch Industries told The Wichita Eagle Thursday that the messages are coming from various directions. His comments came on the eve of a three-day protest dubbed Occupy Koch Town that is expected to draw hundreds of activists to Wichita. Koch says the hate mail and death threats worry him. But he says what most upsets him is all he has done is exercise his freedom of speech. Yvonne Cather is conservation chairman for the Kansas chapter of the Sierra Club, one of the groups organizing this weekend's Occupy Koch Town event. She says the Koch people are overreacting to the planned activities.


Ford CEO Mulally to Give KU Commencement Address

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — Ford Motor Company CEO Alan Mulally will deliver this year's commencement address at the University of Kansas, where he'll also pick up an honorary degree. The university announced the choice of Mulally as commencement speaker Thursday. It's the first time in years that someone other than the chancellor will address the graduates, although Chancellor Bernadette Gray-Little will offer some remarks and confer degrees. Mulally holds bachelor's and master's degrees from Kansas. He's a former top executive of Boeing and became president and CEO of Ford in 2006. This is the first year that Kansas is conferring honorary degrees. Besides Mulally, the recipients are former Senate Majority Leader Bob Dole, composer Kirke Mechem and Sheila Bair, who formerly chaired the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation. Commencement will take place May 13. 


Ron Paul Plans KC Visit Saturday

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) _ Republican presidential candidate Ron Paul is planning a stop in Kansas City. Paul, who finished second behind Mitt Romney in last weekend's Maine primary, is widely considered to be trailing Romney and Rick Santorum in the race for the Republican nomination. But Paul says he remains a viable candidate, and he's planned a rally Saturday night at Kansas City's Union Station to mobilize supporters before Missouri's March 17 Republican caucuses. Paul finished third behind Santorum and Romney in the official Missouri primary February 7, but a series of political spats prompted the GOP to ignore the results and instead begin picking delegates from the caucuses.


Police Investigate After Skull Found Near Cheney

CHENEY, Kan. (AP) — Investigators are trying to determine the identity of a skull found near Cheney in Sedgwick County. The Sedgwick County sheriff's office says the skull was discovered January 29 by people considering buying the property. The sheriff's office announced Thursday that an anthropologist determined the skull belonged to a black woman who was 35 to 50 years old. Police say it isn't clear yet whether the woman was a crime victim. KFDI reports that human remains also were found in a rural area near Cheney last March. The skull and other body parts were found near a creek. An anthropologist determined those remains belonged to a black woman in her late teens to mid-twenties. No leads have emerged in that case. 


Abortion Insurance Lawsuit Reassigned to New Federal Judge

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A lawsuit challenging a Kansas law restricting insurance coverage of abortion has been reassigned to still another federal judge. A docket entry on Thursday moves the case to U.S. District Judge Julie A. Robinson in Topeka for all future proceedings in the lawsuit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union. The order removes the case from U.S. District Judge Carlos Murguia in Kansas City, Kansas. He had been assigned the case after the previous judge, Wesley Brown, died last month at age 104. The Kansas law at issue bars insurance companies from offering abortion coverage as part of general health plans in the state. Anyone wanting abortion coverage must buy a rider that covers only that procedure. 


Kansas Sites Added to Historic Places List

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Eight Kansas locations have been added to National Register of Historic Places, including a former railroad office building dating to 1910. The Kansas Historical Society announced the new entries Thursday. They include the Motive Power Building, which was built by the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railroad near its shops in Topeka. Other sites added were the Horace Mann Elementary School in Kansas City, Kansas; Kansas City, Kansas High School gymnasium and laboratory; Winfield National Bank in Winfield; Church of the Holy Name in Topeka; the John C. Harmon House in Topeka; Rocky Ford School in Manhattan; and Peabody City Park, Peabody.


Explosion and Fire Damage Wichita Business

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Investigators are trying to determine what caused an explosion and fire inside a downtown Wichita business. KFDI reports that no one was hurt in the blaze. Wichita police responded to a report of alarms sounding late Thursday at Hall Industrial Services. When they arrived they found overhead doors had been blasted open and smoke and fire coming from the building. Battalion Chief Bobby Wolfe says explosions inside the building likely were caused by compressed gas canisters and propane tanks inside the business. Wolfe said the building was heavily damaged. The cause of the fire is under investigation.

Former KC Schools Superintendent Rewrote Contracts Before Resignation

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) _ Former Kansas City Superintendent John Covington rewrote his top administrators' contracts to sweeten their severance pay before resigning and taking three of them with him to Michigan. Correspondence obtained by The Kansas City Star shows the three administrators tried to collect the higher severance. But the district has voided the revised contracts and denied their payouts.
Reached by phone in Michigan, Covington said he didn't understand why the contracts he revised in April were nullified. He says the contract changes were designed to better recruit and retain top administrators. Covington resigned in August, and the state's Board of Education voted the following month to strip the Kansas City School District of its accreditation. Three Kansas City administrators followed Covington to Michigan in November. 


Koch Protest Could Draw Hundreds to Wichita

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Organizers of a weekend protest in Wichita targeting billionaire brothers Charles and David Koch say about 500 activists have confirmed their plans to attend. Event coordinator Yvonne Cather told The Wichita Eagle that people are coming from as far away as San Francisco and Washington, D.C. for the three-day "Occupy Koch Town." Wichita is the home of Koch Industries. Organizers of the protests that begin Friday contend the Koch brothers exemplify corporate dominance of politics and distortion of science. Cather says participating groups oppose the proposed Keystone-XL oil pipeline but it was not the chief motive for the event. Koch Industries calls the protest a politically motivated attack on the company, which has 50,000 U.S.-based employees. It contends it has no financial stake in the Keystone XL pipeline.


U.S. House Pushes Keystone Pipeline Approval

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Republican-controlled House endorsed a plan Thursday to vastly expand oil and gas drilling off the nation's coasts to help pay for a $260 billion transportation bill. The legislation has no chance of passing the Senate and faces a White House veto. But for Republicans, the 237-187 vote showed they're willing to go further to boost U.S. energy production in an election year than President Barack Obama. The legislation, which 21 Republicans voted against and 21 Democrats voted for, would open the eastern Gulf of Mexico off Florida and areas off the Atlantic and Pacific coasts to drilling. It would also lift a ban on drilling in a small portion of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and order leases to be offered for oil shale in Rocky Mountain states. The measure also would force the approval of the Keystone XL oil pipeline within a month, which Obama recently rejected, saying there wasn't enough time for an adequate environmental review.


Suspect in Kansas Capitol Bomb Case Released

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A spokesman for the Kansas Capitol Police says a man whose pickup was found to contain homemade bombs near the Statehouse has been released from custody. Capitol Police spokesman Patrick Saleh says the man remains a suspect in connection with Wednesday's discovery of the bombs. He was released from custody late Wednesday. Saleh says the Kansas Highway Patrol, which operates the Capitol Police, plans to talk to the Shawnee County district attorney's office about possible charges by early next week. The Capitol Police refused to release the man's identity, except to say that he lives in Topeka. Saleh said authorities searched his home and seized items there, but Saleh refused to discuss what was found. Saleh said the man isn't considered a flight risk.

Shawnee County DA Meets with Agencies to Discuss Capitol Incident

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) _ A prosecutor met today (FRI) with law enforcement officers about an investigation into a pickup containing homemade bombs that was parked near the Kansas Capitol. The pickup's owner was detained Wednesday in an underground tunnel linking the Statehouse to a state office building. Shawnee County District Attorney Chad Taylor conferred with representatives of Topeka, state and federal agencies to discuss the case. Authorities detained the pickup's owner, questioned him, searched his home and seized items but released him from custody. The Kansas Highway Patrol, which operates the Capitol Police, planned to seek criminal charges. He was one of two men detained Wednesday in what authorities have described as separate incidents. A 37-year-old man was arrested and jailed for making an allegedly threatening phone call to Governor Sam Brownback's office.


Middle America Bankers Survey Index Drops Slightly

OMAHA, Neb. (AP) — A monthly survey of bankers in 10 Midwest and Great Plains states shows the rural economy slowing down, but reflects strong gains in hiring and farmland prices. The Rural Mainstreet Index released Thursday dropped slightly from 59.8 last month to 59.6 in February. Anytime the index, which ranges from 1 to 100, is above 50, it suggests the economy will grow. Creighton University economist Ernie Goss, who oversees the survey, says he expects to see slower growth in farm income as a result of softer agriculture commodity prices and higher overhead costs. The economic confidence index, which reflects expectations for the economy six months out, rose to 60.3 from January's 56.1. The survey covers Colorado, Kansas, Missouri, Iowa, Nebraska, the Dakotas, Wyoming and Illinois.


New Publisher to Helm Salina Journal

McALLEN, Texas (AP) — M. Olaf Frandsen has announced that he will become publisher of the family-owned Salina Journal in Kansas.
Frandsen announced his resignation as publisher of the McAllen, Texas Monitor after 10 years at the helm of the daily newspaper. The 56-year-old executive also will resign as regional vice president of the Southwest Division of Irvine, California-based Freedom Communications, owner of The Monitor, the Valley Morning Star of Harlingen and The Brownsville Herald. 

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