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Regional Headlines for Friday, July 20, 2012


Governor Brownback to Seek Federal Disaster Declarations for 37 More Kansas Counties

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas Governor Sam Brownback has asked for federal disaster declarations for 37 more counties hit by drought, heat, high winds and wildfires. The governor's office said Friday he's asked the U.S. Department of Agriculture to declare 37 more counties disasters, making farmers there eligible for USDA disaster assistance programs. The request includes Atchison, Brown, Chase, Cherokee, Clay, Cloud, Dickinson, Doniphan, Douglas, Ellis, Ellsworth, Franklin, Geary, Jackson, Jefferson, Jewell, Johnson, Leavenworth, Lincoln, Marion, Miami, Mitchell, Morris, Nemaha, Osage, Osborne, Ottawa, Pottawatomie, Republic, Riley, Rush, Russell, Saline, Shawnee, Smith, Wabaunsee and Wyandotte. If the 37 are approved, that would mean 103 of the state's 105 counties are primary federal disaster areas. The two that are not, Marshall and Washington, border primary counties and would receive disaster declarations as contiguous counties.


City of Topeka Asks Public to Voluntarily Consider Water Conservation

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Topeka city officials are asking residents to consider voluntarily conserving water. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports the request is being made in response to Governor Sam Brownback's recent declaration of drought conditions in Kansas. There are 82 counties in the state that have been declared federal drought disaster areas. Temperatures are expected to stay above the 100-degree mark for the next several days, and heat advisories and excessive heat warnings have also been issued for much of northeastern Kansas into next week. Topeka officials say the city has experienced high water usage by customers in recent weeks, but they say the city remains well within its water treatment capabilities. Topeka gets its water from the Kansas River. The city stresses that the request is for voluntary conservation, and that no restrictive orders are in place.


Kansas Jobless Rate Steady in June at 6.1 Percent

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas labor officials say the state's job market is showing more positive signs of growth, with the unemployment rate holding steady at 6.1 percent in June. The rate announced Friday was the same seasonally adjusted figure as in April and May, but better than the 6.8 percent rate of June 2011. Over the past year, Kansas has added 19,400 private-sector jobs, a 1.8-percent rate of growth. The state added 7,300 jobs since May. Leading the growth were professional and business services, with 10,000 new hires, and manufacturing, with 5,800 new jobs. An economist described the growth as slow but noted that there are encouraging signs, including an increase in the number of advertised job openings and weekly hours worked.


AMC Reviewing Security, Changing Policies after Colorado Shooting

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Movie giant AMC Theatres says it won't be allowing people to wear costumes or face-covering masks into its theaters after a shooting in Colorado that killed at least 12 people and injured dozens more. The Kansas City, Missouri-based company says in a statement on its website Friday that it is "terribly saddened by the random act of violence in Aurora." The shooting happened during a a midnight showing of "The Dark Knight Rises" in the Denver suburb. A suspect was arrested outside the theater. AMC says it is working with local law enforcement in communities across the U.S. to review its security procedures. It says on its website it has more than 300 movie houses, making it the nation's second-largest theater chain.


EPA to Review Power Plant Rule

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Environmental Protection Agency is reviewing part of a controversial rule that sets the first federal standards to reduce toxic air pollution from power plants. The rule was issued in December. It's aimed at curbing mercury and other toxic pollutants from coal- and oil-fired power plants. The Obama administration calls the rule a sensible step to reduce pollution, but Republicans have denounced it as a part of a "war on coal." The rule could force hundreds of the nation's oldest and dirtiest power plants to clean up or shut down. The EPA said Friday it's reviewing an aspect of the rule that applies to future power plants. The technical review is intended to clarify how the new standards would apply to five plants proposed in Texas, Georgia, Kansas and Utah...including the Sunflower Electric Power Plant in Holcomb. 

Fort Riley Aircraft Damaged

FORT RILEY, Kan. (AP) — High winds in a recent storm damaged six aircraft at Fort Riley's Marshall Army Airfield. Fort Riley officials said Thursday that no one was hurt in the incident Wednesday night. The Topeka Capital Journal reports that the First Infantry Division's Combat Aviation Brigade aircraft were getting ready for training flights when they were damaged in the storm. A trailer and several buildings on the airfield also received minor damage.


Federal Jury Finds for Topeka in Lawsuit

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) — A federal jury in Kansas City, Kansas has found that the city of Topeka did not discriminate when it fired a veterinarian from the Topeka Zoo. Shirley Yeo Llizo filed a federal discrimination lawsuit against the city of Topeka, alleging she was fired from the Topeka Zoo in 2009 because she is a female of Chinese ancestry and a naturalized U.S. citizen. The city denied the allegations. Llizo got her job back in 2010 after an arbitrator ruled the city shouldn't have dismissed her. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports the jury took less than 45 minutes Friday to determine that the City of Topeka didn't discriminate in firing Llizo from her position as staff veterinarian at the zoo. Neither side commented after the jury's decision.


KS DUI Fatalities Drop Following Ignition Interlock Requirement

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Preliminary results show alcohol-related traffic fatalities dropped sharply in the year since the state began requiring an ignition interlock for those convicted of drunken driving. The Kansas Department of Transportation reports that the state recorded 59 alcohol-related traffic fatalities between July 1, 2011 — when the law took effect — and June 30 of this year. That compares with 125 and 137, respectively, for the previous two years. The law requires those with a DUI conviction to install a device that drivers blow into to show their blood-alcohol level is below .04 before their vehicles will start. Pete Bodyk, traffic safety manager for KDOT, told The Lawrence Journal-World the fatality numbers will probably increase but he expects data to continue to show a significant decline since the law began.


Sedgwick County GOP Censures County Commissioner

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — The Sedgwick County Republican Party has censured a GOP county commissioner for supporting a Democratic candidate. The Wichita Eagle reports that the Sedgwick County GOP passed a resolution Thursday night censuring Commissioner Jim Skelton for his support of Democrat Tim Norton, the District 2 county commissioner, who is being challenged by Republican Ben Sauceda. Skelton, a Republican, said in a recent newspaper story that he supports Norton in the race. Sauceda, secretary of the county party, says the resolution to censure Skelton was passed unanimously. Skelton, who was not at the meeting Thursday, called the censure "political hogwash" and said that it demonstrates the "childish nature of this far-right uncompromising ideology."


Bank Failures in 3 States, Including Kansas, Bring 2012 Total to 37 

WASHINGTON (AP) — Regulators have closed one small bank in Kansas, two small banks in Georgia, and one in Florida. That brings the number of U.S. bank failures this year to 37. The Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation seized Heartland Bank in Leawood, with $110 million in assets and $102.6 million in deposits. Also suttered were Georgia Trust Bank, based in Buford, Georgia, with $119.8 million in assets and $117.4 million in deposits; First Cherokee State Bank, based in Woodstock, Georgia, with $222.7 million in assets and $193.3 million in deposits; and Royal Palm Bank of Florida, based in Naples, Florida, with $87 million in assets and $85.1 million in deposits.


Report: Nation's Cattle Herd Numbers Continue to Decline

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A new government report says drought has spurred declines in the nation's cattle herd. The National Agricultural Statistics Service said Friday that the number of cattle and calves in the United States as of July 1 totaled 97.8 million head. That's 2 percent fewer cattle than a year ago. It's also the lowest number since the agency began documenting July cattle numbers in 1973. The agency now estimates the size of the herd each January and July. The calf crop is down 2 percent from a year ago with 34.5 million calves expected to be born this year. Agriculture economics associate professor Glynn Tonser of Kansas State University says this reflects a multi-year trend of falling cattle numbers that was sped up by the Southern Plains drought last year.

Federal Judge Dismisses Kansas Clinic Regulations Lawsuit

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) — A federal judge has formally ended the lawsuit brought by Kansas abortion clinics that won an injunction that kept temporary state regulations from taking effect. U.S. District Judge Carlos Murguia on Thursday dismissed the federal lawsuit over the temporary regulations at the request of both sides. The clinics won a ruling last year barring the state from enforcing temporary rules on the drugs and equipment that abortion clinics must keep in stock and the sizes and temperatures of their rooms. The clinics are challenging a separate, final version of the regulations in state court in Topeka.The District Court of Shawnee County has issued a temporary restraining order against enforcement of the permanent regulations. Murguia had already rejected requests made by the clinics for payment of attorney's fees. That ruling has not been appealed.


Topeka House Destroyed in Blaze

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — An early morning fire has destroyed a Topeka home, but authorities say there were no injuries. Topeka Fire Department Shift Commander Mike Thompson told The Topeka Capital-Journal that the fire broke out about 6 am Friday. When crews arrived they found the house completely engulfed in flames. Thompson says firefighters tried to keep the blaze from spreading to a house to the south. He says the heat from the fire combined with temperatures in the upper 70s left crews drained. The fire was under control about by about 6:30 am, and the cause is under investigation.

Jury in Topeka Murder Case Recesses for Weekend

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A jury deliberating the fate of a suspect in a Topeka woman's shooting death recessed for the weekend without reaching a verdict. The Shawnee County jury will resume deliberations Monday in the first-degree murder trial of 27-year-old Anceo Stovall of Topeka. He's charged with premeditated first-degree murder and 10 other counts in the shooting death of 40-year-old Natalie Gibson and the wounding of Gibson's partner in in July 2011. Stovall is one of nine people charged in the shootings. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports the jury on Thursday asked the judge if it would be considered a hung jury if the jury made a decision on one charge but not the others. The judge told jurors to treat each count individually. Jurors have been deliberating the case since Wednesday afternoon.


1 Dead, 1 Injured in Missouri Industrial Accident 

EXCELSIOR SPRINGS, Mo. (AP) — A 55-year-old man has been killed in an industrial accident north of Kansas City. Robert P. Walker, of Excelsior Springs, died Friday when he was hit by a 3-ton suspended crane that fell from an overhead beam. The accident occurred at Rexam, a plastics manufacturing facility in Excelsior Springs. Police say another person was hit and was taken to a hospital. Lieutenant Clint Reno of the Excelsior Springs police department told The Kansas City Star that the second person's injuries weren't life-threatening. Reno says investigators from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration are on the scene.

Spirit AeroSystems Estimates Tornado Damage at $400 Million

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Spirit AeroSystems estimates its insurance claim from an April tornado will be about $400 million. The Wichita company said Thursday that it took a $55 million charge, or 26 cents per share, in the second quarter for expenses related to the tornado. The EF-3 tornado on April 14 damaged 40 buildings, knocked out power and took production equipment offline across the company's complex. None of the nearly 200 employees at the plant were hurt. The Wichita Eagle reports that Spirit resumed some shipments three days after the tornado hit. The company is currently replacing temporary fixes made after the tornado with permanent repairs.


KSU-Salina Drone Program Provides Eye in the Sky

SALINA, Kan. (AP) — The director of Kansas State-Salina's unmanned aircraft program says the school can't graduate students fast enough to fill demand for their skills. Josh Brungardt, director of the program, said Thursday that students learning to work with unmanned technology are getting hired before they graduate. They often are promised six-figure incomes by companies that contract with the U.S. military. Brungardt says the predator drones have uses outside of the military, such as in search and rescue or emergency response after a disaster. In Kansas, the most likely use would be for emergency response following a tornado. And the Salina Journal reports the school was asked to use the drones to search for leaks in a levee system near Leavenworth after a recent flood, but the FAA denied the request.

7th Church Vandalism Reported in Hutchinson

HUTCHINSON, Kan. (AP) — Hutchinson police are investigating the seventh vandalism at a city church since late March. Police say windows were broken and a money box was stolen Wednesday at Trinity United Methodist Church. Pastor Mike McGuire was he is thankful the vandals didn't do more damage or steal more items from the church. The Hutchinson News reports that in the six previous break-ins, vandals stole several items but also caused damage to some of the churches by causing flooding or spraying fire extinguishers.

Fort Leavenworth to Honor Buffalo Soldiers

FORT LEAVENWORTH, Kan. (AP) — Army and Fort Leavenworth leaders will mark the 20th anniversary of a monument honoring the legendary Buffalo Soldiers with the dedication of a new bronze bust. The bust is the likeness of Brigadier General Benjamin Grierson who commanded the 10th Cavalry for nearly 22 years. Buffalo Soldiers were all-black units of the 9th and 10th Cavalry that served in the U.S. Army in the years after the Civil War. Grierson was a founder and longest serving commander of the 10th Cavalry. The bust will be dedicated August 8 near the site of the Buffalo Soldier Monument at Fort Leavenworth, which was dedicated in 1992. There are more than 100 Buffalo Soldiers buried at the National Cemetery at Fort Leavenworth, including Medal of Honor recipient Fitz Lee.

Wichita-Area Observatory Plans Bring-Your-Own Telescope Night

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — An observatory about 20 miles southwest of downtown Wichita is inviting people to bring their own telescopes. Friday's event at the Lake Afton Public Observatory is billed as an opportunity for people to get help from members of the Kansas Astronomical Observers. Members of the group also will have several of their own telescopes available for sky-watching. The observatory says the event is a great chance for people who are considering buying a telescope to get information on the different models.

Company Auctioning Off Clutter Case Files

GARDEN CITY, Kan. (AP) — Original documents from the murders of a southwest Kansas family that became the subject of Truman Capote's book "In Cold Blood" are being auctioned off. Case files about the 1959 murders of the Herb Clutter family in Holcomb are being auctioned by a Seattle-based auction company specializing in film and literature memorabilia. The files from Kansas Bureau of Investigation Agent Harold Nye include original investigation notebooks and photographs from the Clutter investigation. The Garden City Telegram reports the items include crime scene photographs of the killing that have not been made public. Vintage Memorabilia President Gary McAvoy says Nye's son gave him the materials a few months ago. He says the files are being auctioned off as a single lot to preserve their historical value.

KC Fire Chief Sets Retirement Date

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Kansas City longtime fire chief has announced his retirement. Smoke Dyer says his last day will be July 30th. City Manager Troy Schulte says the city hopes to have a replacement in a few months. The Kansas City Star reports that Dyer and several dozen senior firefighters are taking advantage of a retirement incentive package. Dyer was hired to lead the Kansas City Fire Department in 2000 and spent 13 years as fire chief in nearby Lee's Summit, Missouri before that. He also served for almost a decade on the board of the International Association of Fire Chiefs. Councilman Ed Ford says Dyer's retirement comes at a time when the fire department needs to look at putting more emphasis on first response and ambulance calls rather than just putting out fires.


Mom's Boyfriend Arrested in Missouri Child Abuse Case

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Police have arrested the boyfriend of a woman whose 10-year-old daughter weighed just 32 pounds when she was found locked in a closet at a Kansas City apartment. Police Sergeant Stacey Graves says Marcus R. Benson was arrested Thursday in Independence, Missouri. He was charged July 11 with two counts of child endangerment. The girl's mother has been charged with assault, child abuse and child endangerment. The AP isn't naming the mother to protect the girl's identity. Authorities responding to a call to a child abuse hotline found the malnourished girl June 22. She was barricaded inside a closet that reeked of urine. Benson told police he hadn't seen the girl in a year. No attorney is listed for him in online court records.


KC Couple Charged with Abuse of 8-Year-Old Niece

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — A Kansas City couple has been charged with assault and child endangerment after their malnourished 8-year-old niece was found locked in a bedroom. The charges were filed Friday against 34-year-old Jeffrey A. Kraft and 28-year-old Michele Kraft. No attorney is listed for either of them in online court records. The girl and her 5-year-old sister began living with their aunt and uncle about four years ago. A detective wrote in the probable cause statement that when the 8-year-old was found July 5, she weighed just 42 pounds. She had lost six pounds since kindergarten, the last time she attended school. The 8-year-old was examined at a hospital and found to have bruises and other marks. Neighbors said they hadn't seen or heard about either girl for about a year.

Kansas Adds 4 Places to Historic Register

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas has four new listings on the National Register of Historic Places. The Kansas Historical Society said in a release Thursday that the new listings include El Dorado's Amos Gish Building, where Gish ran a veterinary business in the early 1900s; the David Gorden House in Abilene, which dates back to the mid-1800s; Osage County's Arvonia School, which was the only school for the area's Welsh community in the late 1800s until 1949. The Calvinistic Methodist Church, also in Osage County, was also added. The church was the center of activity in the rural Welsh community until the congregation disbanded in 1968. Kansas now has 1,276 listings on the National Register, which is the country's list of historically important properties.

Report: KC's All-Star Event Drew 150K People

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — About 150,000 people came to Kansas City from out of town to attend baseball's All Star events earlier this month. Jason Hodges, who was Mayor Sly James's "point person" for the All Star Game, says the numbers were what he expected because Kansas City is "a pretty big baseball town." The Kansas City Star reports that the Convention and Visitors Association estimates 120,000 visitors stayed in hotels on both sides of the state line at some point during All-Star events July 6th through 10th. Early figures show occupancy above 76 percent during that time, and revenue topping $3 million a day on July 9th and 10th.


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