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Regional Headlines for Friday, June 15, 2012






Report Doubts Government's Low-Risk View of KS Biohazard Lab

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The National Research Council says the federal government is still seriously underestimating the risk of dangerous animal pathogens escaping from a planned biosecurity lab in Kansas.  The council says in a report issued today (FRI) that there are serious flaws in a Department of Homeland Security analysis from earlier this year that deemed the risk of such a release from the proposed lab to be very low.  The group also cast doubt on the government's first assessment of the safety of the planned National Bio- and Agro-Defense Facility in Manhattan near Kansas State University.  The council says the DHS' latest evaluation underestimates the risk of human error causing a pathogen's release.  The group is a branch of the National Academy of Sciences, which is a private nonprofit that advises the government.


Committee Sees Need for NBAF

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Members of a committee that wrote a new report critical of a federal safety assessment for a planned biosecurity lab in northeast Kansas say they don't doubt the need for such a facility. Gregory Baecher (BECK'-uhr) is chairman of the National Research Council committee that issued today's (FRI) report. He says members believe the federal government needs a facility like the National Bio and Agro-Defense Facility planned for Manhattan. It would research dangerous animal diseases. The council's report said the U-S Department of Homeland Security's latest safety assessment is technically flawed and underestimates the risks of an accidental release of a dangerous disease. Baecher said officials need to balance the risks of operating a lab against the risks of not having the research capabilities.


Young KS Missionary Dies in Romania

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — A 20-year-old Shawnee woman has died while doing mission work in Romania.  Alexis Brownlee had been in Medias, Romania, for nearly a month when she died last weekend of a seizure. The Kansas City Star reports that Brownlee taught English to orphans and worked with other missionaries putting on street dramas and sharing the Christian Gospel.  She was doing mission work as part of her studies at Oral Roberts University in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Brownlee was expected to graduate soon with a major in mission work and a minor in Spanish.  Her father, Timothy Brownlee of Shawnee, said Alexis had had seizures before but that she had been doing well recently. He said he believes she died doing what she loved.  Services are scheduled for Sunday in Shawnee.


Fort Riley Private Charged with Killing Soldier

FORT RILEY, Kan. (AP) — A Fort Riley private has been charged with murder in the death of a fellow soldier from his unit.  Officials at the northeast Kansas post announced the charge yesterday (THUR) against Pvt. John Hughes. He's also charged with larceny and resisting arrest.  Hughes is accused of killing 21-year-old Pvt. Thomas Lavrey, who was found unresponsive in his living quarters on May 14. The Army has not disclosed the cause of death but says the investigation continues.  Hughes is being held at Fort Leavenworth. Members of his defense team could not be located for comment last (THUR) night.  Lavrey was a native of West Seneca, New York.  Both were assigned to Special Troops Battalion, 1st Sustainment Brigade, 1st Infantry Division — Lavrey as a utilities equipment repairman and Hughes as a wheeled vehicle mechanic.


16 Arrested in Junction City Prostitution Sting

 JUNCTION CITY, Kan. (AP) — The sheriff's department in Geary County says a two-day undercover operation resulted in 16 arrests of suspected prostitutes, pimps and their customers.  The sting was prompted by recent reports of sex trafficking in the area using underage girls. Authorities said they did not encounter any instances of that crime in this week's operation.  Sheriff's deputies, along with police officers from Junction City and Grandview Plaza, carried out the sting by contacting men and women who advertised on certain websites. The officers arranged "dates" at a Junction City hotel and made the arrests once all of the elements of the crime were met.  Geary County Undersheriff Tony Wolf says that some of the suspects were local, but others traveled from Topeka, Wichita and Manhattan.


Cattle Truck Rolls in Southern KS, Killing Cows and Closing Highway

PRESTON, Kan. (AP) — Pratt County authorities say a cattle truck rolled over in south-central Kansas, killing 23 cows and closing a highway for several hours.  Sheriff Vernon Chinn says in a news release that the accident occurred in Preston early this (FRI) morning when the driver of the semi-trailer truck lost control in heavy rain. The truck dropped off a shoulder of Kansas 61, went into a ditch and back on the highway before rolling.  The driver was not injured. The sheriff says 23 of the 145 cattle on board were killed.  Kansas 61 was closed from Pratt to Kansas Highway 14 for nearly four hours before reopening about 5am.  


KU Invites Public to Visit its Medicinal Garden Saturday

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — The University of Kansas is inviting the public to visit its Native Medicinal Plant Research Garden.  The annual summer tour is planned for tomorrow (SAT) beginning at 10am.  The garden is part of a program that ties together botany and medicinal chemistry.  Kelly Kindscher, the head of the program's botany side, will lead the tour. Kindscher is a senior scientist at the Kansas Biological Survey and a professor of environmental studies.  The garden is located about 10 minutes from downtown Lawrence (at 1865 E. 1600 Road), near the Lawrence airport in Douglas County.  Students in fields such as environmental studies, engineering, journalism and geology all have taken part in projects at the garden.


Black Archives to Open in Kansas City Saturday

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Six years after it closed and artifacts were hidden away in storage, the Black Archives of Mid-America will reopen Saturday in Kansas City.  The archives include thousands of artifacts, manuscripts and photos showing the history of blacks in the Kansas City region.  The Black Archives will be open to the public at its new home in Kansas City's 18th and Vine district.  The Kansas City Star reports financial problems caused the Black Archives to close in 2006. The collection was left inside the organization's former headquarters.  The collection was started by the late Horace Peterson, who drowned in 1992. It includes traditional archival photographs and historic documents but also antique comic books, period baseball apparel and a former slave cabin.


Emporia Wins Bid to Host Disc Golf Championship

EMPORIA, Kan. (AP) — A national junior championship of disc golf will be played in Emporia.  Officials announced yesterday (THUR) that Emporia was chosen to host the 2013 Professional Disc Golf Association World Junior and Amateur Disc Golf Championships. It is expected to be held July 7-13 next year.  Jeremy Rusco, owner of Dynamic Discs, led the city's efforts to land the championship. He says it's expected to bring 600 participants to the city, with an estimated $500,000 economic impact.  The Emporia Gazette reports Emporia is the smallest city in recent history to be chosen to host the annual competition.


ACLU: Strike Down KS Insurance Law Restricting Abortion Coverage

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — The American Civil Liberties Union wants a federal judge to strike down a Kansas law restricting insurance coverage of abortions.  In a court filing today (FRI), the organization outlines for the first time the impact of a statute passed last year prohibiting abortion coverage in general health plans. Patients who want such coverage must buy special riders.  The ACLU says before the law was passed, abortion coverage was offered in general health plans by the insurance companies that accounted for more than 70 percent of the Kansas market. But not all have decided to offer abortion riders, and one says it's not expected that many, if any, riders will be sold.  The ACLU contends the law makes it difficult to obtain abortions. The state says it will file its own motion later.


KS House Leader Wants Fellow Lawmaker Off Ballot

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The Kansas House majority leader is trying to remove a fellow Republican lawmaker from the ballot and avoid facing him in the GOP primary.  Majority Leader Arlen Siegfreid (SIHG'-freed), of Olathe, filed a formal objection today (THUR) with the secretary of state's office over the filing of Rep. Mike Kiegerl (KEE'-gurl), who has also represented an Olathe district.  Political redistricting this year put both lawmakers in the newly drawn 121st House District, and they're both listed as candidates in the August 7 primary.  But Siegfreid said Kiegerl has made it clear that he doesn't intend to run against Siegfreid. The majority leader also noted that Kiegerl said in a recent news story that he has moved out of the district.  Kiegerl did not return a telephone message seeking comment.


Report: KS Harvest Yields Quality Wheat... So Far

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Industry groups estimate the Kansas winter wheat harvest is about 75 percent complete, with reports indicating a good quality crop so far.  The Kansas Grain and Feed Association, in conjunction with other industry trade groups, report that farmers in Barber County have finished their harvest. The OK Co-op Grain Company says it took in 3 million bushels, with farmers averaging 45 to 55 bushels per acre. The crop quality in that area was excellent, as test weights averaged 61 pounds per bushel.  Sumner County farmers brought in about 45 to 50 bushels per acre. The Farmer's Co-op Grain Association in Wellington reports taking in more than 4 million bushels at its five locations, about 30 percent more than usual.


Girard Trauma Center Verified by State Officials

GIRARD, Kan. (AP) — State health officials have verified the Girard Medical Center trauma center as a Level IV Trauma Center.  Dr. Adam Paoni, director of emergency services, says the Girard Medical Center is the first Level IV trauma center in southeast Kansas.  The Pittsburg Morning Sun reports that Level IV trauma centers are rural hospitals that stabilize seriously injured patients and, if necessary, transfer them to a higher level trauma center. The hospital's staff has undergone special training and the centers must meet specific standards.  Robert Moser, secretary of the health department, says designating trauma centers is one part of a statewide system designed to get patients with life-threatening injuries to a hospital with the necessary resources.


Kansas Jobless Rate Steady at 6.1% in May

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas officials say the state saw few changes in its economy in May as the unemployment rate remained steady at 6.1 percent.  The state Department of Labor says the economy continues to be stronger than it was last year. In May 2011, the seasonally adjusted unemployment rate was 6.7 percent.  Kansas continued to see modest job growth in the private sector compared to last year.  About 1.1 million Kansans had jobs with private employers in May. The department said that's about 10,800 more than in May 2011, or growth of about 1 percent. Some of the gain was offset by a drop in government employment over the year.  Department labor economist Tyler Tenbrink said the economy has remained essentially flat for the fourth consecutive month.


Topeka Murder Suspect Gets New Lawyer

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A new lawyer has been appointed for a 20-year-old Topeka man charged with first-degree murder and kidnapping in the death of an 18-year-old woman.  The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that Kathleen Ambrosio was appointed to defend Dustin J. Leftwich.  Leftwich is accused of hitting recent Seaman High School graduate Brenna Morgart with a vehicle. Her body was found May 25 in a field about three miles away.  Leftwich is also charged with aggravated assault with a vehicle against an unidentified 14-year-old in 2011. Details of that case have not been released.  Ron Evans, chief attorney for the Kansas Death Penalty Defense Unit, was initially assigned to represent Leftwich but later filed a motion to withdraw from the case.


NW Kansas Dairy Enters Partnership with Dannon

REXFORD, Kan. (AP) — A dairy company in northwest Kansas will be the sole supplier of milk to Dannon Company's yogurt factory in Fort Worth, Texas.  The agreement between Dannon and McCarty Dairy was officially announced yesterday (THUR) during a ceremony in Rexford.  The McCarty family milks nearly 7,200 cows daily at dairies in Rexford, Bird City and Scott City.  The Hays Daily News reports a processing plant in Rexford gets milk from the three dairies, pasteurizes it and strips out water. The dried milk is used by Dannon for its yogurt.  Tom McCarty told about 150 people, including Governor Sam Brownback and Dannon officials, that the deal took about two years to put together.   Brownback says he hopes it's the first step in Kansas becoming a big player in the dairy industry.



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