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Regional Headlines for Friday, June 21, 2013





Supporter: Brownback to Seek Re-Election

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — A top political supporter confirms that Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback will seek a second term next year. The Lawrence Journal-World reports that the first-term Republican governor recently sent a message to supporters seeking to raise funds for the 2014 campaign. David Kensinger, who heads Brownback's political action committee, said Friday that the governor "is actively raising funds and mobilizing grassroots supporters." Kensinger noted Brownback has not made a formal announcement yet but says he is a candidate for re-election. Brownback's message says that under his administration, Kansas has gone from a projected budget deficit to a surplus. The governor also says he has cut taxes and increased jobs in the private sector. The message goes on to say, "Now is the time to protect and build on our achievements."


Brownback Seeks to Fill Kansas Court of Appeals Seat

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Governor Sam Brownback is taking applications to fill a new position on the Kansas Court of Appeals, the first to use a new process signed into law this spring. The vacancy is for a 14th judge to serve on the court. The new law changed the way judges on the Court of Appeals are appointed and approved. The governor will make an appointment which must be confirmed by the Kansas Senate, similar to how federal judges are appointed. The Senate will have 20 days once it convenes in January 2014 to approve the selection. Previously, a nominating commission screened applicants for court openings and sent one name to the governor for approval without legislative oversight.


State of Kansas Unemployment Rate Rose in May

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A new report says the Kansas unemployment rate edged higher in May, but the state also saw modest growth in private-sector jobs over the past year. The state Labor Department says the jobless rate stood at 5.7 percent last month, up from 5.6 percent in April but down from 6.1 percent in May 2012. The report also says private companies employed about 14,400 more workers last month than in May 2012, an increase of 1.3 percent. The biggest percentage increase over the year was 5.4 percent in professional and business services. Employment grew by 8,300, reaching nearly 161,000 last month. Manufacturing firms also added 3,000 jobs, increasing employment over the year by 1.8 percent. The department says workers have seen their hours increase consistently for several months.


Doctors File Lawsuit over Anti-Abortion Legislation

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Two Kansas doctors have filed suit in state court challenging a sweeping, new anti-abortion law set to take effect in July. Dr. Herbert Hodes and his daughter, Dr. Traci Nauser, filed their lawsuit Friday in Shawnee County District Court. The two doctors perform abortions at their Overland Park health center. The filing came one day after Planned Parenthood filed a federal lawsuit over portions of the same law. The lawsuit from Hodes and Nauser seeks to invalidate the entire law. It blocks tax breaks for abortion providers, prohibits their involvement in public school courses and spells out what information they must provide to women before performing abortions. The doctors contend the law violates their rights to equal legal protection under the Kansas constitution.

Police: 3 Missing Topeka Children Found Safe

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Police in Topeka say three young siblings have been found unharmed along a trail about 20 hours after their parents reported them missing. Captain Jerry Stanley says in a statement the two girls and their brother were found "safe but hungry" around 7:15 pm Thursday, playing in a creek along the Shunga Trail. That's just a few miles from the home where their parents reported them missing shortly before 11 pm Wednesday. Stanley says a citizen spotted the children and called police. The children were identified as 13-year-old Stephanie Witten, 12-year-old Seth Witten and 10-year-old Michelle Witten. Police had said throughout the search they did not suspect foul play. No Amber Alerts were issued.

Kansas Company Planning Move to KCMO

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — A.B. May Company, a Leawood-based heating and air conditioning service company, is planning to use tax incentives to move its headquarters and 165 employees to Kansas City, Missouri. Documents filed with the Kansas City Council show the firm wants to spend $11.7 million to renovate a vacant store. City officials say the company expects to grow to 295 employees within 10 years. The Kansas City Star reports that the city council is being asked to approve up to $12 million in Chapter 100 bonds for the move. That would give A.B. May a 50 percent tax break on real and personal property taxes over 10 years. The firm also would receive $5.9 million from the Missouri Quality Jobs program over nine years and $200,000 in development tax credits.

Minimum-Security Lansing Inmate Recaptured

LANSING, Kan. (AP) — A man who walked away from a minimum security job at Lansing Correctional Facility has been recaptured. The Kansas Department of Corrections reports 43-year-old Paul Cohagen was caught Thursday evening in Leavenworth County. Prison officials did not release more details of where or how he was found. Cohagen was reported missing Monday. He was a plumber at the prison, which allowed him to leave the minimum security area to go to the prison's main campus. Cohagen is jailed for an August 2011 burglary in Osage County. He was scheduled to be released in November. He has several prior felony convictions in Shawnee County for burglary, forgery and theft.

Kansas Gets First Public Natural Gas Pump

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — The first compressed natural gas pump for public use in Kansas is now open in Wichita. The $1 million station was officially opened Thursday at the CNG Services in Wichita. It was designed by Midwest Energy Solutions of Kansas City, Kansas. Michael Batten, president of Midwest Energy, said it is the first in Kansas for the public. But Batten expects the number to grow rapidly because natural gas costs less and provides better gas mileage than other fuels. The Wichita Eagle reports that the natural gas comes from Black Hills Energy's regular gas lines. A compressor condenses the gas from 60 pounds per square inch to 3,600 pounds per square inch and dispenses it from what looks like a gasoline pump.


Wyandotte County Settles Air Pollution Dispute

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) — Wyandotte County officials have reached a settlement with the Sierra Club over allegations of excessive air pollution from two area power plants. The agreement, which Wyandotte County approved Thursday, requires that the Quindaro Power Plant generating units stop burning coal by April 16, 2015, and that the Nearman Power Plant add controls to meet negotiated emissions limit for air emissions by September 1, 2017. The Board of Public Utilities and the Unified Government of Wyandotte County say in a release that the Sierra Club in 2012 alleged that emissions from the Nearman and Quindaro plants exceeded levels allowed under air permits for each plant. Wyandotte County and the BPU disputed the allegations. The agreement has to be approved by a federal judge before becoming final.

Lee's Summit Getting Google High-Speed Fiber

LEE'S SUMMIT, Mo. (AP) — Another Kansas City suburb has signed on to receive Google Fiber, the search giant's high-speed Internet service. Lee's Summit is the ninth Kansas City area city to reach an agreement with Google Fiber since the service was first introduced to the area in 2012. Google Fiber plans to construct a high-speed broadband network that can transmit up to one gigabit of data per second, which is almost 100 times faster than conventional home broadband. The Kansas City Star reports that the Lee's Summit City Council on Thursday approved three agreements that cover installation and operation of the fiber optic network in the city. There is so far no indication when the service will be available to Lee's Summit residents.


Northeast Kansas Man Shames Son with Roadside Sign

WATHENA, Kan. (AP) — A northeast Kansas man who made his 9-year-old son stand by a highway with a sign admitting he lied about stealing says he had to take a hard line. The St. Joseph News-Press reports the boy's two-hour stint drew strong reactions from people driving along U.S. 36 in Wathena on Friday morning. Some honked or pulled over to shake the father's hand. Others called it child abuse, and one man pulled the sign from the boy's hand before the father retrieved it. The sign read, "I like to steal and lie about it!" The father says he devised the punishment after the boy lied about stealing video games and a console from a neighbor's home. He called his son "a wonderful kid" but says he needed to learn a lesson.

KC Man Faces Federal Dogfighting Charges

CLINTON, Mo. (AP) — A 42-year-old Kansas City man faces state felony charges related to dogfighting. Henry County Prosecutor Richard Shields said in a release Friday that John P. Dulley Jr. is charged with 12 counts of keeping dogs with the intent to fight. Shields says each felony is punishable by up to four years in prison. Shields says the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals assisted the sheriff's department in March in seizing about a dozen dogs from a rural Henry County farm. Several seizures related to the same investigation were conducted at other locations in Missouri as well as in Kansas City, Kansas and in Texas. Online court records don't list a lawyer for Dulley, and a phone listed for him had been disconnected.

Computer Glitch Causes Transaction Problems at Worlds of Fun

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Some customers at Worlds of Fun in Kansas City are seeing unexpected and expensive charges in their bank statements. Officials at the amusement park say a computer problem caused some customers to be charged multiple times for the same transactions last weekend. KMBC-TV reports that one customer was charged 37 times for food, for a bill over $900. Another customer said she was charged 38 times for a $38 lunch, costing more than $3,000. Worlds of Fun officials say they were told of the problem Wednesday and are working with banks to reverse the charges. The company will pay for any overdraft fees or other expenses customers incurred because of the problem. Anyone who fines erroneous charges is asked to call Worlds of Fun at 816-454-4545.

City of Wichita to Settle Lawsuit in Girl's Death

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — The city of Wichita plans to settle a lawsuit filed after a 12-year-old girl was hit and killed by a police patrol car. Officials say the city will pay the parents of Suhani Bhakta $300,000 to settle a wrongful death lawsuit. The girl was killed in February 2012 when she was hit by the patrol car as she ran across a road near her home. A Kansas Highway Patrol investigation verified that the officer was speeding in a 30 mph zone and was not using lights or a siren. Police said the officer was following policy and a sports utility vehicle may have obstructed his view. The settlement is on the consent agenda for the Wichita City Council's meeting next Tuesday.

Man Tries to Set Another on Fire, Ignites Himself

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Wichita police say an unknown man burst into another man's apartment and tried to set the tenant on fire while he was taking a bath. The Wichita Eagle reports that the attacker instead set himself ablaze and was seen fleeing the victim's apartment around 5 am Thursday. The 38-year-old tenant told police he didn't know his assailant very well and isn't sure why he would try to set him on fire. Police spokesman Lieutenant Doug Nolte says police think the suspect is a man in his mid-20s who forced his way into the apartment with a gas can, lighter and some combustible materials. Investigators were looking for a man with burns to his hands and torso.

Wichita Seeks Grant for Rail Extension

WICHTA, Kan. (AP) — The state of Kansas and the city of Wichita are seeking a federal grant to move up plans to extend rail passenger service between Wichita and Oklahoma City. The Wichita Eagle reports that the state and the city of Wichita are asking for $12.7 million in federal grant funding to complete planning for the possible extension of Amtrak's Heartland Flyer line to Wichita and nearby Newton. The project would then connect the Wichita area with the Southwest Chief line, closing a 185-mile service gap from Oklahoma City to Wichita. The grant project includes $3 million in matching funds from the Kansas Department of Transportation that are contingent on $2.3 million in matching funds from Oklahoma. A decision on the grant is expected in about three months.

Report: Wheat Harvest Moving Slowly as Fields Dry

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — The latest snapshot of the Kansas winter wheat harvest says while farmers are waiting for fields to dry in south-central Kansas, harvest activity is moving slowly in central sections. The industry trade group Kansas Wheat reported Thursday that the Mid Kansas Co-op in Galva began taking in wheat Wednesday night. Test weights have been averaging about 60 pounds, but it's too early to estimate yields or make comparisons to last year's crop. At the Valley Co-op in Winfield, manager Rick Kimbrel reported that although harvest began last week, rain slowed harvest until Wednesday. With just 1 percent in, early test weights are averaging 60 pounds. One field was getting about 50 bushels an acre. The Andale Farmers Co-op had taken in about 10 loads of wheat as of Thursday.

Investigators Examining Heater in Kansas Plane Crash

TULSA, Okla. (AP) — Investigators have examined a heater as they search for the cause of a plane crash in Kansas that killed four people. The heater was found in the wreckage of the eight-passenger plane that crashed May 11, 2012, near the town of Chanute. The National Transportation Safety Board issued a factual report this week about the crash that killed the plane's pilot and three others. One woman survived. The Tulsa World reports Friday that she informed investigators that the heater produced a "terrible smell." The plane was flying from Tulsa and was en route to a Christian youth rally in Council Bluffs, Iowa, when it crashed last year. The NTSB has not yet issued a probable cause report about the crash.

K-State Earns $600K State Department Grant

MANHATTAN, Kan. (AP) — Kansas State University has been awarded a $600,000 grant from the U.S. State Department to bring international engineering students to campus. The university's engineering extension program will use the grant to bring 20 students from 13 countries to Kansas this summer to study environmental stewardship. The five-week program will start in July and conclude in August with a trip to Washington. Students will tour several sites throughout Kansas, including the Manhattan zoo, Konza Prairie Biological Station, a nuclear power reactor and a hydroelectric dam in Lawrence. A condition of the program requires exposing the students to American culture. Activities designed to teach them about Kansas and the United States include a river float trip and July 4 fireworks.

KSU Researcher Gets $113K to Study Mosquitoes & Malaria

MANHATTAN, Kan. (AP) — A Kansas State University researcher is getting $113,000 over two years to help fight malaria. Biology research associate Bart Bryant has been awarded the National Institutes of Health's National Research Service Award Individual Postdoctoral Fellowship. The fellowship includes research and mentoring and education components. Bryant works in a laboratory that focuses on mosquitoes and mosquito-borne diseases, particularly malaria. He says the work is aimed at understanding how malaria interacts with mosquitoes and why mosquitoes are immune. The hope is that by understanding how the immune system works, the researchers can eliminate parasites in mosquitoes and possibly find a cure for malaria and other mosquito-borne diseases.

Planned Parenthood Sues over New Kansas Abortion Clinic Requirements

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A Planned Parenthood clinic and its medical director are challenging parts of a new Kansas abortion law that takes effect next month. The Overland Park clinic and Doctor Orrin Moore filed suit Thursday in U.S. District Court. They argue that new requirements spelling out the information that clinics and doctors must give patients before performing abortions violate their free-speech rights. Planned Parenthood objects to a section of the law requiring its website to link to a state website containing what it says is the government's viewpoint on abortion. It also objects to a requirement that patients receive information that an abortion will terminate the life of what the new law calls a "whole, separate, unique, living human being." The lawsuit names four Kansas officials as defendants.


Dish Abandons Sprint Acquisition Efforts

Satellite TV operator Dish Network is officially abandoning its efforts to acquire Sprint Nextel. The Englewood, Colorado company filed regulatory documents Friday formalizing the retreat it announced earlier this week. The move leaves Sprint free to accept what it considers a superior offer from Japan's Softbank. Dish and Softbank were competing to acquire the wireless carrier since April. Sprint opted for Softbank's $21.6 billion offer for 78 percent of the company, versus Dish's $25.5 billion bid for all of Sprint. In the Securities and Exchange Commission filing, Dish said it has abandoned its efforts and plans to redeem $2.6 million in outstanding senior debt. Dish previously said it will continue to focus on its bid for Clearwire, a wireless network operator in which Sprint has a majority stake.


Leaders of 6 Kansas Universities Receive Raises

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The top administrators at the six public universities in Kansas will see their salaries increase in July, but private dollars will cover the increases. The state Board of Regents approved the higher salaries Thursday but specified that each university's fundraising foundation will provide the extra money. The largest increases of $60,000 each went to Kansas State University President Kirk Schulz and University of Kansas Chancellor Bernadette Gray-Little. Regent Fred Logan of Leawood said the boosts bring their salaries closer to those of presidents at comparable universities. Schulz's salary will be $460,000, or 15 percent more than it is now. Gray-Little's will rise almost 14 percent, to nearly $493,000. Other raises ranged from 2.4 percent for Pittsburg State University President Steve Scott to 4.7 percent for Emporia State University President Michael Shonrock.

St. Louis County Town Adopts Funeral Protest Restrictions

TWIN OAKS, Mo. (AP) — Another St. Louis, Missouri-area town has adopted an ordinance aimed at keeping funeral protesters at a distance. The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports that Twin Oaks in west St. Louis County is following the format established by nearby Manchester and since adopted by other communities. The ordinance approved by Twin Oaks trustees on Wednesday prohibits protests within 300 feet from an hour before through an hour after a funeral or burial service. The ordinances are aimed at protests by groups such as the Topeka-based Westboro Baptist Church, which often protests at funerals of soldiers.


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