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Regional Headlines for Friday, November 15, 2013


KS Atty General Awards Funds to Crime Victims

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A state board has awarded nearly $259,000 to 111 Kansas victims of violent crime needing help with such expenses as mental health treatment and funeral costs. The awards were approved at the November meeting of the Kansas Crime Victims Compensation Board. The compensation program is administered by a division of the state attorney general's office, which announced the awards Thursday. Spokesman Don Brown says awards were made in 43 new cases, and additional expenses were paid in 68 cases submitted previously. Funds for the program come from court costs, fines, inmate wages, parole fees and restitution paid by convicted offenders. Victims of violent crimes and survivors of homicide victims may receive up to $25,000 to cover a wide range of expenses.

KS Insurance Commisioner, Insurers to Review ACA Policy Decision

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas Insurance Commissioner Sandy Praeger and the state's largest health insurer say they're not sure yet about the implications of President Barack Obama's decision to modify part of the federal health care overhaul. Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Kansas said Thursday it's waiting for more federal guidance about Obama's decision to let insurance companies continue offering health plans that would otherwise be canceled. The company has notified about 9,500 Kansas policy holders their coverage would not be renewed because their plans don't meet mandates under the 2010 federal health care law. Praeger said the Insurance Department is reviewing the president's decision and will have discussions with health insurance companies about its effects.


Report: Nebraska Should Pay KS $5.5M in Water Dispute

OMAHA, Neb. (AP) — A special water master has found that Nebraska took more than its share of water from the Republican River in 2005 and 2006 and should pay Kansas $5.5 million for the breach. But the recommendation submitted Friday to the U.S. Supreme Court rejected Kansas's demands for $80 million and an order that would permanently shut off irrigation in more than 300,000 Nebraska acres. The U.S. Supreme Court gave Kansas permission in 2011 to file a new petition over allegations that Nebraska used 25.7 billion gallons more in water that it should have in 2005 and 2006. Use of the river's water is governed by a 1943 compact between Colorado, Kansas and Nebraska. Colorado was given 11 percent of the water, while Nebraska was allotted 49 percent and Kansas 40 percent.


Topeka Zoo Performs Well in USDA Inspection

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Topeka officials say a two-day inspection of the city zoo by the U.S. Department of Agriculture revealed only two minor problems. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that the inspection completed Thursday found rust on bolts in an outdoor orangutan exhibit and a rotted board in an area temporarily housing two coyotes. City officials said the inspectors reported being pleased by improvements in the Topeka Zoo's gorilla and elephant programs and complimented the staff on animal care. Between 2001 and 2012, the zoo struggled to maintain accreditation from the Association of Zoos and Aquariums. Also, in January, the city agreed to pay a $45,000 penalty to settle a USDA complaint alleging dozens of rule violations dating from 2006.


Celebration Planned to Mark End of Statehouse Renovations

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Governor Sam Brownback says his office is planning a big celebration for Kansas Day to mark completion of the 13-year Statehouse renovation project. Brownback said Friday there could be a week of events leading up to the January 29 dedication of the building, which has been overhauled from the dome to the basement. The governor said his office discovered that there was no formal dedication for the Statehouse when its construction was completed in 1903. But he noted that the work took 37 years and cost a then-huge sum of more than $3 million. The current renovation began in 2001 and is likely to cost about $330 million. The state built a new underground parking garage and expanded the basement for new office space.


Fort Riley to Hold Ceremony Honoring Foreign POWs

FORT RILEY, Kan. (AP) — A delegation of Italian and German military officers will take part next week in a ceremony honoring deceased prisoners of war buried at a cemetery at Fort Riley. The November 21 event is part of an annual observance to honor the POWs and their contributions while in confinement at Fort Riley during World War II. Fort Riley was one of about 600 prisoner of war camps in the United States from 1943 to 1946. There were about 4,500 prisoners held at Fort Riley who performed a variety of tasks on the installation, such as farming and maintenance. The ceremony will honor the 62 German and 11 Italian soldiers buried at Fort Riley. German and Italian officers studying at Fort Leavenworth will take part in the activities.


Woman Found Dead in Topeka Motel

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Police are investigating the death of a woman whose body was found by workers at a motel in south Topeka. WIBW radio reports that officers were called to the Country Club Motel around 1 pm Friday. Police have not named the woman, who's believed to be 39 years old and checked into the motel Thursday afternoon. Maintenance workers found her body while checking if her room had been vacated. No information about a possible cause of death was released pending an autopsy.


KS Hunting Season for Rare Bird Opens

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Hunting season opens this weekend in Kansas for a rare game bird that's being considered for federal protection under the Endangered Species Act. Kansas is the only state in the U.S. where hunters can legally kill lesser prairie chickens, which have been facing declining populations. This year's survey found about 18,000 lesser prairie chickens in Kansas, Colorado, New Mexico, Oklahoma and Texas. The Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism limits the number of birds hunters can take and says hunting doesn't have an impact on the lesser prairie chicken's population. The hunting season is November 16-January 31 in northwest and eastern Kansas and until December 31 in southwest Kansas. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service will decide by March 2014 if the bird will be listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act.


Ex-Worker Pleads No Contest to KS County Theft

HOLTON, Kan. (AP) — A former employee of a northeast Kansas county has pleaded no contest to stealing $16,000 in public money. KNZA-AM reports that 40-year-old Janette Lyn Fund, of Delia, appeared Friday in Jackson County (Kansas) District Court. She pleaded no contest to 20 felony counts of false information and 20 misdemeanor counts of theft. Prosecutor Shawna Miller says 140 additional counts were dismissed. Fund will be sentenced December 13 and agreed to pay full restitution. Fund was an administrative assistant in the county's noxious weed, landfill and recycling departments from April 2011 until July, when the sheriff said she was caught with missing cash that should have been deposited. Authorities say the thefts went on for two years. Fund was accused of falsifying accounts to cover the losses.


Judge Orders $25K Returned in KS Hunting Case

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A federal judge in Kansas has ordered the return of nearly $25,000 paid by a Texas hunter as restitution for running an illegal deer hunting camp. James Bobby Butler Jr., of Martinsville, Texas, was initially assessed a $25,000 fine and $25,000 in restitution at his sentencing in 2011. But U.S. District Judge Monti Belot vacated the restitution after last month's hearing in which he found prosecutors failed to prove the value of the deer. Belot re-sentenced Butler to 10 months in prison and a $25,000 fine, and on Friday ordered the return of $24,700 in restitution he had paid. Butler owned and operated the camp near Coldwater where his brother, Marlin Butler, worked as a guide. Marlin Butler's amended sentence calls for eight months in prison and a $10,000 fine.



Homeless Man Sets Bibles on Fire at Men's Shelter


WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A homeless man is believed to have set a box of old, worn Bibles on fire at a Wichita men's shelter after becoming upset with the shelter's staff. The Wichita Eagle reports that the fire happened around 7 pm Thursday at Union Rescue Mission when an unknown man ignited three or four Bibles in the shelter's small library and caused paint to blister on the wall. Shelter executive director Denny Bender says the books were so worn they were no longer being used. He says the first set off smoke alarms, but mission staff had put out the fire before fire trucks arrived. Bender says he doesn't know the perpetrator's motive or why he chose to burn Bibles. Police are looking at security video to identify a possible suspect.



Wichita School District Battles Bat Colony

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — The Wichita school district is working to oust a small colony of bats from one of its middle schools. The Wichita Eagle reports that district crews have removed more than a dozen bats from Curtis Middle School so far. Several teachers have seen them perched in high corners of their classrooms or tucked behind posters tacked to the walls. The director of environmental services for Wichita schools, Tim Phares, says the bats are a "nuisance" but haven't caused any major problems. Although the bats are the size of a human hand, they can compress their bodies to a half-inch thickness and squeeze through tiny openings. Phares says he thinks the main entry point has been sealed but that the district continues plugging other openings.

Bird Watchers Urged to Keep Distance from Cranes

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Bird enthusiasts are being urged to keep their distance from whooping cranes that pass through Quivira National Wildlife Refuge in central Kansas at this time each year. Refuge worker Barry Jones sent an email this week to people on a Kansas birding list cautioning them to stay at least a half-mile away from the endangered shorebird. The Wichita Eagle reports that whooping cranes have been spotted at the refuge in recent weeks. As many as 16 were reported at the wetlands Sunday. All hunting is suspended at the refuge as long as the rare birds remain there. The cranes are the tallest species of North American birds at 5 feet. Only about 20 of the birds remained in 1942, but the population is now at least 500.


Expert: Linking Pupil Tests, Teacher Ratings Risky

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — A leading expert says using student test scores to evaluate teachers is risky and potentially misjudges the work of otherwise good teachers. University of California, Los Angeles, professor emeritus James Popham addressed a conference on testing and instructional quality this week at the University of Kansas. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that Popham and other speakers expressed concern that many high-stakes, standardized exams may test what students know without testing whether they have a good teacher or not. Kansas and many other states are moving toward new systems of teacher evaluation in which teachers are assessed based in part on student scores on annual mathematics and reading tests.


KS Mom: Copper Vase Stolen from Daughter's Grave

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A Kansas woman says copper thieves made off with a $400 vase that adorned her daughter's gravesite at a Wichita cemetery, and police are checking to see if there might be other victims. Kristie Trimble told KAKE-TV that she first noticed the vase was missing Monday when she visited Maple Grove Cemetery to make funeral arrangements for her mother. Trimble's daughter, Amanda Honesty Star, was born October 4, 1995, and died of cancer in May 1999. The vase with copper stripes was attached by a chain that someone had to cut through to steal it. Wichita police spokesman Doug Nolte says anyone else who is missing items from gravesites is encouraged to call 911 and report it.


Longtime Hutchinson Community College Prez to Retire

HUTCHINSON, Kan. (AP) — Longtime Hutchinson Community College president Ed Berger is retiring next summer. The Hutchinson News reports that Berger made the announcement Thursday night, saying it was the right time for new leadership. The 68-year-old Berger has been at the college since 1981, serving as dean of continuing education before becoming president in 1991. Berger says the most rewarding part of the job has been providing students access to opportunity. Under Berger's direction, the college has seen a 60 percent increase in enrollment over the past decade. It enrolled more than 6,100 students this fall. Berger says the timing of his departure is good because the college's enrollment is stable and building projects are in place. He says the college's board is experienced and qualified to hire a new leader.


MO Man Pleads Guilty to Evidence Tampering in Homicide

ST. JOSEPH, Mo. (AP) — A St. Joseph man has pleaded guilty to tampering with physical evidence in the death of a 38-year-old man whose body was discovered in the Missouri River near Leavenworth, Kansas. The St. Joseph News-Press reports that 55-year-old Billy Wilson confessed when he appeared this week in Buchanan County Circuit Court. Afterward, a judge sentenced him to two years in prison if he testifies against other defendants charged in the September killing of Jason Davies of St. Joseph. Police say in court documents that Davies was hit several times with a baseball bat and a frying pan during a struggle, then was dumped in the river. In his confession, Wilson recalled seeing Davies's body and talking to other defendants about using a wheelbarrow to move it.

Man Injured in Wichita Fire Dies from Injuries

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A 95-year-old man has died from the injuries he suffered in a Wichita house fire. A Sedgwick County dispatch supervisor says the fire was reported around 5:10 am Friday. The Wichita Eagle reported that the man was found alive inside the home. He was rushed to the burn unit at a Wichita hospital, where he later died. No other details were immediately released, including the name of the victim or the cause of the fire.

KS Woman Swaps Wedding Rings for Chiefs Tickets

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — A suburban Kansas City woman who posted a Craigslist ad offering to swap her wedding rings for tickets to a Chiefs-Broncos game has made a deal that gets her seats for a second game, as well. The buyer, a Chiefs season ticket holder for two decades, says his fiance also will be getting something out of the transaction — a proposal. The Kansas City Star reports the Overland Park woman sent an email to local media Thursday saying she had exchanged the rings for two tickets to the November 24 Chargers game and four tickets to the Broncos game a week later. The woman says the rings were from a previous marriage and had no emotional importance to her anymore.

Former KU Lab Director Files Whistleblower Lawsuit

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A former University of Kansas lab director has filed suit claiming he was fired for reporting possible fictitious charges to federal grant funds for the use of an electron microscope and other equipment. David Moore's lawsuit also alleges improper financial management and accountability for KU's Microscopy Analysis and Imaging Laboratory in Lawrence. The lawsuit was filed in state court in Douglas County and was made public Thursday. Defendants include the Kansas Board of Regents and the university, which did not immediately respond to an email seeking comment. Moore claims the university inappropriately charged administration, overhead and related expenses to the lab that did not comply with federal rules for spending grant money. He also contends the university discriminated against him as a disabled person suffering attention deficit disorder.

KS Man's Escape Trial to Be Moved

SALINA, Kan. (AP) — A Kansas man will have his trial on a charge of escaping from jail held outside Saline County, in part because of public comments posted to online news articles about the defendant. The Salina Journal reports that District Judge Rene Young agreed Thursday to a change of venue for Antonio Brown. The 29-year-old Salina man was convicted last month of murder in the 2011 abuse death of 14-month- old Clayden Urbanek, the son of his former girlfriend. That trial was also held outside Saline County. Brown initially pleaded no contest in the death, but disappeared from the Saline County jail the day before his sentencing. He surrendered two days later in Wichita and withdrew the plea. Brown's attorney cited extensive pretrial publicity in seeking to move both of his trials.

KS Man Charged in MO with Smuggling Fake Botox

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — A federal grand jury has indicted a central Kansas man on charges that he worked with an Alton, Illinois company and its owner in a $3 million scheme to sell foreign versions of Botox and Juvederm. The U.S. attorney's office in Kansas City, Missouri says 43-year-old Christopher Tozier of Hesston, Kansas was charged Thursday with smuggling goods into the U.S. and several other similar counts. The superseding indictment adding Tozier replaces an indictment in April that charged Illinois-based Orthopaedic Solutions and its owner, 48-year-old Christopher Carstens, with similar counts. The superseding indictment alleges that Carstens and his company distributed nearly 5,900 units of foreign versions of Botox and Juvederm in the U.S. between 2008 and 2011 with a retail value of more than $3 million.

Kansas City Atheists Find a Place to Volunteer

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — A group of atheist volunteers from Kansas City has found a new place to volunteer after a Christian mission declined their offer to help deliver Thanksgiving meals to the needy. The Kansas City Star reports that the Independence Boulevard Christian Church invited the Kansas City Atheist Coalition to assist with a holiday meal before Thanksgiving. The offer came after the Kansas City Rescue Mission told the atheists they wouldn't be a good fit to help this year. The atheists had helped the mission for the past two years, but the mission decided to include religious messages with its charity services this year. The Independence Boulevard Christian Church pastor says it has never turned away volunteers. The atheist group says in its website that members are excited to help the less fortunate.

Sniffer Dog Doesn't Detect Pregnancy in KC's Polar Bear

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — If a dog that sniffs out pregnant polar bears is correct, the Kansas City Zoo isn't getting a new addition to its exhibit. The Kansas City Star reports that a beagle in Shawnee can tell whether a bear is pregnant by sniffing her waste. But the dog, named Elvis, didn't detect a pregnancy for Kansas City's female bear, Berlin. The Kansas City Zoo was among more than a dozen to submit a stool sample as part of a study being conducted by the Cincinnati zoo. The Cincinnati zoo's Center for Conservation and Research of Endangered Wildlife says Elvis has demonstrated 97 percent accuracy in detecting polar bear pregnancies. But the Kansas City Zoo plans to keep caring for Berlin as though she may be pregnant, just in case.

37 Charged in MO Drug Trafficking Conspiracies

SEDALIA, Mo. (AP) — A two-year investigation of drug trafficking and violent crime in the Sedalia area has led to indictments against 37 people from western and central Missouri. The U.S. Attorney's office in Kansas City says 28 defendants were picked up during a multi-agency sweep Thursday. Five others were already in custody, and four were still at large. The defendants are accused in a half-dozen indictments with taking part in conspiracies that distributed more than $1 million worth of cocaine and crack cocaine. Several are also charged with illegally possessing firearms. Most of the defendants are Sedalia residents. Several are from towns in neighboring Johnson County, Missouri. The remainder are from Columbia, Blue Springs and Raytown. Federal agents joined the Missouri Highway Patrol, several sheriffs' departments and police in Thursday's sweep.


Prized Recruit Cliff Alexander Picks KU

CHICAGO (AP) — Cliff Alexander of Chicago's Curie High School, one of the nation's top high school basketball recruits, says he's headed to the University of Kansas. The 6-foot-9 Alexander revealed his decision Friday during a ceremony at his school that was televised by ESPNU. He chose the Jayhawks over Illinois, DePaul and Memphis and teased the Fighting Illini during his announcement. He said, "After careful consideration, I have decided to continue my education at the University of ..." — he then paused to pick up an Illinois cap and put it back down before grabbing a KU hat — before finishing, "Kansas." Alexander led Curie to the Illinois Class 4A sectional semifinal before losing to Whitney Young and star center Jahlil Okafor, who verbally committed to Duke moments before Alexander's announcement.



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