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Regional Headlines for Friday, November 22, 2013


Groups Seek to Participate in KS/AZ Voter Registration Lawsuit

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The national League of Women Voters and the group's Kansas and Arizona chapters are seeking to intervene in a federal lawsuit over proof-of-citizenship laws in the two states. The groups filed their requests Thursday in a federal court case in Kansas. The national advocacy group Common Cause, three Arizona-based Hispanic-rights groups and an Arizona political consultant also filed requests to intervene. Last week, a Washington-based voter registration group, three Arizona-based advocacy groups and an Arizona state senator sought to intervene. The lawsuit was filed in August by Kansas and Arizona and Secretaries of State Kris Kobach and Ken Bennett. They're trying to force the federal government to modify a national voter registration form to help the states enforce policies that require new voters to produce citizenship papers when registering.

Kobach Says He's Not Seeking Dual Voter System

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Secretary of State Kris Kobach says he's not trying to impose a dual voter registration system in Kansas, as a new lawsuit alleges. Kobach said Thursday his office is only doing planning and hopes to avoid a system treating voters differently, based on what registration forms they use. The lawsuit was filed in Shawnee County District Court by the American Civil Liberties Union on behalf of a gay rights group and two voters. It seeks to block Kobach from limiting voters who use a federal voter registration form to voting only in federal races and not local and state contests. The federal form doesn't require people to comply with the state's proof-of-citizenship requirement. But Kobach notes that he's pushing the federal government to change its form.

Kansas Unemployment Dips to 5.6 Percent in October

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas is reporting that its unemployment rate dropped slightly to 5.6 percent in October, and the state saw a gain in private sector jobs over the year. The state Department of Labor reported Thursday that the seasonally adjusted unemployment rate last month declined from the 5.7 percent recorded in September. The jobless rate also was 5.6 percent in October 2012. But the department said in Kansas the number of people holding nonfarm jobs in the private sector was 18,400 higher in October than in October 2012, for a total of 1.12 million. The rate of growth was 1.7 percent. The most robust sector in over-the-year job growth was in business and professional services, which saw employment rise 5.2 percent to nearly 167,000.

Proposal: End Cost Studies for Some Rate Increases

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The chairman of the Kansas Corporation Commission is proposing ending cost studies for proposed rate increases that are less than 10 percent. KCC chairman Mark Sievers made the suggestion in a statement responding to Westar Energy's recent $30.7 million rate request, which was approved Thursday. Sievers suggested that the commission could presume rate increases of less than 10 percent are reasonable. He says that would save time and the expense of cost allocation and rate design studies. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that cost allocation was an issue in Westar's latest case because the utility sought larger increases for residential and small commercial customers. The Citizens' Utility Ratepayer Board argued residents should pay less of the increase. The utility and CURB used different formulas to reach their conclusions.


UPDATE: Army Makes Changes to Gender Study Staff Following Controversial Email

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Pentagon officials say an Army colonel who wrote an internal email suggesting that photos of attractive women should be avoided in promotional materials has stepped down from her duties involving a gender study. Pentagon officials said Friday that Colonel Lynnette Arnhart had agreed to step aside from leading a gender integration study. According to Politico, which first reported the email's contents this week, Arnhart stated that "average-looking women" should be used in Army materials used to attract women for combat roles. Arnhart is stationed at Fort Leavenworth as part of the Army's Training and Doctrine Command Analysis Center. In addition, Wright said that Colonel Christian Kubik, a public affairs officer, was suspended for his involvement in the email. Messages seeking comment from Arnhart and Kubik weren't immediately returned.


Probation for KS Woman Accused in Scheme

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — A Jefferson County woman accused of trying to trade a government assistance check to hire someone to kill a former boyfriend has been sentenced to probation. The Lawrence Journal-World reports that Rebecca Burch of Lakeside Village pleaded guilty earlier this year to conspiracy to commit aggravated battery and great bodily harm. She has been sentenced to two years' probation in Jefferson County District Court. Burch also has to comply with recommendations of her mental health care providers as a condition of her probation. Burch was charged in June for allegedly trying to trade a government assistance check for killing a former boyfriend. She was arrested after an undercover officer posing as a prospective contract killer contacted her about the scheme.


Visitors Rescued After Elevator Malfunction at KS Detention Center 

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — An elevator at the Shawnee County Juvenile Detention Center became stuck, trapping 17 visitors for more than an hour. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports a child who was among those stuck in the elevator Tuesday evening was taken to a Topeka hospital with anxiety issues. Major Tim Phelps of the Shawnee County Department of Corrections says the elevator's computer determined it was carrying more than its 2,100-pound capacity, causing the elevator to freeze between the second and third floors to keep it from falling. Corrections employees contacted the company that services their elevators, and the people inside were freed after about an hour and 20 minutes. Phelps says the corrections department plans to be more aggressive about not letting visitors overload elevators.


Driver in KS School Bus Crash Facing Charges

DOUGLASS, Kan. (AP) — A southern Kansas school bus driver has been charged with endangering a child and reckless driving after his bus carrying 10 children slid off a road and into a rain-swollen creek. KAKE-TV reports that 64-year-old Morris F. Peterson was charged Friday in Butler County for the October 31 incident in which he and the students had to be rescued by emergency responders. Three children suffered minor injuries. The Kansas Highway Patrol released a report earlier this month saying the driver misjudged the edge railing and drove off the side of the water-covered bridge. Peterson is no longer employed by the Douglass school district. He was suspended on November 4 and his resignation was accepted a week later. Both charges are misdemeanors. It wasn't immediately clear if Peterson had an attorney.


Fort Scott Man Sentenced to Life for Wife's Death

FORT SCOTT, Kan. (AP) — A 26-year-old southeast Kansas man has been sentenced to life in prison for killing his wife, injuring his son and burning the family's home down near Fort Scott. Brent Bollinger of Fort Scott was convicted in September of first-degree murder, aggravated arson and aggravated child endangerment. His wife, Brenna Nicole Bollinger, was found dead after a fire at the couple's home on October 13, 2011. Their 2-year-old son, Bryson Bollinger, was hospitalized for treatment of burns for about a month after the fire. Bollinger also suffered serious burns in the fire. Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt says Bollinger will not be eligible for parole for 25 years and eight months.


Charges Filed in 2010 Fatal Crash

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A 25-year-old northeast Kansas man has been charged in head-on crash that killed a Topeka man in 2010. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that Aaron Emerson Meade, of Meriden, is charged with involuntary manslaughter while driving under the influence after a crash in March 2010 that killed 50-year-old Neil L. Highsmith. Shawnee County District Court records show Meade was charged November 15. He was booked into the Shawnee County jail Thursday, where he was being held on a $50,000 cash or surety bond. Lee McGowan, chief of staff for the county district attorney's office, said he couldn't comment on the case or why it took more than 3½ years to file charges.

KU Student Newspaper Writer Resigns After Lifting Portions of Column

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — A University Daily Kansan columnist has resigned after his editors found that he lifted much of a recent column from another publication. In an editorial published Thursday, the Kansan reported writer Bryenn Bierwirth had resigned and apologized for the column. It says Bierwirth's column on hospice care and dying "borrowed" its key points from an article published last year by The Guardian. The Lawrence Journal-World reports that Bierwirth was an opinion columnist and account executive for the Kansan. Editor-in-chief Trevor Graff wrote that the paper would be reviewing its procedures to prevent similar problems in the future. The Kansan is the university's student newspaper and operates independently from the school.

4 Arrested in Shooting Near KCK Elementary School

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) — Police say four people were arrested after a shooting in which at least one bullet entered an elementary school in Kansas City, Kansas. No one was injured in the shooting Wednesday near Whittier Elementary School. Police on Thursday chased a vehicle thought to be connected to the shooting. The vehicle eventually was stopped by a tire-puncturing device on Interstate 670 and the four people were taken into custody.


Jury Convicts Ex-Doctor on Firearm, Drug Charges

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A federal jury has convicted a former Kansas doctor of illegally having a handgun and drugs. Jurors found 57-year-old Lawrence M. Simons of Wichita guilty Thursday of unlawful possession of a firearm after a felony conviction and unlawful possession of controlled substances. The jury found him not guilty of illegally possessing ammunition. Simons, a convicted felon, was on probation when he was accused earlier this year of giving a bondsman a gun as partial payment for bailing him out of jail in an unrelated domestic threat case. Prosecutors also contend that because he had earlier surrendered his license to write prescriptions, he could not lawfully possess drugs that were later found in storage lockers. Simons was first convicted in 2010 for unlawfully distributing controlled substances. He'll be sentenced February 10.


Court Changes Scheduling in KS Illegal Drug Case

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A federal judge is approving changes in hearing schedules in a case involving a Manhattan doctor accused of illegally distributing prescriptions from his Kansas clinic. U.S. District Court Judge Julie Robinson approved the motion late Thursday to grant time for plea negotiations to continue between prosecutors and attorneys for 53-year-old Michael P. Schuster. Schuster is charged with one count each of conspiracy to illegally distribute controlled substances, drug distribution, unlawfully distributing drugs to a person under 21 years old and using and maintaining a premises for drug distribution. Prosecutors allege Schuster signed blank prescription pads that his staff used to give painkiller prescriptions to patients when Schuster was out of the country. Robinson's order delays court action from January until early February, with a trial date of May 19.


Former KU Football Player's Trial Moved to March

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — A trial has been rescheduled for a former University of Kansas football player accused of robbery. Chris Martin was scheduled to appear in Douglas County court for trial Monday. His case has been moved to March 3. The Lawrence Journal-World reports that Martin faces one count of aggravated robbery in a May 13 armed robbery during a home invasion in Lawrence. Martin's free on a $35,000 bond. Martin was dismissed from the KU football program in June. The program recruited Martin as a four-star defensive end, but he never played a game for the Jayhawks. His lawyer didn't immediately return a message seeking comment. Another former KU football player, Jeremiah Edwards, was sentenced to three years of probation for his part in the robbery.

MO Governor Nixon Critical of Diverting Water to KS

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Missouri Governor Jay Nixon says diverting Missouri River water to Kansas would be "ill-advised." In a letter sent Thursday to Kansas Governor Sam Brownback, Nixon says Kansas water officials should reconsider studying the feasibility of building a 360-mile aqueduct. Kansas officials envision diverting as much as 4 million acre feet of Missouri River water and sending it west to support irrigated farming of corn and other crops. Plans to move forward with the aqueduct study were announced Tuesday. The talk comes amid concerns that the current use of the Ogallala Aquifer to support Kansas agriculture is unsustainable. Nixon says the river is "the lifeblood of numerous Missouri communities." He noted the river is used for drinking water and to ship goods to market.



KC Officer Pleads Guilty to Assault

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — A Kansas City police officer has pleaded guilty to assault for hitting a suspect several times during an arrest. Carl Counti pleaded guilty Friday to third-degree assault and was sentenced to two years' probation and 30 days in jail. Counti resigned from the department Thursday. The 21-year-old suspect was taken into custody October 5 after he jumped out of a car and ran from police. Officers caught him a short while later and handcuffed him when he continued to resist. Court records said Counti struck the suspect in the head and face at least six times. A photo taken of the suspect after the arrest shows his right eye blackened and swollen shut. The incident was discovered by a police supervisor who reviewed dashboard videotape of the arrest.



French Business Tech Company Opening Office in KC

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — A France-based business intelligence technology company is establishing a North American headquarters in Kansas City and is expected to hire 44 employees within the next five years. Missouri Governor Jay Nixon on Thursday announced that BIME Analytics is investing roughly $390,000 to locate in the city's Crossroads District. BIME was founded in 2009 and is a cloud computing company that offers easy-to-use business intelligence data. Though it's based in Montpellier, France, the company says nearly one-third of its clients are in North America. Company CEO and co-founder Rachel Delacour says Kansas City was chosen because the city is a growing technology hub and the state has a friendly corporate tax structure.

Emporia State Gets $200K Gift from Donor

EMPORIA, Kan. (AP) — Emporia State University has received an anonymous gift of $200,000. The university said in a release Thursday that the donor also gave the school nearly $200,000 on another occasion. Emporia State says the two donations will establish its Distinguished Business Scholar program. Jennifer Denton, Emporia State Foundation vice president for stewardship and administration, said the same person is also making a planned gift to bring the endowed scholarship fund to $1 million. The school is involved in a fundraising campaign to raise about $45 million. To date, the campaign has recorded gifts and pledges of nearly $20 million.

Judge Delays Trial in Kansas Restaurant Case

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A judge has delayed until next year the trial of two Wichita restaurant operators accused of employing people who are in the country unlawfully. U.S. District Judge J. Thomas Marten on Thursday postponed the trial of 33-year-old Yong Lin and his wife, 29-year-old Zhuo Mei Weng, until March 11. The couple had been previously scheduled to go to trial on December 17. The couple is charged with conspiracy and harboring people who are in the U.S. unlawfully. The indictment alleges they paid the workers at their World Buffet Grill in cash and failed to complete employment eligibility forms. The judge noted in his order that the defense needs more time to review and discuss the evidence with the couple. He also noted other professional obligations of counsel warranted a delay.

KCMO City Council Moves to Sever Museum from Union Station

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — The Kansas City Council is considering a proposal that would have the city take responsibility for the Kansas City Museum's collection. Under the proposal, which was referred to a council committee Thursday, Union Station would relinquish its control of the museum's collection. Union Station director George Guastello says the proposal is a good solution to a continuing controversy over the collection. The Kansas City Star reports that the new arrangement would take effect May 1. The agreement does not address ownership of the museum's collection. But it would make the city responsible for storing and maintaining the collection. The city would keep the nearly $1.4 million generated annually by a property tax to support the museum, but would pay Union Station $131,000 a year for storage space.

Georgetown University Bounces Back, Defeats K-State 90-63

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico (AP) — D'Vauntes Smith-Rivera had 25 points to lead four Georgetown starters in double-figures as the Hoyas overwhelmed Kansas State in a 90-63 men's basketball victory on Friday at the Puerto Rico Tip-Off. Jabril Trawick added 16 points for the Hoyas (2-2). Georgetown coach John Thompson III didn't hold his tongue in critiquing his team's dismal second-half performance in its opening-game loss to Northeastern on Thursday. The Hoyas responded by playing much more fluidly in their offensive sets and by limiting their mistakes. They led by as many as 29 and shot 63 percent from the field for the game with 19 assists. Kansas State (2-3) fell in a 10-0 hole early and never could sting together a meaningful run. Thomas Gipson led the Wildcats with 18 points. In his third game back after from injury Gipson got more involved, but again was stunted early because of foul trouble.




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