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Regional Headlines for Monday, August 6, 2012


Kansas Crops Deteriorate Further Amid Heat, Little Rain

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas Agricultural Statistics Service says the state's corn and soybean crops are in the worst condition since the agency began keeping records in 1985. In its weekly update, the agency said Monday that 69 percent of the corn crop was in poor to very poor condition. About 22 percent was in fair condition, with just 8 percent rated good and only 1 percent rated excellent. About 7 percent of the state's corn acreage had been harvested for grain by Sunday. The hot, dry weather is also hurting soybeans, with 67 percent in poor to very poor condition. Sorghum is stressed as well, with 62 percent rated poor to very poor. Stock water supplies declined sharply in the past week, with only 28 percent of Kansas having adequate supplies.


Kansas Chamber Spends $394K in Days Before Primary

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The political action committee of the Kansas Chamber of Commerce has spent more than $394,000 on legislative races in the final days before Tuesday's party primaries. Campaign finance reports filed through Monday show most of the money went for mailings and radio spots for conservative Republicans running for state Senate. The chamber's PAC reported spending nearly $307,000 on Sunday alone, but chamber vice president Jeff Glendening said $45,000 of the spending also was listed in an earlier report. The chamber is backing efforts by GOP conservatives to oust a dozen moderate Republican senators in primary races, including Senate President Steve Morris, of Hugoton. But the chamber also is helping conservative candidates seeking open seats. Kansas allows PACs to spend unlimited amounts on ads promoting candidates if those activities aren't coordinated with the candidates.


Kansas Conservatives Seek Boost from GOP Contests

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Conservative Republicans hope Tuesday's primary in Kansas gives them control of the state Senate, where moderate GOP leaders have acted as the last serious check on the right's ambitions. Conservatives are backed by the influential Kansas Chamber of Commerce and the anti-tax, small-government group Americans for Prosperity. Moderates are getting help from the state's largest teachers' union and some labor organizations traditionally aligned with Democrats. Democrats also will choose nominees for Congress in two of the state's four districts, and there are contested primaries in two State Board of Education districts. Sixty-three of 125 state House districts have contested races. But the most closely watched races are for the state Senate. A dozen moderate GOP incumbents, including Senate President Steve Morris, of Hugoton, face challengers from farther right on the political spectrum.


GOP Moderates in Kansas May Get Help from Democrats

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Moderate Republicans trying to retain control of the Kansas Senate may get help from Democrats temporarily switching parties to vote against conservative challengers in Tuesday's GOP primaries. The state GOP allows only registered Republicans to vote in its primaries. Kansas Democratic Party chairwoman Joan Wagnon says local party officials have seen hundreds of people switch their affiliations to the GOP in counties with contested Senate races. Wagnon said Monday she believes the party-switching will be a significant factor. Voter registration numbers from Secretary of State Kris Kobach's office also suggested such a trend. But Kansas Republican Party executive director Clay Barker isn't sure the party-switching is widespread. Kansas has a dozen state Senate races pitting moderate GOP incumbents against more conservative challengers.

Vegetable Growers Say Bugs Adding to Crop Woes

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas vegetable farmers can add a plague of insects to their problems as their crops struggle to survive the ongoing drought. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports bugs are forcing farmers to divert more resources into irrigation and chemicals, cutting into their already dwindling profits. Several growers at a farmers market in Topeka on Saturday said aphids are out in full force, while others said squash bugs and some they can't identify are eating holes in their crops. What's not being consumed by the bugs is wilting in daily 100-degree temperatures, forcing many growers to throw out produce spoiled in the heat. Another problem is that some crops are maturing too early, prompting some to warn of watermelon shortages for Labor Day and a scarce supply of pumpkins for Halloween.

Construction Worker Killed on Highway Near Topeka

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A 22-year-old man working on a highway improvement project on Interstate 470 near Topeka died after he was hit by a car. The Kansas Highway Patrol says Curtis James Harlan of Arma died on impact Sunday. The accident occurred Sunday under an interstate bridge in Topeka. Harlan worked for R.A. Knapp Construction Inc., a Kansas City, Kansas contractor hired by the state transportation department to work on the pavement repair project. The patrol says the cause of the collision is still under investigation. The accident closed a section of Interstate 470 for several hours Sunday.


3 More Kansas Cities in Line for Google Fiber

WESTWOOD, Kan. (AP) — Google says it's reached tentative agreements to install its ultra-fast Internet service in three more Kansas communities. The technology company revealed plans and pricing two weeks ago for its Google Fiber service in Kansas City, Missouri, and Kansas City, Kansas. The Kansas City Star reports Google now has tentative agreements to offer the service in three small cities in northern Johnson County — Westwood, Westwood Hills and Mission Woods. The city councils in each community will have to approve the agreements. The Star says residents would get a chance to register only after residents on the Missouri side have signed up. Google Fiber will offer a variety of options for Internet connections and paid TV services.

Kansas Man Killed in Kite-Boarding Accident at Cheney Lake

CHENEY, Kan. (AP) — A Wichita man is dead after a weekend kite-boarding accident at a central Kansas lake. The Wichita Eagle reports the 42-year-old was knocked unconscious after a gust of wind caught his kite Saturday before it hit the water on the west side of Cheney Lake. Cheney State Park ranger Mike Satterlee says the accident occurred about 5:30 pm Saturday on the west side of the Kingman County lake. Witnesses pulled the man from the water and administered CPR until rescue crews arrived and pronounced him dead at the scene. Satterlee says kite boarding is common on the east side of the lake but moves to the west side when the wind is more favorable there.

Thousands of Fish Die as Midwest Streams Heat Up

LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) — Thousands of fish are dying in the Midwest as the sizzling summer dries up rivers and raises water temperatures in some spots to nearly 100 degrees. About 40,000 shovelnose sturgeon were killed in Iowa last week as water temperatures reached 97 degrees. Nebraska fishery officials say they've seen thousands of dead catfish, carp, and other species in the Lower Platte River, including the endangered pallid sturgeon. Officials in Illinois say the drought has claimed tens of thousands of large- and smallmouth bass and channel catfish and killed many of the endangered greater redhorse fish. The fish are dying amid one of the hottest and driest summer in decades. More than 3,000 heat records were broken over the last month.


Wichita Library Re-Opening After Bedbug Problem

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — The Wichita public library will reopen its main branch Tuesday after dealing with bedbugs that were found last week. A patron reported seeing an insect last Wednesday in a chair at the downtown branch. An expert identified it as a bedbug, and a search turned up more of the insects on chairs in two lounge areas. Library officials brought in pest control companies and a dog trained to detect bedbugs to search the premises. All of the lounge seating has been removed, and other seating and some materials on shelves have been treated. Library director Cynthia Berner Harris says any patrons worried that they might have borrowed infested materials should return them in zippered plastic bags.

Wichita Police Say Deputy, Not Impostor, Made Traffic Stop

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Wichita police say a man they thought was posing as a Kansas Highway Patrol trooper during a weekend traffic stop was really an off-duty Sedgwick County sheriff's deputy. Police spokesman Sergeant Scott Brunow said Sunday that he had no other details about what happened in the incident, which took place at 1 am Saturday. A city officer thought he had come upon a routine traffic stop by the Highway Patrol and pulled up behind what looked like an unmarked state trooper's car to provide backup. The officer conducting the traffic stop bolted back to his car, flipped on his lights and sirens and sped away. The woman he had stopped also drove away. Afterward, the Police Department issued a warning about a fake, heavyset patrolman wearing a loose-fitting uniform making traffic stops.

Wichita Engineer Part of Historic Mars Mission

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — As NASA's unmanned rover landed on Mars very early this (MON) morning, a Wichita engineer was part of the crew monitoring the historic mission. The rover, named Curiosity, landed on Mars just past midnight to begin a nearly two-year expedition aimed at determining whether Mars can harbor life. Propulsion engineer Todd Barber of Wichita has worked with NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory since 1990. Barber's work so far with Curiosity has involved checking the pressure and temperature in the module's propulsion systems while the rover made its way to Mars. The Wichita Eagle reports that Barber's friends and family were able to watch Barber through a web cam as he watched Curiosity's landing.

Ex-Defense Chief Gates to Address Wichita Chamber

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Former U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates will return to his hometown in November to address the annual meeting of the Wichita Metro Chamber of Commerce. It will be the second Wichita appearance this year for Gates, who is also a former director of the Central Intelligence Agency. He was on hand in May when the Kansas National Guard renamed its intelligence complex at McConnell Air Force Base in his honor. The chamber's meeting will be held at Century II on November 12, coinciding with the national observance of Veterans Day. The chamber plans to honor area service members at the gathering. Gates is a 1961 graduate of Wichita East High School. He is currently chancellor of the College of William & Mary, where he earned a bachelor's degree in 1965.


Trial Begins in Districts' Lawsuit Against KC

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — The trial has begun in a lawsuit filed by six suburban school districts over student transfers from the unaccredited Kansas City school district.  Blue Springs, Independence, Lee's Summit, North Kansas City and Raytown districts filed suit late last year over how student transfers from Kansas City will be paid for and how transportation issues will be handled. The trial began Monday in Jackson County (Missouri) court. Kansas City agreed to make monthly payments totaling $3,700 per student. The five districts are all seeking more than that per student. The suburban districts have asked a judge to either block the transfers until the policy is clarified, or require Kansas City to pay transportation and tuition costs of all students who want to transfer.

Summit Aims to Expand Kansas Aviation Sector

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Aircraft maker Airbus says it plans to double the $12 billion it now spends with U.S. suppliers. Airbus America's chairman Allan McArtor told representatives from 114 companies attending an aviation supplier conference Monday that his company is the largest export customer for the U.S. aerospace industry. He says 40 percent of what the company uses in their planes comes from U.S. companies. McArtor was in Wichita with U.S. Senator Jerry Moran to host the first Air Capital Supplier Summit. The event comes just months after Airbus's biggest competitor, Boeing, announced plans to close its defense plant in Wichita. The Kansas aerospace industry encompasses more than 450 companies and accounts for more than 32,000 direct jobs. Airbus has an engineering center in Wichita, which employs more than 350 people.

Pittsburg Health Center Planning $5.3 Million Project

PITTSBURG, Kan. (AP) — Pittsburg and state officials are celebrating the planned $5.3 million expansion of a community health center. A groundbreaking ceremony was held Sunday for the expansion at the Community Health Center of Southeast Kansas, which has seen its patient load double in the first four years of operation. The Joplin Globe reports a grant through the new federal health care law will provide most of the funds for the project. The project will nearly triple the number of critical care exam areas at the clinic. Currently, doctors are using closets and restrooms to treat patients and as office space. The clinic is one of five in Kansas receiving federal funding to expand. Clinics in Junction City, Hutchinson, Salina and Wichita also will receive federal funds.

2nd Defendant Goes to Trial for Slaying of Topeka Woman

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The second of nine people accused in the shooting death of a Topeka woman goes on trial this week. Seventeen-year-old Daquan Wilkins's trial on murder and other charges begins Monday in Shawnee County Court. He's accused of participating in the shooting death of 40-year-old Natalie Gibson and the wounding of Gibson's partner, 42-year-old Lori Allison. The women were shot in July 2011 during an attempted robbery at their home. Anceo Stovall was the first defendant tried in the case. In late July, a jury found Stovall guilty of aggravated robbery and acquitted him of burglary but could not reach verdicts on nine other charges. Prosecutors say they will try Stovall again.


Another Heat-Related Death Confirmed in Kansas City

Kansas City health officials say they have confirmed a fourth heat-related death from this summer. The Kansas City Health Department said Monday a man born in 1951 died of heat-related causes. The department says that another six deaths in the area are being investigated as possibly heat-related. Missouri state health officials say there have been 29 confirmed heat deaths in Missouri this year. Gena Terlizzi, a spokeswoman for the health department, says 21 of the deaths have been in St. Louis and St. Louis County; four in Kansas City; two in Phelps County; and one each in Randolph and Pettis counties. She says the state has also received reports of 1,078 heat-related emergency room visits this year.


Emerald Ash Borer Spreading Across Midwest 

LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) — A threat to the region's ash trees has been found in northwest Missouri, less than 100 miles from Nebraska and approximately four miles from the Wyandotte County, Kansas line. The Missouri Departments of Agriculture and Conservation and the U.S. Department of Agriculture say the emerald ash borer has been confirmed near Parkville, which sits on the northwest side of Kansas City, Missouri. Mark Harrell, of the Nebraska Forest Service, says there have been no confirmed sightings in Nebraska yet. Ash trees account for 25 percent to 35 percent of trees in Nebraska. In Iowa, where sightings have been confirmed on the northeast side of the state, there are an estimated 88 million ash trees. Concerns about the spread of the pest are causing worry in Kansas, as well, where there are approximately 56 million green and white ash trees. Kansas Department of Agriculture officials are surveying the Parkville area and responding to citizen calls about suspected infestations. Kansans are being asked to call 785-862-2180 or e-mail a name, address, and phone number and pictures of the suspect tree to if they suspect they may have emerald ash borer insects on their property.  Larvae of the emerald ash borer beetle drill into ash trees, eat through vascular tissue and stop the flow of water. For more information on the threats posed by the emerald ash borer, visit the Kansas Department of Agricuture website's information page on the pest. 

Mother's Boyfriend Charged in SW Missouri Child Abuse Death 

JOPLIN, Mo. (AP) — A southwest Missouri man has been charged with killing his girlfriend's 18-month-old daughter. The Joplin Globe reported that the Newton County prosecutor's office filed a second-degree murder charge Monday against 24-year-old Bryant L. Sykes Jr. He had been in custody since Wednesday on a charge of first-degree assault, with his bond set at $250,000. The 24-year-old is accused of physically abusing Ada Bowman at a rural Joplin mobile home park. The toddler never regained consciousness after being hospitalized Tuesday and died Saturday morning at Kansas City hospital. Ada suffered bleeding in her brain and injuries to her liver, spleen and ribs. The girl's mother, 22-year-old Gina Salazar, has been charged with child endangerment and hindering prosecution. No attorneys are listed for Sykes or Salazar in online court records.


Police: Ohio Boys, 13, Drove to Missouri in Stolen Car

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — Police say two 13-year-old boys stole a parent's BMW in Ohio this weekend and drove it hundreds of miles to Kansas City, Missouri, where they were found sleeping in the car in an alley. Kansas City police say the runaways from Columbus were taken into custody Monday morning by police investigating a suspicious vehicle that matched the description of the  BMW. Captain Steve Young says police in Missouri knew the boys might pass through the area because of information that had been posted to Facebook. A mother of one of the boys says he had wanted to go to California, and she believes they were headed there.  Police say they were turned over to the Jackson County Family Court. Arrangements are being made for the boys to return to Ohio.


Community College to Launch Oil Technology Program

GARDEN CITY, Kan. (AP) — Garden City Community College is adding a new program that teaches students to drill and extract oil from underground reservoirs. The western Kansas school recently received approval from the Kansas Board of Regents for the new program. The curriculum will involve a series of classroom, lab and field courses covering safety, moving, set-up and operation of equipment used in mineral exploration. Students must complete 22 credit hours to earn a certificate in oil exploration and 36 for one in production. Those credits also can be used to help complete an associate in applied science degree, which requires 67 credit hours. Students can begin taking some of the core courses in the upcoming fall semester. The program is expected to be in full operation by the spring semester.


UPDATE: Joplin Mosque Razed in Fire; 2nd Blaze This Summer

JOPLIN, Mo. (AP) — Investigators say it will take a few days to determine if the fire that destroyed a southwest Missouri mosque was arson. Michael Kaste, special agent in charge of the FBI's Kansas City office, said Monday that the agency is taking the investigation into the fire at the Islamic Society of Joplin very seriously. He says the FBI and the Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco and Firearms together have about 30 investigators working to determine the cause. No injuries were reported. Jasper County officials say patrols at the mosque had been stepped up since a July 4 fire at the mosque was determined to be arson. The FBI has released a video of a man appearing to set the July 4 fire and is offering a $15,000 reward in that case.

Royals Cut Betancourt, Call Up Abreu from Minor Leagues

 KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Slumping infielder Yuniesky Betancourt has been cut by the Kansas City Royals after beginning the season as the team's starting second baseman. Betancourt was designated for assignment Sunday following Kansas City's 7-6 victory over the Texas Rangers in 10 innings. To replace him, the Royals selected the contract of infielder Tony Abreu from Triple-A Omaha. Betancourt, 30, signed a $2 million, one-year contract in December, rejoining the Royals after playing for them from 2009-10. He snapped an 0-for-20 skid with a double on Friday, then started at third base Sunday and went 0 for 4 to drop his average to .228. The 27-year-old Abreu was hitting .322 with nine home runs, 36 doubles, five triples and 73 RBIs in 103 games with Omaha. He has a .251 batting average in 146 major league games with the Los Angeles Dodgers and Arizona Diamondbacks.


Chiefs Working on New-Look Offense  

ST. JOSEPH, Mo. (AP) — After finishing next-to-last in scoring last season, the Kansas City Chiefs have several reasons to hope for a big offensive rebound. Pro Bowl running back Jamaal Charles is back from ACL surgery, as is tight end Tony Moeaki. A new offensive coordinator, Brian Daboll, has installed a new offense, and quarterback Matt Cassel looks to be 100 percent healed from a hand injury that shelved him for the last seven games in 2011. Kansas City also will be counting on a trio of free agent acquisitions: right tackle Eric Winston, running back Peyton Hillis and tight end Kevin Boss. Romeo Crennel, who has replaced Todd Haley as head coach, refuses to put a label on his new system other than calling it "a winning offense."


Muslim Group Offers $10,000 in Joplin Mosque Fire 

JOPLIN, Mo. (AP) — A national Muslim civil rights group is offering a $10,000 reward for information leading to the conviction of people who may have started a fire that destroyed a Joplin mosque. The fire early Monday destroyed the Islamic Society of Joplin's mosque, where a smaller fire that was determined to be arson was reported in July. Fire officials are still determining a cause for Monday's fire. The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) announced the $10,000 reward Monday and asked for increased police protection at Muslim and Sikh institutions and houses of worship. A gunman killed six people at a Sikh temple near Milwaukee on Sunday before being shot and killed by police. CAIR said in a news release that Sikh men who wear beards and turbans are often mistaken for Muslims.

**this story has been updated. Please see above. 

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