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Regional Headlines for Monday, January 27, 2014


Woman Held in Florida Charged in KS Death

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — A 19-year-old Lawrence woman has been charged with first-degree murder in the death of a businessman whose home she shared. Sarah Brooke Gonzales McLinn had been the subject of a search since the body of 52-year-old Harold Sasko was found January 17. Lawrence Police Chief Tarik Khatib says park rangers found McLinn on Sunday camping in Everglades National Park in Florida. McLinn was in federal custody in Homestead, Florida. Douglas County District Attorney Charles Branson filed the murder charge Monday and said McLinn will be extradited to Kansas. Authorities had refused to say during the search for McLinn whether she was considered a suspect or victim. Sasko owned three pizza restaurants in Topeka and Lawrence.


Kansas Unemployment Rate Falls to 4.9 Percent

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A new report says the Kansas economy continued to improve at the end of 2013 as the state's unemployment rate dipped below 5 percent for the first time since 2008. The Department of Labor said Monday the seasonally adjusted rate fell to 4.9 percent in December from November's 5.1 percent. Last month's figure was also down from 5.5 percent in December 2012. Labor Secretary Lana Gordon says Kansas gained 10,000 nonfarm jobs in 2013, the second consecutive year the state added more than 10,000 jobs to payrolls. Nine of the 11 major industry sectors posted job gains last year, topped by professional and business services with about 3,900 jobs added. Declines of 100 jobs were reported in government employment and 800 jobs in the trade, transportation and utilities sector.


KS Bill Would Make Paid Surrogacy a Crime

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A Kansas Senate committee's chairwoman is pushing a proposal that would make it illegal to pay women to be surrogate mothers and void existing surrogacy contracts. The Public Health and Welfare Committee was meeting Monday afternoon to begin two days of hearings on the proposal from Shawnee Republican Mary Pilcher-Cook. The bill is patterned after a law in the District of Columbia. Pilcher-Cook has said she's concerned that Kansas has no laws dealing with surrogacy contracts and she worries about women being exploited. The measure would cover both oral and written surrogacy contracts. A person who arranges a contract for pay or other compensation would be guilty of a misdemeanor and could face up to a year in jail and a fine of up to $10,000.


Kansas Measure Against Surrogacy Draws Opposition

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Parents, doctors and women who have been surrogate mothers are strongly criticizing a Kansas Senate bill to void existing surrogacy contracts and make it illegal to pay women to serve as surrogates. The Senate Public Health and Welfare Committee heard testimony Monday on the measure drafted by committee chairwoman Mary Pilcher-Cook, a Republican from Shawnee. Pilcher-Cook and other supporters of the bill said they're worried about the health of surrogate children and the women who bear them, as well as the possible exploitation of poor women. But women who have been surrogates testified that it was a positive experience, and parents of children birthed by surrogate mothers said others shouldn't be denied the same option. And Wichita physician David Grainger said such a law would have criminalized Jesus's conception.


KS Mulls Response to Uncertainty on Gay Marriage

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — In an uncertain legal climate for states banning gay marriage, Kansas lawmakers are considering a proposal designed to protect individuals, groups and businesses refusing for religious reasons to recognize same-sex unions or to provide benefits to gay couples. Republican State Representative Charles Macheers of Shawnee says the bill is designed to protect religious freedom. Republican Governor Sam Brownback is receptive to the idea, though he hasn't yet studied the proposal enough to offer a formal endorsement. But critics say the measure promotes discrimination against gays and lesbians but is so broadly written that it could affect any gay or straight couple with a less-than-traditional union. The Kansas House's Federal and State Affairs Committee scheduled a Tuesday morning hearing on the measure.

Bill Would Put Kansas Court Rulings on Time Limit

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A key Senate leader is pushing passage of a measure that would restrict the amount of time judges in the Kansas court system could take before issuing opinions. Senate Vice President Jeff King said the bill would set a deadline for district courts, the Kansas Court of Appeals and the Kansas Supreme Court to issue an opinion once a case has been heard. The measure has been introduced in the Senate Judiciary Committee, chaired by the Independence Republican. While King says no one case prompted the bill, legislators have been waiting on the Supreme Court to issue its ruling on a school finance lawsuit that was heard on appeal by the justices in October. No date was mentioned when the court pronounced that it would "take the matter under advisement."


Missing Atchison Man Found Dead in Missouri River

ATCHISON, Kan. (AP) — A body found in a pickup truck pulled from the Missouri River has been identified as that of an Atchison man missing since late December. Sixty-nine-year-old Garry Clyde Sandy had last been seen December 28 at an Atchison convenience store. A statewide Silver Alert was issued for him January 10, a day after co-workers at a Wal-Mart store reported him missing. Atchison Police Chief Mike Wilson told the St. Joseph News-Press that someone walking near the northeast Kansas community's downtown area spotted the pickup truck in the river Sunday. Sandy's identity was confirmed Monday. Wilson says there are no indications of foul play, but authorities are awaiting results of an autopsy. It's also not clear how long the truck had been in the water.


KS Agency Launches $380K Problem Gambling Effort

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A Kansas agency is collaborating with other groups to launch a $380,000 problem gambling campaign aimed at raising public awareness and helping addicts receive treatment. The program announced Monday is called "Know Your Limits" and is using television, radio and social media sites to spread the word statewide. Shawn Sullivan, head of the Kansas Department for Aging and Disability Services, said the campaign was part of $1.3 million the state was spending on problem gambling issues. Sullivan said the agency's research indicates that most problem gamblers also suffer from other addictions, such as alcohol, drugs or tobacco use. Last year, 118 people were treated for problem gambling through programs offered by the state agency. Funds for the programs are provided by state-owned casinos.

New Zealand Signs $127M Beechcraft Military Deal

WELLINGTON, New Zealand (AP) — New Zealand has signed a $127 million contract with Wichita-based Beechcraft Corporation for military pilot training. Defense Minister Jonathan Coleman said Monday that the contract includes 11 Beechcraft T-6C turboprop planes as well as ground simulators and training systems that will be implemented in classrooms and on computers. Trainee pilots will begin using the new system in 2016. New Zealand has a defense force of about 14,000. It stationed a small number of troops in Afghanistan for a decade before withdrawing them last year. U.S. Embassy Chargé d'Affaires Colin Crosby says the announcement is great news for New Zealand's Air Force and good news for U.S. business. New Zealand military pilots are currently trained on systems provided by Pacific Aerospace and Beechcraft that the government considers outdated.


2 Men Sentenced in Kansas Cargo Heist Case

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A California man who tried to steal a truckload of beef from a southwest Kansas slaughterhouse has been sentenced to a year and a day in federal prison. U.S. District Judge Monti Belot sentenced Oganes Nagapetian on Monday for conspiracy to commit interstate shipment fraud. But the judge gave Tigran Nagapetian a probationary sentence for the less serious crime of hiding a felony for lying to authorities and concealing his brother's actions. Both are from North Hollywood, California. The brothers are accused of trying to steal nearly $88,000 worth of beef from Tyson Fresh Meats in Holcomb by posing as legitimate freight haulers. Prosecutor say cargo thefts using trucker identities involve a sophisticated scheme, but Oganes Nagapetian is not the brains behind the operation.


Bomb Suspect Was Awarded National Defense Medal

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A Kansas man accused of plotting a suicide bomb attack at a Wichita airport is a former Marine who was awarded the National Defense Service Medal. The Associated Press obtained the military records of avionics technician Terry L. Loewen through a Freedom of Information Act request. Loewen was arrested December 13, accused of trying to drive a van carrying what he thought was a bomb onto the tarmac at Wichita Mid-Continent Airport. Charges include attempted material support to al-Qaida. The National Defense Service Medal is awarded for honorable military service during a designated combat time. Loewen's military service briefly spanned the Vietnam War period. Loewen was on active duty for training in 1974. He served in the Marine Corps Reserves from 1973 to 1982, reaching the rank of sergeant.


Fire District Treasurer Pleads Guilty to Theft

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A former treasurer of a rural Kansas fire district has pleaded guilty to embezzling more than $425,000 from the district and has agreed to pay the money back. Richard Bontrager of Holton pleaded guilty on Monday to one count of embezzlement. He admitted that from 2008 to 2012 he stole money from the Mayetta fire district by issuing checks with forged signatures to a fictitious company and depositing the money into his account. The 67-year-old also admitted falsifying loan documents obligating the fire district to make monthly lease payments on a Polaris Ranger and 1988 Chevrolet 1-ton brush truck. Prosecutors have said the thefts left the district unable to pay its bills. He faces up to 10 years in federal prison and a $250,000 fine when he's sentenced April 14.


Lack of Funds Jeopardizes WSU Orchestra's Trip

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Wichita State University's symphony orchestra is invited to represent Kansas at a musical festival in Europe but may have to skip the trip because of low funds. The university's musicians are invited to play at the 2014 American Celebration of Music in Austria. But the trip for about 60 members would cost about $3,500 per student. Mark Laycock, WSU director of orchestras, says some members have committed $1,000 of their own money but they still need about $120,000 by the end of January. Rodney Miller, dean of the school's College of Fine Arts, says no state money is available for the trip, and the college has limited funds. Orchestra members have formed a fundraising committee and are waiting to hear if they'll get more help from student fees.

3 Dogs Abandoned After Wichita Owner's Suicide

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A Wichita area woman is seeking a home for three older dogs whose owner committed suicide in December. The Wichita Eagle reports that the dogs are 10-year-old cattle dog and Doberman mixes. They are litter mates and have lived their entire lives together. Carlene Hinton has hopes to keep it that way. Animal control took the dogs, who wound up at the Kansas Humane Society after their owner's death. Hinton, who runs Dobe and Dog Rescue, took them to her home January 6. Hinton says she'll require an application and ask for a donation to help cover vet expenses for the dogs. People interested in the dogs may call Hinton at 316-993-2652.

Retired KU Professor to Lead Ugandan Newspaper

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — A retired University of Kansas professor has been named executive editor of a media group in Uganda. The Lawrence Journal-World reports that Malcolm Gibson, a retired KU journalism professor, recently signed a two-year contract with Nairobi-based Nation Media Group to serve as executive editor for Monitor Newspapers in Kampala, Uganda. Gibson found out about the job in August when a longtime friend and Nation Media Group employee encouraged him to apply. Gibson was offered the job in December and traveled to Uganda earlier this month to visit the newsroom, meet his future staff and finalize his contract. He begins work next month. As executive editor, Gibson will oversee editorial operations of the national daily newspaper, the Daily Monitor, two radio stations, digital media and other publications.

Saline County to Consider Weapons Policy

SALINA, Kan. (AP) — Saline County commissioners are expected consider a policy that would allow county employees who have concealed carry permits to carry their weapons while at work. The Salina Journal reports the policy would prohibit those employees from from storing or leaving firearms in bags, coats, purses or briefcases. The commission is scheduled to consider the policy during a meeting Tuesday. All meetings except executive sessions are open to the public.

SE Kansas Special Ed Students Running Small Business

RIVERTON, Kan. (AP) — A southeast Kansas high school is giving special education students extra preparation for their futures by having them run their own business. The Joplin Globe reports members of the Riverton High School class are making greeting cards from hand-made paper and selling them for $1 apiece. Special education teacher Matt DeMoss began the program to help the students improve such skills as following instructions, reading job tickets, doing math and handling money. They're also learning teamwork and other skills that will help them find employment later. Their first big sale involved Christmas cards. They're now making custom Valentine's Day cards and have also created birthday, Halloween, sympathy, thank-you and anniversary cards. The students sell the cards at Riverton High School. They also take orders for their creations.

Landowners in Prairie Chicken Habitat Areas Offered Deal

HOUSTON (AP) — The federal government is offering first-of-its-kind legal protections for landowners who help protect the lesser prairie chicken's dwindling populations across five states. The move is designed to ease concerns of landowners and the energy industry that they would not be able to operate in the bird's habitat if the prairie grouse is listed as a threatened species. The deal is simple: Those who take steps to preserve habitat will receive a letter guaranteeing they will not be fined or prosecuted if lesser prairie chickens are found dead on their property. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is expected to announce by March 30 whether to list the bird as a threatened species. The decision would impact the plains of Texas, New Mexico, Colorado, Kansas and Oklahoma.


Freightquote to Add 400 Jobs in Kansas City

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — A freight-shipping broker plans to hire 400 workers this year in Kansas City. Freightquote, which used incentives to move from Lenexa to Kansas City, Missouri last year, currently employs 1,000 people. The firm moved into its new headquarters in south Kansas City after receiving a state and city incentive package valued at $64.3 million over 23 years. The Kansas City Star reports that in return for the incentives, Freightquote pledged to grow to 1,350 employees by 2016.



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