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Regional Headlines for Monday, January 7, 2013


Huelskamp Given Committee Assignments

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Congressman Tim Huelskamp has a new committee assignment in the U.S. House after the chamber's Republican leadership took him off two others in December. The Kansas Republican was among four House members who were removed from prominent committees for not voting with the GOP leadership on key issues. Huelskamp was taken off the budget and agriculture committees. He'll continue to serve on the House Committee on Veterans' Affairs, and has a new assignment on the Small Business Committee. Huelskamp said the new assignment will give rural Kansas a voice on a variety of issues. Huelskamp, who represents the 1st Congressional District, was one of 12 Republicans who voted last week against the re-election of John Boehner as speaker.

Kansas Legislature's Leaders Promise Less Conflict

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The Kansas Legislature's new conservative Republican leaders are committed to shrinking government and further lowering taxes. And they're promising less conflict among GOP lawmakers this year. Senate President Susan Wagle of Wichita and new House Speaker Ray Merrick of Stilwell are allies of conservative Republican Governor Sam Brownback. The Senate's leaders were GOP moderates before last year's elections. They said in a joint interview with The Associated Press that the state must keep trimming its own budget and follow up on massive income tax cuts approved last year to create economic opportunities and attract new residents.


Judge Orders Trial in Kansas Abortion Insurance Case

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A federal judge has ruled that a trial is needed to determine whether a Kansas law restricting private health insurance coverage for abortions poses a substantial obstacle to women seeking to end their pregnancies. U.S. District Judge Julie Robinson on Monday rejected a request by the American Civil Liberties Union of Kansas and Western Missouri for a favorable ruling in their legal challenge of the law. The judge also ruled partially in favor of the state on whether the law's main purpose was to impose an undue burden on abortion rights. The law prohibits insurance companies from offering coverage for abortions in their general plans, except when a woman's life is in danger. Kansas residents or employers who want abortion coverage must buy supplemental policies.

Advocates Decry, Officials Defend Welfare Cuts

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Advocates for impoverished Kansas residents say tougher welfare rules are making it hard for the state's needy to pull themselves out of poverty. Members of Governor Sam Brownback's administration say the stricter policies are forcing people to find jobs instead of relying on handouts. The Kansas City Star reports the most drastic statistics involve Temporary Aid to Needy Families, also known as welfare, which has seen a 38 percent drop in the number of poor people who receive the aid. Among those are about 9,000 children who no longer benefit from the TANF payments that averaged about $280 a month and went to families with annual incomes of no more than 28 percent of the federal poverty level, or about $6,500 a year for a family of four.

Kansas Governor Fills Vacancy on Medical Board

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Governor Sam Brownback has named a northeast Kansas physician to the State Board of Healing Arts. The Republican governor's office says Dr. Joel Hutchins of Holton will serve a four-year term on the 15-member board, which licenses and regulates physicians. Hutchins will replace Dr. Nancy Welsh, of Topeka. Welsh was appointed by Democratic Governor Kathleen Sebelius and served on the board since 2004 before stepping down in November. A biography posted online by his family medical practice at Holton Community Hospital says Hutchins is a former Air Force pilot who has practiced medicine for more than 20 years. He earned his medical degree from the University of Kansas School of Medicine.

Drought Continues to Take Toll on Kansas Reservoirs

HUTCHINSON, Kan. (AP) — An annual well survey to be conducted this month will let Kansas water officials see how much damage has been caused underground by the continuing drought. Above the surface the signs of a shrinking water system are hard to miss, especially in the state's reservoirs where some boats are marooned in their slips and ramps are no longer reachable along receding shorelines. Kanapolis State Park manager Rick Martin told The Hutchinson News all of the state's lakes are suffering because of a drought expected to persist at least through March. Cheyenne Bottoms manager Karl Grover says the reservoir there usually is a wildlife haven for birds and hunters this time of year. He says rain in November created a few puddles, but any hunting lasted only a few weeks.

Thieves Target Several Unmarked KC Police Cars

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Some thieves might have picked the wrong neighborhood when they decided to break into several cars on a Kansas City street. Police say the thieves broke into six unmarked police vehicles early Monday and scattered police equipment along the street. Police were still trying to determine what was taken. The Kansas City Star reports that officers found police equipment and other items in the street while they were investigating a report of gunfire. The vehicles belong to the Kansas City Police and Jackson County Sheriff's departments. At least one civilian's vehicle also was burglarized.


Kansas City Chiefs Introduce Andy Reid as New Head Coach

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Andy Reid has been introduced as the new coach of the Kansas City Chiefs, one week after he was fired following 14 seasons with the Philadelphia Eagles. Reid was joined by Chiefs chairman Clark Hunt and several other team officials at a packed news conference at Arrowhead Stadium. Reid takes over for Romeo Crennel, who joined Reid and five other NFL coaches in losing their jobs last Monday. Reid took the Eagles to the Super Bowl and won 130 games over his career. But things had soured in the past couple of seasons, and he was dismissed after going 4-12. He takes over a team that went 2-14, matching the worst finish in Chiefs history. That means the Chiefs will be given first pick in the NFL draft for the first time in team history.

Efforts to Bring Amtrak to Wichita Move Forward

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — The Kansas Department of Transportation is joining Wichita's efforts to persuade Amtrak to run a passenger route through the city. The transportation department says an initial planning study for expanded service is a good first step toward Amtrak expanding its rail service to Wichita on a route from Dallas to Oklahoma City. The Wichita City Council has made funding more passenger rail studies a lobbying priority for the upcoming legislative session. Transportation secretary Mike King is talking to Oklahoma officials who currently are more interested in a northeast route toward Tulsa. The Wichita Eagle reports the next step is an environmental study, which would cost Kansas $3 million and Oklahoma $2.3 million without federal assistance.


Topeka Marks Emancipation Proclamation Anniversary

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — An Abraham Lincoln re-enactor will help the Brown v. Board of Education National Historic Site mark the 150th anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation. The free event takes place at 7 pm Tuesday at the Topeka site, which tells the story of the U.S. Supreme Court decision that declared segregated schools unconstitutional. Portraying Lincoln will be Richard Klein of Springfield, Illinois. He traveled the route of Lincoln's famous 12-day inaugural journey during a National Park Service sponsored tour in February 2011. Lincoln issued his preliminary Emancipation Proclamation in September 1862, after the Battle of Antietam. In it, he announced that if rebel states did not cease fighting and rejoin the Union by January 1, 1863, all slaves in rebellious states or parts of states would be declared free from that date forward.


Woman Pleads Guilty in 'Total Identity Theft' Case

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — An illegal immigrant charged with assuming the persona of a Texas teacher has struck a deal with federal prosecutors in Kansas in a case that put a face on the crime of "total identity theft." Thirty-two-year-old Benita Cardona-Gonzalez, a Mexican national living in Topeka, pleaded guilty Monday to a reduced charge of possessing fraudulent identification documents. Cardona-Gonzalez was accused of completely assuming the persona of Houston elementary school teacher Candida Gutierrez, who first went public in a story reported by The Associated Press. Prosecutors agreed to recommend an 18-month prison term when Cardona-Gonzalez is sentenced in March. Cardona-Gonzalez agreed not to contest deportation after serving her sentence. Defense lawyer Matthew Works said after Monday's hearing Wichita that his client is sorry and didn't intend to harm Gutierrez.

Teen Accused of Pulling Knife on Brother over Video Game

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Wichita police say a 15-year-old has been arrested after threatening to cut off his older brother's genitals during an argument over a video game. The Wichita Eagle reports the incident happened at 1:20 am Sunday. Police say the 15-year-old pulled a knife, held it to his 20-year-old brother's throat and made the threat. The brother wasn't hurt, and police don't know which video game prompted the fight. Police spokesman Sergeant Bart Brunscheen says the 15-year-old is listed as an active runaway in a separate case. The boy was arrested on a charge of aggravated assault and criminal threats.


Wichita Police Make Easy Arrest in Bar Robbery

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Police in Wichita had little trouble finding the suspect in the early-morning robbery of a bar. The Wichita Eagle reports that the 41-year-old man was a regular customer at Judy's Place, where other patrons helpfully gave police his name and address. Police say the man went behind the bar at closing time early Monday, pushed a cashier out of the way and grabbed several hundred dollars before walking out. Wichita police Lieutenant Doug Nolte says officers followed the tips from other customers and found the man at his home, along with the stolen cash. Nolte says he does not know how much alcohol the man consumed before he stole the money.


Private KC School to Start Drug Testing Students

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Leaders at a private, all-boys high school in Kansas City say a new drug testing policy going into effect next fall will help students reject peer pressure to use drugs and alcohol. The Kansas City Star reports that Rockhurst High School plans to test all students at least once per school year, a decision principal Greg Harkness says came after two years of research. He believes blanket drug testing is unprecedented among Kansas City area schools, some of which require drug tests only for students participating in extracurricular activities. A first positive test won't result in disciplinary action, but a school counselor will conduct a confidential meeting with the student's parents. A student who tests positive a second time would be referred to the dean of students for possible discipline.


Wichita Man Given More Than 7 Years in Robbery

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A Wichita man has been sentenced to seven years and eight months in prison for helping his brother rob a bank. U.S. Attorney Barry Grissom said Monday that 24-year-old Justin W. Cooper pleaded guilty to aiding and abetting bank robbery. Prosecutors say Cooper drove his brother, Lessie Cooper, to a Commerce Bank branch on March 16, 2012. Lessie Cooper pointed a gun at bank tellers and fled with money. Dye packs exploded as he returned to the car and a nearby police officer gave chase. When the car stopped, Justin Cooper surrendered but Lessie Cooper ran into a home and hid under a bed, where police found him. Lessie Cooper was sentenced to more than 12 years in federal prison.

Rapper Chuck D to Speak at Garden City Community College

GARDEN CITY, Kan. (AP) — Pioneering rap artist, author and motivational speaker Chuck D will be the keynote speaker at Garden City Community College's Martin Luther King Jr. Day events. The Garden City Telegram reports that the January 21 speech is free and open to the public. Now 52, Chuck D was the co-founder of the rap group Public Enemy from 1987 to 2009. The group toured worldwide, focusing on social justice and political activism, and was chosen last month for induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Colin Lamb, co-sponsor of the college's Student Government Association, says the Martin Luther King Day program always features a speaker with ties to the civil rights movement or a motivational message for young people. Lamb predicts Chuck D will connect not only with students but the entire audience.

KU Joins International Internet for Study Abroad

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — The University of Kansas has signed on to a technology upgrade that helps its faculty and students who are working overseas. The university has signed onto Eduroam, which allows faculty and students to log onto a wireless network at any other participating research or education institution overseas. The Lawrence Journal-World reports that the University of Kansas is one of only a few schools in the Midwest that has signed up for the service, which is used throughout Europe. Kansas faculty who travel abroad for research say the service is valuable when they are at universities or research labs that guard their secure networks closely. About 80 institutions in the United States have Eduroam connections. Most of the other 6,000 institutions using the service are in Europe.


Missouri Victim Fights Sexual Abuse by Teachers

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — A Missouri woman whose sexual relationship with a teacher began when she was 12 years old is now an advocate for victims in similar situations. Amy Surdin told The Kansas City Star that a teacher in Moberly talked her into the relationship and then threatened to hurt her family if she told anyone. She revealed her secret when she had a breakdown at age 21 — too late to charge the man. Surdin advocates for educating students and teachers about the problem. Last year the Missouri Legislature named a law after her that extends the statute of limitations to 30 years after a child victim turns 18. The previous limit was 10 years. School districts also must tell other districts if employees left because of substantiated sexual misconduct.

Wichita Man Loses Unusual Baseball Card Collection

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A Wichita man says he plans to begin rebuilding a collection of more than 500 Ken Griffey Jr. baseball cards that were stolen from his home. Christopher Fevurly says thieves broke a window in his home and stole the cards, a television and computer monitor while he was in Arizona to watch the Fiesta Bowl. Fevurly told KAKE-TV he began collecting Griffey's baseball cards in 1989 when he was only 11 years old. Griffey began playing in the major leagues that year and quickly became Fevurly's favorite player. Some of the cards might be worth $50 to $75 each but Fevurly says most have only sentimental value. He says he plans to start the collection again because he wants to pass the cards on to his son someday.

Kansas Family Reunited with Dog Missing for 2 Months

OSWEGO, Kan. (AP) — A southeast Kansas family has been reunited with its family dog nearly two months after it disappeared and somehow ended up 1,500 miles away. KWCH-TV reports Ty and Nikki Lewis and their two children picked up their Jack Russell terrier mix, Rascal, at the airport Saturday night. Rascal ran away Thanksgiving weekend, and several weeks later turned up at an animal shelter in San Diego. The dog's ID tag listed his owners as the Lewis family from Oswego, Kansas and an animal charity paid for his plane ticket home. Ty Lewis says the children had no idea their pet was coming home because he told them they were picking up a friend from college at the airport.

Custody Fight Underway for Baby of Dead Chiefs LB, Slain GF

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Two sets of grandparents are in a custody battle over the 4-month-old daughter of a Kansas City Chiefs player who fatally shot the child's mother before taking his own life. Linebacker Jovan Belcher fired several shots into the girl's mother, Kasandra Perkins, on December 1st, then drove to Arrowhead Stadium and shot himself in the parking lot in front of then-coach Romeo Crennel and then-general manager Scott Pioli. The Kansas City Star reports Belcher's mother, Cheryl Shepherd, is seeking custody of Zoey Belcher and to be appointed conservator of her estate. The baby's maternal grandparents and other relatives in Texas also are seeking custody. Shepherd's lawyer says the maternal grandparents took Zoey to Texas for Perkins's funeral and now have cut off communication with Shepherd.

Store Owner Stops Sales of T-Shirt Featuring New KC Coach

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — A suburban Kansas City store owner says he has taken an Andy Reid T-shirt off his racks after learning the drawing of the new Chiefs coach looked like one by an award-winning Philadelphia Inquirer sports cartoonist. Hal Wagner, owner of Ace Sports and Nationwide Tickets at Oak Park Mall in Overland Park, Kansas, says someone came into his store Friday peddling the shirts that proclaim: "Reid to Lead Our Team All the Way!" Wagner says he thought the artwork was original until getting a call from cartoonist Rob Tornoe, whose cartoon of Reid with the same pose ran in his newspaper a few weeks back. Tornoe told The Kansas City Star on Sunday a friend had sent him a photo of the T-shirt in Wagner's store.

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