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Regional Headlines for Monday, July 8, 2013



U.S. Senate Confirms Nominee for 10th Circuit Court of Appeals Seat

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Senate has confirmed Wyoming Attorney General Gregory Alan Phillips for a seat on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit. Phillips will serve on a court that is based in Denver and covers appellate cases from Colorado, Kansas, New Mexico, parts of Oklahoma, Utah and Wyoming.The Senate voted unanimously, 88-0 on Monday, to confirm Phillips. Phillips is a Democrat, but had the strong backing of Wyoming's two Republican senators. He has served as Wyoming's attorney general since 2011. Wyoming Republican Senator Mike Enzi says Phillips is recognized across his home state as a talented and respected attorney. Enzi notes that Phillips was appointed by a Republican governor to serve as attorney general in Wyoming and says that's a testament to Phillips's fairness and professionalism.


Kansas Governor Rejects Call to Identify Court Applicants

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Governor Sam Brownback's office has rejected a request from the League of Women Voters to identify the applicants for a new seat on the Kansas Court of Appeals. Kansas chapter president Dolores Furtado said Monday that the process created this year by legislators for picking Court of Appeals judges is less open than the former process. But Brownback spokeswoman Eileen Hawley said the state is following the same process used for picking federal judges for more than 200 years. Furtado sent Brownback a request last week under the state's Open Records Act. His office replied that the law doesn't require the release of information about applicants. Previously, when a nominating commission screened applications, the names were disclosed. But that process had no Senate confirmation, as the new process does.


State to Provide Modest Grants to Arts Groups

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Nearly two years after most state funding of the arts was eliminated in Kansas, the state is starting to provide small grants to some arts groups. The Wichita Eagle reports that the state's commerce department is expected to announce $58,400 in grants to eight groups across the state this week. In 2011, Governor Sam Brownback vetoed $700,000 of cultural arts funding, triggering the loss of about $1.2 million in national grants that depended on state investments in the arts. The money was restored last year but the new Kansas Creative Arts Industries Commission put much of its money into next year's budget to show the National Endowment for the Arts it has money to match grants. The creative arts industries commission plans to meet again Friday to discuss more grants.


Kansas Gains Emergency Management Accreditation

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas has obtained national accreditation for the agency that oversees the state's preparations for emergencies and its responses to disasters. Governor Sam Brownback had a news conference Monday to celebrate the Division of Emergency Management's five-year accreditation by the Emergency Management Accreditation Program. The program is a Kentucky-based nonprofit group that sets standards for emergency preparedness and allows emergency managers to assess state and local government programs. Kansas is the 28th state to gain accreditation. The program's standards address more than 100 issues, such as whether emergency communications systems are adequately tested and whether plans spell out which agency is responsible for individual services. Brownback said the accreditation shows that Kansas has a strong emergency management program.

Another Wheat Lawsuit Filed Against Monsanto

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Another Kansas farmer has filed suit against seed giant Monsanto over the discovery of an isolated field of genetically engineered wheat in Oregon. Harvey County wheat grower Bill Budde sued Monsanto on Friday in a lawsuit seeking class-action status. It's at least the third such lawsuit filed in federal court in Kansas against St. Louis-based Monsanto since the discovery of the field in May. Similar lawsuits have also been filed in Idaho and Washington state. Monsanto has said none of the genetically modified wheat entered the commercial market. The company contends no legal liability exists given the care undertaken, and it has vowed to present a vigorous defense to the lawsuits.


SUV Crashes into Topeka Store, Injuring 3

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — An SUV crashed through a glass storefront in Topeka on Monday, causing minor injuries to three people. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that the accident was reported Monday morning at a Mattress City store. Police Corporal Louis Cortez says the SUV driven by a woman in her late 60s failed to stop in the parking lot and crashed through the store's front window before hitting mattresses. Cortez says the driver told police she couldn't stop the car. Cortez says two adults and a 7-year-old boy who were in the store were struck by flying debris, but refused treatment. The driver wasn't injured but was taken to a hospital because she was shaken up.

Report: Kansas Wheat Harvest 87 Percent Finished

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — The National Agricultural Statistics Service is reporting that Kansas farmers have harvested 87 percent of their winter wheat crop. The agency reported Monday that by this date last year the entire crop had been cut, but harvest activity is nearing the seasonal average of 89 percent. It also noted that 99 percent of the state's winter wheat is ripe. Harvest in central Kansas is 99 percent finished, while harvest in northwest Kansas is just 45 completed. While the dry conditions across most of the state helped harvest pick up speed, some crops are suffering in arid western Kansas. About 14 percent of the corn crop is in poor to very poor shape, 37 percent is reported as fair, 43 percent is good and 6 percent is in excellent condition.


Kansas Judge Reviews Doctor's Fate in Abortion Referrals Case

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A Kansas doctor has a crucial court hearing this week in her fight to regain her medical license after state regulators revoked it over her referrals of young patients for late-term abortions. Attorneys for both Doctor Ann Kristin Neuhaus and the State Board of Healing Arts expect Friday's hearing in Shawnee County District Court to be the final one before Judge Franklin Theis rules. Neuhaus is appealing the board's revocation of her license in July 2012. Neuhaus provided second opinions that the late Doctor George Tiller needed under Kansas law to perform some late-term abortions at his Wichita clinic. The board concluded that Neuhaus performed inadequate mental health exams in 2003 on 11 patients, aged 10 to 18. Neuhaus has argued that her exams met accepted standards of care.


Kansas Abortion Clinic Stalking Case on Hold

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — The case against a Wichita pastor accused of stalking the woman who reopened a shuttered abortion clinic remains in limbo with no court proceedings now in sight. Julie Burkhart, executive director of Trust Women, has a temporary anti-stalking order against Mark Holick and is seeking to make it permanent. Holick's attorney has asked the court to dismiss the case on First Amendment grounds. A hearing proposed for Tuesday before Sedgwick County Judge James Beasley is now off and no new hearing date has been set. Holick is accused of picketing Burkhart's home and handing out "wanted-style" fliers listing Burkhart's address. He also allegedly used a bullhorn and pointed a sign at her house that read, "Where's your church?" Abortion provider Dr. George Tiller was killed in 2009 while at church.

Another Hearing Planned on Proposed Westar Rate Hike

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Another public hearing is planned on a Westar Energy plan to boost rates for residential customers while decreasing rates for major commercial customers. The Wichita Eagle reports that the hearing will be held Thursday night at the Kansas Corporation Commission office in Topeka. Two-way teleconferencing will be available for customers to testify from satellite locations in Hutchinson, Salina and Pittsburg. About 120 people attended a hearing last week in Wichita. Most of the speakers opposed a plan to raise prices for home and small-business service 6 to 9 percent while cutting rates for large business consumers and school districts by 6 to 15 percent. Westar officials say industrial users and other large-volume customers are now paying more than their share.

Divers Find Woman's Body in Johnson County Crash

OVERLAND PARK, Kan. (AP) — Divers have found a woman's body inside a car that apparently drove off a southern Johnson County bridge. The Kansas City Star reports that the discovery was made Sunday. The car was upside down in the Blue River. The victim was identified as 20-year-old Anousha Ann Shirazi of Fairway. The Kansas Highway Patrol reports her car was southbound on U.S. 69 when it drifted into the center median. The car returned to the roadway, crashed into a guard rail and flipped into the river. The report says Shirazi was not wearing a seat belt.

Teen's Body Pulled from Clay County Pond

LONGFORD, Kan. (AP) — Authorities have recovered the body of a teenager from a Clay County pond. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that 15-year-old Tommy Watt was swimming with a friend and began struggling to make it to the shore of the pond near Longford. The Clay County sheriff said the friend was attempting to aid Watt when he submerged and didn't resurface. Clay County authorities were called around 4:25 pm Friday. Watt's body was recovered about six hours later.


Kansas Man Dies After Being Hit While Riding Horse

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Wichita police continue to look for a driver who killed a man and injured a child after hitting the horse they were riding on. Police say 49-year-old Lloyd "Sonny" Ferguson died when his horse was hit Friday night. A 6-year-old who was also on the horse is in critical but stable condition Monday at a Wichita hospital. The driver fled the scene. Two people who stopped to help were hit by another car and were in serious condition Monday. The driver of that car stopped. The horse had to be euthanized after suffering serious injuries. Police are looking for a metallic gray car with extensive front end and windshield damage.


Kansas Sex Offender Gets 22 Years for Failing to Register

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A 33-year-old man has been sentenced to more than 22 years in prison for failing to register as a sex offender in Shawnee County. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that Richard David Honn was sentenced to 22 years and eight months for failing to register every three months as a violent offender. Honn was charged twice in Shawnee County for offender registration counts, the first time in 2011 and again this year. His lawyer, David McDonald, says the sentence is excessive and that people convicted of registration offenses are receiving prison terms longer than for killing or raping someone. Shawnee County District Attorney Chad Taylor disagrees. He says the sentence stems from a "powerful tool" provided by the Legislature that makes failure to register as an offender a felony.

University Leaders Regroup for Attempts to Fund Medical Building

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — University of Kansas leaders are rethinking their approach toward working with state legislators in pursuit of funding for a new medical building to train doctors. The University of Kansas wants to build a new facility at its medical school campus in Kansas City, Kansas to upgrade a current building built in 1976. The school sought $30 million in state support over 10 years for the project, but was awarded $1 million. The Lawrence Journal-World reports that Doctor Douglas Girod, executive vice chancellor for the KU Medical Center, says that officials need to rethink their strategy after legislators balked at approving state funding for the project. Girod says the school will continue to make the case for state support for the building.

15 Face Federal Drug Charges in Kansas

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Federal prosecutors have indicted 15 people on drug charges stemming from an investigation in Topeka. U.S. Attorney Barry Grissom said Monday in a news release that prosecutors have unsealed indictments alleging the defendants were part of a conspiracy to distribute methamphetamine in the Topeka area. Investigators served search warrants and made arrests in the case July 2. The defendants range in age from 29 to 56 and are from Topeka, Dodge City, Manhattan and Grand Island, Nebraska. Grissom says the charges include conspiracy to distribute methamphetamine and using a phone in furtherance of drug trafficking.

Clearwire Shareholders Vote for Sprint Deal

NEW YORK (AP) — Clearwire Corporation says its shareholders have voted in favor of selling the rest of its shares to majority owner Sprint Nextel. Sprint offered $5 per share for the rest of Clearwire, which runs a mobile broadband network that Sprint uses to provide "Sprint 4G" service on many of its phones. Sprint hopes the deal will make it more competitive with bigger rivals Verizon Wireless and AT&T Inc. It had to raise its original bid for Clearwire to overcome a competing bid from Dish Network. Bellevue, Washington-based Clearwire says about 82 percent of its shares that were not affiliated with Sprint were voted in favor of the sale. Sprint and Clearwire expect to complete the transaction on Tuesday. Sprint, in turn, has agreed to be acquired by Japan's Softbank for $21.6 billion.


UPDATE: KC Diocese Reaches Settlement in Abuse Case

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — The Kansas City-St. Joseph Diocese has reached a $2.25 million settlement in a wrongful death lawsuit filed by a Missouri couple who said their 14-year-old son committed suicide because he was abused by a Kansas City priest. The settlement was announced Monday as jury selection was underway in Jackson County (Missouri) court. The diocese said in a statement it chose to settle the lawsuit because of the expected "financial and emotional toll on all parties" of the trial, which was to last a month. The boy, Brian Teeman, died of a gunshot wound in 1983 at his Independence home. His parents, Rosemary and Donald Teeman, filed the lawsuit in 2011 after learning of the alleged abuse. The Teemans' lawyer, Rebecca Randles, says the settlement allows "everyone to put this behind them."


Filmmakers to Make Old West Thriller in Kansas

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Two Los Angeles-based filmmakers are preparing to shoot a movie about a family of southeast Kansas innkeepers who killed about a dozen travelers in the 1870s. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that the film will be called "The Bender Claim." Director John Alexander called it a "Hitchcock-like psychological thriller." He and producer JC Guest will shoot the movie from July 10th through August 11th at locations in Junction City, El Dorado and Wichita. Alexander and Guest met at Harvard University and decided they wanted to make a film based on a true legend of the western frontier. Alexander said the story of the Benders gave him goose bumps. The Benders are accused of killing travelers and burying their victims in their apple orchard before the crimes were discovered.

Eisenhower Center to Host Climate Discussion

ABILENE, Kan. (AP) — The Eisenhower Presidential Library is continuing its Kansas Town Hall series with an upcoming discussion of climate change. A panel discussion will follow. Participants will include a Kansas legislator, an agricultural expert, a University of Kansas geography professor and an agronomist from Kansas State University. Admission is free. The program takes place Saturday from 2 to 4 pm at the library's Visitors Center Auditorium in Abilene.

KU Researchers Studying Use of Blue Light Signal

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — Researchers at the University of Kansas are experimenting with using a blue light to help law enforcement officers nab red-light runners. Here's how the system works: Blue lights come on when traffic signals turns red, providing a visual clue to officers. The university says the blue light is visible from 360 degrees. That way even if officers can't directly see the traffic signal change, they can still know that a motorist ran a red light. Blue confirmation light systems are being installed at two intersections in Lawrence and two in Overland Park. Researchers from the university's School of Engineering will monitor the system's effectiveness during the next six months. Funding for the project comes from the Kansas Department of Transportation and the Mid-America Transportation Center.

Public Colleges in MO and KS Carefully Seek Minority Students

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Public colleges in Missouri and Kansas say a recent U.S. Supreme Court ruling on affirmative action won't affect how they recruit minority students. Officials at the University of Missouri-Kansas City, the University of Missouri in Columbia, the University of Kansas and Kansas State University all say race plays no role in their admission standards. The Supreme Court ruling in June didn't forbid considering race in admission but said schools must prove there are "no race-neutral alternatives" to achieve diversity on campus. Officials at the Missouri and Kansas schools say that in general any student who meets the basic criteria for admission will get in. The Kansas City Star reports that university officials say they try to recruit minority students to apply, then allow all applicants who meet the basic criteria to attend.

KU Student Gets 3-Year, $90K NASA Fellowship

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — A University of Kansas student has received a NASA fellowship to design better tools for predicting how climate change will affect sea levels. Theresa Stumpf of Wentzville, Missouri is a doctoral student in electrical engineering at the university's Center for Remote Sensing of Ice Sheets. Her fellowship is worth $90,000 over three years. She'll conduct research on a new type of ice-penetrating radar. The university says the new radar is designed to gather data from a wider area and provide a much clearer picture of the conditions where the ice meets bedrock. Whether there's solid ice, melting ice or water at that point influences the speed of the ice flow to the oceans. The faster the ice flows, the more it affects sea level rise.

New Help for First-Generation College Students at KSU

MANHATTAN, Kan. (AP) — A national program that aims to help first-generation college students stay in school is coming to Kansas State University. First Scholars is a national program. The university says the Suder Foundation in Plano, Texas, awarded the university $850,000 to pay for student scholarships and start-up costs for the program. The Suder Foundation created the First Scholars program five years ago. The program will initially help 20 incoming freshmen, with additional freshmen joining each year. Participants will receive support throughout their time at Kansas State. Data shows program participants outperform the general student body in four- and six-year graduation rates and grade point average.


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