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Regional Headlines for Monday, November 4, 2013


Kobach Seeks Opinion on Guns at Polling Places

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach has asked Attorney General Derek Schmidt for a ruling on whether a new state law allowing concealed carry in most public buildings includes polling places. Polling sites in Kansas are often found in places where guns aren't allowed, such as churches and schools. But Kobach says there's "some ambiguity in the law" over whether Kansas polling places would be considered "leased" property under the concealed-carry law. If they are, the law says licensed gun owners must be allowed to carry their weapons on the premises, unless the county files a detailed security plan for each site and provides protective measures. The Wichita Eagle reports that Schmidt's opinion won't have the force of law, but may be used as guidance.

KS DA Plans Listening Tours Before Making Senate Run Decision

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A northeast Kansas prosecutor says he'll conduct a series of listening tours across the state before formally deciding whether he'll run for the U.S. Senate as a Democrat. Shawnee County District Attorney Chad Taylor formed an exploratory committee Monday, his 40th birthday. If he ran, he'd be seeking the seat held by veteran Republican Pat Roberts. Taylor said he's been urged by people across the state to run because many voters are frustrated with gridlock in Washington. He said the recent partial government shutdown is a symptom of major problems. But Roberts executive campaign manager Leroy Towns said Taylor needs to conduct statewide listening tours because he's unknown outside Shawnee County. Roberts also faces a challenge from his right in the GOP primary from Leawood radiologist Milton Wolf.


Soldier from Kansas Killed in Afghanistan

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The Defense Department says a soldier from northeast Kansas has died after his patrol came under fire in Afghanistan. The soldier was identified Monday as 35-year-old Sergeant 1st Class Forrest Robertson, of Westmoreland. The Pentagon says Robertson's unit was attacked Sunday by small-arms fire in Afghanistan's Logar province. Robertson was assigned to the Headquarters and Headquarters Troop of the 6th Squadron, 8th Cavalry Regiment, 3rd Infantry Division based at Fort Stewart, Georgia. Kansas Senator Jerry Moran says Robertson's wife and children live in Hinesville, Georgia, and his mother lives in Westmoreland, northeast of Manhattan.


Inmate Accusing KS Correctional System of Discrimination

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A Kansas prison inmate claims he's being discriminated against because the Department of Corrections won't allow visits from his husband, whom he married legally in Iowa. Christopher Yates is serving time at the Norton Correctional Facility for conviction on charges of identity theft and perjury. The 34-year-old has been in prison since 2012. In letters written to the Topeka Capital-Journal, Yates says that prison officials will not let him see his husband. A spokesman for the Kansas Department of Corrections says Yates's spouse is not being allowed to visit because the spouse is on probation for his role in the crimes Yates committed. An attorney for the national gay rights group Lambda Legal says Yates's complaint is unusual but not surprising.


KC-Area Voters Asked to Approve Sales Tax for Medical Research

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Jackson County (Missouri) voters are being asked to approve a half-cent sales tax to pay for medical research at two Kansas City hospitals and the University of Missouri-Kansas City's health professional schools. Approval of Tuesday's ballot measure would raise $800 million over the tax's 20-year duration to fund research in translational medicine, which uses basic research to create new treatments and cures. Supporters say the funding could help establish Kansas City as a national medical research hub. Opponents, such as the League of Women Voters and Catholic Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph, call the sales tax regressive and say it puts the burden to fund a national research program on the backs of low- and middle-class residents who can least afford it.


Pharmacist Gets 4 Years for Misbranding Drugs 

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A Tennessee pharmacist has been sentenced to four years in prison for distributing a misbranded Chinese-made drug that was given to kidney dialysis patients in Kansas. The U.S. Attorney's office in Topeka said Monday that 53-year-old Robert Harshbarger Jr., of Kingsport, Tennessee, was also ordered to pay nearly 850,000 in restitution along with a $25,000 fine, and to forfeit $425,000. Harshbarger pleaded guilty in May to one count each of health care fraud and distributing a misbranded drug. He admitted that from 2004 to 2009, he substituted a cheaper Chinese import for an iron sucrose drug approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Prosecutors say there were no reports of harm, but patients at Kansas Dialysis Services were put at risk because the FDA could not assure the drugs' effectiveness and safety.


Southeast KS District Judge to Sit with KS Supreme Court

PITTSBURG, Kan. (AP) — A southeast Kansas trial judge will sit with the state Supreme Court this week when it has a special session in Pittsburg to hear appeals in four cases. The high court announced that Allen County District Judge Daniel Creitz will substitute for Justice Nancy Moritz during Tuesday's session at Pittsburg State University. The Supreme Court said Moritz had removed herself from the four cases, without giving further details. The justices are hearing appeals in three civil cases and a case involving a state law that mandates tough minimum prison sentences for violent sexual crimes. Creitz is an Iola native who was first appointed to the bench in 2002. He is also chief judge for the 31st Judicial District, which covers Allen, Neosho, Wilson, and Woodson counties.

KS Natl Guard Unit Deploying to Afghanistan

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A Kansas National Guard helicopter unit is deploying to Afghanistan to participate in a medical mission. About 45 soldiers of Company G, 2nd Battalion, 135th Aviation Regiment are heading first to Fort Hood, Texas, for more training before deploying to Afghanistan. The soldiers will provide evacuation support by flying wounded soldiers from the battlefield and moving patients among facilities for additional medical care. They will also transport medical personnel, equipment and supplies to various locations. A deployment ceremony for the unit was scheduled Monday at the Army Aviation Support Center at Forbes Field in Topeka.


Mother of Wandering KCK Toddler 'So Sorry'

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) — The mother of a 2-year-old found naked and wandering at night in Kansas City, Kansas says she thought the boy was safely asleep at home. A driver took the toddler to a fire station after spotting him around 1 am Saturday in 40-degree weather a half-mile from his home. He's now in protective custody. The mother tells KCTV that she had gone out and left the boy with her older children, ages 9, 14 and 15. She says she returned less than an hour later and assumed the toddler was asleep with his sister. The mother reported the boy missing nearly 10 hours after he was found. She says she's "so sorry" she's not with her son now. Police are studying possible charges.


Bus Driver Involved in Butler County Incident Suspended

DOUGLASS, Kan. (AP) — The driver of a school bus that was swept into a southern Kansas creek with 10 children on board is off the job for now. KSNW-TV reported Monday that Douglass School District officials announced the 64-year-old driver has been suspended pending results of a Kansas Highway Patrol investigation. The accident happened Thursday afternoon when rushing water pushed the bus off a low-water crossing into Muddy Creek in rural Butler County. The bus landed on its side, partly submerged. The children climbed through an escape hatch and were rescued from the top of the bus. The driver was taken to a hospital to be checked for hypothermia and a possible back injury.


Teen Charged for Having Unloaded Gun at KCK School

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) — Wyandotte County officials say a 13-year-old girl is accused of bringing an unloaded handgun to her middle school. Prosecutors say the girl was charged with a misdemeanor count of criminal use of a weapon. Kansas law prohibits anyone younger than 18 from possessing a firearm. Officials say the gun was not loaded, and the girl did not possess any ammunition. Officials with the Turner Unified School District say the girl was arrested Wednesday at Turner Middle School after another student told school officials. The Kansas City Star reports the girl made an initial court appearance Friday and was ordered held in juvenile detention.

KS Collects Almost 5 Tons of Meds on Take Back Day

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansans turned in nearly five tons of unused medicine as part of an effort to curb prescription drug abuse. The Kansas Attorney General's office says residents turned in 9,777 pounds of drugs at locations around the state on October 26th for National Drug Take-Back Day. The office says in a release it's the largest amount the state has collected in a single day since the program began in 2010. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports the Shawnee County Sheriff's Office says residents brought in 124 pounds. Collection days are held twice a year and sponsored by the Drug Enforcement Administration in an effort to prevent abuse. The attorney general's office says traditional methods for disposal, such as flushing pills down the toilet or throwing them in the trash, pose safety hazards.

Man Dies in House Fire Near Winfield

WINFIELD, Kan. (AP) — Investigators are trying to determine what caused a fire that killed a man during the weekend. Fire Captain Dan McClaskey says Richard Schooley, who is thought to be in his 70s, died after being pulled from the burning home Sunday morning in Burden, about seven miles east of Winfield. Schooley's wife and adult grandson were able to escape the fire. Schooley was a retired rancher. McClasky said the fire likely started from a faulty extension cord attached to a space heater.



Former KC-Area Attorney Sentenced for Fraud

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — A disbarred Raytown lawyer has been sentenced to three years in federal prison for fraud and must pay nearly $350,000 in restitution to his victims. U.S. Attorney Tammy Dickinson says 63-year-old Harley Kent Desselle's victims include a foundation for Sam and Lindsey Porter and the widow of a man killed in an automobile accident. Desselle was sentenced Monday after pleading guilty in May to one count of bank fraud and one count of bankruptcy fraud. He admitted stealing $19,500 from the foundation set up for the Porter children, who were killed by their father in 2004 but not found until 2007. He also admitted stealing $343,000 from the life insurance proceeds of a friend's widow whose husband was killed in 1996, and $5,749 from a client in a bankruptcy case.


Mediation Set in KS Abortion Threat Case

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A federal appeals court has scheduled a mediation conference in the case of a Kansas abortion opponent who sent a letter to a Wichita doctor saying someone might place an explosive under her car. The Justice Department has appealed an August ruling by U.S. District Judge J. Thomas Marten that Angel Dillard's letter is constitutionally protected speech. Marten summarily ruled the letter did not constitute a "true threat" under law. Dillard is cross-appealing Marten's earlier rulings dismissing her counterclaims. The Valley Center woman claims the government violated her speech and religious rights when it sued her for sending the letter to Dr. Mila Means in 2011. The 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has scheduled a November 15 telephone conference to explore possibilities for settlement and resolve procedural issues.


Iconic Church Renovating Stained-Glass Windows

VICTORIA, Kan. (AP) — The iconic St. Fidelis Catholic Church in Victoria — better known as the Cathedral of the Plains — is working to protect its 48 historic stained-glass windows. The church has started a $155,000 project to refurbish the windows, which are valued at more than $1 million. The 140-foot twin towers of the Cathedral on the prairie have made it one of the most well-known structures in Kansas. It serves about 480 families, who are paying for the window project through donations and fundraising. The Wichita Eagle reports that the church was dedicated in 1911 and the windows were installed in 1916. A plastic covering installed on the windows in the 1980s to protect them has grown opaque, preventing people from seeing the true beauty of the windows.

Corporate Fight Keeps KS Community on Edge

ATCHISON, Kan. (AP) — Squabbling board members and founders of a business that is the lifeblood of an eastern Kansas community say they've started mending fences after a long battle that's raised concerns about the company's future. MGP Ingredients Incorporated, founded in 1941 by Cloud Cray Sr., is one of the Atchison area's largest employers. It is the only business based in the Missouri River community that trades on Wall Street. The company produces high-grade alcohol and food ingredients. The Kansas City Star reports that a contentious public battle between Cray's descendants and six members of MGP's board of directors has Atchison residents concerned for the company, which is big source of local philanthropy. Both camps now say they're working to settle their differences and put the focus on business.

First Woman Inducted into KS National Guard Hall of Fame

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The Kansas National Guard Hall of Fame has its first woman inductee. Retired Command Sergeant Major Jana L. Harrison, of Leavenworth, was inducted into the 104-member hall on Sunday. Also inducted were retired Chief Warrant Officer 4 Cornelius Vandermotten and retired Lieutenant Colonel Robert K. Webb, who joined the military in 1975, was the first female command sergeant major in the Kansas National Guard. Vandermotten, a native of Glasgow, Scotland, served more than 40 years in the military, including two decades in the Kansas Army National Guard. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that Webb, of Silver Lake, was in the military for 31 years, serving on active duty and in the Kansas National Guard.


Judge Approves $1.3M Settlement in KC Priest Lawsuit

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — A Jackson County (Missouri) judge has approved a $1.35 million settlement in a civil lawsuit involving a Kansas City priest who's serving 50 years in prison for producing child pornography. A Jackson County judge approved the settlement in the lawsuit filed in 2011 by a girl and her parents against the Kansas City-St. Joseph Diocese, Bishop Robert Finn and the Reverend Shawn Ratigan. Ratigan was sentenced in September to 50 years in federal prison after pleading guilty to five child pornography counts, representing one charge for each of five victims. The Kansas City Star reports the judge's approval of the civil settlement was put into the court record last week, nearly a month after the diocese reached the agreement. The diocese says the settlement was paid by insurance.

Walter Cronkite Memorial to Open in St. Joseph

ST. JOSEPH, Mo. (AP) — A memorial to the late television news legend Walter Cronkite is opening this coming week in the northwest Missouri city where he was born. The St. Joseph News-Press reports that Missouri Western State University in St. Joseph held an event Monday morning on what would have been the newsman's 97th birthday. The memorial features a memorabilia case and an interactive kiosk that will show footage of news events covered by the broadcaster known as the "Most Trusted Man in America." Cronkite signed off for the final time as anchor of the "CBS Evening News" in 1981. He died in July 2009 at the age of 92. The memorial cost about $250,000.


Tarantulas Among 500 Spider Breeds Found in Kansas

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Experts say Kansans don't need to be worried about the healthy population of tarantulas found in the state. The large, hairy spiders are often depicted as dangerous. But Jim Mason, of the Great Plains Nature Center, says the spiders are generally docile. He says tarantulas rear up on their back legs when they are annoyed, giving plenty of warning to humans. Fatal tarantula bites are extremely rare, but the bites can be painful. Hank Guarisco, a Lawrence-based arachnid researcher, says the breed of tarantulas common in Kansas is called Texas browns. The Wichita Eagle reports the tarantulas are especially common in the Red Hills near Medicine Lodge. The prairie and wooded hills of southeast Kansas, especially Chautauqua and Elk counties, have solid populations.

Ancient Insect-Eating Mammal Named After KU Prof

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — An ancient insect-eating mammal has been named after a University of Kansas professor. The university says in a news release that researchers from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Denver Museum of Nature & Science recently have published a description of a fossilized 50-million-year-old creature. They named the shrew-sized mammal after Leonard Krishtalka, director of the Biodiversity Institute at the University of Kansas. Krishtalka also is a professor of ecology and evolutionary biology at the university. Krishtalka has written about 200 research articles, policy papers and pieces in scientific journals, books, newspapers and magazines. He also is the author of one book, "Dinosaur Plots & Other Intrigues in Natural History." Krishtalka says he's honored and humbled by the recognition.

WSU Prof Leaves $2M to Chemistry Department

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A Wichita State University professor has donated $2.2 million to the university's chemistry department where he spent more than 40 years. The WSU Foundation says Erach Talaty left the money to the chemistry program to help create endowed scholarships and fellowships for students and to establish a teaching and research position for the department. The Wichita Eagle reports Talaty died in June in Wichita. He was 86. James Rhatigan, executor of Talaty's estate and a consultant to the foundation, says the donation is thought to be the largest estate gift given to WSU by any current or former faculty or staff member. Talaty joined the WSU faculty in 1969. He authored nearly 100 scientific publications and was named the Carnegie Foundation's Kansas Professor of the Year in 1999.



Veteran Journalist Gilbert Stuenkel Dies


LAKE ST. LOUIS, Mo. (AP) — Gilbert Stuenkel, a veteran journalist with a long career at newspapers in Illinois, Kansas and Missouri, has died. Stuenkel, of Lake St. Louis, Missouri, died Friday after a battle with cancer, his wife, Nancy, said. He was 69. Stuenkel was born in Spring Valley, Illinois. He began his journalism career at the Commercial-News in Danville, Illinois, in 1964, while still in junior college. He earned a bachelor's degree from Illinois Wesleyan University in Bloomington, Illinois. After a stint in the Army, Stuenkel joined the Topeka Capital-Journal in 1971, rising to editorial page editor. He left in 1984 to become managing editor of the Hannibal (Missouri) Courier-Post, where he worked until 1995. He was chairman of the Missouri Associated Press Managing Editors in 1986 and 1987.

Plea Hearing Set in KS Cargo Theft Case

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Two men are expected to plead guilty to attempting to steal a truckload of beef from a Kansas slaughterhouse in a case that prosecutors say exemplifies a relatively new form of identity theft in which suspects pose as a legitimate trucking firm to steal cargo. A change-of-plea hearing is scheduled for Tuesday in Wichita for Oganes and Tigran Nagapetian. Prosecutors charged the brothers in April with conspiracy, wire fraud, aggravated identity theft, and possession and production of false documents. The indictment alleges they tried to steal a truckload of meat from a Tyson plant in Holcomb in 2011. Prosecutors allege they assumed a Pennsylvania trucker's identity. The plan was foiled after an Ohio freight broker noticed discrepancies in the trucking firm's insurance documents and alerted authorities.


Imperfect Kansas City Chiefs Carry Perfect Record into Bye Week

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — The Kansas City Chiefs are an imperfect team with a perfect record. Their offense has been sluggish at best, and sloppy at worst. Their defense has given up big plays. Their special teams have made a few mistakes that could have proven costly. Still, Chiefs quarterback Alex Smith points out that even if everything had gone perfectly, the Chiefs wouldn't have a better record than the 9-0 mark they carry into their week off. The Chiefs met to review video of Sunday's 23-13 win over Buffalo on Monday before scattering over bye week. While players are enjoying some time off, the coaches plan to begin preparation for a high-profile showdown with AFC West rival Denver the following week. The Chiefs visit the 7-1 Broncos on November 17.


KS-Trained Dog Aiding Ohio Zoo

CINCINNATI (AP) — Zoos around the country will find out whether the nose of a beagle named Elvis can let them know when their polar bears are pregnant. The 2-year-old canine has been specially trained for a year by a Kansas handler who's taught dogs to sniff out everything from explosives to bed bugs. A Cincinnati Zoo animal conservation scientist had the idea after reading about studies on using dogs to detect cancer. Confirming pregnancies of the threatened species has been difficult, and zoo officials say knowing can help them make sure they and the mama bears are ready for birthing and raising cubs. Elvis has been checking out fecal samples of bears from 14 zoos. Soon, the zoos will be informed whether Elvis predicts they'll be hearing the pitter-patter of little paws.


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