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Regional Headlines for Thursday, February 28, 2013


Kansas Senate Approves Drug Testing Measure

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas senators have approved a bill that would require many of the state's elected officials and applicants for certain welfare benefits to undergo drug testing. The measure would require testing of applicants for Temporary Assistance to Needy Families, as well as the governor, lieutenant governor, attorney general and legislators. A finding of reasonable suspicion of drug use would trigger more testing and treatment. The Senate approved the bill Thursday 31-8, sending it to the House. Supporters say the measure is aimed at helping the poor kick their addictions, get needed job training skills and find employment. Opponents argue the measure targets the poor and women and would have adverse effects on children. Opponents of testing the poor added the requirement for elected officials, saying they should face the same scrutiny.


Kansas Senate Debates Election Fraud Bill

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The Kansas Senate is debating legislation that expands the definition of election fraud and gives the secretary of state authority to prosecute the crime. Republican Secretary of State Kris Kobach has made election fraud a major focus of his tenure since he took office in 2011. Under existing law, only county attorneys and the Kansas attorney general can prosecute voter fraud. The bill being debated Thursday would extend the authority to the secretary of state. The Senate rejected an effort by the Democratic minority to bar the secretary of state from forming a political action committee that contributes to legislative candidates, as Kobach did in 2012.


Kansas House Advances Court of Appeals Change

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The Kansas House has advanced legislation giving the governor and legislators more power over appointments to the state Court of Appeals. The House gave the bill first-round approval on a 68-54 vote Thursday. It needs a second House vote to move to the Senate. The legislation provides for Court of Appeals judges to be appointed by the governor and confirmed by the Senate. Under the current system, a special commission screens applicants for the court and nominates three finalists. The governor makes the appointment, with no role for legislators. Supporters of the change contend it will make the selection process more open. Opponents argue it will make the process more political.


Kansas Senate Advances Changes to Rape Statutes

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The Kansas Senate has given initial approval to legislation abolishing the statute of limitations on prosecuting rape. The measure debated Wednesday also changes the time limits for prosecuting a sexually violent crime. Final Senate action is scheduled Thursday. Kansas is among 10 states that now require a rape to be prosecuted within five years. The legislation does away with that limit. The bill also allows for prosecution of a sexually violent crime to begin within 10 years if the victim is at least 18 years old. For younger victims, prosecution would begin within one year of the date the suspect is identified through DNA testing, or within 10 years of the victim's 18th birthday, whichever is later.

Kansas Governor Signs Proclamation on Severe Weather Awareness

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — On the heels of two major winter snow storms, Kansas Governor Sam Brownback has signed a proclamation aimed at raising awareness of severe weather dangers. Brownback approved the measure during a brief ceremony Thursday in the Statehouse. It proclaims the week of March 3 as Severe Weather Awareness Week in the state. Kansas received two winter storms within a week, resulting in more than 2 feet of snow across some regions and contributing to the deaths of six residents. The signing of the proclamation was originally scheduled for February 22 but was delayed because of the first storm that hit the state two days earlier.

Kansas Sheriff, Deputy Charged with Felony

OTTAWA, Kan. (AP) — An eastern Kansas sheriff and deputy have been charged with felony interference with law enforcement operations following a five-month investigation. Franklin County Sheriff Jeffry Curry and deputy Jerrod Fredricks were arrested Wednesday by the Kansas Bureau of Investigation. Curry is also charged with misdemeanor official misconduct. State and county authorities did not disclose details of the KBI investigation or the charges, saying more information would be released at the men's first court appearances on March 6th. Curry and Fredricks were taken for their safety to the Wyandotte County jail. The jail's website showed both released later Wednesday — Curry on a $3,000 bond and Fredricks on a $1,500 bond. Neither man has a listed phone number. The case is being prosecuted by the Shawnee County district attorney.


UPDATE: Kansas House Not Ready to Back Off Green Energy Requirements

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) _ The Kansas House isn't ready to back off a state policy requiring utilities to generate 20 percent of their electricity from wind and other renewable resources by 2020. House members voted 63-59 on Thursday to send a bill revising the policy back to a committee. The bill would have set the renewable energy standard for utilities at 15 percent starting in 2018. Supporters of the bill said the current standard is likely to raise consumers' costs. Opponents of the legislation said Kansas now has a favorable climate for developing wind farms. The House action came as the Senate debated its own bill to give utilities an additional four years, or until 2024, to meet the 20 percent standard. Senators expected to vote on their measure Thursday.


Military School Seeks to Toss Former Cadet's Claims

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) _ An embattled Kansas military school is asking a federal judge to rule at least partially in its favor after a former cadet admitted lying about being taped, bound and gagged against his will. St. John's Military School argues in a court filing Thursday the former student has said in a sworn deposition the alleged incident began as a joke and that he asked his classmates to send a picture of it to his mother so she would take him out of the school. Michael Kelly is among 11 former cadets who have sued the Salina boarding school alleging abuse. St. John's says in a statement that Kelly's false allegation has caused immense harm to its reputation. An attorney for the former cadets did not immediately return phone and email messages Thursday.


KC Day Care Evacuated over Roof Concerns

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Firefighters have evacuated a Kansas City day care over concerns its snow-laden roof would collapse. Broadcaster KCTV  reports that firefighters were called Thursday morning to the St. Luke's Day Care after employees noticed several ceiling titles were bowing. Thirty staff members and 118 children were taken to a nearby building. St. Luke's spokeswoman Laurel Giffords says parents were notified and a contractor was removing snow from the roof. The hope is that the roof will be fine once the snow is gone.


Sierra Nevada Edges Out Beechcraft for Air Force Contract

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — The U.S. Air Force has awarded Sierra Nevada Corporation a contract worth more than $427 million, dealing a major blow to Wichita-based Beechcraft as it emerges from bankruptcy protection. The announcement Wednesday means Sierra Nevada will build at least 20 light air support planes in Jacksonville, Florida for use in Afghanistan. The contract could ultimately be worth nearly $1 billion, depending on future orders. The planes would give the Afghan National Army Air Corps a fixed-wing strike capability. Beechcraft, formerly Hawker Beechcraft, had proposed the AT-6 attack aircraft, a version of its T-6 trainer. Sierra Nevada Corporation partnered with Brazil-based Embraer to offer its Super Tucano. The competition for the award has taken nearly three years and has been plagued by delays and legal challenges.


Iowa State Students Apologize to KU Coach Self

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — University of Kansas men's basketball coach Bill Self says the Iowa State student government sent him a letter apologizing for a pair of incidents that occurred during the Jayhawks' overtime victory over the Cyclones on Monday night. The sixth-ranked Jayhawks rallied in the closing minutes to force overtime before rolling to a 108-96 victory that left the crowd at Hilton Coliseum stunned. The first incident occurred after Self gave a brief postgame TV interview. When it was over, an Iowa State fan had to be held back by security when he charged after Self. The second incident occurred on Twitter, where at least two fans made racist and threatening comments directed toward the Jayhawks' Elijah Johnson, who scored 39 points in the game. Self said he accepted the apology.


ISU Investigates Threatening Tweets After KU Game

AMES, Iowa (AP) — Officials at Iowa State University are investigating three students accused of sending threatening and racial tweets to a University of Kansas basketball player after a heated overtime game. Dean of Students Pamela Anthony says Thursday the tweets about KU guard Elijah Johnson were reported to the university earlier this week. She couldn't provide more information because of federal privacy rules. Anthony says the school is "repulsed by the derogatory and threatening statements." Johnson angered some ISU students when he dunked the ball with seconds left during an overtime game Monday between the Jayhawks and the Cyclones. Some fans hurled plastic megaphones at KU players after the Jayhawks' 108-96 win. Johnson apologized for the dunk at a postgame news conference. The students' Twitter accounts have been removed.


Report: Officer Killed in Car Crash Had High Blood-Alcohol Content

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — A new report says an off-duty Lawrence police officer who died in a one-car crash had a blood-alcohol content more than three times the legal limit for driving. The Lawrence Journal-World reports that the Kansas Highway Patrol released its findings Thursday on the crash that killed Matthew Klock. The 29-year-old officer was alone in his Nissan Altima when it hit a traffic signal pole in western Lawrence around 2 am on January 2. He was not wearing a seat belt and died at the scene. The Highway Patrol says Klock had a blood-alcohol content of .259. The legal limit for driving in Kansas is .08. Klock had served with the Lawrence Police Department since 2007.


Kansas Higher Ed Urged to Help Startup Companies

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Governor Sam Brownback says he is considering a program that would reward universities and technical colleges for helping startup companies. During a meeting of economic advisers Wednesday, the governor said it's only an idea and no details of how to structure the program have been finalized. But he says the schools could be paid $2,000 to $5,000 to sponsor startup companies. He says the program would help create an entrepreneurial atmosphere in the state. The Wichita Eagle reports that Graham Toft, president of the consultant group GrowthEconomists Inc., suggested Kansas should rebrand itself by focusing on its educated workforce, quality schools, robust transportation and work ethic. He says the state should also seek more federal grants for small business innovation and research.

Woman Seeks to Intervene in Kansas Sperm Donor Case

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A Topeka woman is seeking the right to co-parent a child at the center of a sperm donor child support case. Angela Bauer cited a first-of-its-kind Kansas Supreme Court decision in seeking Wednesday to intervene in the child support case. The court ruled Friday that the non-biological mother of children in a same-sex relationship can have the same parental rights as the biological mother. Bauer and her former partner advertised for a sperm donor on Craigslist. The donor says he signed a contract waiving his parental rights and responsibilities. But because no doctor was involved in the artificial insemination, the state sought to hold him financially responsible for the child born to Bauer's former partner when the women split and the former partner sought public assistance.

KU Names New Dean for School of Engineering

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — The University of Kansas has picked a department head at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, Ohio to lead its School of Engineering. Michael Branicky will begin his new job as dean July 1st. The University of Kansas announced Wednesday that Branicky will replace Stuart Bell, who joined Louisiana State University as provost and executive vice chancellor last August. Professor Stan Rolfe will continue serving as interim dean until Branicky arrives. At Case Western, Branicky serves as a professor and chair in the Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science. He previously was a program manager at the National Science Foundation. Branicky says the KU School of Engineering is "poised to become a national leader." He vowed to work to maintain high educational quality while elevating and expanding research.

Kansas Optometrist Pleads Guilty to Eye Exam Fraud

DERBY, Kan. (AP) — A Kansas optometrist admits he collected $500,000 for eye exams that he didn't perform. Forty-seven-year-old Wade D. Abbey of Derby pleaded guilty Wednesday to five counts of wire fraud in the scheme that netted $583,060. Federal prosecutors allege that Abbey and his wife, Mindy L. Abbey, were paid extra fees for every eye exam they performed at Vision Doctors of Optometry in Derby. They allegedly gave false information about the number of exams to an accountant, who paid them based on that information. Abbey will be sentenced May 16. Mindy Abbey is awaiting trial.


Injured ESU Exchange Student Returning to China

EMPORIA, Kan. (AP) — An exchange student who sustained a serious brain injury while attending Emporia State is returning to China. Twenty-three-year-old Yali Huang was flown to a Wichita hospital in November after being struck by a Jeep while walking across a street. After coming out of a 10-week coma, she's ready to be released. The family wanted to move her to a rehabilitation facility in Kansas, but her exchange student insurance doesn't cover that type of care. And the family was unable to find a facility that would take her. The Emporia Gazette reports that she is returning to China on Sunday with her mother and a nurse. Her family operates a convenience store in Shenzhen, a city in southern China. Donations to help cover the cost of Huang's care can be sent to a Bank of America branch in Wichita.


Wichita Man Arrested After Fleeing in Canoe

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A Wichita man has been jailed after a chase that involved canoeing down a river. Authorities say the drama, which lasted several hours, began Wednesday evening when deputies tried to stop a suspected stolen car in southwest Sedgwick County. The car chase ended when deputies put down spike strips, prompting the man to run into a field and jump into a canoe on the Ninnescah River. After several hours, the man allegedly stole a second vehicle before being cornered and arrested. KAKE-TV reports that authorities believe the suspect is connected to several thefts and burglaries in three counties.


Thieves Hit Wichita Parks Vehicles During Storm

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Not even a record-setting snowfall could stop some Wichita thieves. And they hit the city where it hurts, stealing catalytic converters from seven vehicles parked at the city's parks and recreation department's yard. Police say the thieves stole the equipment early Tuesday, during the heaviest snowfall. City officials say the thefts came as parks department employees needed to help remove snow from parking lots. Thieves prize the catalytic converters because they contain valuable metals that can be sold for scrap. KAKE-TV reports the city says the thefts will cost taxpayers about $5,000.

Strange Sight on College Basketball Court: Sleeves

CINCINNATI (AP) — Tradition-rich basketball programs at UCLA and Louisville are taking on an unconventional look for college basketball's postseason: sleeves. Adidas unveiled its new brightly colored, camouflage-patterned uniforms for six men's teams Thursday. The University of Kansas, Notre Dame and Cincinnati will also sport the multihued shorts, but will stick with sleeveless jerseys. Baylor will join the Bruins and Cardinals in wearing the short-sleeved top, which the company debuted with the NBA's Golden State Warriors earlier this month. Alternate uniforms have become big business in college sports, from Oregon's fluorescent tones with Nike to Maryland's loud designs with Under Armour. Number six-ranked Kansas, number 10 Louisville and number 21 Notre Dame are currently ranked in the AP Top 25. UCLA, Cincinnati and Baylor might need a few more wins to guarantee they'll be playing in the NCAA tournament.

Kansas Senior Center Director Charged with Theft

ARKANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) — The former director of the Arkansas City Senior Citizens Center is charged with theft and misusing public funds. An attorney for Edward G. Greene waived a reading of the six felony charges against his client during a hearing Wednesday. Greene is charged with three counts of theft, two counts of making false information and one count of misuse of public funds. Prosecutors allege he took funds in excess of $100,000. Greene posted $10,000 bond Tuesday night after he turned himself in to Cowley County authorities. He did not attend Wednesday's hearing. The Arkansas City Traveler reports Greene had been the center's director for four years before he resigned in September 2012. A preliminary hearing was scheduled for March 26.

Russell Names New Police Chief

RUSSELL, Kan. (AP) — A new police chief has been named for the central Kansas city of Russell. The Hays Daily News reports that Dale Weimaster will serve as police chief for the city of about 4,500 people. He replaces Jon Quinday, who had served as police chief until he was named interim city manager. Quinday has since become city manager. Weimaster is a lifelong Russell resident. He joined the Police Department as a patrolman in 1994 and was named captain in 2009. He's expected to be sworn in Friday.


KC Wedding Venue Faces $130K Legal Judgment

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — A judge says a Kansas City wedding venue must pay $130,000 after canceling events and failing to refund money. Missouri Attorney General Koster announced Wednesday that $43,000 will go to the unlucky couples. Ryan Ronney Crowell and his company, West Bottoms Hospitality, also must pay another $87,000 in penalties and fees. After a trial in January, Jackson County (Missouri) Circuit Judge David Byrn found the defendants contracted with 73 couples to rent out the historic Stowe Building for wedding ceremonies. The defendants also agreed to provide services such as photography. Crowell promised the couples the building would be renovated in time for scheduled weddings and receptions. But Kansas City stopped renovations because Crowell failed to apply for the required permits. Ultimately, all 73 events were cancelled.


Oklahoma Agencies Settle 'Precious Doe' Lawsuit

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — The Oklahoma Department of Human Services, the Department of Corrections and the University of Oklahoma Medical Center have agreed to settle a lawsuit in the death of a young girl known as Precious Doe. Larry Green sued the agencies for the 2001 death of his daughter, Erica Green, whose beheaded body was found in Kansas City, Missouri. Erica was known as Precious Doe until identified in 2005. Her mother and stepfather — Michelle Johnson and Harrell Johnson — were convicted in her death. Michelle Johnson is serving 25 years in prison and Harrell Johnson is serving life without parole. Green will receive an unspecified payment in the settlement and the agencies will develop procedures for DHS to find safe homes for babies born to mothers who are in prison.

Missouri Man Convicted of Killing Innocent Bystander

LIBERTY, Mo. (AP) — A northwest Missouri man was convicted of killing a 19-year-old man who was trying to help a woman and her children. A Clay County jury on Wednesday found 31-year-old Marcus D. Smith of Kansas City guilty of second-degree murder and three other charges in the August 2011 death of Samir Clark. Police say Clark was visiting a relative when a neighbor knocked on the door and asked for help. Clark and his relative took the woman and her children in. Smith fired several shots into the apartment, hitting Clark in the neck. Investigators said Smith had argued with several people before the shooting. The Kansas City Star reports that Clark was an Eagle Scout who planned to leave for Tennessee State University in Nashville the week he was killed.

Man Pleads Not Guilty to Escaping from South Dakota Jail

HURON, S.D. (AP) — A Kansas man accused of breaking out of a jail in South Dakota's Beadle County in January has pleaded not guilty. KOKK radio reports that 45-year-old Charles Beeney entered his pleas this week to assault, grand theft and escape charges. He is being held in the South Dakota State Penitentiary in Sioux Falls. Authorities say Beeney escaped from the county jail in Huron on January 8 after accosting a guard with a makeshift weapon. He was captured later the same day in Sioux Falls after allegedly stealing a pickup truck. Beeney has a criminal history in Kansas and North Dakota, including an escape from a county jail in North Dakota in 2005 and an attempted escape from the State Penitentiary in that state in 2010.

Wildlife Struggle After Snow Covers Arid Land

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Experts say the deep snow covering much of Kansas only made things worse for wildlife in the state. Jim Pitman, a state small game biologist, says birds and other wildlife were already having trouble finding food or cover after two years of extreme drought. Now the parched land is covered by several inches of snow, making the search even harder. The snow could help revive habitat in the long run. But in the short term, Robert Penner of the Nature Conservancy says the conditions are difficult, particularly for prairie birds. Penner said several birds also are being killed by drivers because they are congregating along roads to feed, sometimes in huge numbers. The Wichita Eagle reports the concern comes as many species of prairie birds are dwindling because of the sustained drought.

Wichita Committee Seeks Public Comments on Grants

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A Wichita committee formed to review grant requests has rescheduled a public hearing that was postponed by a winter storm. The meeting is now set for March 5 at Wichita City Hall. Presentations are expected by agencies submitting proposals for Community Development Block Grant funds. Those funds are used to support recreation and crime prevention services for youth, shelter for domestic violence victims and new housing development services. The city is anticipating an 8 percent reduction in funding. Information gathered from the hearing will help determine funding recommendations that City Manager Robert Layton will forward to the city council.

Wichita to Host National Women's Bowling Tourney

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Wichita tourism officials predict the city will see a $14 million economic benefit from hosting a national women's bowling tournament six years from now. City officials announced Wednesday the 2019 United States Bowling Congress women's tournament will be held at two local bowling alleys — Northrock Lanes and Thunderbird Bowl. The Wichita Eagle reports that the event is expected to bring several thousand bowlers to the city during the tournament's run from April to June 2019. The city hosted the Women's International Bowling Congress tournament in 2004, and a year later the WIBC became part of the USBC. Several Wichita officials went to Arlington, Texas, last month to bid on the 2017 and 2019 tournaments. Baton Rouge, Louisiana was awarded the 2017 event.


Hostess Picks Grupo Bimbo to Buy Beefsteak Bread Brand

NEW YORK (AP) — Hostess is choosing Mexico's Grupo Bimbo as the buyer for its Beefsteak bread brand. Hostess said a $31.9 million bid by the maker of Entenmann's cakes beat out another offer by Flowers Foods, which makes Tastykakes and Nature's Own bread. Beefsteak is a regional rye bread available in some states. Hostess, which is in bankruptcy protection, has also said that it picked Flowers Foods as the buyer for the majority of its breads, including Wonder, Butternut, Home Pride, Merita and Nature's Pride. The company said no qualifying competing bids were submitted. Hostess will ask a bankruptcy court to approve the sales at a hearing March 19. The company has also picked opening bidders for its snack cakes, including Twinkies. Auctions for those sales are scheduled to take place in mid-March.


State of Kansas Considers Backing Off Green Energy Requirements

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas legislators are considering backing off a state policy that requires utilities to generate 20 percent of their electricity from wind and other renewable resources by 2020. The House and Senate were planning to debate separate bills Thursday afternoon to revise the deadlines set by Kansas law for utilities to meet the state's renewable energy portfolio standards. The Senate's bill would give utilities an additional four years, until 2024, to meet the 20 percent renewable energy standard. The House bill sets the future requirement at 15 percent. Supporters of the bills say the standards will boost consumers' costs. Green energy firms oppose both measures. The Senate could take final action on its bill Thursday. House members could give their measure first-round approval Thursday, with a final vote possible Friday.

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

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