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Regional Headlines for Thursday, July 11, 2013



Kansas Governor Won't Release Names of Court Applicants

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Governor Sam Brownback says he won't disclose the applicants for the Kansas Court of Appeals because it would prevent some qualified candidates from coming forward. Brownback issued a statement Thursday amid ongoing criticism that a new selection process for the state's second-highest court is less open than the one it replaced. His spokeswoman said Tuesday that he was considering releasing the names. Under law that took effect this month, the governor will appoint Court of Appeals judges, subject to state Senate confirmation. Under the previous system, a statewide nominating commission led by lawyers screened applicants and named three finalists, with no role for legislators after the governor's appointment. The commission has released applicants' names since 1981. Brownback said potential candidates told him they preferred that their names remain confidential.


Brownback Criticized over Policy on Court Hopefuls

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Republican Governor Sam Brownback's critics are not mollified by his latest statement outlining why he won't release the names of applicants for a new Kansas Court of Appeals seat. Brownback said Thursday that releasing the names would discourage some qualified applicants from coming forward. The League of Women Voters of Kansas had pushed the governor's office to release the names. President Dolores Furtado said the group is "profoundly disappointed." The new judge will be chosen under a selection process in effect this month. The governor will make the appointment, subject to Senate confirmation. Previously, a nominating commission screened applicants and named three finalists, with no role for lawmakers after the governor's appointment. Kansas Values Institute Executive Director Ryan Wright said Brownback has "closed off" scrutiny of the appointment.


UPDATE: Standoff Continues in Wichita After Shooting

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Police say a standoff at a Wichita apartment complex continues into a second day with no end in sight. Police said Thursday they are in contact with the uncooperative suspect. KAKE-TV  reports that electricity has now been shut off at the apartment building. Tear gas and flash bang grenades have failed to drive the suspect out. Wichita police say the man barricaded himself alone inside an apartment Wednesday afternoon after firing shots at a Wichita Kmart in a robbery attempt. He has fired shots during the standoff, but no one has been hurt. Authorities arranged hotel rooms for residents of three buildings at the complex who were evacuated. Derby police say the same man is a suspect in a July 4 stabbing of a woman in the Wichita suburb.


U.S. House Approves Scaled-Down Farm Bill

WASHINGTON (AP) — The U.S. House has passed a scaled-down version of a massive farm bill, putting off a fight over food stamp spending and giving Republican leaders a victory after a decisive defeat on the larger bill last month. The GOP leaders scrambled to get the bill to the floor Thursday and gather enough votes this week after making a decision to drop a politically sensitive food stamp section of the bill and pass legislation that contained only farm programs. The plan faced opposition from Democrats, farm groups and conservative groups. But Majority Leader Eric Cantor of Virginia navigated his colleagues to a 216-208 vote by convincing Republican members that this was the best chance to get the bill passed and erase the embarrassment of the June defeat.


Attorneys Seek More Time in Kansas Abortion Lawsuit

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Attorneys for Kansas and Planned Parenthood are asking a judge to postpone a hearing in the organization's federal lawsuit over parts of a new state abortion law. They filed a joint request Thursday in U.S. District Court with Chief Judge Kathryn Vratil. Planned Parenthood is challenging provisions in the law dealing with providers' websites and what information they must provide to patients before terminating pregnancies. Vratil had scheduled a hearing in Planned Parenthood's lawsuit for July 29 in Kansas City, Kansas. She also ordered attorneys to begin filing their legal briefs next week, with the last one due July 22. But the attorneys said they're trying to agree on a summary of facts in the case to expedite the lawsuit and need more time to finish.


Gambling Task Forces Question State Funding

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Members of problem-gambling task forces in Kansas say the state is not adequately funding efforts to combat gambling and other addictions. The task forces work in zones around the three state-owned casinos. Members of those task forces were told Wednesday that each group would receive $10,000 in fiscal 2014, the same amount as last year. The Wichita Eagle reports that members of the task forces said $10,000 a year is an insignificant amount and a "slap in the face" to volunteers who work with problem gamblers. The law that created the state-owned casinos in Mulvane, Dodge City and Wyandotte County requires that 2 percent of gambling revenue from the casinos go to the Problem Gambling and Addictions Grant Fund. However, most of the money has been allocated for Medicaid expenditures.

Governor Names Kansas Mental Health Task Force

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Governor Sam Brownback has announced his selections to participate in a statewide task force to address mental health issues in Kansas.The Republican governor is asking the group to recommend ways state agencies that provide mental health services can better coordinate their efforts while making good use of resources.Kansas has two state mental hospitals and 27 community mental health centers that work with private contractors, residential facilities and providers.The Kansas Department for Aging and Disability Services will oversee the task force. The first meeting of the group will be July 18 in Topeka. Brownback will receive a report from the task force on its findings and recommendations.

Kansas Insurance Chief Fills Consumer Division Spots

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas Insurance Commissioner Sandy Praeger has promoted three employees of her office's Consumer Assistance Division to new supervisory jobs. Praeger announced the changes Wednesday. She says Steve O'Neil will be the division's new director, replacing Jennifer Sourk, who left the Insurance Department recently for a job in private business. O'Neil had been the division's health supervisor. Praeger named Elizabeth Fike to replace O'Neil has health supervisor. Fike had been working as an attorney and consumer health representative. Meanwhile, Praeger said LeAnn Crow will become the division's new property and casualty supervisor after working as a market conduct examiner. Crow will replace Daryl Richardson, who retired last month. Praeger, a Republican, is in her third term as insurance commissioner and isn't expected to seek re-election next year.

Report: Kansas Wheat Crop Bigger Than Anticipated

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A new government report shows the Kansas winter wheat crop is far bigger than previously forecast. The National Agricultural Statistics Service reported Thursday that the 328 million bushels expected to be cut in Kansas is 7 percent larger than last month's estimate. Despite the more upbeat outlook, this year's harvest is still anticipated to be down 14 percent from last year. The latest report forecasts an average yield of 40 bushels per acre cut from an estimated 8.2 million harvested acres in Kansas. Stark differences divide the state into one of haves and haves not when it comes to this season's wheat crop. Production in western Kansas fared only slightly better than half of last year's crop. But elsewhere in the state crops were mostly bigger than a year ago.

Report: About 371K Kansas Jobs Supported by Trade

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A new study finds that international trade supports about 371,000 Kansas jobs. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports the Business Roundtable conducted the study. The group is made up of the CEOs of America's 200 largest companies and has advocated for free-trade agreements with Panama, Colombia and South Korea. The report estimated Kansas exported about $12.2 billion worth of goods in 2012. About $5.4 billion of the goods were sold to countries with which the United States has free-trade agreements. Only about 19,800 of the Kansas jobs tied to trade in 2011 were in the manufacturing sector. Most — about 68,600 — were in consumer services. Steve Kelly of the Kansas Department of Commerce says additional free-trade agreements could make it easier for Kansans to sell overseas.

KCK Postal Worker Accused of Stealing Drugs

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) — Federal prosecutors have accused a U.S. Postal Service employee in Kansas City, Kansas with stealing prescription pain medicine from the mail. Barry Grissom, U.S. attorney for Kansas, said in a release Thursday that 40-year-old Sherry Robertson of Kansas City, Kansas faces five counts of theft of mail by a postal employee and one count of possession with intent to distribute hydrocodone. She's accused of removing pills from the mail on several separate occasions in 2012 and 2013. Robertson faces up to five years in federal prison and a fine up to $250,000 on each count. Online court records don't list a lawyer for Robertson.

Judge Postpones Trial Date for Former Kansas Doctor

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A former Kansas doctor accused of unlawfully possessing drugs and a firearm will get more time to put together a defense. U.S. District Judge Monti Belot on Wednesday granted an unopposed defense request to delay Lawrence Simons' upcoming trial this month. The judge set a new trial date for September 20. A defense filing cites the "overwhelming" contents of storage lockers where authorities found prescription drugs. Video and photos depict nine tables covered with drugs and medical paraphernalia. Prosecutors have also turned over multiple CDs. Simons is a convicted felon who allegedly gave a bondsman a gun as partial payment for bailing him out of jail in an unrelated criminal threat case. Simons had surrendered his license to write prescriptions, and could not lawfully possess controlled substances.


Photographer Charged After Flying over Feedlot

GARDEN CITY, Kan. (AP) — A National Geographic freelance photographer who paraglided over a western Kansas feedlot faces a criminal trespassing charge. Photographer George Steinmetz, of Glen Ridge, New Jersey, and paragliding instructor Wei Zhang, of Beijing, China, were charged Thursday. They were arrested June 28 and released on bond. Steinmetz was working on a series about food that will be published in early 2014. Finney County Attorney Susan Richmeier said in a statement that the charges have nothing to do with the right to airspace or to take pictures. She says the charges are focused on the right of landowners to control their property. National Geographic spokeswoman Beth Foster said recently the organization does not believe Steinmetz broke any laws. Richmeier didn't know whether the men have attorneys.


State No Longer Seeking 'Hard 50' Against Seacat

KINGMAN, Kan. (AP) — The Kansas Attorney General's office is no longer asking a judge to sentence a former law officer to 50 years without parole for killing his wife. Brett Seacat was convicted last month of killing his wife, Vashti Seacat, and setting their Kingman home on fire in April 2011. He and the couple's two sons escaped the fire. Prosecuting attorney Amy Hanley had said after the verdict the state would ask the judge to consider a "hard 50" sentence for Seacat. KWCH reports  prosecutors withdrew that intent in court documents filed July 1. They cited a U.S. Supreme Court ruling that juries, rather than judges, should consider facts in trials that could result in longer minimum sentences. A judge will sentence Seacat on August 5.

Endangered Monkey Has Twins at Topeka Zoo

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — An endangered species of monkey has given birth to twins at the Topeka Zoo. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that Devra, a 3-year-old golden lion tamarin, gave birth to twins Wednesday. She and the babies' father, Charlie, arrived in Topeka in December as part of the Golden Lion Tamarin Species Survival Plan. Both tamarins are first-time parents. The babies' genders haven't yet been released. The zoo says it will post updates and daily pictures of the baby monkeys on its Facebook page. The National Zoo says golden lion tamarins are native to Brazil's coastal rain forests, and have been threatened by habitat destruction. In the early 1970s, there were fewer than 200 alive. Their population has since rebounded to about 1,600 monkeys living in the wild.

95-Year-Old TX Man Sets Records as Competitive Runner

DALLAS (AP) — You might say Orville Rogers is a late bloomer. The 95-year-old began getting in shape by running at age 50. And he started competing as a runner even later in life. Rogers began running in master's track and field events five years ago, and the Dallas man now has more than a dozen medals and records. The WWII and Korean War veteran says he started running the day after reading "Aerobics" by Dr. Kenneth Cooper. That was 1968 — and he never looked back. Cooper became Rogers's physician and says Rogers is a testament to getting in better shape as you age. One thing Rogers is proud of is having run a 10-minute mile in recent years. Rogers says he'll compete in events at the 2013 USA Masters Outdoor Track & Field Championships in Olathe this weekend. 

Brown University Taps Wichita State Official as Chief Information Officer

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP) — Brown University has named a top official at Wichita State University as its new chief information officer. The Ivy League university said Thursday that Ravi Pendse has been named vice president for computing and information services. He starts Sept. 1. Pendse is currently vice president and chief information officer at the Kansas school and a tenured professor in the electrical engineering and computer science department. He has worked in IT areas ranging from library systems to digital classroom design to overall campus IT planning. At Brown, he will oversee instructional and academic technologies; privacy and data security policies and programs; web support; network operations, including Wi-Fi and mobile computing; telecommunications and video; and IT disaster preparedness. Pendse succeeds Michael Pickett, who retired June 30.


Officials Capture 1 of 2 Escaped Kansas Zoo Monkeys

INDEPENDENCE, Kan. (AP) — A southeast Kansas zoo remains closed while a search continues for an escaped monkey. The Independence Daily Reporter says the capuchin monkey was one of two that escaped Wednesday from a pen at the Ralph Mitchell Zoo at Riverside Park in Independence. One monkey was caught a short time later, but officials remained on the lookout Thursday for the second money. Park director Barbara Beurskens says a zookeeper failed to adequately secure the lock to the monkey's pen while cleaning cages. Independence Director of Public Safety David Cowan says one monkey bit an Oklahoma man before jumping on a woman who hit the animal with her purse. Live animal traps are being set up throughout the zoo area. Both monkeys also escaped from their cage a few years ago.

Commission Considers Major Change to KC Council

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Minority leaders in Kansas City are pushing for major changes in the way the city council is elected. Leaders of black and Latino groups on Wednesday asked a commission reviewing the city's charter to change the way city council elections have been held in Kansas City for 50 years. They contend the current system does not provide adequate representation for minorities. The Kansas City Star reports that since 1963, residents have chosen six council members from specific districts and six others who run citywide. Representatives of the minority groups want the council to have at least nine district members and three at-large members, or elect all 12 members from districts.

Kansas City Begins Natural Gas Use on Buses

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Kansas City is on the road to converting all of its public buses to natural gas. The Kansas City Area Transportation on Wednesday put two new natural-gas powered buses into service. Transportation officials say the city will replace all of its 300 buses, which mostly use diesel, to natural-gas during the next 12 to 14 years. Five hybrid-electric buses also will be replaced. The Kansas City Star reports that another 23 natural-gas buses are already ordered. Mark Huffer, general manager of the ATA, says natural gas costs about half the cost of diesel. And while a natural gas bus costs $40,000 more than a diesel-powered bus, it is expected to save the ATA $100,000 before it needs to be replaced.

Inmate Attacks Kansas Prosecutor at Hearing

HUTCHINSON, Kan. (AP) — A 27-year-old Hutchinson man who sexually assaulted a 4-month-old girl has attacked a Reno County prosecutor while appealing his life sentence. The attack happened Wednesday while Michael Sherman was objecting to being sentenced under Jessica's Law. The statute mandates a life sentence with no possibility of parole for 25 years for adults convicted of certain sex crimes against children younger than 14. Sherman had performed oral sodomy on the infant and then turned himself in. Reno County Sheriff Randy Henderson says that after the judge upheld the original sentence, Sherman jumped on top of prosecutor Keith Schroeder. The sheriff says the shackled Sherman was immediately subdued, and information will be forwarded to the Kansas attorney general's office for possible charges. Schroeder sustained a slight abrasion to his forehead.

Kansas Concealed Carry Permits Set Record in 2012

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Applications for permits to carry concealed weapons in Kansas set a record in the fiscal year ending June 30th more than doubling the record set in the previous year. Attorney General Derek Schmidt says Wednesday that 25,340 applications for permits were filed with the state between July 1st, 2012 and June 30th. The old mark was 12,408 applications in the fiscal year 2012. Kansas has been issuing permits since 2007 with 63,455 active licenses in the state as of July 1st, an increase of nearly 20,000 from the previous year. New changes taking effect July 1 expand the number of public places where concealed guns are permitted, including state and municipal buildings, unless adequate safety measures such as guards and metal detectors are installed.

Koch Plans $200,000 Media Ad Campaign in Wichita

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Wealthy industrialist Charles Koch is planning a $200,000 ad campaign in Wichita focused on political issues. The chairman of Wichita-based Koch Industries tells The Wichita Eagle that the four-week media campaign that begins Wednesday will laud economic freedom and warn about government overreach. It is funded by the Charles Koch Foundation. Koch said if people like it, he might the campaign to other cities. Koch told the Eagle that he believes his ideas on economics will help disadvantaged people. He contends government regulations, including the minimum wage, tend to hold everyone back. The campaign promotes the idea that countries with economic freedom have the most wealth. Koch acknowledged the move will draw fire from people who criticized him for his campaign spending last year.

SoftBank Completes $21.6B Deal with Sprint Nextel

OVERLAND PARK, Kan. (AP) — Sprint Nextel, the third largest U.S. wireless carrier, is now under the control of the Japanese investment firm SoftBank. The change occurred late Wednesday when Softbank Corporation completed a $21.6 billion investment in Sprint Nextel. The cash-and-stock deal gives SoftBank a 78 percent stake in Sprint Nextel. SoftBank had been vying against Satellite TV operator Dish Network Corporation to gain control of Sprint Nextel, which is based in Overland Park. Dish abandoned its $25.5 billion bid to buy Sprint Nextel in its entirety last month. Sprint Nextel had favored the SoftBank deal. As part of the new ownership, Sprint Nextel is changing its name to Sprint Corporation. Its remaining publicly traded stock will be listed on the New York Stock Exchange under the ticker symbol "S."


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