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Regional Headlines for Thursday, July 4, 2013



Federal Sequester Leads to Wichita HCS Furloughs

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Officials with Wichita's Housing and Community Services department say 59 employees will be furloughed on 13 days this year because of the automatic federal budget cuts. The agency announced the forced days off on Wednesday, citing the federal sequester. The salaries of all 59 workers are funded by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. The Wichita department will be closed Friday, on the first day of the furloughs, and on 12 more Fridays through early December. HUD is one of seven federal agencies required by the budget cuts to furlough employees. HUD's own employees and offices are also affected.


Kansas Agriculture Agency Rethinks Scale Changes

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas officials are rethinking new regulations on checking the accuracy of large scales used to weigh agricultural products, recycling materials and scrap metal. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that the state Agriculture Department has delayed enforcement of the new rules, which were scheduled to take effect July 1. The biggest change would require private scale technicians have new installations reviewed by competitors and certified for accuracy. Many technicians around the state objected, saying the practice could void a manufacturer's warranty. The head of the Agriculture Department's Division of Weights and Measures wrote to scale technicians last week recognizing those concerns.

Central Kansas Farmers Report Bountiful Wheat Harvest

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Farmers are hauling bountiful winter wheat crops into elevators in central Kansas, but the drought has decimated yields in the western part of the state. The Wichita Eagle reports that yields in some central Kansas fields are reaching a rare 100 bushels an acre. The Mid-Kansas Co-op in Moundridge says its elevators from Sedgwick County to north of Abilene have been taking in 10 percent more than expected and 50 percent more than their average. Harvest is about 90 percent complete in south-central Kansas and more than 60 percent done statewide. The trade group Kansas Wheat reports quality and yields drop off about halfway heading west across the state. Yields are only about 25 bushels per acre around Dodge City and 20 bushels an acre around Garden City.



Kansas Teen Charged with Killing Father

SHAWNEE, Kan. (AP) — A 14-year-old northeast Kansas boy is charged with first-degree murder in the shooting death of his father during a custody exchange with the man's ex-wife. The Kansas City Star reports that the teen was charged in the juvenile division of Johnson County District Court on Wednesday, one day after the shooting outside a business in Shawnee. Police and prosecutors have not commented on a possible motive. The boy's appointed attorney declined to comment while he continued gathering information. Authorities have said the boy's mother and stepfather brought him to the business Tuesday afternoon to exchange custody with the 46-year-old father. Investigators say the boy approached his father's car and shot him with a handgun. The Associated Press is not naming the father because of the boy's age.

Weather Cooperates with Hutchinson Celebration

HUTCHINSON, Kan. (AP) — The Fourth of July fireworks show will go on at the State Fairgrounds in Hutchinson after a close brush with postponement due to windy weather. The Hutchinson News reports that Fire Chief Kim Forbes made the decision Thursday afternoon. Forbes had said earlier in the week the extravaganza scheduled for 9:45 pm Thursday might be postponed if winds topped 22 to 25 mph. Gusts were up to 18 mph early Thursday afternoon, but the National Weather Service predicted they would subside by evening. Hutchinson officials didn't want to take any chances after last year's Fourth of July, when fireworks were blamed for 30 grass fires and a $500,000 house fire. Forbes was concerned that windy weather this year could propel embers from the big fireworks show into surrounding neighborhoods.


Northeast Kansas Veteran Mulling US Senate Race

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A military veteran who formed the Moderate Party of Kansas is considering a run for U.S. Senate as an independent candidate against Republican incumbent Pat Roberts. Aaron Estabrook, of Manhattan, is the first potential candidate to publicly confirm an interest in challenging Roberts. Estabrook told The Topeka Capital-Journal that he's forming an exploratory committee and would run as the candidate of the Moderate Party, which he founded last November. Roberts has served in the Senate since 1997 and is expected to win re-election easily next year in GOP-leaning Kansas. But his spokeswoman, Sarah Little, says Roberts will take any challenger seriously. Estabrook says he's considering a Senate bid partly because he wants to help his fellow veterans.


Northeast Kansas Man Accused in Theft of Cattle Panels

HOLTON, Kan. (AP) — A northeast Kansas man is accused of stealing thousands of dollars' worth of cattle panels from a farm in rural Hoyt. KMZA-FM reports that Jackson County (Kansas) deputies arrested the 32-year-old Mayetta man on Wednesday. Sheriff Tim Morse says the theft occurred sometime after June 20. Investigators later obtained a photo of a man believed to be the suspect with the missing panels at a Topeka scrap yard. The man is accused of taking 23 cattle panels, which are used for pens and corrals, along with a gate and a frame. The loss to the farmer was estimated at more than $4,000. Authorities also impounded a 1989 pickup truck they believe was used in connection with the crime. The sheriff says that's part of a new tactic to help deter metal thefts.


Body of SE Kansas Man Recovered in Neosho River

OSWEGO, Kan. (AP) — A two-day search for a southeast Kansas man who disappeared in the Neosho River while fishing has ended with the recovery of his body. KOAM-TV reports that a Kansas Highway Patrol helicopter crew spotted the body of 24-year-old Oswego resident Blake Chavez in the river Wednesday afternoon. Labette County Sheriff Robert Sims says Chavez was one of two men who fell into the river below a dam on Monday evening. A 27-year-old man was able to swim to safety. The dam is located below Riverside Park in Oswego. The sheriff says it's a popular spot for swimming and fishing, but the current is deceptively swift.


Terrorists Dupe KC al-Qaida Supporter, 2 Others

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Court documents suggest three naturalized American citizens who thought they were contributing money toward global jihad instead were lining the pockets of two Yemeni al-Qaida leaders. The Kansas City Star reports that Kansas City resident Khalid Ouazzani and two others thought the tens of thousands of dollars they sent overseas would eventually land them in Somalia, Iraq or Afghanistan. Instead, their contributions got them arrested by federal agents who say they intended to help al-Qaida regardless of how the money actually was spent. Ouazzani and two New York men have pleaded guilty to terror-related charges and are expected to be sentenced this summer.


Broke KC Charter School Struggles to Pay Teachers

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Teachers at a Kansas City charter school that recently closed are still waiting for their final paychecks. The Kansas City Star reports that teachers at the Derrick Thomas Academy received a memo instead of their last check. The memo explained that there was no money available because of a dispute between the bondholder for the school and its management company, Edison Learning Inc. For now, money that could go toward salaries is tied up in court. School attorney James Tippin says there are limited options to help the teachers and that no one on the school's board of directors is happy about the situation. The academy announced last fall it would close after its university sponsor refused to renew its charter, citing poor management and low test scores.

Parties Agree to Delay in KCC Lawsuit

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A Kansas prosecutor has agreed to delay his lawsuit against the Kansas Corporation Commission over alleged open meetings violations while the utility regulatory board reviews its policies. Shawnee County District Attorney Chad Taylor said Wednesday he filed a motion in state court agreeing to a 120-day stay while the KCC conducts a voluntary audit of its procedures. Taylor's June 19th lawsuit alleges the three-member commission violated the Kansas Open Meetings Act by taking binding action on a Salina water rate increase without convening in public to vote. Taylor's office says the motion was filed Tuesday in Shawnee County District Court.


White House: Westboro Protests 'Reprehensible'

WASHINGTON (AP) — The White House says it can't fulfill a request to deem a group that protests at soldiers' funerals a hate group. But it says President Barack Obama believes such actions are reprehensible. The Obama administration is responding to petitions through the White House website to label the Kansas-based Westboro Baptist Church a hate group and revoke its tax-exempt status. Almost 700,000 people signed five related petitions. The group claims when American troops die, it's God's punishment for America tolerating homosexuality and abortion. The White House says the federal government doesn't maintain a list of hate groups. But it's releasing a map showing where the petition-signers come from. The map shows high density in Kansas, where the Westboro group is based, and Connecticut, where church members threatened to picket Newtown victims' funerals.

Kansas Child Recovering After Pit Bull Mauling

HOISINGTON, Kan. (AP) — A central Kansas boy is in a Wichita hospital after being mauled by a neighbor's pit bull. KAKE-TV reports the 4-year-old from Hoisington was in critical condition Wednesday. Hoisington police say the boy was playing a backyard Monday afternoon when the dog jumped a fence and attacked him. The boy was taken first to a Barton County hospital, then transferred to Wichita due to the severity of his injuries. The pit bull was euthanized and tested negative for rabies.


1 Killed, 2 Injured in Southern Kansas House Fire

CALDWELL, Kan. (AP) — One person was killed and two people were injured in a house fire in south-central Kansas. The Wichita Eagle reports the fire was reported early Wednesday at the home in Sumner County. Caldwell Fire Chief Pat York says when firefighters arrived the single-family home was fully engulfed in flames. The names of the victim and the injured people were not released. York says the state fire marshal is investigating the cause of the fire.


New KU Program Aims to Fill Social Worker Shortage

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — The University of Kansas is starting a new program to address a shortage of social workers in western Kansas. Data collected by the university's School of Social Welfare shows that fewer than 200 of the state's 4,000 licensed social workers live in the western half of the state. Last month, the school launched a new yearlong Master of Social Work program based in western Kansas. It's the state's first such program west of Wichita. The Lawrence Journal-World reports that students will complete some work online. They'll also go to class every other weekend at either Fort Hays State University or Garden City Community College. Their instructors will be experienced local social workers. University of Kansas faculty will set the curriculum and provide training.


Avon Selling Jewelry Unit Back to Former Owners

NEW YORK (AP) — Beauty products company Avon is selling the jewelry company Silpada back to the company's co-founders and their families for $85 million for a fraction of what it paid for the company three years ago. Avon announced earlier this year that it was reviewing strategic options for the business which sells sterling silver jewelry at home parties. Avon purchased Silpada Designs in July 2010 for $650 million. The families of co-founders Jerry and Bonnie Kelly and Tom and Teresa Walsh, through their company Rhinestone Holdings Inc., were the highest bidders in an auction process. Avon said in a regulatory filing on Tuesday that the transaction also includes up to $15 million more if Silpada hits certain earnings targets over the next two years. The Walshes have connections to the University of Kansas. Tom Walsh is a KU alumnus. The couple and their family’s foundation made a $2 million donation to the University of Kansas Cancer Center in 2011.


Royals' Gordon Feeling Better After Head Injury

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Kansas City Royals outfielder Alex Gordon told manager Ned Yost on Thursday that he was feeling better after sustaining a possible concussion the previous night against the Cleveland Indians. Gordon was tracking a fly ball off the bat of Jason Kipnis when he got turned around near the fencing of the Royals bullpen. The Gold Glove outfielder banged into the fence and then landed hard on the warning track dirt, where he remained motionless for several minutes. Gordon eventually walked off the field with what the team called a possible concussion and a bruised right hip. He said afterward that he didn't remember whether he lost consciousness. Yost said before Thursday's series finale that Gordon was feeling better, but he wasn't sure whether he'll go on the seven-day concussion disabled list that was created two years ago.



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