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Regional Headlines for Thursday, Nov 28, 2013


Brownback Understands Thanksgiving Sales Hours, but Urges Family Time

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas Governor Sam Brownback says he understands why some retailers are holding Black Friday shopping hours on Thursday, but he doesn't like it. The governor told WIBW-AM on Wednesday he'd prefer that everyone observe Thanksgiving as a holiday. He says when stores open for shopping on Thanksgiving, it takes workers away from their families. The shopping season is especially short this year because Thanksgiving is occurring on November 28 — one of the latest dates it can be observed. Meanwhile, Brownback issued a proclamation designating November 30 as "Small Business Saturday" in Kansas. The national "Small Business Saturday" campaign urges consumers to shop at businesses in their communities during what's usually the busiest shopping weekend of the year.


KS Attorney General's Office to Handle Prosecution in Quadruple Homicide

PARSONS, Kan. (AP) — The Kansas attorney general's office will handle any criminal prosecution of a man suspected in the deaths of a young mother and her three children. Twenty-two-year-old David Cornell Bennett Jr. is being held on $5 million bail after he was captured late Tuesday in the southeast Kansas city of Independence. The AG's office says the Labette County attorney requested that the agency handle the case. Bennett hasn't been formally charged in the killings of 29-year-old Cami Umbarger and her children, 9-year-old Hollie Betts, 6-year-old Jaxon Betts and 4-year-old Averie Betts. The bodies of Umbarger and her children were discovered Monday night at their home in Parsons, about 35 miles from Independence. It's unclear if Bennett has an attorney. The Labette County Jail has declined to make him available for comment.


Moran Says Much Still to Be Learned About Bitcoin

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — Kansas Senator Jerry Moran says he's still trying to get a grip on the implications of a virtual currency known as "Bitcoin" that has seen rapid growth in recent months. Moran, a  Republican, serves on a subcommittee that deals with the banking aspects of national security and international trade and finance. The Lawrence Journal-World reports that panel met last week for its first hearing on Bitcoin, mostly to educate members about the currency and concerns surrounding it. Moran says a lack of accountability and the anonymous nature of the currency are among the things that trouble him about Bitcoin. But he also questions whether unilateral actions by the U.S. to regulate Bitcoin or any other virtual currency could inadvertently deprive Americans of its potential benefits.


Company Says Data Can Help Farmers Weather Changes

LEAWOOD, Kan. (AP) — A company that uses massive amounts of data to develop hyper-local weather forecasts for farmers says it can help them prepare for increasingly wild weather swings. The Kansas City Star reports that Climate Corporation was purchased recently by St. Louis-based agricultural giant Monsanto for $1 billion and has an office in Leawood. Its forecasts include things like rain, soil conditions and wind speed using 40 years of national crop-yield statistics and weather readings from 10 million locations. Many farmers are skeptical of the concept of global warming, though some say they will give the relatively new technology a look but won't base planting decisions solely on what the numbers say. Monsanto says it foresees a $20 billion market for data-related agricultural planning, calling it the "next major growth frontier."


KS Church Offers Black Friday Breakfast Option

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A Topeka church is getting in on the Black Friday action by dishing up early-morning munchies to shoppers. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that the Prince of Peace Lutheran Church was opening its doors at midnight Thursday. For a freewill donation, shoppers pick from a menu of biscuits and gravy, pancakes, egg and sausage casseroles, juice, coffee and milk. Event organizer Darren Shults says the proceeds are going to local ministries, including the Topeka Rescue Mission, a homeless shelter. He says he wanted to find something that hadn't been done before. Shults says he has lined up more than a half-dozen church members to help him at the all-night breakfast event.


Possible Gunshot Victim Dies on KC Sidewalk

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Police are asking the public for help after a man was found dead on a Kansas City sidewalk. Police identified the victim Thursday as 30-year-old Jacob Hendren. His body was found Wednesday night as officers were responding to a report of gunshots. Police said he died from an apparent gunshot wound. No suspect information was immediately available.


KS Families Open Homes to International Students

PITTSBURG, Kan. (AP) — International students at Pittsburg State University are getting a taste of Thanksgiving hospitality. The Joplin Globe reports that Cathy Lee Arcuino got help from her boyfriend hosting the first turkey-filled gathering in 2009 after joining the school's International Programs and Services staff. She was planning for 90 students this year — triple the number who showed up the first year. With the increase in guests, she's been getting more community help. She says Big Ben's BBQ offered to smoke and donate 100 pounds of turkey, and a neighbor volunteered the use of folding tables and chairs. Other university employees contribute pies, casseroles and even money to help offset expenses. She says she and her boyfriend try to make students understand why Thanksgiving is a national holiday.


Groups Spar over Ownership of Topeka-Based Engine

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A Topeka group that claims to own a historic steam locomotive is concerned about plans by another group to retrofit the engine. Jerry Petrel recently reactivated the nonprofit group, Topeka Children and Santa Fe Railroad. It was created in 1956 to care for the engine, ATSF No. 3463, located at the Kansas Expocentre. Petrel says TCSFR is the engine's rightful owner. But Minnesota-based Sustainable Rail International manages the operations of the Coalition for Sustainable Rail and says it owns the engine. Sustainable Rail also wants to modernize the locomotive using advanced steam technology. SRI President Davidson Ward says the project is proceeding as planned. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that SRI is assessing options on moving the engine. Petrel says his group is considering a lawsuit.


KS Man Pleads No Contest to Animal Cruelty

JUNCTION CITY, Kan. (AP) — A Junction City man has pleaded no contest to animal cruelty over the treatment of his girlfriend's cat, which was found dead with items stuffed in its throat. The Daily Union reports that  William Lemieux Jr. entered the plea to the felony charge Wednesday in Geary County District Court. Lemieux had been jailed since he was arrested November 14, after his girlfriend found her cat dead in a bag placed in a trash bin near their home. Assistant County Attorney Michelle Brown said a veterinarian later examined the cat's body and found three cigarettes and a cotton swab jammed in its throat. Brown said the couple had been arguing, and Lemieux originally told police that the "cat fell over" when he slammed a door. Lemieux will be sentenced January 31.

KS Atty Gen Issues Opinion on Guns at Polling Places

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt is offering guidance on how the state's concealed carry law applies to buildings used as polling places on election days. In an opinion issued Wednesday, Schmidt says voters with permits to carry concealed firearms must comply with regulations that applied to the specific location before an election. That means if voters are allowed to have a concealed weapon in a building before the election they will be allowed to carry concealed guns when voting. Secretary of State Kris Kobach requested the opinion, to clarify any ambiguity over how the law applied in non-governmental buildings during elections. Such buildings include property leased temporarily as polling places. Attorney general opinions aren't considered law but can be used as guidance until an issue is tested.

Kansas Revenues Top Forecast for November

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas revenue officials say growth in sales taxes helped the state collect more in taxes than expected this month. Figures released Wednesday show the state collected $380 million in taxes and fees in November, topping the latest forecast by nearly $1 million. November collections of sale taxes were $1.1 million more than expected. Revenue Secretary Nick Jordan calls the numbers a sign that consumers and businesses have confidence in the economy to spend more of their money. The report also says overall tax collections in the fiscal year that began July 1 totaled nearly $2.2 billion taxes. That's roughly $230 million less than in the same period of the previous fiscal year, due to the state's reductions in income tax rates.

KC Gets Bid Requirements for GOP Convention

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Kansas City is getting ready for the next step in the competition to be the site of the 2016 Republican National Convention. The Kansas City Star reports that the Kansas City Convention & Visitors Association has received its bid package from the Republican National Committee. Bi-state officials are still working out what the GOP will want from the host city as far as the number of hotel rooms and transportation requirements. Each city submitting a bid will also be expected to raise substantial sums to defray costs of the summertime presidential nominating convention. The amount could be as high as $50 million or more. Other cities that have expressed at least some interest in the 2016 convention include Las Vegas, Salt Lake City, Cleveland and Detroit.

Person of Interest Questioned in Wichita Crash

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Police say that a person of interest has been identified in a hit-and-run crash that critically injured two brothers. The Wichita Eagle reports that a tip led police to the car Wednesday afternoon. Authorities had been seeking the public's help finding the car after its driver struck the 38- and 39-year-old brothers Saturday. The men suffered leg and head injuries but are expected to survive. Wichita police Lt. Joe Schroeder says the driver has been questioned. He would not say where the car was found. Wichita police said they are no longer seeking tips in the case.


MO Gov Appoints Circuit Judge for Jackson County

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) — Missouri Governor Jay Nixon has appointed Deputy Probate Commissioner S. Margene Burnett to a circuit judgeship in Jackson County (Missouri). The appointment was announced Wednesday and fills the vacancy created by Judge Ann Mesle's retirement from the 16th Judicial Circuit. Burnett, of Kansas City, has spent 10 years on the probate bench, handling cases involving estate administration, mental health commitments, guardianships and conservatorships. She received her law degree from the University of Missouri-Kansas City and was in private law practice before going on the bench. Nixon chose Burnett from a three-member slate of nominees. The other finalists were Janette Rodecap, an attorney in the Jackson County prosecutor's office, and Bryan Round, an attorney who also serves as a municipal court judge in Peculiar.


IDs Released on 4 Killed in Wichita Fire

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Wichita authorities have identified two adults and two young children killed in a mobile home fire. Fire Marshal Brad Crisp on Wednesday identified the four victims as 21-year-old Amanda Nichols; her 1-year-old son, Isaaca; 27-year-old Camaron McGowan, and his 2-year-old son, K'dyn McGowan. They were killed in the fire at the mobile home early Tuesday. Crisp says firefighters found all four in the same bedroom. Crisp says autopsies have been completed, but the cause of death and the cause of the fire had not been released. Three people in the mobile home escaped. Those three people, a firefighter and a neighbor who helped, sustained minor injuries.

NH Hospital Technician Faces Sentencing Next Week

CONCORD, N.H. (AP) — Prosecutors say a traveling hospital technician who infected patients in Kansas and other states with hepatitis C through tainted syringes created a "national public health crisis" and should spend 40 years in prison. Defense attorneys argue he should get 30 years instead, in part because of a drug addiction that clouded his judgment. David Kwiatkowski has admitted stealing painkillers and replacing them with saline-filled syringes tainted with his blood. He'll be sentenced Monday. Lawyers on both sides filed documents this week outlining their recommendations. Before being hired at New Hampshire's Exeter Hospital in 2011, Kwiatkowski worked in 18 hospitals. He was fired at least four times over drug allegations. Thirty-two patients were infected in New Hampshire, seven in Maryland, six in Kansas and one in Pennsylvania.


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