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Regional Headlines for Thursday, November 7, 2013


KS Legislative Panel Reviews School Safety

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A state official says Kansas schools are becoming better prepared to respond to natural and man-made disasters but will need more resources to keep improving. Bob Hull, director of the Kansas Center for Safe and Prepared Schools, told lawmakers Thursday that shrinking federal grants have limited the state's ability to help schools prepare for tornadoes or violent intruders. Hull says that schools are conducting more drills and risk assessments. But he adds that more money is needed to build safe rooms and provide crisis training. Hull made the remarks to the Legislature's Joint Committee on Kansas Security. Its chairman, Senator Jay Emler, says the center has enough funding to get through the next calendar year, but funding beyond that is uncertain. The center receives $50,000 from the state annually.


Key KS Abortion Rights Figure Retiring in Spring

OVERLAND PARK, Kan. (AP) — The president and CEO of Planned Parenthood of Kansas and Mid-Missouri plans to retire this spring after years at the center of the abortion debate. Peter Brownlie announced his plans Thursday, without setting a specific date for his departure. He's been the top administrator of the Planned Parenthood chapter since August 1999. During his tenure, his organization challenged anti-abortion laws enacted by Kansas legislators and was the target of a lengthy criminal case in Johnson County that was dismissed last year. Kansas legislators are still pondering additional changes, and Planned Parenthood still has federal lawsuits pending over anti-abortion laws enacted in 2011 and 2013. But Brownlie said in an interview before his announcement that he believes the organization's most difficult legal and legislative battles are behind it.


Kansas NAEP Scores Flat in 2013

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A new report shows Kansas students continued to score above the national averages in tests of math and reading exams, though state gains were mixed. The results Thursday on the 2013 National Assessment of Educational Progress are viewed as a report card for how well United States students are performing on key subjects. The tests are administered every two years. Kansas Department of Education officials say the state's fourth-grade math score was 246 on a 500-point scale, unchanged from 2011. The eight-grade score was 290, unchanged from 2011. The national average was 241 in fourth-grade math and 284 in eighth-grade. The reading score for fourth-graders was 223, down from 224 in 2011, while the eighth-grade score was 267, unchanged since 2003. The national averages were 221 and 266, respectively.


Westar to Purchase Energy from Oklahoma Wind Farm

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Westar Energy plans to purchase 200 megawatts of electricity from a northern Oklahoma wind farm expected to begin operating in late 2016. The Topeka-based utility announced Wednesday that it had reached purchase agreement with Virginia-based Apex Clean Energy. Westar already has about 700 megawatts of electricity from renewable resources. Apex plans to start building the 18,000-acre wind farm in 2015. The site is about six miles south of Arkansas City, where city manager Nickolaus Hernandez says the project is expected to boost the local economy. Westar is the largest electric utility in Kansas, with about 700,000 customers.

Lawrence Man Charged in Wife's Shooting Death

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — Police say a Lawrence man charged with fatally shooting his 61-year-old wife did so because of her "ongoing health concerns." The Lawrence Journal-World reports that 67-year-old Larry Hopkins appeared Wednesday via video from the Douglas County Jail to be charged. He faces one count of first-degree murder in Tuesday's killing of Margaret Hopkins. District Court Judge James George set bond at $150,000 and asked Hopkins if he had anything to say. Hopkins responded that even if he was released on his own recognizance, he had no place to go. A statement that prosecutors released Wednesday provided no details about the health issues that police allege played a role in the shooting. If convicted, Hopkins faces a sentence of life in prison without the possibility of parole for 25 years.

Restaurant Owner Charged with Harboring Immigrants

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) — The owner of two Chinese restaurants in Kansas and Missouri has been charged with harboring immigrant workers who were in the country illegally. A criminal complaint filed Wednesday in federal court names Wei Liu, owner of Wei's Super Buffet restaurants in Olathe and Kansas City, Missouri. Liu made a first appearance Wednesday in U.S. District Court on charges of knowingly employing, transporting and housing workers in the country unlawfully. His wife and four other people are also charged. Court records do not indicate any attorneys. A federal investigator says agents began surveillance in 2011, checking labor reports and interviewing managers of apartments that were rented for workers. Authorities said some of the workers were found Tuesday living at the homes of some of the defendants.

KC Plant Will Build 2 New Harley-Davidson Cycles

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Harley-Davidson says it will build two new lightweight motorcycles at its Kansas City plant, beginning next year. The new Street 500 and Street 750 models are the company's first lightweight models since the 1970s. The Kansas City plant will build them for U.S. buyers. The bikes for international customers will be built in India. The Kansas City Star reports that the bikes are designed to be agile for driving in urban areas and are aimed at younger customers. They will cost between $6,700 and $7,500. The company says production at the Kansas City plant will start late this year or early in 2014. The extra work at the Kansas City plant will be handled by seasonal employees.


VFW Picks Kansas City for 2018 National Convention

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — The Veterans of Foreign Wars will hold its 2018 national convention in Kansas City, choosing its home community over 11 other cities that were in the running. The Kansas City Star reports that officials of the Convention and Visitors Association announced the booking Thursday. The gathering is expected to draw more than 10,000 people, with an estimated impact of $6.5 million for the local economy. The VFW has its national headquarters just a few blocks from the National World War I Museum at Liberty Memorial. The 2018 convention will coincide with the 100th anniversary of the war's end, and officials of the museum and the VFW are working together on commemoration events.


GE Selling Kansas Subsidiary to Tennessee Firm

OVERLAND PARK, Kan. (AP) — General Electric is selling its Kansas-based air filtration business to Clarcor Incorporated of Franklin, Tennessee for $265 million. The Kansas City Star reported Wednesday that Clarcor expects the sale to be complete by the end of the year. The air filtration business is based in Overland Park, Kansas and is part of GE's Power and Water division. It supplies air filtration systems and filters for gas turbine generators and other industrial processes. The business has about 700 employees worldwide, with plants in Missouri, the United Kingdom and China, and generates about $230 million a year in revenue.


Authorities ID Body Found in Missouri River as KS Man

PLATTE CITY, Mo. (AP) — A body recovered from the Missouri River near the tiny town of Waldron northwest of Kansas City has been identified as 35-year-old Christopher Rielly, who had not been reported missing. The Platte County Sheriff's Office says Rielly was most recently from the Leavenworth area. No cause of death has been determined. Rielly's body was pulled from the river September 12. The Sheriff's Office says records of his fingerprints were used to confirm his identity.


Few Pheasants Available as Season Begins Saturday

GARDEN CITY, Kan. (AP) — Kansas pheasant hunters aren't likely to see many of the birds when the season begins this weekend. State wildlife experts say drought during most of the nesting and brooding season, combined with an already-low breeding population, will make it difficult to find birds this season, which begins Saturday. Kurt Hudson, Kansas natural resource officer, says recent moisture could improve next year's harvest. But he told The Garden City Telegram that this hunting season is "going to be pretty bleak." The state wildlife agency says the best chance of hunting success will be in the southeastern part of the state.


Massage Parlor Worker to Plead in Sex Trafficking Case

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A massage parlor worker has told a federal judge she plans to plead guilty for her role in a sex trafficking scheme linked to Asian massage parlors in Wichita. A document filed Thursday by the lawyer for Xiuqing Tian notifies the court of her plans to plead guilty ahead of a trial scheduled to begin next week. The move would leave massage parlor owner Gary Kidgell and his wife, Yan Zhang, as the remaining defendants to face jurors. They're accused of conspiring to recruit women from around the country to come to Wichita to work at massage parlors, then coercing them into prostitution. Investigators who raided the parlors reported finding ads in a Chinese-language newspaper in New York, Chicago and San Francisco offering "massage parlor hiring" in Kansas.


KCMO Mastermind of Tax Fraud Scheme Pleads Guilty

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — A Kansas City man who was the mastermind of a nationwide tax fraud conspiracy that attempted to receive nearly $96 million in illegal refunds has pleaded guilty and will spend 13 years in federal prison under a deal with prosecutors. Gerald Poynter, also known as Brother Jerry Love, was facing 66 charges in a 72-count indictment that also named 13 co-defendants. He pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court in Kansas City Thursday to one count of conspiracy to defraud the U.S. by filing false tax returns and one count of filing a fraudulent tax return. Prosecutors say his scheme involved the fraudulent use of 1099-Original Issue Discount forms, typically used by tax filers who pay taxes on income from bond investments. Ten others also have pleaded guilty in the scheme.


Kansas Woman Charged with Embezzling from Bank

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A former assistant branch manager has been charged with embezzling $346,000 from the Wichita bank where she worked. The U.S. attorney's office says 43-year-old Lisa Marie Evans, of Wichita, was indicted Wednesday on one count of embezzlement by a bank employee. The indictment alleges she stole the money between 2011 and 2013 while employed at Southwest National Bank. Court records do not list a lawyer for Evans, and the U.S. attorney's office said it did not know if she had hired one. No working phone listing for her could be found. Evans has been summoned for a first court appearance on November 25. The charge carries maximum penalties of 30 years in prison and a $1 million fine. The government is also seeking a forfeiture judgment.


Couple Donates $1 Million to Kansas State University

MANHATTAN, Kan. (AP) — A Texas couple has donated $1 million for Kansas State University's new College of Business Administration building. The university says Rand Berney and his wife, Patti, of Southlake, Texas, donated the money for the new 140,000-square foot building, which is expected to open in July 2016. Rand Berney is a native of Phillipsburg and graduated from Kansas State in 1977. He is retired from ConocoPhillips, where his last position was senior vice president of corporate shared services. Berney is on the executive committee of the dean's advisory council for the College of Business Administration, is an executive-in-residence for the college and is vice chairman of the Kansas State Foundation.

K-State Bacon Promotion Proving Popular

MANHATTAN, Kan. (AP) — Kansas State University is offering free bacon to lure students to the women's basketball team's home opener Friday against Tennessee State. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that K-State officials initially planned to cook about 75 pounds of thick-sliced bacon. But that amount grew to 300 pounds after the pork promotion blew up on Twitter, Facebook and the Internet. Under the promotion, students with identification will be admitted free to the game and will be rewarded with a "boat of bacon."

Mennonites Can 20,000 Pounds of Pork for the Needy

HUTCHINSON, Kan. (AP) — Hundreds of volunteers from small towns across Kansas have been helping can pork to send to needy people in the U.S. and a dozen countries around the world. The Hutchinson News reports that a recent two-day meat-canning marathon in Reno County was part of a national Mennonite effort. It started in October in Ohio and will conclude in April in Ontario, Canada. Local Mennonite Central Committee canning committee treasurer Kevin Knepp says community churches donated money to purchase the pork. He says volunteers worked in three shifts to finish canning 20,000 pounds of meat in three days. Meat-canning veteran Melvin Miller says this is the first time in years the local group packaged pork, which was 65 cents a pound cheaper than turkey, the typical protein of choice.


Woman Whose Son Died in DUI Crash Gets Probation

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A Wichita woman has received probation for a drunken-driving crash that killed her 6-year-old son in January. The Wichita Eagle reports that prosecutors and defense lawyers all recommended the sentence for 31-year-old Crystal Ross. Ross pleaded guilty earlier to involuntary manslaughter while driving under the influence. The charge is punishable by up to 3½ years in prison. Sedgwick County District Judge Ben Burgess agreed to the probation Wednesday but warned Ross that a single traffic infraction will put her behind bars. The accident that killed 6-year-old Cryisol Hall happened January 26 when Ross lost control of her SUV and skidded into a ditch. Ross and her two other sons were injured.

Pit Bull Surrogate Mother at Sedgwick County Zoo

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A new litter of African painted dogs at the Sedgwick County Zoo is doing well, thanks to a friendly pit bull. Eight of 11 of the painted dogs born on October 31 survived but their mother couldn't produce milk. The Wichita Eagle reports that after a plea from the zoo for lactating dogs that were close to weaning their own puppies, Sparkles the pit bull became the pups' surrogate mother on Sunday. Zoo officials said in a news release that using a surrogate mother provides a maternal presence that zoo staff couldn't provide.


K-State Psych Prof Comments on Kimmel Halloween Prank

NEW YORK (AP) _ Psychologists aren't amused by the latest round of Halloween prank videos aired by ABC late night host Jimmy Kimmel. In what's become an annual prank, Kimmel encourages parents to tell their children that the parents had eaten all of their Halloween candy. The parents are supposed to get the children's reactions on video, and then send it to him so he could show it on his TV show. Predictably, many of the children became quite upset. Two boys are seen breaking out in uncontrolled tears after their father tells them, "It's all gone." One angry girl throws an envelope at her parents. A crying child is told that it's a prank, and responds, "Well, that's not very kind." Kimmel's studio audience laughs at most of the reactions. But Mark Barnett, who's a professor at Kansas State's psychological sciences department, says it's not "harmless fun." He says it's "cruel and potentially damaging." Barnett says, "A child's trust in his parents shouldn't be trifled with." And he says any parent who'd violate that trust "for a big laugh or 15 minutes of fame" is "acting irresponsibly." And Jane Annunziata, a Virginia psychologist who deals with family issues, agrees that it's inappropriate parental behavior.


MO Auditor Office to Review KC Charter School Records

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) — Missouri Auditor Tom Schweich (shwyk) is sending a team to review attendance records and other issues at a Kansas City charter school. Missouri education officials are investigating academic integrity issues and reports that attendance was inflated at Hope Academy. The charter school is sponsored by the University of Missouri-Kansas City. Schweich says his office's involvement was requested by the Department of Elementary and Secondary and Hope Academy's board of directors. Missouri law allows the state auditor to review public and charter schools.


MO Education Official Lauds Efforts to Fix Failing Schools

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Missouri's top education official says she's encouraged by the efforts of several groups to work on a long-term plan for unaccredited schools. In a statement released Thursday, Education Commissioner Chris Nicastro highlighted the efforts of a group of school superintendents. They recently unveiled an alternative to a Missouri law that allows students to transfer from unaccredited to accredited districts. Under the superintendents' plan, students in struggling districts could transfer to better-performing schools in their home districts. And after five years of failure, districts could be dissolved and distributed to accredited districts. Missouri's Normandy, Riverview Gardens and Kansas City districts are currently unaccredited. Nicastro says other groups also are discussing the issue of failing schools and that additional ideas are expected to surface in the coming weeks.




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