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Regional Headlines for Thursday, October 18, 2012




Hawker Beechcraft Deal with Chinese Firm Collapses

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Hawker Beechcraft says it will no longer pursue the sale of its operations to Chinese-based Superior Aviation Beijing Company. Hawker plans to emerge from bankruptcy as a stand-alone company. The Wichita plane-maker announced Thursday that the company protected itself during the exclusive talks by obtaining a $50 million non-refundable deposit that is now the property of the company. CEO Robert Miller says in a news release that the proposed transaction could not be completed on acceptable terms. He says upon emergence from bankruptcy the company intends to rename itself Beechcraft Corporation and focus on turboprop, piston and military aircraft. It says it is evaluating selling or closing its entire business jet operation. The company intends to schedule a November 15 hearing on an amended reorganization plan.


Kansas 2nd District Candidates Report Fund Raising

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Republican Representative Lynn Jenkins continues her advantage in fundraising over her Democratic challenger in the Kansas 2nd District race. Federal campaign reports show Jenkins had nearly $1.4 million in cash on hand as of October 15. By comparison, Topeka pastor Tobias Schlingensiepen reported having $50,400 cash on hand. Schlingensiepen collected contributions from nearly 700 individuals during the reporting period from July 19 through September 30. He said none of the contributions came from Washington political action committees. He has criticized Jenkins for accepting campaign funds from Washington PACs. Jenkins's report shows she took in nearly $82,000 from individual contributors and $191,500 from PACs representing a variety of interests.


Kansas Unemployment Drops to 5.9 Percent in September

 TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A new report says the Kansas jobless rate dropped below 6 percent in September for the first time in almost four years. The state Labor Department said Thursday that seasonally adjusted unemployment fell last month to 5.9 percent from 6.2 percent in August. It was also down from 6.7 percent in September 2011. Kansas last had a jobless rate below 6 percent in December 2008. The department also said Kansas continues to see modest growth in private, non-farm employment. The state had nearly 1.1 million such jobs last month, an increase of 1.2 percent from September 2011.


Drought Conditions Ease in Key Midwest Farm States

ST. LOUIS (AP) — Recent storms have eased drought conditions in several key Midwest farming states where the corn harvest is wrapping up. The U.S. Drought Monitor's weekly update released Thursday shows that 62.4 percent the lower 48 states remained mired in some form of drought during a seven-day period ending Tuesday. That's down more than a percentage point from the previous week and a welcome sign for farmers enduring the nation's worst drought in decades. Thursday's update shows that 63.9 percent of Iowa, the nation's biggest corn producer, is still in extreme or exceptional drought, which are the worst two classifications. That's down nearly 12 percentage points from a week earlier. Those two categories fell in Kansas from 95.7 percent last week to 77.8 percent now.


TransCanada Temporarily Shuts Keystone Pipeline

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — A federal agency says TransCanada Corporation  has temporarily shut down its existing Keystone pipeline after tests showed "possible safety issues." The Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration says TransCanada reported shutting down the approximately 2,100-mile pipeline, which can move about 500,000 barrels of crude a day from Alberta, Canada, to facilities in Illinois and Oklahoma. Jeannie Layson, spokeswoman for PHMSA, says the possible safety issues were found on part of the pipeline that extends between Missouri and Illinois. Layson says in an email that an agency inspector has been sent to review the test results, observe repairs and follow any necessary safety activities. She says TransCanada hasn't reported any leaks on the system. TransCanada spokesman Grady Semmens says the pipeline was shut down Wednesday and is expected to restart Saturday.


Kansas Schools Panel to Take Anonymous Tips Online

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas Governor Sam Brownback's school efficiency task force has launched a web page to take anonymous tips about problems with school spending. Brownback's office unveiled the new website Wednesday. The governor also announced that he's added Iola Superintendent Brian Pekarek as the panel's 11th member. Brownback formed the task force last month to look for ways to make public schools more efficient spending their state funding. Most of the panel's members are certified public accountants, including Brownback budget director Steve Anderson. The governor was criticized for not including any teachers or administrators. Brownback's office says the new web portal gives students, parents, teachers and administrators a way to disclose inefficiencies they've experienced.


Dust Storm Shuts Down Interstate in Northern Oklahoma

BLACKWELL, Okla. (AP) — The Oklahoma Highway Patrol is shutting down parts of Interstate 35 in northern Oklahoma because of a dust storm that has caused near-blackout conditions and at least one traffic accident. The highway patrol says visibility is less than 10 feet as gusts as high as 55 mph blow dust over the roadway. Interstate 35 northbound is closed at U.S. 60 in Kay County while the southbound lanes are closed at Oklahoma Highway 11. The area is just south of the Kansas state line in far northern Oklahoma. Authorities say they anticipate an extended closing of the interstate. The highway patrol says there was a "multi-car" accident in Kay County. A red flag fire warning is in place for parts of northern Oklahoma on Thursday, as is a blowing dust advisory.

Board of Regents Approves KU Building Projects

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The Kansas Board of Regents has approved three construction projects at the University of Kansas. The regents on Wednesday approved projects to erect a new School of Business building, a new home for the original rules of basketball and two residence halls. The School of Business building will cost nearly $66 million. Capitol Federal Savings of Topeka donated $20 million to the project. The school needs the Legislature's approval for bond authority for the full amount. The proposed $18 million "Rules of Basket Ball" museum will be an addition to Allen Fieldhouse. The Lawrence Journal-World reports it will cost about $48 million to raze McCollum Hall and build two new residence halls. McCollum won't be torn down until the new residence halls open in the fall 2015 semester.

Kansas Department of Commerce Seeking Truck Drivers

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The Kansas Department of Commerce says the state has more than 1,600 unfilled truck-driving jobs, with the most urgent need in the oil and gas industries. The agency and its Local Workforce Investment Board Partners have funds available to help qualified applicants take Commercial Driver's License training through approved providers. Commerce officials said Wednesday they're looking into providing training opportunities in Kansas communities with high demand for drivers and adequate interest by potential job-seekers. Kansas has been experiencing growth in the oil and gas industries as new fields are opened for exploration in the southern counties.


Grant Funds Kansas Precision Agriculture Partnership

HAYS, Kan. (AP) — Kansas farmers and farmers-in-training will get some help learning to use the latest technology. The National Institute of Food and Agriculture has awarded $277,000 to Fort Hays State University and Hutchinson Community College to promote so-called precision agriculture. It involves using GPS and satellite technology to map fields and precisely apply chemicals and seed and measure the crop yield. Both schools have farms and will use the money to acquire farm equipment. Hutchinson Community College will purchase a GPS-compatible grain combine and a farm utility vehicle with soil grid sampling equipment. Its program will have a hands-on focus, with students learning to use and maintain the equipment. Fort Hays State's program will focus more on data analysis.

Kansans Drop Off 2.5 Tons of Old Medications

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas law enforcement took in more than 2.5 tons of unused or expired medications during a national day designed to take such medications out of circulation. National Prescription Drug Take-Back Day brought in 5,334 pounds of drugs at 70 locations across Kansas on September 29. Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt said Wednesday the program has taken more than 2 million pounds of drugs in two years, including more than 12 tons in Kansas. Experts say flushing the drugs or throwing them away leads to safety and health problems.

Gas Leak Prompts Evacuations in Downtown Goodland

GOODLAND, Kan. (AP) — Crews from Black Hills Energy are fixing a ruptured gas line that forced evacuations of homes and businesses in downtown Goodland. Authorities in the northwestern Kansas city were unable to say how many people remained out of their homes Wednesday night. The evacuation zone covered a few city blocks. The Sherman County Sheriff's Department said in a news release that some residents were allowed to return and the evacuation zone was adjusted about 90 minutes after the leak was discovered around 3 pm Wednesday. No fires, injuries or explosions were reported. The American Red Cross sent volunteers and food from Hays to shelter people overnight if necessary. The sheriff's office says the rupture was apparently caused by workers using a boring machine.


Kansas City Area Man Killed in Denver Bar Fire

OVERLAND PARK, Kan. (AP) — A 29-year-old suburban Kansas City man was among five people killed in a Denver bar that police say was set on fire to hide the crime. Ross Richter, of Overland Park, and four other people died in the fire at Fero's Bar & Grill Wednesday. Denver police say three people have been arrested in connection with the deaths. A spokesman says robbery was the apparent motive. Richter's father, James Richter, said Thursday at the family's home in Overland Park that Ross Richter was in Colorado working for the Bureau of Land Management, patrolling campgrounds and helping campers. He says his son graduated from Kansas State University and always spent any spare time hiking and camping. James Richter says his son wasn't married, but had "many, many friends."


Black Jack Battlefield Named As National Landmark

BALDWIN CITY, Kan. (AP) — A Civil War battlefield in northeast Kansas has been designated as a National Historic Landmark. The National Park Service on Wednesday announced the designation for the Black Jack Battlefield just east of Baldwin City. Abolitionist John Brown fought pro-slavery forces of Henry Clay Pate in the battle on June 2, 1856. Several historians have suggested it was the first battle of the Civil War. Kerry Altenbernd, vice president of the Black Jack Battlefield Trust, says the designation gives national significance to the 40-acre site along U.S. Highway 56, about three miles east of Baldwin City. The Lawrence Journal-World reports that Altenbernd says the listing may help secure grants to maintain the property and improve maintenance and amenities for visitors. Currently, it is maintained only by volunteers.

Sprint Buys Majority Control of Clearwire

NEW YORK (AP) — Sprint is buying out the founder of Clearwire to gain majority control of the wireless network operator. The move follows the pledge by Japan's Softbank to infuse Sprint with cash by buying a majority stake in it. Sprint Nextel says in a regulatory filing Thursday that it will pay wireless pioneer Craig McCaw and his holding company $100 million for a 5 percent stake in Clearwire, pushing Sprint's stake above 50 percent. Clearwire has the right to use a large share of the nation's airwaves, but lacks the money to renovate and expand its network. Sprint has been struggling financially too, and hasn't been in a position to invest in Clearwire until Monday's announcement that Japanese cellphone company Softbank would buy 70 percent of Sprint for $20 billion.

Some Test Scores to Be Excluded from State Average

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Kansas test score averages won't include the results of about 2,700 older students from three districts, including the state's fifth-largest. The Kansas Board of Education decided Wednesday to separately report the scores of McPherson, Clifton-Clyde and the Kansas City, Kansas districts because they didn't give their eighth-grade and high school students the standard state exam. The districts received a waiver allowing them to instead use the ACT college entrance exam and another test designed for younger students called ACT EXPLORE. But excluding the Kansas City scores will inflate the statewide average. That's because the district, which has 20,500 students, is the state's poorest and has historically scored below the statewide average. The McPherson and Clifton-Clyde districts only have about 2,700 students between them.


Arena Football Team Will Call Salina Home

SALINA, Kan. (AP) — A new arena football team is coming to Salina and local folks are being asked to give it a name. Salina officials announced Thursday the new team will play six weekend home games at the city's Bicentennial Center, starting in March. KWCH-TV reports the team will compete in the new Champions Professional Indoor Football League, which also includes the Wichita Wild. The Bicentennial Center is holding an online team-naming contest that will run through next Thursday. Three finalists will be selected, with the winner to be announced November 1. Those with name suggestions can submit them on the Bicentennial Center's website.

Kansas City Gets Its First Female Postmaster

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Kansas City is getting its first female postmaster. The U.S. Postal Service says in a release that Deborah Woodrum has been named the 36th Postmaster of Kansas City. A formal ceremony announcing Woodrum's selection is scheduled for Friday in Kansas City. Woodrum began working for the Postal Service 31 years ago as a letter carrier in Kansas City. She has also been postmaster in Des Moines, Iowa, and acting postmaster in Cape Girardeau, Missouri, and the Shawnee Mission postal district in northeastern Kansas. The Postal Service says Woodrum is the first female postmaster for Kansas City, which serves more than 200,000 customers and has more than 500 employees and nine stations and branches.

Raid of KC Motel Leads Police to Drugs, Dead Animals

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Kansas City police report finding drugs, dead animals and filthy conditions in a raid on an extended-stay motel in the northern part of the city. The Kansas City Star reports police, animal control officers and code enforcement officials went to the Extended Stay Inn near Interstate 35 on Wednesday to begin the process of shutting it down. Police Sergeant Dan Graves says authorities inspected each room and arrested several people suspected of possessing or trafficking drugs. He says police made more than 100 service calls to the motel over the past year. Graves says residents were given 24 hours to evacuate the motel. Social service agencies were called to help them find somewhere to go.

KC Woman Sues after Consuming Drink Laced with Laxative

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — A Kansas City woman who says she drank a soft drink laced with laxative is suing over what was supposed to be a prank. Barbara J. Nelson says she bought the altered Coca-Cola at a Family Dollar Store on September 10. Police say one of the store's employees put laxative in the drink as a prank against another employee and put it in the employees' lounge. However, the targeted worker noticed the laxative tablets and allegedly put the bottles back into a cooler intended for customers. The Kansas City Star reports Nelson became ill after realizing something was wrong and returning to the store. She was treated at a hospital for dehydration and cramps. A spokesman for Family Dollar says the company doesn't comment on pending litigation.

Death of Missouri Child Investigated as Homicide

HOLT, Mo. (AP) — The death of a 4-year-old boy in northwestern Missouri is being investigated as a homicide. The Missouri Highway Patrol announced the investigation Wednesday, one day after an autopsy showed the boy died of blunt-force trauma. Authorities say a Clinton County ambulance went to a home in the town of Holt on Monday on a report of an unresponsive child. The little boy was pronounced dead at a hospital. His name has not been released. The regional major case squad is handling the investigation. Holt is located about 25 miles northeast of Kansas City.

Wichita Police Identify Man Killed by Freight Train

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Police in Wichita say a pedestrian who was struck and killed by a freight train may have been unaware he was in danger. KSNW-TV reports police identified the man Wednesday as 41-year-old Wichita resident Cedale Lamont Brown. Family and friends told police Brown sometimes became oblivious to his surroundings because of a medical condition for which he took medication. They also said he often walked in the area where he was struck and killed. Witnesses said Brown stepped into the path of the oncoming Union Pacific train shortly before noon Tuesday after walking past activated cross arms. The train sounded its horn, but Brown didn't step away. He suffered severe injuries and died at a hospital.

Kansas State University's Nuclear Reactor Turns 50

MANHATTAN, Kan. (AP) — The nuclear reactor at Kansas State University has turned 50. To mark the anniversary, the reactor was powered up Tuesday at 8:27 pm — the exact time it was brought online on October 16th, 1962. Students, administrators and current and past faculty were on hand for the occasion. The university says the reactor is one of only 25 operating university research reactors in the nation. Kansas State reactor manager Jeff Geuther says it gives the university an advantage in performing research and training nuclear engineers. The reactor is licensed to operate at up to 1250 kilowatts of thermal power, up from 100 kilowatts when it was first licensed. Under supervision, students are able to operate the reactor, tour it or use samples irradiated in its core for experiments and projects.

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