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Regional Headlines for Thursday, October 31, 2013



School Bus Runs Off Butler County Bridge into Creek 

DOUGLASS, Kan. (AP) — A school bus with about 10 children ran off a rural bridge and plunged into a creek, forcing the children to climb from the windows and seek safety on top of the bus. Chris Davis, 911 director for Butler County, says the bus went off the bridge Thursday afternoon. He said bus driver was apparently injured and remained in the water an hour later. Davis didn't know the extent of the injuries. There were no reports of injuries among the children, but Davis says they climbed out of the windows after it hit the creek and landed on its side. The children were on top of it at about 5 pm. Davis says crews are working to rescue the children and the driver. The cause of the accident is unclear.


UPDATE: Kobach Pleased with Schedule for Voting Rules Suit

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach says he's pleased with the schedule set in a federal lawsuit filed by Kansas and Arizona in hopes of bolstering enforcement of the states' proof-of-citizenship requirements for new voters. Kobach said Wednesday that U.S. District Judge Eric Melgren's schedule is reasonable. Melgren plans to have a December 13 hearing on a request from the states for a preliminary injunction against the U.S. Election Assistance Commission. Kansas and Arizona want to force the commission to modify a national voter registration form to include instructions for their states' residents to present proof of their U.S. citizenship when registering. The U.S. Justice Department is representing the commission and declined to comment. The states contend their laws prevent election fraud. Critics say they suppress voter turnout.


Kansas Revenues Short $18M in October

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The Kansas Department of Revenue says the state collected nearly $18 million less in taxes than anticipated in October. Figures released Thursday also show tax collections have been $27 million short of expectations since the fiscal year began in July. The biggest reason is a shortfall in individual income tax collections For the month, Kansas collected $445 million in taxes, but officials had expected $463 million. Kansas has collected $1.81 billion in revenue for the fiscal year to date, instead of the $1.84 billion expected. The state anticipated $220 million in individual income collections in October but instead took in $187 million, missing the mark by 15 percent. Kansas enacted massive income tax cuts in 2012 that have contributed to the revenue declines.


KS Students to Get New Core Competency Tests

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Education officials say new math and English testing that will be recommended next month to the Kansas State Board of Education will be aligned with new curriculum standards and give more flexibility to student testing. The changes were outlined during a meeting Wednesday in Topeka. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that education commissioner Diane DeBacker will recommend that the board approve using the Smarter Balance tests in grades three through eight. She says high schools will have flexibility in what type of assessment they use. Schools are required to test students each year on core education skills. The new tests will be aligned to the Common Core standards the state adopted in 2010 and will also include more writing requirements for students. The tests will be given starting in 2015.


Wichita Lawmaker Resigns from Kansas House

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Wichita Republican Phil Hermanson is resigning from the Kansas House to focus on his new family. The Wichita Eagle reports that Hermanson made the announcement Thursday, saying he intends to seek public office again sometime in the future. Hermanson was married in September to Rhonda Riggs, to whom he proposed on the House floor in May. The marriage also brought him three stepchildren. Hermanson has been in the House since 2009. His district includes parts of south Wichita and Haysville. He refiled his voter registration Thursday for his new address, which is outside the district. Republican precinct members in the district will choose a replacement to serve the remaining year in Hermanson's term.



UPDATE: Body Found in DeSoto That of Missing Man

DE SOTO, Kan. (AP) — A body found in rural northeast Kansas has been identified as that of an Olathe man missing since October 20. The Johnson County Sheriff's Office said Thursday there's no evidence of criminal activity in the unattended death of 22-year-old Brad Cook. A pedestrian found Cook's body Tuesday in rural DeSoto. The discovery was made about two miles from where another unattended death was reported this week. In that case, a person was found dead in a carport outside a DeSoto apartment complex. Investigators have not revealed the cause of either death, and say they don't believe the two cases are connected.


County OKs Baldwin City Broadband Network

BALDWIN CITY, Kan. (AP) — A planned fiber-optic broadband network will connect Baldwin City to existing networks in Lawrence. Douglas County commissioners Wednesday approved Baldwin City's plans to issue $5 million in industrial revenue bonds to finance construction of the network. Baldwin City will own the network but will lease it back to Dawn Fiber Design. The network will be exempt from property and sales tax. The vote came after a competitor, Josh Montgomery of Wicked Broadband, questioned the use of public incentives to build infrastructure to benefit one company. He said the county should require the fiber-optic network to allow all providers access to the lines.  The Lawrence Journal-World reports that Dawn Fiber CEO Kennis Mann said because he is taking the financial risk he should not have to share the network.


TX Inmate Charged in Cold-Case Kansas Homicide

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A federal prison inmate has been charged with killing a Kansas man whose partial remains were found by a mushroom hunter south of Topeka. WIBW-TV reports that the Osage and Shawnee county prosecutors announced the first-degree murder charge Thursday against James P. Harris. Harris is accused of killing 50-year-old James E. Gerety, who was reported missing in March 2011 by a law firm that handled his personal affairs. One year later, a woman hunting mushrooms discovered remains near Carbondale in Osage County. DNA tests recently confirmed the remains as those of Gerety. Details about Harris and the killing were not disclosed Thursday. Harris is being held in a federal prison in Texas on an unrelated crime and will be brought to Kansas in December.


KS Records Rash of Deer-Related Road Deaths

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — After three Kansas residents died in deer-related accidents on a single day, the Highway Patrol is offering guidance on what to do before and after hitting a deer. The patrol says it's better to hit a deer than to swerve, which can lead to overcorrecting and going off the road. The patrol says drivers of vehicles disabled by collisions or otherwise should move them off the road if possible. Authorities also say it's better to remain inside until help arrives — but anyone who must get out should keep hazard lights activated and be alert for other traffic. On Sunday, two people were struck and killed in central Kansas when they got out of vehicles that had collided with deer. A northwest Kansas man died on Sunday as well, when he swerved to avoid a deer.




Lawrence Man Sentenced in Storage Unit Thefts

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — A 33-year-old Lawrence man has been sentenced to two years of probation for his role in more than a dozen burglaries from storage units around the city. Jacob P. Paine was sentenced last week to 24 months of probation, while two other defendants are scheduled for hearings November 13 on up to a dozen charges each. Police say the thieves got away with more than $77,000 in merchandise, most of which has been returned to its owners. Investigators believe most of the thefts were related to methamphetamine use. Paine initially faced more than a dozen charges before he pleaded guilty last month to three felony burglary counts involving thefts from storage units at an apartment complex. He could be sent to prison for 26 months if he violates his probation.


Hallmark's Ugly Sweater Ornament Stirs Controversy

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Greeting card giant Hallmark says it shouldn't have changed the lyrics to "Deck the Halls" on a new holiday ornament that's stirring customer backlash online. The company took heat Thursday after it began selling a miniaturized version of a tacky holiday sweater. The ornament alters the carol's lyrics by removing the word "gay" and emblazoning the sweater with: "Don we now our FUN apparel!" Critics took to social media, accusing Hallmark of making a political statement. The Kansas City, Missouri-based company says it was surprised by the reaction and now realizes it shouldn't have changed the wording. But a spokeswoman says Hallmark won't stop selling the ornament. Hallmark had defended the ornament, saying the multiple meanings attached to the word "gay" meant the ornament would be "open to misinterpretation."


KS National Guard Units to Change Command

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Two Kansas Army National Guard units are holding change of command ceremonies this week, including one that was delayed by the partial federal shutdown. The 2nd Combined Arms Battalion, 137th Infantry Regiment will change commanders Friday at a ceremony in Salina. Lieutenant Colonel Steven W. Denney is assuming command from Lieutenant Colonel Robert A. Wood. The battalion has units based in Emporia, Junction City, Lawrence, Lenexa, Manhattan, Topeka and Wichita. A change of command in the 35th Infantry Division originally scheduled for early October will take place on Saturday at Fort Leavenworth. Major General Michael D. Navrkal takes over for Major General John Davoren, who is retiring after 37 years in uniform.

2 Poised to Change Pleas in KS Cargo Theft Case

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Two California men accused of trying to steal nearly $83,000 worth of beef from a southwest Kansas slaughterhouse appear poised to change their pleas. A court notation shows a change-of-plea hearing set for Monday for brothers Oganes and Tigran Nagapetian in U.S. District Court in Wichita. The brothers, both from North Hollywood, California, were indicted on charges of conspiracy, identity theft and other offenses. Prosecutors allege they tried to steal a semi-load of processed beef in November 2011 from the Tyson Fresh Meats plant in Holcomb. The government wrote in one filing that the Kansas case implicates a "relatively new and bold modus operandi." Perpetrators steal the identity of a legitimate trucking company to obtain freight hauling contracts. They then load and drive off with the stolen goods.


Manning: Gender Identity Dispute Could Go to Court

HAGERSTOWN, Md. (AP) — Imprisoned documents leaker Chelsea Manning says she'll go to court, if necessary, to receive treatment for gender identity disorder, also known as gender dysphoria. The Private Manning Support Network published on its website Wednesday four letters signed by the Army private formerly known as Bradley Manning. In one letter, Manning says defense attorney David Coombs is helping her seek treatment for gender dysphoria. The 25-year-old soldier says she wants to at least be allowed to live as a woman and receive hormone replacement therapy. The military has said it does not provide treatment for gender dysphoria. Manning is serving a 35-year sentence at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, for sending reams of classified information to the anti-secrecy website WikiLeaks. The Associated Press respects Manning's wish to identify as a female.


Alleged KC Mastermind of Tax Scheme to Change Plea

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — The alleged mastermind of a $96 million tax fraud scheme is scheduled to change his plea to dozens of federal charges next week. Lawyers for 48-year-old Gerald Poynter, also known as Brother Jerry Love, filed a motion this week seeking a change-of-plea hearing, which is set for November 7. Poynter and 13 others were charged in late 2011 with conspiracy and filing false claims for tax refunds. Prosecutors say Poynter devised a scheme in which he and his co-conspirators inflated the amount of taxes on individual returns they claimed the government withheld, then filed for refunds — some for more than $1 million. Eight people have entered into plea deals, but there doesn't appear to be any such agreement with Poynter. Five other defendants are scheduled for trial in January.


MO Casinos Offer Free Meals for Veterans Day

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Three Missouri casinos have announced free buffets for veterans and active duty military personnel on Veterans Day. Ameristar casinos in Kansas City and St. Louis, along with River City Casino in St. Louis, are offering a free lunch or dinner buffet November 11 to people with a veteran's card or valid military ID. The casinos are owned by Las Vegas-based Pinnacle Entertainment. The free meals are part of an ongoing national initiative honoring military members.

Lightning Ignites Northeast KS Oil Tanks

LEAVENWORTH, Kan. (AP) — Authorities in northeast Kansas are blaming a lightning strike for an explosion and fires at an oil tank farm. The Leavenworth Times reports no injuries were reported when three 8,500-gallon crude oil tanks were struck around 4:30 am Wednesday in northern Leavenworth County. Emergency management officials say two of the tanks exploded. One went airborne and landed about 200 yards away. The top of a third tank was blown off, and most of the oil inside burned. Flames were visible from five miles away. Firefighters allowed the oil in the tanks to burn itself out, along with a 1,000-gallon propane tank that also ignited. The company that owns the tank farm was cleaning up about 2,000 gallons of crude oil that spilled onto the ground.

Foundation Donates $4M to Kansas State University

MANHATTAN, Kan. (AP) — Kansas State University is receiving $4 million to help expand and renovate the building that houses the College of Architecture, Planning & Design. The gift comes from a foundation named after Victor and Helen Regnier. Victor Regnier, who died in 2000, was a longtime homebuilder and developer in Johnson County. Besides helping to pay for $75 million in improvements at Seaton Hall and Seaton Court, a portion of the gift will be used to establish a lecture series. One of the Regniers' children, Victor, graduated from Kansas State and now is an architecture professor at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles. He says the newly improved building will provide a wonderful environment for learning.

New Lin Sculpture Headed to KC's Nelson-Atkins Museum 

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Kansas City's Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art is preparing to install a Missouri River sculpture by architectural designer Maya Lin. The museum says in a release that the artwork, "Silver Missouri," is created from recycled silver. The sculpture was commissioned by the Nelson-Atkins and will be installed November 15 in the Bloch Building. Lin designed the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington in 1981. She says much of her work focuses on the natural world. Silver Missouri is part of her river series, which Lin began in 2009 with Silver River, of the Colorado River. She says the Missouri River has "an amazing pattern and flow." Lin will speak at the museum on the installation day and is expected to ask audience members to share their memories of the Missouri River.


KU Men's Basketball Ranked Number 5 in Preseason Poll

The Associated Press's preseason men's basketball Top 25 poll has been released, and the University of Kansas Jayhawks are ranked fifth in the nation. The number-one ranking went to the University of Kentucky, with Michigan State coming in at number two. Louisville, Duke and KU round out the top five. Arizona, Michigan, Oklahoma State, Syracuse and Florida complete the top ten.



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