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Regional Headlines for Thursday, September 13, 2012




UPDATE: State Board Delays Decision on Ballot, President Obama

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas officials want more information before deciding whether to remove President Barack Obama from the state's November ballot. The State Objections Board heard arguments Thursday on a claim from a Manhattan resident that President Obama is not eligible to be president because his father was from Kenya. The resident, Joe Montgomery, also questions whether Mr. Obama has a valid birth certificate. The president released a copy of his long-form birth certificate last year, and Hawaii officials have verified his citizenship repeatedly. But the Kansas board — made up of the secretary of state, attorney general and lieutenant governor — said Thursday it wants certified documents from Hawaii and two other states where similar questions about President Obama's citizenship have been raised. The board plans to meet again Monday and may rule then.


UPDATE: Kansas Board Upholds Ex-Lawmaker's Spot on Ballot

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Top Kansas officials are letting a former state lawmaker remain on the ballot as he seeks to return to the House, rejecting a claim that he doesn't live in his district. The State Objections Board ruled Thursday for former House Minority Leader Tom Sawyer, of Wichita. Sawyer is the Democratic nominee in the 95th House District. A tea party leader had objected to Sawyer's candidacy. The objections board is made up of the secretary of state, attorney general and lieutenant governor. Kansans for Liberty President Craig Gabel questioned whether Sawyer lived at the address he listed in filing for office. But Sawyer owns the property and has been registered to vote there since 1993. Sawyer, who also ran unsuccessfully for governor in 1998, faces freshman Republican Representative Bennie Boman in November.


UPDATE: 2nd Kansas Official Dodges Medicaid Waiting List Inquiries

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Another state official has told a panel that the U.S. Department of Justice isn't currently investigating the state's waiting lists for development services. Shawn Sullivan, secretary for the Kansas Department for Aging and Disability Services, told a legislative budget committee on Thursday that he couldn't get into specifics about possible federal questions about the waiting lists. He cited advice from a deputy state attorney general. The comments came a day after one of Sullivan's deputies refused to answer questions or provide information about people on waiting lists for physical or developmentally disabled services. The refusal drew criticism from legislators, who said the public had a right to transparency in government. Sullivan said that the agency is trying to clean up the waiting lists to determine who still needs services.


Crop Insurance Losses Begin to Mount Amid Drought 

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Thousands of U.S. farmers are filing crop insurance claims this year as drought and triple-digit temperatures burn up crops in the Corn Belt. The final cost to the taxpayer-subsidized program has yet to be determined, but Kansas State University is forecasting underwriting losses at nearly $15 billion. That figure is based on anticipated claims totaling $25 billion. Extension specialist G.A. "Art" Barnaby says the Agriculture Department's Risk Management Agency cut premiums for corn and soybeans in many states, expecting new technologies to eliminate or reduce big losses. More than $1.42 billion in insurance claims have been paid so far, with the bulk still to come. Texas is leading the nation with $518.6 million in claims, followed by Kansas with $223 million. Colorado is third with $66 million.


Rain Eases Drought as Midwest Corn Harvest Unfolds

ST. LOUIS (AP) — The latest update on the nation's worst drought in decades shows that farmers bringing in their weakened corn crops caught some relief with recent rains that soaked much of middle America. The weekly U.S. Drought Monitor map shows two-thirds of Iowa now in extreme or exceptional drought, the two worst categories. That's because the amount of that state in extreme drought rose slightly while the swath in exceptional drought remained unchanged at 2.4 percent. The worst two drought categories held steady in Nebraska, at 97.4 percent of the state, and were nearly unchanged in Illinois, at 6.67 percent. Missouri's numbers dropped more than 6 percentage points, to 25.20 percent. The land area in the lower 48 states in extreme or exceptional drought remained at about 21 percent.

US Education Secretary to Visit Emporia, Topeka

EMPORIA, Kan. (AP) — U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan will hold a town hall meeting at Emporia State University during a two-city stop in Kansas next week. Duncan is on a 10-day national tour that ends September 21. He'll be at Emporia State on Tuesday afternoon to hold the town hall meeting. He'll also visit the National Teachers Hall of Fame, located on the Emporia campus. Duncan will be in Topeka earlier Tuesday to visit the Brown v. Board of Education National Historic Site. He'll be joined there by members of the State Board of Education and officials of the state Education Department.

Topeka Zoo Will Appeal USDA Finding on Elephants

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The city of Topeka plans to appeal the U.S. Department of Agriculture's findings concerning care of two elephants at the Topeka Zoo. After an inspection in August, the USDA cited the zoo for violating the Animal Welfare Act. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that the specific violations won't be made public until after the appeal process is completed. The city's announcement comes the same week the zoo received a five-year accreditation by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums. City manager Jim Colson says the city "respectfully disagrees" with the USDA inspector's findings. He says receiving accreditation shows the zoo has animal care programs that are among the best in the country.

BPI Sues ABC News for Defamation

LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) — Beef Products Incorporated has filed a defamation lawsuit against ABC News for its coverage of a meat product that critics dubbed "pink slime," alleging the network misled consumers to believe the product is unhealthy and unsafe. The Dakota Dunes, S.D.-based company is seeking $1.2 billion in damages for roughly 200 "false and misleading and defamatory" statements about the product. The lawsuit, filed in a South Dakota court Thursday, also accuses ABC News of improper interference with the relationships between BPI and its customers. BPI attorney Dan Webb says the reports led consumers to believe the beef is not meat, but an unhealthy slime unfit for human consumption. ABC News senior vice president Jeffrey W. Schneider says the lawsuit has no merit. ABC News is owned by The Walt Disney Company.


Jury Finds Kansas Officer Not at Fault in Shooting

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A man convicted of kidnapping a northeastern Kansas couple has lost his bid for damages from a Topeka police officer who shot him while making the arrest. Twenty-six-year-old Jesse Dimmick was a fugitive from criminal charges in Colorado when he burst into a home in the Topeka suburb of Dover in September 2009. The couple escaped and called police when Dimmick fell asleep. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports a Shawnee County jury on Thursday ruled against Dimmick in a lawsuit seeking up to $436,000 in damages from the city of Topeka and police Sergeant Guy Gardner. Gardner says his weapon fired accidentally. The jury ruled that Dimmick — now a prisoner in a Colorado jail — was 100 percent responsible for the incident.


Kansas Star Casino Exceeds Revenue Projections

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The Kansas Star Casino near Mulvane is continuing to easily exceed revenue projections. The Kansas Lottery said Wednesday that entering September, the casino generated $129.5 million since it opened in mid-December 2011. It has been averaging more than $15 million a month. The lottery owns and operates the casino's games. The Wichita Eagle reports if that pace continues, the casino will bring in more than $180 million this year. In 2010, consultants predicted the casino would generate $159.1 million in 2012. The revenue numbers are expected to increase when the Kansas Star's permanent casino opens early next year. It will include more slot machines, gaming tables, and food services. The permanent casino is scheduled to open in January, but casino officials say it could open sooner.


Kansas Guardsmen to Document Afghan Operations

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Three members of the Kansas National Guard are preparing to deploy to Afghanistan with an unusual assignment. The guardsmen are members of the 102nd Military History Detachment. They'll spend their time in Afghanistan recording the missions of U.S. troops through interviews, photos, and document collections. Officials say the goal is the preserve the history of Operation Enduring Freedom, including the role of the Kansas National Guard. A departure ceremony for the three soldiers is scheduled Friday afternoon at the State Defense Building in Topeka. They head next to Fort Dix, New Jersey to complete their training before deploying to Afghanistan.

KU Won't Ban Tobacco Use on All Campuses

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — The University of Kansas won't join a growing trend of schools banning all tobacco use. An advocacy group, Americans for Nonsmokers' Rights, says 562 college campuses banned all tobacco use as of July 1. The University of Missouri will implement a campuswide ban on tobacco on January 1, 2014. The Lawrence Journal-World reports that KU officials say the university won't follow the trend. Spokesman Tim Caboni says the university's medical campuses in Kansas City, Kansas and Wichita have banned all tobacco since 2006. On the Lawrence campus and the Edwards campus in Overland Park, smoking is not allowed in or near campus buildings. Smoking and tobacco is allowed in designated areas at Memorial Stadium and chewing tobacco is allowed in student housing. Caboni says the current policy works well.

Judge Sets Hearing for Ex-KU Ticket Consultant

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A judge has set a January hearing date for a former University of Kansas athletics consultant seeking a shorter sentence for his part in a ticket-scalping conspiracy. U.S. District Judge Monti Belot will hear the case of Thomas Ray Blubaugh on January 16. Blubaugh is serving a 46-month sentence at a federal prison in Oklahoma. He pleaded guilty last year to conspiring to defraud the United States. Blubaugh is the husband of Charlette Blubaugh, former ticket director for KU athletics. They were among seven people convicted in a $2 million scheme involving the theft and sale of Jayhawk basketball and football tickets. Thomas Blubaugh contends the sentencing court improperly considered the value of tickets he had hidden in a storage facility. He also claims his lawyer did a poor job.


Homicide Suspect Found Dead after Long Standoff

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) — Police in Kansas City, Kansas say the suspect in an early-morning homicide has been found dead inside a home. Officers entered the home around 11:30 am Thursday, nearly eight hours after getting a tip that the suspect might be inside. Tactical officers surrounded the home, and neighbors were warned to stay indoors during the standoff. The case began with a report of a shooting around 3:30 am. Police found a man shot to death outside a house and were told the suspect was inside another home nearby. Names of the homicide victim and the suspect have not been released, and police have not said how the suspect died.

HHS Secretary Sebelius Violated Politicking Ban

WASHINGTON (AP) — A government ethics office says Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius violated a federal law that restricts political activity by government officials. In a report Wednesday, the federal Office of Special Counsel said off-the-cuff remarks by Sebelius during a February 25th speech to a gay rights group in North Carolina violated the Hatch Act. Sebelius called for President Barack Obama's re-election and endorsed a Democratic candidate for governor. In a formal response, Sebelius said that any violation was "technical and minor" and was corrected after her official trip was reclassified as political, and the government was repaid for her travel. Since Sebelius is a Cabinet official, the ethics office referred the case to the White House for "appropriate action."


Police: 2 Women Stealing from Wichita School Buildings

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Wichita police say two women apparently are sneaking into schools and stealing from staff members. Police say the thieves hit at least four schools since the school year began. The most recent theft occurred Wednesday at Jackson Elementary. Superintendent John Allison says in a message to employees that the suspects look for rooms that are empty because the staff is busy elsewhere, such as supervising students who are leaving at the end of the day. He says they have stolen purses, billfolds and other personal items from staff. The suspects are described as two black females, between 20 and 25 years old, 5 feet to 5-foot-6-inches tall. One is approximately six to seven months pregnant. The district has turned surveillance video over to Wichita police.


Oklahoma Man Pleads Guilty in 3 Church Burglaries

ARKANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) — A 23-year-old Oklahoma man has pleaded guilty to charges related to three Cowley County churches. On Thursday, Scott Mears of Ponca City, Oklahoma pleaded guilty to two counts of non-residential burglary and two misdemeanor theft charges related to burglaries at three Cowley County churches. Mears was scheduled to be sentenced October 25. The Arkansas City Traveler reports that Mears admitted committing burglaries in July at the Hillcrest Bible Baptist Church in Arkansas City, and the First Christian Church and the Trinity Lutheran Church, both in Winfield. Mears was arrested in Emporia. Authorities say he could face charges of burglarizing other churches in several cities. Mears was being held Thursday in the Cowley County Jail on a $50,000 bond.


Family Donates Organs after Boy's Driveway Death

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — The heartbroken family of a Kansas City toddler who was killed in the driveway of his home has donated the little boy's organs. Two-year-old Benjamin Thompson was run over Monday night by a pickup truck driven by his father. Family members said Benjamin ran behind the truck as his father was backing up. Family members tell KMBC-TV that four children have benefited from the organ donations as of Thursday, receiving his corneas and two heart valves. Police have called the death accidental. Investigators said the father checked his rearview mirrors before backing up but didn't see Benjamin as the child ran toward a trampoline in the home's front yard.


Kansas Official Refuses Questions on Medicaid Waiting List

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A Kansas official has refused to answer some questions from legislators about a waiting list of poor residents with severe disabilities who are seeking assistance. Gary Haulmark of the Kansas Department for Aging and Disability Services appeared Wednesday before the Legislative Budget Committee. Haulmark told the panel his department's legal counsel advised him not to answer any questions about Medicaid waivers because of potential litigation. The federal government has been investigating complaints that Kansas is violating the civil rights of people waiting for help. The Legislative Research Department says more than 7,500 Kansans are under-served or are on the waiting list for services. That's up from slightly less than 2,100 in 2008. Republican Senator John Vratil of Leawood said he was baffled by Haulmark's reluctance to discuss the numbers.

**this story has been updated. Please see above. 

Kansas to Review Challenges to Ex-Lawmaker, President Obama

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A Kansas board is preparing to settle challenges to spots on the November ballot for President Barack Obama and a former lawmaker seeking to return to the Legislature. The State Objections Board is made up of the secretary of state, attorney general and lieutenant governor. Other items on its agenda Thursday include disputes over presidential candidate listings for the Reform and Americans Elect parties. Manhattan resident Joe Montgomery objected to Mr. Obama's listing as the Democratic nominee for president, claiming that President Obama is not a U.S. citizen. A tea party group's president has questioned whether former Kansas House member Tom Sawyer lives at the Wichita address he listed on his filing papers. Sawyer is the Democratic nominee in the 95th House District, and says he has owned the home for two decades.

**this story has been updated. Please see above.


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