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Regional Headlines for Thursday, September 27, 2012



Children's Cabinet Told to Plan for Big Cuts

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A group that supports early-childhood programs in Kansas is preparing for massive budget cuts next year. The Kansas Children's Cabinet and Trust Fund has been told that up to 75 percent of its $56 million budget could be cut because of a drop in money from a lawsuit against tobacco companies. The Topeka Capital-Journal reported Wednesday that the head of the cabinet, Amanda Adkins, told board members to prepare two different program recommendations. One would assume the group would continue to receive $56 million in tobacco funds. The other would assume the group gets only $12 million. Kansas and 30 other states are currently in arbitration over provisions in the tobacco case settlement, leading to speculation that funding for the cabinet will be cut.

Kansas 2nd District Foes Spar over Banking Issues

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas Congresswoman Lynn Jenkins and her Democratic challenger are sparring over donations to the Republican incumbent's re-election campaign from financial interests. Tobias Schlingensiepen of Topeka, the Democratic nominee in the 2nd Congressional District, called a news conference Wednesday to accuse Jenkins of turning her back on Kansas by taking the contributions. He says Jenkins has collected more than $610,000 from banking and insurance interests while voting against bills placing more regulations on those industries. Jenkins' campaign manager, Bill Roe, issued a statement calling the $610,000 figure a "fabrication." Roe also says most of the donations Jenkins has received from the financial industry came from people working at Kansas credit unions and community banks. Roe says Jenkins opposes regulations that limit those institutions' ability to make loans and help the economy.

Kansas Supreme Court to Hear Cases in Johnson County

OVERLAND PARK, Kan. (AP) — The Kansas Supreme Court will hold a special session at Johnson County Community College in Overland Park next week to hear arguments in four cases. The court says its records show that Wednesday's session will be its first in the northeastern Kansas county. Chief Justice Lawton Nuss says it's part of an ongoing effort to inform Kansas residents about what the court does and who the justices are. Other special sessions have been held in Greensburg, Salina and Wichita. Wednesday's docket includes appeals in three criminal cases from Johnson, Leavenworth and Wyandotte counties and a civil lawsuit from Johnson County.

Stubborn Drought Maintains Grip on Most of US

ST. LOUIS (AP) — A weekly update on U.S. drought conditions shows the nation's worst drought in decades slightly worsened in the lower 48 states with the Midwest corn harvest in full swing. The U.S. Drought Monitor's new map posted Thursday shows 65.5 percent of the contiguous U.S. was experiencing some form of drought as of Tuesday, up from 64.8 percent a week earlier. It shows 21.5 percent of that area was in extreme or exceptional drought — the two worst classifications. That's up three-quarters of a percentage point. The area of Iowa, the biggest corn producer, deemed to be in exceptional drought rose from 2.4 percent last week to 2.5 percent. That most severe classification rose 2.3 percentage points in Nebraska, to 73.25 percent. Conditions in Kansas, Missouri, Illinois and Indiana remained unchanged.


Kansas Board, Doctor Battle over Abortion Case Costs

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) _ A Kansas doctor who lost her license over abortion referrals is fighting efforts by state regulators to force her to post a bond to cover nearly $93,000 in costs as she appeals to the courts.
Attorney Kelly Kauffman said Thursday that Dr. Ann Kristin Neuhaus can't afford to pursue a lawsuit against the State Board of Healing Arts if she must post a bond. Neuhaus lost her license in June. The board concluded she didn't provide adequate mental health exams for young patients she referred in 2003 to the late Dr. George Tiller for late-term abortions. The bond would cover the board's previous costs in her case. The board ordered Neuhaus to pay the costs but suspended the requirement while Neuhaus pursues her lawsuit in Shawnee County District Court.


Judge Rules Against Former Wife of ex-KU Athletics Official

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) _ A federal judge has ruled the former wife of a University of Kansas athletics department official caught in a ticket scalping scandal cannot keep money and property fraudulently transferred to her in the couple's divorce settlement. U.S. District Judge J. Thomas Marten on Thursday ruled for the government in its lawsuit against Ben Kirtland, the former Kansas associate athletic director in charge of development, and his ex-wife, Mary Jean Kirtland. The government contends the transferred property and money are worth more than $400,000. The judge says Mary Kirtland knew of her husband's precarious legal and financial situation and paid nothing to him before the transfers in the property settlement. Ben Kirtland was one of seven KU athletics officials convicted for the unlawful sale of Jayhawk football and basketball season tickets.


2nd Man Charged in Death of Tabor Football Player

MCPHERSON, Kan. (AP) — A second former McPherson College football player has been charged in the beating death of a football player from nearby Tabor College. The McPherson County prosecutor's office confirmed Thursday that 19-year-old Dequinte Oshea Flournoy of Dallas was charged Wednesday with aiding and abetting second-degree murder. Police say the 26-year-old victim, Brandon Brown of Sacramento, California, was found unconscious September 16 after a fight at a party in McPherson, about 25 miles from the Tabor campus in Hillsboro. He never regained consciousness and died Saturday. Flournoy played football for McPherson College in 2011 but left the team in August. He is suspended from McPherson College, pending the outcome of the case. Bond has been set at $500,000. His attorney, Brent Boyer, didn't immediately return a phone call seeking comment.


KU Gets $24.5 Million Grant for Special-Needs Education Research

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — The University of Kansas will use a federal grant to establish a national center aimed at improving how children with disabilities are taught. The Lawrence Journal-World reports that the project will concentrate on ways to teach special-education students and other students together in grade-level classrooms. The grant from the U.S. Department of Education will go to the university's Life Span Institute, which will lead the project. The department announced the university's first-year grant of $4.9 million Tuesday and says the university could receive as much as $24.5 million over five years for the project. A special education professor leading the project says it's based on research conducted in the last 20 years, showing that students with disabilities do better when placed in classrooms with other students.


Community College, Emporia State Sign Transfer Pact

EMPORIA, Kan. (AP) — A northeastern Kansas community college hopes to improve its rate of students completing degrees through a new arrangement with Emporia State University. Students who complete at least 45 college credits at Johnson County Community College will be able to finish their associate's degrees at Emporia State. The schools announced the so-called reverse transfer agreement Thursday. Johnson County Community College reached a similar agreement with Kansas State University in March. Community colleges are under pressure to show their students are completing degrees. One concern is that they don't receive credit for many students who transfer to four-year institutions where they earn bachelor's degrees. The issue is many community college students don't bother earning an associate's degree before transferring. That hurts the community college's completion rate.


Topeka Man Sentenced in Fatal Shooting over Noise

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A Topeka man has been sentenced to eight years and six months in prison for killing a neighbor after they argued about noise. WIBW-TV reports 31-year-old LaVance Thompson will also spend three years on post-release supervision under the sentence he received Thursday in Shawnee County District Court. Thompson was initially charged with first-degree murder in the shooting death of 36-year-old James Sanders the night of December 25, 2011. Thompson's trial was under way in August when he pleaded guilty to a reduced charge of voluntary manslaughter. Sanders and Thompson were neighbors in a Topeka apartment building. Prosecutors said Sanders was dropping weights on the floor, and Thompson was turning up his music. Authorities said Thompson confronted Sanders and shot him after Sanders called police to complain.


Central Kansas Town Giving Away Land for Homes

HOISINGTON, Kan. (AP) — The central Kansas community of Hoisington is giving away up to 15 home sites of roughly 12,000 square feet each to families willing to build houses on them. The Great Bend Tribune reports the acreage is a former mobile home park that was donated to Hoisington on the condition that it not be sold. The Hoisington City Land Bank decided this week to give the lots on a first-come, first-served basis to families who pay a refundable earnest fee of $500. Hoisington city manager Jonathan Mitchell says the program has the potential to increase the population and property valuation in the community of about 2,700 people. Houses built on the lots will have to measure at least 1,500 square feet on the main floor and have a basement and garage.

Sedgwick County Gives Wichita Air Show $10K 'Grant'

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Sedgwick County commissioners have approved a $10,000 grant for this weekend's "Wings Over McConnell" air show but won't be using a special hospitality tent that was to come with the donation. Commissioner Richard Ranzau had questioned spending the money on what he called a "party tent" at the McConnell Air Force Base event in Wichita. Commissioners initially were offered a special "chalet tent" where they and other leaders would be treated to a catered meal and beverages. Instead, the Wichita Eagle reports a tent now will be available for anyone seeking some shade. Backers of the donation say supporting the air show is important because McConnell generates more than $500 million each year for the Wichita area economy.

Theaters Start Program for Military Families, Veterans

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP) — Nearly two dozen theaters around the country are offering free and discounted tickets for plays, classes and other services to veterans and military families. The Blue Star Theatre program is being launched at the Trinity Repertory Company in Providence on Friday by National Endowment for the Arts Chairman Rocco Landesman, U.S. Senator Jack Reed, and others. The program announced Thursday will also offer workshops and playwriting classes to veterans, job postings and casting notices on military bases. Reed's office says the program builds on the Blue Star Museums program, in which more than 1,800 museums nationwide offer free or reduced summer admission to military families. Theaters participating are in California, Massachusetts, Oregon, Kentucky, North Carolina, Arizona, Texas, Florida, Connecticut, New York, New Jersey, Washington, Virginia, Kansas, Pennsylvania and the District of Columbia.


Attorneys: New Evidence in Fatal 1988 Explosion

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Attorneys for five people serving life sentences for the 1988 explosion deaths of six Kansas City firefighters say they have new evidence that points away from their clients and at others who were not thoroughly investigated. Kansas City attorney Cheryl Pilate and Laura O'Sullivan, legal director for the Midwest Innocence Project, are holding a news conference Friday afternoon to present that evidence and call for a grand jury to re-investigate the case. Darlene Edwards, Bryan Sheppard, Frank Sheppard, Richard Brown and Earl "Skip" Sheppard were convicted in 1997 in the deaths of the firefighters. A U.S. Department of Justice investigation last year suggested others were involved in the arson and explosion that killed the six men, but it did not exonerate the five who were convicted.

KC Police to Start Gunshot Detection System

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Kansas City police are set to begin using a new gunshot-detection system that pinpoints the location of gunfire. Police say in a release that the new ShotSpotter Flex gunshot detection system goes into effect in Kansas City by October 1. The system is described as a partnership between police and the Kansas City Area Transportation Authority. The system covers about 3.5 square miles and uses multiple sensors to pick up the sound of gunshots and pinpoint their location within a few feet of the actual shots. Police aren't saying where they've installed the equipment, which will also identify the address of gunshots, the number of shots fired and the number of weapons used. The system is used in about 70 other U.S. cities and funded by federal grants.

Husband's Ashes Stolen from Wichita Widow's Home

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — The daughter of an 88-year-old Wichita woman whose home was burglarized is hoping to recover just one stolen item: a box containing the ashes of the woman's late husband. The Wichita Eagle reports the break-in occurred Sunday morning while the widow was at church. Her daughter, J.E. Kelly, told the newspaper Wednesday the stolen items included money, jewelry and a gold-colored etched metal box containing the ashes. Kelly says her mother planned to be buried someday with her husband's ashes. They're worried now that whoever has the box will open it, realize what's inside and throw it away. The thief or thieves can keep everything else, Kelly says, "but if anyone has my father, I'd really like him back."

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