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Regional Headlines for Tuesday, April 16, 2013


President Obama Scrubs University of Kansas Visit

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Barack Obama has cancelled his scheduled visit Friday to the University of Kansas in the wake of the Boston Marathon bombing. The White House issued a brief statement Tuesday saying the president's schedule had changed. He will go to Boston on Thursday to attend an interfaith memorial dedicated to victims of the blasts. It's unclear whether the White House will reschedule the Kansas visit. The purpose of Obama's trip to Kansas had not been disclosed, though state Democratic leaders were asked to find a venue on the Lawrence campus that could hold between 3,000 and 6,000 people.


Governor Signs Kansas Drug Test Law for Aid Recipients

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A new law signed by Governor Sam Brownback requires a Kansas welfare agency to test residents seeking cash assistance if there is a reasonable suspicion they are using drugs. The Republican governor said Tuesday during the signing ceremony that substance abuse is a scourge that requires government to step forward and help break the cycle of addiction. Applicants seeking federal Temporary Assistance for Needy Family funds would be screened. Tests would be conducted where there is a reasonable suspicion of drug use. Those who are found to be using drugs would receive treatment and job skills training from the state. Senate Vice President Jeff King, lead sponsor of the bill, estimates that 8 percent of welfare applicants show indications of drug use.


Kansas Law Aimed at Gang Crime Signed

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas prosecutors now have a new weapon in their arsenal for curbing gang activities by targeting higher-level individuals in the gangs. Governor Sam Brownback on Tuesday signed the Kansas Racketeering Influenced and Criminal Organization Act. It's patterned after similar federal RICO statutes aimed at organized crime. Senator Mike Peterson, a Wichita Republican, says the law gives law enforcement agencies and prosecutors the ability to target heads of gangs and charge them with criminal activities. The law amends several definitions in state laws regarding who could be charged with crimes such as soliciting or coercing others to do illegal acts, human trafficking, drug distribution or extortion. The law also changes criteria for determining which individuals who might be in criminal street gangs, including whom a person associates with and location.


Kansas Speedway Beefs Up Security After Boston Explosions

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) — Kansas Speedway is increasing the police presence for this weekend's NASCAR race after two explosions at the Boston Marathon left three dead and more than 170 wounded. Track president Pat Warren said fans attending the Truck Series race on Saturday and the Sprint Cup race on Sunday should budget more time for when they're entering the facility. The speedway doesn't plan to change its policy of allowing coolers into the track. Kansas Speedway hosted the second Cup race to be run after the attacks of September 11, 2001, and Warren said the training and preparation of his staff under the most stringent security levels in U.S. history has helped ensure that safeguards will be in place for this weekend. Warren also said track officials have discussed a suicide that took place during last weekend's race at Texas. He reiterated that firearms are not allowed at Kansas Speedway.


Surgeon from Kansas Pressed into Action at Boston Marathon

SALINA, Kan. (AP) — A general surgeon from Kansas says he was pressed into service helping the injured just moments after finishing the Boston Marathon. Dr. Chris Rupe tells The Salina Journal he heard a loud explosion about 10 yards away after finishing his run Monday in a time of 4 hours, 4 minutes, 23 seconds. Rupe says he headed to what he thought was a building or grandstand collapsing, then heard the second blast. He was directed to a medical tent where doctors usually help runners with problems like exhaustion. Rupe spent about an hour inside, treating people mainly with injuries to their extremities. After that, Rupe says, most of the injured had been taken to hospitals. Rupe's wife — pediatrician Abbey Rupe — had finished the marathon well before the explosions occurred.

KU Relays Says Weather, Not Security, Reason for Venue Changes

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — A Kansas Relays official says it's unlikely extra security will be hired to work the track and field showcase this week in Lawrence. Meet director Milan Donley says Monday's bombings at the Boston Marathon makes relay officials aware that anything can happen at any time. But he says he doesn't think extra security will be added. The Lawrence Journal-World reports that spectators entering any event at Memorial Stadium on the university campus have had their backpacks and belongings searched since the September 11 attacks. The weather, not security concerns, will move two popular events from downtown Lawrence to the Douglas County Fairgrounds livestock arena. A forecast of heavy rains and cold will move the men's shot put to the arena Wednesday and the women's long jump on Thursday.


Brownback Tour to Focus on Stable Funding for Kansas Higher Education

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) _ Governor Sam Brownback says that his upcoming tour of college campuses in Kansas is part of his effort to persuade legislators, policymakers and state residents of the importance of stable, level funding for colleges and universities. Speaking with reporters Tuesday after a bill-signing ceremony, the Republican governor said legislators need to take a longer view of funding for higher education, including rising tuition costs, administrative expenses and state support. Brownback plans to visit the campuses between April 22 and May 6, two days before legislators return to Topeka to finish the 2013 session. Legislators are proposing cuts to higher education, ranging from 2 percent to 4 percent. Brownback opposes such cuts and wants to retain current funding in the next budget.


UPDATE: KC Police Find No Danger at H&R Block Headquarters

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Kansas City police say nothing dangerous was found after security staff at the headquarters of H&R Block reported a suspicious package in the mailroom. Police spokesman Darin Snapp says security personnel at the tax preparation company called about the package Tuesday morning. He says police searched the area and turned up nothing dangerous. The incident was initially described as a bomb threat. Snapp says that's because reports of suspicious packages register in the police department's system as bomb threats. Police were called to the same downtown building Monday on the report of a suspicious package that was also later determined to be harmless.


Man Acquitted in Death of Tabor Football Player

McPHERSON, Kan. (AP) — A former McPherson College football player has been acquitted in last fall's death of a player from a rival school. KWCH-TV reports that a jury deliberated less than two hours Tuesday before finding 20-year-old Alton Franklin not guilty of second-degree murder. Franklin was quickly freed from the McPherson County jail, where he'd been held since September. Franklin was accused of beating 26-year-old Tabor College defensive lineman Brandon Brown, who was found unconscious outside a party in McPherson last September 16. Brown died six days later from blunt-force head trauma, with alcohol poisoning as a contributing factor. Two witnesses testified they saw Franklin hit Brown. But the defense said there was no evidence that Franklin had struck anyone. Franklin's co-defendant, former McPherson player DeQuinte Flournoy, pleaded no contest earlier to aggravated battery.


Colorado Names Former KS Prisons Chief as Interim Corrections Director

DENVER (AP) — Colorado has tapped a retired prisons chief from Kansas to lead the state Department of Corrections on an interim basis after last month's killing of Tom Clements. Roger Werholtz was announced as the interim corrections chief Tuesday. He will work through July as Colorado searches for a replacement to Clements, who was shot in his suburban Denver home last month. The suspect in Clements' slaying, paroled white supremacist Evan Ebel, was killed in a shootout with police in Texas. In a statement, Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper said Werholtz would lead efforts to evaluate Colorado's parole system, which failed to locate Ebel after he slipped an ankle monitor. Werholtz retired as Secretary of Corrections in Kansas in 2010. He had earlier served as Deputy Secretary of Corrections since 1987.


Kansas Board Ponders Cost of New Science Standards

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas officials involved in drafting new science standards for public schools are trying to reassure the State Board of Education that retraining teachers and buying new classroom materials won't be unusually expensive. The issue arose during the board's meeting Tuesday when members reviewed a final draft of the proposed standards. The science guidelines were developed by 26 states, including Kansas, and the National Research Council. The Kansas board doesn't plan to decide until at least June whether to adopt the standards as the state's own. Board members Deena Horst of Salina and Jim McNiece of Wichita both worried about the potential costs facing local school districts. But state Department of Education official Matt Krehbiel said schools can retrain teachers over time and buy new books on their regular schedules.


Kansas School Board Approves New History Standards

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The Kansas State Board of Education has approved new standards for history and social studies classes for public schools despite concerns that they don't focus enough on the contributions of minorities. The board's vote Tuesday was 9-0. The guidelines will be used to develop standardized tests for students, with the state using their scores to measure how well schools are teaching. Board member Carolyn Campbell, a Topeka Democrat, said she does not believe the standards go far enough in making sure that schools teach students about the contributions of blacks and other minorities. However, Campbell said they are an improvement over the previous standards, adopted in 2004. Supporters of the new guidelines say they emphasize teaching student research skills over memorizing content.


Westar Asks Kansas Regulators for $32M Rate Increase

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Westar Energy is seeking a nearly $32 million rate increase to help upgrade pollution controls at one of its coal-fired power plants. The Topeka-based utility filed its request Monday with the Kansas Corporation Commission. Westar says the increase would raise monthly electric bills about $7.50 a month or less for two-thirds of its residential electric customers. The impact on the other one-third could be higher, but Westar says it's not sure by how much. At the same time, Westar also wants to cut rates for large and medium-sized businesses. It says those rates have risen faster in recent years than the electric rates for businesses in neighboring states. The new revenues would finance pollution control improvements at Westar's La Cygne plant in eastern Kansas.


Kansas Teen in Custody After 6-Year-Old Girl Shot

MISSION, Kan. (AP) _ Police in a Kansas City suburb have taken a 14-year-old boy into custody after a 6-year-old girl was shot and wounded in an office building. Mission Police Captain David Moloy says the girl was shot in the leg Tuesday morning in an office. Her condition was not known but Moloy says she was talking when she was being taken to a hospital. Moloy says the teenager fled the scene on foot after the shooting. He was apprehended less than a block away about an hour later. He says he couldn't comment on whether the teenager and the child were related or if the shooting appeared to be intentional.

3-County Kansas Mental Health Center Struggling

LEAVENWORTH, Kan. (AP) — The executive director of a mental health center that serves three northeast Kansas counties says the center is dealing with increased demand while receiving less funding. Keith Rickard told the Leavenworth County Commission Monday that the Guidance Center sees about 5,000 patients a year, compared with about 2,800 decade ago. The center serves Leavenworth, Jefferson and Atchison counties. He said the center made $400,000 less in 2012 than in 2011. And if the state cuts an estimated $10 million from its community mental health center grants this year, the center will lose about $183,000 in grants. The Leavenworth Times reports the center is required to provide services regardless of a patient's ability to pay.

Report: Corn Planting Underway; More Rain Needed

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — The latest crop update from the Kansas Agricultural Statistics Service shows improving topsoil moisture conditions for areas that have received significant rain or snow. But the agency said Monday more precipitation is needed to have an impact on subsoil moisture, which is now short to very short across 73 percent of the state. Topsoil moisture in is faring somewhat better with 40 percent reported short to very short. The latest snapshot shows Kansas growers have planted only about 3 percent of their planned corn acreage. That's far behind the 16 percent planted by this time last year or the 10 percent average for mid-April. Winter wheat condition was reported to be 33 percent poor to very poor, 37 percent fair, 27 percent good and 3 percent excellent.

New Mullinville City Council Member Fired from City Job

MULLINVILLE, Kan. (AP) — Getting elected to the city council got a man fired from his city job in a small south-central Kansas town. Rob Roberts was one of five people elected to the Mullinville City Council April 2. One April 8, city officials fired the 68-year-old Roberts from his job as the city's maintenance man. The Hutchinson News reports that Kansas law prohibits city council members from holding city jobs. Roberts acknowledges that the city attorney warned him in February that he could not continue as a city employee if he won a council seat. But he says he was told he was fired because of his job performance. Roberts will be sworn in next week. He says he will continue working at his construction business and is a part-time rural postal carrier.


Wyandotte County Prosecutor Inspired by Career-Ending Accident

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) — A Wyandotte County prosecutor says he is driven to fight for justice by pain he endures after he was hit by a drunken driver. Christopher Mann was a Lawrence police officer when a drunken driver slammed into him during a traffic stop in January 2002. The Kansas City Star reports that a leg injury ended Mann's police career. Despite continuing pain from the injury, he went on to earn a law degree at Washburn University and became an assistant district attorney in Wyandotte County in 2011. Mann also has advocated for tougher laws to fight drunken driving. And he recruited and became a volunteer for Mothers Against Drunk Driving. He organized a new state advisory board and is now state chairman for MADD Kansas.


Missouri Man Accused of Making False Abduction Report

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — A Missouri man is accused of triggering an Amber Alert after falsely reporting that his daughter had been abducted from his home. Clay County authorities charged 40-year-old Bruce G. High of Gladstone with a misdemeanor of making a false missing-person's report. High told police last Sunday that a friend of his daughter's mother took the 5-year-old girl from his home without his permission. The Kansas City Star reports court records show the mother was at High's home when the friend took the girl because her parents were arguing. High also allegedly falsely claimed to have full custody of the girl. Authorities found the child with her mother several hours later. The mother told investigators she hesitated to alert them out of fear she would be arrested on outstanding warrants.


Kansas, Missouri Students Win Urban Design Contest, $50K

MANHATTAN, Kan. (AP) — A team of graduate students from Kansas and Missouri universities have won a $50,000 prize for coming up with the best redevelopment proposal for the Downtown East area of Minneapolis. The students from the University of Kansas, Kansas State University, and the University of Missouri-Kansas City competed against 149 teams to win the Urban Land Institute's Gerald D. Hines Student Urban Design Competition. After the Kansas and Missouri students were picked as finalists, they visited Minneapolis to refine their project. Last week, they presented their plan to a jury that was made up of national leaders in design and development. Team adviser Jason Brody says the students had a "tremendous vision." The Kansas State assistant professor says the students' winning plan features a cosmopolitan neighborhood centered on a park space.

George Washington Documents to Be Displayed in Abilene

ABILENE, Kan. (AP) — George Washington's personal copy of the early laws of the United States written in 1789 goes on display next week in Kansas. Washington's copy of the Acts of Congress will be available for viewing April 23 through May 3 at the Eisenhower Presidential Library and Museum in Abilene. The documents are on a nationwide tour of all 13 presidential libraries, under a partnership of the National Archives and the Mount Vernon Ladies' Association. The papers are considered some of the most significant works in Washington's personal collection, which includes the U.S. Constitution, the Bill of Rights and legislation passed in the first session of Congress.


Dish's Ergen Says Sprint Debt Manageable

NEW YORK (AP) — Dish Network's combative chairman, Charlie Ergen, is defending his $25.5 billion bid for Sprint Nextel, saying the debt load the deal would create for the combined company will be manageable. "We will take on more leverage than we have today," Ergen said in an interview with the Associated Press. "But it's not excessive. In today's market, at today's rates, it's certainly not excessive leverage." After five years of buying of wireless spectrum and trying to create partnerships with cellphone companies, Ergen on Monday unleashed his biggest bet yet, an unsolicited offer for Overland Park-based Sprint Nextel Corporation, the country's third-largest cellphone company. But Wall Street analysts say the debt level of the combined company would put it in a risky position.


KSU Teacher's Class Attendance in the Millions

MANHATTAN, Kan. (AP) — A Kansas State University teacher has gained a massive Internet following with his videos on culture and information attracting millions of views. Michael Wesch is a cultural anthropologist who explores the effects of new media on society and culture. The video that catapulted him into the spotlight explains how the Internet connects people. He put it together at his home in 2007 and viewership quickly grew. Other videos followed. Wesch has won several major awards for his work, including a Wired Magazine Rave Award. He has also won several teaching awards, including the 2008 CASE/Carnegie U.S. Professor of the Year for Doctoral and Research Universities.

Woman Found Stuck in Mud Along Kansas River

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Police in Topeka say a woman reported missing from a nursing home was rescued more than 15 hours later from mud along the Kansas River. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports police were uncertain how long the woman — described as in her 70s — was stuck along the river before she was found around 9 a.m. Monday. The nursing home reported the woman missing about 3:30 p.m. Sunday after she failed to return from church services. Police were trying to find out how she wound up along the south bank of the Kansas River, where a passer-by spotted her from a bridge Monday morning. Emergency crews pulled her from the mud and took her to a hospital for treatment. Authorities said the woman uses a walker.

Brownback to Tour State Universities

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Governor Sam Brownback will visit leaders and students at public universities and colleges around Kansas to discuss his support for higher education funding. The Republican governor says in a release Monday that protecting higher education funding must be a priority as the state makes spending decisions for the next two budget years. Brownback's tentative schedule begins with stops April 22 at Wichita State University and Butler Community College and concludes May 6 at Kansas State University. Kansas legislators are still working on the state budget for the fiscal year that starts July 1. They return May 8 from a break that began April 5. Brownback says all state agencies must find efficiencies, but believes higher education spending must remain level.

UMKC Tops in National Recycling Competition

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — The University of Missouri-Kansas City can now brag it has the nation's greenest campus. With an 86 percent recycling rate, the school ranked No. 1 in the Grand Champion category of the annual RecycleMania competition. More than 260 campuses vied for the title. Through the competition, colleges and universities try to see who can collect the largest amounts of recyclables. Missouri-Kansas City's sustainability coordinator Kaye Johnston says the school's victory shows that "when we all do a little, we all do a lot." The school began several new efforts this year. Among them, the library worked with another organization to recycle books, and peer mentors helped students recycle or compost their trash. There also was a recycling competition and a document shredding event.

Kansas Suspends TE Sizemore for 3 Games

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — Kansas has suspended senior tight end Nick Sizemore for the first three games of the season. Coach Charlie Weis announced the punishment Monday. He said it was for an unspecified violation of team rules. Sizemore, a 6-foot, 245-pound player from Lititz, Pennsylvania, played in 10 games last season and caught two passes.


Aura of Mystery Surrounds Likely Presidential Visit to University of Kansas

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — State officials have been left to speculate about President Barack Obama's plans for a visit this week to the University of Kansas as they wait to hear more details. The White House confirmed Monday that Obama is planning an official event Friday at the university but provided no other information. University spokesman Jack Martin said it had no details. Kansas Democratic Party Chairwoman Joan Wagnon said the White House told state party officials that it was looking for a site that could hold 3,000 to 6,000 people for a midday event. But Wagnon said she still hasn't received any details about the purpose of Obama's visit. Kansas is a Republican stronghold, and the Democratic president received 38 percent of the state's vote in winning re-election last year.

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

Brownback Would Like to See Obama During Presidential Kansas Visit

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas Governor Sam Brownback says he hopes to see President Barack Obama when he makes a visit Friday to Lawrence. The Republican governor says Tuesday that he hasn't been invited to attend Obama's event at the University of Kansas but plans to go if he is asked to attend. Obama hasn't said why he is visiting Kansas. State Democratic leaders say they have been asked to find a venue that could hold between 3,000 and 6,000 people for the president's appearance. Brownback joked that maybe he and Obama, an avid basketball fan, could shoot a few hoops during the visit. Lawrence is home to the University of Kansas Jayhawks, who lost to Michigan in the Final Four round of the NCAA Division I Men's Basketball Tournament.

**this story has become outdated, as President Obama's visit to KU has been cancelled; please see above. 


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