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Regional Headlines for Tuesday, August 27, 2013



Kansas Senator Says President Must Strike Syria

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — U.S. Senator Pat Roberts says he doubts the United States can avoid a military strike in Syria following reports that its government used chemical weapons in the civil war there. But the Kansas Republican also said Tuesday that President Barack Obama should address the nation and get the consent of Congress for military action. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that Roberts told a Lawrence Chamber of Commerce luncheon he believes Congress would authorize military action by the Democratic administration. Roberts said military action needs to be forceful enough to tip the balance of fighting against Syrian President Bashar Assad's forces. The Kansas senator said he doesn't "see any way out of" using military force, but he acknowledged that Americans are war-weary after conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan.


Former Legislator Weighs Entering Race for KS Secretary of State

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Former Republican state senatorJean Schodorf is considering a run for Kansas secretary of state next year as a Democrat. The Wichita Eagle reports that Schodorf said she's studying whether a challenge to Republican Secretary of State Kris Kobach would be viable. The Wichita resident became a Democrat in January and said party members recently encouraged her to run. Schodorf was a moderate Republican who served 12 years in the Senate before conservatives successfully targeted her for defeat in the 2012 GOP primary. She has said she regretted her 2011 vote for Kobach's legislation requiring new voters to provide proof of their U.S. citizenship when registering. Mission Hills businessman Randy Rolston already has filed to run for the Democratic nomination. Kobach said any Democratic candidate will want to dismantle the photo-ID law.


KS AG Office Says New Roofer Law Requires Outreach

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The Kansas Attorney General's office plans to do more outreach before pursuing fines under a new state law aimed at cutting down on roofing fraud. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that the law, which requires roofers to register, took effect July 1. Adrian Serene, an assistant attorney general in the Consumer Protection Division, says the agency has received only about 380 applications out of an estimated 700 roofing contractors in Kansas. Serene says his office believes most of the roofers who haven't yet applied are unaware of the new law and not trying to evade it. He says the office will continue contacting roofers to educate them about the new law. The state's relying on the $250 registration fees to fund the staff needed to oversee the new program.


UPDATE: Clear Channel Lifts Ban on Wichita Women's Clinic Ad 

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Media conglomerate Clear Channel is lifting its earlier ban on radio ads from a Wichita abortion clinic promoting health care services for women. The company reversed course Tuesday as supporters of the South Wind Women's Center prepared to deliver a petition with 68,000 signatures Wednesday, asking the broadcaster to reconsider its earlier decision. Clear Channel says it recognizes certain advertising may stir passionate viewpoints but that it determined it should use its best judgment to accept and run ads that don't violate the law or FCC standards. The company says the nationwide petition did not play into its decision. South Wind is the first abortion clinic to open in Wichita since the 2009 slaying of Dr. George Tiller.


Cargill to Invest $48M in Dodge City Meatpacking Plant

DODGE CITY, Kan. (AP) — Cargill Beef says it will spend $48 million to install an automated order distribution system at its Dodge City meatpacking plant. The Wichita-based company said Tuesday the system will be housed in a specially built 62,000-square-foot facility. Construction is to begin late this year, with the new system expected to be in operation by the spring of 2015. Cargill says in a news release the automated system will improve the flow of highly perishable fresh meat products to hundreds of destinations. The company says the system will be capable of holding about 155,000 boxes of beef, compared with a current capacity of about 25,000 boxes. The Dodge City plant opened in 1979 and processes about 6,000 head of cattle per day.


Governor Revises Kansas Drought Emergency Declaration

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The recent spate of rainy weather has prompted Governor Sam Brownback to revise the drought declaration in parts of Kansas. Brownback said Monday that 23 of the state's 105 counties are no longer considered in drought conditions. It marks the first time since July 2012 that conditions have improved enough to remove counties from the drought designation. Brownback's office says Kansas Water Office director Tracy Streeter recommended that 20 counties be moved into drought emergency status, 25 move to watch status and 37 remain in emergency status. Emergency status allows counties to draw water from certain state fishing lakes. Emergency hay and grazing are also allowed in those counties.


Report: Warmer Temperatures Helping Kansas Crops

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Hot, windy conditions over the past week have helped dry out rain-sodden fields across Kansas. The National Agricultural Statistics Service says Kansas farmers were able to catch up on haying and to spray herbicide to prepare fields for planting wheat. Most crops also benefited from the warmer temperatures. The agency's weekly update Monday said 1 percent of the corn is mature. Its condition is rated as 28 percent poor to very poor, 32 percent fair, 34 percent good and 6 percent excellent. Most of the sorghum crop is now heading. The sorghum's condition is rated 14 percent poor to very poor, 32 percent fair, 46 percent good and 8 percent excellent. Soybean condition was 10 percent poor to very poor, 30 percent fair, 51 percent good and 9 percent excellent.


Kansas Seeks to Improve High School Graduation Rates

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas has recently joined 30 other states in enrolling students in a federally funded program aimed at raising high school graduation rates and helping students prepare for college and careers. Education Commissioner Diane DeBacker says the Kansas State Department of Education had been hoping for several years to introduce the program, called Jobs for America's Graduates, but didn't have the funds until this year. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that the program targets students who might be at risk of dropping out of school, offering them extra mentoring and support. The Kansas Department for Children and Families secured the $3.6 million federal grant this year to launch the program.

Animal Drug Company Moves to KCK

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) — An animal pharmaceutical company based in the state of Washington has moved its headquarters to Kansas City, Kansas. The company, Stason Animal Health, says it has leased space in the Biological & Technology Center on the University of Kansas Medical Center campus. Stason is in the early stages of developing drugs for companion animals. It was based in Vancouver, Washington. Initially, only CEO Diana Wood will be located at the headquarters. Wood says the company chose Kansas City, Kansas to take advantage of the area's growing animal health industry. The Kansas City Star reports that the move was publicly announced Monday.


Sprint Eliminating 800 Customer Service Jobs

NEW YORK (AP) _ Sprint says it's eliminating about 800 customer service jobs because fewer people are calling its centers. With growth in other parts of the business, Sprint says it expects the company's work force to remain at about 40,000. Sprint said Tuesday that most of the affected workers were notified last Thursday. Others will be told next month after Sprint figures out which additional positions will be cut. The company says the cuts are at various locations across the country. Sprint's headquarters are in Overland Park. Last month, Japanese investment firm SoftBank Corporation completed a $21.6 billion investment in Sprint, giving it a 78 percent stake in the third-largest U.S. wireless carrier. Sprint says its efforts to increase customer satisfaction helped to reduce the number of calls for customer service.


Hill City Woman Cited for Trespassing at Shelter

HILL CITY, Kan. (AP) — A 71-year-old Hill City woman has been charged with trespassing for entering the city animal shelter to care for dogs she felt weren't being treated properly. The Hays Daily News reports Melissa Scott pleaded guilty recently to trespassing at the city dog pound, where she said the dogs didn't have proper shelter from the sun and lacked water. She went into the fenced-in area, which is located at the city wastewater plant, sprayed down the dogs and held up blankets and boards to block the sun. Scott appeared in municipal court and pleaded guilty to trespassing. She says she now plans to present the issue to the city council. Hill City Police Chief Russ Ingle says the dogs aren't mistreated, have 5-gallon water pans and are in shaded pens.


Missouri AG Sues Walgreens, Claims Overcharging

ST. LOUIS (AP) — Missouri Attorney General Chris Koster is suing The Walgreen Company, accusing the nation's largest pharmacy chain of overcharging customers and using deceptive advertising. Koster filed the lawsuit Tuesday in Kansas City and announced details at a news conference in St. Louis. Koster says his office made undercover visits to stores in St. Louis, Kansas City, Springfield, Jefferson City and Osage Beach in June and July. He says investigators found the stores often charged more at checkout than displays indicated. He says that of 205 products purchased, 43 had price discrepancies, ranging from a few cents to $15. Walgreens spokesman Jim Graham declined to comment and said the Chicago-based company hasn't seen the lawsuit. The suit seeks an injunction that would force The Walgreen Company to stop the alleged deceptive practices.


Defendant Will Be Retried in 1997 Rape Case

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — A man who was convicted in the 1997 rape of a University of Kansas student will go on trial again next January. Forty-year-old Robert Grey originally was sentenced in 2009 to 26 years in prison for rape. Prosecutors said he kidnapped a 20-year-old woman at gunpoint from a campus parking lot, took her to a secluded area and raped her. The Kansas Court of Appeals last year awarded Grey a new trial, finding that prosecutor Amy McGowan did not disclose some evidence to the defense. The Lawrence Journal-World reports that McGowan was assigned to other duties earlier this year after the Kansas Supreme Court found she committed errors in several trials from 2007 to 2009. A Douglas County judge last week scheduled Grey's new trial for January 13.


Dozens Displaced by Wichita Apartment Fire 

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Authorities in Wichita say a three-alarm fire at an apartment building caused about $1.75 million in damage. The fire broke out around 5:30 am Tuesday at an apartment complex in the southeastern part of the city. Five people were treated for smoke inhalation, and the Red Cross opened a shelter to help some of the roughly 70 people who were displaced. Crews brought the flames under control by early afternoon but remained on the scene, dousing the roof to prevent flare-ups. Wichita Fire Chief Ron Blackwell told KWCH-TV that the fire started on the second floor of one building in the complex. A nearby building was also damaged. The damage estimate includes about $1.5 million to the building and $250,000 to the contents.


Ex-KU Student Sentenced to Probation in Assault

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — A former University of Kansas student has been placed on 18 months of probation in the sexual assault of a 19-year-old female student at a dormitory. Jeremy R. Ruzas was sentenced Monday after he pleaded no contest in July to aggravated battery. He was arrested on February after a female student reported Ruzas assaulted her in her room at Oliver Hall dormitory room. Prosecutors say Ruzas, who had been drinking, entered the woman's room uninvited and assaulted her. Ruzas was originally charged with aggravated sexual battery and burglary. Ruzas left the university after he was charged. The Lawrence Journal-World reports that Douglas County District Judge Sally Pokorny suspended an eight-month prison sentence because Ruzas had no criminal history. He could be sent to prison if he violates probation.


Lawrence Man Wins Air Guitar's Top Title

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — A Lawrence man has riffed and thrashed his way past 16 other contestants from Europe and Japan to win the world air guitar championship. Eric Melin is known as Mean Melin on the air guitar circuit, where contestants pretend to be playing a guitar. He became the newest World Air Guitar Champion in Finland on Friday. The Lawrence Journal-World reports that Melin came in second at the U.S. Air Guitar finals in Los Angeles, which meant he hadn't qualified to compete at the World Air Guitar Championships in Finland. But in the air guitar competition world, there's a Dark Horse round, which Melin won. Then he went to Finland and won. Melin says he had been planning to hang up his virtual guitar, but now he'll keep strumming. (For more information, listen to KPR's story on Eric Melin and the U.S. Air Guitar Championships.) 


Manning Lawyer Gives More Details on Client's Gender Change

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP) — An attorney for Army Private Chelsea Manning, who was previously known as Bradley Manning, says the soldier decided to announce that she wanted to live as a woman the day after sentencing because a military prison said publicly it would not provide hormone treatment. Attorney David Coombs told The Associated Press on Monday that Manning wanted the media attention over the court-martial to dissipate before making the announcement. But Manning decided to go ahead with it after a Courthouse News Service story quoted a military prison spokeswoman saying hormone treatment would not be allowed. The story was published the day before the soldier was sentenced to 35 years in prison. Coombs says he hopes the military prison will allow the treatment and eliminate any need to sue in military or civilian court.


Cosmosphere Adds Webcam Feed of Apollo Conservation Work

HUTCHINSON, Kan. (AP) — The Kansas Cosmosphere has launched a website with a live webcam where viewers can track conservation work on the engines that powered NASA's Apollo moon mission. The Hutchinson museum said Monday it recently got confirmation that a serial number on a thrust chamber recovered from the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean shows the F-1 engine came from the Apollo 11 mission. Most of the more than 25,000 pounds of engine pieces are in tanks to remove corrosion. Some pieces are cleaned by hand. The Apollo F-1 conservation project was commissioned by Bezos Expeditions.


MO Man Dies in Motorcycle Accident Near Lawrence

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — Douglas County authorities say a Missouri man died from injuries he suffered in a motorcycle accident near Lawrence. Douglas County Sheriff's Lieutenant Steve Lewis says 61-year-old Randall Lusk of El Dorado Springs, Missouri, died early Tuesday. He was injured Monday night in an accident on Kansas 59 just south of Baldwin City. Lewis says deputies responding to reports of a motorcycle in the median found Lusk seriously injured. He was flown by air ambulance to an Overland Park hospital. 6News Lawrence reports that authorities are asking for anyone who was in the area of the accident to call the Douglas County Sheriff's office.


Hays Area House Fire Injures 3

HAYS, Kan. (AP) — Three people have been injured in a house fire in the Hays area. The Hays Daily News reports that the fire destroyed the two-story home Monday. Ellis County Rural Fire Chief Dick Klaus says three people were taken to the hospital by ambulance, but he didn't know the extent of their injuries. He says the house was fully engulfed in flames when fire crews arrived. Klaus says when the residents realized the home was on fire they escaped through bedroom windows, onto the roof of a porch. He says they had to jump off the porch roof to escape the blaze. An investigator from the State Fire Marshal's office is investigating the cause of the fire, which started in the kitchen.


Developer Planning New Kansas City Downtown Hotel

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — A Tennessee developer is planning the first new hotel building in downtown Kansas City since 1985. Chartwell Hospitality LLC officials said Monday the company will break ground next year on a 257-room hotel in the Crossroads Arts District. The 10-story building would house a Marriott Courtyard and a Residence Inn. The Kansas City Star reports that the developer will not seek city tax incentives for the project. The cost of the hotel project was not disclosed, but company officials said it would be entirely privately financed. The 190,000-square-foot hotel is expected to be completed by fall 2015. Several hotels have opened downtown since 2000 but they are all in existing buildings that were renovated. Chartwell is based in Franklin, Tennessee and owns about 30 hotels nationwide.


John Gilligan Dies: Former Ohio Governor, Father of Ex-KS Gov Kathleen Sebelius

CINCINNATI (AP) — Former Ohio Governor and U.S. Representative John Gilligan, a liberal Democrat who won creation of the Ohio state income tax, has died. He was 92.
His death Monday was confirmed by caregiver Frank Kennedy. Gilligan's daughter is Kathleen Sebelius, a former Kansas governor and current Health and Human Services secretary under President Barack Obama.


K-State Researchers Worried About Aquifer's Future

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Researchers at Kansas State University say that the High Plains Aquifer could be in deep trouble by the year 2060. Scientists say the natural processes that replenish the aquifer are only making up for about 15 percent of the water being pumped out. If pumping continues at the current rate, the aquifer could be drawn down to less than two-thirds the level it maintained in the 1950s, before the advent of center-pivot irrigation. But experts say that saving water now could prolong the aquifer's life for roughly another hundred years. The researchers' findings were published Monday in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America. It focuses on the Ogallala aquifer in western Kansas.


Ex-Police Officer Admits Part in Kansas Bribery Case

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A former Wichita police officer has admitted to conspiring to bribe a car-theft victim in hopes of saving her job. Thirty-four-year-old ex-officer Joletta Vallejo pleaded guilty in federal court Monday to conspiracy to commit wire fraud. Her 40-year-old co-defendant, Patrick Melendrez, also pleaded guilty. Sentencing for both was set for November 18th. Prosecutors agreed as part of the plea deal to recommend probation. Vallejo admitted failing to follow procedures in responding to citizens' reports, then lying to investigators about it. She was accused of arranging last August for Melendrez to pay the theft victim $150 to recant his statement about her actions and another $150 if she kept her job with the Police Department. A third defendant in the case faces a status hearing September 9th.

Wichita Woman Sought in Lighter Fluid Incident

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Wichita police are looking for a woman involved in a domestic dispute that nearly ended with a man being set on fire. The Wichita Eagle reports officers were called to a home Sunday afternoon about an incident involving a 55-year-old man and his 39-year-old common-law wife. Police say an argument escalated with the woman spraying lighter fluid on the man and trying to ignite it. But she was unsuccessful in starting a fire, and left the scene by the time police arrived. Authorities said they don't know what the two were arguing about.

Kansas Man to Be Tried in Ex-Girlfriend's Death

COLBY, Kan. (AP) — A 24-year-old Kansas man has been bound over for trial in the February killing of his ex-girlfriend, who was found stabbed to death in her burning home. The Colby Free Press reports a Thomas County judge on Monday found enough evidence to try William Shank on charges of first-degree murder, aggravated arson and burglary. Shank is charged with killing 27-year-old Teri Morris, who worked at a Walmart in Colby and as an emergency medical technician. A coroner's report said Morris had been stabbed 27 times before her Colby home was torched. Authorities said the two were contesting custody of their 8-month-old daughter. The baby was with Shank when he later called police from a home in Logan. Shank, who has lived in Garden City and Colby, pleaded not guilty Monday.


Who's Faster? Chiefs' Charles or Royals' Dyson? 

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — The challenge has been laid down. All that's separating Royals outfielder Jarrod Dyson and Chiefs running back Jamaal Charles from deciding the fastest man in Kansas City sports is about 300 yards of parking lot between Kauffman Stadium and Arrowhead Stadium. Of course, the folks in charge of their teams are likely to stand in the way, too. The match race is unlikely to ever happen in the metro area that produced former 100-meter world-record holder Maurice Greene. There's too much injury risk to line them up just for fun. It's a compelling conversation piece, though. Dyson has swiped 25 bases in just 60 games this season, and said "I'm not afraid of nobody." Charles is the former junior Olympian who said, "If he wants to put on a show, I'm never going to back down from anyone."


Kansas Clinic Pushes Back on Clear Channel Ad Ban

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Supporters of a new abortion clinic in Wichita are pushing back after media company Clear Channel rejected radio ads promoting its health care services for women. Representatives of the South Wind Women's Center plan to deliver a petition Wednesday containing more than 68,000 signatures urging Clear Channel to reconsider last month's decision to pull ads from three of the four stations it operates in the Wichita market. Clear Channel officials refused to immediately comment on the matter. South Wind's executive director, Julie Burkhart, is expected to speak at Wednesday's event. The clinic opened in April in the building once owned by slain abortion provider George Tiller. It offers reproductive health care services, including abortions and subsidized birth control for low-income patients.

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


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