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Regional Headlines for Tuesday, January 8, 2013



Senator Pat Roberts Won't Back Hagel for Defense Post

OSAGE CITY, Kan. (AP) — Kansas Senator Pat Roberts says he won't support President Barack Obama's nomination of former Nebraska Senator Chuck Hagel as secretary of defense. Roberts describes his fellow Republican as a longtime friend, but says they have too many differences on foreign policy and national security. Speaking Tuesday in Osage City, Roberts said he and Hagel have differing views on Israel and Iran, among others, that factor into his decision. Calls to Senator Jerry Moran, seeking his views on the nomination, were not returned Tuesday. Hagel has drawn criticism for his remarks referring to pro-Israeli interests as "the Jewish lobby" and suggesting they hold too much sway in Washington. He has also called for direct negotiations with Iran over its nuclear program.


Early Bills Filed with Kansas Legislature

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas lawmakers have filed a handful of proposals for the annual session that starts next week, including measures requiring more audits of state agencies. The 90-day session begins January 14. One proposal would change the way audits are conducted on the security of the state's information technology infrastructure. The bill would allow auditors to file reports if they find evidence that a project is unlikely to meet its goals or is being implemented inefficiently. Another bill would require an audit of the state treasurer's office when a new treasurer takes office, to ensure that all property and assets were accounted for. Legislators are also proposing minor changes in a law that provides tuition assistance to members of the Kansas National Guard.


Push to Change Kansas Officials' Ethics Enforcement Coming

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Some conservative Republicans' frustrations with the Kansas ethics commission are likely to prompt legislators to consider overhauling the watchdog agency this year. Lawmakers could even consider stripping the agency of its enforcement duties. Carol Williams, the commission's executive director, expressed concern Tuesday about a proposal to have county prosecutors and the attorney general's office pursue potential fines against officials who violate ethics and campaign finance laws But House Elections Committee chairman Scott Schwab said interest is strong among his colleagues in examining the commission and considering changes. The conservative Olathe lawmaker said two ideas are taking away the commission's enforcement duties and imposing term limits on commission members. Some Republicans have complained since the mid-1990s that the commission is more aggressive in investigating and fining conservatives than moderates or liberals.

Kansas Senate's New Majority Leader Fills Out Staff

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Incoming Kansas Senate Majority Leader Terry Bruce has filled out his staff with a former congressional intern and an aide to the state House speaker. The Hutchinson Republican announced Monday that Kara Evans will serve has his legislative director. Evans is a recent graduate of Oral Roberts University in Tulsa. She has worked as an intern for Republican U.S. Senators Jerry Moran of Kansas and James Inhofe of Oklahoma. Bruce also said Katrina Abraham will be his executive assistant. She had the same job in the office of outgoing House Speaker Mike O'Neal. Peter Northcott began working as Bruce's chief of staff last month. Northcott is a former legislative liaison for Republican Governor Sam Brownback. Bruce becomes Senate majority leader when the Legislature opens is 2013 session next week.

State of Kansas Issues Warning on Eating Bass

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — State health officials are warning the public to restrict their consumption of bass because of concerns about their mercury content. The Kansas Department of Health and Environment said Monday largemouth, smallmouth and spotted bass should be eaten only once per week. The department says women who are pregnant; might become pregnant or are nursing; and children under the age of 18 should eat Kansas-caught bass only once a month. The health department says restrictions are necessary because of the levels of mercury, which can cause health problems, particularly to fetuses and children.


Kansas Capital Murder Defendant to Enter Plea

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A Topeka man charged with rape and capital murder in the death of an 18-year-old jogger is preparing to enter a plea in the case. Twenty-one-year-old Dustin Leftwich previously pleaded not guilty to killing Brenna Morgart last May and dumping her body several miles from where she was hit by a vehicle. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that prosecutors and a defense lawyer told a Shawnee County judge on Tuesday that Leftwich will enter a plea Thursday. He had been scheduled for a motions hearing that day. Morgart was killed May 25, five days after she graduated with honors from Seaman High School. Leftwich was initially accused of committing premeditated first-degree murder by hitting Morgart with his vehicle. Prosecutors amended the charges in November to include rape and capital murder.

Kansas Man Accidentally Shoots Wife with Hidden Gun

LENEXA, Kan. (AP) — Police say a northeast Kansas man accidentally shot his wife at a restaurant when his concealed weapon discharged. Lenexa police say the man had a small caliber handgun in his pocket while dining at the Longbranch Steakhouse last week. Officer Dan Friesen says the man reached into the pocket and accidentally discharged his weapon. His wife was treated and released at a hospital for a wound in the leg. Police say the man had a valid concealed carry permit and the proper training but the state likely will revoke his permit. KSHB-TV reports that the restaurant's manager says the company is now considering banning customers from bringing in concealed firearms.

Hutchinson Man Found Dead in Jail Cell

HUTCHINSON, Kan. (AP) — Authorities say a 54-year-old Hutchinson man found dead in a jail cell appears to have died of natural causes. Reno County sheriff's deputies found 54-year-old James Richard Shumpert unresponsive in his cell Sunday night, less than 24 hours after he was booked into the jail. He was pronounced dead at Hutchinson Regional Medical Center. The sheriff's department said Shumpert had a history of medical problems. An autopsy will determine the cause of death. Shumpert was taken into custody late Saturday on suspicion of criminal possession of a firearm, violating probation and possession of drugs and paraphernalia. He had previous convictions in Sedgwick and Reno counties on several charges.

NTSB: Pilot in Scott City Crash Was Likely Disoriented

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Federal investigators say bad weather and the pilot's inexperience likely led to a plane crash in April 2011 near Topeka that killed a Kansas family. A National Transportation Safety Board report says 35-year-old pilot Dylan Spencer of Scott City apparently became disoriented while trying to land using flight instruments in overcast and rainy weather. The Spencer family was flying from Scott City to Topeka on April 22, 2011 when the plane crashed while he tried to land at Topeka's Philip Billard Airport. Spencer, his wife, Amy, 34, and their two young children were killed. The Hutchinson News reported Monday that Spencer had less than an hour of "instrument time" flying since he was rated to fly relying on instruments rather than sight.


Sprint Acquisition of Clearwire Could Be Headed for Snag

NEW YORK (AP) — Wireless network operator Clearwire, which agreed to sell itself to Sprint in December, says satellite TV provider Dish Network is offering to buy the company for $3.30 per share, or $5.15 billion. Clearwire says it will discuss the unsolicited offer with Dish. Under the deal, Dish Network would buy about 24 percent of Clearwire's spectrum assets for $2.2 billion, and Clearwire would build and manage a wireless network for Dish. Dish would also provide up to $800 million in additional financing to the struggling Clearwire. Sprint Nextel owns 51 percent of Clearwire and it depends on Clearwire to provide high speed Sprint 4G data services on some of its phones. In December it offered to buy the rest of the Bellevue, Washington company for $2.97 per share.

Farm Women's Meeting to Address Risks, Legal Issues

MANHATTAN, Kan. (AP) — A conference designed for women involved in managing farms will tackle a wide range of issues, from financial risks to farming in the city. Registration has opened for the conference, called Women Managing the Farm. It takes place February 7-8 in Manhattan. The annual event aims to reach women who are landowners, farm managers or otherwise engaged in agricultural careers. This year's agenda includes more than a dozen sessions on topics including estate planning and legal issues, crop insurance, drought management and social advocacy. Sponsors include the Agriculture Department's Farm Service Agency and Kansas State Research and Extension.


Former Abortion Clinic Being Renovated for Reopening

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — The former Wichita clinic of slain abortion provider George Tiller is being remodeled to meet new Kansas regulations. The work is taking place amid growing opposition by anti-abortion activists as the building's new owners — a group called Trust Women — prepare to open it for the first time since Tiller's 2009 murder. Trust Women attorney Robert Eye said Tuesday that contractors are modifying the clinic to make sure hallways and interior spaces are big enough to comply with the requirements of the Kansas Department of Health and Environment. He says once the work is completed and the building is inspected and licensed, the clinic would open for services. Meanwhile, anti-abortion activists are mounting a petition drive to the city council and planning commission in opposition to its opening.


KC Committee to Discuss Return of Middle Schools

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — The Kansas City, Missouri school district is forming an advisory committee to discuss the possibility of bringing back middle schools. The district said Tuesday that it is seeking parents, community members and employees to serve on the committee. Kansas City began transitioning seventh- and eighth-graders to K-8 schools in 2007. Then-superintendent Anthony Amato initiated the plan because of academic and discipline problems at the district's middle schools. The hope was that K-8 schools would keep parents involved. But in 2010, middle-schoolers moved to the high schools when the district closed nearly half its schools as part of a massive cost-cutting consolidation effort. Teachers have complained that the seventh- and eighth-graders need to be in their own schools. One challenge is that reopening middle schools would come with a financial cost.

3 Finalists Named for Kansas Wesleyan President

SALINA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas Wesleyan University leaders have chosen three finalists to consider as the next president of the Salina school. The finalists announced Monday are Brian McGee, chief of staff and senior policy adviser at the College of Charleston in Charleston, South Carolina; Roger Drake, vice president of finance at Lindsey Wilson College in Kentucky; and Matthew Thompson, vice president for advancement at Florida Southern College in Lakeland, Florida. The Salina Journal reports that the presidential search committee chose the finalists from eight candidates. The men will visit the Salina campus in the next two weeks to meet with faculty, staff and students. The next president will replace Fletcher Lamkin, who resigned last June after a 2½-year tenure marked by controversy as many employees resigned or were fired.

Concrete Gorilla Makes Mystery Stop in Kansas Park

OVERLAND PARK, Kan. (AP) — The Overland Park police department would like to reunite a 300-pound concrete gorilla with its rightful owner. KCTV reports the gorilla statue mysteriously appeared over the weekend in Overland Park. Someone placed it near a gazebo in a neighborhood park in the Kansas City suburb. Police say the concrete simian was too heavy for officers to move, so they brought in a tow truck with a crane to haul it out of the park. Officers checked with nearby residents but failed to find anyone who was missing a concrete gorilla.

Children's Mercy Expands Services in St. Joseph

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Children's Mercy Hospitals and Clinics is expanding in St. Joseph. The main Children's Mercy hospital is located in downtown Kansas City. But it also operates clinics and care centers in surrounding communities. For the past 20 years, it's had outreach clinics in St. Joseph. But now it will have a permanent location on the campus of Heartland Regional Medical Center in St. Joseph. Two outreach clinics, Children's Mercy Cardiology and Endocrinology, have moved into the new space and recently began seeing patients. Plans also are under way to establish a clinic that specializes in asthma and allergies. Other clinics, focusing on gastroenterology and weight management, are being considered.


Salina Students Will Build Frisbee-Throwing Robot

SALINA, Kan. (AP) — Some students at Salina Central High School will spend the next six weeks trying to design and program a robot that will throw Frisbee-like discs at targets. It's not just for fun. The effort is part of an international competition designed to promote science and technology to students. The Salina Journal reports that the students were given their objectives for this year's contest on Saturday. The machine won't just throw the discs. Students must also figure out how to guard against other teams who will try to disrupt the scoring. And they'll get bonus points if their machine can climb a Jungle Gym-type structure. The Salina Central students will qualify for an international contest if their machine does well at a regional competition in Dallas.


KU Men Begin Chase for Big 12 Hoops Championship

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — The sixth-ranked University of Kansas Jayhawks men's basketball team begins pursuit of its ninth consecutive Big 12 championship when it opens conference play against Iowa State on Wednesday night. The last time the Jayhawks failed to finish first in the league was in 2005, when Oklahoma won the title. Otherwise, they've won six outright championships and twice shared the title with Texas during a run of domination that is virtually unmatched. Among the other schools who can lay claim to such a streak: John Wooden's UCLA teams that won 13 straight titles, and Gonzaga, which won 11 in a row before finishing second last season. KU coach Bill Self called it "a responsibility" for the current team to keep the streak intact. The Jayhawks enter conference play having won 11 straight games.

Drawdowns on Wetlands in Western Missouri Planned

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) — Missouri's Conservation Department is lowering the water in two wetlands in the western part of the state to help plan for repairs. The department says it's conducting aerial topographic surveys on the Upper Osage River flood plain, including wetlands on the Four Rivers and Schell Osage conservation areas south of Kansas City. The department says the surveys will help plan for upcoming wetlands renovations, which will include improvements to levees and other water-control structures. The department says the drawdowns will be staged so there will still be some wetland habitat through the rest of goose hunting season, which ends January 31. But there will be a reduction in hunting opportunities in some areas. The permanent lakes at both Four Rivers and Schell Osage conservation areas won't be affected.


Escapee from Huron Jail Considered Dangerous

HURON, S.D. (AP) — People in the Huron, South Dakota area are being told to lock their doors while authorities search for an escaped prisoner. The Beadle County Sheriff's Department says Charles Beeney escaped from the jail in Huron early Tuesday and is armed with a makeshift weapon. KELO-TV reports that he is considered dangerous. The 45-year-old Beeney is originally from Kansas and was arrested on a charge of aggravated eluding.

Topeka Marks Emancipation Proclamation Anniversary

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — An Abraham Lincoln re-enactor will help the Brown v. Board of Education National Historic Site mark the 150th anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation. The free event takes place at 7 pm Tuesday at the Topeka site, which tells the story of the U.S. Supreme Court decision that declared segregated schools unconstitutional. Portraying Lincoln will be Richard Klein of Springfield, Illinois. He traveled the route of Lincoln's famous 12-day inaugural journey during a National Park Service sponsored tour in February 2011. Lincoln issued his preliminary Emancipation Proclamation in September 1862, after the Battle of Antietam. In it, he announced that if rebel states did not cease fighting and rejoin the Union by January 1, 1863, all slaves in rebellious states or parts of states would be declared free from that date forward.

Woman Pleads Guilty in 'Total Identity Theft' Case

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — An illegal immigrant charged with assuming the persona of a Texas teacher has struck a deal with federal prosecutors in Kansas in a case that put a face on the crime of "total identity theft." Thirty-two-year-old Benita Cardona-Gonzalez, a Mexican national living in Topeka, pleaded guilty Monday to a reduced charge of possessing fraudulent identification documents. Cardona-Gonzalez was accused of completely assuming the persona of Houston elementary school teacher Candida Gutierrez, who first went public in a story reported by The Associated Press. Prosecutors agreed to recommend an 18-month prison term when Cardona-Gonzalez is sentenced in March. Cardona-Gonzalez agreed not to contest deportation after serving her sentence. Defense lawyer Matthew Works said after Monday's hearing Wichita that his client is sorry and didn't intend to harm Gutierrez.

Wichita Police Make Easy Arrest in Bar Robbery

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Police in Wichita had little trouble finding the suspect in the early-morning robbery of a bar. The Wichita Eagle reports that the 41-year-old man was a regular customer at Judy's Place, where other patrons helpfully gave police his name and address. Police say the man went behind the bar at closing time early Monday, pushed a cashier out of the way and grabbed several hundred dollars before walking out. Wichita police Lieutenant Doug Nolte says officers followed the tips from other customers and found the man at his home, along with the stolen cash. Nolte says he does not know how much alcohol the man consumed before he stole the money.

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