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Regional Headlines for Tuesday, July 3, 2012



Tinder-Dry Conditions Prompt Restrictions on Fireworks at KS Parks

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Dry conditions across Kansas are prompting state officials to curb use of fireworks at state parks and lake for the July 4 holiday. The Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism said Tuesday that only two of the state's 26 state parks will allow personal fireworks to be used on the holiday. Visitors may use them in restricted areas of Perry State Park and at Elk City State Park. Professional fireworks displays have been canceled at Cedar Bluff, Lovewell, Kanopolis, Prairie Dog and Wilson state parks. Professional displays are still scheduled near Milford State Park, Pomona State Park and Tuttle Creek State Park. Park officials are also advising visitors to heed weather advisories to avoid dangerous health conditions brought on by the excessive heat.


Nearly Half of All Kansas Counties Issue Burn Bans

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Nearly half of all Kansas counties have declared burn bans until further notice because of hot and dry conditions. The Kansas adjutant general's office on Monday said 45 of the state's 105 counties have bans in place, while one other has instituted a "strong restrictions" ban, meaning burning is allowed only if a fire department has deemed the site safe for burning. Counties with burn bans include Anderson, Atchison, Barton, Bourbon, Cherokee, Cheyenne, Clark, Clay, Decatur, Edwards, Ellsworth, Ford, Franklin, Graham, Grant, Greenwood, Gove, Hodgeman, Johnson, Lane, Lincoln and Logan. Others are Marshall, Meade, Miami, Mitchell, Morton, Ness, Norton, Osborne, Ottawa, Pawnee, Phillips, Rawlins, Riley, Rooks, Rush, Russell, Sheridan, Sherman, Smith, Stevens, Thomas, Trego and Wyandotte. Stafford County has the "strong restrictions" ban.

Report: Heat Taking a Toll on Kansas Corn

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — The latest government report is painting a deteriorating portrait of the Kansas corn crop. The Kansas Agricultural Statistics Service reported Monday that 31 percent of the Kansas corn crop was in poor to very poor condition. It rated 43 percent as fair while 24 was considered in good and 2 percent in excellent condition. The agency noted that average weekly temperatures in Kansas were 7 to 15 degrees above normal. On top of the heat, just five of the 53 weather reporting stations had more than one-half inch of rain this past week. More than 90 percent of the topsoil moisture in the western third of Kansas was reported as short to very short. Meanwhile, the wheat harvest is all but finished, with just a few fields left to cut.

Shawnee County Approves Anhydrous Ammonia Permit 

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Commissioners in Shawnee County have approved a permit for a north-central Kansas company to store and sell anhydrous ammonia fertilizer. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports the commission voted unanimously this week after hearing from several farmers about the need for a retailer in the area. St. Marys-based J.B. Pearl Sales & Service plans to put up two 30,000-gallon anhydrous ammonia tanks at a Shawnee County site owned by the company northwest of Topeka. Anhydrous ammonia is a noxious gas that is stored and transported in tanks as a pressurized liquid, then injected into the ground as a fertilizer. Officials of J.B. Pearl say more than 700 similar facilities currently operate throughout Kansas.


Hawker Beechcraft in Talks with Potential Buyers

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Aircraft maker Hawker Beechcraft is narrowing down a list of potential buyers as part of its plan to emerge from bankruptcy reorganization. The Wichita Eagle reports the company disclosed in court documents that along with its investment banker, Hawker Beechcraft developed a list of potential buyers and investors in the months preceding its May 3 filing for Chapter 11. The details are included in a preliminary reorganization plan and a related disclosure statement that Hawker Beechcraft filed over the weekend with the federal Bankruptcy Court in New York. The company says it began with an initial field of 35 potential buyers and received bids last month from eight. The prearranged bankruptcy plan is aimed at reducing the company's total funded debt of more than $2.5 billion.


Kansas Board of Ed to Discuss FY 2014 Budget Request

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) _ Just days after the start of the 2013 Kansas budget year, State Board of Education members are preparing to discuss spending needs for 2014.  Staff presented the 10-member board with a list of budget ideas during its June meeting, including increases in base state aid per student, enhanced support systems and funding for teacher development. Lobbyists for the Kansas Association of School Boards and the Kansas National Education Association sent letters to the board members encouraging them to ask for additional funds. The groups say the money is necessary to be proactive in meeting student needs.  Decisions made at the July 10 board meeting will be forwarded in the fall to Governor Sam Brownback's administration for inclusion in the 2014 budget request that will be presented to legislators in January.

Trade Delegation Will Visit England to Promote KS Aircraft Sales

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas Governor Sam Brownback will lead a delegation of state and local officials heading overseas to promote aircraft built in the state. The Republican governor will be joined by Commerce Secretary Pat George and representatives from the Greater Wichita Economic Development Coalition in attending the Farnborough International Airshow in England from July 9 through July 15. The delegation will be seeking to expand export markets for Kansas aircraft. The state exports more than $2 billion in aircraft, accounting for more than 18 percent of all exports coming from Kansas. Brownback says officials will be promoting the Kansas business climate for new job creation, including recent changes to the state's income tax code, as well as the Kansas work force.


6 Arrested after Sedgwick County Brawl 

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Six men have been arrested in connection with an early morning brawl at a Sedgwick County lake that sent three people to the hospital with serious injuries. The Wichita Eagle reports the arrested men range in age from 18 to 25 years old. The Sedgwick County Sheriff's Office says more than a dozen people took part in the brawl that started after 2 am Tuesday at a campground on the southeast side of Lake Afton. Six people were hurt, including three of them seriously. Two men were taken to Via Christi Hospital and a woman was taken to Wesley Medical Center. A sheriff's spokesman says investigators have not ruled out alcohol as a contributing factor.

Emporia Woman Convicted of Attempted Murder of Newborn Son

EMPORIA, Kan. (AP) — An eastern Kansas woman has been found guilty of trying to kill her newborn son by putting him in a bag and leaving it in the trash. KVOE-AM reports a jury deliberated about six hours Monday before convicting 26-year-old Emporia resident Christina Devine of attempted first-degree murder. Devine was charged after maintenance workers at an apartment complex found the 7-pound, 10-ounce baby alive in the trash in October 2010. Authorities said Devine's route to the apartment complex took her past several places where she could have left her son, including Emporia's police and fire stations. Devine will be sentenced August 10 in Lyon County District Court. Defense lawyer Paul Dean says an appeal is likely. Devine said in closing arguments that Devine had a disease of the nervous system.


Second Ex-Police Officer Sentenced For Stealing Electronics

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) — A second former Kansas City, Kansas police officer has been sentenced to federal prison for stealing electronics from houses where his special unit served search warrants. U.S. Attorney Barry Grissom says 34-year-old Jeffrey M. Bell was sentenced Tuesday to eight months behind bars for violating a federal civil rights law. He and two other members of the Police Department's Selective Crime Occurrence Reduction Enforcement Unit were charged after a sting operation in January 2011. Thirty-two-year-old Darrell M. Forrest was sentenced last month to 12 months and a day in prison, and 34-year-old Dustin Sillings is to be sentenced Thursday on the same charge. Bell admitted stealing games from the sting house and three or four PlayStation games and one PlayStation player during previous SCORE Unit searches.

Kansas Veteran Wins $1M Powerball Prize 

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A 34-year-old veteran from Kansas has claimed a $1 million Powerball prize after spending a restless weekend with the winning ticket taped to his chest in a plastic bag. Matthew Packebush of Hutchinson won Powerball's $1 million prize by matching the first five numbers in the lottery's drawing Saturday. The lottery says on its website that Packebush, a veteran of the U.S. Air Force, discovered he had a winning ticket Saturday, but knew he had to wait until Monday to claim his prize. To avoid losing the ticket, Packebush put his winning ticket in a Ziploc bag and taped it to his chest. Packebush says he plans to buy a new truck, start college funds for his three children and invest the rest in real estate.

Deaths of Two KC Homeless Men Believed to Be Heat-Related

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Kansas City police are investigating the deaths of two homeless men who may be victims of the intense heat. The Kansas City Star reports the body of a 63-year-old man was found Saturday inside a mobile home where the temperature was more than 115 degrees. Firefighters found the man on his back just inside the mobile home around 5:30 pm. Police say the home's air conditioning unit was not working and blew only hot air. KMBC reports alcohol may have been involved in the death of a second homeless man whose body was found Monday behind a business where the man had been sleeping for about a month. A man who works at the business says he was checking on a broken water line and found the body.


Kauffman Stadium Transforming into All-Star Venue

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Logos are being painted, temporary seating is going up and Kauffman Stadium is starting to be transformed into Major League Baseball's vision of an All-Star Game venue. Crews were working feverishly Tuesday to prepare the home of the Kansas City Royals for the annual Midsummer Classic, and doing it under sweltering conditions — temperatures were once again tickling triple digits. The All-Star Game is scheduled for July 10. The stadium must be ready by this weekend, though, when the Futures Game and a celebrity softball game will be played. The Home Run Derby is Monday night. Nearly every ticket for all three days has been sold, and Royals vice president Mike Swanson said 2,556 credentials have been issued, second only to the 2008 All-Star Game at the old Yankee Stadium.

Soldiers Receive Therapy Through Greenhouse Gardening

FORT RILEY, Kan. (AP) — Officials at Fort Riley are hoping the healing power of horticulture will help wounded soldiers recover from some of their injuries. A ribbon-cutting took place Monday for the new occupational therapy greenhouse garden at the northeastern Kansas post. WIBW-TV reports it will serve soldiers with the Warrior Transition Battalion and those in the Mild Traumatic Brain Injury Clinic. They'll start by growing and maintaining common household plants and will work up to fruit and vegetable gardens. Colonel Craig Webb, acting commander of Irwin Army Community Hospital, says that soldiers with mild traumatic brain injury may have problems with fine-motor movement. Tasks at the greenhouse, such as using their hands to care for plants, is intended to help. Volunteers from Fort Riley and the community worked to build the greenhouse.

Sparkler Bomb Destroys Mailbox, Damages Wichita Home

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Wichita police say it's lucky nobody was hurt when a homemade "sparkler bomb" destroyed a mailbox and damaged a home. Lieutenant Doug Nolte says a woman who lives in the south part of the city heard a loud explosion around 9:15 pm Sunday and went outside to investigate. The Wichita Eagle reports she found her mailbox destroyed and debris from it had struck the side of her house. Nolte says the department's bomb squad determined someone had built an improvised explosive device using sparklers and set it off inside the mailbox. He says the force of sparkler bombs is strong enough to kill anyone who is nearby when they explode. The case is being investigated as an arson.

Assaria Man Convicted in Wife's Death

SALINA, Kan. (AP) — A 41-year-old central Kansas man has been found guilty in the 2010 death of his wife. A Saline County jury on Monday convicted Michael Andrew Paulson of second-degree murder in the July 6, 2010, death of Valerie Paulson. The Salina Journal reports that Paulson, who uses his middle name, also was found guilty of attempted second-degree murder in connection with injuries inflicted on his sister-in-law, Jessie Putman. Prosecutors said Paulson was facing the prospect of divorce and took a knife upstairs with him when he hid in the loft of their Assaria home as his wife was returning to pick up her belongings. Defense attorney Richard Ney told jurors that Paulson may have spontaneously picked up a knife that had been left in that area.

Report: KS Wiretapping Requests Down Slightly in 2011

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — The number of law enforcement requests for court-approved wiretaps fell last year by 14 percent nationwide, while the number in Kansas remained relatively steady amid aggressive narcotics investigations. The latest report by the Administrative Office of the United States Courts shows 2,732 intercepts were approved last year by federal and state courts. Federal authorities account for 792, while 1,940 came from the 25 states that provide reports. Judges in the two federal judicial districts in Missouri approved 23 wiretaps in 2011, down from 46 the prior year. In Kansas, federal judges authorized 22 wiretap applications in 2011, compared with 25 in 2010. Among the investigations was a Kansas wiretap operation that ran 172 days in 2010 and intercepted 15,578 communications, costing nearly $350,000 and leading to 17 convictions.


Kansas Couple's Giant Tortoise on the Loose

GREENSBURG, Kan. (AP) — A southwestern Kansas family has lost a beloved pet, but it should be easy to spot. After all, how many 130-pound tortoises could be on the loose in the area at one time? Tony Lowery tells KWCH-TV that Leona — an African sulcata tortoise — and her male partner Puck broke out of their enclosure near Greensburg about a week ago. Puck turned up quickly, but Leona remains on the run. The tortoises were about the size of hockey pucks when the family got them nearly 20 years ago. The African sulcata is one of the largest species of tortoise in the world, and the Lowerys' two are still growing. Tony Lowery says Leona could be at risk from traffic on nearby U.S. 54 and chemicals recently sprayed on farm fields.


Missouri Supreme Court Rejects Earnings Tax Challenge

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) _ The Missouri Supreme Court has rejected a legal challenge to a voter-approved law that requires periodic elections to decide whether to keep municipal earnings taxes. Missouri voters in 2010 approved a statewide ballot measure requiring Kansas City and St. Louis to hold an election to decide whether to keep their municipal earnings taxes, with subsequent public votes every five years on whether to keep the tax. Two Kansas City leaders filed a lawsuit challenging the voter-approved measure. They argued it wrongly required an election without providing funding and improperly amended Kansas City's charter. The high court rejected the claims in a unanimous opinion Tuesday. Voters in Kansas City and St. Louis supported keeping their earnings taxes in the first election required by the voter-approved law.

Ex-KC Chiefs Player Sentenced to Probation for Lying to Grand Jury

SANTA ANA, Calif. (AP) — Federal authorities say former NFL player Johnnie Morton Jr. has been sentenced to two years probation for lying to a grand jury during a criminal probe of his California business associate. The Internal Revenue Service said Monday the 40-year-old conceded he lied during 2009 testimony by saying he did not have business dealings with Neang Chhorvann. The agency says the ex-Kansas City Chiefs and San Francisco 49ers player later acknowledged he had given Chhorvann more than $2 million to be invested. Chhorvann pleaded guilty to one count of money laundering in 2011. He failed to appear for sentencing. The agency says a warrant was issued for his arrest. Defense attorney Fred Heather says Morton's money was stolen and Chhorvann threatened to kill Morton's parents if Morton testified against him.


KC Police Officer Charged with Corruption in Forced Sex Case 

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — A 47-year-old Kansas City police officer has been charged with corruption after prosecutors say he demanded two women have sex with him in exchange for not arresting them. Jeffrey Holmes was released on $75,000 bond Tuesday after being charged with two counts of acceding to corruption by a public servant. The police department says Holmes has been suspended without pay. He has been on the force for 13 years. Prosecutors say Holmes had sex with the women at different motels in March and April in exchange for not arresting them. One of the women told police she was working as a prostitute. The other said she had outstanding warrants and marijuana in her motel room when she met Holmes. Holmes's lawyer, Kevin Regan, didn't immediately respond to messages seeking comment.


KC Police Officer Charged with Stealing $75K

PLATTE CITY, Mo. (AP) — A 43-year-old Kansas City police officer has been accused of stealing about $75,000 from his mother. The Platte County prosecutor's office said Tuesday that Sergeant Mark Stinson is charged with misappropriating funds from his 67-year-old mother, a nursing home resident. Platte County Prosecuting Attorney Eric Zahnd says the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services investigated the case. Zahnd says Stinson had been authorized to control his mother's financial affairs since 2004, and that he's accused of writing checks totaling about $66,000 payable to himself or to cash and distributing nearly $10,000 for personal expenses. Zahn also says Stinson is accused of not paying his mother's rent, resulting in her eviction in March 2011. A lawyer listed in court records as representing Stinson didn't immediately return a call seeking comment.


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