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Regional Headlines for Tuesday, June 12, 2012



Kansas Guard to Help Fight Colorado Fires

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas National Guard helicopters are heading to Colorado to assist crews fighting wildfires.  The adjutant general's department said Tuesday that helicopters from the 1st Battalion, 108th Aviation Regiment are being deployed to help fight the fires that have forced hundreds of residents to evacuate their homes.  The fires cover 64 square miles in an area 15 miles from Fort Collins. The fires have already destroyed more than 100 structures.  The Guard's Black Hawk helicopters are equipped with buckets that can carry 660 gallons of water to dump on fires. The water can be scooped from local sources, such as ponds and lakes.  The Kansas soldiers are expected to be deployed as long as 15 days.


UPDATED! KS Official Wants Evolution Concerns Considered

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A Kansas State Board of Education member says he hopes that scientists and educators drafting new science standards will seriously consider the concerns of people who have questions about evolution.  Republican Ken Willard, of Hutchinson, says people who have doubts about the theory shouldn't be treated as "crackpots."  Willard spoke earlier today (TUE) after the board got an update about work by Kansas, 25 other states and the National Research Council on new science standards designed as voluntary guidelines for all states.  A draft released last month describes evolution as a well-established, core scientific concept. Kansas has its own standards, adopted in 2007, that reflect the same view of evolution.  State law requires the board to review the science standards at least once every seven years.  Kansas has switched multiple times between standards expressing skepticism about the theory and evolution-friendly guidelines like the ones now in place.


Former KS Mail Carrier Spared Prison Time for Stealing Mail

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A 77-year-old former mail carrier who did not deliver thousands of pieces of mail was fined $1,000 but was spared from prison.  A court filing shows Dixie Bontrager, of Whiting, also will not serve any probation on the mail theft conviction.  Her route included Holton and Circleville in northeast Kansas.  Agents searching abandoned vehicles on her property in 2010 found 496 first-class items and 2,786 standard mail items dating back to 2002 that she didn't deliver on her 115-mile route. They also found 151 periodicals, 121 telephone books and two parcels.  Her attorney, Richard Lake, wrote Bontrager discarded undeliverable junk mail. He said she has been devastated and reluctant to show her face in the community.  Bontrager was fired in 2010 after 30 years on the job.


Man Dies in South-Central Kansas Shooting

HARDTNER, Kan. (AP) — Authorities in a small, south-central Kansas town are investigating the shooting death of a 31-year-old man as a homicide.  The Hutchinson News reports a woman was also shot and wounded at the home in the town of Hardtner. Barber County Attorney Richard Raleigh says the woman's injuries were not life-threatening.  The dead man was identified as Tony Rosenbaum.  Authorities said the woman called 911 from the nearby home of relatives around 12:30 this (TUE) morning.  Sheriff's officers and Kansas Highway Patrol troopers quickly arrived at the house where the shootings occurred but didn't enter until about 8am, fearing a suspect might still be inside.


KS Students Win National Auto Skills Contest

DEARBORN, Mich. (AP) — Two Kansas teenagers have won the Ford/AAA Student Auto Skills Competition National Finals at Ford World Headquarters in Dearborn.  The team of 18-year-old Bryce Banks and 17-year-old Jedediah Redger and their instructor from Newton High School finished with the highest score Tuesday, beating out 98 other students.  The competition consisted of a written test and timed event to find and repair deliberately installed glitches in 2012 Ford Fiestas. More than 12,500 students compete each year in the competition that tests automotive knowledge, workmanship and problem-solving abilities.  Banks and Redger will shadow the Wood Brothers Racing's 21 Motorcraft/Quick Lane Ford Fusion team during the July 7 Coke Zero 400 in Daytona Beach, Florida. The also will serve as honorary pit crew members.


KS Moves Closer to Federal Education Waiver

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas education officials say negotiations with the federal government are moving the state closer to obtaining a waiver from requirements of the No Child Left Behind law.  Judi Miller, an administrator with the Kansas education department, told the State Board of Education today (TUE) that federal officials have approved parts of the state's application.  A waiver would remove the federal mandate for all Kansas students to demonstrate proficiency in math and reading by 2014.  Kansas would instead adopt new standards for measuring the annual progress of schools and districts toward student proficiency in reading and math. The state would also develop its own method for assessing the quality of teachers and administrators, and for providing more opportunities for career and technical education.


KS Voters to Sort Out New District Lines

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — State and local officials say it may take some time for the dust to settle after a federal panel redrew the Kansas political boundaries.  The Wichita Eagle reports that election officials expect it to be a few weeks before voters will know for certain which district they are in and who will be on the ballot.  A three-judge panel issued new maps late Thursday for the state House, Senate, Board of Education and four U.S. House seats. Candidates had until noon Monday to file for the new districts, with the primary set for August 7.  In Wichita, Sedgwick County's election staff hopes to have cards out to residents within a few weeks to notify them of their new boundaries. Some voters could face multiple changes.


KS Democrats Hope to Win Seats in Congress

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Three more Kansas Democrats have filed for seats in the U.S. House, including two hoping to run against Republican Congresswoman Lynn Jenkins.  Bob Eye, an attorney from Lawrence, and the Rev. Tobias Schlingensiepen, who's on leave as senior pastor of Topeka's First Congregational Church, secured spots on the primary ballot Monday in the 2nd Congressional District. Jenkins has represented the district since 2009.  Filing Monday for the Democratic primary in the 4th Congressional District of south-central Kansas was Esau Freeman, a house painter and artist from Wichita. Freeman hopes to run in November against freshman Republican Congressman Mike Pompeo.  Another Democrat, retired court services officer Robert Tillman, has also filed for the seat.  Candidates had until noon Monday to file for the party primaries being held August 7.


Funeral for Bramlage Family Set for June 18 in Junction City

JUNCTION CITY, Kan. (AP) — Funeral services are scheduled for a Junction City family of six who died in an airplane crash in Florida.  The service for the Bramlage family of Junction City will be held at 10am on June 18 at Junction City Middle School. A vigil will be held Sunday at 7pm at St. Xavier Catholic Church in Junction City.  The family died when their plane crashed last Thursday in Florida on their way home to Junction City from a vacation in the Bahamas. The family included 45-year-old Ron Bramlage; his wife, 43-year-old Rebecca; and their children 15-year-old Brandon, 13-year-old Boston, 11-year-old Beau and 8-year-old Roxanne.  The National Transportation Safety Board is investigating what caused the plane to crash in a remote area near Lake Wales, Florida.


NetJets Plans to Buy 425 New Planes from Wichita Aircraft Makers

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — NetJets, which sells partial ownership interests in business jets, plans to spend up to $9.6 billion to buy up to 425 planes from Wichita aircraft makers Cessna and Bombardier.  CEO Jordan Hansell said the deals are part of NetJets' 10-year plan. Hansell said they reflect that the company, which is owned by Warren Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway, is "optimistic about the economy over the long term."  The deals follow a $6.7 billion purchase in 2011 and a $1.3 billion deal in 2010.  The Columbus, Ohio, company has placed firm orders for 125 planes so far.  Hansell said the new aircraft will be faster and more fuel-efficient and have a longer range than similar planes. And they'll offer advanced in-flight entertainment options and the ability to work online during an entire flight.


Topeka Couple Starts Nonprofit after Infant Dies

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A Topeka couple whose infant son died three years ago is working to help others who suffered the same pain, or whose infants are seriously ill.  Megan and Willie Skaggs started MJ'S Memories after their son, MJ, died from a birth defect in August 2009.  The nonprofit provides memory boxes and care packages for families whose babies died or who have infants in the neonatal intensive care units at Stormont-Vail Regional Health Center in Topeka or Children's Mercy Hospital in Kansas City, Missouri.  The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that since October 2009, the nonprofit has donated 695 care packages and memory boxes to the hospitals.  They are now seeking volunteers to help assemble the gifts on June 23 at Crestview Community Center in Topeka.


Feds Accuse Former High-Tech KS Exec with Fraud

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A former executive of a Kansas high-tech company has been charged with defrauding the United States by creating false invoices on government contracts to help the struggling firm.  Aaron Madison was executive vice president and chief operating officer of Manhattan-based NanoScale, a small company that makes advanced chemistry products. Federal prosecutors in Wichita are charging Madison with wire fraud.  Prosecutors say 90 percent of the firm's business came from government contracts, most with the Defense Department.  The government alleges that between 2009 and 2011 Madison manipulated contract costs. Prosecutors also contend he falsified invoices to meet payroll and other costs when NanoScale owed creditors more than $500,000.  Madison did not immediately return a phone message.  NanoScale declined comment.


Fort Riley's Victory Weeks Gets Running

FORT RILEY, Kan. (AP) — The 1st Infantry Division's Victory Week celebration is off and running at Fort Riley as the famed Army unit marks its 95th anniversary.  Officials at the northeast Kansas post say more than 7,000 soldiers and officers took part in a three-mile run at Custer Hill yesterday (MON). The run was followed by a variety of competitions on basketball courts, ball fields and other venues.  The week will also include the ceremonial placement of bricks near the headquarters building bearing the names of 43 soldiers from the division who died in the past year.


Church Proposes Anti-Abortion Memorial in Wichita

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A church is beginning fundraising to collect millions of dollars for an anti-abortion memorial in Wichita.  The Spirit One Christian Ministry has just started its campaign to build a National Pro Life Memorial and International Life Center.  The Wichita Eagle reports that a brochure on the project says it would include an exact replica of the Wailing Wall in Jerusalem and memorial gardens.  It also would include 60 crosses memorializing the estimated 60 million abortions that the group says have been performed since abortion was legalized.  The church's pastor, Mark Holick, says land has been donated to the church for the center. He says more details about the project will be announced soon.


KS Winter Wheat Harvest Passes Halfway Mark

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — The Kansas Agricultural Statistics Service says the state's winter wheat harvest has passed the halfway mark.  The agency reports 53 percent of the crop had been cut by Sunday. That's more than two weeks ahead of normal. Typically, only about 2 percent of the wheat has been harvested at this point in the season.  Farmers in southern parts of the state are the furthest along. The harvest is 84 percent complete in southeastern Kansas, and 82 percent complete in south-central portions.  Things are moving more slowly in northwestern Kansas. The agency says only 2 percent of the crop had been harvested by Sunday, even though more than half the wheat has matured.


Garden City Man Faces Trial in 2011 Homicide

GARDEN CITY, Kan. (AP) — A Kansas appeals court has ruled that a Garden City man can be tried for first-degree murder in a 2011 stabbing death.  The suspect, 32-year-old Fred Schmidt Jr., is accused in the March 2011 death of 25-year-old Jeffrey Nichols.  Prosecutors have said Nichols died from 45 separate stab wounds after allegedly fighting with Schmidt.  A Finney County judge previously ruled that there was not enough evidence to bind Schmidt over on a first-degree murder charge, but said he could be tried on second-degree murder.  But the Kansas Court of Appeals ruled Friday that Schmidt can be tried for first-degree murder.  The Garden City Telegram reports that Schmidt has claimed he stabbed Nichols in self-defense after Nichols attacked him.


This story has been updated with additional information, above.

Evolution Debate May Resurface During Review of Science Standards

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The Kansas State Board of Education is preparing to review the first draft of proposed science standards that could renew the debate over teaching evolution.  The standards on the board's afternoon agenda today (TUE) are being drafted by 26 states, including Kansas, along with the National Research Council. The goal is to create guidelines that can be used by all states, and Kansas is likely to consider whether to adopt them next year.  State Board of Education member Ken Willard, a Republican from Hutchinson, said last week he considers the initial draft problematic. That document was released in May and describes evolution as a well-established, core scientific concept.  Kansas has switched multiple times between standards expressing skepticism about the theory and evolution-friendly guidelines like the ones now in place.


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