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Regional Headlines for Tuesday, October 2, 2012



Hallmark Cards to Close Topeka Plant

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Hallmark Cards says it's closing the company's Topeka plant and consolidating its operations at its two other Kansas plants. The Kansas City, Missouri-based greeting card company said Tuesday about 1,300 people now work at the three plants. That number will fall to about 1,000 when the consolidation is finished by the end of next year. About 500 people work at the Topeka plant, which produces greeting cards and envelopes. That production will be moved to Lawrence. Production of specialty items such as ribbons and stickers will move from Lawrence to Leavenworth. Hallmark says workers will be offered buyouts as part of its efforts to cut costs and address what it called excess capacity in Kansas. Hallmark's Topeka plant opened in 1943. The current building was completed in 1966.


Kansas School Spending Task Force Loaded with CPAs

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Democratic leaders are questioning Governor Sam Brownback's decision to appoint a task force to find efficiencies in Kansas schools without naming a single teacher or administrator to the panel. The Republican governor named the task force last week, saying he was concerned that schools aren't spending enough money on classroom instruction. Several accountants, a State Board of Education member and the governor's budget director were appointed to the panel. Democrats said Tuesday that it would have been proper to include at least one teacher or administrator to have input on the task force from people who work inside schools. Brownback's administration says school districts aren't meeting a law of spending 65 percent of state aid on classroom instruction. Democrats counter that the requirement is a goal, not a law.


State of Kansas Files Lawsuit over Ownership of 'In Cold Blood' Files

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — The state of Kansas has sued the family of a deceased Kansas Bureau of Investigation agent who worked on the 1959 murders that became the subject of Truman Capote's novel "In Cold Blood." The lawsuit seeks a decision on the legal ownership of Harold Nye's case files on the murders of the Clutter family in Holcomb. The items appeared on an online auction site earlier this year. Attorney General Derek Schmidt wants a judge to order their return and prohibit their sale, publication or distribution. A Shawnee County judge temporarily blocked their sale last week. In a statement Monday, Schmidt said the files belong to KBI and should not be auctioned for personal gain. Ronald Nye says the dispute involves personal journals and copies of documents that he feels belonged to his father.


Kansas Court Hearing in Anti-Obama Lawsuit Delayed

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A Kansas judge has indefinitely postponed a court hearing on an attorney's legal challenge to President Barack Obama's place on the state's November 6 general election ballot. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that Shawnee County District Judge Larry Hendricks will decide first whether California attorney and dentist Orly Taitz has the standing to file a lawsuit in Kansas. Taitz promotes the discredited idea that Obama is not eligible to serve as president. Last month, she sued Secretary of State Kris Kobach and a state elections board he leads after the board kept Obama on the ballot. The board created a stir by taking time to authenticate information in a copy of Obama's birth certificate from Hawaii available online. But Kobach is asking Hendricks to dismiss Taitz's lawsuit.


Governor Appoints New Judge to District Court Vacancy

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) _ Governor Sam Brownback has appointed a Topeka lawyer to fill a vacancy on the Shawnee County District Court. Mary Mattivi replaces District Judge Daniel Mitchell, who retired at the end of August.  Mattivi was among 12 applicants for the judgeship and one of three finalists chosen by a local nominating commission. Brownback cited her experience both as a prosecutor and as a defense attorney in appointing her Tuesday. Mattivi already has been substituting for judges in Shawnee County and in Topeka's municipal court as a judge pro tem. She's a former Shawnee County assistant district attorney and serves as the prosecutor for the small, Topeka-area town of Maple Hill.


Former Kansas Deputy Charged with Inappropriate Touching

OLATHE, Kan. (AP) — A former northeast Kansas sheriff's deputy has been charged with inappropriately touching a female inmate. Thirty-nine-year-old Vernon Finkenbinder was charged Tuesday in Johnson County with unlawful sexual relations and posted bond. The sheriff's office says the incident occurred September 23 while the female inmate was in custody at a central booking location for those suspected of a crime in Johnson County. A news release says the allegation was reported two days later, leading to a criminal investigation. Finkenbinder was placed on administrative leave and since has resigned from the sheriff's office. The news release says investigators have determined that what happened was "an isolated incident." The sheriff's office says it wasn't immediately known if Finkenbinder had an attorney. He is scheduled to make his first court appearance October 11.

Kansas Man Pleads Guilty to Murder-for-Hire Scheme

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — A northeastern Kansas man faces up to 10 years in prison after admitting he tried to hire someone to kill his wife. Thirty-eight-year-old Lee Smith, of Basehor, entered the plea Tuesday in U.S. District Court in Kansas City, Missouri, where the plot was hatched earlier this year. Smith admitted contacting a Kansas City man on May 9 and offering him $1,500 to kill his wife when she arrived at her workplace in Overland Park. The man instead called Kansas City police and pretended to go through with the plot, telling Smith the deed had been done and demanding payment. Smith was arrested when police asked to meet with him to deliver some news about his wife.

Calculation Error Found in State Achievement Assessments

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas education officials say the achievement gap between rich and poor and minority and non-minority students grew less this year than initially thought. The state Education Department issued a news release Monday blaming a mistake in calculating results of assessment tests. The problem arose from how the state dealt with three districts that don't give their older students the standard state exam. McPherson, Clifton-Clyde and Kansas City, Kansas are using different tests after receiving waivers from the No Child Left Behind education law. Scores on the alternative exams were converted for use in calculating statewide results. But students from those three districts were counted twice. The department now says the gap in reading between black and white students grew by 3.1 percentage points, not 7.5 points as initially reported.

Cause of Fort Riley Soldier's Death Sought

OGDEN, Kan. (AP) — Police in Riley County say foul play is not suspected in the death of a Fort Riley soldier at his home off the northeast Kansas post. WIBW-TV reports a relative found 33-year-old Sergeant Duriel Powell not breathing Friday at his home in Ogden. Emergency medical personnel determined Powell was deceased. Riley County Police Lieutenant Josh Kyle says there were no signs of foul play, and an autopsy will be conducted. Officials with the 1st Infantry Division say Powell was a field artillery radar operator. He was assigned to Headquarters and Headquarters Battery, 1st Battalion, 5th Field Artillery Regiment, 1st Armored Brigade Combat Team.

KU to Host Kansas Policy Conference

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — The role of state policy in the Kansas economy and its future growth is the topic of a six-hour public conference at the University of Kansas later this month. The annual Kansas Economy Policy Conference takes place October 18 in Lawrence. Residents of western Kansas will be able to take part through a satellite hookup to a site in the town of Ulysses. Keynote speakers will include Joseph Aistrup, a political science professor at Kansas State University; policy analyst Erin Sparks of the National Governors Association; and former Kansas House member Kenny Wilk, now a member of the Kansas Board of Regents and the Kansas Bioscience Authority board of directors. Economic development officials from western Kansas and elsewhere will also take part, along with legislators and KU faculty members.

Kansas State Develops Cancer-Detecting Blood Test

MANHATTAN, Kan. (AP) — Researchers at Kansas State University say they've developed a blood test that can detect some cancers in their earliest stages. The test was developed by chemistry professor Stefan Bossmann and anatomy and physiology professor Deryl Troyer. It can detect breast cancer and the most common type of lung cancer before symptoms start. The researchers expect that testing designed to detect pancreatic cancer will begin shortly. Troyer says the test would be most helpful to people with an increased cancer risk because of such factors as a family history of the disease. The researchers hope that people in at-risk groups could be tested periodically by their own doctors. Positive results would prompt diagnostic imaging.

Dozens of Kansas Schools to Take Part in Walking Event

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — More than 50 Kansas schools will participate in International Walk to School Day on Wednesday. The idea is to encourage physical activity and teach children pedestrian safety. The schools plan organized walks to school and lessons on safety. The Wichita Eagle reports that Safe Kids Kansas is one of several groups promoting the annual event. Cherie Sage of Safe Kids Kansas says parents are encouraged to participate in the events. Sage says adults should show children hazards they might encounter while walking, act as role models and help them learn to be safer pedestrians.


KU Law School Has 19 Percent Enrollment Increase

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — In a time when law school applications are declining nationally, The University of Kansas School of Law had a 19 percent increase in applications for 2012. The school announced Monday that it received 973 applications in 2012, compared with 819 in 2011. In 2010, the school had 1,120 applications. The Lawrence Journal-World reports the increase comes at a time when the number of people applying for law school admission across the country fell 13.7 percent in 2012. The university says it was one of only 11 of the 198 law schools accredited by the American Bar Association to record an increase in applications of more than 10 percent.


Audio Tours of Civil Rights Sites Begin in Topeka

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) _ History buffs visiting Topeka are in for a treat.  They're now able to call a phone number (785-338-4041) and listen to information about historic places in the city. The sites range from a Statehouse mural of abolitionist John Brown to the school that played a key role in the Brown v. Board of Education desegregation case.  The audio tours are part of a campaign that will include the publication of driving guides and the addition of interpretive signage at the historic sites.  More details will be announced Wednesday during a news conference at Constitution Hall, one of the sites on the tour. The hall served as the first Kansas Capitol during most of the Civil War and while the current Statehouse was being built nearby.

Amtrak to Resume Standard Schedule in Missouri

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) — Amtrak says its passenger train service between St. Louis and Kansas City will return to its normal schedule next week. The schedule had been adjusted for work being done on Union Pacific tracks west of Jefferson City that are also used by Amtrak. The work is wrapping up 10 days earlier than expected, and Amtrak says all of its Missouri River Runner trains will be back on their standard schedules. Eastbound trains will leave Kansas City at 8:15 am and 4 pm. The westbound River Runner trains will leave St. Louis at 9:15 am and 4 pm.

Nebraska Junior College Signs Deal with Baker University

LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) — Southeast Nebraska Community College has signed an agreement with Baker University that will help Southeast students transfer to the Kansas school. Southeast and Baker recently signed an articulation agreement that will make it easier for students to transfer credits from Southeast to Baker once they complete their associate's degree. Southeast has campuses in Lincoln, Milford and Beatrice, Nebraska. Baker is in Baldwin City. Baker vice president Mark Beandre says this agreement will make it easier for Nebraska students to consider attending Baker.

Wichita Tech College Sees Enrollment Increase of 25 Percent

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A new state program that pays tuition for high school students who take technical training is being credited with increasing the number of students at Wichita Area Technical College by 25 percent this year. The Kansas Board of Regents census says the school has 2,652 full- and part-time students, an increase from 541 from last fall. Sheree Utash, the college's vice president for academic affairs, says the new program pushed by Governor Sam Brownback is the main reason for the enrollment increase. She says 455 students from Wichita-area schools are taking classes that lead to certifications in such areas as nursing or aircraft construction. The Wichita Eagle reports that Utash also credits new programs at the school, such as in sheet-metal certification and robotics maintenance.


50 Students Removed from Kansas City School

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — The Kansas City School district has removed 50 students from a school that has been plagued by fights and false fire alarms. District officials blame the problems at the African-Centered College Preparatory Academy on an unexpected surge in enrollment. The students were removed after fights broke out at the school Friday when students were in an auditorium because of false fire alarms. The Kansas City Star reports that the removed students will be sent to the district's alternative school, to neighborhood high schools or allowed to enroll in online programs. The academy is a magnet school, which means students can enroll from throughout the district. The high school was preparing for an enrollment of about 350 students this year, but more than 700 students showed up for the fall semester.


Oklahoma Man Dies in Tractor-Trailer Rollover

CALDWELL, Kan. (AP) — A 52-year-old man from Oklahoma has died after his semi-trailer truck overturned in southern Kansas. The accident Monday evening four miles north of the Kansas-Oklahoma border killed Eugene Ewing III of Sand Springs, Oklahoma. The Kansas Turnpike Authority says Ewing was leaving Kansas 166 to turn onto northbound Interstate 35 when he lost control of the truck, which rolled over and landed on its side. KFDI reports Ewing died at the scene.


Jackson County Drug Court Called 1 of Nation's Best

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — A national group is lauding the work of the Jackson County (Missouri) Family Drug Court. Last month, Children and Family Futures, which advises courts contracted with the Justice Department, said the county's program was one of top five drug courts in the country. The Kansas City Star reports that Jackson County's court was one of the first in the country to make child abuse and neglect part of the treatment for drug-addicted parents. That emphasis has been adopted by many drug courts since Jackson County's started in 1998. Parents who have abused or neglected their children must complete a rigorous program of drug and alcohol treatment before they are reunited with their children. The national group says Jackson County provides immediate treatment because of strong cooperation between public and private groups.


Former KC Clubhouse Attendant Alleges Abuse by Ex-Red Sox Employee

BOSTON (AP) _ Another man has come forward to accuse a now-dead Boston Red Sox clubhouse manager of sexually abusing him. A lawyer for former Kansas City Athletics and Royals clubhouse attendant Gerald Armstrong says Donald Fitzpatrick molested Armstrong in the late 1960s, beginning when Armstrong was 12. The lawyer said Fitzpatrick abused Armstrong more than 20 times combined when the Red Sox traveled to play in Kansas City in 1967 and 1969. The Associated Press doesn't normally release the names of alleged abuse victims, but Armstrong has allowed his name to be published.  Attorney Mitchell Garabedian is seeking a total of $100 million from the Red Sox for his 20 clients who claim Fitzpatrick abused them.  A team lawyer has called the allegations "abhorrent" and said the club is weighing the claims.


Weis Aims to Model KU Football After No.7 K-State

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — It could have been interpreted as the first salvo fired against bitter rival Kansas State the day Charlie Weis was presented as the new head football coach at the University of Kansas. Weis stepped to the podium and asked this rhetorical question: Why was the University of Kansas 2-10 last season and why was Kansas State 10-2?  "I don't have that answer," he said, "but that is what I am here for."  Over the last 10 months, he may have found some answers. Weis spent the better part of Tuesday's media availability praising the Wildcats and longtime coach Bill Snyder, who is 16-4 against the Jayhawks. Weis called Kansas State a blueprint for his own rebuilding job, one he'll see in person when the teams meet Saturday in Manhattan.


NASCAR Points Leader Won't Run in Nationwide Race at Kansas Speedway 

CONCORD, N.C. (AP) — NASCAR points leader Brad Keselowski says he's scaling back his Nationwide Series schedule to focus on winning the Sprint Cup championship. Keselowski says he will not run the Nationwide race at Kansas Speedway later this month. Penske Racing will instead have Ryan Blaney run the event. Keselowski said Tuesday during an appearance at Charlotte Motor Speedway he'll evaluate the rest of his Nationwide schedule as the season winds down. He is leading the Chase for the Sprint Cup championship with seven races remaining. Keselowski picked up his second win of the Chase on Sunday at Dover. He takes a five-point lead over five-time champion Jimmie Johnson into this weekend's race at Talladega.

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