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Regional Headlines for Tuesday, October 23, 2012



GOP, Unaffiliated Voter Registration Up in Kansas

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The ranks of Republican and unaffiliated voters are growing in Kansas, while the number of Democrats has plummeted since 2008. The Kansas secretary of state's office says there are now 439,639 registered Democrats, a drop of more than 45,000 since the 2008 election. Democrats make up just over 25 percent of the state's registered voters. Republican registrations increased by over 11,000 to 782,161 people. That's nearly 45 percent of the state's voter totals. Unaffiliated registrations reached 508,204, an increase of more than 25,000 since 2008. Unaffiliated voters now make up 29 percent of the state's voters. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that Libertarian registrations also increased by more than 1,000 people to 10,828 members.

Executives' Bonuses Factor in Kansas Gas Rate Case

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas Gas Service's request to increase rates by $32 million a year would include about $8 million in executive bonuses. The gas company says the bonuses allow it to hire the executives whose expertise in running the company is good for shareholders and ratepayers. But a consumer watch group is arguing that the bonuses encourage executives to concentrate on profits, rather than efficiency and customer service. The Kansas Corporation Commission is scheduled to take technical testimony on the rate increase starting November 7 in Topeka. The Wichita Eagle reports the commission staff is recommending that the company get a $3.6 million increase. The consumer watchdog group is recommending a slight cut in the Kansas Gas Service rates.


Pastor Faces Long Odds in Kansas 2nd District Race

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Topeka pastor Tobias Schlingensiepen isn't under any illusions about the long odds he faces in his bid to upset Republican incumbent Representative Lynn Jenkins in the Kansas 2nd District race. Like the other three Kansas districts, the 2nd District leans Republican and Democrats must woo independents and moderate Republicans to make the race competitive. Schlingensiepen realizes this, but argues his lack of political experience is countered by his ability to find compromise among people with differing viewpoints. Both candidates say jobs, health care and federal spending are at the top of voters' minds in the eastern Kansas district. Schlingensiepen takes a pragmatic approach to solving the problems, while Jenkins says if government gets out of the way, the economy can take care of itself.


Malone Named Chief Judge of Kansas Court of Appeals

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Judge Thomas Malone is the new chief judge of the Kansas Court of Appeals. The Kansas Supreme Court announced Tuesday that Malone will replace Chief Judge Richard Greene, who died on October 7. Malone has been acting chief judge since Greene became ill during the summer. Malone served on the Court of Appeals since 2003. He practiced law in private practice in Wichita from 1979 through 1990, when he also taught business law courses at Newman University. He was elected district judge in Sedgwick County in 1990, serving for 12 years before joining the Court of Appeals. There are 13 members of the Court of Appeals. Applications are being taken to replace Greene. In addition, Judge Christel Marquardt retires in 2013.


Health Care Firm Moving 300 Workers to Kansas

OVERLAND PARK, Kan. (AP) — A managed health care company is moving 300 workers from offices in Kansas City, Missouri, a few miles across the state line to Overland Park, Kansas. KSHB-TV reports that Coventry Health Care of Kansas plans to make the move next April. Coventry's Kansas City offices are located in the southern part of the city, about a block from the Kansas border. Coventry Health Care of Kansas provides health benefit products and services to individuals in Kansas, Missouri and Oklahoma. It's a subsidiary of Maryland-based Coventry Health Care Inc., and also has offices in Wichita.


Three More Suspects Charged in Topeka Woman's Death 

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Three more people are now charged in connection with last week's killing of a Topeka woman. Ashley Alcala, a 34-year-old mother of two, died after being found severely injured in her home last Thursday. Her husband, Manuel Campos Alcala, is being held on $1 million bond on charges of first-degree murder and conspiracy. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that two 19-year-old men and a 58-year-old woman from Texas have now been charged with felony first-degree murder and conspiracy in the death. They're being held in El Paso County, Texas, on other charges. The charge of felony first-degree murder applies to murders committed during some other, dangerous felony. Authorities have not disclosed the alleged underlying felony against the three new suspects.


Kansas Man Draws Life Sentence in Jessica's Law Case

OSWEGO, Kan. (AP) — A Kansas man has been sentenced to life in prison after being convicted of a child sex crime that occurred in 2010. Twenty-four-year-old Nicholas Coree Joplin of Parsons was sentenced Tuesday by Labette County District Judge Robert J. Fleming. The Wichita Eagle reports that the case was prosecuted by the Kansas Attorney General's office under Jessica's Law. The statute mandates a life sentence with no possibility of parole for 25 years for adults convicted of certain sex crimes against children younger than 14. A jury convicted Joplin in April on a single count of aggravated indecent liberties with a child.

Kansas Case Puts Face on 'Total Identity Theft'

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Police and prosecutors are increasingly worried about a brazen form of identity theft in which thieves go beyond financial fraud to assume the victim's persona completely. So-called total identity theft involves crooks who use a person's name and Social Security number to get a job and other documents and services. The scheme has been linked to illegal immigrants using stolen Social Security numbers to fill out payroll paperwork. Authorities fear the deception could soon grow to ensnare more unsuspecting Americans. When Candida L. Gutierrez's identity was stolen, the thief used it to get a driver's license, a mortgage and even medical care for the birth of two children. Americans reported more than 279,000 instances of identity theft in 2011, up from 251,100 a year earlier.


SW Missouri Man Wounded in NE Kansas Shooting Dies

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A southwest Missouri man wounded in a summer shooting in northeast Kansas has died. The Topeka Capital-Journal  reported Tuesday that 41-year-old Michael P. Bailey, of Nevada, Missouri died Friday. He had been hospitalized since July 13, when he was shot in Topeka. The Shawnee County coroner performed an autopsy Monday. Sheriff Herman Jones says the coroner is holding the body for further review and hasn't made a final determination on the cause of death. Jones says his office is waiting for those results before proceeding with the case. Two other men — one from Nevada and another from Topeka — were wounded in the same July shooting. Authorities said the shooting happened after the three acquaintances had a "verbal disagreement."

Fort Leavenworth to Show Virtual Training System

FORT LEAVENWORTH, Kan. (AP) — A new virtual training system to prepare soldiers for combat will be demonstrated Thursday at Fort Leavenworth. The Dismounted Soldier Training System uses helmet-mounted screens that show soldiers what they could face on combat patrols in various settings. Noises such as gunfire are delivered through speakers in the helmet. The Army says the system gives soldiers a 360-degree view of the battlefield and the location of other soldiers, letting them train to perform their tasks in a safe environment. During the exercises, they carry the weapons they would use in combat.

Trucker Found Guilty in 2000 Rape of Kansas Girl

OTTAWA, Kan. (AP) — A former cross-country truck driver has been found guilty for the second time in the 2000 kidnapping and rape of a Kansas teenager. A Franklin County jury on Monday convicted 53-year-old Ralph E. Corey of five charges for kidnapping a 16-year-old Ottawa girl as she left work. She was driven to several locations in Ottawa and sexually assaulted. After Corey was found guilty of the same charges in July, a juror admitted accessing information about the case from a smartphone during the trial. That violated the judge's instruction, leading to a mistrial. The Lawrence Journal-World reports the case went cold until 2011, when Corey's DNA profile was matched to evidence found at the crime scene. He will be sentenced December 11.


Missouri Measure Targets Lowest-in-Nation Tobacco Tax

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Missouri voters are being asked for the third time in a decade whether they want to continue to have the lowest tobacco tax in the nation. Efforts in 2002 and 2006 to increase the state's 17-cents-per-pack tax failed, but supporters say this year's ballot measure is different because it dedicates the proceeds to education and smoking cessation programs. Opponents of Proposition B say raising the tax to 90 cents will cause people in neighboring states to stop coming to Missouri to buy their smokes and spend their money on other things, like food and gasoline. They cite a study showing passage would result in the loss of $67 million in sales taxes each year. The state auditor's office estimates the measure would generate between $283 million and $423 million annually.

Ex-KBI Director to Talk About His New Book

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A former head of the Kansas Bureau of Investigation will give the Wichita Crime Commission a behind-the-scenes look at the agency. Retired KBI Director Larry Welch is the featured speaker at the crime commission's annual awards banquet Thursday evening in Wichita. Welch's book "Beyond Cold Blood: The KBI from Ma Barker to BTK" was released last month. It lays out some details about key cases the agency investigated from its inception through 2007. The St. John native began his law enforcement career in 1961 with the Federal Bureau of Investigation. He was appointed director of the KBI in 1994 and oversaw the agency until his 2007 retirement.

Wichita Pair Sentenced for Selling Stolen Goods

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Two Wichita men are going to federal prison for selling stolen goods on Craigslist. The U.S. Attorney's office says 23-year-old Jordan Smith was sentenced Monday to 15 years. He pleaded guilty earlier to two counts of wire fraud. His co-defendant, 21-year-old Thomas Griffin Jr., received a five-year sentence for aiding and abetting wire fraud. Prosecutors said the pair admitted that Smith committed a series of burglaries from 2009 to 2011, stealing nearly $116,000 worth of items from 36 victims. The stolen property included jewelry, machinery, building supplies and other goods. Smith listed the stolen property for sale on Craigslist, using Griffin's telephone number as the contact for buyers. Griffin admitted he knew the items had been stolen.


Kansas Man Charged in Nebraska Crash Headed for Trial

LEXINGTON, Neb. (AP) — The case against a Kansas man charged in a deadly crash in Nebraska has been sent to Dawson County (Nebraska) District Court for trial. Twenty-two-year-old Destry Swartz, of Coats, Kansas, is charged with motor vehicular homicide, operating a vehicle to avoid arrest and driving under the influence in the October 8 death of 68-year-old Ruben Maravilla-Cortes, of Lexington, Nebraska. Authorities say Swartz was being chased by a state trooper for running a stop sign when he ran red light at an intersection and hit Maravilla-Cortes's vehicle. Swartz waived his preliminary hearing in county court on Monday. He remains in the Dawson County jail on $500,000 bond.


KC Officer Suspended over Insurance Fraud Charges

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — A Kansas City police officer accused of crashing his 2001 BMW for the insurance money has been suspended without pay. The Kansas City Star reported Tuesday that Shawn Oden told insurers he was trying to avoid hitting two deer when he hit a concrete barrier in March 2010. His insurer paid $12,319 to the vehicle's lien holder. The 28-year-old Oden was charged last week in Platte County with one count of first-degree property damage. Authorities say Oden admitted to committing insurance fraud in August 2011 when he was applying for a job with the Aurora, Colorado police department. The Kansas City police fraud unit later investigated. Court records say Oden told investigators he crashed his car because of financial difficulties. It's not known if Oden has an attorney.


Democrats Create Own Kansas School Online Site

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas legislative Democrats have created their own online survey to counter a new website created by Governor Sam Brownback's administration. Senate Minority Leader Anthony Hensley and House Minority Leader Paul Davis said Monday their site will gather suggestions for finding school spending efficiencies — like the governor's — but it will also collect success stories of how schools are operating. A task force appointed by Brownback is studying ways to promote efficient use of state funding by schools. The task force has a website that accepts anonymous tips and comments from the public about school spending. Secretary of Administration Dennis Taylor announced last week that the Office of the Repealer will accept anonymous reports of potential waste, fraud and abuse throughout state government on a separate website.


TransCanada Restarts Keystone Pipeline

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — TransCanada has restarted the Keystone oil pipeline that carries about 590,000 barrels of crude oil each day from Canada to facilities in the Midwest. Oil began flowing again Monday afternoon. Company spokesman Shawn Howard says the system will be operated at a slightly reduced pressure for about 24 hours. Contractual delivery levels will resume in November. TransCanada had shut down the pipeline Wednesday after tests showed possible safety issues. The company had planned to restart the pipeline Saturday. Howard blamed logistical issues for the delay, saying bad weather complicated efforts to move equipment on site and made inspections take longer. The potential problems were detected in a section of the line between Missouri and Illinois. Howard says there were no leaks and the pipeline system's integrity is sound.


Kansas Winter Wheat Planting Nears Completion

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas farmers have reached the 91 percent mark in planting the 2013 winter wheat crop. In its weekly crop report Monday, Kansas Agricultural Statistics Service also said about 62 percent of the wheat has emerged. The agency says 2 percent of the young wheat is rated in excellent condition, with 38 percent rated good, 49 percent fair and 11 percent rated poor to very poor. Meanwhile, the fall harvest of other Kansas crops is moving ahead amid mostly dry, warm conditions around the state. The corn harvest was 94 percent complete by Sunday, more than three weeks earlier than average. Soybean harvest reached 59 percent complete, while the sorghum harvest was 37 percent finished. Range and pasture conditions are rated as 80 percent poor to very poor.


Hutchinson Voters Invited to Tour Kansas Salt Museum

HUTCHINSON, Kan. (AP) — Registered voters in Hutchinson are invited to come on down — 650 feet down — for free tours of the Kansas Underground Salt Museum on Tuesday evening. The Hutchinson News reports that museum officials are offering the tours ahead of next month's vote on extending a city sales tax that benefits the attraction. Revenue from the tax also goes for sidewalk and street improvements, property tax reduction and another of Hutchinson's big attractions, the Kansas Cosmosphere and Space Museum. Officials say the Underground Salt Museum gets about $100,000 a year — roughly 10 percent of its budget — from the sales tax. Tuesday evening's tours are intended to give registered voters who live in Hutchinson a chance to see the museum and hear how the tax revenue has been spent.



KU Coach Weis Names Cummings as Starting QB

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — University of Kansas football coach Charlie Weis is sticking with Michael Cummings rather than Dayne Crist as the starting quarterback for Saturday's game against Texas. Cummings replaced Crist late in the game against Oklahoma State two weeks ago and provided enough of a spark to earn the job last week at Oklahoma. The redshirt freshman was 10 of 21 for 111 yards with two interceptions in the 52-7 loss to the Sooners. Crist played sparingly against at Oklahoma, going 3 of 6 for 13 yards. Crist was handed the starting job as a fifth-year senior after transferring from Notre Dame midway through last school year. He had been recruited there by Weis, who was eventually fired by the school and hired this season to take over the Jayhawks.



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