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Regional Headlines for Tuesday, September 3, 2013

KPR-News-Summary

UPDATE: Kansas Senate Panel Endorses Appeals Court Nominee

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A Kansas Senate committee has approved Governor Sam Brownback's nomination of his chief counsel for an open seat on the state Court of Appeals. The Judiciary Committee's voice vote sends the nomination of Caleb Stegall to the full Senate. The chamber is expected to debate and vote on the appointment Wednesday. Republicans dominate the committee and the full Senate, so the GOP governor's nomination of Stegall has not been expected to meet with much opposition. But he faced questions about comments in 2005 in an online magazine he edited that encouraged "forcible resistance" to court orders in order to save the life of a brain-damaged Florida woman. Stegall said during a Judiciary Committee hearing that the comments in The New Pantagruel about the Terri Schiavo case were an endorsement of civil disobedience.

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UPDATE: Kansas House Passes Rewrite of 'Hard 50' Law 

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The Kansas House has approved changes to a state law that automatically imposes a 50-year sentence on some convicted murderers, a move sparked by a recent U.S. Supreme Court decision striking down a similar law in Virginia. Tuesday's 122-0 vote came on the first day of a special session called by Governor Sam Brownback to fix the state's so-called Hard 50 law. The legislation — which puts the sentencing process in the hands of juries — now goes to the Senate, which is expected to approve it Wednesday. Kansas adopted the Hard 50 sentence in 1990, after the Legislature rejected the death penalty but sought to ensure long prison terms for certain murders.

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Kansas Legislature Opens Special Session

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas legislators have opened their special session to address a proposed change to the state's "Hard 50" prison sentence in response to a June U.S. Supreme Court ruling. The House and Senate leaders banged the gavel Tuesday shortly after 8 am to read the resolution by Republican Governor Sam Brownback formally calling the special session. 

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Groups Seek Repeal of KS Election Law

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Critics of a Kansas law requiring new voters to provide proof of their U.S. citizenship when registering are pushing legislators to repeal it during their special session. About 100 people came on Tuesday to the Statehouse to protest the law, which took effect in January. More than 15,000 legal residents have their voter registrations on hold because they haven't provided proof of their citizenship. The Reverend Ben Scott, former president of the state's NAACP chapter, said the law is an example of misplaced priorities. Secretary of State Kris Kobach contends the law prevents election fraud. Lawmakers were returning Tuesday to Topeka to repair a law allowing convicted murderers to be sentenced to at least 50 years in prison, and their leaders had no plans to take up other topics.

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Search Continues for Man in Kansas Deputy's Shooting

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Butler County Sheriff Kelly Herzet says he believes a man suspected of shooting and wounding of one of his deputies might be headed to Liberal, where he has several friends. Herzet says officers searching for 41-year-old Jan Kilbourne on Tuesday are pursuing tips about Kilbourne's location. The sheriff told KWCH Tuesday morning that his department currently is concentrating on contacting Kilbourne's family and friends. Kilbourne is suspected in an early Monday morning shooting that occurred after a deputy pulled over a car carrying three people on U.S. Highway 54, about 16 miles east of Wichita. The deputy was shot in the shoulder but was able to return fire. Kilbourne then fled. The Wichita Eagle reported the deputy was treated and released from a hospital. His name hasn't been released.

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2 Kansas Listeria Outbreak Victims Sue over Tainted Fruit

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — The families of two Sedgwick County victims of a 2011 listeria outbreak are suing companies involved in getting tainted cantaloupe to market from a Colorado farm. The Wichita Eagle reports that the families of a 59-year-old Wichita man who died of the disease in September 2011 and a Haysville woman who still suffers from the illness filed lawsuits last month. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says the listeriosis outbreak that killed 33 people in 28 states lasted from August to October 2011 was traced to Jensen Farms of Holly, Colorado. Both suits charge negligence against a Texas company that sold the cantaloupe, a California company involved in auditing the farm, and the respective grocery stores where the victims purchased the fruit.

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Kansas Lawyer Faces Hearing over Tweets

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A former Kansas Court of Appeals research attorney faces a disciplinary hearing for derogatory comments she tweeted during the same kind of hearing last year for former state Attorney General Phill Kline. WIBW-AM reports that the hearing for Sarah Peterson Herr was scheduled Tuesday for December 20. Herr posted the comments last November 15 while Kline was appearing before the Kansas Supreme Court in a disciplinary hearing. The court was considering whether to suspend Kline's law license for his conduct during investigations of abortion providers while he was attorney general and Johnson County district attorney. Herr apologized and was fired a few days later. She had worked since 2010 for a Court of Appeals judge and was promoted the following year to research attorney.

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Jet Fuel Taken from Salina Fuel Business

SALINA, Kan. (AP) — Salina police are investigating the theft of more than $1,000 in jet fuel from a fuel business. Police Lieutenant Scott Siemsen says 144 gallons of fuel were stolen from two trucks at Flower Aviation between June 20 and August 14. The Salina Journal says the business reported the theft Friday. Siemsen says the fuel costs $7 a gallon; leaving a loss of $1,008.

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Kansas Church Member Files Amended Nebraska Lawsuit

OMAHA, Neb. (AP) — A member of a Kansas anti-gay church has filed an amended complaint in federal court adding more than a half dozen examples of how the church says a Nebraska funeral picketing law is discriminatory. The amended lawsuit, filed Monday in Lincoln, Nebraska's U.S. District Court, challenges a 2011 Nebraska law that requires protesters to stand 500 feet away from a funeral service. The amended complaint includes seven new examples in which Shirley Phelps-Roper says church members were kept up to 1,000 feet from funeral services, while counter protesters were allowed immediately outside services. The Topeka-based Westboro Baptist Church protests at funerals around the country, contending that U.S. soldiers and others are being struck down by God for defending a nation that tolerates homosexuality.

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2 Kansas Men Sentenced for Social Security Fraud

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — One Kansas man has been sentenced to prison and a second has received three years' probation in separate cases of Social Security fraud. The U.S. Attorney's office says 54-year-old L.T. Baker, of Wichita, and 40-year-old Paul David Lieder, of Hillsboro, were both sentenced Tuesday in federal court in Wichita. Both had pleaded guilty to lying to the Social Security Administration to improperly receive disability payments. Besides receiving a one-year prison sentence, Baker was also ordered to repay the more than $66,000 he received in disability benefits. Baker admitted using a slightly altered Social Security number to claim he was disabled despite being gainfully employed since 2000. Lieder must repay $24,000 he received in disability benefits by using his father's Social Security number to hide the fact that he was working.

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Longtime Wichita Teacher Killed in MO Crash

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Wichita educators and students are mourning the death of a longtime middle school social studies who was killed in a car crash in southwest Missouri Beth Adamson died Monday in an accident about 10 miles north of Joplin, Missouri, after her husband failed to stop at a stop sign and was broadsided by a pickup truck on Missouri 43. The 50-year-old Adamson had worked for the Wichita School District for 25 years, most of that time as a fourth-grade teacher at Mueller Elementary School. Last year, she became a social studies teacher at the Wichita district's Mead Middle School. The district's crisis team was at her school Tuesday morning to help students and Adamson's colleagues cope with her death. Her husband, John Adamson, sustained minor injuries while the driver of the pickup truck, 63-year-old Gary Colson of Joplin, suffered serious injuries.

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Talk Planned on Excavated Indian Village in Kansas

SALINA, Kan. (AP) — A presentation on a recently-excavated Kanza Indian village near Wichita is planned this week. Tricia Waggoner, the Kansas State Historical Society's highway archaeologist, will discuss the history of the Fool Chief's Village from 1830 to 1844. The site near Topeka had to be excavated because of a pending road project. The Wichita Eagle reports that the free lecture begins at 5:30 pm Thursday at the Smoky Hill Museum in Salina. In the early 1800s, the Kanza claimed a territory that covered roughly two-fifths of what is now Kansas. But as European settlements claimed more and more land around Council Grove in the mid-19th century, the Kaw Nation was forced into what is now Oklahoma.

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Survey: Midwest, Plains Economy Growth Likely to Continue

OMAHA, Neb. (AP) — A new survey of business leaders suggests the economy will continue growing in nine Midwest and Plains states through the rest of 2013 but at a slower pace than earlier this year. The survey's overall economic index rose to 53.8 in August from July's 53.5. Any score above 50 suggests growth, but Creighton University economist Ernie Goss says he expects the growth rate to be about half the rate the region recorded in the first quarter. The survey results are compiled into a collection of indexes ranging from zero to 100. Survey organizers say any score above 50 suggests growth, while a score below that suggests decline. The survey covers Arkansas, Iowa, Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, Oklahoma and South Dakota.

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Author James Patterson Funds ESU Scholarship

EMPORIA, Kan. (AP) — Bestselling author James Patterson has given $48,000 to pay for scholarships for Emporia State University teaching students. Patterson has funded similar scholarships at several other universities, including Vanderbilt. Patterson said in a news release that his passion is to "get more and more kids excited about reading" and that training teachers is "essential to that mission." Patterson's books include the Alex Cross and Woman's Murder Club series for adults and Maximum Ride, Witch & Wizard and Middle School series for young adults. At Emporia State, eight students will receive $6,000 each. The recipients are Michelle Berg of Wichita, Samantha Buchanan of Grantville, Leanne Feathers of Wamego, Jennifer Gottstein of Lawrence, Joseph Hamer of Wichita, Sarah Johnson of Wichita, Travisray Salyers of Eudora and JaShawn Wallace of Kansas City, Kansas.

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KU's Spencer Art Museum to Display Turrell Installation

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — The Spencer Museum of Art at the University of Kansas is planning an exhibit by James Turrell, who's a sensation in the art world this year. New York City's Guggenheim museum, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, and the Museum of Fine Arts in Houston are all featuring installations of Turrell's work this year. On September 15, the Spencer Museum will open its own Turrell exhibit in the museum's Central Court. Called "James Turrell: Gard Blue," the work is a projection of blue light in an enclosed space that appears in a room constructed specifically for the artwork. The Lawrence Journal-World reports that holograms created more recently by Turrell will surround the main work. The Spencer's exhibit is free and will remain on view through May 18, 2014.

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Garden City Airport's Use Numbers Flying High

GARDEN CITY, Kan. (AP) — Boarding numbers at Garden City Regional Airport continue to run high, about 1½ years after the airport began offering flights to Dallas/Fort Worth. Airport boardings began to improve soon after American Eagle began offering two daily flights to Dallas/Fort Worth in April 2012. In the first year, the airport recorded 18,000 boardings, compared with 11,690 in all of 2011. The Garden City Telegram reports that in the first seven months of 2013, the airport has recorded 13,726 passengers. Aviation director Rachelle Powell is estimating the airport will have about 23,000 boardings this year. Before the change to American Eagle, Great Lakes Aviation offered flights to Denver out of Garden City.

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Nebraska Lawmaker Expects More Republican River Lawsuits

LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) — A Nebraska lawmaker says he fears more lawsuits will be filed if the state tries to limit groundwater irrigation near the Republican River. The state has cited drought conditions in requiring extra conservation measures by irrigation districts using surface water and natural resources districts that manage groundwater supplies. Nebraska State Senator Mark Christensen, of Imperial, told the Lincoln Journal Star that more lawsuits "appear pretty likely" if the state limits groundwater irrigation. The state already has been sued by Kansas over use of the Republican River. A 1943 agreement allocates 49 percent of the water to Nebraska, 40 percent to Kansas and 11 percent to Colorado. Another lawsuit filed by two groups of irrigators is challenging a plan to pump groundwater into the river to comply with the compact.

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Parents, Organ Recipients Form Uncommon Friendship

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Two women who say they owe their lives to a 17-year-old boy who was killed in an ATV accident 14 years ago spent part of the weekend sharing stories with the teen's mother about the impact his death had on their lives. The Wichita Eagle reports that Bryan Owens was left brain dead on September 6, 1999, after he jumped a small ditch with his four-wheeler and landed wrong. His parents chose to donate his kidneys, liver, pancreas and corneas. On Saturday, Kay Pope and Trish Pooley met with Bryan's mother, Kay Owens, in what a spokeswoman for the Midwest Transplant Network called an uncommon gathering. Pope says she wouldn't be alive without Bryan's liver, and Pooley says she was given new life when his kidney was a match for her.

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Critic Named to Eisenhower Memorial Panel

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Barack Obama is appointing a known critic of the planned Dwight D. Eisenhower Memorial design to serve on the federal commission that oversees the project. The White House announced plans to appoint former National Endowment for the Humanities chairman Bruce Cole last month, but it drew little attention while Congress was in recess. Cole served under President George W. Bush. Cole has published at least two articles in the past 13 months criticizing architect Frank Gehry's memorial design. He wrote that it would be a "monumental farce" and that the design is "a cross between an amusement park and a golf course." Gehry proposed a memorial park with statues and metal tapestries. This is President Obama's first appointment to the commission.

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UPDATE: Kansas Court Nominee Defends Comments on Schiavo

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Governor Sam Brownback's nominee for the Kansas Court of Appeals is facing questions about comments in 2005 in an online magazine he edited that encouraged "forcible resistance" to save the life of a brain-damaged Florida woman. Caleb Stegall said during a state Senate Judiciary Committee hearing Tuesday that the comments in The New Pantagruel were an endorsement of civil disobedience. But Stegall said he wasn't acting even as an attorney when the comments appeared in an online editorial. In 2005, the courts had ordered the removal of life support for Terri Schiavo, who was at the center of a national debate over the right to die. The 41-year-old Stegall is Brownback's chief counsel. The full Senate expects to vote on his judicial appointment on Wednesday.

**this story has been updated. Please see above. 

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Kansas House Takes Up Rewrite of 'Hard 50' Law

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas House members have introduced the bill that would change the state's "Hard 50" criminal sentencing law. The House Judiciary Committee met briefly Tuesday morning when lawmakers returned to the Statehouse for a special session. A full committee hearing was scheduled later in the morning. A vote by the full chamber is expected by evening. The current law allows convicted murderers to be sentenced to at least 50 years in prison. A U.S. Supreme Court decision in June raised questions about its constitutionality. The high court said juries must determine whether a mandatory minimum sentence is warranted in criminal cases. The Kansas law lets judges make that determination but the bill would give the task to juries. The Senate hopes to consider the measure Wednesday. It has bipartisan support.

 **this story has been updated. Please see above.  

 

 

 

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