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Regional Headlines for Wednesday, April 10, 2013


Kansas Ice Storm Causes Accidents, Outages

HUTCHINSON, Kan. (AP) — A slow-moving ice storm is causing headaches in much of central Kansas, knocking out power to hundreds of customers and sending vehicles off highways. At least one traffic death is blamed on the ice. Temperatures plunged late Tuesday amid heavy rain, turning the precipitation to ice that continued to coat trees, power lines and bridges Wednesday afternoon. Westar Energy reported about 1,500 customers without power at mid-afternoon. The biggest outages were reported in Reno, Sedgwick and Harvey counties. Local law enforcement and the Kansas Highway Patrol responded to dozens of accidents. The patrol reported that in north-central Kansas, 19-year-old Henry McWilliams of Rockwell, Texas, died around 5:20 am Wednesday when his vehicle slid off an icy bridge. The crash happened on U.S. 81 near the town of Minneapolis.


Governor Signs Kansas Religious Freedom Measure

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Governor Sam Brownback has signed legislation that supporters say will shield Kansas residents from government infringement on religious liberties. The governor's office confirms that the Kansas Religious Freedom Preservation Act was among a handful of bills Brownback signed Wednesday. Lawmakers approved the legislation this year after a similar measure stalled in 2012. The Kansas Family Policy Council issued a statement praising the bill, which requires proof of a compelling government interest before any state or local law can compel residents to act in a manner that violates their religious beliefs. Members of the Kansas Equality Coalition said the final version of the bill was modified from its original form to protect the rights the state's gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered population.


Kansas NBAF Project Funding Included in Obama Budget

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — President Barack Obama is sending Congress a budget proposal that includes $714 million for construction of a new biosecurity lab at Kansas State University. That would be the largest proposed federal expenditure for the project to date. Senator Pat Roberts of Kansas says Wednesday that the recommendation signals the administration's support for building the $1.15 billion lab, which will study large animal diseases and develop measures to protect the nation's food supply. The Department of Homeland Security will build the lab to replace a facility at Plum Island, New York. Roberts, a Republican, says the proposal will require additional financial commitments from Kansas, which will be worked out by Governor Sam Brownback and legislators. DHS recently awarded a $40 million contract to begin construction of a utilities plant to support NBAF.


Kansas Governor to Work for State NBAF Funds

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Governor Sam Brownback says he'll work with the Legislature to come up with additional state funds to support a new federal biodefense lab at Kansas State University. Brownback said Wednesday he's pleased with President Barack Obama's decision to include $714 million in his budget proposal to build the National Bio- and Agro-Defense Facility. Brownback says Kansas agreed to pay 20 percent of the costs when the state was chosen by the Department of Homeland Security to host the project. The state has already issued $105 million in bonds for construction, and the Kansas Bioscience Authority has contributed $35 million. Brownback said Congress has already appropriated close to $200 million for the lab.


Kansas Senators Say Work Remains on NBAF Funding

WASHINGTON (AP) — Kansas senators say they're encouraged by President Obama's budget proposal that includes funding for a biodefense lab in Manhattan. But they acknowledge there's still work to do in Congress to make sure the money comes through. Republicans Jerry Moran and Pat Roberts said Wednesday's news that Obama's budget includes $714 million for construction of the National Bio and Agro-Defense Facility is good news for the Kansas economy. They say the lab is vital to keeping Americans safe from biological threats. But Roberts says work remains to convince Congress to follow through on the proposal. Efforts to fund the Kansas site have met resistance from New York politicians, who've been battling to keep the nation's current facility in their home state.


"Capitol Cams" Dark as Lawmakers Uninterested in Streaming

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — There's a way Kansans could keep up with state House lawmakers as they consider various bills through the legislative session, but legislators are showing little interest in using it. WIBW in Topeka reports that cameras are in place and ready to stream conference committee meetings from inside the Topeka capitol. But committee chair members are opting not to flip the switch. Republican Senate Vice President Jeff King of Independence says he's in favor of streaming video from the statehouse, but other lawmakers don't appear to have much interest. Jim Miller is the State House information technology director. He says there is video streaming capability in the Supreme Court room, but it's only used occasionally.


Judge Rules Against Native American Claim on Park City Land

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A judge has refused to order the federal government to accept into trust a tract of suburban Wichita land so that an Indian tribe can build a casino there. Wednesday's ruling means it will be up to the Interior Department to decide the issue of the Park City site. But U.S. District Judge Julie Robinson also said she would retain jurisdiction until the department issues a final ruling on the Wyandotte Nation's request. The dispute centers on land in Park City bought by the Wyandotte Nation in 1992. The Indian Gaming Regulatory Act allows tribes to conduct gambling only on Indian lands, which are defined as land within a reservation or held in trust by the United States.


Non-Birth Parent Seeks Role in Sperm Donor Case

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — The latest sparring in a Kansas sperm donor child support case is over the role of the birth mother's former same-sex partner in the proceedings. Angela Bauer and her then-partner advertised online for a sperm donor in 2009. The donor, a Topeka man, says he signed a contract waiving his parental rights and responsibilities, and Bauer's former partner became pregnant. But because no doctor was involved in the artificial insemination, the state sought to hold the donor financially responsible when the women split and the former partner sought public assistance. Bauer has asked to intervene in the child support case, saying she wants to co-parent the child. She and the sperm donor have now asked a Shawnee County judge to reconsider her recent ruling that it's premature to let Bauer intervene.


Kansas Officials Issue Burn Advisory

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Parts of Kansas have had a fair amount of rain in recent weeks, but state officials say the persistent drought means it's still too dry for outdoor burning. The State Fire Marshal and Kansas Interagency Wildfire Council issued a burn advisory Tuesday, citing high winds, low humidity and other factors. State Fire Marshal Doug Jorgensen says residents should plan to delay burning fields and other areas for another year. For instances where prescribed burns are essential this spring, the officials recommend checking for local burn bans, alerting neighbors beforehand and making sure adequate resources are available to keep fires from getting out of control. Wildfires burned more than 41,000 acres in Kansas last year.

Kansas Man Charged with Killing 1, Shooting Others

MANHATTAN, Kan. (AP) — A 43-year-old Manhattan man has been charged with first-degree murder in the shooting death of a 22-year-old Fort Riley soldier at an apartment last weekend. Riley County prosecutor Barry Wilkerson says Matthew Dennis Wilson also was charged Tuesday with four counts of attempted first-degree murder and one count of aggravated battery. Riley County police say Michael T. Lowery was shot early Sunday at an apartment complex in Manhattan. Three other people — two 23-year-old women and another Fort Riley soldier — also were shot and were taken to area hospitals. Wilson was being held in the Riley County jail, with bond set at $2 million. He was scheduled to make a first appearance by videoconference Wednesday afternoon and didn't yet have an attorney.

Kansas County Official Criticized for Racial Slur

SALINA, Kan. (AP) — A Kansas county commissioner says he won't resign after using a racial slur during a public meeting. Saline County Commissioner Jim Gile used a variant of a racial slur to imply a job done sloppily while the commission was discussing last week whether to hire an architect for a county project. The Salina Journal reports that when Gile was asked what he meant by the slur, he responded "Afro-Americanized." Gile did not return phone messages seeking comment Wednesday and did not respond to an email. On Tuesday, two Salina residents attended the commission's meeting to ask Gile to resign. Gile read a statement apologizing for using the phrase, saying he recognized he was wrong. Gile said after the meeting he would not resign.


Kansas Driver Pinned for Hours After Wreck on I-70

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A Junction City man is recovering in a Topeka hospital after being pinned in his car at the bottom of a creek bed for about 12 hours. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that 46-year-old Daniel Delatore was in satisfactory condition Wednesday at Stormont-Vail Regional Health Center. The Kansas Highway Patrol says he drove off the westbound lanes of Interstate 70 late Sunday or early Monday near Paxico and was found around 2:30 pm Monday. Patrol spokesman Marcus Seirer says Delatore suffered a leg injury that would have prevented him from getting far even if he hadn't been trapped in the car. Delatore told investigators he used a towel to mop up muddy water in the otherwise dry creek bed to stay hydrated.


Judge: Iowa State University Must Shield 'Pink Slime' Data

IOWA CITY, Iowa (AP) — A judge has blocked Iowa State University from releasing documents about food safety research conducted for the maker of the beef product that critics call "pink slime." District Judge Dale Ruigh ruled last month that releasing the information would cause "irreparable harm" to Sioux Falls, SD-based Beef Products, Inc., by revealing information about proprietary food-processing techniques. BPI filed legal action seeking to block the release in 2010 after the records were requested by a Seattle law firm specializing in food safety. The New York Times later sought the documents. The research was conducted by professor James Dickson, who was hired by BPI as a consultant in 2002. Dickson says his research has found that a process in which ammonia is applied to meat makes the product safer by killing bacteria.


Man Sentenced in Salina Church Break-Ins

SALINA, Kan. (AP) — A Salina man admitted that he broke into the church where he was baptized in order to support his drug addiction. Thirty-four-year-old Jonathan S. Shinn was sentenced Tuesday to two years and four months in prison for thefts from the Trinity Lutheran Church in February. He was also ordered to pay $4,156 in restitution to the church. Shinn is also a suspect in a break-in at the church on March 21. The Salina Journal reports the church break-ins occurred while Shinn was out of jail on bond awaiting sentencing for two burglaries of neighbors' houses and two vehicle burglaries. The church's interim pastor, Joseph Hughes, said the congregation tried to help Shinn but the thefts caused significant loses that affected the church's ability to help others.


Wichita's McConnell Base Wins $500K

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — McConnell Air Force Base in Wichita is getting a $500,000 award from the Defense Department. The Wichita Eagle reports that McConnell gets the money for finishing as a runner up for a national honor awarded annually to U.S military installations. Keesler Air Force Base in Biloxi, Mississippi, won the Air Force category and will receive $1 million. McConnell and Keesler were the two finalists out of 166 bases considered for the 2012 Commander-in-Chief's Installation Excellence Award. McConnell spokesman Stefan Bocchino says the money has to go toward improving the quality of life of airmen and their families, and could include such things as upgrading dormitories or recreational facilities.

Missouri Couple Facing Federal Charges

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — A northwest Missouri woman faces federal charges accusing her of bilking a company out of about $2.6 million to fund gambling, travel and other expenses. The U.S. Attorney's office says 54-year-old Laura Dejong, of Liberty, was charged Wednesday with mail fraud and filing a false tax return. Her husband, 55-year-old Craig Dejong, is charged with filing a false tax return. The prosecutor's office says they've pleaded not guilty. Laura Dejong is accused of embezzling about $2.6 million from a metal fabrication company, Kansas City Screw Products, where she was secretary and bookkeeper. The prosecutor's office says in a release the Dejongs used the embezzled money to pay for cruises, vehicles, tickets to sporting events and for gambling that was well "into the millions of dollars."


Keystone XL Opponents in Nebraska Circulating Petition

LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) — Opponents of the Keystone XL pipeline in Nebraska are circulating a petition to try to halt the project. The group Bold Nebraska sent out an email Wednesday, urging its supporters to sign an online petition that would ask President Barack Obama to deny federal approval. The group pointed to a recent tar-sands oil pipeline leak in Arkansas as evidence that regulators should reject the Keystone XL. The proposed Canada-to-Texas pipeline is at the center of a political battle. A coalition of environmentalists, Native Americans and some landowners are fighting the project. Oil companies, some labor unions and the Canadian government are pushing for project approval. Circulators say the petition will be sent to Obama, Nebraska Governor Dave Heineman, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and Keystone XL developer TransCanada.

Jules Verne Film Festival Planned at Washburn

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Washburn University is planning a film festival highlighting the futuristic tales told by 19th century novelist Jules Verne. The event will take place May 3 and May 4 in the Henderson Learning Resources Center at the university. Films begin at 7 pm the first day and 10 am, 1:30 pm, 3:30 pm and 7 pm on the second day. Verne was a pioneer of the science fiction genre. Works that will be featured include a film adaptation of Verne's "20,000 Leagues Under the Sea."


2 Missouri Truckers Charged with Sex Trafficking 

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Two self-employed northwest Missouri commercial truck drivers have been charged in federal court with the sex trafficking of a girl under 18 years old. Prosecutors say 54-year-old Tony Eugene Wardlow of St. Joseph and 48-year-old Thomas Farrell of DeKalb were charged in a six-count indictment unsealed Wednesday. Wardlow, a registered sex offender, is charged with commercial sex trafficking of a minor, enticement of a minor, transportation of a minor for prostitution and being a felon in possession of a firearm. He could face up to life in prison if convicted, and prosecutors are asking that he be held without bond. Farrell is charged with the enticement and transportation counts in the March 13 grand jury indictment, handed down under seal. Neither defendant had obtained an attorney as of Wednesday afternoon.

2 Nebraskans Killed in Accident in Kansas

LARNED, Kan. (AP) — The Kansas Highway Patrol says two Nebraska men died in a two-vehicle wreck in south-central Kansas. The patrol identified the victims of Tuesday's accident in Pawnee County as 33-year-old Fidel Portillo-Moyao and 23-year-old Efrain Carrerea-Portillo, both of Schuyler, Nebraska. The patrol says a pickup truck driven by Portillo-Moyao crossed into the westbound lane of U.S. 56 and was hit by a semi-trailer truck. He died later at a hospital. Carrerea-Portillo died at the scene. The driver of the semi-trailer was not injured.

Former Garden Plain Coach to Be Retried in June

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A former high school football coach will be retried on a charge of electronic solicitation of a child arising from a sting operation. The retrial for former Garden Plain coach Todd Puetz is scheduled for June 24. A Sedgwick County jury on Monday could not reach a verdict on the solicitation charge. The jury acquitted Puetz of two other charges. He was one of seven men arrested in October 2011 in the operation aimed at men soliciting sex from minors. District Attorney Marc Bennett said Tuesday the court automatically placed the Puetz case back on the jury trial calendar, which it does whenever a case ends in a mistrial. He faces up to five years in prison if convicted of the soliciting charge.


KC Contractor Sentenced in $900K Kickback Scheme

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — A suburban Kansas City contractor has been ordered to pay nearly $300,000 in restitution for participating in a nearly $900,000 bid-rigging conspiracy. The U.S. attorney's office announced Tuesday that 45-year-old Tim Rowland of Platte City also was sentenced to five years of probation. The owner of construction company ATNJ pleaded guilty in October to his role in a conspiracy to commit mail fraud. Prosecutors allege that between November 2004 and May 2009, Rowland conspired to pay nearly $300,000 in kickbacks to two Johnson County men who were in charge of procuring bids for renovating apartment complexes. One of those men has been ordered to pay nearly $540,000 in restitution. Prosecutors say he wasn't the only contractor involved. Three others have pleaded guilty to paying bribes to get construction work.


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