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Regional Headlines for Wednesday, August 15, 2012



UPDATE: Organizer Moves Christian Workshop from Kansas House Chamber

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The main organizer of a three-day Christian workshop says he's moved the event out of the Kansas House chamber because he needs more space. The Thursday-through-Sunday event will be held instead at the Topeka Performing Arts Center, several blocks from the Statehouse. Dave DePue said Wednesday that 180 people want to attend the $100-per-person workshop for pastors and other church leaders. The House chamber at the Statehouse has space for 150. The workshop is described as a beginner's course in preparing for a transforming revival. It includes evening sessions Thursday and Friday and an all-day session Saturday. The group Americans United for Separation of Church and State had criticized the planned use of the House chamber for the event, which DePue says is designed to strengthen families and communities.


Kansas AG Says Internet Safety Effort Expanded

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The Kansas attorney general's office says participation in an Internet safety program for children grew by about 8 percent in the state's last fiscal year. Attorney General Derek Schmidt's office says more than 65,000 children, parents and teachers took part in the Netsmartz program during the year that ended June 30. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that more than 60,000 people participated during the previous fiscal year. Netsmartz is presented throughout the state by the Kansas Alliance of Boys & Girls Clubs. It was developed by the national Boys & Girls Clubs and the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. The Kansas attorney general's office became involved with the program in 2006.

Kansas Lawmakers Promote Acting Research Director

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The acting director of the Kansas Legislature's research staff has been promoted to permanent director. Legislative leaders gave the promotion Tuesday to Raney Gilliland. He became acting director of the Legislative Research Department in February, when Alan Conroy left to head the state pension system for teachers and government workers. Gilliland has worked for the Research Department since 1979, specializing in energy and agriculture policy. He became an assistant research director in 2006. Gilliland holds a bachelor's degree in political science and a master's in agricultural economics from Kansas State University.

Train Carrying Grain Derails in Eastern Kansas

PAOLA, Kan. (AP) — A Union Pacific train headed from Colby to Corpus Christi, Texas, has derailed in eastern Kansas, sending three cars into a small river but causing no injuries. Railroad spokesman Mark Davis says 23 of the train's 106 cars went off the tracks at 1:45 am Wednesday near Osawatomie in Miami County. Three of the cars ended up in the Marais Des Cygnes River. Davis says the cause of the derailment hasn't been determined, and he doesn't know how long it will take to clean up the area because of possible damage to a bridge that will have to be inspected. He says 19 trains a day use the tracks where the derailment occurred. The railroad plans to detour its other trains to parallel tracks or other areas.


Kansas State Fair, PETA Clash over Booth Restrictions 

HUTCHINSON, Kan. (AP) — The group People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals is objecting to conditions imposed by Kansas State Fair officials on its planned exhibit. PETA said Wednesday the restrictions amount to unconstitutional censorship of its message. The fair takes place September 7-16 in Hutchinson. Fair officials say any videos or pictures of animals being decapitated, dismembered or butchered must not be readily visible outside PETA's booth, so that fairgoers will have to make a conscious choice to view the material. PETA calls the condition a content-based restraint on its free speech. It contends that since the fair is a public forum, restrictions based on viewpoint are prohibited. Fair general manager Denny Stoecklein responded Wednesday that the fair "supports Kansas agriculture and sends a strong pro-agriculture message." He added, "We also provide an equal opportunity to all individuals and organizations to apply for booth space and respect an individual or organization's First Amendment rights."

Kansas Dairy Processing Plant to Start Construction

HUGOTON, Kan. (AP) — A groundbreaking ceremony takes place Thursday in southwestern Kansas for a $20 million dairy ingredient and cheese processing plant. The facility will employ 60 people when it is finished. Governor Sam Brownback is among the officials scheduled to attend the ceremonial start of construction of the Kansas Dairy Ingredients plant in Hugoton. It's expected to open later this year. Company officials have said the plant will initially process about 1 million pounds of milk per day, growing to 2.5 million pounds by the end of 2013. The expansion will allow for production of cheese and other dry milk ingredients. Construction is expected to create about 150 temporary jobs.


3 Kansas Irrigators Caught Cheating Meters

HUTCHINSON, Kan. (AP) — At least three south-central Kansas irrigators have been charged with cheating on their water usage by running their meters backward last year. The Hutchinson News reported that two of the irrigators were in the Equus Beds region, while the third was in the Big Bend Groundwater Management District. An official with the Kansas Department of Agriculture's Division of Water Resources says people who are discovered reversing their meters receive a $1,000 civil penalty and a one-year suspension of their water rights. Additional fines can be levied for overpumping. The Equus Beds aquifer lies under parts of Sedgwick, Harvey, Reno and McPherson counties. The Big Bend Groundwater Management District makes up part of western Reno County and runs to the Edwards, Pawnee and Kiowa county lines.


KC Officials Confirm 3 More Heat-Related Deaths

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Kansas City health officials say the total number of heat-related deaths in the area has grown to seven. The Kansas City Health Department said Wednesday the latest confirmed heat deaths are women born in 1935, 1945 and 1960. The Jackson County Medical Examiner is investigating four other deaths as possibly being heat-related. No other details were provided. Missouri state health officials say there have been 34 confirmed heat deaths in that state this year. Gena Terlizzi, a spokeswoman for the Missouri health department, says the state has also received reports of 1,114 heat-related emergency room visits this year. 

Nigerian Man Faces Sentencing in Gold Coin Thefts

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A Nigerian man has asked a federal judge for leniency for his role in a scheme to purchase gold coins online by fraudulently using the credit card number of another man. Hakeem Makanjuola faces sentencing Thursday for mail fraud and aiding and abetting mail fraud after pleading guilty to those offenses earlier this year. The 30-year-old admitted in his plea agreement that he fraudulently ordered gold coins in March 2011 for delivery to a Wichita address. The government says the actual losses were more than $52,000. Federal sentencing guidelines recommend a prison term of 15 to 21 months. The parties agreed in their plea deal to request a sentence within the guideline range. But the defense has asked U.S. District Judge Eric Melgren to sentence Makanjuola to probation.

Sheriff: Escaped Inmate Hid Cuts in Bars with Toothpaste

NESS CITY, Kan. (AP) — A western Kansas sheriff says a convicted rapist who escaped from a county jail used toothpaste to hide the cuts he was making in his cell bars. Thirty-seven-year-old Benito Cardenas Junior broke out Friday night from the Ness County Jail while awaiting sentencing on a rape conviction. He was captured Sunday in nearby Trego County. KWCH-TV reports Cardenas had been filing the cell bars for some time. The bars are painted white, and Sheriff Bryan Whipple says Cardenas used white toothpaste to cover up the cuts. Cardenas finally was able to bend the bars, squeeze through and leave the jail while it was being monitored remotely. Whipple says the jail was built in the 1950's, and there's no money to build a new one or hire more staff.


Kansas Education Board to Continue Discussions on Home-Schooling

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The chairman of the Kansas State Board of Education says the state needs to look into home schooling to make sure children are being adequately educated. David Dennis of Wichita says he has heard reports of children being kept at home to babysit younger siblings while their parents claim they are being home-schooled. The Lawrence Journal-World reports fellow board member Ken Willard of Hutchinson says he hasn't heard any complaints. He disagreed Tuesday with Dennis's suggestion that legislation might be needed to beef up reporting requirements for home-schoolers. Kansas doesn't specifically authorize home schooling, but does recognize "non-accredited private schools" that aren't required to employ certified teachers. The board agreed to discuss the matter more at its meeting next month.


Kansas Regents Begin Annual Retreat

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Members of the Kansas Board of Regents are at their annual three-day retreat in southeast Kansas to discuss board priorities for the upcoming legislative session. The Lawrence Journal-World reports that the regents are at Flint Oak, a hunting and fishing resort outside Fall River. New Regents Chairman Tim Emert of Independence says given the tight budget constraints, he hopes higher education can get targeted funding that both Governor Sam Brownback and lawmakers can approve. The board on Thursday will hear from former University of Kansas Provost David Shulenburger, a senior fellow at the Association of Public Land-Grant Universities, and discuss trends in higher education. Regents will also discuss distance learning. On Friday, the board is scheduled to discuss its goals for the coming school year.


Kansas Veteran Gets New Service Dog, Free Training

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A disabled Army veteran who lost his service dog near Wichita earlier this month has a new companion and an obedience instructor willing to train it. The Wichita Eagle reports Randy Newell of Marion found his new dog last week at the Kansas Humane Society in Wichita. It's a 4-year-old chow-shepherd mix named Arnie. Newell lost his legs when an improvised bomb exploded in Afghanistan in 2008. His service dog, a Doberman named Red, disappeared August 3 while he was washing his pickup truck in Park City. Red's body was found a few hours later on Interstate 135 after apparently being hit by a car. Nationally certified instructor Kathy Adkins of Haysville says she decided to train Newell's new dog for free when she heard about the veteran's situation.


6-Year Sentence Ordered for Man Who Shot Kansas Trooper

HAYS, Kan. (AP) — A man convicted in the unprovoked shooting of a Kansas Highway Patrol trooper has been sentenced to more than six years in prison. The Hays Daily News reports Trooper Doug Schulte attended the sentencing Tuesday of Ruben Herrera Escobedo. Schulte urged the judge to order Escobedo to serve consecutive terms of 59 months for aggravated battery and 18 months for aggravated assault. Escobedo was initially charged with attempted premeditated first-degree murder in the January 2011 shooting. He later pleaded no contest to the lesser charges. Schulte described in court how he approached Escobedo's pickup truck after a traffic stop in Hays. He said Escobedo got out and fired with a .357-caliber revolver. The bullet nicked Schulte's protective vest, went through his chest and exited through his back.


Pennsylvania City's Immigration Rules Back in US Court

PHILADELPHIA (AP) — A federal appeals judge is asking how far a city can go to force out illegal immigrants, in a six-year legal battle in Pennsylvania. The small city of Hazleton wants to make it illegal for landlords to rent to illegal aliens or businesses to employ them. In oral arguments Wednesday, Chief 3rd U.S. Circuit Judge Theodore McKee asked rhetorically if Hazleton would next make it illegal for restaurants to feed them.  Lawyer Kris Kobach, the Kansas secretary of state, argued for the city. Kobach says federal law requires people to encourage illegal aliens to leave. The American Civil Liberties Union is challenging the city ordinances. They haven't been enforced during years of appeals.

EPA to Approve Grain Sorghum for Cleaner Ethanol

BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) — The government is on the verge of approving a grain mainly used as livestock feed to make a cleaner version of ethanol. The Environmental Protection Agency has concluded ethanol made from grain sorghum can qualify as an advanced biofuel if it's made at plants with the proper green technology. Advanced biofuels have even less of a carbon footprint than conventional biofuels such as corn ethanol. Advanced ethanol made from sorghum could help meet the federal goal of producing 36 billion gallons of renewable fuels per year by 2022. Officials say it also could give farmers a new moneymaking opportunity and help the environment. Sorghum is more resistant to drought than other crops, including corn, and produces about the same amount of ethanol per bushel as corn with one-third less water.


Kansas State Men's Basketball Team Goes 2-2 on Brazilian Exhibition Tour

RIO DE JANEIRO (AP) — Kansas State has wrapped up its weeklong basketball exhibition tour of Brazil with a record of 2-2 after a fifth game was scrubbed because of scheduling conflicts. First-year head coach Bruce Weber says the Wildcats were disappointed by the cancellation of Wednesday night's scheduled game. They spent the day instead shopping, sightseeing and taking cable cars to the of Rio's Sugar Loaf Mountain. Kansas State played two games in Rio and two in Sao Paulo, recording one win and one loss in each city. Angel Rodriguez finished the tour with team-high averages of 10.3 points, 4.8 assists and 2.3 steals per game. The Wildcats are scheduled to arrive back in Manhattan on Friday afternoon.

32nd NH Patient Diagnosed with Hepatitis C

CONCORD, N.H. (AP) — Another New Hampshire patient has been diagnosed with the same strain of hepatitis C carried by a medical technologist accused of stealing drugs and contaminating syringes that were used on patients. A total of 32 former Exeter Hospital patients have been diagnosed since the investigation began in May, though the case announced Wednesday was a bit different. Public health officials say the patient was treated at the hospital's cardiac lab before David Kwiatkowski's (kwiht-KOW'-skeez) reported April 2011 start date, though the patient was still in the hospital when Kwiatkowski began work. To rule out any other staff, the state is recommending that certain other hospital employees get tested. Kwiatkowski previously worked in seven other states, including Kansas. He moved from hospital to hospital despite having been fired twice over allegations of drug use and theft.


Group Ready to Take Sculpture Fight to Grand Jury

OVERLAND PARK, Kan. (AP) — A group seeking to have a bare-breasted statue removed from the Overland Park Arboretum says it has collected enough signatures to force a judge to convene a grand jury. The American Family Association of Kansas and Missouri says the statue promotes obscenity to children in violation of state law. Association director Phillip Cosby says the more than 4,500 signatures will be filed with the court September 4 unless the Overland Park City Council acts to remove the statue. The life-size bronze sculpture depicts a woman wearing an opened blouse, her breasts exposed, taking a photograph of herself. It is among 11 artworks donated to the arboretum by a group of Chinese artists. The city says it's up to the courts to decide if the statue is obscene.

Select Counties Declared Eligible for Non-Farm SBA Disaster Loans

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — The U.S. Small Business Administration says small, non-farm businesses in 23 counties throughout Kansas, Oklahoma and Missouri are eligible for low-interest federal disaster loans because of the ongoing drought. The agency announced the loans Tuesday for Cherokee County in Kansas, two counties in Missouri, and 20 counties in Oklahoma. Officials say small, non-farm businesses, small agricultural cooperatives, small businesses engaged in aquaculture and most private, non-profit organizations may qualify for Economic Injury Disaster Loans of up to $2 million. The loans will help businesses and organizations meet financial obligations and operating expenses which could have been met had the disaster not occurred. The agency makes such loans available when the U.S. Agriculture Secretary designates an agricultural disaster, which Tom Vilsack did on August 8. The deadline for applications is April 8, 2013.


Couple to Stand Trial after Kids Found Bound

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — A district court judge has ruled that an Illinois couple will stand trial on child abuse charges after two of their children were found bound in a Walmart parking lot in Lawrence. Douglas County District Court Judge Paula Martin ruled Tuesday at the conclusion of a preliminary hearing for Deborah Gomez and her husband, Adolfo Gomez. Police found two of the couple's children, ages 5 and 7, tied up and with duct tape over their eyes outside the Lawrence store on June 13. Their three other children, ages 12, 13 and 15, were in the family's SUV unrestrained. The children are in protective custody. Martin said there was ample evidence to support the abuse charges. But she said the state did not prove its case on previous endangerment charges.


Official Predicts Return of Commercial Air Service to Topeka

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A Topeka official says commercial flights from the city's regional airport could resume by next year thanks to $2.2 million in government incentives. Topeka Regional Airport, formerly called Forbes Field, hasn't had commercial service since Allegiant Air halted its weekly round trips to Las Vegas in 2007. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports the Metropolitan Topeka Airport Authority learned Tuesday that it has secured $950,000 from the U.S. Department of Transportation. The state allocated $1 million earlier this year to lure commercial flights back to the airport, and the authority has set aside another $250,000. Authority president Eric Johnson says the incentives will let the agency begin negotiating with airlines to serve the city.

Kansas County Official Defeated on Coin Toss

ST. FRANCIS, Kan. (AP) — A northwest Kansas county commissioner says he'll keep campaigning despite losing a tie-breaking coin toss in his bid for re-election. The Hays Daily News reports that incumbent Andy Beikman and challenger Brett Poling both received 179 votes in last week's Cheyenne County Commission District 3 race. The tie stood after Monday's canvassing. County Commission chairman Dale Patton decided to break the tie with the toss of a gold coin, which he got from a bank. Poling called "heads" and won the toss. Despite the loss, Beikman says he'll wage a write-in campaign to keep his seat on the commission.

KCK Man Sentenced to 15 Years for Selling Heroin

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) — A northeastern Kansas man has been sentenced to more than 15 years in federal prison for selling exceptionally pure heroin blamed for at least two overdose deaths. The U.S. Attorney's office says 36-year-old Tyrone Ramsey, of Kansas City, Kan., was sentenced Tuesday for distributing and possession with intent to distribute heroin. He pleaded guilty earlier. Prosecutors said Ramsey sold heroin for a drug trafficking ring that operated in the Kansas City metro area from late 2007 to May 2009. Investigators bought heroin from him several times, and found evidence that heroin he sold led to the overdose death of a woman in Atchison. Authorities say many of the ring's customers were prior users of prescription painkillers and methamphetamine.


Kansas House Chamber to Host Evangelical Christian Workshop

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The Kansas House chamber is scheduled to be the site this week of a three-day workshop for dozens of evangelical Christians. But the event's main organizer said Wednesday that he may have to move the event because 170 people have signed up. The House chamber has space for 150. The event is described as a beginner's course in preparing for a transforming revival. The workshop includes evening sessions Thursday and Friday and an all-day session Saturday. The request to use the House chamber came in May from Dave DePue, state director for the Capitol Commission, a national nonprofit group that brings pastors to statehouses nationwide to advise policymakers. The event is drawing criticism from Americans United for Separation of Church and State. DePue said the meeting is designed to strengthen families and communities.

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

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