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Regional Headlines for Wednesday, August 21, 2013


Kansas, Arizona Sue to Change Voting Forms

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas and Arizona officials have filed a federal lawsuit in an attempt to force a federal elections agency to change its voter registration forms to compel proof of citizenship. The lawsuit was filed Wednesday in federal court in Topeka and seeks to force the Elections Assistance Commission to modify federal voter registration forms to require documents proving citizenship. Currently the forms only require an applicant to make an oath affirming citizenship. Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach and his Arizona counterparts have been active in seeking to tighten voter registration laws, including passage of laws that require applicants to show proof of citizenship when registering to vote. The changes sought in the lawsuit would only apply to Kansas and Arizona in their efforts to establish voter qualifications.


Convicted Leaker Manning Could Serve Sentence at Leavenworth

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — After being sentenced to 35 years in prison for leaking classified documents to the anti-secrecy website WikiLeaks, Bradley Manning could be headed for hard time at Fort Leavenworth in Kansas, home to the American military's most famous prison. Inmates there are highly restricted, graveyard work shifts are common and jobs pay just pennies per hour. The judge today (WED) didn't say where Manning would serve his time. But a spokeswoman for the Military District of Washington said Manning would likely go to the United States Disciplinary Barracks at Fort Leavenworth, the only military prison for service members sentenced to 10 or more years of confinement. She says if space there is limited, military prisoners can be sent to a civilian federal prison. Manning has already spent time in Leavenworth, alongside some of the military's worst criminals.


Kansas Agency Responds to Child Support Critics

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A state agency is defending its decision to privatize child support services in Kansas after critics claimed the system was set up to fail. The Department for Children and Families awarded four contracts in June to companies that will administer the program in the state's 31 judicial districts. Critics claim the changes were unnecessary and were a result of understaffing and internal policy decisions. But a spokeswoman for the agency tells the Topeka Capital-Journal that the contracts were awarded properly and that none of the companies were given preferential treatment. Senate Minority Leader Anthony Hensley, a Topeka Democrat, has said that an email from a state employee suggests the agency was hampered in doing its job to clear the way for privatizing the system.


Several Injured in Kansas School Bus Crash

BONNER SPRINGS, Kan. (AP) — Several children were injured after their school bus crashed in northeast Kansas, but officials say no one was critically hurt. The bus overturned Wednesday afternoon in Bonner Springs while carrying students from Pembroke Hill School, a private school in nearby Kansas City, Missouri. School spokeswoman Beth Bryant says eight sixth-grade girls were hurt but that no one suffered life-threatening injuries. Bryant says the bus was carrying 30 sixth-grade girls to a campout when it crashed along a ramp connecting Kansas Highway 7 and Kansas Highway 32. She says the other 22 girls were being taken to a local high school to be picked up by their parents. Television images showed the bus on its side, with paramedics placing children on stretchers. Bonner Springs is about 18 miles west of Kansas City, Missouri.


Wichita Water Revenue Short by $2M

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Wichita's water revenue for the first half of 2013 is about $2 million short of projections thanks to a rainy summer and conservation efforts. Ben Nelson, with Wichita's water department, told the City Council on Tuesday indoor water use and outdoor irrigation combined are down almost 22 percent. Nelson says water usage in Wichita this summer topped 2012 on only two days out of 150. The Wichita Eagle reports that city officials are pledging no emergency rate increases because they're confident the water fund's reserves and consistent pricing will cover the shortfall. City officials said earlier this year that Cheney Reservoir, which provides more than half Wichita's drinking water, would go dry in 2015 if a prolonged drought continued. Cheney water levels are back to normal since the recent rainfalls.


Kansas Sculptor Jim Brothers Dies at 72

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — A Kansas artist whose bronze sculptures are on display in the nation's capital and at historical monuments around the country has died. He was 72. Jim Brothers died Tuesday at his home in Lawrence. A funeral director at Warren McElwain Mortuary in Lawrence says Brothers had been receiving hospice care. Gallery owner Paul Dorrell says Brothers is best known for two projects; he created a sculpture of Dwight Eisenhower that's on display at the Capitol in Washington and was the chief sculptor for the National D-Day Memorial in Bedford, Virginia. Dorrell says he was immediately drawn to the "raw power" of the artist's work. Friend Alan Webster says Brothers never stopped creating and was directing his assistants on how to finish his last sculpture from his sick bed.


Key Democrat Has Questions for Kansas Court Nominee

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The ranking Democrat on the Senate Judiciary Committee says plans to ask Governor Sam Brownback's nominee to the Kansas Court of Appeals how the courts can remain independent under the new judicial selection process. Senator David Haley of Kansas City says he doesn't have any predetermined opinions about the choice of Caleb Stegall to fill a vacancy on the court. Haley says the two have only exchanged greetings in the Statehouse but never had conversations of any substance. Haley says he wants to know Stegall's financial and political ties to Brownback may influence Stegall's rulings on cases. Haley says those concerns factored into his opposition to the changes in the judicial nominating process legislators approved this spring.


Topeka Changing Firefighter Overtime Policy

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Top officers in the Topeka Fire Department will stop qualifying for overtime pay in November after a city official revised the compensation policy. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that City Manager Jim Colson issued a release Tuesday saying the practice of paying overtime to battalion chiefs and shift commanders will end November 9. Those positions will be considered exempt slots under the federal Fair Labor Standards Act and not eligible for overtime. The Capital-Journal reported last week that 11 battalion chiefs and shift commanders earned a collective $145,000 in overtime in 2012. Colson also says he'll work with city leaders to review compensation policies and recommend any changes within the next six months.


Unilever to Expand Northeast Kansas Margarine Plant

OLATHE, Kan. (AP) — Global consumer products maker Unilever is planning a $152 million expansion of its margarine and spreads plant in northeast Kansas. The Kansas City Star reports that the project announced Tuesday will double the size of the plant at the New Century AirCenter industrial park in Olathe. About 170 people now work at the plant, which makes such products as Country Crock, Promise, Imperial spreads. Unilever says it will hire 100 additional employees when the expansion is complete. Unilever makes personal care, home care and food products, including Axe deodorants, Lipton tea and Ben & Jerry's ice cream. The company is headquartered in London and the Netherlands and has more than 173,000 employees worldwide, including 10,000 in the U.S.


Wal-Mart Move into Kansas Town Draws Controversy

FAIRWAY, Kan. (AP) — A former city official in a Kansas City suburb apologized after suggesting that a new Wal-Mart would bring "a different class" of people who might trash the city and drive down property values. Former Fairway City Councilman John Ridenour says he didn't mean to offend anyone with his comments in a letter to neighbors warning them of the possible negative consequences of the Wal-Mart store. He says Wal-Mart customers who might want to move into Fairway would not care about maintaining their properties. Some residents who attended a ward council meeting Tuesday night said they were offended by Ridenour's warning, and some suggested his comments were directed toward Mexican-Americans. Fairway Mayor Jerry Wiley said at the meeting that he wanted everyone to know that Ridenour didn't speak for the city.


Feds Indict Kansas Clinic Employee for Distributing Illegal Prescriptions

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A federal grand jury has indicted the office manager of a Manhattan pain clinic on charges of scheming with the doctor to illegally distribute prescription drugs. The indictment returned Wednesday accuses 29-year-old Sarah Harding-Huffine of writing prescriptions for more than 20 people even though she is not a certified health care provider and is not licensed to do so. Prosecutors say she used blank prescription forms that Dr. Michael P. Schuster had pre-signed for his employees to use while he was away traveling. Harding-Huffine is charged with one count of conspiracy to distribute drugs and one count of drug distribution. Schuster was indicted in May on similar charges and is awaiting trial.  Harding-Huffine's attorney, Nick Heiman, declined comment, saying he had not had a chance yet to review the indictment.


Recent Rains in Kansas Spur Bumper Crop of Hay

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Hay fields across Kansas have finally dried enough from recent rain that farmers can begin cutting overgrown alfalfa crops this week. The Agriculture Department's hay market reporter in Dodge City says some Kansas producers are cutting as much as 2 tons of hay per acre from the third cutting of alfalfa. That's twice as much as normal for August across much of the state, but August in Kansas is normally hot and dry, not cool and wet as it has been in recent weeks. While the third cutting of alfalfa is plentiful, its quality is less certain. That is because much of it has grown too mature and has a lot of weeds in it.


Farm Groups Host Drought Workshops for Ranchers

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas farm groups are holding two workshops next week to help ranchers better decide how to prepare for droughts. Organizers say the sessions are designed to help ranchers understand the interaction of plants and climate, and how they can make grazing decisions based on their observations. The workshops are Monday at the Natural Resources Conservation Service office in Emporia and Tuesday at the NRCS office in Salina. The free sessions run from 9:30 a.m. and finish mid-afternoon. The Kansas Graziers Association is hosting the workshops with the NRCS.


Wheat Gene Discovery Could Reduce Crop Losses

MANHATTAN, Kan. (AP) — Researchers are reporting a better understanding of a problem that causes $1 billion in annual crop losses in white wheat alone. Kansas State University says its researchers and those from the U.S. Department of Agriculture have found and cloned a wheat gene that prevents something called pre-harvest sprouting. The issue occurs when wet conditions delay harvest and wheat seeds germinate in the field. Kansas State Wheat Genetics Resource Center director Bikram Gill says the findings will expedite the breeding of wheat that will not have the problem. It also could make it easier to grow white wheat, which is more susceptible to pre-harvest sprouting. The findings were published in a recent issue of the scientific journal Genetics.


Dodge City Food Pantry Nearly Out of Donations

DODGE CITY, Kan. (AP) — A nonprofit organization that provides food and temporary housing in Dodge City is running out of donations. Laura Koehn, director of the Manna House, says the pantry could be forced to close, at least temporarily, if more donations don't arrive. Koehn says the Manna House served 428 people in August, an increase from 331 in May. The shelter provides about 425 boxes of food each month. The Dodge City Daily Globe reports that the nonprofit had to close for three days last year, and Koehn says it's possible that could happen again. She says two large donations this week will keep the center open through most of next month, if demand does not increase. Koehn says the center mostly needs such staples as canned goods, beans, rice and tuna.


Allegiant to Offer Manhattan-Phoenix Flights

MANHATTAN, Kan. (AP) — Manhattan Regional Airport will offer travelers a new destination this fall when low-cost carrier Allegiant begins flights to Phoenix. The northeast Kansas airport was one of 10 around the country added by the Las Vegas-based airline on Tuesday, bringing its total to 99. Allegiant will operate two nonstop flights each week between Manhattan and Phoenix-Mesa Gateway Airport beginning November 7. The airline also announced a promotional, introductory roundtrip fare of $99 — but only through Thursday — for travel by next April 29. Allegiant says the special fare won't be available on all flights, and seats are limited.


Costa Rican Man Who Killed Kansas Teen Gets New Trial

SAN JOSE, Costa Rica (AP) — Costa Rican authorities say a security guard who fatally shot a Kansas teenager after mistaking him for an intruder will get a new trial after winning an appeal. Jorge Guevara was sentenced last year to 15 years in prison for killing 16-year-old Justin Johnston of McLouth at a hotel in La Fortuna de San Carlos. Court spokeswoman Marcela Fernandez confirmed Wednesday that Jorge Guevara won an appeal which argued the original trial didn't prove the guard intended to kill the teenager. Johnston and a group of his friends were returning to his room before dawn through a desolate area when Guevara spotted them and thinking they were thieves opened fire. Johnston was on a trip to Costa Rica with a dozen other students in the school's Spanish club.


Evaluation Ordered in Kansas Honor Flight Thefts

GREAT BEND, Kan. (AP) — A judge has ordered a psychiatric evaluation for the woman charged with more than $100,000 from a group that flew World War II veterans to Washington D.C. LaVeta Dawn Miller of Great Bend has pleaded not guilty to two counts of theft by deception. Prosecutors allege she stole about $110,000 from the Honor Flight program. The Great Bend Tribune reported that Tuesday that Judge Dale Urbanek has ordered Miller to be evaluated at a Great Bend counseling center. That evaluation will determine if Miller is sent to Larned State Security Hospital for further evaluation. Miller's trial has been delayed pending the evaluation. She once led Central Prairie Honor Flights, which raised nearly $1.2 million for veterans' trips between 2008 and 2012, when the flights ended and Miller was charged.


3 Pratt Juveniles Arrested in Several Burglaries

PRATT, Kan. (AP) — Pratt police say three teenagers are suspects in at least 13 thefts in the south central Kansas town. Sergeant Kent Wyatt says the suspects, between 14 and 16 years old, may eventually be linked to more thefts. Wyatt tells KAKE-TV that evidence from a burglary last Wednesday led officers to the suspects. He says they took anything they could steal, ranging from cigarettes to firearms. The thefts occurred from homes, buildings and vehicles.


British General Leaving Fort Riley Command

FORT RILEY, Kan. (AP) — A British military officer is leaving his position with the 1st Infantry Division at Fort Riley to return to the United Kingdom for duty. Brigadier Felix G. Gedney has been serving as the 1st Infantry's deputy commanding general for training since November 2011. A farewell ceremony was scheduled Wednesday at the northeast Kansas Army post. Gedney deployed from April 2012 to March 2013 with the division to Afghanistan. He oversaw the support that Regional Command-East provided to NATO and U.S. forces handing off security duties to Afghan forces. His previous tours of duty include serving at the United Nations in 2000 and leading British forces in Iraq in 2008.


KC Tax Preparer Pleads Guilty to False Claim

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — A Kansas City woman has pleaded guilty to preparing 23 fraudulent income tax returns that brought in more than $90,000 in refunds. Federal prosecutors say 44-year-old Chanita Cotton received a large portion of the refunds. She pleaded guilty Wednesday in federal court to presenting a false tax claim. Prosecutors say Cotton prepared federal income tax returns for her friends, family, clients and others without indicating that she was the preparer between 2007 and 2010. The returns included false income amounts that resulted in earned income tax credit refunds that were higher than the clients were owed. Cotton faces a sentence of up to five years in federal prison without parole, plus a fine up to $250,000 and an order of restitution. A sentencing date has not been set.


2 Charged with Defrauding Elderly

ST. LOUIS (AP) — Two Missouri businessmen are facing federal charges for allegedly defrauding several elderly customers out of about $3 million. The U.S. Attorney's office in St. Louis on Wednesday said 45-year-old Robert Palmer of Kansas City and 50-year-old Mark Driver of St. Louis were both indicted by a federal grand jury on two counts each of mail and wire fraud. The men owned Princeton Partnership LLC, based in St. Louis. Federal prosecutors say the financial services firm defrauded customers from 2004 through February 2010 by making false promises about how their money would be invested. Authorities say all of the money given to Palmer and Driver were used for their personal expenses or for the company's operating expenses. Neither man had a listed attorney.


Hutchinson Man Pleads Guilty to Raping 12-Year-Old

HUTCHINSON, Kan. (AP) — A 33-year-old Hutchinson man admits that he raped a 12-year-old child. William Howard Diggs III pleaded guilty Tuesday to raping the child in a plea deal that could result in a lesser sentence. The Hutchinson News reports that Diggs was arrested in May on suspicion of rape and indecent liberties with a child, which both could bring life sentences without the possibility of parole for 25 years. Under the plea deal, Diggs is expected to be sentenced to nearly 16 years in prison, although the judge is not obligated to agree to the deal when Diggs is sentenced Sept. 27. Prosecutors say the child was raped in February or March of 2013 at a Hutchinson home after the victim's parents invited Diggs to the home.


8 Astronauts to Appear at Cosmosphere Fundraiser

HUTCHINSON, Kan. (AP) — Five Apollo astronauts will join three shuttle astronauts this weekend at the Kansas Cosmosphere and Space Center's second annual "Fly Around Dine Around" fundraising reception. Among those who will be honored at the Hutchinson event Saturday are Buzz Aldrin, the second human to walk on the moon's surface, and Fred Haise, who was one of the astronauts on the aborted Apollo 13 flight. Others scheduled to appear are Apollo astronauts Walt Cunningham, Joe Engle and Richard Gordon, and shuttle astronauts Steven Hawley — a Kansas native — Jeff Ashby and Bruce McCandless. The reception will run from 6 pm to 9:30 pm at the Cosmosphere. Tickets are $40 for Cosmosphere members and $50 for nonmembers.

KU Chosen to Help Kansas Schools Fight Bullying

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — Researchers at the University of Kansas will work with the state's schools to prevent bullying. The Kansas Department of Education awarded a contract to the researchers, who will develop a website and hold training sessions at schools across the state. The researchers also will create a model policy on bullying that schools can change to fit their specific circumstances. The Lawrence Journal-World reports that the state's schools are in different stages of implementing a policy against bullying. The state passed a law requiring the policy in 2007 but some districts have faced obstacles, partly because intervention projects can be expensive. Lead researcher Anne Williford says the starting point is defining what constitutes bullying. She says social scientists do not believe every act of aggression or anger is bullying. 


Railroads Hope to Install Surveillance Cameras to Watch Crews

OMAHA, Neb. (AP) — At least two major U.S. freight railroads are trying to install cameras in their locomotives to make sure crews are following rules and avoiding cellphone use. Union Pacific filed a court action this week asking a federal judge to declare that it has the authority to install the cameras under the railroad's labor agreements. Kansas City Southern railroad won a similar lawsuit last month over the objections of labor unions. Installing these inward-facing cameras to monitor crews was recommended by the National Transportation Safety Board after the 2008 collision of a Metrolink commuter train and a Union Pacific train in southern California that killed 25 and injured more than 100. Metrolink did install cameras after that crash, which was blamed on a distracted engineer sending text messages.


Classes Start at KC Charter School After Court Fight

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Classes are getting underway at a Kansas City charter school that Missouri education officials tried to close. Kindergarteners through second-graders at Gordon Parks Elementary go back to school Wednesday. The state Board of Education voted in May against renewing the charter of Gordon Parks Elementary School, citing low academic performance. The charter loss meant the school would lose the state funding it relied upon to operate. The vote followed a recommendation from the Missouri education department. But a judge in Jefferson City ruled last month the state's actions were unreasonable and arbitrary. The decision by Cole County Circuit Judge Dan Green followed a hearing at which Gordon Parks officials argued the state failed to allow time for efforts to improve test scores to take effect.


UMKC Opens New $32M Entrepreneurship Hall

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — A new 68,000-square-foot business school building is opening this week at the University of Missouri-Kansas City. The Henry W. Bloch Executive Hall for Entrepreneurship and Innovation is named for the co-founder of the tax preparation company H&R Block. Bloch donated $32 million for the new hall. The university says its entrepreneurship program requires many students to start businesses to graduate. And the new hall provides places for that type of active learning to happen. The three-story building features an innovation lab for students to work on prototypes and a behavioral research lab to study consumer behavior. There also is a finance lab with real-time trading. Acting Bloch School dean David Donnelly notes that the Bloch School has increased its enrollment by 70 percent since 2007.


Kansas College Plans Ag Learning Center

DODGE CITY, Kan. (AP) — Dodge City Community College is planning to build an agriculture learning center in hope of attracting more students and filling unmet needs in southwestern Kansas. The Dodge City Daily Globe reports that the project is in its earliest stages, as officials consider financing and a location. A report by college president Don Woodburn says the center would initially include classrooms, offices and a student equestrian stable. Later additions would include barns, a breeding stable, greenhouses and an outdoor arena. Officials envision the center also hosting 4-H and FFA events as well as college judging camps and contests. They also believe the center would make Dodge City more attractive to prospective community college students, possibly attracting as many as 200 more each year.


Beechcraft's Light Attack Aircraft Takes Flight

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Beechcraft is celebrating the inaugural flight of its first production AT-6 light attack aircraft. The Wichita-based aircraft maker commemorated the event Tuesday at its headquarters as it tries to market the new military plane among U.S. partner nations. CEO Bill Boisture says the company has seen a growing interest in the plane from the defense establishment around the world. The company is trying to move on and find other markets for the AT-6 after losing a bitter competition earlier this year for an Air Force contract worth more than $427 million. The plane was initially designed to compete for that contract. Beechcraft is now touting the 1,600 hours already logged on its AT-6 test aircraft as it tries to market the aircraft to other countries.



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