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Regional Headlines for Wednesday, August 28, 2013


Governor Brownback Guarding Judicial Applicants' Names

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas Governor Sam Brownback's office is releasing a month's worth of calendars for him and three top aides but isn't disclosing the applicants for a state Court of Appeals seat. The governor's office responded Wednesday to an open records request from the League of Women Voters. It requested the calendars following Brownback's nomination last week of Caleb Stegall for a new judgeship on the state's second-highest court. Stegall is Brownback's chief counsel. After fulfilling the request, the governor's office provided copies of the records to The Associated Press. The governor's office released daily calendars for Brownback, Stegall and two other aides from July 15 through August 16. But the names of appeals court applicants who were interviewed were redacted. Brownback had said publicly that applicants' names would remain confidential.


UPDATE: Kansas Court Nominee Floods Panel with Documents

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas Court of Appeals nominee Caleb Stegall has submitted more than 300 pages of documents to a legislative committee that will review his appointment by Governor Sam Brownback. In the materials he provided Wednesday to the Senate Judiciary Committee, Stegall said he has experience in "a wide variety of legal settings." He is currently Brownback's chief counsel. Stegall also submitted dozens of pages of magazine articles and online columns he has written, including book reviews and commentaries that hint at his conservative politics. Brownback nominated Stegall last week to fill a new seat on the state's second-highest court, subject to confirmation by the state Senate. The Senate will consider the appointment during a special legislative session that begins Tuesday, with a Judiciary Committee hearing that afternoon.


Top KS Senate Democrat Questions Gov's Court Nominee

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The Kansas Senate's top Democrat questions whether Republican Gov. Sam Brownback's nominee for the state Court of Appeals is qualified for the position. Senate Minority Leader Anthony Hensley said Wednesday that Caleb Stegall isn't qualified to serve on the state's second-highest court if one or more district court judges also applied for the seat. Stegall is Brownback's chief counsel and has not been a judge. Brownback has declined to disclose the names of other candidates for the Court of Appeals seat. Hensley said the public can't compare Stegall to other candidates. But Brownback spokeswoman Eileen Hawley said Hensley is engaged in partisan politics and is the only person so far who has questioned publicly whether Stegall is qualified. Stegall has received endorsement letters from both Republicans and Democrats.


Group Says NEA Grants for Kansas Restored

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas arts advocates say the National Endowment for the Arts has restored $560,000 in arts grants to Kansas. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that the announcement comes two years after the NEA pulled its funding for Kansas when Governor Sam Brownback de-funded the state arts commission. After intense lobbying from arts groups, Brownback formed the Kansas Creative Arts Industries Commission, which is under the Department of Commerce and is intended to provide a vehicle for state arts funding with more focus on job creation. The group, Kansas Citizens for the Arts, told members in an email Wednesday the NEA has provided $560,000 in matching funding to the Kansas Creative Arts Industries Commission for the fiscal year beginning October 1. Commerce Department spokesman Dan Lara says the commission has an announcement planned Thursday, but he couldn't comment beyond that.


Kansas Labor Officials Say Economy Improving

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A Kansas labor economist says the state's outlook continues to improve but that it will take three to five years to determine how much growth can be attributed to recent cuts in the state's income tax rates. The assessment Wednesday was part of the annual "State of Labor" address by Kansas Department of Labor Secretary Lana Gordon. In 2012, Kansas cut income tax rates for individual taxpayers while eliminating taxes for certain classes of businesses. Kansas has seen a slight increase in unemployment recently, with the rate rising to 5.9 percent in July from 5.8 percent in June. Gordon and others have attributed the increase to more people entering the job market and seeking employment.


Brownback Rings Kansas Bell to Mark King Speech Anniversary

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Governor Sam Brownback joined hands with a Topeka pastor to ring a silver bell to mark the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington and Martin Luther King's "I Have a Dream" speech. Brownback and the Reverend Gordon Glenn of Topeka's St. John AME Church closed a ceremony Wednesday on the steps of the Brown v. Board of Education National Historic Site. It was one of more than 300 locations around the country where bells were rung to commemorate the August 1963 march in the nation's capital. Brownback says the Brown v. Board site was fitting because it represented the start of where segregation ended and civil rights began. The historic site is dedicated to the landmark 1954 U.S. Supreme Court ruling declaring segregated schools unconstitutional.


Lawrence Prohibits Upholstered Furniture on Front Porches

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — Students in Lawrence will no longer be able to hang out on couches on their front porches. The Lawrence City Commission on Tuesday passed a citywide ban on upholstered furniture on porches, decks and patios. The city says landlords, not tenants, will be fined for violating the ban at rental properties. The Lawrence Journal-World reports that fines will start at $100 per day. However, the city will conduct an educational campaign for several months before the ban is enforced. The fire department says there had been only 10 fires involving upholstered outdoor furniture since 2007. But Fire Chief Mark Bradford said the fact that upholstered furniture burns easily made its outdoor use dangerous, particularly with the lack of smoke alarms on porches.


Fort Hood Gunman Will Await Execution at Fort Leavenworth

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) _ The soldier sentenced to death for the 2009 shootings at Fort Hood, Texas, will be heading to the military prison at Fort Leavenworth. A military jury sentenced Major Nidal Hasan to death on Wednesday. Officials say Hasan will be taken back to a county jail and then transported on the first available military flight to Fort Leavenworth. The timing wasn't immediately clear. Fort Leavenworth's U.S. Disciplinary Barracks is the military's only maximum-security prison, housing inmates who are sentenced to at least 10 years behind bars as well as death. Hasan was shot in the back during the shooting rampage and is paralyzed from the waist down. The prison is compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act regulations and inmates have access to military and civilian health professionals.


Ex-Garmin Worker Charged with $1M in GPS Thefts

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) — A former employee of Garmin International has been charged with stealing more than $1 million worth of GPS devices from the Kansas-based company. The U.S. Attorney's office says 31-year-old Terrence M. Heathington, who now lives in Atlanta, was indicted Wednesday on 40 counts of mail fraud. Heathington worked from March to September 2008 as a Garmin warehouse material handler in Olathe, where the company is headquartered. The indictment alleges he caused about 165 cases of stolen GPS devices to be shipped to his home and those of co-conspirators. The devices were then sold on eBay and elsewhere. In addition to the criminal charges, prosecutors are also seeking a forfeiture judgment. No phone listing could be found for Heathington in Georgia, and court records do not list a defense attorney.


3 More Arrested in Kansas ID Theft Investigation

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — The investigation of an identity theft ring has netted three more arrests in the Wichita area. KFDI-FM reports that Sedgwick County Sheriff's Lt. Don Mattingly said Wednesday the case has grown to the point where it could also involve crimes in surrounding counties. The investigation began earlier this month when stolen documents including mail, checks, credit cards and Social Security cards were found in the home of a 23-year-old Wichita woman. Some of the documents dated back to 2008 and rightfully belonged to more than 150 people. The items had been taken stolen from vehicles and mailboxes in Wichita. Mattingly says two of the three new suspects are expected to face charges of burglary, auto theft and possession of narcotics. Names of the suspects have not been released.


EPA Sued for Scrapping Livestock Data Collection

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — Environmental and animal welfare groups are suing the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, alleging the federal agency unlawfully scrapped a rule that would have authorized the EPA to collect information from large-scale livestock confinement farms. The EPA dropped the rule in July 2012, saying it would get farm locations, waste management practices and number of animals on the properties from state and federal agencies. The lawsuit was filed Wednesday in Washington and claims that the EPA lacks the rational basis required by law to withdraw the rule. It also says the information is critical to enforcing the federal Clean Water Act. The EPA didn't respond to messages. The plaintiffs are The Center for Food Safety, Environmental Integrity Project, Food & Water Watch, The Humane Society and Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement.


Toddler Found Unresponsive at KCK Day Care Pronounced Dead

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) — Kansas City, Kansas police say an 11-month-old boy died after being found unresponsive at a day care center. Firefighters were called to the Advantage Child Care Center Tuesday afternoon in Kansas City, Kansas. KMBC reports that workers said the toddler had been fussy and they thought he might be teething. They checked on him every 15 minutes while he was napping and eventually found him unresponsive. Emergency responders took the boy to the University of Kansas Hospital, where he was pronounced dead. An autopsy will be performed Wednesday to determine the cause of death.


Cargill to Invest $48M in Dodge City Meatpacking Plant

DODGE CITY, Kan. (AP) — Cargill Beef says it will spend $48 million to install an automated order distribution system at its Dodge City meatpacking plant. The Wichita-based company said Tuesday the system will be housed in a specially built 62,000-square-foot facility. Construction is to begin late this year, with the new system expected to be in operation by the spring of 2015. Cargill says in a news release the automated system will improve the flow of highly perishable fresh meat products to hundreds of destinations. The company says the system will be capable of holding about 155,000 boxes of beef, compared with a current capacity of about 25,000 boxes. The Dodge City plant opened in 1979 and processes about 6,000 head of cattle per day.


Officials Urge Caution for Boaters over Holiday

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — The Army Corps of Engineers is urging boaters to be cautious over the Labor Day holiday weekend. The corps' Kansas City District says there have been 14 water-related deaths this year at the 18 lakes it manages in Missouri, Kansas, Iowa and Nebraska. The agency says none of the 14 people was wearing a life jacket, and alcohol was a contributing factor in nine drownings. Five of the deaths happened around the July 4 and Memorial Day holidays. Corps officials say boaters should wear life jackets, recognize that swimming in open water is more difficult than in a swimming pool, and monitor children when they are near the water.


Work Release Inmate Hasn't Returned to Lyon County Jail

EMPORIA, Kan. (AP) — Authorities in eastern Kansas are searching for an inmate who didn't return from a work release program. The Lyon County Sheriff's Department says 34-year-old Justin Neighbors was allowed out of the Lyon County Jail on work release and did not return Friday as expected. KSHB-TV reports that records show Neighbors was incarcerated on drug charges. Authorities say Neighbors is 5'11", 165 pounds and has brown hair and hazel eyes.


Kansas Prison Inmate Serving Life to Be Paroled

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Parole has been granted to a woman who's served more than 30 years in prison for her role in the murder of a Wichita restaurant manager. The Wichita Eagle reports that 55-year-old Regina Baldwin is one of two women convicted of first-degree murder in the 1983 death of Julie Rosenhamer. Kansas Department of Corrections spokesman Jeremy Barclay says the Kansas Prisoner Review Board granted the parole Tuesday and Baldwin will be eligible for release after February 1. Wichita police say Rosenhamer and two other employees were preparing to close the Church's Fried Chicken on May 3, 1983, when Baldwin and Yvonne Pink came into the restaurant armed with guns and Rosenhamer was killed. Both Baldwin and Pink were given life prison sentences. Pink will be eligible for parole next year.


Radio Conglomerate Lifts Ban on Wichita Clinic Ads

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Media conglomerate Clear Channel is lifting its earlier ban on radio ads from a Wichita abortion clinic promoting health care services for women. The company reversed course Tuesday as supporters of the South Wind Women's Center prepared to deliver a petition with 68,000 signatures Wednesday, asking the broadcaster to reconsider its earlier decision. Clear Channel says it recognizes certain advertising may stir passionate viewpoints but that it determined it should use its best judgment to accept and run ads that don't violate the law or FCC standards. The company says the nationwide petition did not play into its decision. South Wind is the first abortion clinic to open in Wichita since the 2009 slaying of Dr. George Tiller.


Former Kansas Senator to Receive Gordon Parks Award

FORT SCOTT, Kan. (AP) — Former U.S. Senator Nancy Kassebaum Baker will receive the Gordon Parks Choice of Weapons award in October. The Wichita Eagle reports that the former Republican senator will be honored during a community dinner and tribute October 4 during the 10th annual Gordon Parks Celebration in Fort Scott. Gordon Parks is Fort Scott's most famous native son. Parks, a noted photographer, writer, poet, musician and filmmaker, died in 2006. Kassebaum Baker became the first female senator from Kansas in 1978 when she was elected to the first of three six-year terms. She was also instrumental in helping create the Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve.


Reno County Pays $7K for Witnesses' Flights

HUTCHINSON, Kan. (AP) — Reno County paid more than $7,000 for two last-minute plane tickets for witnesses in a criminal case. The Hutchinson News reports that the two roundtrip American Airlines tickets from Sioux City, Iowa, to Wichita on July 25 cost Reno County taxpayers $7,611. County commissioners approved the payment Tuesday. The case involves a man who charged with aggravated indecent liberties with a child, rape and aggravated criminal sodomy. A preliminary hearing in the case was scheduled for July 25. But Reno County District Attorney Keith Schroeder said negotiations that would have made the hearing unnecessary fell apart at the last minute, and the hearing was held, requiring the witnesses' attendance. The two witnesses are expected to return for the trial, but Schroeder says those tickets will be bought well in advance.


Dodge City Community College Football Team in Bus Accident

DODGE CITY, Kan. (AP) — The Dodge City Community College football team was involved in a bus accident that left several cattle dead. The Dodge City Globe reports that the accident occurred in western Kansas on Sunday after the school bus, transporting some members of the college football team, ran into a herd of cattle that was blocking the road. David Wetmore, spokesman for Dodge City Community College, said there was no way for the bus to avoid the cattle. Nine cattle were killed. The passengers of the bus were not injured. Wetmore says the bus driver kept the bus under control during the accident The football team was returning from a game against Butler Community College in El Dorado.


Settlement Reached in KC Police Dinner Controversy

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — The Kansas City Board of Police Commissioners has settled a dispute over paying for expensive dinners charged by police commanders. Under the agreement, the city will return money four commanders reimbursed to the department for the dinners, along with $13,500 in legal fees. The Kansas City Star reports that documents it received Tuesday show the commanders agreed not to sue the police commissioners. The commanders charged the pricey meals to department credit cards in 2009 and 2010 as part of their legislative expenses. In 2011, the commission ordered the commanders to repay bills for any alcohol charged with meals and any meals that surpassed the department's $46 per diem. The refunds totaled $3,450. An investigation found the police department did not have proper policies for documenting the purpose of expenditures.


Douglas County Foundation Gets Large Donation

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — The Douglas County Community Foundation has received the largest single gift in its 13-year history. The Lawrence Journal-World reports that the foundation did not disclose the amount of the donation from the Gill-Harrison Foundation, which was announced Tuesday. The previous largest single gift to the Douglas County Community Foundation was $4 million from Lawrence philanthropist Tensie Oldfather. That donation, given in 2000, started the foundation, which supports a variety of charitable causes in the community. Oldfather also donated another $3 million to the foundation, making her its largest overall benefactor. The Gill-Harrison donation will set up a permanent fund at the foundation. The Gill and Harrison families were involved in real estate and insurance.


NW Kansas Driver Fired for Leaving 2 on School Bus

HAYS, Kan. (AP) — A northwest Kansas school bus driver has been fired after leaving two young siblings locked in the bus, making for what one of them called a "bad day." KSNW-TV reports that the incident happened Monday in Hays, where 6-year-old Kaden Dempsey and his 5-year-old sister, Macey, were riding a bus for the first time. Video from the vehicle's camera shows the driver leaving and locking the bus at the end of his route without noticing Kaden and Macey sitting in back. Macey is heard saying, "It's a bad day. We'll be on here forever." Kaden replies, "Not forever, don't say that." He then suggests, "Let's go back and take a nap until morning." The children were let out when another driver at the bus barn spotted them about 10 minutes later.

Myanmar Refugees Displaced by Wichita Apartment Fire

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Some of the 70 residents left homeless by a fire at a Wichita apartment complex are refugees from Myanmar. Five people were injured, none critically, when Tuesday's fire heavily damaged a building at the Ashley Lane Apartments in Wichita. The Episcopal Wichita Area Refugee Ministry says eight families with a total of 28 people were among those displaced by the fire. Most lost the few possessions they owned. Executive director Shannon Mahan says the ministry helped bring the refugees to Wichita after they fled Myanmar and applied for refugee status. She said one of the displaced is 16 weeks pregnant. The other families all have children under the age of 1. The Wichita Eagle reports that fire officials say the blaze caused $1.75 million in damage.

Kansas House of BTK Victim Sells at Auction

PARK CITY, Kan. (AP) — The house where one of the victims of the BTK serial killer was murdered has sold at auction for far less than its appraised value. KWCH-TV reports that the Park City home sold Tuesday to the highest bidder for $35,000. The three-bedroom home had been appraised for about $60,000. Auctioneer Jack Newcom reminded the crowd before the bidding started about the 1985 murder. Marine Hedge was killed in the house by Dennis Rader, the BTK killer who 20 years later was discovered to be her neighbor. Among those who came to watch the bidding was Charlie Otero, whose parents and siblings were killed in a different house by Rader. Otero says he wanted to see this part of the BTK story put to an end.


MO Ed Officials Seek Rehearing in KC Charter Case

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Missouri education officials are seeking a rehearing after a judge rejected the state's decision to pull the plug on a Kansas City charter school. Missouri Education Commissioner Chris Nicastro said Wednesday in a written statement that the state wants to "clear up some factual inaccuracies." 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. 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.


NW MO Man Sentenced to 70 Years for Child Porn

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — A northwest Missouri man has been sentenced to 70 years in prison without parole in a child pornography case that federal prosecutors called "unusually vicious." Thirty-five-year-old Jeffrey Dale Wiederholt, of Stanberry, pleaded guilty in October to producing child pornography and possessing more than 1,000 images of child porn. The U.S. Attorney's office says he was sentenced Tuesday. Prosecutors said Wiederholt sexually abused a girl younger than 12 numerous times over seven months while he was producing child porn. They said he covered the girl's mouth with duct tape during the assaults and threatened to kill her, then bragged about it to people with whom he traded illicit images. Wiederholt has a history of sex-related crimes and inappropriate contact with young girls, including multiple convictions for repeated contact with a then-15-year-old.

Town Limits Development of NY's Plum Island

MINEOLA, N.Y. (AP) — A New York town approved new zoning laws that would prevent any significant development of Plum Island, home to a government laboratory studying infectious animal diseases since the 1950s. Newsday reports that the Southold (New York) Town Board voted unanimously Tuesday to establish two zoning districts on the 843-acre property off eastern Long Island, should it be sold. Under the zoning rules, the bulk of the island would be preserved as a conservation district while laboratory research would be allowed on part of it. Congress voted in 2009 to close the aging laboratory, and the federal government is now deciding whether to sell it. Proceeds from the sale are supposed to help defray the costs of moving operations to a new laboratory at Kansas State University.



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