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Regional Headlines for Wednesday, August 7, 2013


Lightning Causes Power Outages in Northeast Kansas

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Lightning strikes that rolled through northeast Kansas early Wednesday caused power outages throughout the region. KVOE reports that Newman Regional Health Center in Emporia was operating on generator power after lightning took out power about 1 am Wednesday. Westar says outages were reduced to 297 customers in Lyon County by 6:45 am Wednesday. Another lightning strike hit a Westar Energy transformer in Topeka, briefly knocking out power to about 1,200 customers. That number was reduced to 50 by 6:45 am. Westar was reporting 2,352 outages in the state by 6:45 am, with 1,581 in Douglas County.


Libertarian Candidate Files for Kansas Governor's Race

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A Bonner Springs woman has become the first Libertarian Party candidate to file for the 2014 Kansas governor's race. Tresa McAlhaney announced Wednesday that she has filed the necessary paperwork to establish her campaign. She and running mate Grant Nelson are the first team to go public about seeking to oust Republican Governor Sam Brownback next year. Libertarians are hoping to achieve 5 percent of the total vote in the governor's race, a threshold that would elevate the party's status equal to Republicans and Democrats. Currently, minor parties can only get on the ballot by holding nominating conventions and filing candidates with the secretary of state. Kansas State University political scientist Joe Aistrup says third parties have struggled to get 2 to 3 percent of the vote in past elections.


Panel to Meet Before Special Legislative Session

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) _ A special committee of Kansas lawmakers will meet August 26 to consider proposals for rewriting a state law allowing judges to sentence convicted murderers to at least 50 years in prison. House Republican Lance Kinzer, the panel's chairman, said Wednesday the 14-member committee will draft recommendations on repairing the "Hard 50'' law at the meeting. A U.S. Supreme Court decision in June raised questions about the law's constitutionality. Governor Sam Brownback has called a special session of the Legislature for September 3 to revise the statute. Kinzer said he'll have a hearing on a proposal from Attorney General Derek Schmidt, but also will consider amendments from committee members. Schmidt has said his office is working with prosecutors on legislation.


Kansas Chief Justice Appointed to National Board

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas Supreme Court Chief Justice Lawton Nuss has been appointed to the board of directors of the national Conference of Chief Justices. The appointment was made last week during the organization's national conference on July 31 in Vermont. Nuss was named to the Kansas Supreme Court by then-Gov. Bill Graves in 2002. He became chief justice in August 2010. The Conference of Chief Justices is made up of the top judicial officers of each state, the District of Columbia and U.S. territories. The organization meets to develop policies and procedures to improve the operations of state judicial systems.


Escaped Arkansas Inmate Possibly Seen in Kansas

OVERLAND PARK, Kan. (AP) — Police in northeast Kansas are looking into a possible sighting of a man who escaped custody in Arkansas, but they haven't been able to confirm the report. The Kansas City Star reports that someone called Overland Park police Monday to say they saw a vehicle that had a license plate associated with Derrick Estell. Estell escaped July 28 from a jail in Garland County, Arkansas, and he was believed to have been headed to southwest Missouri's Dallas County. He broke out by diving head-first through a window at the jail lobby, running outside and getting into a waiting car believed to have been driven by his girlfriend. His mother also is charged with aiding his escape. Police say Estell should be considered armed and dangerous.


Reno County Warns People to Stay Out of Water

HUTCHINSON, Kan. (AP) — A central Kansas county is cracking down on people who place themselves in danger in rain-swollen rivers and creeks. Reno County Sheriff Randy Henderson says deputies issued nearly 25 tickets Wednesday for driving around barricades on flooded roadways. Henderson issued a notice of possible prosecutions Wednesday after authorities learned a group of high school students planned to go tubing in South Hutchinson. He says it is too dangerous to go wading, swimming or canoeing in the swollen rivers. Reno County emergency crews have already conducted four water rescues during the past three days due to vehicles being swept off roadways.


Halstead to Close Floodgate as River Rises

HALSTEAD, Kan. (AP) — Volunteers are filling sandbags in the south-central Kansas town of Halstead amid preparations to close a floodgate against the rising Little Arkansas River. KAKE-TV reports that the first of Halstead's three floodgates will close as soon as volunteers finish filling the first 500 sandbags. The city was asking Wednesday for help filling a total of 1,500 sandbags. The community of more than 2,000 people is located about 30 miles north of Wichita. It is protected by a three-and-a-half mile levee built more than 20 years ago to separate the city from the river. Kansas Highway 89 into Halstead is closed due to high water.


Smelly Chicken Meal Being Removed in Hays

HAYS, Kan. (AP) — Union Pacific crews are starting to clear out tons of chicken meal that spilled in Hays after a mid-July train derailment. The meal, destined for use in making cat food, has been giving off a powerful odor that's drawn complaints from residents of the northwest Kansas community. But Dan Wells, an administrator with the Kansas Department of Health and Environment, tells KAYS-AM that there's no danger to public health. Eighteen cars of a westbound Union Pacific train went off the tracks July 16 when the train hit a standing train. A car containing the chicken meal split in half. Crews later bulldozed the meal into a large pile and covered it with tarps.


Gator Pulled from Kansas Lake Had Been Shot

ATCHISON, Kan. (AP) — Authorities in northeast Kansas say a small alligator spotted in a lake was shot and wounded in the snout before it could be rescued. Fishermen spotted the 3-foot-long alligator on Saturday in Atchison County Lake. Sheriff's deputies monitored the animal until the Atchison County Humane Society helped catch it Monday using a dog kennel and other tools. KMBC-TV reports that investigators learned of the shooting while arranging to transfer the alligator to a sanctuary near Lee's Summit, Missouri. Experts at the Monkey Island sanctuary say the bullet traveled between the gator's eyes through its body. They expect it to recover. The Atchison County sheriff says a 53-year-old Horton man has been cited as the shooter. Deputies are still looking for whoever dumped the alligator in the lake.


Kansas Doctor Seeks Release in Prescription Case

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Attorneys for a northeast Kansas doctor accused of having employees illegally dispense prescriptions are trying again to persuade a federal judge that he won't flee if he's released on bail. Dr. Michael P. Schuster's lawyers said in a federal court filing Wednesday that the Manhattan doctor's wife has moved $474,000 from overseas accounts back to the U.S. since May. The defense also said the couple is willing to surrender personal property and the deeds to their real estate holdings. Schuster is being held without bail on four counts involving what authorities contend was the illegal distribution of drugs from his pain clinic for at least five years, starting in 2007. A spokesman for U.S. Attorney Barry Grissom says the office plans a written reply.


KCK Teenager Charged with Premeditated Murder

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) — A 15-year-old Kansas City, Kansas boy has been charged with premeditated first-degree murder in the shooting death last month of 28-year-old Nola Pierce of Kansas City. Wyandotte District Attorney Jerome Gorman filed the charge Wednesday against the boy, who has been in custody since Monday and was scheduled to appear in juvenile court Wednesday afternoon. Pierce was shot to death near her home July 25.


2 Employees Capture Burglar at Cargill in Topeka

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Police say two alert employees caught and held a man who allegedly was trying to burglarize a Cargill plant in Topeka. Topeka police Sergeant Steve Roth says the employees saw the man break into a fenced-in area that holds heavy equipment on Tuesday night. When the employees ran into the area, the man was "messing with" a utility vehicle. Roth says the man took off running but the employees caught him, subdued him and then held him until police arrived. Roth told The Topeka Capital-Journal that the employees did all the work and "I just showed up and applied the cuffs."


Regulator Visiting Kansas Sees Big Role for States in Future Power Grid

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — A federal regulator says states like Kansas must take the lead in improving regional transmission systems to increase the movement of electricity from renewable resources such as wind. The Lawrence Journal-World reports that Federal Energy Regulatory Commission member David Moeller was visiting the northeast Kansas community Tuesday. Moeller was invited by state Representative Tom Sloan of Lawrence to meet with officials from other states and energy companies to discuss improving transmission systems. Moeller and Sloan said the goal is to improve transmission grids so that wind power from rural areas like western Kansas can move to places where the need for energy is greater. But Moeller said FERC doesn't have the legal authority to regulate transmission grids, requiring states to work together to improve them.  


Proposed Program to Boost Solar in Douglas County

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — A solar panel proponent and a bank are proposing a program to reduce the costs of installing solar power in Douglas County. Aron Cromwell, CEO of Lawrence-based Cromwell Environmental, says and Mid America Bank want to provide 15-year leases for solar power installations at homes and small businesses. Cromwell says many Douglas County residents who want to install solar panels are put off by the upfront costs, which can range up to $30,000. He says the goal of the program is to create leases with a monthly payment that is less than the average cost a home or business saves by using solar panels. The Lawrence Journal-World reports that on Tuesday, Lawrence city commissioners agreed to consider reducing building permit fees for solar panels.


Report: Kansas Among Fastest Growing Wind Markets

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A new government report indicates that Kansas is among the largest and fastest growing wind energy markets in the country. The Energy Department reported Tuesday that Kansas ranks third among all U.S. states in the percentage of in-state electricity generation from wind power. The state installed 1,441 megawatts of new wind power capacity in 2012, bringing its total capacity to 2,713 megawatts. The department says in a news release that Kansas now has enough capacity to generate more than 20 percent of its electricity from wind energy. The agency's annual Wind Technologies Market Report says that in 2012 wind energy became the top source of new U.S. electricity generation for the first time.


Search Launched for Missing Tortoise in Northeast Kansas 

JUNCTION CITY, Kan. (AP) — A family pet has disappeared from outside a home in northeast Kansas, but chances are it didn't get very far unless someone gave it a lift. WIBW-TV reports that the animal is a 50-pound tortoise that Geary County Sheriff Tony Wolf describes as about the size of a truck tire. Wolf's office received a call Monday night that the African spurred tortoise was missing from its pen in rural Geary County, outside Junction City. Authorities are investigating the case as a possible theft. But they also say the pen's gate may have been left open by accident or that the tortoise was frightened by stormy weather and burrowed underground.


Cleanup Continues at Storm-Damaged Kansas Marina

EL DORADO, Kan. (AP) — Cleanup continued Wednesday at the El Dorado Reservoir where winds earlier this week caused a fuel spill and damaged several boats and docks at the Shady Creek Marina. El Dorado State Park manager Seth Turner said Tuesday that the fuel spill is contained and crews were pumping water from a houseboat that was largely under water after winds estimated at 80 to 100 mph swept over the state park Monday evening. The Wichita Eagle reported that an estimated 75 to 100 gallons of fuel spilled when lines running from the shore to pumps at the marina were broken. Some also came from the houseboat. Turner says he is confident an absorbent boom stopped the spread of the spilled fuel. The storm also twisted the walkway to the marina.


Kansas Man Takes Plea Deal in Home Invasion Shooting

PITTSBURG, Kan. (AP) — A man who shot a fleeing suspect after a home invasion in Pittsburg has accepted a plea deal. Twenty-eight-year-old Kyle S. Taggart was scheduled to go on trial Tuesday on an attempted murder charge. But court records indicate he entered a plea of no contest to aggravated battery on July 31. Prosecutors will recommend he serve 30 days in jail and then be on probation for four years. Taggart shot 19-year-old Mitchell E. Owens, of Kansas City, as Owens and two other men were fleeing from a robbery at a Pittsburg home in April 2012. Taggart was a friend of the homeowner. The Joplin Globe reports that Taggart was charged with attempted murder because police investigators and Prosecutor Michael Gayoso did not believe the home invasion justified the shooting.


Developer Proposes Overhaul of KC's Hotel Savoy

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — A Kentucky company that specializes in reviving historic hotels is hoping to acquire the famed Hotel Savoy and the adjacent Savoy Grill in downtown Kansas City. The hotel was built in 1888 and was host over the decades to the likes of Teddy Roosevelt, W.C. Fields and John D. Rockefeller. The restaurant, built in 1903, is equally rich in history. The Kansas City Star reports that Louisville-based 21c Museum Hotels has an option to buy both buildings. The company's plans include a $47 million restoration, with the Savoy to be made over as a 120-room luxury hotel that retains much of its period atmosphere. The deal is contingent on the city granting tax incentives to help finance the project.


Crash Spills Pigs on NW Missouri Interstate

CAMERON, Mo. (AP) — State troopers had to play hog-wrangler after a collision spilled dozens of pigs on Interstate 35 in northwest Missouri. The accident happened around 7:30 am Wednesday near Cameron, about 50 miles north of Kansas City. The Missouri Highway Patrol says a southbound pickup truck went out of control on the wet pavement and crossed the median. The pickup hit a northbound tractor-trailer that tipped on its side, scattering its cargo of pigs. The southbound lanes were closed for several hours while crews rounded up dozens of pigs from the highway and the median. Some of the animals were injured or did not survive.


Missouri Family Turns to Kansas Fair in Cancer Fight

SALINA, Kan. (AP) -- A Missouri couple is turning to a Kansas fair's talent contest in search of someone who might have what it takes to help save their four sons' lives. The Salina Journal reports that Tim and Maggie Murry are looking for bone marrow matches to help their sons fight a rare form of blood cancer called Diamond-Blackfan anemia. On Saturday, the St. Louis family will be asking people at the Salina's Got Talent contest at the Tri-Rivers Fair to have their mouths swabbed for testing, a process that takes less than 10 minutes. Tim Murry says swabs take three months to test and place on the National Bone Marrow Registry. The Murrys have registered 19,000 people in 110 drives during the past two years.


KU Football Coach Weis Counting on JUCO-Led Rebound

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — After coaching what he called a "pile of crap" last season, University of Kansas head football coach Charlie Weis is counting on an influx of junior college players to turn things around in Year 2. The often-outspoken coach made that assessment of the Jayhawks, who went 1-11 last season, during Big 12 media day in Dallas. His opinion hadn't changed, either, as this year's team prepared for the start of fall camp on Wednesday afternoon. "How else are you going to describe it?" he said. That team had holes throughout the roster, none bigger than at quarterback, where Dayne Crist was anything but the solution Weis hoped he would be. This year's team has former BYU quarterback Jake Heaps under center, surrounded by a whole slew of transfers hoping to make an impact.



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