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Regional Headlines for Wednesday, Dec 22, 2013


UPDATE: Grand Jury Indicts Man Accused in Kansas Bomb Plot

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A grand jury has indicted the man accused of plotting a suicide bomb attack at a Kansas airport where he worked as an avionics technician. A three-count indictment returned Wednesday charges Terry Lee Loewen with attempted use of a weapon of mass destruction. The 58-year-old Wichita man also is charged with attempted use of an explosive device and attempted material support for terrorism. His defense attorney declined comment Wednesday. The charges are essentially the same as those brought in a criminal complaint Friday when Loewen was first arrested. FBI investigators say Loewen was trying to take what he believed was a car bomb onto the tarmac at Wichita's Mid-Continent Airport when they arrested him. The indictment makes a public preliminary hearing unnecessary. A detention hearing is scheduled for Friday.


Judge in KS Orders Scientist from China Detained

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) — A Chinese scientist accused of taking seeds taken from a private Kansas research facility and passing them off to a visiting delegation from China will remain in federal custody at least until his next court appearance. Weiqiang Zhang, an agricultural seed breeder at a biopharmaceutical production facility in Junction City, is charged with conspiracy to steal trade secrets. He's accused of taking proprietary seeds from the facility and giving them to visiting Chinese agriculture officials this summer. A federal judge in Kansas City, Kansas on Tuesday ordered Zhang detained, but said he'd consider substantial bail amounts at Zhang's next court appearance December 30. Zhang and a co-defendant from China who worked at a U.S. Department of Agriculture facility in Arkansas face up to 10 years in prison if convicted in the case.

Hutchinson Tyson Foods Plant Cited for Violations

HUTCHINSON, Kan. (AP) — The federal government has cited the Tyson Foods plant in Hutchinson for safety violations after a worker's hand was severed last summer. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration labeled the plant a severe violator, meaning future inspections will ensure the violations have been corrected. OSHA also recommended a $147,000 fine for four violations found during a recent inspection. The worker's hand was severed in June while he and three others were cleaning a conveyor belt and his arm was pulled into the equipment. The Hutchinson News reports that OSHA has found seven serious violations at the plant in the last decade and some of the latest violations were considered willful. Tyson officials say the company is reviewing the citations and will work with OSHA to resolve the concerns.


KS Capitol Police Worry About Concealed Guns Law

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Police at the Kansas Statehouse have told legislative leaders that they worry about a new law that allows lawmakers to carry concealed guns in the building. Sergeant Terry Golightley said Wednesday that the Capitol Police worry the policy will lead to problems if there's an incident. House Majority Leader Jene Vickrey said he doesn't worry about legal permit holders. Top legislators met to discuss security as the state finishes a renovation of the building. They haven't yet decided whether visitors can carry concealed weapons into the Statehouse. They must decide by July under a law enacted earlier this year. But the same law allows legislators to carry concealed weapons in the Statehouse, regardless of the policy for visitors. Previously, concealed guns had been banned in state buildings.


KS Receives over $510K from Insurance Settlement

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas will receive more than $510,000 from six insurance companies as part of a national settlement over the calculation of death benefits. The insurance commissioner's office said Tuesday the settlements were reached after a review of the companies' practices in determining when a policy holder had died. Previously, the companies used the Social Security Death Master File to search and stop payments for deceased annuity holders, but the database wasn't being used to identify those life insurance policy holders who had died. The settlement requires the companies to use the database to pay beneficiaries promptly. The companies are ING, New York Life, Lincoln National, TransAmerica, TIAA-CREF, Midland, and Aviva and Global Atlantic. Money will be deposited into the state's general fund.

State to Cut Jobs at KNI, Larned Hospitals

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas officials say more than 50 jobs will be eliminated at state hospitals in Topeka and Larned in an effort to save up to $3 million. The Kansas Department for Aging and Disability Services says it will eliminate 35 jobs at the Kansas Neurological Institute in Topeka and about two dozen jobs at Larned State Hospital. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that most of the job reductions will come from resignations or retirements. Under a proposal to be presented to the Legislature, the savings would be used for employee raises, hiring at least three more psychiatrists and covering reductions in federal aid. The plan includes eliminating administrative positions at KNI and consolidating two residence buildings. Clinical and dental services will be merged or reduced within about six months.

KNI Superintendent Retires After 35 Years

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The superintendent of the Kansas Neurological Institute has retired after nearly 35 years with the residential facility for Kansans with severe disabilities. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that  Barney Hubert retired this month. He'll be replaced on an interim basis by KNI program director Brent Widick. Hubert started at KNI in 1978 as an activities director and spent most of his professional career there. He also had a brief stint with the Department for Social and Rehabilitation Services. KNI, which serves about 150 residents, has been a source of controversy since a commission formed in 2009 included it on a list of state facilities that could be closed. The commission recommended its residents be moved to home and community-based living. The no action has been taken on that recommendation.


Topeka Fire Department's Beloved Investigator Dog Dies

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A Topeka Fire Department dog that was trained to sniff out ignitable liquids has died after responding to 300 fire scenes and hundreds of other incidents. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that the fire department announced the 10-year-old dog's death Wednesday. Named Boomer, the Labrador retriever had been with the city since 2005. The department said he played a key role in the investigations of about 60 injury fires and more than 20 fatality fires in Topeka and the region. A release from the fire department said Boomer served with "honor and distinction" and "will never be forgotten."


Crews to Measure Groundwater in Kansas

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — Crews are undertaking an annual effort to monitor changes in groundwater levels in western and central Kansas. The University of Kansas said Tuesday the Kansas Geological Survey will measure 510 wells early next month. The Kansas Department of Agriculture's Division of Water Resources will measure an additional 897 wells. The monitoring focuses on the massive High Plains aquifer system, which consists largely of the Ogallala aquifer. The data are used by landowners, state and federal agencies, local groundwater management districts, private entities and the general public. From the winter of 2011-12 to 2012-13, water levels in the entire network declined by slightly more than 2 feet on average. Southwest Kansas was the hardest hit area, with an average decline of 3.56 feet.


CIty of Lawrence to Study Ordinance Change

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — Officials in Lawrence will study a possible change in a city ordinance to accommodate a proposed hitchhiking network. A nonprofit group called Lawrence OnBoard wants to create a system that would connect hitchhikers and friendly motorists in the city. The Lawrence Journal-World reports that the City Commission on Tuesday night directed staff members to look into changing a law that bars people from standing beside city streets for the purpose of soliciting a ride. Lawrence OnBoard founder Jenny O'Brien says she envisions giving hitchhikers whiteboards with the group's logo. A hitchhiker would write a destination on the board, pick a safe place to stand along a street and wait for a motorist enrolled in the system to offer a ride.


4 Arrested in Kansas Check Fraud Case

ANTHONY, Kan. (AP) — Police in south-central Kansas say four people have been arrested in Alabama in connection with a $63,000 Kansas check fraud case. KWCH-TV reports that Mobile police stopped a car with Texas plates on Tuesday. Officers reported smelling marijuana and finding several checks that were passed earlier this month at a Kanza Bank branch in Anthony, Kansas. A Virginia man and three Florida women were arrested. The Kansas investigation began with reports of more than $13,000 in stolen checks being cashed at the Anthony bank. Police also learned that nearly $50,000 worth of stolen checks were passed at Kanza branches in Kingman and Wichita. Police say one of the Florida women was seen on surveillance video cashing checks in Anthony, where several purses had been stolen from cars.


KDOT to Close Rest Areas Near Russell

RUSSELL, Kan. (AP) — The Kansas Department of Transportation has announced plans to close two highway rest areas near Russell to reduce water consumption. KDOT says it wants to hear from the public on the plan before it closes the eastbound and westbound rest areas east on Interstate 70 of Russell. The Hays Daily News reports that the preliminary decision to close the rest area comes after a suggestion by the city of Russell for all water users to cut water use by a fourth. Joe Finley, KDOT district maintenance engineer, says water use at the two sites has increased from nearly 800,000 gallons in 2011 to an estimated 1.6 million gallons this year. The cost of water has increased from more than $5,000 to more than $9,000 this year.

KU Grant Will Fund American Indian Speech Program

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — The University of Kansas is using a $1.2 million federal grant to train speech-language pathologists to work with American Indian children. The university announced receipt of the five-year grant from the U.S. Department of Education on Tuesday. The Lawrence Journal-World reports that the money will help pay for the Culturally Responsive Early Literacy Instruction program. Assistant professor Matthew Gillispie says clinicians will be trained on the benefits of using culturally relevant materials in treating young children with some form of speech-language impairment. Graduate students participating in the program also will get assistance with tuition, books, supplies and mentoring.

Effort to Put KCI Changes to Public Vote Needs More Signatures

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — A group that is trying to force a public vote on proposed changes to Kansas City International Airport has not yet collected enough signatures to get the question on the April ballot. The group, Friends of KCI, turned in petitions to the city clerk last week. City spokesman Dan Coffey said Tuesday the petitions had 2,990 valid signatures, short of the 3,573 signatures needed. The Kansas City Star reports the group has 10 days to collect 583 more valid signatures. Friends of KCI wants to prohibit Kansas City from demolishing or replacing any passenger terminal at KCI without voter approval. A citizens advisory group is studying the best options for the airport, including renovating the existing three terminals or building a new single terminal.

Canadian Man Back in Jail in KS Identity Theft Case

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A federal judge in Kansas has revoked the bond of a Canadian man charged with stealing the identity of his infant brother who died decades ago. U.S. District Judge J. Thomas Marten ordered federal marshals to take Winfield resident Leslie Camick back into custody. The court notation filed Tuesday comes a day after a hearing on the government's request. Prosecutors contend Camick broke the law while on release by filing a groundless federal lawsuit to retaliate against government witnesses against him. The government says he also violated the terms of his release by driving while intoxicated. Prosecutors say he has been banned for life from driving in Canada and has an outstanding arrest warrant from that country. A revised indictment accuses him of obstruction of justice, aggravated identity theft and other charges.

Vehicle Donated to KS Veteran Has Been Stolen

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A Kansas Army National Guard member who is raising four sons alone says someone stole the vehicle an organization donated to help him. Benjamin Lewis of Wichita says the SUV was taken from his home Sunday night or Monday morning. Making the situation worse — his children's Christmas presents were hidden in the vehicle. Lewis works for the Wichita school district while raising four boys under the age of 7 and serving in the Guard. The organization Cars 4 Heroes gave him a black and gold 1989 Suburban in September. KAKE-TV reports that Lewis has insurance so he eventually could get another vehicle. But he says he'd like to get the SUV back because it meant a lot to him to receive it for serving his country.

Kansas Anchor Fired After On-Air Expletive

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — An anchorman for NBC's Wichita affiliate has been fired after accidentally uttering an expletive at the end of a newscast. The Wichita Eagle reports KSNW weekend anchor Justin Kraemer muttered, "Let's get the (expletive) out of here," after Saturday's 10 pm newscast. The cameras had already cut away from the anchors, who had signed off, and the end-of-broadcast music had played — but viewers heard the comment. Kraemer says he was let go Monday and that he completely understood the station's decision. A YouTube clip posted by a viewer minutes after the broadcast has had more than 1 million viewers. Kraemer says he's "embarrassed" and that the slip-up followed "a very long day." Although he declined to offer details, Kraemer says he's lined up his next job.

ABC Asks Judge to Throw Out 'Pink Slime' Lawsuit

ELK POINT, S.D. (AP) — A lawyer for ABC is asking a judge to throw out a defamation suit over its coverage of a meat product called lean, finely textured beef. Beef Products Inc. in South Dakota sued ABC and ABC News Incorporated last year over the network's reports about the product critics have dubbed "pink slime." The Dakota Dunes-based meat processor claims the network damaged the company by misleading consumers into believing the product is unhealthy and unsafe. BPI is seeking $1.2 billion in damages. Judge Cheryle Gering says she'll issue a written ruling later. ABC attorney Kevin Baine says the network in each of its broadcasts stated that the Food and Drug Administration deemed the product safe to eat. But BPI attorney Eric Connolly says said those statements were coupled with negative context.

'Person of Interest' Located in Oklahoma Slaying

ENID, Okla. (AP) — Enid police say a "person of interest" is in custody in Kansas in the apparent shooting death of an Enid man who was found inside a home in the Oklahoma city. Captain Jack Morris says the body of 43-year-old David Richard Wimmer was found Tuesday by officers responding to a report of a man found lying in a pool of blood. Morris says it appears Wimmer had a gunshot wound to the chest and the body is being sent to the state medical examiner's office in Oklahoma City for an autopsy. Morris says the person of interest was found in Anthony, Kansas and was arrested on drug and weapons charges while Enid police complete their report and forward it to the Garfield County District Attorney's Office for review.

Kansas Student Uses Robot to Attend School

HAVEN, Kan. (AP) — A Kansas teenager who is recovering in Denver after being paralyzed in a farm accident was able to wander through the halls of his high school with the help of a special robot. Sixteen-year-old Kolton Kincaid used a Segway-type robot that he was controlling from Denver Tuesday to visit with friends and teachers. His classmates could see him and talk to him through the robot's iPad. Kolton used a robot that belongs to the Educational Services and Staff Development Association of Central Kansas, based in Hutchinson, to make the surprise visit. Kolton was paralyzed from the waist down in the accident in November near Langdon. The Hutchinson News reports that his dad, Kory Kincaid, says Kolton is improving and plans to return home in January.


Hearing Pushed Back for Chiefs WR Dwayne Bowe

RIVERSIDE, Mo. (AP) — A municipal court hearing for Kansas City Chiefs wide receiver Dwayne Bowe on speeding and marijuana possession citations has been rescheduled. Bowe's lawyer, Kevin E.J. Regan, said through legal assistant Jennifer Purvis that the hearing has been moved from Wednesday to January 22. Purvis says the office doesn't plan to comment further. Police in the Kansas City suburb of Riverside said Bowe was driving about 48 mph in a 35 mph zone when he was stopped November 10. Police said an officer smelled "a strong odor of marijuana from inside of the vehicle" and found two containers holding what the officer suspected was marijuana. Bowe previously apologized in a statement "for the distraction." Chiefs coach Andy Reid has said he intends to let the legal situation run its course.




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