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Regional Headlines for Wednesday, June 19, 2013








UPDATE: Kansas Board of Regents Approves Tuition Hikes

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The Kansas Board of Regents has approved tuition increases at public universities that will have some students paying nearly 9 percent more this fall. The increases approved Wednesday by the board are expected to raise an additional $34 million during the fiscal year beginning in July. The universities want to boost faculty salaries and pursue other initiatives, but the increases in tuition also would partially offset cuts in state funding enacted by legislators. Out-of-state graduate students at Pittsburg State University would see the biggest increase at 8.8 percent. The smallest increase, 3 percent, would be for out-of-state veterinary medical students at Kansas State University. For undergraduates from Kansas, tuition would rise 7 percent at Kansas State and almost 5 percent at the University of Kansas.


U.S. House Votes to Cut Food Stamps 

WASHINGTON (AP) — The U. S. House of Representatives has voted to cut food stamps by $2 billion a year. The chamber rejected 234-188 a Democratic amendment to a wide-ranging farm bill that would have maintained current spending on food stamps and cut farm subsidies instead. The bill cuts the $80 billion-a-year program by about 3 percent and makes it harder for some people to qualify. The Senate passed a farm bill last week that would make much smaller cuts to the food stamp program, which has doubled in cost since 2008. The House is debating 103 amendments to the five-year, half-trillion dollar bill as backers are trying to shore up votes for final passage. Democrats are opposing it because of the food stamp cuts, while some conservatives say the cuts aren't deep enough.


KS Congressman Tries to Reassure Constituents on Cyberspying

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas congressman Mike Pompeo is trying to quell fears back home about government electronic surveillance.Pompeo is the newest Republican member of the U.S. House Intelligence Committee, which held a rare, open hearing Tuesday amid debate over national security and personal privacy. In a phone interview Wednesday, Pompeo said conservatives have a long tradition of understanding the federal government's primary mission to be ensuring the nation's ability to defend itself. He wants to make sure the country does not lose the capability to do that. He says the programs exposed by a contractor for the National Security Agency have adequate oversight. Pompeo says the Intelligence Committee is working to declassify as much as possible to show the programs are saving lives.

Armed Employees Could Mean Losing Insurance in Kansas School Districts

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The company that insures most of Kansas' s school districts says it won't provide coverage for districts that allow armed employees. EMC Insurance Companies has told its agents around the state not to offer policies to school districts that allow concealed weapons under a law that takes effect July 1. EMC will not renew policies for districts it already insures if they allow concealed weapons. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that EMC insures about 90 percent of the state's 286 school districts. EMC official Bernie Zalaznik says the company believes the decision is in its best financial interest because of the potential liabilities. The new law lets school boards designate employees who can bring guns to school. Currently, only law enforcement officers can carry guns on school property.


UPDATE: Missing Kansas Couple Found

GARNETT, Kan. (AP) — An elderly Kansas couple that had not been seen since Monday has been found safe in Michigan. Garnett police say 92-year-old Vernon Hunt and 81-year-old Goldie Hunt of Garnett left their home Monday for a trip to Dwight, Illinois, but did not show up as scheduled that evening. Police say the couple was found Wednesday after stopping in Milo, Michigan to ask for directions. Milo is in northern Michigan, and is located more than 400 miles from Dwight.


Elderly Friends Killed in Kansas Crash

MANHATTAN, Kan. (AP) — Acquaintances of two elderly men who died in a traffic accident in northeastern Kansas say it happened as the friends were driving home from a daily visit to Tuttle Creek. The Kansas Highway Patrol says the crash late Tuesday afternoon killed 90-year-old Fred Danenberg and his 85-year-old passenger, Michael Myers. Investigators said Danenberg pulled out from a stop sign on U.S. 24 in Riley County into the path of a tractor-trailer, whose driver was unhurt. The Manhattan Mercury reports that Danenberg was the retired owner of a jewelry store in the city. Myers was a former auto dealer and farmer in the Marysville area. The two retirees had made a daily habit for years of driving to Tuttle Creek to watch people fish, swim or camp at the reservoir.


Shawnee County DA Files Complaint Against KCC Board

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Shawnee County District Attorney Chad Taylor has filed a complaint against members of the Kansas Corporation Commission over alleged violations of the state's open meetings act. WIBW Radio reports that Taylor filed the complaint Wednesday in Shawnee County District Court. It seeks an injunction against the KCC and its individual members over approval of a rate increase for a Salina water district. Attorneys for the Citizens Utility Ratepayer Board argue that the KCC approved the rate increase improperly and asked Taylor and Attorney General Derek Schmidt to investigate. CURB argues the KCC members approved the rate increase by a process called "pink sheeting," in which members individually approve the request without holding a public hearing. KCC attorneys argue the process is legal when commissioners are unable to meet together.


Wheat Harvest Activity Accelerates in Parts of Kansas

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — The winter wheat harvest is spreading across parts of south-central Kansas. The industry trade group Kansas Wheat said Wednesday in its first harvest report of the season that test cutting is now underway as far north as McPherson County and as far west as Clark County. The OK Co-op elevator in Kiowa has taken in about 350,000 bushels of wheat, with test weights averaging about 59 pounds per bushel. A few isolated fields were harvested last week near Kiowa, and some farmers in Sumner County on the Oklahoma border began cutting Tuesday after fields dried out from recent rains. Anthony Farmer's Co-op is reporting test weights there averaging about 60 pounds per bushel. The elevator in Anthony had taken in 305,000 bushels by Wednesday morning.


Father Gets Prison for Binding Kids Outside Lawrence Wal-Mart

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — A suburban Chicago man has been sentenced to 30 months in prison for binding and blindfolding two of his children in a Wal-Mart parking lot in Lawrence. A spokeswoman for the Douglas County district attorney's office says 53-year-old Adolfo Gomez also was ordered during Wednesday's sentencing hearing to serve 24 months of post-release supervision after his prison term ends. Gomez and his wife, Deborah Gomez, of Northlake, Illinois were arrested June 13, 2012, in Lawrence. Police reported finding two of their children, ages 5 and 7, bound by their hands and feet in the store parking lot. Adolfo Gomez pleaded no contest to felony child abuse and child endangerment. Deborah Gomez was sentenced earlier to one year of probation after pleading no contest to child endangerment.


Kansas Man Accused of Taking Ax to Girlfriend's Home

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Wichita police are looking for a 31-year-old man accused of attacking his girlfriend's car and belongings with an ax. The 33-year-old woman told police the man was intoxicated when he showed up at her home around 3:30 am Wednesday. KSNW-TV reports that the two began arguing, and the woman ran to her car and called 911. Police say that's when the picked up an ax and started pounding the woman's car and another vehicle nearby. The woman says he then went inside her home and wielded the ax on her belongings, destroying an estimated $7,000 worth of property.

Delay in Final Report on KC Plaza Explosion

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — The Missouri Public Service Commission says it needs more time before it issues a final report on a fatal explosion at a Kansas City restaurant. The commission's attorney, Robert Berlin, said Tuesday investigators have interviewed more than 60 people and conducted several tests. But he says some test results aren't back and more investigation is needed. The February explosion and fire destroyed JJ's restaurant on the Kansas City Country Club Plaza, killing one person and injuring 15. The commission was scheduled to issue the report June 27. The Kansas City Star reports that an update on the case's status will be issued July 26. A deadline for the final report has not been set. The commission is investigating whether Missouri Gas Energy was complying with state regulations at the time of the explosion.


EPA Levies $2.5M Penalty Against US Cement Maker

BOISE, Idaho (AP) — The Environmental Protection Agency levied a $2.5 million penalty against a big cement maker and required the company to invest $30 million in pollution controls at plants that are alleged to have violated the federal Clean Air Act in Kansas and eight other states. Ash Grove Cement Company's penalty was announced Wednesday by the EPA and U.S. Department of Justice, part of a deal in which the Kansas-based company also will spend $750,000 to mitigate effects of past excess emissions. The EPA said this will reduce more than 17,000 tons of harmful pollutants at plants in Kansas, Arkansas, Idaho, Montana, Nebraska, Oregon, Utah, Washington and Texas.  Ash Grove disputes it violated federal pollution laws, but says it agreed to the deal as costs rose. The EPA says the pact will reduce pollution that can hurt human health and cause acid rain.

Bids Sought for Resort at Clinton Lake

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — Kansas officials are seeking bids from developers interested in building a resort at Clinton Lake near Lawrence. A consultant prepared a study for the Kansas Department of Commerce for a 175-room resort that would include a conference center and other amenities. The study did not specify a site but suggested a location near an existing marina on the northeast side of the lake, which is operated by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. The Commerce Department is accepting bids through July 17. The study noted that a sports complex being built by the University of Kansas and the city of Lawrence could bring more visitors to the area.

Hutchinson to Become 'Smallville' on Friday

HUTCHINSON, Kan. (AP) — Clark Kent would be right at home in Hutchinson on Friday. Hutchinson Mayor Bob Bush signed a proclamation Tuesday renaming the central Kansas city "Smallville" for one day. That's the fictional town where Superman's alter-ego grew up. Friday is also the day that Clark Kent will be inducted into the Kansas Hall of Fame. Superman's hometown has often been depicted as being somewhere in Kansas, although a specific city was not named. Other Superman fans claim he was born in different states. The Hutchinson News reports that three residents worked for more than a year to persuade Hutchinson officials to change the name. Christopher Wietrick, Ben Eisiminger and Casey McNeely say they are already planning a bigger celebration for next year.

Junction City Police Seize $828K from Driver

JUNCTION CITY, Kan. (AP) — A 78-year-old Arizona man is being held in northeast Kansas after police reported finding $828,000 in cash in his pickup truck. Junction City Police Chief Tim Brown says a K-9 unit stopped the westbound truck for a traffic violation around 9:30 am Tuesday on Interstate 70. Brown says a search turned up some boxes containing the cash in the bed of the pickup. Police seized the money and the truck, which had Colorado tags. The Tucson man was booked into the Geary County jail on suspicion of speeding and transporting drug proceeds.

Kansas Merchant Admits Selling Counterfeit Goods

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) — A man accused of selling counterfeit shoes and clothing at a store in northeast Kansas has pleaded guilty in federal court. The U.S. Attorney's office says 45-year-old Jehad Shalabi pleaded guilty Tuesday to conspiracy to traffic in counterfeit trademark goods. Shalabi, of Blue Springs, Missouri, operated a store called Joe Black in Kansas City, Kansas. FBI agents reported making undercover purchases in 2011 of phony Nike shoes, a fake Polo Ralph Lauren shirt and other items. Agents later seized nearly 600 counterfeit items with such trademarks as Major League Baseball, Ed Hardy, Rocawear and Coogi. Prosecutors said the counterfeit goods account for roughly 20 percent of the store's weekly sales of up to $6,000. Shalabi is scheduled to be sentenced in October.

Lawsuit Filed in Fatal Party Bus Accident

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) — The family of a Kansas woman who fell to her death from a party bus is suing the operators of the bus. The family of 26-year-old Jamie Frecks filed the wrongful death lawsuit Tuesday against Midnight Express, the company's three operators and the driver of the bus. The lawsuit was filed on behalf of Frecks's infant daughter. A second suit was filed on behalf of Frecks's estate. Frecks fell from the bus when doors suddenly opened. She was hit by at least three vehicles on May 4 on Interstate 35 in Kansas City, Kansas. The Kansas City Star reports that an attorney for the bus operators said they would have no comment on the lawsuits.

Kansas Man Stabs Friend with Sword

OVERLAND PARK, Kan. (AP) — Overland Park police say a man is hospitalized after a friend allegedly stabbed him with a sword. Police spokesman Gary Mason says the victim, a man in his mid-30s, was hospitalized with life-threatening injuries after being stabbed early Wednesday in Overland Park. Mason says the two friends were messing around when it got out of hand and they started wrestling. He says the suspect, a 26-year-old Overland Park man, got upset, grabbed a sword and stabbed his friend. The Kansas City Star reports that the suspect is being held in Johnson County jail on suspicion of aggravated battery that caused great bodily harm.

Ellis County Bans Fireworks

HAYS, Kan. (AP) — A northwest Kansas county has banned the sale and discharge of fireworks in rural areas during the Fourth of July holiday. The Hays Daily News reports that this week, the Ellis County commission  rescinded an earlier resolution to allow the sale of fireworks in rural areas. The Ellis County cities of Hays, Ellis, Schoenchen and Victoria have also banned the sale and use of fireworks over the holiday because of dry conditions.


Design for Eisenhower Memorial in DC Approved by Commission

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Eisenhower Memorial Commission has unanimously approved architect Frank Gehry's design for a monument honoring the 34th president near the National Mall in Washington. The commission's vote Wednesday allows the $142 million project to move forward after a year of objections to the design. Designers must next seek approvals from two panels that oversee public art and architecture in the nation's capital. Gehry presented changes he made to the design after listening to objections from the Eisenhower family. He added additional images of Ike as president and World War II hero. Kansas Senator Pat Roberts, a member of the memorial commission, says he is sorry they could not resolve differences with Eisenhower's family. But he says the project must move forward after more than 12 years of work.


Missouri Man Sentenced for Hacking University Computer

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — A former student at the University of Central Missouri will spend three years in federal prison for taking part in a conspiracy to hack into the school's computer network. The U.S. Attorney's office says 29-year-old Joseph A. Camp, of Kansas City, must also pay more than $61,000 in restitution under the sentence he received Wednesday. Camp pleaded guilty in April to scheming with another student to hack the computer system at the Warrensburg school from March 2009 to March 2010. The conspiracy involved downloading large amounts of data containing faculty, alumni and student information. Prosecutors said Camp and co-defendant Daniel Fowler also attempted to change grades and transferred money to their student accounts. Fowler, also of Kansas City, pleaded guilty in June 2011 and is awaiting sentencing.


Vatterott College Told to Pay Woman $13 Million

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — A Missouri woman has won a $13 million judgment against Vatterott College in a lawsuit over advice she was given during enrollment at the school. Jennifer Kerr of Belton alleged that she was misled when she enrolled in the school's medical assistant's degree program in 2009. She says after being at the school for 60 weeks she was told she was enrolled in a different program and would have to spend another $10,000 and more time to achieve her goal. A Jackson County (Missouri) jury on Friday found Missouri-based Vatterott Educational Centers Incorporated had violated the Missouri Merchandising Practices Act. The Kansas City Star reports that the decision is certain to be appealed, and the punitive amount the jury awarded far exceeds the maximum allowed under state law.

Missouri Couple Admits to $2.8M Embezzlement

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Authorities say two people who have pleaded guilty to a $2.8 million embezzlement and check-kiting scheme were heavy gamblers. The U.S. Attorney's office says 54-year-old Laura Dejong and 55-year-old Craig Dejong, of Liberty, both pleaded guilty Tuesday to filing a false tax return. Laura Dejong also pleaded guilty to mail fraud. The wife admitted embezzling the money from January 2003 to November 2011 from Kansas City Screw Products Inc., where she worked as a secretary and bookkeeper for 23 years. Prosecutors said the Dejongs engaged in millions of dollars of gambling, mostly at slot machines. They also spent more than $100,000 on vacations and cruises. The couple agreed to forfeit their Liberty home and everything they bought with stolen money, including vehicles, a boat and sports tickets.



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