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Regional Headlines for Wednesday, June 27, 2012


Extremely hot weather has prompted the National Weather Service to issue several important weather advisories for the Kansas Public Radio listening area.

An excessive heat warning is now in effect for Anderson, Brown, Clay, Cloud, Coffey, Dickinson, Douglas, Geary, Jackson, Jefferson, Lyon, Morris, Nemaha, Osage, Ottawa, Pottawatomie, Riley, Shawnee and Wabaunsee counties in Kansas. This warning will be in effect until 8 pm Friday. 

An excessive heat warning has also been issued for Johnson, Leavenworth, Linn, Miami and Wyandotte counties in Kansas and Bates, Cass, Clay, Jackson and Platte counties in Missouri. It will remain in effect until 8 pm Saturday. 

A red flag warning is in effect until 9 pm for Clay, Cloud, Dickinson and Ottawa counties in Kansas. Low relative humidity, very dry fuel and gusty winds could make any fire very difficult to control.


State of Kansas Awards Medicaid Contracts to 3 Companies

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas has awarded contracts to manage its Medicaid program to subsidiaries of three out-of-state health insurance companies. The contracts announced Wednesday by Governor Sam Brownback's administration are key to the conservative Republican's efforts to overhaul the $2.9 billion-a-year program that provides health coverage to the poor, disabled and elderly. The contracts were awarded to Amerigroup Kansas Inc., United Healthcare of the Midwest Inc., and Sunflower State Health Plan. They take effect in January. Sunflower is a subsidiary of St. Louis-based Centene Corporation. Amerigroup's corporate parent is based in Virginia and United Healthcare's headquarters is in Minnesota. Brownback's administration has said moving all Medicaid participants into managed care will improve services while cutting costs. It now projects cost savings of more than $1 billion over five years.

Heat Prompts Kansas Health Warning about Ozone

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas health officials are warning people in the state's three biggest urban areas that summer heat could lead to high ozone levels. The state Department of Health and Environment issued the warning Tuesday, a day after high ozone levels were detected in the Kansas City, Topeka and Wichita areas. KDHE officials said excessive heat can help generate ozone. The agency says unhealthy levels of ozone can cause coughing, throat irritation, chest pain and shortness of breath. Other concerns include aggravation of asthma and an increased likelihood of respiratory infection. KDHE recommends limiting outdoor exercise, other strenuous activity and children's activities during the afternoon and evening. Officials are also urging the public to drive as little as possible.

Kansas AG Responds on Legal Costs in Remapping Lawsuit

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The Kansas attorney general is asking three federal judges to decide which parties in a lawsuit over political redistricting are entitled to have their legal costs covered by the state. Attorney General Derek Schmidt's office filed a response Tuesday to requests from 20 individuals to have the state cover more than $700,000 in legal expenses. They were among 27 plaintiffs in the lawsuit, which they believe they won. The lawsuit stemmed from the Legislature's failure to redraw political boundaries to account for population changes over the past decade. The judges imposed new lines earlier this month. Schmidt's office argued that it's not clear who prevailed because the judges drew their own maps. His office said the uncertainty makes it difficult to discuss whether the plaintiffs' legal bills are reasonable.

Kansas Family Planning Clinics Seek Injunction to Stop Funding Cutoff

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas family planning clinics have asked a federal judge to issue another injunction to prohibit the state from cutting off their funding. Dodge City Family Planning Clinic filed the request Tuesday, just days after Planned Parenthood of Kansas and Mid-Missouri filed a similar motion. Planned Parenthood operates clinics in Wichita and Hays. The dispute concerns a Kansas law requiring the state to first allocate some federal family planning money to public health departments and hospitals, which leaves no funds for specialty clinics. Last year, U.S. District Judge J. Thomas Marten ordered the state of Kansas to keep funding the clinics pending the litigation's resolution. The moves come as the parties expedite the dispute so the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has both the 2011 and 2012 statutes before it when it rules.

KDOT Gets 2 New Top Managers

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The Kansas Department of Transportation has restructured its top management and hired two high-ranking administrators from other state agencies. Secretary Mike King says Kent Olson is KDOT's new director of fiscal and asset management. Wade Wiebe will oversee dealings with groups inside and outside of state government as director of partner relations. Olson is filling an existing position that was vacant, but KDOT is adding some duties. He's a former inspector general at the state Department of Administration. KDOT created Wiebe's job by adding responsibilities to a deputy secretary's position that had been vacant. Wiebe formerly was a program manager at the state Department of Commerce.

Forbes Field Airport in Topeka Given New Name

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Forbes Field Airport in Topeka has a new name. The airport and its adjoining industrial park officially were renamed Tuesday as the Topeka Regional Airport & Business Center. The airport's unofficial name will be Topeka Regional. The Metropolitan Topeka Airport Authority board approved the name change in an effort to bring more recognition to the airport. Board chairman Rich Davis says no one outside of Shawnee County knows where Forbes Field is located. The airfield at the airport will continue to be called Forbes Field. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports Forbes Field was named in 1949 for Major Daniel Forbes, a Topeka pilot who died in 1948 while testing a prototype jet bomber.


Clint Bowyer Celebrates Win with Blake Shelton Concert 

Clint Bowyer doesn't need a reason to throw a party, and he already had one planned even before he won the Sonoma, California NASCAR race. Bowyer celebrated the opening of the Bowyer Community Building in his hometown of Emporia on Tuesday night with a concert by good friend Blake Shelton. The building is located at the Lyon County fairgrounds and was built with funds raised through Bowyer's "79 Fund" charity. The event was scheduled before he picked up his first win of the season Sunday. It was Bowyer's first win on a road course, and first since joining Michael Waltrip Racing. Bowyer says it was the perfect party to cap what he considers "the biggest week we've ever had."


UPDATE: Wildfires in NW Kansas Reportedly Extinguished

OBERLIN, Kan. (AP) — State emergency officials say crews have succeeded in extinguishing wildfires that burned hundreds of acres in northwest Kansas, which has been sweltering under triple-digit temperatures and dry conditions. Fire departments from neighboring Colorado and Nebraska were called in Tuesday to help fight at least two wildfires outside Oberlin, located in far northwest Kansas along the Nebraska border. Temperatures in the area were forecast to be 113 on Wednesday and stay that way through the rest of the week. No major damage or injuries were reported from the fires. Kansas Division of Emergency Management spokeswoman Sharon Watson said Wednesday afternoon that Decatur County reports the fires that burned about 5,000 acres Tuesday have been extinguished. No homes were destroyed.

K-State Assistant Professor Alleges Discrimination

MANHATTAN, Kan. (AP) — A part-time assistant professor at Kansas State University says in a lawsuit that she was denied a full-time position because she's a Muslim and a woman. In a federal lawsuit filed earlier this month, Sabreen Gad is seeking more than $100,000 in damages. The Manhattan Mercury reports that Gad had a part-time teaching position in the university's geology department in 2010. Her husband is a tenure-track professor in the same department. Gad alleges supervisors refused to consider her for full-time work. She claims she was treated differently because she is a woman and a Muslim. Kansas State has not yet filed a response to the lawsuit.


KU Anxiously Awaiting Word on Cancer Center Designation

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — University of Kansas officials say a decision on whether the university's cancer center will receive a coveted national designation is only weeks away. The board that considers applications to become a National Cancer Institute met in closed session Monday. Roy Jensen, director of the cancer center, said he was told by officials in Washington that the board's decision could come in two to four weeks. The Lawrence Journal-World reports the university worked nearly seven years and invested more than $350 million in seeking the NCI designation. Kansas officials say being named a National Cancer Institute would bring more federal research dollars and high-paying jobs to the cancer center. It also would allow cancer patients access to clinical trials open only to patients at NCI-designated centers.

Kansas Couple Indicted on Health Care Fraud

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — A federal grand jury has indicted the owners of a Kansas City medical clinic on charges of health care fraud and filing false tax returns. The U.S. Attorney's office in Kansas City says 75-year-old Carol Ann Ryser and 67-year-old Michael Earl Ryser, both of Mission Hills, have been charged in an indictment returned Tuesday. The Rysers are charged with one count each of health care fraud and three counts of filing false tax returns. The Rysers are married and co-own Health Centers of America-Kansas City. Prosecutors accuse the Rysers of fraudulent billing and falsifying insurance claims. Online court records don't list a lawyer for the Rysers, and messages left at the clinic weren't immediately returned Wednesday.


KU Plant Research Program Losing Funding

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — A University of Kansas plant research program is losing funding from an organization backed by the Kansas Bioscience Authority. The university's Native Medicinal Plant Research Program had received $5 million over five years from Heartland Plant Innovations, one of the KBA's centers of innovation. Barbara Timmermann, a chemistry professor who leads the plant research program, said the HPI funding will end after June, after only about half of the original funding commitment had been awarded. Timmermann said she wasn't given a reason for the cuts. HPI officials said they had to make cuts because they've received fewer funds from the KBA recently. The Lawrence Journal-World reports that the program's research focuses on using native Kansas plants to find new molecules with potential to fight diseases, including cancer.

Judge Refuses to Toss Military School Lawsuit

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A federal judge has denied a motion by a Kansas military school to dismiss a lawsuit by families of former cadets alleging physical abuse. St. John's Military School in Salina argued that an enrollment contract signed by cadets' parents requires claims against the academy to be submitted to arbitration. U.S. District Judge John Lungstrum on Tuesday rejected that argument. Lungstrum said the arbitration clause agreed to by the parents does not apply to claims from the students. Former cadets allege that St. John's encouraged higher-ranking students to discipline younger ones, leading to abuse. The school denies the allegations. Lungstrum also rejected the school's request to move the trial from Kansas City, Kansas to Topeka. But he did strike photos depicting alleged abuse from the plaintiffs' complaint, citing procedural rules.


Ex-KCK Police Officer Sentenced for Stealing Electronics 

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) — A former northeastern Kansas police officer is going to prison for stealing electronics from homes where he and his team were serving search warrants. The U.S. Attorney's office says 32-year-old Darrell Forrest was sentenced Wednesday to a year and a day behind bars, followed by a year of supervised release. Forrest was part of a special unit of the Kansas City, Kansas Police Department that served search warrants. Two other members of the unit will be sentenced next month, also for stealing from homes. Forrest pleaded guilty earlier, admitting he stole a digital camcorder from a home in July 2010. He also admitted stealing cash, an iPod Touch and other electronics that police and the FBI had placed in a home as part of a sting operation.

K-State University at Salina Receives $60K EPA Grant

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) — The Environmental Protection Agency has awarded Kansas State University $60,000 to help ease pollution in the Old Smoky River channel. The EPA announced the Urban Waters grant to Kansas State's Salina campus on Tuesday. Forty-six organizations nationwide received Urban Waters grants, which are intended to fund research and training to help restore urban waterways. The KSU-Salina grant will be used for developing a program to teach the public about ways to reduce pollutants in the Old Smoky River channel. The EPA says the program will include workshops on such topics as water quality sampling, storm water runoff and stream bank stabilization.


Judge Says US Wrongly Held Idaho Man in Terrorism-Related Case

BOISE, Idaho (AP) — A federal magistrate says the United States falsely imprisoned a former Idaho man under a law designed to ensure that key witnesses show up for trial, and a jury should decide if the government has misused that law in the wake of the 9/11 terrorist attacks. The ruling from U.S. Magistrate Mikel Williams in Boise still must be signed by U.S. District Judge Edward Lodge before it may go into effect, and it's possible that attorneys with the Department of Justice will appeal, ask Lodge not to sign or simply reach a settlement with Abdullah al-Kidd. The Wichita, Kansas resident and former University of Idaho football star sued the government in 2003 after he was arrested and held as a material witness in a terrorism-related criminal case against another man.

Judge Dismisses Much of ex-Kansas Detective's Complaint 

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A federal judge has dismissed much of a lawsuit by a former Kansas City, Kansas police detective alleging authorities retaliated against him for refusing to conceal a motorist's beating by federal agents. Max Seifert sued last year. Seifert alleges he was forced to retire in 2005 in retaliation for investigating Drug Enforcement Administration agents involved in a 2003 "road rage" incident that left a man with permanent brain damage. He sued the sheriff, undersheriff and Unified Government of Wyandotte County, which covers the county and Kansas City, Kansas. U.S. District Judge J. Thomas Marten on Tuesday granted a defense request to dismiss any claims for damages occurring before June 2009. Marten said constitutional claims brought in Kansas are subject to the state's two-year statute of limitations.

North Dakota Agriculture Commissioner to Head Regional Group 

BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) — North Dakota Agriculture Commissioner Doug Goehring will lead a regional group of his peers. Goehring this week was elected president of the Midwest Association of State Departments of Agriculture during the group's annual meeting in Indianapolis. He succeeds Joe Kelsay, his counterpart in Indiana. Goehring says he looks forward to leading a discussion on policy issues that affect Midwestern farmers and ranchers, including an increasing need for farm labor. States that belong to the association are both Dakotas, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, Ohio and Wisconsin. Next year's annual meeting will be in the southwest North Dakota tourist town of Medora.


Crews Work in Fields as Wildfires Hit NW Kansas

OBERLIN, Kan. (AP) — Fire crews have been battling wildfires in northwest Kansas, which has also been hit with triple-digit temperatures. KSNW-TV reports that fire departments from neighboring Colorado and Nebraska were called in to help fight at least two wildfires outside Oberlin, which is located in far northwest Kansas along the Nebraska border. One of the fires started Tuesday when flames from an overheated car spread to a nearby field. Decatur County Emergency Management said on its Facebook page that the city of Oberlin was not in danger and no homes were lost in the fires. Several farms lost outbuildings, however, and at least four people were treated at a hospital. Temperatures in the area were above 100 Tuesday and were forecast to hit 113 Wednesday.

**this story has been updated. Please see above. 

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