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Regional Headlines for Wednesday, November 21, 2012



Changes to Kansas Motor Vehicle System Delayed

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A state agency has put fixing problems with its motor vehicle system on hold, as a software vendor implements new changes in the Kansas law. The laws that go into effect January 1 will change truck and permit fees and allow county treasurers to sell permits to access state parks. The software used by the state is provided by Minnesota-based 3M Company. Department of Revenue spokeswoman Jeannine Koranda told the Topeka Capital-Journal that changes are made every year to adjust for new laws passed by legislators. The state's motor vehicle system has been plagued with problems as it changed to a new 3M system, which resulted in long lines and delays as residents tried to register their vehicles. The company has been working with the state to resolve the issues.


US Drought Worsens After Weeks of Improvement 

ST. LOUIS (AP) — A new report shows that the nation's worst drought in decades is getting worse again, ending an encouraging five-week run of improving conditions. The weekly U.S. Drought Monitor report shows that 60.1 percent of the continental U.S. was in some form of drought as of Tuesday. That's up from 58.8 percent the previous week. The portion of the lower 48 states in extreme or exceptional drought — the two worst classifications — also rose, to 19.04 percent from last week's 18.3 percent. The stubbornly dry conditions intensified in Kansas, the top U.S. producer of winter wheat. The latest update shows that while 77.5 percent of that state remains in extreme or exceptional drought, the amount of land in the most-dire classification rose nearly 4 percentage points to 34.5 percent.


Topeka-Area Dairy Farm Files for Chapter 12 Bankruptcy

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A Kansas dairy farm says it has filed for Chapter 12 bankruptcy because continued drought and heat reduced the amount of quality feed and increased stress for the operation's 55 cows. Iwig Family Dairy issued a news release Wednesday saying its output was further compromised by higher fuel and energy costs. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that the dairy operates out of Tecumseh, just east of Topeka, and has been run by the Iwig family since 1910. It started dairy production, bottling and retail services in 2005. The dairy will have 90 days to create a reorganization plan to provide for payment to its creditors. The company says it will continue its operations and pay its employees, with its retail locations in Topeka, Tecumseh and Lawrence to remain open.


Cherry Tomatoes Recalled in Kansas and Missouri

NORWALK, Iowa (AP) — A central Iowa fruit and vegetable distributor is recalling several lots of cherry tomatoes after the grower notified the distributor that Salmonella was found in random sample testing by the Food and Drug Administration. Capital City Fruit of Norwalk, Iowa says the recalled cherry tomatoes from Rio Queen Citrus are packaged in one-pint containers as Capital Brand Clamshell Cherry Tomatoes. They were shipped to retail stores from November 14 to November 18 and sold in stores in Kansas, Missouri, Iowa, Illinois, Nebraska, South Dakota, Minnesota and Wisconsin. No illnesses have been reported. Capital City Fruit on Wednesday says it asked retailers to remove the product from their store shelves. Salmonella can cause serious and sometimes fatal infections in young children, frail or elderly people, and others with weakened immune systems.


Judge Set to Rule on Suit in Topeka River Death

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A Shawnee County judge says he plans to issue a decision next week in a lawsuit involving the death of two Topeka men who drowned when their canoe capsized in the Kansas River in 2007. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that District Judge Larry Hendrix said Tuesday he plans issue a memorandum decision in the lawsuit by Jim Bryant against the city of Topeka and state of Kansas. Bryant is the father of 25-year-old Joshua Bryant, who along with 30-year-old Richard Heyroth drowned on August 5, 2007, after their canoe capsized after going over a spillway in Topeka. Two other men on the float trip also fell into the water, but survived. Bryant claims authorities failed to adequately warn boaters of the approaching danger posed by a low-water weir.


Hay Thefts Increase Amid High Prices, Drought in Kansas

EL DORADO, Kan. (AP) — Frustrated farmers in a south-central Kansas county are coping with a rash of hay bale thefts. KAKE-TV reports that Butler County Sheriff Kelly Herzet has ordered his deputies to patrol rural roads, aiming to halt what's become an almost daily crime. Herzet blames the thefts on the severe drought, which has tightened supplies of hay and driven up prices. Butler County farmer Orville Carver says that someone cut the lock to his gate and stole nearly $500 worth of hay. Carver says the economy has something to do with the crime, but it doesn't justify stealing from others. Authorities and some farmers have set up deer cameras, hoping to catch the thieves. Herzet is also encouraging farmers and ranchers to move hay from their fields closer to their homes.


SE Kansas Mayor Resigns Following Turmoil with City Council

BAXTER SPRINGS, Kan. (AP) — A southeast Kansas mayor who has been embroiled in disputes with city council members over personnel moves has abruptly called it quits. The Joplin Globe reports Baxter Springs Mayor Jenifer Bingham resigned on Tuesday. She was replaced by Mike Kaufmann, who was told Tuesday afternoon by the city attorney that he had to go to City Hall and sign payroll checks. Kaufmann says he wasn't expecting to be promoted, but he looks forward to returning stability to city government. Bingham ruffled feathers in April when she named replacements for the city clerk and police chief, both of whom were longtime employees of the city. The City Council rejected the appointments and Bingham put the clerk on paid suspension. The council later took action to restore her to her position.


Judge Upholds Woman's Conviction in Highway Deaths

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — A Douglas County judge has upheld the conviction and sentence of a Washington-state woman who killed two highway workers while driving south of Lawrence in 2007. The Lawrence Journal-World reports that District Judge Paula Martin ruled earlier this month that Ramona Morgan's court-appointed attorney committed some errors, but nothing bad enough to affect the jury's decision. Morgan had argued she received ineffective counsel and that her 26-year sentence was excessive. Witnesses testified at Morgan's 2008 trial that she drove around a pilot car twice in a U.S. 59 work zone on September 11, 2007, and the second time struck and killed two workers. Law enforcement officers had to puncture her pickup truck's tires after a chase to get her to stop. Her earliest possible parole date is 2030.


Kansas Supreme Court Disbars Former Navy Attorney

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The Kansas Supreme Court has disbarred a former Navy lawyer who was convicted during a court martial in 2007 for mailing secret information about Guantanamo Bay detainees. The justices issued a ruling Wednesday rejecting efforts by Matthew Diaz, who was licensed to practice law in Kansas in 1995, to have his license reinstated so he could practice law in New York. The Office of Judicial Administration had recommended that the justices suspend his law license for three years starting in 2008, which would have made him eligible to get it reinstated immediately. Messages left for Diaz and his attorney weren't immediately returned. Diaz is living in New York. He earned his law degree in 1994 from Washburn University in Topeka and was admitted to practice law in Kansas.


Cigarette in Potting Soil Blamed for KC House Fire

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Investigators in Kansas City have traced a fire that left a home in ruins to a cigarette someone put out in a container of potting soil. KCTV reports that the cigarette and the potting soil smoldered for at least four days before igniting last week and setting the house on fire. No one was injured, but the flames quickly spread through the house and the roof. Investigators reported their findings this week. Authorities say it's a good reminder that potting soil is flammable. Tricia Roberts is an education specialist with the fire department in nearby Overland Park, Kan. Roberts says potting soil looks like dirt, but it actually contains a large proportion of organic matter, such as peat moss, that easily catches fire when it dries out.


Kansas Officials Tout Weekend Pheasant Hunt

OAKLEY, Kan. (AP) — Seventy pheasant hunters joined Governor Sam Brownback and other state officials over the weekend for the second annual Governor's Ringneck Classic in northwestern Kansas. The city of Oakley hosted the event, with hunters taking to the fields near surrounding communities. Brownback began the hunt in 2011 as a way to promote tourism and expand the Kansas economy. Among those taking part were state Wildlife, Parks and Tourism Secretary Robin Jennison and former Kansas City Chiefs player Bill Maas. Brownback's office says hunting contributes some $400 million annually to the Kansas economy. Proceeds from the hunt benefited the Northwest Kansas Classic Conservation Foundation, Logan County Health Care Foundation, the Buffalo Bill Cultural Center and the group Pheasants Forever.


3 Kansas Children Endure Bombings in Gaza Strip


WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A divorced Palestinian man accused of illegally moving his three young children from their Kansas home to the Gaza Strip insists they are safe. Ahmed Abuhamda was charged in Kansas with aggravated interference with parental custody after he took his children overseas earlier this year amid a custody dispute with their American mother. He told The Associated Press in an interview that while he believes the family is in no real danger, as a Muslim he has taught his children that everybody has to die one day. Nine-year-old Jannah Abuhamda told AP in a phone call from Gaza that she can hear the barrage of bombings as she plays with her Barbie dolls in her father's home. Such talk only heightens fears for the children's safety from their mother, Bethany Gonzales, in the Kansas City suburb of Overland Park. Their father moved the children to the Middle East in February.


Kansas Man Sentenced to Life in Prison Under Jessica's Law

NESS CITY, Kan. (AP) — A former Ness City man who was convicted in August of raping someone under 14 years old has been sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole for 25 years. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports 37-year-old Benito Cardenas was convicted in Ness County of rape and aggravated sodomy under Jessica's Law. He was sentenced Tuesday to life on each of the two convictions, with the sentences to run concurrently. The crimes happened in Ness City in September 2010. Cardenas was living in Dodge City at the time of his arrest in April 2011. Also Tuesday, prosecutors filed aggravated escape and felony theft charges against Cardenas, who escaped from the Ness County Jail after his conviction and was later apprehended in Trego County.

Man to Face Trial in Girl's Stray-Bullet Death

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A Wichita man accused in the stray-bullet killing of a sleeping 8-year-old girl has been ordered to stand trial. Twenty-four-year-old Zachary Gaston is charged with first-degree murder in the September 4 killing of Kimbra Moore at a mobile home park. KFDI-FM reports a Sedgwick County judge ordered Gaston to go on trial following a preliminary hearing Tuesday. Police have said the gunfire followed an early-morning dispute in a nearby parking lot between a group of four men and a man in a stolen car. Gaston is accused of shooting at the car while chasing it into the mobile home park. A police officer testified Tuesday about noticing a bullet hole in the side of Kimbra's mobile home and going inside to find the little girl dead in her bed.

2 Bins Collapse at NW Kansas Grain Elevator

OAKLEY, Kan. (AP) — No injuries were reported but a lot of corn is on the ground after two grain bins collapsed at a northwest Kansas elevator. The Hays Daily News reports the exterior walls of the two concrete bins at one end of Frontier Ag's elevator annex in Oakley gave way around 2:30 pm Tuesday. Emergency personnel said all employees were accounted for. Frontier Ag grain marketing manager Ben Brandvik says each bin could hold about 25,000 bushels when full. He said the far end of the elevator was not very full when the walls crumbled, although a witness reported seeing a large of amount of spilled corn. Brandvik says insurance adjusters are surveying the damage to determine when it will be safe to start cleanup efforts. The cause of the collapse is under investigation.

Reno County Tightens Aerial Fireworks Restrictions

HUTCHINSON, Kan. (AP) — Reno County officials have approved new restrictions on fireworks that prohibit any fireworks that emit flaming balls or shoot sparks more than 6 feet. The commission on Tuesday also voted to ban aerial luminaries, or sky lanterns, and shortened by one hour the hours fireworks may be sold or discharged. The Hutchinson News reports the new rules are the same as those recently passed by the Hutchinson City Council. County commissioners briefly considered an exception for some rural residents but chose not to after hearing from Hutchinson Fire Chief Kim Forbes. Forbes says the regulations let people get a permit for a "commercial public" fireworks display if it is supervised by someone holding a fireworks operator's license and have $500,000 in liability insurance.

KU's Dole Institute to Host Post-Election Conference

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — The Dole Institute of Politics at the University of Kansas is holding a post-election conference of strategists, journalists and pollsters to analyze the 2012 presidential campaign. The free, public event will take place from 3 pm to 6:30 pm on December 6, and 8:30 am to 10 am on December 7 at the Dole Institute. Campaign officials for President Barack Obama and Republican challenger Mitt Romney will join other political insiders talking about the issues and outcome of the election. Topics will also include how Obama's next term will differ from his first, and what the future holds for the GOP. The Dole Institute of Politics has hosted similar gatherings since 2006 looking at how and why elections are won and lost.

KU Launches Online Exhibition of Black Photography

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — A photo collection featuring images of African-Americans in Wichita from the late 1940s through the 1970s is now available online through the University of Kansas Libraries. The photos were taken by Leon K. Hughes, who began his photography career in 1946 while working in the city's aircraft industry. Hughes became a leading photographer for Wichita's family, church and civic events. He shot marriages, birthdays, graduations and more. The collection offers an inside view of the African-American community. Hughes died in 1978. His widow donated the photos in 2009. The interactive online collection includes more than 1,000 images. Some details about the photos and their subjects aren't known, and curators hope those viewing the images will submit any information they have.


Number 7-Ranked K-State Working to Recover from Disappointment

MANHATTAN, Kan. (AP) — Kansas State couldn't pick a better place to convalesce than Manhattan, Kansas. The home of the seventh-ranked Wildcats is tucked away in the Flint Hills, far enough away from the noise and distractions that come with major college football, and should provide a good place for them to recover from last week's monumental disappointment at Baylor. The Wildcats were ranked number 1 in the BCS standings when they were trounced 52-24 by the Bears. They could still sneak into the national title game, but it's a longshot now. The reality is they're likely playing for a Big 12 title — and nothing more — next Saturday against Texas. The Wildcats (10-1, 7-1) are off this week. They'll return Sunday to begin prepping for the Longhorns.


Quinn Next Up for Chiefs on QB Carousel

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Brady Quinn is getting another shot on the Kansas City Chiefs' quarterback merry-go-round. Coach Romeo Crennel announced Wednesday that Quinn will start Sunday's game against the Denver Broncos, regaining the job he lost when he sustained a concussion against Oakland. Quinn was cleared to play last week against Cincinnati and came on in the second half for the ineffective Matt Cassel, who was the starter early in the season before sustaining his own concussion. That thrust Quinn, a former first-round draft pick, into the starting lineup against Tampa Bay, and when Cassel was cleared to play, Crennel decided to stick with Quinn on a permanent basis. He lasted less than a quarter before getting hurt against the Raiders on October 28.


Kansas Bioscience Authority Hires New President

OLATHE, Kan. (AP) — A former top executive at Topeka-based Payless ShoeSource has been chosen to head the Kansas Bioscience Authority. Authority officials announced the selection of Duane Cantrell as president and CEO on Tuesday. He'll replace David Vranicar, who became interim president after former president and CEO Tom Thornton resigned under pressure in 2011. The Kansas Bioscience Authority is charged with investing in and nurturing new companies in the biosciences and life sciences fields. Cantrell is currently the managing partner of a retail consulting firm. Before that he spent 26 at Payless ShoeSource, where he was president from 2001-2004. Authority Board chairman Dan Watkins says Cantrell became a candidate after serving as a consultant in recent months. Watkins said Vranicar would stay on with KBA in a capacity to be determined.

Southwest Airlines to Offer Wichita Flights

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Southwest Airlines says it will begin service in June from Wichita Mid-Continent Airport. The Wichita Eagle reports the carrier said Monday it plans to have two daily flights from Wichita to Dallas Love Field, along with two daily flights to Chicago Midway Airport. It also plans one daily flight to Las Vegas. Wichita officials welcomed the announcement as a boon to the city's economic development efforts. Southwest plans to use a 143-seat Boeing 737 for its Dallas and Chicago flights and a 127-seat 737 for the Las Vegas flights. One-way rates are expected to range between $94 and $178. Bob Montgomery, the company's vice president for airport affairs, says the airline may initially use public subsidies to mitigate its risk, but hopes business grows so they aren't needed.

Survey Establishes Baseline in Kansas Children's Status

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas State University researchers have completed a report on baseline data on childhood poverty that will be used in efforts to improve the lives of children, including reducing the number of births to unwed mothers. The data was presented Monday as a new task force created by Governor Sam Brownback begins its work finding ways to reduce childhood poverty in Kansas. The task force includes members of the Republican governor's cabinet, nonprofit organizations and the clergy. The Kansas State report ranked all 105 counties based on 18 indicators, including the percentage of children in poverty, divorce, employment and births to unwed mothers. The Lawrence Journal-World reports that a senior fellow from the Brookings Institution says births to unwed mothers was a leading cause of poverty.

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