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Regional Headlines for Wednesday, October 3, 2012


2013 Kansas Employment Forecast Predicts Growth

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Economic researchers at Wichita State University are forecasting a 1.8 percent employment growth in Kansas next year. The university's Center for Economic Development and Business Research reported Wednesday it expected 24,175 new jobs to be created in Kansas next year. Most of those new jobs are expected to be in professional and business services, education and health services, and leisure and hospitality. Job losses were forecast in government and information industries. The research group's director, Jeremy Hill, says the forecast does not factor in automatic federal government spending cuts, which would significantly affect the aviation-dependent economy in Wichita. The outlook also does not account for the economic ramifications if federal tax cuts are not extended.


Retiring GOP Kansas Lawmaker Endorses Democratic Candidate in 11th Senate District

LEAWOOD, Kan. (AP) — A moderate GOP Kansas state senator has endorsed the Democratic candidate over a conservative Republican in a Kansas City-area district. Senator John Vratil, of Leawood, has served in the chamber since 1998 but isn't seeking re-election. He's the Senate vice president. Vratil said Wednesday he supports Democrat Mike Delaney of Overland Park in the 11th Senate District race because he views Delaney as a strong supporter of public schools. Delaney is running against conservative Republican Jeff Melcher of Leawood, who has the backing of Governor Sam Brownback and the Kansas Chamber of Commerce. Melcher said Vratil's action confirms that he and his moderate allies are out of step with most Republicans. In the August 7 GOP primary, Melcher defeated Vratil's preferred candidate, state Representative Pat Colloton of Leawood.


Kobach: Photo IDs from Public Schools OK at Polls

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach says 18-year-old voters who attend public high schools can show their school identification at the polls to satisfy the state's new photo ID requirement. But students from private high schools are out of luck. Kobach says his office has received many questions about whether various types of photo IDs are acceptable since the law he championed took effect in January. On Wednesday, Kobach said it would be most fair to treat photo IDs from public and private high schools the same. But he noted the new law specifically requires IDs issued by government agencies, which arguably includes school districts. Kobach says his office is drafting regulations to give more guidance but will allow students to use public school IDs at the polls November 6.


PETA Withdraws Lawsuit Against Kansas State Fair

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — An animal-rights group has withdrawn its lawsuit against the Kansas State Fair. People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals said in the lawsuit that fair officials were restricting the group's free speech rights by requiring it to shield people from seeing images of animal slaughter at its booth. Just days before the fair opened last month, a federal judge ruled fair officials could reasonably impose the restrictions. A dismissal entered Wednesday in federal court shows that PETA and the state will pay their own costs and attorneys' fees from the complaint. PETA said in an email that it is pleased with the outcome. It says the fair's censorship and the lawsuit drove traffic to its fair booth to discuss its message about cruelty to animals on farms and during slaughter.

Kansas Atty Gen Names Former Graves Aide as New Spokesman

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The Kansas attorney general's new chief spokesman is a former state Board of Regents official who also previously served as a top aide to former Governor Bill Graves. Don Brown joined Attorney General Derek Schmidt's office this week. He replaces Jeff Wagaman, who was promoted to lead the office's new Division of Crime Victims Compensation. Brown was Graves's chief spokesman from November 1999 to February 2002. He was also communications director for the state Department of Health and Environment. Most recently, Brown was a project manager for the regents' Kan-ed program, which brings high-speed Internet service to hospitals, schools and libraries. He also is a former journalist for both WIBW television and radio in Topeka.


Mystery Substance Causes Headaches in Salina

SALINA, Kan. (AP) — A chemical odor that caused headaches in a north Salina neighborhood has been traced to a 55-gallon drum inside a shed. But the substance inside the drum remained a mystery Wednesday. The Salina Journal reports that firefighters went to the area Tuesday evening but were unable to pinpoint the odor. Several residents were evacuated as a precaution, and Kansas Gas Service crews worked through the night but also couldn't find the source. Residents complained of the odor and headaches again Wednesday. The Fire Department's hazardous materials team went house-to-house and came across the drum. But authorities were unable to identify the substance inside. Haz-mat crews were packing the drum Wednesday into a safe container. The contents will be analyzed by the Kansas Department of Health and Environment.


Kansas Ammunition Plant Set to Begin New Era

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Seven years after closing a former military installation, southeastern Kansas officials are preparing to start a new era of regional economic development. A ribbon cutting is planned October 11 at the Great Plains Industrial Park on the site of the former Kansas Army Ammunition Plant. Dan Goddard, executive director of the Great Plains Development Authority in Parsons, said Wednesday the ceremony is the start of creating new activity at the site. The park is in Labette County, which has a jobless rate of 8.3 percent. Pentagon officials designated the plant for closure in 2005 as part of the Base Realignment and Closure process. Bomb production was transferred to ammunition plants in Indiana, Iowa, Oklahoma and Tennessee.


Preliminary Hearing for Kansas Ex-Deputy Delayed

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A court hearing has been delayed for a former Sedgwick County corrections officer accused of sexually assaulting jail inmates. The preliminary hearing to determine if there's enough evidence to send former deputy David Kendall to trial had been set for Thursday. It's now scheduled for November 14. Kendall resigned in late June and is facing 12 criminal charges ranging from felony aggravated criminal sodomy to misdemeanor sexual battery. Eleven of the charges accuse him of sex crimes against six inmates from April to June. Kendall is free on bond. His lawyer has attacked the credibility of the inmates who lodged the complaints.

Hallmark Cards to Close Topeka Plant

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Hallmark Cards says it's closing its Topeka plant and consolidating its operations at its two other Kansas plants. The Kansas City, Missouri-based greeting card company said Tuesday about 1,300 people now work at the three plants. That number will fall to about 1,000 when the consolidation is finished by the end of next year. About 500 people work at the Topeka plant, which produces greeting cards and envelopes. That production will be moved to Lawrence. Production of specialty items such as ribbons and stickers will move from Lawrence to Leavenworth. Hallmark says workers will be offered buyouts as part of its efforts to cut costs and address what it called excess capacity in Kansas. Hallmark's Topeka plant opened in 1943. The current building was completed in 1966.

Topeka Zoo Making Plans for Future of 2 Elephants

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The director of the Topeka Zoo says the zoo is considering different options for its elephant program, including cutting the program. Critics have been pressuring the zoo to send its two aging elephants to an elephant sanctuary in Tennessee. Zoo director Brendan Wiley told the city council Tuesday consultants are working with zoo officials to determine the future of the elephant program. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports the options include continuing the current program, adding one elephant to maintain the program for 10 to 15 years, making a long-term commitment and significantly expanding the program or replacing the elephants with another species. City manager Jim Colson said he expects a decision on the elephants' future to be made by the end of the month.

Preliminary Hearings in Tabor College Student Death Rescheduled

MCPHERSON, Kan. (AP) — Preliminary hearings for two suspects in the death of a Tabor College football player have been rescheduled. The hearings for Alton Franklin and DeQuinte Flournoy, both 19, were scheduled this week in McPherson County District Court. The hearings have been rescheduled for Monday. Franklin and Flournoy are each charged with aiding and abetting second-degree murder in the death last month of 26-year-old Brandon Brown. The redshirt defensive lineman for Tabor died September 22 from injuries he suffered after a fight September 16 in McPherson. The Salina Journal reports that Franklin and Flournoy, former McPherson College football players, have been suspended from the college.

Teen Pleads Guilty to Kansas Church Burglaries

HUTCHINSON, Kan. (AP) — A Hutchinson teenager has pleaded guilty to a spate of burglaries and thefts around the city, including several break-ins at churches. The Hutchinson News reports that 16-year-old Joshua Hickey pleaded guilty Tuesday to 38 charges, including 19 felonies. He'll be sentenced November 16. Hickey was certified for trial as an adult after he and three older co-defendants were arrested August 6. Hickey was charged with breaking into several Hutchinson churches and from April 1 to July 23, stealing and cash. Some of the churches were victimized twice, and four of the burglaries occurred on a single day in July. He was also accused of burglarizing or stealing from stores and Hutchinson High School. The other three suspects are charged with taking part in some of the break-ins.

Ex-Kansas Deputy Charged with Inappropriate Touching

OLATHE, Kan. (AP) — A former northeast Kansas sheriff's deputy has been charged with inappropriately touching a female inmate. Thirty-nine-year-old Vernon Finkenbinder was charged Tuesday in Johnson County with unlawful sexual relations and posted bond. The sheriff's office says the incident occurred Sept. 23 while the female inmate was in custody at a central booking location for those suspected of a crime in Johnson County. A news release says the allegation was reported two days later, leading to a criminal investigation. Finkenbinder was placed on administrative leave and since has resigned from the sheriff's office. The news release says investigators have determined that what happened was "an isolated incident." The sheriff's office says it wasn't immediately known if Finkenbinder had an attorney. He is scheduled to make his first court appearance October 11.

KU Launches Major Faculty Search Initiative

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — The University of Kansas is looking for 64 new faculty members. Provost Jeff Vitter said Tuesday it's the first large hiring effort at the university since the early to mid-2000s. The Lawrence Journal-World reports that the university plans to hire 30 new faculty members in the School of Engineering, 22 other various positions and 12 positions called "Foundation Professor." Those 12 jobs will be for high-profile, established faculty members from other institutions. Chancellor Bernadette Gray-Little said the current hiring effort would return the university's faculty to the size it was in the previous decade before hiring slowed down. And she says it would help the university improve its research stature. Eleven faculty members took early-retirement buyouts this year. Vitter says those openings are separate from the 64 job vacancies the university hopes to fill.

KC Man Sentenced to Life in Prison for Double Murder

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — A Kansas City man was sentenced to life in prison for killing two people whose bodies were found inside a burned-out car. Twenty-year-old Todd B. Fonville was sentenced Tuesday for the April 2011 deaths of Jose Morales and Debeney Kreiling. Fonville was convicted in August of first-degree murder and five other felonies arising from the deaths. Prosecutors said Fonville and another man, Miguel Apodaca, robbed the two victims and shot them at a Kansas City house. They then put the bodies in a car and set it on fire in northeast Kansas City. The Kansas City Star reports that Apodaca was sentenced to 20 years in prison in August after pleading guilty to second-degree murder.

KU Faculty Member Obtains $1.38M NIH Research Grant

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — A University of Kansas chemistry professor has received a $1.38 million federal grant to help with research into HIV vaccines. Heather Desaire will use the money from the National Institutes of Health to investigate several HIV vaccine candidates. The University of Kansas says she will conduct her work in collaboration with researchers from Duke University Medical Center and Harvard Medical Center. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that 1.1 million people in the U.S. were infected with HIV at the end of 2009. About 50,000 people are newly infected each year.


Wichita Man Pleads Guilty to Bank Robbery

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A 59-year-old Wichita man has pleaded guilty to robbing a bank in the city earlier this year. Federal prosecutors in Wichita say Donald R. Young pleading guilty Tuesday to robbing a Wells Fargo Bank on February 10. The Sedgwick County Sheriff's Department arrested Young shortly after the robbery. He faces up to 20 years in federal prison and a $250,000 fine when he's sentenced December 17.

Eisenhower Center Prepares Ike Birthday Celebrations

ABILENE, Kan. (AP) — Several events are scheduled in Abilene this month to celebrate Dwight D. Eisenhower's 122nd birthday. Eisenhower was born October 14, 1890, in Texas but moved to Abilene as a boy, where he graduated from high school and went on to accept an appointment to West Point. After leading the Allied forces in Europe in World War II, he was elected president in 1952 and 1956. Seventh-graders from schools in Abilene and Chapman will visit the Eisenhower Presidential Library and Museum on October 10-11 for special programs on Eisenhower's life and 1950s culture. Members of the Kansas Veterans of Foreign Wars will hold a vigil at Eisenhower's grave on October 12, the same day as the Eisenhower Legacy Dinner in the library.


Flight Simulator Aids Pilot Training, Honors Kansas Family

GARDEN CITY, Kan. (AP) — Pilots in western Kansas now have a place to improve their skills for dangerous situations they might encounter in flight. A full-motion flight simulator is offering lessons at the Spencer Flight and Education Center at the Scott City airport. The simulator is in memory of four members of the Richard Spencer family of Scott City, who died in a small plane crash in 2011. Brian Vulgamore, chairman of the education center, was a good friend of Richard Spencer. He and others raised money to provide the simulator for western Kansas. The Garden City Telegram reports the simulator shows graphics of real locations, as well as recreating weather and mechanical problems that pilots might face. Vulgamore says the center is also asking western Kansas schools to offer more pilot education.


KC Chiefs Lead NFL in Turnover Trouble

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — The Kansas City Chiefs have spent extra time this week focusing on protecting the football. Kansas City leads the NFL with 15 turnovers, and its eight fumbles lost are double the next-worst team in the AFC. The Chiefs have a minus-13 differential, and all that wrapped together is a big reason why they've lost three of their first four games. Chiefs coach Romeo Crennel spent a portion of practice Wednesday focused entirely on wrapping up the ball after a particularly disastrous game last Sunday. The Chiefs turned it over six times in a 37-20 loss to San Diego. They'll get to see whether the problem has been fixed this Sunday against Baltimore.

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