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Regional Headlines for Wednesday, October 9, 2013


KS Nutrition Program Hit by Shutdown

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas officials are notifying county health clinics that a program providing cash subsidies to women and children will cease issuing checks later this month because of the federal government shutdown. The Kansas Department of Health and Environment says Wednesday that because of uncertain funding checks won't be issued for November or December through the federal Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women Infants and Children, commonly known as WIC. The program supplies low-income women with checks or debit cards that can be used for infant formula and cereal, fruits and vegetables, dairy items and other healthy food. WIC also provides breast-feeding support and nutrition classes. Low-income women with children under 5 are eligible. KDHE says WIC serves 70,000 residents each month through contracts with county health departments.


KS to Stop Using Federal Food Stamp Outreach Grant

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A Kansas social services agency is ending its practice of using federal grant funds to encourage low-income residents to enroll in the food stamp program. A spokeswoman for the Kansas Department for Children and Families tells the Lawrence Journal-World that the decision is consistent with the state's position that finding a job is a better than seeking short-term assistance. The grant program awarded federal funds to five groups across Kansas that used it to help low-income residents apply for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program. The groups were notified by the state on September 30, one day before the grants were to be renewed. Groups will have to find alternative funding sources to continue their outreach. Nearly 320,000 Kansas residents receive food stamps, of which about half are children.

Shutdown Spurs KS Protest; GOP Delegation Holding Firm

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Democrats and liberal activists in Kansas are criticizing Republican Congresswoman Lynn Jenkins over the federal government's partial shutdown. But Jenkins and other members of the state's all-GOP congressional delegation said Wednesday they're looking for President Barack Obama and fellow Democrats to negotiate on budget issues. They also said they won't support increasing the federal debt ceiling without reductions in federal spending. Two dozen activists rallied outside Jenkins's office in Topeka, demanding she work for a House vote on budget and debt ceiling legislation without conditions. Jenkins represents the 2nd District of eastern Kansas but is a member of the House GOP leadership team. She said she's working to resolve financial issues in Washington. The Kansas delegation has voted for multiple measures to fund individual programs.


Roberts Faces GOP Foe in Senate Re-Election Bid

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — U.S. Senator Pat Roberts has drawn an opponent for the Republican primary in Kansas next year. Dr. Milton Wolf of Leawood says he intends to challenge Roberts. Wolf is a 42-year-old radiologist who's never sought political office, but he's gained attention in conservative and tea party circles for his vocal criticism of the federal health care overhaul. The 77-year-old Roberts is seeking his fourth, six-year term in the Senate. He's also a vocal critic of the 2010 federal health care law championed by Democratic President Barack Obama. Wolf says the nation is threatened by politicians in Washington and that he's trying to reclaim the American dream. Roberts' executive campaign manager, Leroy Towns, says the senator is respected and liked within the Kansas GOP.


Exercise Testing KS Response to Livestock Disease Outbreak

MANHATTAN, Kan. (AP) — A multi-department exercise this week testing the state of Kansas's response to a viral outbreak in livestock is taking place without participation from the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The Lawrence Journal World reports that the exercise began today (WED) and will continue tomorrow (THUR) at the Biosecurity Research Institute in Manhattan. Sandra Johnson, emergency management coordinator for the Kansas Department of Agriculture, says the USDA isn't participating because of the partial government shutdown. The exercise costs more than $100,000, with much of the funding from federal grants. It involves more than 200 people and pulls together agencies from within Kansas, as well as industry and agencies from other states. Johnson says the exercise involves notification of a possible instance of foot-and-mouth disease, a highly contagious pathogen that can infect livestock.


Federal Shutdown Nixes Candlelight Tour at Fort Larned

LARNED, Kan. (AP) — A candlelight tour at the Fort Larned National Historic Site has been canceled because of the government shutdown. The tour had been scheduled for Saturday. But site officials said in a news release that the event requires a large number of volunteers and that it isn't possible to reschedule it later this year. The park site near Larned will remain closed until the government reopens.

Kansas Reports 32 Cases of West Nile Virus

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas has had 32 cases of West Nile virus this year, with a dozen of those cases reported in the past week. The Kansas Department of Health and Environment says two of the 32 people who contracted the illness have died. There were 57 cases of West Nile virus reported in Kansas last year. KDHE Secretary Robert Moser says residents should be taking precautions against mosquitoes, which can spread the disease through bites. Symptoms can range from a slight headache and low-grade fever to swelling of the brain. The department says that as of October 7, Sedgwick County had the most cases with seven. Barton County had six. Cases also were reported in several other counties, including Johnson, Sherman and Wyandotte.

FBI Investigating Wichita City Electronic Security Breach

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Wichita's city manager says the city's electronic procurement website was the recent victim of a "sophisticated hacking operation." City Manager Robert Layton also said Tuesday the FBI is working with city officials to determine what information was taken and how similar breaches can be prevented in the future. Officials also say the breach may have affected as many as 29,000 vendors and employees and that Social Security numbers, taxpayer identification numbers and banking information may have been compromised. Wichita police Captain Gavin Seiler told The Wichita Eagle the hacking occurred sometime over the weekend. He says as soon as city officials discovered the attack they shut down the system and notified authorities.


ACLU Says Allen County to Change Inmate Meals Policy

IOLA, Kan. (AP) — The American Civil Liberties Union in Kansas says Allen County has agreed to delete an entry from its jail handbook that said inmates couldn't get special meals based on religious preferences. Doug Bonney, legal director of the ACLU Foundation of Kansas, says Allen County notified the ACLU on Wednesday it would delete the entry that also said inmates could "simply choose not to eat" if they didn't want the food provided. Allen County Counselor Alan Weber says the policy was old and has been removed. He also says no inmates have ever asked for meals based on religious preferences. Bonney says in a release the ACLU Foundation of Kansas learned of the Allen County policy while reviewing policies at several other Kansas jails. He says the meals policy is unconstitutional and required inmates to "choose between starvation and remaining true to their religious creeds."


Armstrong Named to Lead KCK Schools Police

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — The Kansas City, Kansas Board of Education has named the city's police chief to lead the new police department for the city's public schools. The school district said in a release Wednesday the board has selected Rick L. Armstrong as the first chief of the newly-formed police department for the Kansas City, Kansas Public Schools. Armstrong will take over the schools post in February after retiring from the city's police department. The board voted last spring to go from campus security to forming its own police department and using sworn law enforcement officers, much like other large districts in the area, including Blue Valley, Shawnee Mission and Wichita. Armstrong has served as chief of police for Kansas City, Kansas since 2010.


Fossil Hunter Continues to Pursue State Fossil Declaration

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — A Lawrence resident who's been a fossil hunter for nearly three decades wants the state of Kansas to recognize a state fossil. Alan Detrich has been trying for 12 years to get the state to authorize a state fossil. And now he's dedicating one last year to the cause before giving up. The Lawrence Journal World reports that Kansas is one of only 11 states without a state fossil or dinosaur. Detrich wants Kansas to select the mosasaur, a large, swimming reptile predator common to Kansas when it was an inland sea millions of years ago. He says declaring the mosasaur the state fossil could promote education and tourism to Kansas in part because of the abundance of fossils in the western part of the state.


Former KS Lieutenant Governor to Give Lecture at Emporia State University

EMPORIA, Kan. (AP) — Former Kansas Lieutenant Governor Gary Sherrer is returning to his alma mater of Emporia State University this week to deliver a lecture. The university says Thursday's lecture by Sherrer is called "Lessons Learned." The event begins at 7 pm in Webb Hall and is free to students and the public. The 73-year-old Sherrer received a bachelor's degree in education from Emporia State in 1963. After a career in teaching and banking, he served as lieutenant governor from 1996 to 2002, holding the office under Republican Governor Bill Graves. He also served as the state's commerce secretary. After leaving the lieutenant governor's office, he served on the Kansas Board of Regents, which oversees the higher education system, from 2007 to 2011.

Hispanic Groups to Host Economic Development Forum

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Hispanic groups are putting together a forum this month to discuss economic development in Kansas. The event is planned for October 23 at the National Center for Aviation Training in Wichita. Governor Sam Brownback is expected to lead a panel discussion on empowering Hispanic small businesses. Also on tap are other talks on resources for businesses and a presentation on showcasing a business. The forum is hosted by the Kansas Hispanic and Latino American Affairs Commission, the Wichita Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce of Greater Kansas City and the Kansas Department of Commerce. Deadline for registration is Friday.

Derby Approves Tax Hike; Colwich Rejects Pool

DERBY, Kan. (AP) — Voters in the Wichita suburb of Derby approved half-cent sales tax that will fund parks, the library and some costs for the city's fire department. The Sedgwick County Election Office says 67 percent of voters supported the measure in a special election on Tuesday. The tax will take effect January 1, 2015. About half of the revenue will be used to fund a new park, with baseball and softball fields and a dog park. Thirty percent will go toward fire and rescue services, with 20 percent for the library. The tax is expected to raise about $2 million a year. Also on Tuesday, Colwich voters overwhelmingly defeated a proposal to issue a bond to fund a $1.65 million swimming pool complex. The vote was 76 percent against to 23 percent.


IDs Released in Double Shooting in SE Kansas

EUREKA, Kan. (AP) — Law enforcement authorities continue to search for a man suspected of killing two people and wounding another in southeast Kansas last week. The Kansas Attorney General's office said in a news release Wednesday that 35-year-old Kevin Welsh of Toronto, Kansas might still be in the Greenwood County area. Authorities on Wednesday also identified the victims of the October 2 shooting at a home in Eureka, about 60 miles east of Wichita. The attorney general's office says 26-year-old Catherine Scheff was wounded. Her mother, 52-year-old Sheila Kriesel and her stepfather, 54-year-old Keith Kriesel, were killed. Welsh had previously been in a relationship with Scheff. Welsh allegedly left the scene in a Ford Explorer belonging to one of the victims. The vehicle was found abandoned the next day in eastern Greenwood County.


KCK Men Sentenced in Dogfighting Case

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) — Two Kansas City, Kansas men have been sentenced for their involvement in a dogfighting ring. The Kansas City Star reports that Pete Davis Jr. and Melvin Robinson were sentenced Wednesday in federal court. They pleaded guilty in June to transporting dogs to participate in animal fighting. Davis received a 16-month sentence. Robinson was sentenced to 10 months. Both men were also ordered to pay almost $431,000 to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals for the care of 48 dogs authorities seized from the men. Davis and Robinson were also banned from owning dogs for three years after being released from prison. Prosecutors say some of the animals the men trained will have to be destroyed because they're too aggressive for rescuers who care for them.


KC Man Once Suspected in 7 Deaths Arrested on Misdemeanor Charge

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — A 67-year-old Kansas City man who was once a suspect in the deaths of seven women faces a misdemeanor charge of sexual misconduct. The Kansas City Star reports that Gregory Breeden is accused of exposing himself while urinating in the street outside his home in Raymore. He was being held Wednesday in the Cass County Jail on $2,500 bond. Breeden was investigated in the deaths of seven women whose bodies were found in the Missouri River between 1982 and 1994. He was charged in 1996 with killing one of the women, but the case was dropped when a key witness refused to testify. He later served an unrelated 10-year sentence on a bad check charge. Breeden has denied involvement in the serial killings, and also denies the current allegations.


Hearing Rescheduled in Fatal Shooting in Lincoln County

LINCOLN, Kan. (AP) — A preliminary hearing in a second-degree murder case involving the son of a Kansas sheriff has been postponed. The hearing for Scott Weigel was scheduled Tuesday in Lincoln County District but it was rescheduled to November 25. The 33-year-old Weigel is charged in the September 9 shooting death of 21-year-old Keith Ancell of Lincoln. The Salina Journal reports Lincoln County Attorney Jennifer O'Hare asked that the hearing be delayed to provide attorneys more time to review the evidence. Weigel is being held in a jail outside of Lincoln County. His bond is $750,000. He is the son of Lincoln County Sheriff Mike Weigel.

Petro America Founder Sentenced to 30 Years

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — A Kansas man whose Missouri-based company defrauded thousands of people out of more than $10 million has been sentenced to 30 years in prison. Isreal Owen Hawkins Jr., founder of Petro America Corporation, was sentenced Tuesday for conspiracy, securities fraud, money laundering and other charges in a scheme that promised people big returns for investing as little as $100. Prosecutors say Hawkins, of Kansas City, Kansas and others defrauded 12,000 victims of more than $10 million. Nine others had pleaded guilty to various crimes and four others were convicted at trial. The Kansas City Star reports that Hawkins also was ordered to pay restitution of more than $10 million. Three other people involved in the scheme were sentenced Tuesday, and others will be sentenced in the coming weeks.

No Injuries in Rural OK Pipeline Blast

ROSSTON, Okla. (AP) — Authorities say no one was injured when a natural gas pipeline exploded in northwest Oklahoma, shooting flames into the sky that were visible from up to 50 miles away. The explosion happened at about 11 pm Tuesday in a rural area of Harper County near the Kansas border. The Oklahoman reports that the pipeline is owned by Northern Natural Gas Company of Omaha, Nebraska. Company spokesman Mike Loeffler says the cause of the explosion isn't yet known. He says firefighters have contained the blaze and are letting it burn itself out. Four nearby homes were evacuated as a precaution. The explosion occurred in a rural part of the state near the Panhandle.

Atchison's Old Amelia Earhart Bridge Comes Down

ATCHISON, Kan. (AP) — Demolition crews brought down the Amelia Earhart bridge that connected Kansas and Missouri for more than 70 years. A spokeswoman for the Kansas Department of Transportation says Wednesday's implosion of the two-lane bridge, which was built in 1938, went off without any problems. The bridge connected Atchison, Kan., with Winthrop, Missouri. The bridge's steel structure fell into the river within seconds after the explosion. The bridge deck had already been removed. Demolition crews will use explosives twice more to remove bridge piers from the Missouri River. A new four-lane Amelia Earhart Memorial Bridge opened in December to replace the old bridge.

PSU Botany Professor Honored for Discovery

PITTSBURG, Kan. (AP) — An assistant botany professor at Pittsburg State University is being honored by an international science group for one of his plant discoveries. Neil Snow has identified more than 85 new plant species within the myrtle family, which is his chosen area of focus. He received special recognition this year from the International Institute for Species Exploration, which selected one of Snow's finds as one of the top 10 new species of 2013. The Joplin Globe reports that Snow's discovery is called Eugenia petrikensis. It's a small, woody plant from Madagascar. But Snow says there are new finds all the time. He says, for example, Tom Croat at the Missouri Botanical Garden has collected more than 102,000 specimens in his career. Of them, more than 800 have been new discoveries.

QTS Shares Jump in Initial Trading

Shares of QTS Realty Trust are jumping 4 percent in their trading debut. The real estate investment trust, based in Overland Park, priced its offering of nearly 12.3 million shares at $21 per share, which is below market expectations. The company also gave underwriters an option to buy another 1.8 million shares if demand is strong. QTS shares hit $21.92 in midday trading Wednesday. The company raised nearly $275.3 million. It plans to use the proceeds to repay debt. QTS Realty Trust Inc. is trading under the symbol "QTS" on the New York Stock Exchange.


Wichita Man Convicted in 2011 Murder

OAKLAWN, Kan. (AP) — A 29-year-old Wichita man has been convicted of first-degree murder for his role in a 2011 robbery and homicide. The Wichita Eagle reports that Nicholas Dupree was one of five men charged in the December 14, 2011, death of Markez Phillips. A Sedgwick County jury found him guilty Wednesday. Dupree's sentencing is set for Nov. 15. Police say Phillips was visiting his girlfriend in Oaklawn, which is south of Wichita, when a group of men forced their way into the home and shot him before leaving with three big-screen TVs.


1 Dead in Wichita Area Fire

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — One person has died in a fire that engulfed a car and seriously damaged a home southwest of Wichita. The cause of the fire, which occurred Tuesday, is under investigation. Wichita Battalion Chief Tom Carney says the victim was found in the home's driveway and was dead from burns when firefighters arrived. The name of the victim hasn't been released. Carney says when firefighters arrived the vehicle was fully engulfed in flames that extended to the home's garage.

Traffic Crash Kills 2 in Central Kansas

CLAFLIN, Kan. (AP) — Two people have been killed in a two-vehicle crash in central Kansas. The Kansas Highway Patrol says the accident occurred Tuesday afternoon northeast of Claflin when the car the victims were in car collided with a tractor-trailer. The Hutchinson News reports that the victims were identified as 80-year-old Gordon Zahradnik and 78-year-old Rae Zahradnik. They were both from Lyons. The patrol says the victims weren't wearing seat belts.

WSU to Host Girls in Science Conference

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Wichita State University is scheduled to host a conference aimed at encouraging middle-school girls to consider careers in science disciplines. The Wichita Eagle reports the Expanding Your Horizons conference is set for November 2 at WSU. The university says in a release the conference is part of a national program that gives girls a chance to meet role models in science, technology, engineering and math. Registration is limited to the first 100 participants and runs through next Tuesday. The registration fee is $12. Workshops will include "Robot Basketball," and "Pet Rescue 911." Parents can attend sessions on financing college and ACT test prep.



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