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Regional Headlines for Wednesday, September 12, 2012



Kansas Rejects Federal Program to Encourage Trails

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas officials say the state will not participate in a federal program that matches local contributions with federal money to build recreation trails. The decision makes Kansas one of only two states to reject the program, which is designed to encourage construction of bike, walking and ATV paths. The trails program requires states to spend a specific amount on recreational trails. Florida is the only other state to opt out. State transportation officials say staying out of the program gives the state more flexibility in how it spends federal money on transportation projects. The Wichita Eagle reports critics say the decision likely means Kansas will have fewer new trails and less maintenance on those that already exist.

Topeka Zoo Earns Accreditation for Next 5 Years

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The once-troubled Topeka Zoo has earned its national accreditation for the next five years. City manager Jim Colson told the city council Tuesday that the zoo was accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums. The city in 2009 asked the commission to investigate the zoo after several animal deaths and the zoo's failure to comply with federal rules. The commission considered revoking the zoo's accreditation in 2010 but delayed the decision. Inspectors examined the zoo's operations again in January 2011, leading to the decision to restore the zoo's full accreditation. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that AZA accreditation will allow the zoo to loan and borrow animals from other accredited zoos, and to participate in breeding programs with them.

Trial Pushed Back 2 Months in TV Station Attack

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The trial of a Topeka man accused of assaulting employees at a TV station has been delayed after his attorney requested more time to prepare. Forty-eight-year-old Ray Anthony Miles had been scheduled to go on trial Wednesday in Shawnee County District Court. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports the new date is November 5. Miles is accused of forcing his way into WIBW-TV in Topeka on May 23 after the station manager said nobody was there to do a story about his problems. Station employees say Miles punched, kicked and stabbed them before they overpowered him and took the knife away. Miles is charged with three counts of aggravated battery and one count each of aggravated burglary and making a criminal threat.


Army's Top Enlisted Soldier Visits Fort Riley

FORT RILEY, Kan. (AP) — The Army's top enlisted soldier says despite planned reductions in the number of soldiers in the next five years, the Army will be better trained and better equipped than it was more than a decade ago. Sergeant Major of Army Raymond Chandler said Wednesday during a visit to Fort Riley that every installation will notice changes, without giving specifics. Chandler was at the northeast Kansas post to visit with 1st Infantry Division artillery soldiers as they continued field training. He took their questions and asked a few of his own. This is Chandler's second visit to Fort Riley this year. He accompanied Army Vice Chief of Staff General Lloyd Austin on a tour of five posts around the country.


Haskell Sports Programs on Probation Through 2014

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — All the men's and women's athletic programs at Haskell Indian Nations University have been placed on probation through 2014 for violations involving ineligible players. A spokeswoman for the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics says the conference doesn't provide details about institutional violations to the public. But the conference's handbooks shows institutions placed on probation must submit a written response detailing planned corrective measures. Future violations can lead to program suspensions. University spokesman Stephen Prue says the school is drafting a statement. In May, the school said a federal investigation into falsified student-athlete test scores resulted in official action on the employees and students involved.


Kansas Corn Production Forecast Revised Down Again

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A new government report is forecasting a Kansas corn and soybean crop that could be the smallest harvest in the state since 2006. Kansas Agricultural Statistics Service reported Wednesday that corn for grain production in Kansas is now expected to be 382.2 million bushels. That is down 2 percent from August and is 15 percent below last year. The estimate is based on an average yield of 91 bushels per acre from 4.2 million harvested acres. The new forecast pegs the soybean crop at 70.4 million bushels. That is down 5 percent from last month and down 31 percent from last year. Grain sorghum remained unchanged over last month with 88 million bushels, down 20 percent from last year.

Report: Farm Equipment Sales Up Despite Drought

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A new report shows the relentless drought did little to dent retail sales of pricey farm machinery around the country last month. The Association of Equipment Manufacturers said Tuesday sales of farm tractors were up nearly 15 percent in August from the same month a year ago. Retailers reported selling slightly more than 14,000 tractors nationwide. Sales of combines were up a little more than 7 percent, with 1,099 sold in August. So far in 2012, sales of farm tractors were up 8.3 percent over the first eight months of last year. But sales of combines were down 11.8 percent.

Glickman to Speak at Kansas Democrats' Event

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Former Kansas Congressman and U.S. Agriculture Secretary Dan Glickman plans to speak in Wichita later this month during an annual gathering of the Kansas Democratic Party. DemoFest is scheduled for September 29. Organizers expect at least several hundred party activists from across the state to attend. Glickman served as the nation's top agriculture official from March 1995 to January 2001, under Democratic President Bill Clinton. Before that, Glickman served 18 years in the U.S. House, representing the 4th Congressional District of south-central Kansas. He lost his seat in 1994 to Republican Todd Tiahrt. After serving as agriculture secretary, Glickman was director of the Institute of Politics at Harvard University's John F. Kennedy School of Government. He was also chairman of the Motion Picture Association of America.


Ethics Panel: HHS Secretary Sebelius Violated Politicking Ban

WASHINGTON (AP) — A government ethics office says Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius violated a federal law that restricts political activity by government officials. In a report Wednesday, the federal Office of Special Counsel said off-the-cuff remarks by Sebelius during a February 25 speech to a gay rights group in North Carolina violated the Hatch Act. Sebelius called for President Barack Obama's re-election and endorsed a Democratic candidate for governor. In a formal response, Sebelius said that any violation was "technical and minor" and was corrected after her official trip was reclassified as political, and the government was repaid for her travel. Since Sebelius is a Cabinet official, the ethics office referred the case to the White House for "appropriate action."


Judge Refuses to Toss Sentence of Ex-KU Official

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A federal judge is refusing to throw out the sentence of a former University of Kansas assistant athletics director convicted in a $2 million ticket scalping conspiracy. U.S. District Judge Monti Belot on Wednesday agreed with prosecutors that Rodney Jones had filed his petition too late. Belot denied Belot's request without holding a hearing. Jones is serving a 46-month federal prison sentence in Oklahoma. He was among seven people convicted in a scheme to illegally sale Jayhawk season tickets. In his filing last month, Jones had claimed his lawyer did a poor job. He had argued his defense attorney prevented him from cooperating with an internal university investigation. Two defendants who did cooperate received probation.


7 Charged in $132 Million Investment Scheme

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — The federal government has indicted seven men who allegedly cheated investors out of $132 million with false promises and phony reports about companies that leased drilling rigs and related businesses. The U.S. Attorney's office in Wichita announced the indictment Wednesday. The defendants are charged with mail fraud, wire fraud and money laundering, among other counts. Charges were filed against Michael McNaul, formerly of Hutchinson; Dale Lucas of Wichita; Russell Kilgariff of Preston; Lloyd Nunns of Hutchinson; Greggory Krause of Hutchinson; Steven Tallman of Owasso, Oklahoma; and Fredie Hembree of Hutchinson. Defense attorneys for three of the men did not immediately return calls or emails, and it was unclear whether the others had retained attorneys.


Worker Who Died at Wichita Plant Identified

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A worker who suffered at fatal fall at Spirit AeroSystems has been identified as a 26-year-old Wichita man. KWCH-TV reports the Sedgwick County sheriff's office identified the employee Wednesday as Matt Lyons, who worked at the aircraft plant for more than five years. Authorities said Lyons suffered a fractured skull Monday afternoon when he fell about 12 feet onto concrete. He later died at Wesley Medical Center. Spirit AeroSystems officials said they would work with Kansas agencies and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration investigating the accident.

Ex-Dodge City Officer Found Guilty of Murder

DODGE CITY, Kan. (AP) — A former Dodge City police officer has been found guilty for the second time in the death of his ex-girlfriend. A Ford County jury on Tuesday found Christopher Tahah guilty of first-degree murder in the 2007 shooting death of Erin Jones in Dodge City. The 25-year-old mother of two was killed in her home by a shot fired from outside. Tahah was first convicted in 2008 of first-degree murder in Jones's death. The Kansas Supreme Court threw out the conviction last year, saying the jury should have been allowed to consider lesser charges, including involuntary manslaughter. The Dodge City Globe reports no sentencing date was set.


Airport Hits Required Passenger Numbers Early

GARDEN CITY, Kan. (AP) — A new airline route helped the Garden City Regional Airport serve the number of passengers required to secure federal funding earlier than in the past. Airport officials say 10,454 passengers flew into or out of the airport as of the end of August. The airport needs to record at least 10,000 such transactions in a year to secure $1 million in federal funding for airport improvement projects. Rachelle Powell, the city's aviation director, attributed the improved passenger numbers to a decision in April to replace flights to Denver with flights to Dallas-Fort Worth. The Garden City Telegram reports that reaching the 10,000 mark has taken longer in the past. In 2011, the airport had 11,670 people flying in and out of the airport; 10,142 in 2010; and 10,014 in 2009.


Road Course at Kansas Speedway Gets First Test Drive

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) — The new road course at Kansas Speedway finally got its test drive. Sports cars turned laps on the new 2.36-mile course Wednesday morning. The course was built on the infield during a resurfacing of the outer oval that was completed in time for NASCAR testing a couple of weeks ago. The first Sprint Cup race on the new surface is scheduled for October 21. There is no date yet for the first sports car race at Kansas Speedway, but track President Pat Warren said it should be a night race next summer. Drivers from the Rolex and Continental Tires series took part in testing one week after Grand-Am and American Le Mans announced a merger that will join them as one series beginning in 2014.


KC Man Sentenced for Illegal Firearm Possession 

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — A Kansas City man who fell asleep at a bus station with a pistol in his pocket is going to prison for illegal possession of a firearm. The U.S. Attorney's office says 46-year-old Tyrone Harris was sentenced Wednesday to 17 years and six months without parole. Harris pleaded guilty in February to being a felon in possession of a firearm. Prosecutors said his 12 prior felony convictions, including eight for burglary, made him subject to a mandatory minimum of 15 years as an armed career criminal. Police reported arresting Harris in January 2011 after finding him asleep on a lobby bench at Kansas City's Greyhound Bus station. Officers said they discovered a .380-caliber pistol in the his right front pants pocket.

Democrat Drops Out of Wichita-Area Kansas House Race

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The Democratic nominee for a Wichita-area seat in the Kansas House has dropped out. The Kansas secretary of state's office said Tuesday that Pamela Frieden, of Haysville, withdrew her candidacy in the 93rd House District in southwest Sedgwick County. The Wichita Eagle reports that Democrats are expected to replace her with Sammy Flaharty of Garden Plain, who lost to Frieden in the August 7 primary election. Frieden abandoned her campaign before the primary but made her announcement too late to have her name removed from the ballot. Democratic precinct committee members are scheduled to meet Thursday to pick Frieden's replacement. In November, Flaharty would face Republican George Edwards of Haysville and independent candidate Dan Thimesch of Cheney, who previously served in the House as a Democrat.


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